Just One More Adventure: Other Gardens Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Other Gardens

Giant Solomon’s Seal, Weeping Redbud, Oakleaf Hydrangea Little Honey


Other Gardens

Over a period of about 20 years gardeners came to visit me and my garden. I owned a nursery and plants were purchased by mailorder or making an appointment to come visit. Shipping days were Monday and Tuesday and visit days were rest of the week. Weekends always brought the greatest number to gardeners to come walk the gardens with me and spend some time in the nursery display.



I believe our greatest compliment was the length of travel gardeners experienced to arrive at our front door. From foreign countries Sweden, Great Britain, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany are most remembered for the gardener from each country. Admittedly, they did not fly in just to visit here, but rather made an effort to come visit while in the US. The gardeners visiting most often were from surrounding states. Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. Many would come with picnic lunches and share with us on the front porch after a garden tour. Over the time some gardeners and their friends would come several times a year, year after year. Over a period of twenty years you can certainly make a lot of gardening friends.


Botanical Gardens

Botanical gardens ordered from my nursery over the years and I got to know individuals behind the name and logo. My plants ended up in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and other destinations with botanical gardens. There was always a sense of pride, a boost to my ego that they would be aware of and order from me each year.



Corydalis lutea ad Ghost Fern combination.

Plants that were in my garden, plants I grew from seed, perennials I grew on, my children, ended up going home with all the gardeners who visited. Over the years thousands of plants found a home in other gardens both local and faraway places. In almost every instance when gardeners visiting here got ready to leave they extended an invitation to come see how my children were faring in all their gardens. There was always the promise to visit their gardens, but seldom did I find or take the time to leave my garden and to visit theirs. I was too busy taking care of my own garden and operating a nursery to leave. Twenty plus years of a bungee cord around my ankle pulling me back when I reached the end of my driveway. But I was always “going to” and had best of intentions.



Stone bench, container with Amorphophyllus, surrounded by Japanese woodland Salvia

A funny thing happened while lying in a hospital bed for a week and three weeks in rehab. Habits get broken. For a solid month I was disconnected from all electronics. No computer, so no Facebook or LinkedIn, no blog to write and publish each week. By the time I returned home my bonds and habits had been broken. I found myself reluctant to hit the on button and return to what took up most of the time in my life. I simply no longer had the desire. Yes, I missed following my gardening friends, but. My daily habit, my ritual, of working in my garden was forced upon me and would continue for some months to come. No internet connection, no connection to my garden.



Epimedium Pink Champagne foliage

All the years of I should do this, I really should go visit so-and-so’s garden, visit the botanical garden this year for sure, with plenty of I certainly should do that. Well, the days of should should be over. The time has become available and most excuses no longer apply. It is pretty certain now that I will be giving up my garden, moving to another location. My age and health, and other personal reasons, have caught up with me.



It occurs to me that I may not even want to have a garden when I arrive at my next destination. While it is far too soon to tell with any certainty, now that I have been separated from my garden and my old habits, I find with each day the urge to revisit the good old days is fading. Perhaps there are other paths to walk now. Instead of trying to reconstruct my life all over again in another location, perhaps simply gaining a new life with new habits is in order. Instead of building another garden, perhaps I can go visit those botanical gardens, those other gardeners and their gardens, see all those plants I once touched.

October 19th 2017 will be at Memphis Botanical Garden for talk. More details to come. Have you booked Gene for your next meeting?

Just One More Adventure: Gratitude Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events




Taking tea time to the front porch and listening to my water feature, there is enough time and quiet to do a bit of thinking: perhaps a touch of soul-searching. While allowing the mind to wander where it will, there is, at first, the static that distracts. Staying with the quiet, the background noise, for the most part, disappears. Then it is possible to hear the bubbles of thought and feelings that rise from the depths to the surface of the mind. At times quite surprising what bubbles up. This time I am able to see some things that I have always known, but have a tendency to lose sight of in day to day living.



Lilium hybrid from upper section of my garden

One big bubble rising to the surface had the word Fortunate written all over it. Just how fortunate I happen to be. In my quest for more stuff, I sometimes forget what I already have (if we ever truly possess anything). Looking around I see that I have a very full life, lots of stuff, and, truth be told, I find I am living in a lap of luxury.



I have traveled to other countries, seen how others live, and remember where I came from. I have a life that resides in the lap of luxury. All my basic needs are met and exceeded. We both enjoy good food and wine and the table is set each evening with what a chef would be proud to serve. There is no impulse or need to purchase clothing for my closet is filled.  My home has been paid for many year now and there is a late model auto parked in the driveway. I can go to the doctors of choice and check into hospitals without dread of the financial consequences due to good private health insurance and Medicare. If I had additional money I could only purchase more of what I already have.


That is some of the stuff I have accumulated over the years. My greatest asset is spiritual. My garden and I have a history stretching back over thirty years. When I moved out here to the country the extent of my gardening knowledge green goes up and brown goes down. Seemingly I began garden by accident and to this day I do not know if gardening found me or I found gardening. In any case we did get together and it has been a long and satisfying relationship.


My garden taught me more than any other teacher showing up in my life. I probably learned more about people from my garden and gardening than from psychology courses. As my garden grew thus did I. I created a garden that developed a soul and it, in turn, helped my soul to flower. I cannot remember what I did before gardening took over my life, and I cannot imagine what I will do without my garden.



Having said how satisfied I am with my life I do not want to sound like I have a Pollyanna attitude. Is everything just peachy? No. To the best of my knowledge no one gets through life without problems. Those who are religious would call it a cross to carry.

My speed bump in life is the very thing that has nourished it over the years. At this point in time and place I have no idea what will become of my relationship with my garden. What I do know is should something come between us I have over thirty years of memories to carry with me on the rest of my journey.

A few openings to schedule me for talks this September and October. Give me a call or email and lets get together.

Just One More Adventure: Shush! Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Shush!
Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Blue Heron watching the water for lunch.

Strange word, shush. It can be a sound, such as a soft rustling, an instruction to be quiet, or a quality of experienced quite. This past week I have given myself instructions to shush, did as I told myself, and enjoyed the resulting stillness inside as well as the soft sounds surrounding me. I may be a gardener, but I found that I really could sit still and enjoy hearing myself think. I had been so busy in the doing that I had forgotten the enjoying. Been a while since I joined a companion of quiet. It only took open heart surgery to get me to slow down enough, to not be physically able to pull weeds or dig a hole, to actually sit still and enjoy some of my work.

Sounds of Quiet

Castiron Crow at waterfall

While I still am not able to work in my gardens there is the small garden across from the front porch that I have been enjoying. In the garden is a small stream. There is a certain something about a sound that makes one think of quiet. Namely falling water.

Our front porch has a concrete slab forming a patio connected to the porch as a unit. My wife uses the patio for the majority of her large container arrangements as you have to travel through the plants to reach the porch. As you walk across the patio to the porch there is a small garden with chairs to the right joining that patio.

The garden is to be viewed from the porch while sitting at a table, or from through a window where the two of us normally sit for lunch or dinner. The garden is only about 24 x 30 feet and resides beneath an old crab apple tree. The garden is landscaped with a heavy emphasis on the color green. I wanted the feel of cool and relaxing to be predominant without the emotional distraction of color. Ferns of several species, including my pride and joy our native Walking Fern. There is the ubiquitous dwarf hostas, Japanese Shade Grass (Hakonechloa), and Evergreen Solomon’s Seal (Disporopsis pernyi) with Heuchera that have come up from seed in between and on stones. Several Gingers spice up the shade, both native and non-native, along with dwarf Meadow Rue, and Crested Iris forming an open groundcover (yes, I know they have lovely blue blooms. What can I say? I had a moment of weakness). Sweetbox is one of my better spreaders ((Sarcococca ruscifolia). A weeping Japanese maple hides part of the header pool for the water feature. I am still considering a dwarf Rhododendron or two.

Christmas fern on mossy rock at edge of stream.

A serpentine stream wanders down the middle of the garden its bottom lined with solid flat sandstone. I have allowed algae to form on the bed of stone to give the appearance of age. To further enhance the appearance of “being there forever” large stones line the stream on either side, most of which are covered with moss like a green shag carpet from the 1970’s.

There are several waterfalls of varying heights, some with echo chambers to enhance the sound of falling water. Depending upon where you stand or sit in relation to the stream, flowing water has a different sound. Listening while sitting on the porch is a blend of all the sounds, including the plop of frogs jumping back into the water as a cat comes by.

Tea Time

Tea time is promptly at 4:00. I gather up my cup of green tea, 2 or 3 cookies and my Kindle and take a seat in the wicker chair on the front porch table. The move from a small table in the kitchen to outside on the porch has only developed in the past couple of weeks. There have been times when one would think the weather was too hot and humid for hot tea outside, but it all seems to work. For an hour or so I can sit in quiet and allow some serenity to flow around me along with the sounds of the waterfalls.

I speak of quiet and sounds in the same breath. Some sounds are missing. No TV or radio, no sounds of auto traffic, no cell phone wanting my attention, no conversations to carry on, not even an internal dialog. Even with all that is missing, when I stop to think about sitting quietly, I hear more and more. To name but a few of the sounds there is the sound of water splashing, the birds at the feeder and surrounding woods, a breeze flowing through the leaves, distant wind chimes up in the garden. Not very quiet at all.

Just enough shush to hear myself think. Not that there are any great earth shaking thoughts wandering through. Simply following my own admonishment to shush, to be still.

Don’t miss out. Gene has a few dates open to speak at your garden club or symposium. May as well do it now.

Just One More Adventure: In Short Supply Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: In Short Supply

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Fairy Cottage renovated from old birdhouse.

In Short Supply

 There is only so much time in any one day. I am finding that being on the mend from surgery is a time consuming project. I am an early riser and get my opportunity to have a cup of hot tea in peace before the day begins around me. Ready my meditation topic for the day and dwell upon my attempts to improve another minute, hour or day. A calm beginning containing a modicum of serenity is a “good thing”.


New Routine

A new routine of cardio rehab has begun. Three days a week for 36 sessions. One hour a day does not sound like a lot of time, but my time is beginning to be spread out thinner than margarine on a poor man’s toast. Somehow all is looming much larger than the reality.

If I am to get dressed and drive in town to the hospital for sessions, perhaps make a stop for some blood work, most of my morning has been taken. All that remains is to have lunch in town or come back home for lunch, then take my nap. Truth be told, by the time I do the exercises ask of me for one hour, drive back and forth, I will be fighting sleep on the way home. At this point sessions are exhausting me physically.


Only so much time in a day

Hakonechloa macra, the “Plain Old” Japanese Shade Grass

With my 3 days a week rehab, there comes doctors’ appointments in the afternoons or days not scheduled for rehab. There is a cardiologist, a pulmonary specialist, a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist and my family doctor. Calls and trips to the drug store. Then, of course one must take all those medications picked up. Morning meds, afternoon meds and evening meds, meds taken once a day and meds taken every 12 hours. And, don’t forget the breathing treatments sitting at the end of a hose twice a day. There is more, but you see where I am going. It is not my intent to sound whinny or be ungrateful for all the life-saving people, machines and procedures in my life. I truly am thankful. Were it not for all these people and more in the past, without a doubt I would not be here. That I know as sure as God made little green apples.

By the end of each day, at week’s end, there is not much left over in the way of energy and stamina. Mostly just enough for a quick nap in my easy chair. Here again I realize with my head that recovery from heart surgery is not an overnight process. I am told to expect about a year before I am “back to normal”.

It is my lack of patience that makes taking it easy so difficult. I know many of my fellow gardeners would love to have someone tell them to “take it easy”. Most of us are, to some degree, in over our heads being busy living life in today’s world. So. I should be thankful and appreciate my directions to take it easy. But. It is hard to take care of me and watch my soul mate the garden decline in health.


Camels and Straws

Most of my complaints are brought on by delivery and instruction on another medical device. Thanks to modern science I can be my own medical technician.  The small instrument and meter is for measuring the amount of anticoagulation in your blood (blood thinner). Sticking my finger at home if far more preferable to going to the hospital hand having blood drawn. I get the convenience concept. When all is said and done it really is just one more damn thing added to my life. One more procedure to do, another telephone call to send in the results.

What added that straw to the camel’s back was being told in a very professional manner that this instrument new to my life would be used a minimum of once every other week for the rest of my life. The rest of my life. I sat after the nurse left and felt the straws stack up. Had I the strength and ability I would have ran screaming into the woods.


Right now I may need more gratitude than another medication or machine. I can see and understand that. There are times when I get the old pity pottie out and use it heavily (think diuretic for depression). This is one of those times. What I do pity most is my separation from my soul mate the garden. It is suffering to even greater depths than I. Mostly from my not being able to take care of.


But, if I did have the stamina and energy to work in my garden, if I had to do all these medical procedures and doctors’ appointments, I feel there time would be in short supply to use in gardening.

Gene is ready to give that next talk at your garden club meeting or symposium. Book now for your preferred date.

Just One More Adventure: Disturbance in the Force Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Disturbance in the Force

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Container with Japanese Maple, Meadow Rue (Thalictrum), Heuchera, at foot of water feature.



At one time or another for the past 20plus years I have subscribed to all the gardening magazines. Just off hand American, Scottish and English publications were some of the sources I remember. Then there were all the garden clubs and plant organizations, their newsletters and bulletins filling my mail box each quarter and monthly. I may not have read every work in every publication, but I sure scanned each article titles, first paragraph and the photos. Truth be told, I subscribed to far more publications than I could possibly read each month.

Lilium amabile

When I began gardening with vegetable gardening, so my first magazines were Organic Gardening and I believe a publication named Mother Earth. Those were followed by other subscriptions as my interests and tastes changed over the years. I found Fine Gardening and although it was quite pricey subscribed for many years. There was The American Gardener and Horticulture Magazine as well as Indiana Gardening and the Bulletin from North American Rock Garden Society. There were other names and subscriptions over the years, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind. I would eventually write stories and use photographs from my garden for almost every gardening magazine named, as well as articles for monthly newsletters.


The subscriptions were not the only publications arriving each month. There were all the gardening catalogs that arrived spring, summer and fall. Placing an order made me a subscriber for life that often set me up for both hard copy and monthly digital newsletters with new plant notices.  I could not have been more in the flow, more wound up and pointed, with all the information reaching me about my favorite thing to do in life.


This year not a single gardening magazine received a renewal from me. I found myself not reading what was accumulating beside my easy chair. Never thought I would see the day, but somehow the day did arrive. I simply let them go.


Library – hard copy

One wall in my office is nothing but books. That is eight feet across and nine feet up of mostly hard copy gardening books. (There was a time when one did not point out books were “hard copy”.) Stretching back over thirty years of book collecting, many have become old friends that that are visited often. It has only been within the last few year or two that I have stopped purchasing gardening books. I can think of a million reasons not to buy a gardening book today when yesterday it was a million and one reasons to purchase a glorious gardening book.


Basket Case

Beside my easy chair there is a long basket that holds magazines and books to be read, or publications that have been read, but deemed “keepers” for further reference at a future date. Or, that is what I tell myself. There are catalogs dated 2006 and before that were saved for reference since I placed an order from them or had plants marked for my future ‘lust list”. Catalogs from such greats mailorder nurseries as Asiatica and Heronswood.

The basket has been overflowing from some time now and I cannot remember the last time I chose a publication from the basket to read.


A New Day

This morning I took my cup of hot tea to my easy chair to watch the dawn break and the first birds to come to the feeder. While sitting there the basket drew me like a magnet and would not let me go. I began sifting through all those magazines and catalogs, realizing they would never get read, and somehow they had lost their relevance to my life. One day they were sacred, the next morning they had lost their hold on me. Every publication found a new home in a stack to be moved to the recycling bin.

The basket is almost empty now. I do not know what will arrive to fill that space. I do feel that there has been a subtle disturbance in the force.



There was no great thinking or reasoning behind my early morning movements. Mostly I simply acted. Now that I have acted I find myself thinking a bit about “what it all means”. I do not want to overthink my behavior, but I do feel as though I have somehow shifted a paradigm in my life. I feel that I am turning something loose, “casting my bread upon the waters” so to speak. I am told that bread cast upon the waters returns (this kind of bread does not get soggy). When or where, the delivery method, in what from it will arrive, I do not know.

One thing I do know is it will be interesting to see what form it all takes when it does return.


Book Gene now for your next garden club meeting or symposium fall of 2016 or spring of 2018

Just One More Adventure: Paradise Misplaced: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Paradise Misplaced: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Paradise Misplaced

Arisaema candidssimum, the Candy Jack. Easily grown and long lived exotic beauty.


I would not say I have lost paradise, but there are times when it gets misplaced. Besides the title Paradise Lost was taken in 1667 by John Milton of merry old England. My words may not be as epic as John’s poetry, but something to ponder. You may remember the poem from high school literature class where it was force fed.


My Brother

My not so little brother always had a greeting reply I have not heard elsewhere. I would ask him “How you doin’ Ray?” and he would always reply “Just another shitty day in paradise”. Like most human beings he had some problems to deal with on a daily basis. But, overall, he did have a life he had put together the way he wanted it. So, sometimes life can be better even when it is already good.


My Way

Arisaema fargessi

Well over 30 years ago I purchased the property I call home; where I garden. It is a small frame home that sits on the side of a hill in Southern Indiana. I literally took one look and purchased the home on same day, as I could feel a distinct connection between my bellybutton and the property. I knew from the moment I drove down the drive way that this was where I belonged. This was where I could spend my days in contentment and serenity. It was to be going home for the last time. It was where I find myself.

The property was neglected and overgrown when purchased taking the first 5 years or more just to clean it up. Over the years it has been changed to meet the vision I have of a home, and this is where I learned to garden. The garden grew not only on the hillside, but we became soul mates that grew into an online nursery that lasted for 20 years. From the nursery grew the need to photograph the flowers and that talent became a large part of my life, illustrating my website and PowerPoint talks where I also learned to speak before an audience. Needing to write a catalog each winter led to writing articles for magazines and other publications. The garden and I had a partnership.

The combination of garden and nursery, our location, became a destination for other gardeners. Since we were by appointment only gardeners received tours of the garden and nursery one-on-one and visits usually lasted 2 hours or more. Picnic lunches on the front porch were common. Every little detail was arranged Goldilocks Just Right. The comment we heard most often was “How does it feel to live in paradise?” I will have to admit that it felt pretty darn good.


The Visitor

Japanee Painted Fern and Indian Pink

This past week I received a gentle reminder of just how good I have it here in my own little paradise. Since we live at the end of a gravel driveway 350 plus feet long and our home is secluded among trees, we seldom receive visitors unless it is someone we know and they have called ahead. Answering a knock on our door I found a stranger waiting for me. She stood facing away from the door looking at all the large containers and our water feature. She was so caught up in tall the plants she was startled when I opened the door.

She showed me her tablet and brochures introducing herself and immediately began asking questions about each plant and container. About the bird feeders and the water feature and it’s landscaping. I found myself automatically stepping outside the door and answering her questions. I had gone into guided tour mode.

I did not want to be rude, but the tour was beginning to run overtime. And, how could I not answer her questions when she continually and enthusiastically told me what a wonderful home I had. She could feel the peace and quiet. We lived in a “doll house”. So many colorful birds singing at the feeder. She just knew the inside of my home would be as wonderful as the outside. She could just spend the afternoon on our front porch listening to the sound of the waterfalls.  It was not really the waterfalls she was hearing, but rather the serenity calling her.



The stranger did not know it, and I was not aware until after she left, but she was the teacher that shows up just when you need a lesson. She reminded me of all that I had and just how fortunate I was. Just think. To be lucky enough to live in paradise. And she was correct.

I still live in the same house after 30 plus years. I have my hillside garden I have created over the years, the water feature still runs between mossy rocks and over falls as it has for many years now. While I may have some temporary problems, so does every other human being. No one gets through life without experiencing problems to solve. How I experience my day, whether it is a shitty or blessed, all belong to me. I am the one in charge of my day and how I feel about it.


Time is running out. The best speaking dates for 2018 are being taken. Call or email now and book your preferred date to have Gene Speak. 


Just One More Adventure: Rewards Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Rewards

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Lilium Lankon


The Best

There are times when the best rewards, the most meaningful, come from the most unexpected sources, at times least anticipated. I am finding they most often arrive when I am looking in another direction. Pleasant little surprises arriving at just the right time. All I have to do is let them happen and then see them as the surprises happen.


Can’t Do What I Want  When I Want

Lilium ambila, orange blooming form.

In the early morning before the heat had a chance to build I started to take a walk in the garden. But, then made the decision not to face its reality, and mine. Even the paths are now overgrown with weeds and I don’t want to see my garden in its current condition. I will go back another day, just not today.

I am still gathering containers together that hold perennials left over from last year, arranging the plants as they would have been transplanted to the garden. They are finding temporary homes combined and arranged in large containers. The pots will be placed near the porch where I can easily keep the watered and hopefully enjoy seeing them thrive.


Sitting on the Front Porch

I may have overdid it a bit so I took a break on the front porch in the wicker chair with the cushion, and hooked back up to my oxygen. I sat and admired my handiwork visualizing how each container would come to look once mature. While imagining the future I nodded off in the present.


Sound of Quiet

The sounds of quiet were a lullaby to my ears. The sounds of leaves in the shrubs and trees rustling to the breezes, the absence of road noise, and the sounds of my water fall just off the porch. Especially the sound of water flowing over mossy rocks singing a song only it can perform.


Bird Feeder Activity

About 20 feet from where I sat on the porch is a bird feeder with a history going back at least 30 years. There is suet, sunflower seed, thistle and mixed for the ground feeders. That combination has feed many thousands of birds over the years and provided many hours of interest for the man who fills the feeders.

A family of four young squirrels are at the feeder and spend most of their day eating. I cannot imagine how they can climb back up a tree to their home after a full day of feeding their face.

I awoke from my nodding off to the sound of a pileated woodpecker who goes through suet by the block. She and her young always announce their arrival long before they actually get to the feeder with their distinctive calls. Already feeding were Blue Jays, Red Wing Blackbirds, Gold finches, Purple finches, Cardinals and Doves. Quite an entertaining sight. But, over and above the sight were the sounds of their songs.

The sights and sounds were expected rewards enjoyed over the many years. But then came a totally unexpected reward. While sitting quietly listening to the birds singing to each other, there came the love song of a quail. The multiple calls of Bob White were broadcast over and over. I hope that he found the romance he was seeking. I had not heard the voice of a partridge in many years. At one time when I first moved here over 30 years ago they were counted on to call with their distinctive voice. The call of Bob White was such a pleasing surprise and such an unexpected reward for sitting quietly.

Let’s talk gardening. Be sure to book Gene at your next garden event. 

Just One More Adventure: All or Nothing Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: All or Nothing
Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Spider Lily, Hymenocallis occidentalis, one of our lesser known native bulbs

Just became aware
I just became aware of some of my thinking. A bit surprising to me, but there it is. Since I began with all my health issues, I have had a tendency to think all or nothing. A bit of “If I cannot have what I want as I want it, when I want it, then I don’t want anything”. Sounds like the reaction of a petulant child.
Probably the best example would be the restrictions placed upon my activities after surgery. If I cannot actively get into my garden and do what needs to be done, then there is nothing I can do. No, I cannot dig holes and transplant, no I cannot crawl about and weed. No, I cannot carry baskets of debris from up and down the hillside paths. But, when I step back a bit and take another look, I find that there remains a wealth of gardening activities I can still perform.

New Approach

Native deciduous azalea

I am trying to relearn my thinking, or rather my seeming lack of thinking. Perhaps I need to continually rethink as things progress. See what choices are available at each step. My health will progress and I will get better, and as I feel better I will be able to be more active in my garden. Try to use the approach of making decisions based upon current facts and not my emotions. This week I cannot weed in my garden, but next week I begin cardio rehab 3 days a week. In the near future I hope to be able to use a kneeling bench and weed in a raised bed. For now, I Will be able, is enough. For now, there are other activities I can do to satisfy my need to be in my garden.

For Now
This week it is enough for me to take my camera and tripod into the garden and take portraits of the perennials and shrubs in bloom. I am ignoring a caution or two, but with cautions, all is going well for me. I am supposed to take my cane and mini oxygen bottle, but I cannot take those and camera equipment at the same time. Not enough hands to hold it all and don’t want to have problems with my sense of balance. Falls with a healing chest is not a good thing. The tripod can serve as my cane and I am limiting my time without the oxygen bottle. Compromise, and caution seems to work. I spent early morning walking the paths, taking photos for a new talk I am creating.
While looking closely and evaluating possible photos I found at least 3 or 4 mornings of possible future photos of foliage. Perhaps some photos of containers that are maturing nicely.

Gene’s eBook tells the rest of the garden story

I also see that if I am careful, I can begin to pot up my perennials I was not able to get into the garden last year. I am arranging tableaus in large containers so they can grow on until I can dig those holes and transplant complete displays when healed. For a damp spot in the garden there is a complete scene with native Hibiscus, Spider Lilies (Hymenocallis occidentalis), and Louisiana Iris. I promise to get help moving bags of potting medium and the containers into place. Just an hour or so each morning enjoying what completes my day.


So. I promise myself no sitting and sulking over what I cannot do. I am going to just go do what I can do today.


And… don’t forget. Do it now. Book Gene for your next garden club meeting. While openings remain available.


Just One More Adventure: I’m Back (Again) Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events


Just One More Adventure: I’m Back (Again)

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events


Arum italicum, or Black Calla in bloom. It is pollinated by flies and mosquitoes.

I’m Back

After an absence of 5 weeks I am back once more. Had open heart surgery (yes, they did find one), spent a week in the hospital and then 3 weeks in rehab. After a week of settling in, time to begin a “real life”. A life containing gardening. Exactly what form of gardening remain a mystery at this point in time.


A Matter of Timing

My time away began the second week of April and I returned home the second week of May. Prime time in my woodland garden. Before complaining about what I did not get to see, I do need to say that I was able to see late winter awakenings. The snowdrops (Galanthus) and hellebores were paired to perform the best show in years. Trillium nivale, the Dwarf Snow Trillium, never disappoints me as first trillium of the year to bloom. Pulmonaria or Lungwort first blooms and foliage were emerging. Adonis was sunshine on a blustery day. I could go on listing late winter bloomers; pointing out my life is certainly not all disappointments.


But, I sure missed some of my most prized plants emerging and coming into bloom. Along with the bulbs, tubers and perennials that come into bloom during April and into May were the winter germinating weeds. And, oh, how they did emerge. With no one to keep them in check they took over the garden. Worse yet, they are setting prolific seed that will be a problem every late winter more than likely for the rest of my days. Chick weed, garlic mustard, creeping Charlie and hen bit are the major culprits.


Chit Chats

I am having some chit chats, powwows, conversations with myself on the subject of patience. Never been the world’s best in that department, but looks as though I am to receive a through remedial training on the topic. At this point in my life there is not a thing I can do to change the fact that I cannot be actively working in my garden.


Corydalis lutea ad Ghost Fern combination.

However, I can, with caution and slow pace, walk my garden paths with a cane and portable oxygen. I can see what is in bloom now and enjoy what is there for me today. I also believe I can see a lesson as I walk. The plants are emerging, doing what they were made to do, pushing up through the obstacles and performing to be best of their ability.


I have been wading through some weeds myself the last few months, but, by damn, I will emerge and bloom in my own time and way.

Don’t Forget: I am now accepting bookings for 2018 to speak at your garden event. 

Just One More Adventure: Real Magic 4 Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Real Magic 4

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana with Jacob’s Ladder


Grounded in the Garden


For some years now I have been vaguely aware of “Earthing” or “Grounding” from fellow gardeners. After another conversation in which the subject of “Grounding” came up I did a search and found a book to read. I keep telling myself how much sense this one makes and so easy to do. So why not do it? (You are aware of the words procrastination and gardener having a definite correlation?)

Our brains, our cells and our bodies run on electrical energy. At its most basic, our bodies were made from the earth and need to be in contact with the earth to function properly. Earth is a grounding or negative force. We build up positive forces that create free radicals needing to be discharged before they can do damage such as inflammation. Simple bare body to soil creates a flow of positive to negative creating a neutral state. For a more detailed and complete, perhaps more clear, explaination you may want to read “Earthing The most important health discovery ever” by Clinton Ober.

Simply sitting still on your favorite bench in the garden with bare feet in the soil can reduce inflammation, chronic pain, while increasing energy levels and lowering stress. Improved blood pressure is also a benefit of the process.




Hepatica nobilis blue bloom

The last couple of decades there has been quite a bit of research into soil microbes and human health. Some of what has been established is a link between the bacterium mycobacterium vaccae and stimulation of serotonin production. Serotonin is the natural chemical that produces the feelings of relaxation and happiness. You can think of soil bacterium as a natural form of Prozac (without the side effects). A lack of serotonin has been linked to anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsion disorders. The bacterium does not seem to have any side effects to a gardeners’ health, but rather stimulates the production of cytokine which, in turn, increases levels of serotonin. All a gardener needs is time to play in the garden; to actually come into direct contact with soil, to inhale or have contact with an open wound.

I personally found all this to be a major help both physically and mentally as I progressed through two cancers and five years of treatment and recovery with radiation and chemo.


Insulation from Reality


Native Bloodroot

The ending of WW2 brought with it the beginning of answers written in chemicals. The buzz word became plastics, and I grew up with one new miracle after another most of my life. Everything from chemical sprays and fertilizers for my garden, to synthetic blends of cloth in my shirts and trousers (remember the leisure suit of the 70’s? Certainly nothing real about that one.), to the chair I sit on at breakfast. Almost every nook and cranny of our lives now have synthetic answers. And, therein lies a problem.


Talk About Out of Touch


Growing up my shirt and jeans would have been made of cotton. Now when I head up the hillside into the garden my shirt is SPF 50, long sleeved, quick drying and completely manmade. My hat has the same SPF and never saw anything resembling natural fibers. Cargo pants are summer weight and also synthetic. Gloves I use are nitrile coated with never a crumble of soil beneath my fingernails. Work boots are leather uppers, but the insoles are molded unpronounceables, while the soles are poured into a form to be attached in one piece. None of which is a sin, simply all act as insulators and keep us from contact with our garden soil and its benefits.


And, that’s A Good Thing


My oncologist would be very proud of me, seeing me dressed as she would have directed to protect myself from possible further cancer. My dermatologist would put away her can of frozen nitrogen in celebration. My family doctor would want another quick scan. Thing is, I am doing as instructed by the medical community who is looking out for my wellbeing. Perhaps withdrawing, insulating myself from, the real world that I live and garden in is not the complete answer.




I have the good intentions of the medical community wishing me well through one avenue, while my soul and my roots want to travel the back roads to the same destination. It would seem that relationships exist upon a building block of compromise, so somewhere in all these relationships is a healthier me while I garden. I understand there is a “new” field of medicine now building in momentum. Integrative medicine.