An artist shares her experiences on creatively developing, tending to and nurturing her garden as spiritual sanctuary for herself, her friends and family. Gail Allen contributes her thoughts on creating a sacred space as an oasis for soothing your soul in today's busy world, enticing your senses and and fostering your own personal growth

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gardening, Patience and Lyme Disease -Gail Allen

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Patience is a virtue and gardening involves so much patience. There are times when you can create an instant garden, like I mentioned in the post below, but creating an outdoor garden and letting it evolve into a mature landscape takes time,  planning, a lot of work, willingness to change as nature dictates and patience. Our gardens have been a work in progress for over 14 years and are over 4 acres in size. There are evergreen gardens, perennials, a water garden, hosta garden, vegetables and woodland garden.

It has been months since I have written, primarily because I have had to limit drastically my involvement with a myriad of my endeavors. Right now, I am having to put most of my energy into my paintings as you can see on my Easel Tides blog: Easel Tides: Gail Allen's Artistic Journey.

Gardening is my second favorite pastime, which I have always also pursued with vigor. The reason for the abrupt stop to the gardening, and this journal is: About two years ago after spending weeks in April and May clearing out a large amount of underbrush, to plant a new area near a garden shed, I became extremely ill, fatigued and couldn't walk well - or for more than 8 to 10 feet, dragging my left foot as I walked. I developed a large (18" diameter) raised red rash on my stomach. Severe headaches, like migraines, joint pain and numbness followed. Soon my memory was fading, my words were slurring, getting all mixed up and I had a short term bout of bells palsy numbness of my face. After many tests and months of extreme pain and anguish, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. To make a very long story short, my point in this post is to make gardeners aware of the dangers of Lyme Disease. If you Google the term Lyme Disease,  there are so very many stories and sites that will explain the symptoms and how to prevent it. I will put a list at the end of this article. Most cases show up in June, July and August, as it takes a few days to weeks of having  (the deer tick), the culprit that causes the disease, attached, to infect you. The deer tick is found in long grass or brush and is about the size of a pin head. It can be easily mistaken for a small mole, or possibly not even seen, except for the slight itchiness at the site of the bite, which is not necessarily where the rash occurs.

I still garden, but for this year, as I undergo long term antibiotic treatment for stage three or tertiary lyme disease and the symptoms wax and wane, sometimes to a debilitating extent - I have had to exhibit the pace of nature - patience. The weeds are slowly taking control, but thanks to the drought conditions we have faced in this area this summer, the weeds have been a bit contained and some have even died. I've been somewhat lucky in that. I'll be posting some summer pictures soon. 

For gardeners of all types, I hope you read up and make yourself aware of prevention and treatment of Lyme Disease. Don't wait to be stricken. Cases are on the rise at alarming rates, it simply takes education of how to prevent being bitten - by dressing properly, using the correct lotions or sprays to deter them and checking yourself as you come in from gardening in your yard. 

Some sites to explore:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Creating an Unusual Patio or Balcony Garden

Even when designing a small garden space on a limited budget, you can think big and use your imagination to inspire a noteworthy niche for contemplation and relaxation. Be bold, take chances and follow the ideas that "pop-into" your mind during the planning stages, these are the fuel for an interesting refuge. Trust your soul to give you cues as to what it is needing for atmosphere. Once you let the subconscious mind begin to create, you are on the right track to a great experiential garden. A great garden has attention in the details, so look closely at each area for the chance to add your personal unusual flair.
Every element should contribute to the peaceful restorative ambiance you are trying to create. Think of three levels of height, AND depth to your garden design; leading the eye onward and upward, creating depth using light colored leaves in front of darker colored leaves such as black, purple or red. Look for bluish colored leaves, as in an 'Elegans' Hosta, for a soothing effect. Yellow colored leaves bring the eye forward. Also look at the color, texture and shape of each element. Soft plants against hard surfaces, like a wispy trailing plant, placed at the bottom below a ceramic pot, which is holding a larger plant or water feature, will enhance the look of the setting. The cleaver use of trellises and  unique objects-including pots and urns, shells, sculptural objects, chunks of glass or gazing balls, rocks, crystals,water, candlelight all help to set the stage when you are designing your own distinctive personal haven.
For example: Start by placing a mirror on a wall, (or a metallic reflective element like that), behind a tall fern, or other unique plant in a corner of a balcony. Add one or two purple, red, or darker green plants. Possibly one that flowers! Always remember to plant in odd numbers of one, three or five. Alternate leaf styles-fern like, spiky and/or  rounded leaves. Next, you could use a medium sized ceramic basin filled with water and a solar bamboo trickling fountain - a unique garden feature for a small space. The water garden could be raised up in its pot by setting it on another planter pot, placed upside down for the mid level planting. Place a water lily in a smaller pot, submerged in your fountain. Add a few small potted yellow or variegated grasses, or multicolored coleus for color around the base below. Add an item or two of interest like shells, unique rocks, beach rocks, clear glass balls, anything you collect for whimsy and fun. This can all be placed fairly compact together in a corner. Use this idea as just a starting point- to get your mind thinking. Make it your own personal haven. Have fun. Think of decorating the space as if it were a room in your house.
You will be surprised to see how the sound of water attracts people's attention and draws them out onto the balcony into your serene garden sanctuary.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Power of Personal Style

“Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.”

I guess I could say my personal style is pretty much summed up by these words. It really encompasses everything about how I live my life – in the moment, moving forward, step by step planning, developing and applying the ideas that come to mind. I seem to have an inherent “knowing”, as well as a vivid imagination of what could come in to “being” when planning a garden.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”  - Albert Einstein

So my advice in starting a garden is to get some gardening magazines, catalogues, books at the library, search on line, and just give your self the chance to “dream” and imagine what could be. Copy and save photos. Walk out on your patio, or into your yard, or the space wherever your “garden” is going to be and just look and listen. Open your heart to all that is around you.  Really look at the area you are going to develop and try to imagine yourself in the finished garden. What “fits” in this area of your yard?
Is this for sustenance, as a vegetable garden, cooking garden, and an herb or fruit garden?
Is it a container garden, or planted in the ground?
City or Country?
Is this a  garden of flowers, vegetables, grasses, evergreens, water, or a mixture of all of these?
How large of an area could you imagine it would be, without it feeling overwhelming to manage?
How much time do you want to spend maintaining it?
Do you love the outdoors, bugs, snakes, mice etc? Can you see yourself dealing with these on a daily basis?
Do you have other animals of your own such as a cat or dog that will impact whether a fence needs to surround it?

Is the garden against a wall, or an island, or a peninsula?
How much wind do you get in the area? (This will affect whether you need to stake plants or not.)
How will you get water to it? Is there a source close by?
Do you see a sculpture, bench or potted plants within it?
Do you want to replant with each New Year: as with annuals or mix in some perennials that will grow repeatedly in the same place each year? Also, think of biennials, which grow every other year. A few dwarf evergreens could give some “bones” to your garden if you live in a wintry climate.
Do you see this in full color? Bright vivid or soft subtle colors, monochrome?
How tall is the tallest plant? Is it in the center or the back?
Are there paths wandering within the garden?
Are there any other structures?
If you believed your dream was attainable, what would you dream of?
If you dreamt it today, and it would not fail, what would your garden look like?
How great would it feel to sit, walk through, or work in this space you have created in your mind?
If you look closely, what part of your garden would you love to look at the most?Where would you feel most comfortable in your imaginary garden?
Try to sketch it or cut out pictures and make a collage of what it would be like.
You are on your way. Dream it… it. It is that simple.
Dream it for the sake of adding beauty to your life and the planet. Dream it for the sake of  adding meaning to yourself, (and remember whatever you do resonates out into the larger world), - so for the sake of  adding meaning to the world. These garden inspirations  and  your dreams of a life worth living, and the work worth doing help that thought grow in the world, to all corners of our universe. Garden for yourself  - and you will help the world grow.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Beginning a Garden

Gardening involves partnership, love and art which transform life, and this resonates to all corners of the world. It is meditative, and all encompassing of body, mind and soul.  It should be always evolving and changing. If it is approached initially in this manner, it will result in an experience which is both emotional and physical to the creator and the beholder. Alliance of your own personality with this new space, and seeing it as a cooperative effort between yourself and nature -  as opposed to strictly designing and controlling nature, will bring harmony and success in your ventures.
  Many factors come to mind when considering planning a garden. What kind of gardener are you, or would you like to become? What are your traits and archetypes that will be influencing how you work in the garden.What would you like the space or "room" to be like - is it a a place of sustenance,  personal/private space or one to be shared with others? What senses (sight, sound, hearing, touch) are going to be kindled as one passes through?  What kind of garden will you plant - annual, perennial, water, grasses, flower, vegetable and fruit? What style attracts you? Is it English, Country, Asian, Mediterranean, Artistic, Soulful, Planned or Unplanned? What is the  climate zone like? What are the watering needs?  What is the soil like? Which local animals could be a problem and do you want to plant so as not to attract them? How do light requirements influence the success of your garden?
  At the outset, the journey can be spontaneous and happen in a learn as you go adventure. Or, you can take the time to ask yourself some pertinent questions and save some often costly and frustrating mistakes.  Writing things down can be the first step in organizing your thoughts and feelings, even if you never refer back to them again. Think of it as exploring your soul and focusing the mind on what the soul truly wants. It  is parallel to making a life plan; exploring your wants, needs, and desires, the  financial requirements and working out the details on how to get the end result.
 So, here, where the ground is snow covered and the "bones" of the area are clearly able to be seen - I am taking this month to look, think, write, sketch and meditate. It should be fun and filled with creative expression as I begin to sketch and revise my own "Soulful Garden".

Friday, January 1, 2010

"Love shared anywhere transforms situations everywhere. Your life is your corner of the garden;tend to that and you tend to the world." - Marianne Williamson