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Posts Tagged ‘Roses’

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” ~ Dale Carnegie

the back yard through the yoga studio window

sometimes I abandon the yoga in favor of gazing aimlessly out the window

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When Someone Deeply Listens To You ~ by John Fox

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

Faded Rose - August 2011

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Today is Tuesday, so time to honor the Muse. Today, she takes the form of mentors, those people who come into your life and teach you things, and I would like to talk about my father-in-law who passed away last Wednesday. He leaves behind a very large family that adored him and a lifetime of friends who loved and respected him. He came into my life when I was still a very young woman, about 20 yrs old. He gave me a job when I desperately needed one and that’s how I eventually became a Northcutt myself.

There are many things I am grateful to him for, but the one I will highlight here is that he shared with me his knowledge of gardening, took me under his green thumb and taught me how to grow things. He had been a sharecropper in Oklahoma before moving to California all those years ago when so many people fled the dust bowl. He also had a small farm here in Ramona, Ca. By the time I met him he was mostly settled back into the suburbs just a few miles from where Tom and I live now, but his backyard was always lush and blooming with as much as would fit. The crowded state of my own backyard testifies to his influence: a little bit of lawn in the center with all the edges packed with fruits, vegetables and flowers.

He taught me how to grow peppers and potatoes and how to train vines, told me when to cut back my roses and to plant garlic under them to help keep bugs off, and how to cage my tomatoes. Thanks to him, I know about burying rusty nails in the dirt under a Hydrangea to change its color and many other nuggets of gardening wisdom and folklore that all seemed like magic in the beginning. He taught me to garden by the cycles of the moon and to read the Farmers Almanac, told me why things were not doing well and how to fix it. He told me to loosen up the dirt around the base of plants so they could breathe, answered all my questions and told me silly stories. Most impressively, he knew all of this without ever consulting the internet or a book.

Over the years he must have given me a hundred planting pots , every size and shape and material. He picked them up, along with the half dead plants that were in them, in alleys and abandoned lots, or from the recently vacated houses and apartments he was working on. We always had fun trying to bring those poor plants back to life and more often than not we had success. If I admired a plant, he would immediately whip out his pocket knife and give me a cutting, along with another pot and some dirt, and told me how to grow it. My hands were always dirty when I left his house, but they were never empty. Every time I visited we took a walk together around the yard to tour his garden, where he was always happy and always in denim overalls. We had to stop at every plant and discuss its progress, every bloom was appreciated and snails were collected and thrown over the fence – I won’t say in which direction 🙂 There was a turtle that lived in the yard and we fed it broccoli together. If there was something new growing, he told me all about it. Billy Wayne Northcutt taught me more about gardening than anybody else. It was something we had in common, besides Tom. He passed along to me one of his life’s passions and for that I will always love him and am deeply grateful that he took the time and effort to teach me something so important. Thank you, Billy, from the bottom of my heart.

If you have a mentor in your life, it is an honor, say thank you. If you are a mentor to someone else, it is an honor, say thank you.

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'Martha Washington' Geraniums - the most reliable plants in the garden!


The first Saturday of April and a New Moon to go with it! This is the most auspicious day to prune those plants in the garden that are still carrying winter or early spring damage/dead stuff, or that seem to be a bit stunted or are growing in directions contrary to your sense of order. My garden is full of those so I’m going to have a busy morning. I haven’t been able to do any pruning during this entire waning moon, so today is my last chance in so many different ways, and I need to water.

Spring Rose Leaf - March 30, 2011


What I really love about this time of year is that I start seeing ‘revival’ in the garden. Last month I stood out on my patio and felt sadness because things looked dead and scraggly and I couldn’t do anything about it. Not having time to do Spring things in the Spring garden is really frustrating for me. Yes, I know I chose to take on three classes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to have to let things go. Then, about a week ago, I noticed things coming alive again, popping up out of the ground and bursting open in shiny green-aliciousness and saying ‘hey lady, we’re still here so get over it!’ So, okay I lost some plants while I was busy, but the bones of my garden are still alive and are beginning to thrive and I’m going to reward them with some special attention today – maybe even some fertilizer. They always reward me in turn by making me feel a little more alive and thriving, and I really need that today.

edible Nasturtium bloom - March 30, 2011


So, before I get distracted with cleaning my room, which looks like I need to call the staff from one of those ‘hoarders’ shows, doing homework or the laundry or cleaning the house….AAACK! – run! RUN outside before you get distracted and change your priorities and the clouds come out to rain on you and the G-Damned doorbell rings or the…..

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The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

This is my dream house, north of Yountville in the rain. Haunted and unfinished, surrounded by ethereal trees, and it desperately needs a garden!

We have just had the most amazing storms! The temperature dropped drastically. Then came the rain. Then came the hail and the wind. We had a fire going and a nice bottle of wine, or two, from our Napa trip, some movies, and Tom made a meatloaf. It doesn’t get much better than that as far as winter evenings go.

The talking news heads were advising us to cover our plants, but I never actually had that kind of time. I think it’s fine though. Everything that lives out there has already survived my ‘back-to-school’ neglect and if it can also survive some ice being pelted at it, well I have a pretty strong garden to build on! Also, I’m very glad I once again resisted the urge to prune back the roses because they would have had new growth from last week’s warmth and that would be a disaster. Wait wait wait – it’s worth it! (at least if you live in Southern California!)

Waiting until after the worst of the cold to trim my roses has another benefit: I have a nice harvest of rose hips to use. Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant. Most of us never see them because we dead head our roses and chop that part off before it has a chance to develop. We don’t plant roses using the seeds that are inside either. I remember learning years ago that there were rose seeds…!?…well of course there are!

Rose Hips...aka Rose Haws


Rose hips are considered the top plant source of Vitamin C. You’ve probably seen the jars of “Vitamin C with Rose Hips” on your drugstore’s shelves. They can be dried and used as tea, made into jelly, jams and preserves, or added to other recipes like you would a cranberry. There are tiny little hairy seeds that should be removed first, otherwise it’s pretty straightforward. I’m planning on drying mine for tea this year. Here’s a website I found which may clear things up.

Shiny and Ripe


This last year, my roses were left alone to their own devices and didn’t get pruned much. Aside from having the ‘hips’, they got a nice rest. In my opinion, pruning away at roses the way we do forces them to constantly produce and grow in ways that are human-driven and not necessarily natural. Right now they’re a tangled mess, but they’re also full of energy and life and rain and I just know that the moment I prune them they’re going to burst forth into brand new life, strong and vibrant. Or maybe I’m anthropomorphizing my roses and I really just want to feel that way myself.

Suburban Rainbows. Suburban Roses.

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“I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

It was 70 degrees and absolutely beautiful today, making it really difficult to focus on work. Tom and I always work half a day on Saturdays, but today I had to cut it back to a couple hours. The paperwork will still be there Monday, the New Moon will not! Instead, I pruned the roses in the front yard along the driveway. There are five bushes, all a little different, and they’ve been there since shortly after we moved in six winters ago.

Our landscaper picked them out and put them in. There was no landscaping at the time so I was ok with letting him do it. Now that I am a much more passionate gardener, I would never dream of not picking out and planting my own roses. In fact, shortly after he put them in, I told him never to touch them again.

Before I went out there, I looked up what info I had on properly pruning roses to refresh my brain, figuring I would post the rules here when I was finished. Funny thing about pruning rules in books or online: so much of it is crap and contradictory, or simply over-strict. Yes, there are some basic guidelines that give great results. What they forget to tell you is this: if you’re so busy worrying about getting all the rules perfect, you’ll forget to relax and enjoy it which is the damned point of tending roses in the first place.

So here’s what I know about pruning roses:

* use very sharp tools and clean them between plants if one has a disease.

* cut at angles which keeps moisture from settling on the cut edge and making things rot

* remove all dead or diseased stuff

* Cut one inch above the bud that’s pointing in the direction you want the thing to grow

* roses get rusty moldy and claustrophobic – keep the center empty and don’t let canes touch each other, they need their space. much like people.

* If you break a rule your roses will probably survive

* Know your rose! listen to it and it’ll tell you exactly what it wants. Get down there at eye level and see what’s going on. There are different rules about pruning depending on what type of rose you have, but I have discovered that even each individual bush within a type likes something different. Also shaping its personality; age, placement, what you’ve done to it before, surrounding plants…you get the picture – each rose is it’s own person, and most of them are very forgiving.

Timing in the garden is important to me, so I always prune my roses on the New Moon. Every single month during their growing season, I give them a little haircut. Last winter, Tom and I pruned them gently and left quite a bit of old wood. (we had so much fun that day and it was our best rose year ever) This year was time to prune drastically. This may sound more than mildly insane, but my roses have actually let me know they’d like some time off and I always give it to them.

I really discovered the giddiness of rose-pride one day when Tom and I were at the taco shop down the street. One of our neighbors recognized me and said Hi. I had no idea who she was but she said knew me as the “Rose Lady On Cork Place.” I think that’s pretty awesome, and I’m not going to tell her I sometimes break all the rules.

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