Saturday, March 29, 2008

Under Construction

This week was all about pond building. We had perfect weather and some good music to work with from Mikes IPOD. Michaels twin brother Marc came down from Maryland for the week to help. This could not have gone so smoothly with out him. We all worked efficiently and quickly. Michael is a Master of ponds and stone.

Working with the twins was so great. They are obvioulsy so close, that when I listened to them reasoning out a plan, or chatting as they worked, I thought how wonderful, it is as though they are talking with the same voice, like listening to your own head, except with another body attached to it.

We have finishing touches and planting still to do, but that can wait. We need some rest.

I came home friday evening to cards and gifts at my doorstep from my little fairy friends Lindsey, Hanna and Gracie. Apparently the spent the afternoon playing in my garden. I think the flower pot came from my carport....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Deer proofing

We have a client who has a deer problem. They live on a 16 acre property in the middle of Wilkesboro. He loves roses, as do his herd of deer. The extensive gardens in this park like deer refuge are bare.

I was asked What to do around the pergola beds, once filled with roses, now, just a large mulch patch. I suggested making the beds along the pergola smaller, planting a parterre of dwarf boxwood around the border and planting inside the beds with herbs, particularly scented geranium. Deer don't eat boxwood's and they don't eat the fragrant furry leaves of most herbs.

Enclosing a garden with boxwood is a great deterrent and was most likely why they are so often used in ancient landscapes. The boxwood variety Justin Brower is my preferred variety for a parterre because they are smaller than the traditional English boxwood when they mature. This variety is not susceptible to nematodes and blight. We started small with a one gallon size, since we needed 70 of them for the parterre. We planted at a close 1.5' spacing to get the border started. In a few years we will remove every other one and create another parterre as they mature and need more space to grow. They're mature height is 3.5-4 feet. They need no clipping or trimming. Easy!

The perspective in this photo is deceiving.
The beds run parallel to the side of the structure, and actually look more in scale with the building. New grass will soon be up where we fixed the bed lines. (Notice in the picture how Finn follows Mike everywhere? Puppy Love it is.)

Pruning the climbing roses on the top of the structure was a bit of a challenge, who knows when they were pruned last, if ever, but so worth the trouble. We bled...Finn hated being left down below, but they will be beautiful in May. We also pruned the Corkscrew Willow on the left corner....much better~

Next we will begin working in the massive cut flower garden. The only thing the deer don't eat are the Lavender, Rosemary and the Agapanthus. A challenge, but we don't mind, it is a lovely estate. With plenty of running room for Finn & Mikes dog Callie.

But first we have to finish building a pond and waterfall in Blowing Rock. I'll post some photo's of that project soon. Lot's of transformation is going on daily. I am enjoying my new art classes too, I hope I do not get too tired from building walls and gardens to keep up with the assignments.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Illustration by Koo Schadler

This morning children are awakening to gifts delivered by a magical rabbit who often leave eggs hidden in a field of bluebells.

In our house the Easter bunny would hide beautifully Illustrated eggs filled with quarters instead of candy. It was always a magic and whimsical day. There was always a token to be found in the mouth of the Korean Stone Tiger, as it was on the mornings of my childhood easters. If is was warm we would go swimming naked in a nearby creek. Sweet and happy memories they are. We believed in miracles and experienced them often, as I still do.

Yesterday my little friend Lindsey helped me build my new kitchen garden. Her family does not celebrate Easter. They believe that fairies come from a place of evil. I am not sure what to do with this child who is taught not to believe in magic. She is so fairy like herself, running through the woods barefoot with her little dog Snickers, golden hair shining in the sun.

We did fill trays of peat pots with soil and we planted and labeled tomatoes and peppers for our gardens. I am grateful to have a child friend nearby. Sometimes we get out the watercolors and paint. But not fairies. Sometimes she brings a friend. Lately she has been sketching daffodils in her sketchbook.

>When considering my options for how to spend the day, I could have wished for no other circumstance. It was beautiful.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Greeting the Weirdness of the NOW

The world is in a wobble. It is taking a lot of focus to not go into a spin myself at times. I am so grateful I have the plant kingdom to interact with in the wobble times. It does sort me out and keep me focused.

I traveled to Virginia last weekend for some family celebrations. There is some pronounced wobbling energy there, so near to Washington D.C. Bear Stearns was going into collapse mode and people were feeling some of that undercurrent I am sure.

Perhaps it is a reflection of my own internal wobble as I traverse the shift from inward winter solitude back to interacting with the outside world.

The land in that area near the Blue Ridge is so curvatious, gentle, and flowing. It is the polar opposite of some of the personalities that I often encounter there. I am stunned at times of visiting at the level of busyness, the loudness, and harshness of the voices that speak to me, always about themselves, along with blaming of others behavior, little awareness of their own. Rarely, am I asked how I am doing or what am I doing, nor do I get an opening to say much of anything. It is the energy of straining to be heard. They live in a pressurised environment I know, but it does jolt my system. In North Carolina most people do ask how you are and even expect an answer. (This was a revelation to me when I moved down here).

I study the reflection carefully and ponder my own gut reactions and lack of sensitivity towards others in stressful times. “What is the mirror trying to show me?” I ask. How much does former environmental conditioning affect me here? I welcome coming home to a gentler southern grace. But I have been surfing the wobble for a month now. I was only up there for 4 days.

Not that the whole trip was loud and wobbly, but it was definately the background theme.I am always enriched by spending time with my daughters. They are remarkable, funny, & intelligent and are currently grounded, they have a great sensitivity to others, even though they are surrounded by drama and uncertainty in a busy and overextended culture. They both have a wonderful presence with children.

It is always a magical time with my granddaughter. She has sailed through her first full year on the planet beautifully. She is totally engaging, easily entertaining herself and others. It is clear she understands everything we say. She is not afraid of large dogs. We play well together. My baby sparkles and shines! She wore a pink tiara for her birthday.

My daughter tells me that when I left her house to return home the tiny girl padded right over to the window, her little hand waving ‘Bye Nama’ to watch Finn & I leave. I feel my heart crack wide open....I am so grateful she has another 'Nama' so close by her, to fill the gaps while her parents work.

I took the scenic ride home through Nelson and Augusta counties, just as the Red Maples were budding, giving the entire landscape a reddish glow.

When things feel odd for a period of time I will often check into the astrology of the season, it often serves as a reality check that maybe I don't need to take the world so personally. This month it seems things are changing/shifting daily. There is much to do and little time to process much of anything.

I often go to this Robert Wilkinson for the overall grand plan and front page was this article: Coping with the Grand Irrationality by Robert Wilkinson.

I had been feeling this energy for a while and though I am recieving no direct hits as far as I can tell, it does acknowledge that those of us that are sensitive the energy of mass conciousness pick up on it big time. I begin to feel as though I am a square peg squeezing to fit into a round hole.

It is a long article and very technical. I will put into italics the phrases from this article that gave me a few Aha's.

The first was this...
We are learning how to greet the forward edge of our future "destiny" by how we're greeting the weirdness of the NOW

These paragraphs explain much...........

During March and April 2008, we'll find an "ordeal" is ending, helping us "gather our medicine" and find spiritual nourishment. This period will open new potentials and help us expand in ways that demonstrate our "success in meeting the challenge of a new order." We can codify new values, so hold yourself to your highest standards.

Early March showed Mercury and Venus conjunct Neptune triggering the Grand Irrationality, and Sun conjunct Uranus. Late March shows Sun square Pluto then semisquare Neptune, and Mercury and Venus conjunct Uranus. Early April Mercury and Venus will square Pluto and semisquare Neptune before they move into the Aries zone of the Grand Irrationality, tracking the Sun in the same zone.

As you will note, the Sun triggers the Grand Irrationality 7 times a year. Obviously this also applies to Mercury and Venus. These periods get fairly wired and edgy, and people are stranger than usual, making crucial decisions whether they realize it or not.

It's the obsessive-compulsive factors in people that make these times most difficult, since things make less sense than usual, which makes almost no sense at all. Expect things to get more than a little strange every time the Grand Irrationality stimulated.

We are all swirling in it!

The upside of all that is..... style="family: verdana;color:#666666;" >Though things will be strange and cosmic due to the Grand Irrationality being triggered by the Moon 7 times each month, these forks in the road of our destiny will help us get in shape, claim some power, and show us how we've been given and will be given "rewards from Spirit. "Frictional aspects from planets to Pluto are showing us elements of our unique song, narrowing our focus to enlarge our vision, and helping us revise our ideas through the nurturing power of whatever Wisdom-form we were given this year.

Frictional aspects to Neptune are helping us find courage to move into unknown areas as well as ritual forms of connecting with a more powerful life force, and showing us which way the winds of destiny are blowing.

Frictional aspects to Uranus are helping us verify our knowledge through interactions, giving us a vision of things to come that require us to use foresight and understand cycles, all leading us to a form of cultural excellence. Be a pioneer, show self-control, concentrate, and throw off the chains in your mind that keep you powerless. Let go of obsessive or compulsive feelings and people, and purify however you need to, becoming the "captain of your own fate."

Oh, and then there is more on Pluto

Pluto's nature is "economy of energy," and it tends to make our lives more efficient through annihilating obsolete life factors. Banish the corrupt, corrosive, or dishonest elements in your life, and regenerate the seeds of power in the houses it influences in your charts.

The end result if we pay attention may be this:
The great wheel has turned, so continue to show appreciation and gratitude for the freedom you're glimpsing, as these seeds will prove to be potent stimulators for years to come. Definitely get inspired, since there's a lot of work to be done now that we've glimpsed the light of the heart of the Galaxy!

Here is another less detailed article on the Grand Irrationality from the Mountain Astrologer that is easier to assimilate and track.

I love getting clarity on these things. It reminds me to forgive myself and others often, and to dance with the fairies under the light of the full moon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shifting from Darkness to Light

The Vernal Equinox is occurring now. The sun has crossed the line into the growth, warmth and happiness of springtime, along with a beautiful full moon in Libra (my moon) and the celebration of Easter in the days that follow this one.
There is perfection and order in every part of the universe and that is certainly relflected in the unfolding of spring flowers.

I view this as a high vibrational moment. The veil between worlds is thin. Energy is amplified and I aim to be conscious of the energy I am sending out into the world, because at these moments events can be amplified and easily ripple out with far reaching effects. This is the season where the visions dreamed during the winter begin to manifest into form.

The nature spirits take the blueprint and begin their work of building. I look forward to seeing the results of our co creative handiwork. Ideally, the quiet internal work done over the winter will move into full expression by summer. It is time to live the dream.

The wind is howling as I type this, drying things off after a deep soaking rain yesterday. We are in a window of perfect planting weather. I look forward to hearing what nature has to say to me as we plant a new garden today. I associate wind with cleansing and change. Sweeping things clean.

Something is up, Snickers, the neighbors Cockapoo came scratching on the back door at 4:00 am. The near full moon made the light in the house very bright so here I am, thinking it was dawn…wide awake. Finn had a rowdy hour of play and is now sleeping in my bed, where I should be.

I suppose I was meant to have this quiet thoughtful hour of equinox energy at the first moments of a new season.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Trout Lillies

Through serendipity I ran into some old and fleeting friends last evening. They were hiding in plain sight along a waterfall. I almost missed them in the fading evening light. But they called me to notice so they could say Hi.

Trout Lilly have only a brief moment above ground, I was delighted to find them blooming, though closing up for the day. When I see them, I am in a familiar environment and they let me know I am in a good place.

While admiring the mass of foliage along this stream I was taken back in time, to other spring moments in my life, my response to finding a patch is always the same. Joyful.

I love the word Ephemeral and it's definition.

1. lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood.

2. lasting but one day: an ephemeral flower.

Trout Lilly is a native spring ephemeral, some people call them Dog Tooth Violet, due to the shape of the bulbs. Their mottled leaves resemble the markings of the fish by the same name. Fawn Lilly is another beautiful name for these woodland sprites. I have painted them, but do not have time today to find the paintings or scan them, so the above photo will have to do.

If I poke around for the plants medicinal uses I find that Native American woman ate the leaves to prevent conception and the plant has anti bacterial properties. Though I would not recommend eating it, as the plant is known to have strong emetic properties.

Though I have not found a flower essence for this particular plant. I am sure it's signature would assist us with accepting and surrendering to the ephemeral qualities in our own lives. Easing the transition through fleeting experiences with out trauma. It's yellow color would indicate higher conciousness. Another thought just came to me regarding this flower. They embody acceptance with thier place in the world. They are often overlooked, and stepped upon.

They don't mind what happens.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spring Renewal

I finally got to the fire. I love fires. All the debris piled up from last year has become carbon ash. The pile of debris has been removed, creating space for orderly compost bins....less chaos,more order in the garden. A clean pallet open and ready for the new.

The neighborhood dogs entertained me while the fire burned. It was a smokey wet fire. The smell of the burning twigs and debris was a grounding influence. A 'be in the present moment'~ moment.

I recall a memory of a fire on this date two years ago. It is ritualistic.

I mulched the area around the garden shed. Mud has been splashing onto the sides. I have a lot of mud scrubbing and sanding to do before I can stain the wood siding on the shed. The mulch will curtail the splash during the spring rains.

I was performing the same ritual in my garden last year, my daughter was about to give birth, I wanted my garden to be cleaned and prepped for the new season of new life.

Spring flowers are appearing in abundance. Early squill, daffodils, and hellebore's herald the new season. While tending the fire I heard peepers in the background. The earth is pulsating with new life.

Earlier today I gathered with a local group of artists. An inspiring group of talented women.

I hope to get to know them and their artwork better.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Gardening as a metaphor for life

It has been a nice change going back to work. We have had two all day rainstorms this week, in between perfect sun drenched work days. A perfect way to ease in to a new season.

Taking advantage of coming rains we did a lot of transplanting. Shrubs, trees and perennials that were in inappropriate spots were quickly lifted out of the ground and moved to more appropriate situations. These re arrangements had been put on hold since last fall due to severe drought.

We cut roots, we shifted things around and immediately the healing rains gently healed the wounds as the plants adjusted to their new environments. We did this on every property we could get to this week. Along with raking leaves, pruning, and a good spring cleanup. The gardens are fresh and ready for new growth.

It is amazing how improved the gardens looked and felt once things had been re-arranged. The energy of the whole garden shifted. I call it transformation in a day. Sometimes we call it 'Putting on the Glow'. It is a Feng Shui or energetic rearrangement of the garden, charging it with new energy, making it feel much better to be in.

This mirrors my life as well. Decisions, issues and projects that had been up in the air or had been stagnating suddenly shifted and resolved. The quiet, hibernation of my soul over the winter moved out into the sunshine, the winds of change, swept the old debris aside, some hopes and dreams were pruned that could not bear fruit. Other things moved forward with ease and clarity.

Sometimes when pruning it is difficult to know which branch to cut, but being a gardener I realize the sometimes necessary process of cutting out that which does not bear fruit in order to support new growth. It is often disappointing to realize that no matter what that vine will not be able to bear a luscious harvest. The vision was grander than the form could bear. A correction is needed.

I had a friend who was a gardener at the White House in Washington D.C.. I would go visit her in the gardens and she would show me the beautiful pruning done on the Kousa Dogwoods and specimen trees on the grounds. She told me that it is better to cut too much, than to leave too many weak branches. I generally cut to the strongest bud that is brightly colored and reaching out toward the light.

Gardening is truly a metaphor for life.

I find it interesting that I have focused so much on the Helleborus plant lately. Years ago while studying flower essences and their vibrational healing qualities I read that Helleborus essence was used to comfort a broken heart.

Here is a description of the healing qualities of Helleborus from Touchwood Plant and Flower Essences. The portrait to the Right is Helleborus livida.

A clearing preparation, … clear past bliss/joy from clogging chakras as much as for Clearing past negative events. Hellebore restores the spirit, a cleansing brew to cut through past heals and hurts together. Refreshing the soul and allowing it to get on. Progression, moving forwards, a preparation to be used as directed by the soul. If the soul needs it, it will know, and encourage you to use this essence. A forward-looking blend against past hurts and ills. For moving forward/on. Unsticking. Hellebore: let it dispel darkness, mulch the ground and lie fallow. Renewing - springtime growth and harmony throughout all organs. Of truth and lightness/brightness.

I would say that resonates~

I am always so grateful for plant consciousness. It never fails to heal a confused spirit when the winds of change blow in.

Flower essences are based on the Doctrine of Signatures. The shape of the leaf, the color and shape of the flower, the root formations, and scent indicate which part of the mental, physical, and ethereal body relates to the flower, there by assisting in the understanding of the healing properties of that plant. For example Liverwort is a woodland plant. It's leaves resemble the shape and often the color of the liver. If person were to take in the essence or spirit of this plant that plant would affect the area of the body its signature holds. This healing would occur on the mental, causal and spiritual body.

Today I will plant seeds, sweep my own wee garden clean and energetically charge it for the new season. It is the New Moon weekend and time to plant. I think I will plant some Zinnia seed in peat pots to set out later, as well as my lettuce and greens. Zinnia essence is all about Joy. I will end my day with a little fire ceremony. At last I can burn the sticks that have collected in my firepit. We have had good rains after a year of drought and I can now move forward on that fun chore too!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Learning Yupo

As I mentioned in my last post watercolor is an unpredictable medium to use.

I am doing fairly well using watercolor paper at this point, but I am also fascinated by the effects of watercolor on Yupo, a synthetic paper originally designed for printing. This paper feels like plastic. It acts like plastic, which allows for much dripping and sliding of paint on the surface. It does not absorb water or paint. It can be completely wiped off. It is difficult to layer without making muddy color and can be challenging to do fine details. It dries with bright brilliant color.

I had experimented with it a few times and wanted to know more about working with Yupo techniques. Yupo paper is great for watercolor pencil.
I especially love the earthy colors of the Derwent Graphitint pencils

I recently rented a video Called 'Dancing with Yupo' from a website that specializes in workshop videos called Smartflix. It is great way to get to do a workshop in your own home for much less the cost of buying the CD or attending a painting workshop. Often when I paint during a workshop, the end result is pretty bad, but if I apply the techniques learned in the workshop to my own sketch or idea it comes out much better than I had hoped.

I had done this sketch of a hydrangea years ago, and decided to trace it and see if I could manage to produce anything at all.

This was the result.

The painting looks better in real life I think. But I thought I would share my experience.
I tried photographing it as well as scanning to reproduce the image. This is the scanned image that would not fit completely on my scanner. The edges are clipped in the photo. The painting looks wonderful matted and framed.

The transparent layers are the result of lifting off layers of wash with tissue and embossing with a small paint roller. The white of the flowers were wiped out with tissue a wet brush and wiping technique that lifts the transparent color off the paper.

Working with Yupo is a loose and enjoyable way to create some thing interesting. Especially after doing a few tight botanical portraits. This shifts the energy into a little fun and whimsy that surprises.

Here is a web demo that illustrates how it works.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Transition continued....

Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince'

This is a watercolor of the sketch in my previous post. It is a portrait of my Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince' in the bud stage.

I am happy with it. How appropriate that on my last day of my winter painting marathon I produce something that incorporates all I learned this winter and is worth framing.

Before I finished the final details, Finn & I hiked up the Rich mountain carriage road which is part of the Moses Cone Manor Estate. We have had a cold spell for a while, but today was definitely a get out there and enjoy it kind of day.
We were so excited about getting out and playing, I realized I forgot my sketchbook. There was still some snow in spots, but we walked for several miles of trail. Finn growled and barked at a snowman someone left in the meadow. It had a cute little cow pie hat.

I carried my camera, but enjoyed the walking so much I took no photographs.
Finn deserved some serious stick play after my very quiet and serious winter.
He was in heaven. We spent his whole puppy hood hiking.

We go back into the gardens Monday. I am ready to roll, but I doubt the weather will stabilize in any reasonable manor during the transitional Ides of March. It's a very changeable season.

I open my spirit to positive changes that certainly lie ahead.