The Garden of Youth

Most children beg their parents for toys or candy, but as a child, I was completely obsessed with packets of seeds. I would stand by the towering racks in the grocery store, looking up at all of the small packages with beautiful pictures of delicious potential, simply amazed by all the possibility. Could there really be a watermelon in that tiny packet? I was fascinated with the idea that an entire plant could come out of a small seed. On rare occasions my mother would give in and buy me a pack or two. 

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“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”  Native American Proverb

I had no idea how to properly plant a seed so I would sprinkle them all around our suburban yard. I put them in the grass, along the fence, and even in between the cracks of the sidewalk. Then I would go out each day and wait for signs of a plant to appear. Sometimes they did, but then my father would cut them down accidentally while he was mowing the lawn. I don’t really remember ever being very successful but that never discouraged me. One time I did manage to get some zinnia seeds growing into small plants and when they bloomed, it was the best thing I had ever seen. There were precious few blossoms now and again, but I found them more enticing than a fanciful stack of unopened birthday gifts. Everyday I knelt on the ground to admire their individual colors. Each vibrant petal sang a song that filled my heart with joy.

In my imaginary world I was a huge success. I actually believed that I had a farm. I even went so far as to convince my parents to allow me to keep a chicken for a pet. I also persuaded my father to build a tiny pond out of concrete so that I could cultivate some water plants and a few tadpoles. At the height of my fanciful game, I adopted an invisible friend. His name was Who-Choo, and he was such a entertaining character that often my real friends would join in and play along with him. We had a special song that we sang as we marched around my farm with him leading the way. The surprising part about Who-Choo was that he was only twelve inches tall, and he was an invisible cow.

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“There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our heart must be very quiet to hear it.”  Minnie Aumonier

Gardeners are fundamentally optimistic about the future. I have never met a gardener who planted a seed and then said, “That probably won’t grow.” In fact, gardeners often error in favor of unrealistic dreams of success. We expect bushels of tomatoes as we ease a tiny seedling into the soil. Gardeners imagine armloads of flowers and legions of butterflies as we sow our zinnia seeds. We know the slender sapling of an oak tree that now needs to be propped up with a post will one day be strong enough to support our back as we rest under its canopy of shade. Gardeners know how to use their imagination and envision all the good that can come from small beginnings.

Always remember, goodness grows,

Heather

Posted in Gardeneing, Planting Seeds, The Seventh Season, Wisdom From The Garden Of Life | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Introduction to the “Seventh Season, Wisdom From The Garden Of Life”

A journey to remembering your true nature with 7 simple tools that will cultivate a garden of inner peace

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“Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”  Albert Einstein

 

Life of a Gardener

There is a big difference between loneliness and solitude. While out in gardens, I spend a good bit of my time on my own, but I never feel alone. Every garden has its own personality and many of my acquaintances happen to be trees, and finches, and flowers. I look forward to visiting with them. Sometimes people even ask me if I am Mother Nature. I tell them no, she is just a very good friend.

Working outside everyday and witnessing nature’s abundance and enduring strength has lead me to understand that we are all part of a never-ending story. Each tender bud that emerges in springtime, followed by every jubilant blossom that awakens in summer, play their part to perfection. Each brilliant leaf dancing in autumn’s windswept ballet and every stoic oak tree that stands fast in winter’s fury contribute their own unique role. They know every line by heart. Rediscovering our place within this story will bring us back home.

We are all the gardeners of our own lives and every step of our journey plays an integral part in the process of growing. It is possible to move through the transitions of our lives with ease, in the same way that nature does not struggle or resist change. The adaptability of our planet is inspiring, with its power to recover readily and continue to grow. By aligning with her powerful example, we can cultivate a way to thrive even during the most difficult times.

There is a great deal of scientific evidence that points to human activity creating climatic change and major shifts in the ecology of our planet. Many are fearful that if we continue to poison the earth we will make it uninhabitable. I prefer to remain optimistic about the future. I am placing my bet on our ability to realign ourselves with nature and wake up to healthier systems of commerce, transportation and energy. The processes of nature contain many clues to the technologies that we seek. The earth has been functioning successfully for billions of years. It will continue to evolve, with us, or without us. This is a crossroads for humans, but not for the earth. We need to learn how to bring nature home, back into every aspect of our lives. I believe we can do this together, one garden at a time.

It would be wonderful if you and I could build an actual garden together. We could co-create a sanctuary for your spirit. A peaceful retreat from your everyday worries that would help you remember your vital connection with nature. I have helped hundreds of my clients find an enhanced sense of serenity once they experience this process of building and enjoying a garden. I wish that I could help you in the same way.

But even after all these years, I still haven’t figured out how to be in more than one place at once. For that reason, I have created this book to give you a sense of what it’s like to live with the fundamental understanding of the harmony to be found in nature. We can build a garden of imagination together. While journeying through these pages, I hope you will gain a new perspective and experience a place of serenity to come back and visit again and again. Traveling here, you will find that your life is a garden that continues to grow.

Finding The Seventh Season

It’s been my great fortune to spend most of my days outside during the last twenty years while working as a professional garden designer and coach. I have received the great benefit of experiencing, first hand, all that nature offers. It continues to be one of my greatest pleasures to help others achieve their own alignment with nature’s healing energy. Many times I have seen the difference living and learning from the lessons a garden can make in someone’s life. As my clients begin to focus on what is growing all around them, they see new growth in other areas of their lives and a positive shift in their overall point of view. This is why I wanted to write this book and share my method for cultivating a new way of looking at the landscape of our lives. Once we apply simple principles from nature to our individual circumstances, we can discover a new way to flourish.

My clients often ask me what gives me such a uniquely optimistic perspective. Although I have faced periods of extreme hardship in my life, those inevitable times of instability and turmoil, I have not run away. Even as a small child I always knew where to go to find relief. Certain that I couldn’t make some challenges disappear, I chose instead to look for something else I could appreciate. I discovered that I could go outside and watch clouds in the sky, pick leaves up off the ground, or look for something that was blooming to find a bit of serenity. Using this connection with nature as a source of fulfillment still works for me today, and it will also work for you.

The artistry of nature’s rhythms are a symphony for the soul. The beauty we witness in nature is a gateway to the supreme serenity, our true essence. Whatever we choose to call our spiritual source of comfort, there is certainly one materialized form of unbounded creativity we can all easily observe. The Earth is our most precious gift and a constant reminder of divine love. Somewhere, long ago, we may have forgotten this most essential relationship. The history of mankind is filled with disagreements and horrific battles in the name of our individual beliefs. Yet, the eloquence of nature is the one universal language we can all understand. Songs of peace are whispered in the wind. Lessons of courage are revealed to us in the mountains. Who among us cannot hear the lullaby sung as each ocean tide sweeps the shore? Within this beauty, each one of us can experience a source of enduring comfort and abiding peace. Here in the presence of nature we can discard our differences and dissolve our false sense of separation.

I can’t honestly say everything in my life has always been easy, and just like you, I’ve traveled rough roads. Sometimes I’ve even had to set up camp and live there. Even when life’s hardships made me feel as though I was completely stuck, there was one place that never stopped growing. After years of searching, I finally discovered a home in The Seventh Season. This enduring haven is available for each and everyone of us. I sincerely hope this book will become your trusted guide for finding a path to a lasting source of joy and your own prospering garden of inner peace.

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

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Always remember, goodness grows,

Heather

Posted in Contentment, Gardeneing, Inspiration, The Seventh Season, Wisdom From The Garden Of Life | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

One Hundred Days

IMG_7820It takes about one hundred days to grow a parsnip, or a cabbage. Lima beans or peas, even a potato takes about one hundred days to be ready to eat. That’s a lot of waiting if your hungry. You have to be patient.

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“Nature does not hurry, though everything is accomplished.”  Lao Tzu

If you are part of a community garden, other things might be ready sooner and we can all share as the harvest rolls in. Some people will grow things that others have no interest in, for example rutabaga. Why anyone would put their time and attention into cultivating these is beyond me. They are a cross between a bitter turnip and a pungent green cabbage and can “perfume” an entire house with a distinctive aroma when cooked. Many a childhood drama has played out at family dinner tables over the lowly rutabaga. But to each their own. I can’t control what my neighbor chooses to grow. Perhaps he thinks my lima beans are nasty and inedible. So, we share what we can and withhold our judgements.

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“Cultivate your own garden and let go of your tendency to examine and judge how others cultivate theirs. Catch yourself in moments of gossip about how others ought to be living and rid yourself of thoughts about how they should be doing it this way, or how they have to right to live and think as they do. Stay busy and involved in your own life projects and pursuits and you will be far too busy to care, much less compel others to believe and live as you do.”  Dr. Wayne Dyer

What good is it for us to complain about someone else’s garden?  There is more strength in paying attention to our own choices than disagreeing with those of others. Our ability to focus is a form of currency that we need to spend wisely. Let’s concentrate our intention and attention on creating all the good we want to see growing in the world. Then we will see our efforts truly blossom into reality.

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

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Beginning Again

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Here in Central Texas, Spring wakes up one morning and jumps right out of bed. Overnight, verdant green replaces the crispy brown covering hillsides and the world awakens to blossom and bird song. Our famous bluebonnets poke their heads up and sweep along road shoulders, beckoning every amateur photographer to pull over and take a shot. Branches thicken and tender buds emerge, whispering to gardeners that it’s now time to plant fresh seeds.

Garden centers are overrun with eager customers buying loaded flats of this and enticing little packs of that. Seed displays are often right there by the checkout, much like the candy positioned seductively in view of children waiting in the grocery store line. With the best of intentions we gather up pack after pack of fabulous potential. Unfortunately, most seeds stay in the pretty little packages that they came in. We admire those lovely pictures on the front and think about how nice it would be to have veggies and flowers. But if we want to see the real thing growing, we will have to get up and get to work. It’s only a first step, sowing those seeds. We must commit to tending, nurturing and watering through a long season ahead, all in hope of something good to come.

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“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”  Henry David Thoreau

Using our imagination we can assemble everything needed to bring that little seed into our garden and plant it. We can envision what it will be like for a blossom or fruit to develop, but we also realize that to manifest something into reality, it takes more than just hope. There will be actual work involved. We must now dedicate time and effort to a future we intend to experience. If our intention to grow is the fuel of manifestation, our emotions are the match that can light it. Once you have an idea you like, it’s pretty easy to put yourself into a position feel enthusiastic about it. Our deliberate desire to grow something new provides the emotional fuel that cracks open a seed, thus beginning its journey toward fulfillment.

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“Every moment of every man’s Life on earth plant something in his soul.”  Thomas Merton

When you have eagerness to begin anew, you send out your own tender buds. You reach for the light and allow your first leaves to unfold.  You are full of hope, yet entirely exposed. You are taking a risk when dedicating yourself to the process of growing. If you are like most of us, you may feel a little unsure about your ability to succeed. Maybe your last endeavor was not entirely triumphant. Perhaps nothing thrived or a tangle of problem weeds took over. Something unexpected may have emerged, or the harvest was meager. This uncertainty can feel perilous but there is no potential for reward without taking another chance.

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“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn

In the garden of life, we have no guarantees; we have no way of being sure how it will all turn out. Yet, here we are again, ready to plant. This moment is transcendent. If we can take this first step into the unknown, we can create something new in our future.

All of your power returns to you once you combine your desire with the willingness to begin. The act of sowing a seed is a triumph over any past disappointments or regrets. In fact, it is a miracle. It is a bold statement that you are taking charge of your destiny. Manifesting the garden of your dreams can become your reality once you remember that you are the gardener. You have the ability to take that power and create your own bit of heaven on earth. Believe in yourself, and you will see the world change before your eyes.

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“Your positive expectations are seeds planted in your favor, which will successfully grow into uplifting experiences.”  Doreen Virtue

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

Posted in Inspiration, Spring | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Endings and New Beginnings

Goodbye 2016.

Napoleon Hill once said,  “Every negative event contains within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” For many of my friends this New Year’s Eve carries a greater significance because 2016 wrought havoc with their dreams, robbed them of loved ones and bestowed so many disappointments. In numerology 2016 is reduced to 9 and is therefore a year of endings. So many endings. I too have suffered painful moments this past year but as always I turn toward the coming year and a new season with the eyes of a gardener.

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“A garden never knows when it’s over.”  Paula Deitz

Gardeners are incredibly resilient and always ready to start again, especially when it comes to caring for our gardens. We never give up. I think it could be because gardeners are focused on the future. We can let go of the past without remorse or regret. We understand from our experiences that often the adversity we encounter in our garden can open up the potential for making it even better.

There is a continuous cycle of renewal to be observed in nature. The frozen winter landscape may appear devoid of life but underneath the surface of the soil there is significant growth taking place. The roots continue to nourish the life force that rests and replenishes itself, gaining strength before it resurges into the sprouts of spring. What may seem to be a time of hardship may actually be a necessary period of dormancy that is needed to crack open the vibrant being that will reemerge and eventually flourish.

IMG_2143“The seed cannot know what is going to happen. The seed has never known the flower. The seed cannot even believe that he has the potentiality to become a beautiful flower.” Osho

During challenging seasons, it may seem as though everything in ours lives is falling apart.  But we are still here for a reason that may not be visible now. Deep inside ourselves there is a potential that will be birthed by our internal struggle and turmoil. This pressure may be just what is needed to push us beyond the limits of what we have imagined before. The transformation that is taking place may be exactly what is needed for us to grow into the next season of our life.

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“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”  Richard Bach

Let’s all welcome 2017 with arms outstretched and celebrate what is unfolding. And pass me my shovel, there is some pretty good compost left over from last year!

As always, I remain optimistic about the future.

remember goodness grows,

Heather

Posted in Adversity, Garden Stories, Inspiration | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Christmas Story

Each year as I prepare for my holiday baking, I take an inventory of the ingredients and spices I keep in my pantry. I always plan a special trip to select and purchase the things that I need to refill or replace before I begin. As part of my personal Christmas celebration, I visit a shop that I set foot in only once a year. It sells spices and oils along with an array of unusual baking supplies that truthfully are more expensive than I would normally consider purchasing. For me this trip is a pure indulgence and I must always carefully set a budget because it is just too tempting to get carried away. It’s always crowded during the holiday season but they prepare little treats to taste and something warm to drink while you wait for your turn to be served. I never mind waiting because everything is displayed and wrapped so beautifully and just looking around is a feast for my eyes.

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Last year something happened in the shop that I will never forget. As I was waiting in line, the woman behind me was very irritable. She shifted her weight back-and-forth and occasionally bumped into me, then she would apologize. She complained under her breath that there should be more people available to serve the customers and more than once deemed the situation ridiculous. I imagined that she must of been in a hurry, so I turned to her and smiled. I offered her my place in the line explaining that I was not in a hurry at all and I would be happy for her to go before me. She refused and said that wasn’t necessary and it was not my fault that they didn’t have enough people working in the store. I insisted, telling her it would be a Christmas gift to me if she would allow me to help her with her shopping trip. She still did not smile but replied, “I don’t know what difference this will make, but okay.” As she moved around me I noticed that she was not very stable and her face appeared drawn with pain. A few more minutes passed as customers ahead of us were helped until finally we stepped forward and she was to be served next. She complained bitterly to the young girl who rang up her purchase and continued to be distraught while waiting for the transaction to be completed.

As she turned to leave we were standing face-to-face with a crowd of people all around us. I smiled and said, “Merry Christmas.” For just a moment her face softened as she said, “Thank you sweetheart, yesterday I was fitted with this new prostatic leg and it does not suit me very well. It was very nice of you to give me your place in line.” She managed a weak smile and said, “Merry Christmas.” I reached out to give her a hug but only managed to gently place one hand on her shoulder. I was overcome with emotion and could only whisper another small, “Merry Christmas.”

I always tell my children to be kind to everyone because you never know where someone has just come from or what they might be experiencing.  So as I set out today to purchase a bit of vanilla and cinnamon, I will remind myself that anyone I meet could be facing a challenge much greater than just waiting in line. I will remember to be kind and wish them all a Merry Christmas.

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

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Where to Find a Bit of Peace in Turbulent Times

I have the unique opportunity to experience the gifts of nature by earning my living while out in gardens every day. Many speak about hardships with their work, so I feel extremely lucky to do something that is rewarding both spiritually and financially. It’s easy to feel fulfilled when the world is lavishly arrayed with trees and flowers and every imaginable living thing.

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I have learned that one key to being satisfied is to be grateful for everything that is going on around us without a need to control it. Many of us struggle with the concept of ego, a part of ourselves that wishes to describe and then influence situations in our lives so that people, circumstances and events fit better with our expectations. But I have come to think of ego in another way. It is just our mind trying to make sense of Everything Going On. Each time I remember that my true self resides in stillness and yet is available to witness everything going on, it’s possible to look for the gift underneath all the activity.

If we could release our judgments, resentments and criticism, would it be possible to eliminate our feelings of dissatisfaction? We can find contentment by detaching from our worries of good or bad, and right or wrong. We can choose to simply look for something to be grateful for in the midst of whatever we observe right in front of us. At times that may not seem easy, but we can practice by looking for tranquility in nature.  

The sunshine is never doubtful, a breeze does not resist, a butterfly knows no remorse.photo 1

A tree has never scolded you for making a mistake. The ocean has never left you feeling unwanted. A flower has never criticized your choices. Every evening, the sunset is beautiful because it is a mirror reflecting your essential being. Nature always accepts you just as you are, that is her gift.

The same divine source that created everything you admire in nature, also created you. This is the essence of who you are. Once you understand this, you will see that nature is a reflection of your own beautiful soul. Cultivating an appreciation for the natural world has quieted my desires. I have found a spiritual sanctuary that is always open and available. There is no charge for admission.

img_1582-3“If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand.”  Buddha

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

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Life By Design Inside and Out-Fourth Edition

This is the Fourth Edition in a series of creative perspectives about life and the design process from Interior Designer, Kim Macumber and myself. You can read Kim’s blog here!

This summer we had the wonderful opportunity to get together and explore a historic home and garden in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The former home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a National Historic Site. It was occupied by General George Washington before the Revolutionary War during the Siege of Boston, from July 1775 until April 1776, prior to Longfellow’s ownership. So, George Washington really did sleep here! The home is now managed by the National Park Service and is open year round to visitors.

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Kim discovered lots of inspiration inside the Longfellow House and of course I was drawn to the inviting paths and garden structures I found outside. The home was built in 1759 along the Charles River in area that was once rich farmland. At one time there were orchards and productive gardens that surrounded the home but in the early 1900s Longfellow’s daughter Alice took over responsibility for caring for it and made changes to the gardens.

She brought in Martha Brookes Hutcheson and Ellen Biddle Shipman, two well respected landscape architects, to design a garden that would be reminiscent of the original and also harmonize with the architecture of the house. Colonial design featured geometric patterns and controlled garden beds and here you can get a feel for the formality of the traditional border gardens.

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Neatly trimmed boxwoods, Buxus sempervirens, border plantings of magenta summer phlox, Phlox paniculata.

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A mass of classic white shasta daises, Leucanthemum × superbum, rise to blossom along one of the curves toward the house.

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A white trellised seating area with planted urns brings a taste of colonial architecture into the garden.

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A blooming Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus umbellatus, is a dramatic focal point.

I can imagine Alice Longfellow sitting here in the shade, enjoying a summer breeze and remembering childhood days spent playing in her father’s garden. I am sure he would be proud to know that her dedication to restoring the home and gardens has preserved a national treasure.

Kim and I both came away with the same observation. We never really know if what we are collecting or caring for could one day become something of great importance. How does one determine the future value of something left behind from one generation for the next? We can only do our best and try to remember that hints from our yesterdays can help us understand where we have come from. Exploring a path from the past might help us discover where we might be able to go.

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“In all places, then, and in all seasons,

Flowers expand their light and soul-like wings,

Teaching us, by most persuasive reasons,

How akin they are to human things.”

“Flowers” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1837)

 

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

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What’s In A Name?

When I started my garden design business twelve years ago, I debated the wisdom of naming it after myself. Some of my clients recommended it because they thought it would be a great way to capitalize on the referrals I was already receiving. Others thought a catchy garden reference name would be cute and easy to remember, something like Dig In or Sprouts. But I always had another name in mind.

Not many people know that my gardening company is named after a flower…

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Veronica x ‘Goodness Grows’

To be honest, I fell in love with the spiky blue blossoms the first time we met. The name just made them even more charming. I couldn’t help but think, yes indeed, goodness does grow!

Through the years there has been some amusing confusion. There have been calls inquiring about community charitable services and others for children’s daycare. My favorite time was when we were building out an exhibit for a garden show at the Austin Convention Center. Every time one of our delivery trucks drove inside the building there would be a loudspeaker declaration blaring, “Goodness Grows.” After about five trucks and announcements, all the other exhibitors thought it was some kind of pep talk to keep them focused while working.

I like that the name of my company is a positive affirmation. It’s always fun for me to hear other people say it and who knows, maybe it provides a little encouragement wherever it pops up.

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

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A Living Tapestry

What an amazing Spring we are enjoying here in Central Texas.

IMG_1301Numerous and copious rain events have canceled our drought, replenished our lakes and nourished our native vegetation. Unseasonably cool temperatures have encouraged our famous wildflower meadows to bloom on and on.  It seems that every inch of available earth along our roadsides and highways has become crowded with a spectacular tapestry of buds and blossoms.  Lady Bird must be smiling in heaven.

IMG_1429 2“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  Lady Bird Johnson

I am endlessly impressed with the delightful combinations of colors and forms that Mother Nature skillfully sews together. Her palette is bold and she has no reservations when stitching together flowers from one family next to another. Inside this crazy quilt, a complex web of life thrives amongst its members. There is sophistication, even elegance to what appears to be a random bunch of plants.

IMG_1441 2Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat) with Gaillardia pulchella (Indian blanket)

This wide variety of plants evokes a garden web of life, inviting an array of wild animals, birds, insects and even beneficial parasites to make a home in the meadow. Diversity protects the entire community and keeps the environment in balance. An ecosystem rich with diversity is more resilient.  When external pressures from pests or disease invade, the array of species can limit the destruction because each member of the community carries its own inherent strengths.

IMG_1433 2Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm)

Perhaps, we can take this simple wisdom from a meadow and apply it to our own state of affairs. If plants can complement and even benefit each other while living side by side, why can’t we? We should not undervalue the importance of diversity or discount the power of even one individual’s potential contribution. Let’s take a sewing lesson from Mother Nature and begin to stitch together the fabric of our communities. Each and every one of us is unique and fascinatingly beautiful. We are always stronger together.

IMG_1583 3“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” Hal Borland

remember, goodness grows,

Heather

Posted in Diversity, Inspiration, Native Texas Plants, Wildflowers | Tagged , | 1 Comment