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To have or not to have, this is the question every garden owner asks as they listen to the garden trends of the moment. Because they are sometimes over used in the garden, some people find it to be busy looking and that you lose sight of the beauty of the plants and flowers.

Statuary and garden ornamentation can be as simple as a small stone bird to a statue of a god and goddess of angles,  then there are fountains and urns of stone, benches and bird baths and of just about anything we humans can imagine to be found in the garden. That is how and why some gardens can become crowed with so many. So with that knowledge in mind we might be a little more sympathetic to those who might have gone a little over board.

Outdoor ornamentation has been around a lot longer than cultivated gardens. Throughout history and as long as man has been on this planet we have  placed them as tributes to deities, or in memory of great leaders and famous warrior’s. They have always been linked to great civilizations of antiquity as their remains are found all around the world in the ancient ruins. All of this may have started with the early cave people who etched such things into their cave stone walls.

As the European world started to expand so did  great wealth, and the large mansions and gardens and grounds became show places for some of these great finds, although this is not the first time we find them in the garden, it is the first time they began to commercialize them for such use and it is the industrial Victorian age that we see it in full acceptance of use in the garden. It is during this time period, when great fortunes were made here in the United States. The wealthiest of wealth could commission great sculptors to create wonderful ornamentation for their large mansions and for their vast landscape and formal gardens.

Today we see all kinds of ornamentation being added to the garden because of reproductions and low-cost and the thing to keep in mind is that the true use of this garden art is to achieve balance and points of interest. You can also use this art to convey a message or to simply give tribute to an area or view, as well as a place to stop and to reflex for a moment.

You will find all kinds of price ranges out there and the best advice I can give is to take your time consider its placement and sun value upon its appearance and always look at the material it is made of, for that will determine its timely appearance and life span in the garden. Not all stone is equal and not all material last for ever.

So I will answer the question of just how many is too many? It’s your garden and as I’ve said it before and now, again, The garden is where we go to create who we are, in a way that only we know how. Just remember, not everyone will understand.

A thought; Beauty and knowing why, is in the eye’s and mind of the beholder.



If ever there was a view that made you think that time had stood still it would be one of a snow-covered garden. The stillness as the snow falls blanketing the trees and ornamental’s with an outline of white lace that is so fine and soft. The softness is all about the garden, the quiet whiteness is like being in the clouds and there is a comfort in that.

The empty clay pots have beautiful white rings and the statues are topped with white hats and the evergreens bow their branches with white lace gloves. The vines twist and curl as the snow dances through them as if none of this existed at all. That some great silent white ball was taking place and only the garden was invited.

Everything seems as if time has stopped and much of the garden floor is deep below the snow and only small glimpse of what is there are now just mounds in the snow. The stone walls are gone from view and the whole Shire Garden is asleep beneath this white comforter and I know all is well.

We call this snow poor mans fertilizer for all of the nutrients it will deliver to the soil when it melts in the spring, and the flowers this coming year will be even prettier.

As the snow falls there is a magical feeling in the air and the cloud cover makes for hardly a shadow to be found upon the snow and that of its self is something to notice for it allows the red and yellow twigs of the dogwoods and willows to show more brilliantly against the white back drop.

For us in the northern hemisphere snow is our friend, it insulates and protects our plants from drying out and or freeze. It reflexes light and that helps with our shorter days of light now. The snow also allows me to see where the Rabbits trails are, so that I might change that in the spring.

Snow, frozen rain, and each with its own shape and size how wonderful is that and here in the Shire Garden once again this snow gives yet another still picture of time standing still.

The quiet in this picture is one of knowing that there is a time for work and growth and a time for rest and it is that rest when most work is done.

A thought; Comfort is knowing that the snows of our life are there to protect and nourish.

We have had so much snow in the last two weeks that with today’s sun and cabin fever setting in, I thought outside air and a walk through the drifted snow was in good order. I saw an open spot of bare ground where the wind had blown the snow away up in Oak Grove and thought that was a good sunny spot to stand for a while and to look back upon the Shire Garden to see how things had weathered the storms so far.

Well getting there was quite a walk with snow drifts up to my hips, good workout though. As I stood in the cleared area and dusted the snow from my pants, the sun was warm and everything in the snow sparkled like crystals, with the sun light dancing through it, and it made me stop, just to notice such beauty.

Stomping the snow from my boots I noticed some green at my feet and I stooped a little closer to look at this green and to my surprise, it was Trailing Arbutus or May Flower and it was in bud with some bloom and all I wanted to do was to call out to someone to come and see, I found Spring here in all this snow, But at last, I was alone and shared my find with a fat gray squirrel heading to the bird feeder, he didn’t seem to care much, it was more about I was in his way.

Trailing Arbutus, May Flower, Ground Laural ( Epigaea repens ) meaning ” crawling upon the earth ” and should not be confused as the flower named for the Pilgrims ship the Mayflower, it was named for the European blossom of the crab apple tree. Arbutus have small up to two-inch evergreen leaves with a fine fuzz on them that helps to protect it from cold winters and the waxy five pedaled flowers form in small clusters and the fragrance is spicy sweet and are wonderful to eat as well. Member of the Heath Family a classified division, Magnaliophyta, order Ericales, family Ericaceae. Native habitat along woodland cart paths and pine and oak forest floors where mosses grow well. Poor to transplant and is best if left were found to enjoy. Bloom time is early spring through May but here in the Shire’s Oak Grove it seem to be in bloom year round. Once on the almost over collected list, to the point of rarity. The state flower of Massachusetts, its protected by law, and should not be picked or removed from public lands and road sides.

images61B9J142 images2I7Q4QZY wld2 wld2       Growing up in the rural country side it wasn’t unusual to know all of the secret spots of where the wild flowers grow and it was always gramma who would say to me I think we should see if the arbutus or the lady slipper’s are in bloom its close to that time, and we would head out on great flower finding adventures, the rule though was never reveal the spot where the wild flowers or blueberries are found because others will come and pick them. To this day I hesitate to tell where the wild things grow.

So here I stand out in Oak Grove in a sunny snow free spot enjoying my first glimpse of spring with no one but the birds, squirrels and the trees of the Shire Garden, and you know, that’s fine, because who better, than my best friends to share it with.

A thought; There is a first for a lot of things, but knowing there are always first’s makes life wonderful.

When I was very young at the age of four or five, I would accompany my Dad to our church on Saturday morning, as he was Deacon and he would ready the church for Sunday worship. During the summer season church members like, Mr. Bowen would bring in a large bucket filled with their garden flowers and his was always his prized gladiolus for the altar vases. I remember how beautiful the colors where and the long flower stalks where as tall as I was at the time. Mr. Bowen would combine the colors so that they looked nicely together and he would tell me all about the hundreds of colors he had in his garden, he would say the best part of gladiolus was that every year you get a new corm from each plant. ( A corm is some what of a bulb that is the food storage for the growth and flower for the next year.) similar to rhizomes, tubers and bulbs. Early that fall Mr. Bowen gave me about 50 gladiolus corms for spring planting in my garden and he told me not to plant them all at one time, plant seven to ten every other week till they are all planted, that way I would have flowers all summer.

As an older man working in my flower shop I grew to under appreciate the gladiolus because of their over use in funeral arrangements and just seeing them, for me, made me think of death. However the flower means nothing of death. The flower signifies strength of character, sometimes called ” Corn Lilies or Sword Lilies”  The word Gladius in Latin is ” the little sword” which was the flower of the Roman Gladiators whom used the corms as amulets for protection. They also grow abundantly in the Holy Land and are thought to be the lilies of the field mentioned in the Bible. So you see there is a lot more behind these flowers.

The gladiolus is made up of three main groups; Grandiflorus, Primulinus and the Nanus ( or butterfly ) and most of their origins are from south Africa, thus they are not cold hardy plants and in colder regions of the world, must be dug and stored in a warmer place for the winter, to which they do very well with little to no care till spring. This is when you separate the new corm from the older one and your corm count doubles, with the new corm bloom being the same as the parent.

I plan to plant more of these Sword Lilies in the Shire Garden this year, but of the older varieties for the smaller flowers with a greater sword appearance in their foliage that will create more character to the flower beds, and will be a great addition to our flower arrangements, as they make great cut flowers. This is the time of year when you order glad’s, and remember the first order you don’t need many, for in the coming years ahead you will have more than you’ll need.

Looking back to those early days in the church with my Dad, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic about Mr. Bowen and  his cultivation and hybridizing of his beautiful gladiolus and what I could have learned from him today.

lilies of the feild







Thought;  Never put off the questions of today, for the answers could be lost in tomorrow.

January is a long month of cold temperatures and over cast days and I thought it was a good time for a flower story.

This is one of many short stories I have written about the flowers and it takes place on a magical Island called, “Laurels”.


High above the lush green valleys stands the stony mountain of Lair. Here the rocks are step and upright, yet clinging in the cracks and crevasses are thousands of alpine flowers that help to transform this difficult area into a magical place. This is where the dragon of Laurel lives and it is here that our legend begins.

A dragon’s lair is a place of great wonder, for dragons are known to collect all things that shimmer and shine. Great hordes of treasures and trash are collected here. A great horde makes for a mighty dragon.

This lair was filled with golden candle sticks and chairs of gold guilt, dishes of silver and diamonds and jewels so vast that they set the whole of the lair aglow with the most wonderful colors. This was truly a most mighty dragon.

It has been recorded that dragons live to the age of five hundred years and over those years his main job is to collect his weight in wealth. The dragon of Laurels has done his job very well in deed.

He knew his days where growing near to an end and he worried about his many treasures day and night. He wanted no other young dragon to take his lives work from him, and on this matter he worried often.

One morning the dragon woke from a dream, in this dream he saw himself as a younger dragon again, and after much thinking on the matter decided that all he had to do was to give away some of his precious treasure. That if he did this good deed he would be given a new lease on life.

This is a very hard thing for a dragon to do, because by nature dragons are greedy and always presume everyone is out to take what they have.

This dragon was truly the greediest of all and smart too, he figured that if he gave just a few of his small treasures away that it would not only allow him to live another five hundred years, but would also make room for more treasure for his lair, this made for a very happy dragon!

Thus the dragon of Laurel’s Lair Mountain filled a great sack with the smallest of his treasured jewels of every color, and decided to hide them about the island thinking no one would find them spread so far and wide. As each jewel snapped from the greedy tight grip of the dragon, they fell to the ground like great hail. Where each jewel landed an unusual flower sprang from the soil marking its hiding place and its color.

The good people of Laurel where so taken by these keepers of the jewel flower, that they named them after the giver, the Snapdragon.

The snapdragon flowers have fell into many a greedy hand, but when the greedy person holds on to tight the dragon shaped flower head snaps open and the true colors are on display for all to see.

A thought; Often from strange places and under even stranger circumstances beautiful gifts can come to us.

The temperature outside is around 2 degrees on this blustery January morning, although the sun is out the wind chill is about 10 degrees below. I guess there will be no outside gardening today, so this is a good day to read and to write. Finding the sunniest spot in the house which is the sofa in the parlor was my first mission.

With a 8 foot palm tree over my head I imagine myself on some private island in the Caribbean where the flowers are in full bloom, the temps in the 70’s and a soft sea breeze rustles through the palms. But as I am not in that location, reality sets in and as I look about me, I see that I have created a sort of oases of my own. I have orchid plants and ferns in the bay window and a 8 foot palm here behind the sofa. That alone gave me a feeling of warmth.

About 12 years ago I purchased this palm – Phoenix roebelenii ( Dwarf Date Palm ) at about a 3 foot height at Home Depot, because I was using it for a one season plant as a center plant in one of the pool side displays, thinking it would give a great island feel, plus the price was right for that purpose. The palm did well and looked so good all that summer that the thought, letting it freeze wasn’t to happen, then it became one of those plants that did so well that even the thought of letting it go was out of the question. Well needless to say 12 years later the palm is 8 foot tall and our ceiling are the same. I read that the maximum height of these palms are 10 feet. So either we make it fit or we cut a hole in the ceiling, and that is something I would think about, but my wife Jan probably would frown upon.

Taking plants in to the home or greenhouse is something we must do in the northern hemisphere if we are to keep our gardening sanity, just to have some growing green and flowers around us helps to occupy our thoughts and gives us something to care for. Just remember don’t over water and feed moderately and give as much light as you can to them and most plants will come through the winter months well.

It was the Victorian that first brought the palms to the parlor because of their beauty and grace and ease of care with low light tolerance. I must say that the 12 years our palm has been with us, other than feeding and one repotting because of their small root system it has been one of the easiest plants I have ever had. Not to mention the warm memories it brings to the cottage.

So I’m thinking tonight some candles, colorful fruit drinks with little umbrellas, Island music and thoughts of where I should be, right here on my own tropical island in Acorn Cottage.

A thought; If its not the right palm, it may not be for the parlor.





I am writing this while traveling to our daughter’s home in the Carolina’s. I can’t help but think of her as a little girl with wide blue eyes, clapping her hands each time the Christmas tree was lit and the wonderous looks she gave to each of the many ornaments, and my heart grows heavy with those many memories.

Our granddaughter Savannah I was told turns their tree on and claps her hands with excitement and I can’t wait to get there. There will be hugs and kisses all around and a wonderful dinner, I am sure, as Jan will take on being mom/gramma and tend to the kitchen with her loving ways.

It is a Holiday Wish that all of us could be together at Alexsandra’s as she is the youngest and this will be their first Christmas at her home with us.

Jan’s Mom and Dad are on their way and  it will be a joy to see them.

Abigail and her family will be missed, but in our hearts this year and always, as her husbands duties keep them at their home in Oklahoma this year.

My Holiday Wish, is for a garden filled with family and   friends, for health and happiness and the wisdom to remember what is truly important, that where ever you are and what ever you do, live in the moment, it is the only real garden to tend with love.

Wishing you, Happy Holidays with Love !

A thought; Love is one of the best ingredient for everything, use it freely, it is not limited.


I felt I needed to share with you something that came to me to other day while working in the Shire Garden. As you know well I spend a lot of time in the garden, and while there I use this quiet to think about many things and to work through problems. However this day just the thought of working in the garden was just, well, joy. Its beauty was still in full view even as the winter cold approaches.

I took a moment to sit quietly  and to listen to the sounds in this late season and to see how far the shadows are cast across the garden. It was then that I heard within my head a voice, one I knew well, yet clearer than before. For some reason the garden was speaking to me, and in that moment what came to me was this;

It’s been a while sence I’ve spoken to you,

things have grown nicely over time.

Your tender yet sometimes ruff touch has kept things growing.

The weeds you pull are often just wanderers seeking a new home

and a beautiful one I must say. Due to your time spent with me each day.

I look forward to your walks and your thoughts, while you tend to my needs

and my rewards are the flowers and fruit I can provide.

The birds and butterflies and bee’s are my friends, thank you for letting them in.

When the rain dances over me you rejoice and with the sun’s warmth you tend to my every need.

With love and hope and belief in me, you work with the ease of an angel

as we create a heaven on earth.

So I say thank you for moments of peace and the patience of time you give to me. I in return will render

to you a place where all your dreams can come true.


As I write this and I recall clearly the words spoken to me. I can’t help but feel humbled by the simple joy that gardening can bring. As to whether the garden really spoke to me, well the words came from somewhere and who am I not to believe!

A thought; At this time of the year our belief system is put to a test, pass it wisely……..

My very first garden was a herb garden, and my love for them has only grown stronger. I have spent a lot of time over the years in herb gardens and can tell you  they are an easy lot of plants to grow. Just spade up some semi-sandy or partly gravel area in the sun, add some dried cow manure and your herbs will do fairly well. To rich a soil and too much water is a bad combination for them, heavy fast growth causes a short span for the fragrant oils you want from within the herbs.

There are annual and perennial herbs and most are easy to start from seed and most nurseries now carry a large variety of herbs of all types. Although most herb gardens are informal or are placed among the vegetables in the garden, I have had the pleasure to have been asked to plan and plant a formal herb garden to be enjoyed by not only the cook and doctor, but also for the visitor who will enjoy the heightening of all of their senses. The beauty of this garden is in its shades of gray and green foliage and the simplest of blooms. The formal comes with clear sight lines and focal interest and low herb bed hedges, with a knot garden of Santolina, sage, rosemary and lavender, in the center to create great drama.

Here in the Shire Garden the herbs are grown for cooking and holiday decorating, We make Artemisia wreaths with touches of thyme, rosemary and lavender tucked into  them. The many bunches of small bouquets of both cooking and fragrant herbs are readied for gifting, while others are dried and ground up to be used in our every day and holiday cooking.artemisa wreath

Herbs are used for healing, savoring and enhancing, but by no means should we overlook their beauty for purpose. For to look at their beauty in  a garden gives you the awareness of the simplicity in beauty.

Herbs are mentioned thru out history and their uses in ceremony and legend are well touted. Try planting them in pots for by the kitchen door where garden space might be limited or among your flowers for color enhancement. But whatever you do bring more of them into your life.

For me the herb’s are royal and their purpose is noble, but above all of that, they are spiritual and their presence in the garden is a testament to that.

A thought;  Delightful and sometimes pungent, sweet and heady odors that take our thoughts thru the past, in that remarkable way that only herbs can do.

Sometimes simple things can bring on much to feel and or to think about. It maybe just a single word or symbol. It makes us stop and to poise  for a moment, and you know something from deep within has been found and touched, perhaps a memory of someone or thing, your favorite pet or place, but somehow, in these few words found in the garden you find a wisdom the moves from within.

Over the years I have visited many gardens and am always moved by small signs that may be small frames of wood or painted on mirrors and old doors and watering cans, on old tools and gates, even stones are used to convey a message to invoke thought.

I thought I would like to share some of them with you;

  • To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
  • With the sun in my heart I will grow like the garden.
  • Feel free to talk to the plants they understand.
  • Keep calm and garden on.
  • The garden is my happy place.
  • Everything that might set us back into the slower pace in life, is a good thing, and gardening is an instrument of grace.
  • A beautiful garden is a work of the heart.
  • I live in the garden, I just sleep in the house.
  • My garden is my favorite teacher.
  • The garden is a mirror of the heart.
  • The bees are the song that I hum.
  • Butterflies teach us to float in our flight.
  • Bluebells ring happiness.
  • The gate to my desires.
  • Water reflects my soul.
  • Daisy’s help keep it simple.

Most times we are so busy passing through that we forget to stop for a moment to see where we are and to enjoy the world around us , so we try with a few words to get our minds off of what we are doing and to reboot our thought direction to a more meaningful, simple way.

Simply put, the next time you read the sign that you stand before, read it, take time to feel it and try to understand its wisdom invoked to you. Because from simple things come answers to who, why and what we are in a moment of wisdom.

A thought; Wisdom when understood helps us to grow…..