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The Garden Lady chats about Heaven is a Garden

December 3, 2016

C.L.Fornari photo of flower ice cubes in a serene garden in Cape Cod


C.L. Fornari, aka The Garden Lady, has a wonderful garden radio show that airs every Saturday on the Cape Cod station WRKO from 12-2 p.m. You can hear it as a podcast online.

Her show covers many gardening and landscaping topics and she discusses her favorite plants and answers listeners’ gardening questions.

C.L. is also the author of the inspiring book, The Cocktail Hour Garden: Creating Evening Landscapes for Relaxation and Entertaining

The Cocktail Hour Garden shows how to enjoy that special evening hour in the garden

I was especially thrilled a week ago to be interviewed by C.L. about my book, Heaven is a Garden. She asked some great questions about what is music for the eye in a garden and how to make your garden in tune with the four directions. C.L. is an insightful interviewer and I wanted to share our short and fun chat with you!

Click below to hear our conversation or even read the transcript:

The Garden Lady radio chat with Jan Johnsen about Heaven is a Garden, 2016

Blog

Renew Your Garden Tools!

November 2, 2016
Caked on dirt on these shovels....

Caked on dirt on these shovels….

Winter is the time to get your garden tools in shape… hand tools such as shovels, picks, trowels, loppers, etc. should be cleaned, sharpened and well oiled.

Steel wool can clean off any rust or caked-on dirt.

And pure white vinegar works to remove rust too: pour into a bucket or small plastic tub. Submerse rusty pruning shears in the solution and soak overnight, or roughly 24 hours. The acid of the vinegar eats away at most of the surface rust. Wash off the next day…for more on this go to the Backyard Boss article on cleaning pruning shears.

This photo is from a great article about renewing your tools. Click here.

This photo is from a great article about renewing your tools. Click here.

But the most important thing I have found is to make sure to oil the tools. It is a rust preventative and a wood saver.

Moss in the City

Moss in the City

A while back, in our shop (I own a landscape design/build firm and we have trucks, crews and lots of tools) we would have a large container filled with sand and motor oil and put our tools in it.

…the sand acts an abrasive to remove dirt and the oil prevents rust. But this is not so smart.

Why? Because the petroleum oil goes from the tool into the soil!

Today's Homeowner

Today’s Homeowner

Blake Schreck of the Garden Tool Company knows a thing or two about garden tools. And his timely advice is to use boiled linseed oil.

Linseed oil is derived from the dried seeds of the flax plant and is a great alternative to any petroleum based product.

The Garden Tool Co. oils every tool that does not have a finish on it already before it ships.

Blake notes: “A cautionary note: The boiled linseed oil that is available today has a small amount of solvent added to it to keep it from hardening in the can, so after you apply it to your metal and wood, let it dry completely before using your tool, (about 24 hours) that way the solvent will have evaporated.”

Garden Tool Company - Border-Spade-with-T-Handle-by-Sneeboer

Garden Tool Company – Border-Spade-with-T-Handle-by-Sneeboer

Remember to use BOILED linseed oil which dries quickly.

Actual linseed oil can take ages to dry!

Just dip a rag (cotton wool or a cloth) in the boiled oil and coat a thin layer of oil on the metallic parts. Make sure to cover evenly and do not be tempted to add multiple coats or a thick layer of oil. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then wipe off excess.

boiled-linseed-oil

Its a good idea to oil the wood handles as well to prevent cracking.
Thicker layers take longer to dry and often do not dry to form a hard surface and multiple layers of thin coats are also not a good idea, because they become prone to being removed when scratched.
I have also heard about Ballistol. lt is 85% mineral oil and maintains, protects, preserves metal and unpainted wooden surfaces.

Ballistol is biodegradable, and neither its use nor its disposal will pollute air or water. It comes in an aerosol and pourable version. It has a sweet and mildly pungent smell similar to black licorice.

Want to learn more about garden tool maintenance? Please see Blake Schreck’s “Garden Tool Care and Maintenance” article by Blake Schreck.

Blog

Garden Design Magazine’s New Gorgeous Videos!

October 10, 2016
This is a great magazine.

This is a great magazine.

Have you noticed that I love the new Garden Design Magazine?

At every talk I give, I gush about it. It is a gorgeous magazine devoted to garden design and plants. Every article is fascinating. It comes every few months.

Dwarf NY Asters featured in the Fall issue of Garden Design magazine

Dwarf NY Asters featured in the Fall issue of Garden Design magazine

Now they have upped their game even more and have developed some fabulous videos that share with you a little of what is in their issue….

Jim Peterson, the publisher and driving force behind the magazine, plans to make three kinds of videos. The first supports stories in the magazine. The second is about garden features that are popular and on the fabulous Garden Design website and the third will be about garden design and will be made in collaboration with designer, Richard Hartlage.

Here is an interview with the editor of Garden Design magazine, Thad Orr, talking about the magazine and what is covered. It is a gem of a magazine and I urge you to subscribe to it!

Here is Thad Orr talking about the article about Desert Native Plants – wow!

Get your first issue free when you subscribe, use www.gardendesign.com/jan

Blog

Beyond Prison : Insight Garden Program

October 4, 2016

In the 1970s, I was a part of a team that taught a one year intensive certificate program on Landscape Development and Maintenance at a community college near New Paltz, NY.

I was a young instructor but was very earnest and devoted to teaching. Then one day the president of the college called me in and told me that I, alone, would be teaching all my courses at a men’s correctional facility 44 miles away.

What??!! all my classes? away from the campus? in a prison?

After much protesting, I was sent ‘away’ to teach the entire program at a men’s prison. Well, as often happens, it was one of the best experiences in my life. I taught full time there for 2 years and still cherish the memories.

 Otisville Correctional Facility classroom  - but not my specific class


Otisville Correctional Facility classroom – but not my specific class

I have a lot of fun stories. We installed walks, plant beds and even a solar greenhouse (it was donated by a friend who had it on his property) where we grew organic salad greens. I was not backed by any grants or organizations – I just forged ahead.

I taught college level classes on plant identification and usage, horticultural techniques 1 and 2, soil science, landscape design, greenhouse management tree and shrub pruning, small engine repair and turfgrass management.

The best thing was to hear from my students later (mostly black and Latino from NYC) who got out and got jobs based on their hort. training and their knowledge of landscape plants. One student got a high position with the Parks department, he wrote such a wonderful letter thanking me.

I left after 2 years and I never found out what happened to our solar greenhouse. Today I hear that similar programs are happening around the country and it makes me so glad.

As a kid from the city, I know exactly how life-changing developing a connection with the natural world can be: I remember being 20 years old when I realized that sunflower seeds came from a real sunflower and not a box. An epiphany.

sunflower-seeds_sunflower

Today, Kallopeia Foundation is supporting transformative prison programming (see their multi-media website here: www.beyondprison.us) including a project called the Insight Garden Program.

Here, inmates at San Quentin prison in Northern California are offered vocational training in horticulture and are also introduced to holistic practices like mindfulness meditation. I love this approach because it enhances a connection to nature. Click here: http://insightgardenprogram.org/

from the Insight program

from the Insight program

Please check out their article called Beyond Prison – Breaking New Ground (click on this) from the website. They are doing a great job!

We need to offer more opportunities for all city kids to touch the earth and work with it – not just in prison. Landscape development careers offer the grounding we all need in this screen-dominated age.

they have a video too - go to their site

they have a video too – go to their site

Blog

The Rolling Crabapples – smile

September 21, 2016

This is funny.

Glenn Eichler wrote an open letter to the New York Botanical Garden in 2014 in the New Yorker regarding his love of their rock garden. He felt it deserved more attention:

“…rocks—dragged by glaciers, striped and striated by, I guess, also glaciers—deserve better.

Not sexy? Compared to what, the Donald J. Bruckmann Crabapple Collection?

No disrespect to Mr. Bruckmann, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards haven’t spent fifty years playing to sold-out crowds as the Rolling Crabapples, the world’s greatest crabapple-and-roll band.”

Glenn has a point, don’t you think?

Mick Jagger in garden

Mick Jagger in garden

Blog, Garden Tips

The Sky and Earth – a Union We Overlook at Our Peril

September 3, 2016

I often write about creating beautiful outdoor environments to lift our spirits and enhance our wellbeing but we cannot be comfortable if the health of our planet is deteriorating.

We talk about restoring balance to the earth. This starts with the soil. Once the soil is revitalized the atmosphere and weather will correct itself.

Here is why: the sky and earth interact.

In other words, droughts come from poor soils, pollution and other inharmonious activities on the ground. Fix the soil and the droughts and storms will subside.

soil

So start with fertilizing the soil – this does not mean applying more soluble nitrogen fertilizers loaded with anhydrous ammonia or nitrates. Doing this to plants is like feeding them amphetamines. Reliance on poisons to grow our food is one of our major problems right now.

Changing this practice will help our atmosphere greatly. But it is not a quick process so we better start now.

At this point you may be skeptical but think of it this way- ammonium and urea-based fertilizers that we use to grow our food crops are susceptible to loss as ammonia (NH3 ) gas, especially when left on the soil surface. Ammonia gas from fertilizer has a negative effect on air quality and human health. Where are many of our crops grown? In the San Joaquin valley of California. Here is a photo of atmospheric NH3 over the San Joaquin Valley in 2008 (measured by the IASI satellite). It shows the most concentrated area of NH3 in the air in red. That was many years ago…guess what happened to California since then?

San Joaquin Valley, California - Harmful Gas emissions from Nitrogen fertilizers

San Joaquin Valley, California – Harmful Gas emissions from Nitrogen fertilizers

If you want to know more about this – click here.

Healthy soil is a teeming world that contains a symbiosis of fungi, minerals, organisms and more. Root structures interact with these ingredients to elevate levels of certain nutrients. It is an interacting and amazing network.

For example, legumes such as beans, alfalfa and peas bring oxygen to the root tips and release oxalic acid. They affect lime levels, nitrogen and more in the soil (cation exchange, etc. its complicated). Legume’s beneficial activity is augmented in the presence of certain crop roots that exude carbohydrates, like corn or sugar cane.

legume-roots

You can see this in full force in the Four sisters method of crop planting used by the Native Americans: corn, beans, squash and sunflower.

  • The corn is deep rooted, mining the soil for minerals and exuding carbs to the soil,
  • Beans ‘fix’ nitrogen and elevate the lime
  • Squash covers the soil to prevent weeds,
  • The sunflower’s stems, leaves and pollen contain phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They can be composted in the soil to help keep it nourished.
  • Buy from Renees Garden

    Buy from Renees Garden

    Add to this, composts, compost tea, rock dusts or pulverized quartz and seaweed or kelp and the soil will start to sing.

    This is vastly different from using soluble fertilizer that releases harmful gas to the sky –

    we should be building a matrix in the soil that is alive and healthy.

    So Governor Brown, please address the state of agriculture in California asap

    and the skies will rain upon the earth once again.

Blog, Books

Win a free issue of Garden Design Magazine right here!

July 18, 2016

As you may know, I love Garden Design magazine. It is gorgeous, each issue is 148 pages thick and packed with fascinating gardening info and landscaping ideas and, best of all, it has no ads! It is published quarterly, one issue per season.

How can they make it work? Well, it is a subscriber-supported magazine. Jim Peterson is the publisher and Thad Orr is the editor. I think they have made it the best garden magazine out there….

Would you like an issue? I am giving out the current issue to 3 lucky winners…see below for my random drawing.

And I am thrilled to say that Garden Design chose to feature my ideas on Creating a Relaxing Retreat in their current issue which features Serene Spaces. I am honored and so happy that it is being shared by such a prestigious and elevated magazine!

jan johnsen - despau illustration

The 6 page article, ‘Serenity and the Sweet Spot’, offers my tips for creating relaxing outdoor spaces that I have refined over the years. I look to ancient sources and have used them in my landscapes. They took my photos and had a brilliant illustrator from Spain, David Despau, interpret them in colored pen an dink drawings. Wow.

SERENITY AND THE SWEET SPOT 2

Also they have a 16-page spread on David Austin roses.

roses

And an article on hydrangeas that made me swoon. I am planting so many of the new varieties these days for clients. And then there is the article on the Thomas Jefferson garden at Monticello with Peter Hatch. It is called ‘Jefferson’s Legacy, at last’ That is the best! TJ is my hero and I went to see Monticello on my honeymoon. (I have been back since).

(Photo credit: GardenDesign/Ngoc Minh Ngo — used by permission.).

(Photo credit: GardenDesign/Ngoc Minh Ngo — used by permission.).

And lastly, they have a great piece on Disneyland’s horticultural magic. What a fascinating article! Am I gushing? Well that is because it really is a great magazine.

For a chance to win an issue of Serene Spaces issue of Garden Design (U.S. and Canada residents only) post a comment below.
I use the number generator at Random.org to select 3 winners.

Winners will be announced both here and on my Facebook page on Saturday, July 23, 2016, so check back!
If you want to buy your own subscription to Garden Design, and receive your first issue for free? Click here: Garden Design.

Blog

Loren Eiseley’s Prescriptive for Our Times

July 17, 2016

“Let it be admitted that the world’s problems are many and wearing, and that the whirlpool runs fast.
If we are to build a stable cultural structure above that which threatens to engulf us by changing our lives more rapidly than we can adjust our habits, it will only be by flinging over the torrent a structure as taut and flexible as a spider’s web, a human society deeply self-conscious and undeceived by the waters that race beneath it, a society more literate, more appreciative of human worth than any society that has previously existed.

children at play outdoors
That is the sole prescription, not for survival — which is meaningless — but for a society worthy to survive.”
Loren Eiseley, Firmament of Time
circle
For more excerpts from Loren Eiseley go here:
http://alexsheremet.com/8-great-passages-loren-eiseleys-firmament-time/

Blog, Books, Garden Tips

Garden Design Magazine – My Tips and Interview

July 9, 2016

Garden Design Magazine interviewed me for tips for blending ancient and modern ways to create gardens that simply make you feel good.

They also had the fabulous illustrator from Spain, David Despau, illustrate photos of some of my landscapes.

I am honored. It is in the summer issue of Garden Design:
summer 2016 cover (1)

It is such a great magazine.

You can use this link to subscribe to garden Design and get your first issue free
www/gardendesign.com/janjohnsen

You can also order just this one issue here
https://subscribe.gardendesign.com/store/#