Browsing Tag

spiritual gardens

Blog

Stone Benches – Grounding does it.

February 21, 2017

In honor of my new book, The Spirit of Stone – 101 Practical and Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden (St. Lynn’s Press, 2017) that was released last week I am sharing this post about stone benches.

Stone Bench – Dallas Arboretum – photo by Jan Johnsen

In the heat of the summer when we should be pruning what we really want to do is sit in the cool shade and drink a tall glass of iced tea.


Antique sandstone Bench from English Garden Antiques

Ah, a place to sit in the cool leafy shade!
What better contrast to the soft green lushness that surrounds you than a stone seat or bench, immutable, grounded and cool to the touch…
sitting on stone outdoors grounds you and aligns you to the earth’s electromagnetic pulse…

It is like a calming sedative that you feel almost immediately.

See some great stone benches at the Stonepost website

Stone seats in the garden have a storied history. The Druids of Northern Europe fashioned stone chairs out of boulders. It is surmised that they were used for rituals and perhaps coronations of a sort. Today, in the British Isles and in France, you can find ancient stone seats in fields, woods and near sacred springs.

Sunny Wieler, an Irish stonemason / artist, follows in his ancestors’ tradition and wrote about making stone seats in his marvelous blog, Stone Art Blog (check it out!). Stone Art is his company which serves County Cork and Dublin. Here are some of his marvelous creations.

Sunny Wieler – Stone Art Blog

You might expect all stone seats to be massive and heavy but this is not the case.

In the Chinese tradition, they fashion rounded stone seats (some are carved to look like drums) which encircle a stone table. You can see a great example in the Chinese garden at Naumkeag in Stockbridge.

Traditional Chinese stone table and stone seats

Following this idea, the wonderful designer Jinny Blom created Spore seats. Although not technically pure stone (they are made of a eco friendly moldable stone) they hark back to Chinese stone seats with a more modern flavor. I love them.

They were a commissioned design for a permanent installation at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, which won a prestigious BALI Landscape Award.

Jinny Blom’s Spore Seats

Another modern take on ancient stone benches is made by Escofet. Their Bilbao benches are also not pure stone but look how great they are.

I show more stone bench ideas in my new book, The Spirit of Stone- 101 Practical and Creative Stonescaping ideas for Your Garden

Blog

‘Om’ in the Garden

January 25, 2017

Om symbol in garden – Jan Johnsen

We need to balance the pace and intensity of modern life
with periods of what poet May Sarton
has called “open time,
with no obligations except toward the inner world
and what is going on there.”

~ Thomas Moore

So how to touch the inner world in a garden?..

Abstract painting

I suggest chanting ‘OM.’ (really it is ‘AUM’), long and sustained, several times…“Om” is the oldest and most widely known one-syllable mantra or chant. It is said very, very slowly.

Mantras are believed to contain a vibrational power that can lift us to higher states.

Scientists recently discovered that rhythmic recitations of a mantra can slow breathing and regulate heart rhythms, this in turn oxygenates the blood, lowers blood pressure and induces a feeling of calmness and well-being.

The Sanskrit symbol above represents “OM”. It does not say ’30’ as some might assume.

The Om symbol (in photo above) consists of three letters, “a,” “u,” and “m,” and includes an after-sound of silence:

• The “a” (pronounced “ah,” the upper curve) represents our waking state.

• The “u” (pronounced “ooh,” the long, lower curve) is the dreaming state.

• The “m” (the curve issuing from the center) is the dreamless state of deep sleep.

The after-sound is represented by the dot at the top…

Garden Oms (smile)


Silently repeating a mantra does not produce the same effects as reciting them out loud.

You must chant OM. out loud…slowly. and remember the ‘dot’ or after-sound silence.

Lawai International Center, Kauai – shrines

If repeating ‘om’ is not your thing then try this during your ‘open time’:

Listen – to the sounds around you.

Feel – the plants or the ground under your feet or the sun on your face.

See – what is around you. enjoy the colors.

Smell – what does your environment smell like?

At first, you’ll find your mind wandering away frequently but this exercise is calming and pleasant, a relaxing break.

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 Glorious Sunflower – The Fourth Sister

September 8, 2016

I have written about the Native Americans’ Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans and squash ) but I neglected to tell you of the Fourth Sister…

a very important member of this family!

web-sunflower-jan-johnsen

This is from Hubpages:

“Fourth Sister, didn’t look anything like her other sisters, although she was as tall and as slender as First Sister (corn) . That seemed fair to all, because Third Sister and Second Sister shared similar but different features. They could climb and run, while their other two sisters were forced to stand tall and proud.”

Mother Sun explained that each sister had her job and each had to benefit from and protect one another. But Fourth Sister’s job was most important of all — for she was the guardian of the North, planted firmly, to protect others from the robbers who soon would come.

web-jan-johnsen-sunflowers-2010

The fourth sister was the elegant sunflower.

van-gogh

The Sisters are known to the Native Americans as the “mothers of life” but they all need each other to survive.

  • Corn uses the nitrogen supplied by the nitrogen fixing roots of the beans and provides a place for the beans to climb.
  • The squash suppresses weeds and keeps the soil shaded and moist.
  • The prickly leaves of the squash provide a deterrent from four legged raiders of corn.
  • sunflowerisraeli082401

    So what does the Sunflower do?

    Taiyo Sunflower (click here)

    Taiyo Sunflower (click here)

    The sunflowers keep the birds from devouring the corn.

    How? Well, true sunflowers exhibit the heliotropic habit of following the sun through the day but when they are full of sunflower seeds they stay facing the east.

    Thus when sunflowers are planted to the north of the garden patch, the birds see the sunflowers first thing in the morning sun and dine on the sunflower seeds rather than the corn kernels….

    from Rainy Side Gardens

    from Rainy Side Gardens

    The FOUR SISTERS celebrate the harmony of nature and bring abundance to farmers and happiness to the well fed home.

    By the way, the true giant sunflower is used as an emblem of the philosophy of Spiritualism.

    They see the sunflower as forever looking to the light and applaud its unique arithmetic: supposedly each sunflower has

    • 12 sets of leaves ( months in a year) ,
    • 52 yellow petals (52 weeks in a year)
    • 365 seeds (365 days in a year).
    • I cannot verify this but that is the story….. I hope it is true.