Aging With Your Garden: Ergonomic Tools

Rusty, but “in bloom” all 12 months

Senior Gardeners

Just looking around at symposiums and garden clubs there is a strong element of seniors present. According to a past information promoted by the National Gardening Association, there are about 91 million gardeners enjoying themselves in some form of lawn or gardening activities. Of those, there are 28 million over the age of fifty-five. For many of us seniors, just as we acquire time to relax and spend time in our gardens, health issues show up to frustrate with discomfort and pain, creating limitations.

Even if you are in the perfectly healthy group and under the age of 55 there is no reason to garden the hard way. Using the right tools for the job is good advice no matter your age or health. Often they can be more costly, but in general, they are only purchased once in a lifetime. Once used you will fuss at yourself for not looking into ergonomic tools for gardening.

Before getting into basic tools for the impaired gardener, first up should be a place to keep them nearby saving trips back and forth to the garage, mudroom, or basement. The further your garden(s) is from your home or garage the less time and effort you have to garden. May not sound like much, but the trick is to conserve energy and stamina to use in the garden.

Bottles emptied at home to create tree


First Class

One trick is placing a rural mailbox at the garden entrance, in the garden, or someplace nearby that is convenient. Size can depend upon the tools you chose to place in the box. Perhaps the tools used most often and an extra pair of gloves. The mailbox can be placed upon a post at the right height to take a look inside without having to bend over excessively. If made a part of the overall garden design it can look like it belongs as a feature. A bit of spray paint in colors of choice, perhaps a container or two or three at the base of the post. Some perennials and a vine to scamper up and around the mailbox.

Gloves are number one on a list of tools to keep in the mailbox or tote bag. Preferably both locations. Also two different types of gloves are used. One for the heavy work, one for the more delicate tasks. For getting in there and getting it done, workhorse gloves Bionic Reliefgrip Gardening Gloves cannot be beat for comfort while wearing them and working at the most labor intensive tasks. The pad system used evens out the surface of the hand for more strength and holding ability. They even look bionic. For gloves allowing for more sensitivity Only Atlas brand of gloves with nitrile coating of fingers and palm, nylon liners providing comfort while providing flexibility, breathability.  These usually carry best beneath a belt or in a pocket where they are always accessible.

No birds bathing

Hand Tools

There is a wealth of selections for ergonomic hand tools to keep handy in the mailbox or tote bag. Radius tools is the brand to seek out when ordering ergonomic tools. More will be said of them later on in another blog when covering larger gardening tools. In my tote bag there is the full line up of hand tools including a trowel, a cultivator, and a weeder. In the mailbox is a backup weeder kept close at hand. It is the weeder that has an almost magical tendency to disappear. If not spotted where last used, give up, go to the mailbox, and get the replacement: usually the first weeder used will show up before leaving the garden. All Radius tools are designed so the wrist is at a natural angle while working at each task resulting in less stress on wrist and hand, giving more power to dig.


Fiskars Softgrip Bypass Pruners ergonomic hand pruners have a bypass blade used for cutting green growth. Blades are razor-sharp ad stay that way due to low a friction coating. Softgrip handles are designed to reduce hand fatigue while using to prune, while the grip reduces hand fatigue when you are in a flurry of pruning. There is also a Fiskars Powergear anvil lopper that is a must-have for dead wood trimming up to 1 ¼ inch diameter. A bit large for a tote bag, but perfect for the mailbox storage. It only weighs 13 ounces, but has a gear design giving 3 times the normal power for the job. Same razor-sharp coated blades. Carries the ease of use commendation from the Arthritis Foundation.

Fiskars also makes a 10 Inch Power Tooth Sliding Saw where the blade slides back into the handle. This one ends up tote bag or mailbox due it small size and weight. The steel blade cuts on both the pull and push stroke. There is a Softgrip padding on the handle for comfort and reduction of hand fatigue.

Right tool for the right task is equal to right plant, right place. Reduce fatigue, save some of your precious energy and stamina in exchange for more time and feeling better in the garden.

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice. I am sharing my thoughts and feelings about growing older, having ‘technical difficulties’ with my health. Be sure you see a physician before you act upon what you read here.

Aging With Your Garden: Pacing Yourself

Hellebore bloom pushing up through mulch


Habits are hard to form and difficult to break. We are aware when intentionally forming habits, but they can also ‘just happen’ as we get into a rut repeating the same task over and over. (A rut can be a grave with the ends removed: dead end) It does not take much to elevate a habit to a ritual. Comfort can be found in repetitive tasks helping to form habits. While we were busy doing the same thing over and over, time passed in our gardens. Passing of time carries aging with it. If we are fortunate, there will come a time when we can no longer automatically walk into our old habits.

Don’t Stop Now

Assuming a tried and true passionate gardener has no intention of quitting gardening, changes in how a gardener gardens are in order. Aging is a gradual process and somewhere around the middle of life the body no longer functions as it once did. The age of 65 is most often the quoted year for old age, but you can be 55 and elderly as well.

Gardeners are normally a bit more active, but at some point in aging, loss of muscle causes stiffness and less flexibility. Loosing stamina makes it more difficult to work in the garden. Our circulation system, heart, arteries, become stiff and we no longer get the blood flow and oxygen we once did at 35, and that is where fatigue creeps in. In short, we no longer have what it takes to get the job done in the same time and way we once did. The good news is, while we cannot stop the aging process, we can alleviate symptoms by exercise, and gardening is an exercise.

Out With the Old

Old habits can only be changed when we become aware of them. New habits can best be formed when replacing the old ones. Time to become aware of what our bodies are telling us while working in the garden. Making mental notes helps, but using a watch and note pad is even better, perhaps for a week or two during active gardening season. How often do you need to stop and catch your breath? How long does it take to recover? What does your body tell you when kneeling down and then getting back up? How long can you perform a task before experiencing a need for a break? What is your ‘I overdid it’ point that you pay for come evening? Questions that need to be answered to overcome old habits formed when we had more energy and strength.

Once those questions are answered healthier activities in the garden can be formed while still getting the work accomplished to our satisfaction. A bit of patience is required for a new way of going about gardening tasks. Alternating differing tasks with time limits on each should be at the top of changes. How long can you work at one activity before depleting energy and stamina, needing to stop? Each task varies depending upon energy needed. If digging in a bed, then about twenty minutes may be tops, then a break of ten minutes, and then choosing a different task such as weeding. Another break after thirty minutes of weeding, then back to digging in the bed. Perhaps your overall limit in the garden before getting into trouble by being rewarded with aches and pains tops out at about two hours including breaks.

Yes, it is hard to walk away from an uncompleted task in the garden. The weeding is not completed, the bed still needs more digging, but to enjoy a garden, and have what it takes to keep on gardening, means pacing for making a return appearance.


You know the old joke about gardeners purchasing fancy expensive benches and never sitting on one? Time to put that old joke away and begin using, frequently using, that bench for breaks. You may also find an unexpected gain of enjoying your garden by taking the time to sit and see what you have accomplished (no fair seeing only weeds that need removal. Take a positive look). Depending upon the size of your garden another bench or two could be in order. The closer they are to where you stop working, the more apt you are to use a bench.

If you have trouble sitting still and relaxing for fifteen minutes or so, then give yourself something garden related to focus upon while sitting. An active bird house, feeder or watering dish perhaps. Gazing balls are popular. A large container at bench end, or off center in front to play with while seated. Whatever it takes to keep sitting until the body catches up with the mind.

Notice that nothing but aches and pains was given up. First the aging process was recognized and then our part in it was found. We replaced each old ‘bad habit’ with a new more healthy way of going about our gardening. Replacing one habit for another is the easiest way to go about making a change.

While, at first, it may seem time is being wasted and unfinished gardening tasks are gaining on you, that is often resistance to change, more of an illusion than fact. Once consistently pacing, time and energy is actually gained in spite of feeling time has been lost. Within reason and age, the more one exercises, the more energy gained to return another day.  The more you will feel like returning to the garden consistently as opposed to having to take a day or two off for you overdid it again.

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice. I am sharing my thoughts and feelings about growing older, having ‘technical difficulties’ with my health. Be sure you see a physician before you act upon what you read here.

Aging With Your Garden: Humor

Hermitage (Gene’s Folly) in Snow

Medical Laughter

While watching medieval battle scenes in movies, ever wonder why armies going into hand-to-hand combat scream battle cries? Answer is you cannot think while screaming. If you took your time, no running into battle, paused to think it over chances are you would turn, mumble ‘what the hell’ and quickly walk away from the conflict. At the other end of the emotional spectrum is laughter. Thinking while either laughing or screaming are not good times to try and think. Try studying quantum mechanics while laughing at a good joke. The old saying about laughter being the best medicine, everyone has heard and mostly accepts. Why we do not use more of what we know remains a mystery to me.

Every culture around the world has a sense of humor. We humans all laugh. Even chimps laugh, and you can fake it until you make it with laughter. Human babies begin very early with smiles and sounds of laughter. If you do a Google search on laughter you will receive countless pages of information from evolutionary theories to what makes a good joke.  Some humans are better at laughing than others, but it is in there someplace.

I believe the ability of laughter and sense of humor is in our genes, and we can learn and develop from what is given to us. It is also a gift that the more you give it away the more you receive. I will admit that humor is often counter intuitive. When you need humor most is when you are least likely to even smile.

Snow covered Guardian of the Steps. His expression says it all.


Transend the Day

I find humor to be stepping outside one’s self, a letting go, perhaps a transcending. Everyone has a bad hair day on occasion. It could be when your cardiologist tells you how old you are and it’s now time for you to slow down. Perhaps begin thinking of a different hobby (what? No gardening?). After all your sense of balance is no longer what it used to be. Don’t want to break those old bones and end up in a nursing home. This coming at a time when you feel you are already being forced to slow down through demands from your body.  Then you are told your young mind will get your old body in trouble.

And the cardiologist sits at the top of a list of specialists passing out advise, for then comes the meds and cautions from specialists helping you deal with arthritis, or hip replacement, or the myriad of possibilities that can come with aging. No small wonder that one of the largest challenges the aging face is dealing with depression; and staring your own mortality in the face does not help.

Covered Bridge To Nowhere. At times a good path to take.

Trying on Shoes

Before becoming buried too deep in one’s own emotional and physical difficulties, perhaps time is ripe to consider how others feel. I doubt there is a human being alive that does not have problems of their own. They two have bad hair days. You usually have no way of knowing what individuals face by just looking at them. The nurse smiling at you, taking your vitals and the ekg, taking blood samples from your arm, may have been up all night with a teething baby. Perhaps she should have retired, but cannot afford to for she now cares of a grandchild. You can fill in the stories. They may need a smile more than you, but she did smile when greeting you. Will a smile cure you or her? No, but it sure can alleviate symptoms of what ails you both.

Normally we do not pay close attention to the more subtle emotions, but there is a wealth of helpful emotions and beneficial physical changes when laughing. Bear in mind that emotional and physical health are tied together. One affects the other. While telling that stale and tired joke, getting a chuckle, that knot of anxiety behind your bellybutton melts. Tension is released and you relax. You cannot carry fear and anxiety while laughing. The white coat syndrome disappears as your laugh. Blood pressure and heart rate are lowered. For those of you still in the dating game, the top of the list remains “a good sense of humor”.

Helpful Habits

If you have formed the habit of walking or running on a regular schedule then you know that when skip a day, you feel like something is missing in your life. That is because when you take a walk endorphins are released. I would not call endorphins addictive, but once activated on a regular schedule you will miss the feelings they produce. Laughter will produce many of the same benefits by exercising the heart, lungs, muscles, through increasing intake of oxygen and the brain sending those pleasure building endorphins.

One of the effects of laughter that I use is controlling of discomfort and pain. Laughter separates me from the awareness of my discomfort, creating more positive thoughts and feelings fighting of stress along with a production of a painkiller about as good as over the counter meds.

If you not the jolliest of individuals, never fear, for humor can be learned, enhanced. There is no shortage of comedy available to watch, listen to or read. Surely you have a favorite comedian. Laugh at their comedy and soon you will develop those muscles on your face and in your brain to share with your fellow gardeners.

Taking a walk on a good day to loosen up before entering the garden with a fellow gardener, finding a laugh to share can be as close to finding nirvana.

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice. I am sharing my thoughts and feelings about growing older, having ‘technical difficulties’ with my health. Be sure you see a physician before you act upon what you read here.

Aging With Your Garden: Patience

First Snowdrop buds emerging


It is far better to be patient than become a patient. But, thankfully, you can still become patient even if you are already a patient. As we age being patient with ourselves becomes ever more important in our lives. Our minds are still going like The Little Engine that Could, while our bodies feel like they need to be sidetracked.

As with any perceived problem the first step is to acknowledge there is a problem, then accept it so there can be a solution. Acceptance is not the same as resignation.  Also the process of aging itself is not a problem; it is a blessing. It was my perception of the process that was a problem.

Speaking for myself, I blamed aging when it was several health problems that hit at the same time. Taken together they were seen as preventing me from gardening. Or, so I thought. It took about two years to sort it out, this my seeing myself as confined within limitations.

Hellebore niger Sunset Strain


The process was a bit like getting out of a deep debt. First you see the problem(s) facing you, then comes doing something about, solving the problem one piece at a time. First the minor debts were paid off, then going through each debt until reaching the biggest and seeing that disappear. My physicians and I began working on my health problems and it took about two years to get the meds and procedures worked out, only we began in the opposite direction… major to minor. Once the health problem symptoms were under control that left mostly aging.

During that two year period of recovery I rediscovered the virtue of patience. I believe gardening has taught me more about patience than any other teacher in my life.  There certainly was not a heaping supply of the virtue earlier in my life earlier. Perhaps some of what I have today is a result of diminishing hormones, and a lack of energy to be anything but patient. But, by and large, my garden is where I was taught to wait with a good attitude.

Catalog Dreaming

Gardeners Know

How can one not learn patience when gardening? My first thought goes to sowing seeds. When sowing trillium seeds I will need to wait for two years before I see the first little green noses above the soil line. All that time they must be tended and watched so they do not dry out, or become overtaken by weeds. The next three years the pans must be very carefully tended with shade, but enough light to provide chlorophyll for healthy growth. Water, but care not to over water and rot the tiny blades of green. A touch of fertilizer in every other watering. Finally, with care and patience, the blades will turn to stems with three leaves at the top. Each miniature rhizome can then be transplanted to its own little container to complete its journey to maturity. First bloom will be another two or three years away and all those years they must be cared for. A total of five to seven years for first bloom, with two years for germination added for good measure. Little wonder few gardeners grow trilliums to maturity for their gardens. But, with patience, these trilliums become a sense of achievement, of satisfaction, when they bloom in the garden.


When I purchase a perennial it is with the expectation that it will take at least three years before it comes into its own in my garden. It is said that perennials sleep their first year, creep the second year, and the third leap into full growth and bloom taking their full place in the garden. Over the years I have purchased, and grown from seed, numerous perennial plants and watched them fully develop in my garden. Some live up to expectations and some do not, but time and patience is given to all. Perhaps while I was waiting for them to mature I was doing a bit of maturing myself. At the very least I was aging along with the plants.

Not only do individual plants need to mature, but the garden as a whole, how each plant relates to the other in color, texture and form has to come together in their own time. As they mature individually the garden as a whole matures to grow into the overall design that was in mind when each plant found its home.

While we can help move things along with watering, mulch and fertilizer, the rest is time and patience as each garden and its plants happens in its own time and way. And, in turn, gardening has taught me that is far better to be patient with people, including myself as well as plants, for it is far better to be patient than become a patient.

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice. I am sharing my thoughts and feelings about growing older, having ‘technical difficulties’ with my health. Be sure you see a physician before you act upon what you read here.

Aging With Your Garden: The Fortunate Few

First Hellebore bloom of winter

Celebrating Life

The longer I get to spend in this life the more fortunate I feel. So many of my close friends and relatives have passed on to a true no-maintenance garden. As I share with you in this blog, I am fortunate enough to see my eighty-first birthday coming up, and even more fortunate, still getting to spend much of my time in my garden.

If you are here to read these words and find yourself realizing your age due to limitations then do join me in celebration. Along the way many of you have received diagnosis of health problems. Some of which can be corrected and then it’s back to the garden as before, while some of us will received word of problems that will not go away. With adjustments we can continue to find comfort in our gardening.

Before I get into plants and gardening, join me in a discussion of Aging with Your Garden. Feedback is always appreciated and welcomed.

Witch-Hazel in winter bloom

Gardeners and Life

One would think gardeners in particular would know all about aging. After all we age every day we live, so plenty of practice. We purchase rare plants in four inch containers and wait three or more years to see the plant age enough to produce first bloom. We transplants whips of trees that take twenty years to age into a shady canopy. But, somehow we manage to deny our own aging while expecting our gardens to age. Gardens and their gardeners age together.

Perhaps because age ‘sneaks up on us’ day to day aging is easy to deny. I never see my true age when I look in the mirror. My mind remains much younger than my body. There is even a Biblical quote that says “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I knew I was having trouble keeping up with my garden years before I was forced to face that fact. Then I received several diagnosis that forced me to face reality. My forecast for future wellbeing was not a bright one.

Helleborus foetidus and Arum italicum

Now What?

So, what to do? On the one hand I had all these physicians and tests forcing me to face facts concerning my future health. On the other hand, my garden is where I am happy, I am comfortable, I am content; it is where I belong.

One day while sitting on my big worry rock in the center of my garden I could only focus on a two-year mess of accumulated weeds. I was losing my garden, and with my garden my spiritual and emotional health. Probably much of my physical health. This could not go on. I could not go on.


While sitting on the rock under the old cedar tree I had a bit of an epiphany.  Perhaps my greatest problem was how I was seeing my new world. While it was true each specialist was treating me for a specific problem, they were helping me as far as they were capable. I had excellent physicians. The meds were all working as expected. That was their world and how they saw me. I decided to see myself in a different world. This old mule was not going to lay down and die fenced in a paradigm. I was not going to live and garden, nor maintain the illusion of failing health and aging.

My health was not failing. Symptoms were now under control, I was now improving with all the new meds and treatments available. I could take over from that point and stay aware of my attitude, of how I chose to see my new life. How I chose to see myself each day belonged to me. Sometimes it is more difficult to maintain an illusion of feeling well than giving up and feeling bad, but the illusion can and does become reality. Yes, I am aging, but aging remains the same transition it has always been. I will not accept the illusion that being older means the end. Not today.

There certainly will be many physical and mental adjustments to make while I walk this new path in my garden, but I have my garden and my garden has me. Together we are comfortable, content, happy to be together. We still have plans reaching into the future. I will be out there with my tote bag filled with attitude.

How about you?

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

I am not a doctor and I do not give medical advice. I am sharing my thoughts and feelings about growing older, having ‘technical difficulties’ with my health. Be sure you see a physician before you act upon what you read here.

Aging With Your Garden: It Ain’t What You Think

Freezing Waterfall


Welcome to a new year and a new blog; Aging in Your Garden where I will be sharing my experiences, perhaps providing a few ways to see gardening in a new, but aging, light. All the while not forgetting my passion for plants.

First a Story

I always enjoy a story with a punch line, a moral, a lesson. An ‘ah-ha’ moment. I will begin the New Year with one of my favorites. Not original by any means, but it does go back to when I was a young boy in my home town. Due to its length this installment will be part one of two.

Budding Snowdrops

The Town

I was born in a small town with a population of about 850 residents if one counted passing passenger trains and pigeons. It was a small mining town with a mine that ‘petered out’ many years before I was born. The last open gunfight was an argument over a saddle in the 1920’s. There was a post office next to a notions store that sold sodas and ice cream; a gathering place for the ladies of town to get the mail, avoid their children, and share town gossip. For the men there was a hardware store and a feed mill.

The Characters

The feed mill porch seem to be the gathering place in good weather. There was a potbellied wood stove in winter to gather around. The usual residents showed up faithfully. I remember a grizzled old man who needed a shave that seldom spoke and always carved on a stick, creating a swirl of shavings around his feet. Another rotund man with wide colorful suspenders who’s bottom covered the bench, his chief activity chewing and spitting. A pair of oversize overalls with brass buttons loosely contained a skinny old gentleman who seemed to do the talking for the three. There were others, but these three I remember most vividly.

Wintergreen in Snow

The Story

One day I was sent to the mill by my father and stepped up on the porch to enter, when the skinny old somewhat-retired farmer motioned for me to come close. Of course I did and he took hold of my sleeve. “Did you hear?” he whispered. “Surely you must have. It is all over town now. Uncle Oliver’s mules. Such a tragedy.”

Of course I bit. “What? What story about mules?” I cared nothing for the mules, hardly knew Uncle Oliver, but he hooked me with the mystery and intriguing air.

“Have a seat here”, he instructed. I did and he began.

Popcorn and Mules

“Well sir, it was just this past week with all the drought and heat. Never had a month this hot and dry in my recollection. Oliver being a smart business man made a deal with the popcorn factory to grow popcorn for them. He turned over his whole field to this money maker. Popcorn as far as the eye could see, all head-high and, drying, ready to harvest.”

“Now Oliver had these prize bred mules he was proud of and hope to sell. To keep them healthy he turned them into the field with the popcorn so they could feed on the grass and weeds in the fencerow. That man, he could see dollar signs all over that field.”

“Well sir, it got so damn hot, that corn started to pop. Started about middle of the field and at first it was the noise that made the mules skittish. But, it kept getting faster with the popping noise, same time getting louder. Now the mules were getting really nervous, walking back and forth along the fence line. They were wanting out of there, but could not get over the well-built fence. They was getting into a panic by now with nowhere to run.”

“Soon that popcorn was popping all through the field. Not just in the middle, but spreading throughout the field and beginning to fall upon the mules. The exploding cobs threw white puffy balls into air in a flurry. Soon it was piling up around the mule’s feet and clinging to their hairy backsides, the main between their eyes. It was white everywhere.”

“Well sir, there was only one thing in those mules’ past experience looking like that, and that was snow. Their eyes got big and they began to shiver. Pretty soon none of the mules could control the shakes and shivers, those big teeth chattering. First one mule lay down in the ‘snow’, then another, and another. Covered with popped corn they began to stiffen and freeze. Those damn mules were freezing to death in the middle of September in a field of popping corn.”

“Uncle Oliver lost every penny he had invested that year. His prize mules and his contract for the popcorn.  Now what do you think of that?”

He was to be respected for he was elderly, but I was not sure whether to believe him and say that in front of his friends on the porch.

“Speak up, boy. What do you think about that?”

Before I could replay, he spoke up. “It’s ok. It was just a story. A story with what they call a moral. You know, a kind of lesson to be learned. The lesson here is not everything you see and hear may not be what you think it is.”

“Now run along. I bet you are on an errand for your father. He will wonder what happened to you.”

To be continued……….

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

Living With Limitations: A New Beginning

Christmas greeting on front porch

I am taking time out for the holidays and will return in the coming New Year of 2021.

This blog Shade Solutions will be going through a metamorphous from Shade Solutions: Living With Limitations becoming Aging in Your Garden. Having reached 81 years of age I feel I am, at last fully qualified, to speak on aging and health problems becoming garden companions.

Join me January 2021 for a year of Alternative Gardening.

Best of Holidays to my Gardening Buds, Gene



Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

Living With Limitations: Fickle, Fickle

Ho, Ho, Ho

It’s the time of the year when this little boy gets into the spirit of Christmas holidays. There is no time of the year like December. There is the anticipation of the upcoming holidays, the planning and the doing, the excitement of surprises. I am the one who decorates for Christmas in our household.


This year we have decorated a bit differently on the outside. The entrance porch has as a main feature four trees of varying sizes and shapes arranged in a semi-circle. All are old trees with a sting of lights that no longer work and have been dragged out of various places of storing. Within the semi-circle of rewired trees are two wooden adirondack chairs painted in red. Front of the chairs is a metal end table in red. Two more trees with lights adorn my water falls across from the front porch.


Inside the house candelabras with bubble lights adorn the great room windows. Miniature trees frame the TV, while more small trees in silver share space with clear vases filled with silver and red balls. The tree is a seven foot tall pencil tree decorated in native bird ornaments, silver balls, white berry sprays and tinsel.  Rather pleased with myself.

Next up is baking of my favorite chocolate cookies with dried cherries soaked in brandy and dark chocolate chips.

I bemoaned winter chasing me from my garden, but accepted reality and jumped into my eight year old mode of thinking and feeling and concentrated on Christmas, forgetting gardening. (I know: pure unadulterated heresy)

Fickle, Fickle

Then, we had three days in a row of weather with temperatures in mid-50’s and 60’s. The soil was perfect for working. Well. Dropped all thoughts of Christmas like a hot potato and headed to the garden all three afternoons. Even got in one morning and afternoon on the last day before new cold front and rain. Actually got one half of a badly needed construction project completed. I am sore and my old bones protest, but nothing a second helping of eggnog cannot cure.

As if a magic wand had been waved, I dropped gardening and sit here admiring my decorations, sipping hot tea served with homemade cookies. Fickle again.

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.

Living With Limitations: A Little Looking Back

Dwarf Japanese Maple Lion’s Mane: Fall Foliage


Now that the first snow and below freezing temperatures have arrived I am looking into my garden’s 2020 rear view mirror. I believe all of us know how crazy the past year has been, each with their own version. No need to go into long-winded essays on that one. As usual our weather was a mixed bag as well, but overall I am pleased with the past year in my garden.

I will show you a few photos hopefully telling more than words.

In the Mirror

My favorite lily , our native Lilium canadense, or Canada Lily

Favorite shrubs: Calycanthus. This one C. x Hartlage Wine

Mertensia, Anemone, Primula


Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.


And, The book makes an excellent Christmas Gift for the Aging or impaired gardener.


Living With Limitations: Soulful Seeing

Japanese Maple fall foliage

Do you enjoy riddles?

What does an Artist, a Photographer and a Gardener have in common?

All have learned to know where to look, and how to look. They have learned to see opening their eyes from behind, not just seeing what is in front.

Corydalis ochroleuca Yellow White Corydalis


When painting a landscape an artist can move mountains. Mature trees can be eliminated or move about for better balance. Boulders can be moved about as though they were mere pebbles. Paths can be created or moved for the illusion of perspective. She can see like an owl creating a panoramic view the human eye cannot see while holding their head still. The artist often creates a world seen more from behind their eyes then in front. The world as she envisions the alternate realities as opposed to the as is.

Personalities are emotions that cannot be directly seen with her eyes, yet when doing a portrait, personality is painted most often. Backgrounds are created. Clothing and style is invented. If hair color in reality can change after an hour at the beauty parlor, it can change in a painting at the flow of a brush. Crow’s feet at the corner of eyes, wrinkles can be ignored if youth and vigor are desired in final portrait. It remains the same person painted, but as seen through both from behind and in front of the painter’s eye.

Fall Foliage: Arum Italicum with Helleborus foetidus


While photographing landscapes perhaps timing and patience is of the essence to bring out in the photograph what the photographer sees behind his eyes while using a machine. The view will only work from a certain angle. He walks and looks, looks and walks. Light is observed for the perfect atmosphere and time noted. What lens will be used? Other equipment? When it all comes together several exposures are taken.

Be it landscape, portrait of gardener or plant, it is the essence that is captured. If an individual plant, the view must say not only this is the species, the cultivar being correctly identified, but also tell you of the beauty. When the photo is printed it will be as much the photographer as the reality viewed.

Yes, we do have Photo Shop to further change the reality by software as opposed to attempting to capture a moment in time. But, that is a story for another time.


Of the three, perhaps it is the gardener who sees most from behind the eyes. When a bare spot appears it is not just vacant space: it is a mature shrub or conifer, perhaps a small tree. Facing the side of the neighbor’s garage aligning the property line, the gardener sees the beginning of a courtyard garden. Neighboring hills, property line trees can be ‘borrowed’ for a larger expanse of garden.

Like a male Bower Bird the gardener continually arranges and rearranges plants and baubles to reveal his very soul. The garden must be continually preened. Sticks picked up, paths clean, neatness and tidiness essential. The bird bath gets moved each season, the gazing ball goes best with a different container because new annuals were purchased. There is no end to the cleaning and weeding and pruning, rearranging for best effect of what is envisioned. Perhaps more of what is not there is seen more than what is: tomorrow is seen more clearly than today’s walk in the garden.

You just have to know where to look, how to look: eyes open from behind, not what is in front.

Aging with your garden? You need my book “A Gardener Grounded”

May not cure your ills, make you younger, but it could help you Feel & Garden better.