Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Healing Garden

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Having a garden full of herbs gives you more than just a pleasant taste to your food. Some herbs can add health benefits too. From curing headaches to relieving indigestion, they can come in handy in our daily life. Any kitchen garden worth its salt will include healing herbs along with your favorite cooking herbs.
Our forefathers knew this and often used herbs before they could get medical treatment. Their wisdom and experience guided a healer’s hands to find and cultivate the right plants to ease and comfort the ills a family member might feel. Herbs are even found in the pages of the Bible: Proverbs list Cinnamon as a stimulant, used to increase the appetite from someone suffering from the flu. Matthew speaks of Mint being used for headaches and fevers. Esther talks of Myrrh used for skin wounds and boils.

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I think it’s fascinating how plants help us. It seems a shame we’ve gotten so far removed from using natural remedies and growing our own natural remedies. It’s seems so much easier to open a bottle of vitamins or pain reliever which you purchased over-the-counter than it is to put the effort into growing a few medicinal herbs.

Why not plant a few? You don’t have to have an entire herb garden; you can plant a few in with your flowered pots, line your vegetable garden, or even just put a few on your windowsill in decorative clay pots.
Listed below you’ll find just a few herbs and what they were commonly used for as a healing plant. It is essential to know how and how much of each herb to take. There are many trained professionals in this field of medicinal herbs that should be consulted before you try to use these plants on your own.

ALWAYS consult your doctor before trying to use herbs as a healing method.

Oregano: smooth’s the stomach muscles
Mint: can ease hiccups
Ginger: anti-nausea remedy
Garlic: a natural antiseptic
Cloves: an anti-microbial
Sage: antiseptic and antibiotic
Thyme: relaxes respiratory muscles
Basil: relives gas and upset stomach
Black Pepper: to relieve indigestion
Cinnamon: helps lower blood pressure
Rosemary, Sage and Oregano: lowers fevers

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Good Day in the Garden

Any days a good day… 
                                         If you can get into the garden.

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And every day is a different day in your garden.

Sights, sounds, smells; they change by the day, by the hour, and by the minute. If you’re in your garden enjoying your time there, you’ll soon notice this. Some changes will be subtle, and some will be in-your-face. But you need to be aware of your garden’s activity to enjoy it. 

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I have a bird feeder in my garden (actually I have three) and I get a wide range of birds visiting. The same birds seem to visit, over and over, I could almost name them and tell you what time of day they will show up, demanding a meal. I have a couple rabbits who scurry in and out from the bushes when they think no one will notice them. And the squirrels rule the whole domain. Occasionally I have a falcon who appears, looking for meal, but he doesn’t stay long. Once he leaves, everybody else comes back out to play. The egrets come to visit; flocks of white, unusual looking birds with their long legs and equally long beaks, looking for bugs and worms.  A pair of Sand-hill Cranes may wander into the neighborhood. They meander in and out amongst the backyards, breaking the peace with their loud cry. Sometimes we’re even lucky enough to see the furry little chicks that come along with them.

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It seems like each animal has its own cycle to be in my garden, and they almost become complacent about sharing your garden. The last couple days I’ve been very surprised to look out my window and see a pair of ducks. I know there’s no water around my house, so I don’t know where they came from. They arrive every day right around three p.m., stay for bit, and then they go on their merry way. 
There’s also cycle butterflies and  colorful moths that come to the garden. Being lucky to live in South Florida, I get to see  the migration when the monarchs come in.
When the date palms produce seedpods, they become a hub of activity. The bumble bees arrive in swarms. Not only can you see them, but you can clearly hear the bees buzzing around the pods as they open, trying to get as much nectar as possible from the flowers before they turn into seeds.
If I happen to be in my garden when there’s a storm approaching you can even smell the rain coming. And on those many summer days when the heat and humidity are overwhelming, the heat will hold the smells from the gardenia, jasmine and honeysuckle, practically overwhelming you with their scents.

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Personally, I enjoy the approach of the storm clouds. They bring out different colors you might not notice in the full sun. The sky turns different shades as the clouds approach; the wind picks up and you can smell everything from dust to flowers.
So rain or shine, sunrise or dusk, I find it’s great to spend time in the garden. 

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Northern Spring VS A Southern Spring

A Northern Spring VS A Southern Spring
I was listening to the news last night, and I realized that spring in the south differs greatly from the spring in the north. Up north early spring can be anything from flooding in early and late snowfalls, with crocuses peaking through. When I lived in upstate New York, spring was always my favorite season. Spring seemed to start with the celebration of Easter, the daffodils blooming and hyacinths scenting the air. New life is everywhere, from the robins in their nest, to the bunnies coming out of their lairs.

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But, last night on the news I heard signs of spring in a different manner, the signs of spring in the Deep South. The first thing we had heard was at the riptides were bad because of the changing directions of the winds changing from winter to spring. This might be bad for the swimmers, but the surfers sure love it.

The next thing we found out about was the man-of-war are all on the beach. Their purple-blue but bodies can sting, and so do those long tendrils. With care, you can still enjoy a day at the beach, but plan on staying out of the ocean.
Next, we are reminded about that the sharks are migrating; this is definitely a spring time item. Huge shivers (groups) of them can be found offshore. All within swimming and snorkeling distance of the fun loving bathers enjoying a sunny day.

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And finally, we heard news that with the weather warming up that the alligators are getting frisky. This means the alligators are getting warmed up, moving around and getting ready for meeting season. Kayaks and fisherman need to take care on our river-ways.

Yes, spring in the south sounds a bit more dangerous than spring in the North!
Daffodils and tulips up north verses sharks and alligators in the south.
I guess I’m a southern girl at heart. I’ll take my sharks, man-of-war and alligators over cold flooding waters and the possibility of a late snowfall.

But I will admit I miss the glorious color and scents of the spring.

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Know Your Space

“Space. The final frontier.”

Or is it?
Well, at least in the garden, space is the important frontier.
Space can be the final say regarding what you plant and how you plant. The smaller the garden, the more important the amount of space you have. And the more important it is to use it properly. One of the first steps in using space properly is to know how much space you there is to work with.

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Nothing is harder to do than to figure your space without taking measurements-inevitably you’re wrong. When you take those measurements, it’s important to be as accurate as possible, because in a small space an inch can mean a lot. A foot can make a difference with what type of plants you plant, and a yard to make the difference in the type of material you use for hard-scaping.
When taking your measurements, it is imperative to find out where the building sits on the property. While it is important to measure the windows and doors, don’t forget to look for the other little things you might not consider. The downspouts, hose bib, gas meter, utility area; all of these must be considered in your drawing. If you don’t incorporate them in the drawing, you will be in for a big surprise when you go to plant a six-foot plant in front of a 3-foot window. It’s a little hard to explain to the customer why their view is blocked because you didn’t measure properly. I’ve learned through my own mistakes and experiences, that it never hurts to take an extra measurement or two,  Without fail, when you get back to the office and sit at the drawing table, there is a missing measurement somewhere. With other measurements, you can triangulate and coordinate where you will be planting and approximate that missing measurement.

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But only knowing the measurements of the length and width of an area isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Look up over your head. Are there power lines in the way of where you will plant that oak tree? Is there an awning you need to consider, or are you going to be blocking sunlight for the new planting? These are other considerations you need to think about when you’re measuring your space. If you’re adding hard-scape to your landscape, you also need to consider the physical movements of both people and items such as wheelchairs, a golf cart, a stroller or a gardening cart. Take into consideration not only the straight path these items will take, but the curves and arches they need to take to turn safely without damaging your landscape or your property.
There are some great tools on the market for measuring other than the good old-fashioned measuring tape. There’s even a battery powered one that automatically retracts for you. Some are measuring tapes that can electronically figure out your space by doing the math for you. And there are even some new tapes that can visually measure and figure out your space without the use of a physical tape.

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Need a simpler tool? Try the walking measuring stick. The handle is attached to a counter and wheel, and it calculates the feet as you walk. When you’re measuring long distances, there’s nothing better, because a measuring tape often will not go much farther than 100 feet. A walking measuring tape can be as sophisticated as you would like to spend the money on. They can figure out your square feet of the area. For a larger project. you might need to hire a surveyor and get the site plotted out in more detail.
Don’t forget those underground utility lines. Many municipalities provide services where they will come out and mark the utilities for you. A good rule of thumb, is to always mark before you dig-there’s nothing worse than sticking that shovel in the ground and cutting off somebody’s cable, telephone or worse yet, breaking a waterline.
So, remember to take all things into consideration when planning out your garden space. Get it right the first time and then you can enjoy the planting experience rather than being frustrated.

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Once you’re all finished, grab that cold glass of iced tea and head out to the garden to sit and relax and enjoy that beautiful space you created.

Enjoy Time In The Garden!

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain.

The gift of rain can do many things for us; water the crops so that we can eat, fill the lakes and ponds so that we can drink. The rain does much more than that and it truly is a gift.

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Have you ever noticed how some much-needed rain can change your whole attitude? It can wash off the dust, clear the cobwebs to refresh and renew you. Not only can the rain renew you, the rain can change your whole outlook. On a gloomy, dismal day the sun breaks out in amongst the rain and it can create a rainbow. But, remember, that rainbow wouldn’t be possible without the rain. The gentle rainfall can be relaxing and peaceful versus the thunder and lightning and pounding rain of a good storm can be frightening. Yet, without the change of rain types we would never be able to experience all the rain has to offer.

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Rain has many benefits as you well know. It opens the flowers, which produces seeds, which produces food. The results of a good rain will green-up your lawn and open the leaves on the trees giving this world the oxygen it needs. And the oxygen wouldn’t be there without the green plants and the green plants wouldn’t be able to survive without the rain; are you seeing the circle we live within? Sometimes the gift of rain comes in abundance and it’s almost too much for us to handle. Other times we find ourselves praying for rain to save our farms and livestock. Whatever amounts of rain we receive, we should always be grateful, because it means our world, our precious earth, is producing and growing and surviving.

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So, the next time you find yourself caught in a rain storm, will you moan and groan about the inconvenience?

Or, will you be grateful for the gift of rain?

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Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Out with the Old

There’s something both heartbreaking and exhilarating about redoing a landscaping. It’s sad to tear out old plants that have reached their maturity and are declining, but it is also necessary for a new landscape to be installed.

When I’m called in to do a re-landscape, the first thing I look at are the bones of the landscaping. It took years for a palm tree to get to the height that balances with the house, or for an oak to provide a beautiful canopy to shade and offer cool sitting areas for the homeowner. As for the bougainvillea growing up and over the arch of your front entry; why would you want to remove something so gorgeous? But other plants just tore out after about 12 to 15 years down here in South. And rather than leave plants that are going downhill, having weak stems and are prone to insect and disease problems—we need to take them out.

It’s my job just determine what goes and what stays. Once a determination is made, I can begin the design. Bed lines are often changed to add new interest and to accommodate the growth of the larger plants remaining in the landscape. This is the opportunity to create a whole new look. Pathways can be added, vignettes of privacy can be snuck in and views that have matured over the years can be enhanced. This is also the perfect opportunity to incorporate some beautiful container plantings. I especially like to do this in areas where the roots are so thick that you can’t dig a new plant into.

Since the original landscape was installed, there have been many improvements on the plants available, hybrids have been created that will tolerate the southern heat better and new varieties have been introduced to the market. This is a perfect opportunity for the homeowner to take it vantage of these.

It’s rather like the old saying for a bride: something old something new and something borrowed. The old: the mature plants that will stay anchored landscape. The new: different varieties of plants now on the market. And the borrowed? Reusing some old standbys that helped create the foundation of a good landscape.

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Don’t be afraid to take out a shrub here there, or even an entire hedgerow. This is the south and things will grow quickly.

Before you know it your new landscape will look like it’s been there all along.

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