Sunny sunny day……


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Very excited, as we sit together as a family, reviewing our plans to dig out the vegetable gardens.

True I am a garden designer with out a garden.  In my defence, we’ve been planning the subdivision of our rather large residential property and I refuse to do things backwards.  I’ve got scotch blood, and practise permacultural principles whenever I can.  But we can no longer wait.

The sun beckons us, and the seeds we’ve been planning to start, are screaming to get in the ground.  Over winter, my husband and I endured an incredible kitchen renovation (I use the term endured lightly, imagine the circus I had while preparing Christmas dinner.) My lovely new kitchen boasts a gorgeous  4’x7′ butcher block style island, crafted out of Alder.

I imagine it regularly covered in freshly picked vegetables, soil still hanging on to the flesh of the carrots and the crown of the lettuces.   I dream of days devoted to canning with my mom; pickled carrots and beans, tomatoes and peaches, turnips, and beets.  My freezer supplying us with frozen peas, asparagus and strawberries.  We’ll be so inspired, that we’ll run out and bring home a pick-up load of sweet Chilliwack corn. We’ll giggle and dance around the kitchen as the kids break apart the kernels that have been cut from the cobs; little fingers submerged in the bowls filled to the rim.  Traditions and seasonal rituals that mimic my own childhood in Abbotsford, B.C.

My recent injury means the process will not only document our successes, but address the many obstacles I will meet along the way.  I don’t plan to leave the typical 4 foot paths between the raised beds.  I know this garden will have to be moved and possibly destroyed when our lot lines shift. Our installation timeline is short, our space limited, and we’re trying to conserve on costs.  As we intend to frame the beds in timber, we’re best to build smaller beds and let paths be 2 feet wide instead.  Meaning I will need the assistance of a rolling bench or my little monkeys during weeding and harvesting practises.

Even the planning finds me instructing from a table rather than participating in the construction.  I long for the labor but remind myself that I am simple not capable of the balance required.  It will be wonderful to watch and document the project with my camera and notebook.  My 11 year olds can certainly do with a little agricultural education and some time doing manly tasks with their dad.

This project will also leave room for some seed starting activities, which are easily documented.  I will do my best to produce the records in a similar format to that of an Horticultural Therapy program.  Presenting it to our readers in the same format I would a community program or school committee.

I am thrilled!  Time to Get up and Grow!



The power of flowers !


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Have you ever taken a moment to investigate how you feel when you stare upon a bouquet of flowers, the flowers in your garden or in a park, or even in a photo? Nothing tops a fresh flower for it’s fragrance, its delicate nature or vivid colours.  Have you pondered why we gift flowers, find them beside a hospital bed or use them to represent or celebrate the death of a loved one?

In studies held (The Home Ecology of Flowers Study), Nancy Etcoff found that the presence of flowers has a direct effect on “peoples’ moods, feelings and energy levels.”  Three main findings listed with in the study site that…

  1. Flowers affect compassion. Participants who lived with fresh cut flowers for up to a week felt an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness for others.
  2. Flowers chase away anxieties at home. Overall, people felt less negative after being around flowers at home.  They most often placed flowers in kitchens, eating areas and living rooms, and reported a desire to see flowers when they got up in the morning.
  3. Living with flowers can provide a boost of energy, happiness and enthusiasm at work.  People were more likely to report feeling happier and having more enthusiasm and energy at work when flowers were present in their home environments.
Growing up with vegetable & flower gardens and later working as a landscape designer, I have always enjoyed displaying and arranging
flowers in my home. And I regularly give the gift of flowers for many occasions, even when there truly is no occasion.  
(I have noticed, 1/3 of my visitors have come carrying flowers. Others bring magazines, books and treats. All are welcomed or course.)

an impression of my flower arranging workspace

During my adventures yesterday, I managed to fit in a visit to my favourite flower merchant on                                Oak Bay avenue, Harry’s flowers.  Chatting away with my friend, I purchased a number of bouquets and flower bunches to replace the arrangements in my room now becoming sad and expired.

I do not need to tell you the importance of having a companion with me during this excursion.  It was pure kismet that she arrived during my visit to the cafe.  I had intended to go to the flower shop alone.  Something I could have accomplished, but would have been both exhausting and awkward.

Flower Arranging:

Much to my excitement, I was blessed by another fantastic bouquet of flowers this morning.  This one boasted an array of Spring and Easter colours.  Pretty butter-yellow carnations with red tipped petals, paired with pink & white carnations. The white petals tipped in mauve.   The flowers were paired with sprays of feathery foliage and what looked to be a miniature eucalyptus species.

All brought together by one of my most favourite floral additions; a spray of tiny organized blossoms with tinged purple petals and a purple throat, seen in the photo to the left.  It’s features are so stunning.( I do not know that name and welcome anyone to comment who does.)

It is important to note, flowers purchased or grown for the use of Horticulture Therapy activities with certain populations, and/or in care facilities should be cross referenced using a toxicity resource. A few resources include;

Toxic plants of North America, G. E. Burrows & R.J. Tyrl. Iowa State Press., Ames, IA, 2001.

Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms of North America, Nancy J. Turner & Adam F. Sczawinki. Timber Press, 2nd ed., 1995.

Or there are Online resources such as,

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information

After yesterday’s marathon flower arranging fun, I had begun building my own home “Horticulture Therapy Cart”.  One of the most important tools used by professionals in Horticulture Therapy, is their tools and supply cart, a shed on wheels if you will.

My home Cart, is an Antique tea trolley with shelves.  The cart comes with a removable glass tray to protect the wood and has proven handy for easy clean up with the help of an assistant.  An HT specialist found working in Residential Homecare facilities counts his/her cart as  their most valued tool.  Some carts are transported to multiple facilities and/or homes,  while others are locked or stored on work sites cart holds supplies and tools needed regularly for my activities.

Items so far include:

  • secateurs (hand held garden pruners)
  • scissors
  • spoons (for digging and transported soils etc)
  • a cloth (for inevitable spills)
  • a table cloth (to protect my bed)
  • a stainless tub (converted to carry green waste & multiple vases)
  • vases (I have found it a pain to collect these while using crutches)
  • a pen and pencil
  • a camera (for documenting)
  • a watering can
  • extra floralife (non-toxic alternatives, ie: tonic water or lemon/lime soda)

I intend to add to this list as I try out new activities along my recovery timeline.

Observations: (Challenges & Future Considerations)
  • Must have someone to assist in filling vases with water
  • as in all activities were participant has minimal mobility, all supplies & tools should be previously collected
  • sturdy and flat working surface is best (bed is fine when vase does not hold water, however some plant material must be submerged immediately after being cut or vascular system will dry and cut will fuse.)
  • best to have side table near by or cart with flat surface
  • have diverse collection of vases or containers that can be used as vases available
  • splash mat is an absolute when working on bedding
  • extended, non functioning limbs must be worked around, careful organization of plant material makes arranging easier
  • plans for post-activity should be discussed and considered prior to project, ie. waste disposal, water source, organic composting etc
  • arrangements to be kept in recovery room should be designed based on vases and areas to be displayed (some cut shorter so not to block views, others displayed in skinny vase to preserve storage space or for display on ledges)
  • consider lasting quality or discolouration of flowers as they expire. choose long- lasting cut flowers, and those with denser petals
  • have someone help top up and freshen water in vases when needed

Stay tuned for more acitivities….

I intend to save a number of the flowers from my arrangements, with hopes to perform a pilot project with a few friends, in pressing flowers.  Prior to this activity, I will need to either enlist the help of my husband in creating a flower press or acquire a flower press from Lee Valley Tools.

A Model of Health and Well-being through Nature and Horticulture



The below is a terrific model of process, activity and outcome in social and therapeutic horticulture, as described in the literature showing the interconnectedness of all elements. I’m sure you’ll recognize the subtle similarities in Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs.

The model was created by The Centre for Child and Family Research, out of the UK and can be found on their website. The model can be found more specifically in one of their many Evidence-based reasearch issues, titled ccfr evidence issue6.

A very fitting visit


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My nephew arrive this am as planned.  Matthew, is 35 years old, and lives just outside of Duncan, at a farm known as Glenora Farms .Glenora farms is part of the Camphill collective.

a group of the Glenora farm artisans displaying their craft

The “Camphill Movement is a worldwide organization of schools, training colleges and adult villages where caregivers and people with developmental disabilities live, learn and work together, sharing in a culturally rich and productive environment.”  Needless to say, Glenora farm holds a special interest for me; being a Vocational program based on agriculture & crafting projects involving botanicals.

Most residents at Glenora farm produce products such as: beeswax candles, felt birds, tinctures, teas, spices & herbs, jams & jellies, jewelry, wool scarves, fruits & vegetable and much more.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Glenora, please use the link provided above and be sure to stop by tomorrow to read my interview with Matthew on life on the farm.


Permaculture on my mind and yours, and theirs and ours…..


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“It is time for all of us to make changes about how we live our lives and to follow a path of the heart. By following our intuition and inpiration we encourage our own acts of heartfelt genius and boldness. This makes us feel alive and vital, gives us a great purpose and harnesses parts of ourselves we may have neglected or didn’t even know we had. We no longer feel overwhelmed by the way the Earth’s resources are managed, but recognise that change is in our hands, yours and mine, the hands of extraordinary people who have made a leap of understanding and are determined to make a difference. We become part of the change by becoming part of the solution.”

Glennie Kindred ‘Earth Wisdom’


The warmth of the sun’s rays

We’ve been blessed with a beautiful day today.  And though I cannot participate in ways I would normally like to, I am able to take in the warmth of the Sun’s rays and the sound of bird song while sitting on my veranda.

I am reminded of Alice of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ sitting against the tree, trying to recite a poem written by Isaac Watts,

Against Idleness And Mischief
Isaac Watts

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthy play,
Let my first years be passed
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Though Alice recites a completely different scene, describing the tale of a crocodile instead of a bee.  It reminds me to look deeper, take time to really consider things we so often overlook.

My husband has brought out our campaign bed from the attic, and moved the furniture around so I can sit with my collection of buddhas and watch my potted weeping crabapple open it’s delicate pink blossoms.  The air, crisp and fragrant, wafts over me like the cool welcoming arms of mother nature, safe in her embrace.  It’s quiet on the street this afternoon and the sounds of the waves splashing against the shore nearby can be heard quite clearly, rocking me as the rays warm my cheeks.

My forsythia has exploded with a spray of canary yellow flowers in its typical messy array, shooting this way and that.  It’s a reminder that chaos is often beautiful, and order is often not found in a natural setting.

Though my nose seems to be perpetually dry and irritated, the fragrance of the cedars, fresh cut lawns and muscari dance around my nostrils; waking my senses, filling my once tired and broken body with a new burst of energy and life I so desperately needed.

I blur my vision a little to appreciate the dazzling green of the grass, the brilliant yellow of the daffodils and the sharp contrast of the fuchsia flowers on the Camellia.

A display so lovely that I earn for my easel to be at arms reach.  I note this desire and plan to have it ready for another day.

My senses are alive and serving me well.  I am invigorated by the fragrance of Spring, enlightening by the sweet sounds of the singing birds, lulled into awareness by the still cool air around me. My eyes dance from tree to shrub pouring over the vivid colours in each bloom and the textures and form of the foliage. I smile as I admire the way the Spruce tree braches fall gracefully over each other and the great willow tree has burst into leaf overhead.

It is true, I am sitting on my veranda, looking out at the homes, cars and street signs I see time and time again.  Though there is little to look upon that is not man made or conjured by man, I can appreciate the natural gifts around me and it brings to me a peace I was missing in my room.

I count my blessings and remember to breathe it all in.  One day I will walk again, for now I am enjoying the simple pleasure of stillness and the subtleties we miss in our busy day to day lives.

Be it a blade of grass or a mighty Sequoia; there is a pattern in nature that knits us all together.  

A connectedness that reminds us of where we came from and where we can return when need to recharge.

Observing the gifts of a garden, park or neighbourhood walk


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During my HT program, my mentor, Ann Kent, passed along a very helpful Garden walk template to help our clients and/or ourselves put a little more emphasis on what we might see or feel while out in the elements. I thought it would be a terrific template to record my own “Wheel abouts”.  

I’m hoping it will inspire my readers to take a closer look when out for even the shortest of walks.  Get connected, remember not forget you’re place in our ecosystem… embrace the symbiotic benefits and gifts this offers.

Elements of Therapeutic Garden Spaces – Local Walk: ______________________________

 (The intent of this exercise is to make observations and record questions for your personal use.) 

 1.   What were your first impressions and sensations when walking in this space?

 2.  Can you isolate any particular sensory experiences (sound, sight, touch, smell, taste)?

 3.  Is there any particular foliage, bark, tree form, etc. that has special appeal to you?

 4.  Are there any particular small spaces or views that have significant appeal for you?

 5. Is there anything intimidating or off-putting about this space?

 6.  Are there any “natural” plant or landscape elements here that you could imagine recreating in a

     facility garden or other therapeutic garden setting? Note how you might do this.

 7.  Consider the population with which you work.  Are you aware of their personal or life histories? 

     In what ways could you, as an activity leader, make a real or virtual walk to this space relevant?

 8.  While you often cannot remove plant material or other landscape features from some of the locales that you walk, what might you be able to collect and use from walks close to your home or work site?  

(What could you photograph or bring by way of pictorial references to support collected material?)

9.  Do you have any questions about the area walked for this activity that need follow-up or research?

 10. If considering this area for HT program activities, what must be taken into account with respect to safety, accessibility, washroom access, etc.? 

*Now remember this template is a gift from my mentor, so please be ethical. If you intend to use something similar be sure to create your own questions.  Soon enough you won’t need it.  With each breath you take, you’ll find yourself considering the blessings around you, if you don’t already.


Fennel and Fern


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gardengrab: One of the most gorgeous collection of blogs worldwide, dedicated to Gardening. The blog collective stems from fern and fennel, whose link is below.  They stem from a group of like minded landscapers, gardeners and/or those in the industry, who mainly live in the UK.

The things coming out of fennel and fern inspire me so much so that I peruse their blogs, and the blogs they support and recommend, each morning to start my day.

You can find a Link to her site in my Blogroll.  Absolutely inspiring!

follow their blog at