Thank you all for your encouragements to keep on with the â€œGarden with the Angels and Elementalsâ€ infomercials. As you could tell, I wasnâ€™t at all sure what was of general interest and what was as compelling as watching me sort my recyclables.
Each year, I begin planning the gardens with the Angels and Elementals by reaffirming my commitment to our cooperative life together. I literally offer up each garden to our cooperative efforts with love and thankfulness. Among other things, this means I try to empty myself of my preconceptions about what should be grown. I donâ€™t insist that the gardens hold the vegetables I want to eat or the Flowers I particularly love to grow. I also try to let go of my attachment to previous gardens. I try to bring as little agenda to the process as possible. As best I can, I let things flow.
Then I start to put the designs onto paper for each of the gardens. When I first designed gardens with the Angels and Elementals, I used kinesiology to figure out what to plant and where to plant it. I asked yes and no questions beginning with such general questions as, â€œIs this garden round?â€ and continuing on with questions that further clarified the plan such as, â€œAre the rows in this round garden concentric rings? Does the first concentric circle at the center of the garden contain vegetable plants? Does it contain broccoli? How many broccoli plants? Are there other plants in this ring?â€ As I asked questions I would sketch the design. Often this sketch would have a life of its own, leading me to ask clarifying questions. For example, I would find myself drawing rings before asking if rings were what was planned. Then I would find out with my questions that rings were indeed the way to proceed.
This may already sound more like an Aran Island sweater project than a few simple knit stitches, HOWEVER it was simpler than it sounds and has gotten simpler and simpler as time has gone on. This is because what I noticed right away is that I already had a sense the garden was round before I asked the question and I would sense that the first row was a ring of broccoli before I asked the question. This, combined with drawings that were surprisingly accurate, made things more straightforward than I expected. The information was already downloaded before I sat down to plan anything. All I needed to do was sort of daydream my way along. It wasnâ€™t fishing in the dark with a thousand questions about a thousand possible vegetable choices as expected. It was more a process of confirming what I already sensed.
Have you ever noticed that when you play twenty questions, you often figure out the identity of the person way faster than seems possible? Designing the gardens with the Angels and Elementals is like that. We often know the design or the plants that would most serve us to grow even before asking specific questions. Our desire to work with Nature opens the door for Nature to send in the data about what is in the highest good to grow. And our hearts stand ready to confirm this knowing. This guidance floods into our consciousness in all sorts of ways, even before we put pen to paper. Once you declare an intention to support Nature more consciously, Nature will try to get your attention in as many ways as possible. If Nature wants you to grow broccoli you are probably going to feel a literal magnetic attraction to the broccoli photos in your seed catalog. In the grocery store as well, you very well may see the broccoli and feel its pull.The Angels and Elementals are infinitely inventive and funny in the way they call my attention to what they would like me to grow. And my heart recognizes the rightness of these choices. The whole process is a reminder that talking to Nature is not talking to something outside yourself, itâ€™s talking to a part of yourself. This oneness also means that if broccoli is what your garden needs, you can be sure it will serve your energy system as well as serve Nature and the whole Earth. Itâ€™s a brilliant win win dynamic reflecting how serving the divinity in ourselves serves the divinity in all.
Shortly after I realized that I knew the answers to my questions before asking them, my design process became more streamlined. I learned to trust what I was hearing, seeing in my mind’s eye, and drawing, even before I checked with the kinesiology to be sure I was getting the designs on paper accurately. Nowadays, I sketch and write down what I “get” and then, if I am unsure of any aspect of the design, I wait for clarity. I trust I will eventually get the design clearly and completely if I give it back to Nature/ my heart/ divinity and wait for this wise part of myself to send in clarification usually in some sassy humorous way.
What this means in practical terms is that I often start in with a garden design, get sort of an overview, and then lay the plan down to let things drift into my consciousness. This relaxed approach helps me when the overview makes me feel like the garden is going to be a bit of an energetic or technical stretch. The geometries can initially feel complicated, but easy solutions have always slid into my consciousness before or during the planting of the actual gardens. I have learned that if I just let go, the solution to what I might initially see as an insurmountable or at least challenging problem will arrive of its own accord. (And ainâ€™t that the truth about life!)
Sometimes during this letting go process, I look at seed catalogs or gardening books to see if something jumps out at me, but solutions arrive in my consciousness in all sorts of different ways. And sometimes things jump out at me even before I know what the question is. For example, this January, I saw a photograph of a medlar tree blooming in the garden at the Cloisters in New York City. I had never spent a moment thinking about medlar trees before I saw that photograph, but afterwards I found myself frequently thinking about this beautiful flowering tree and feeling that it wanted to be here at the farm. When I asked the Angels, they told me that they hoped I would plant three medlar trees around the stone courtyard outside this office. I was not aware until then that the Angels wanted trees around this courtyard, but it feels right. I look forward to planting beautiful medlar trees here.
Another thing about my process, after years of doodling around with the garden designs, I have come to recognize the feeling in my body when a garden design is just as it is meant to be. I feel the same kind of ah ha feeling in my body that I have when I know I have arrived at just the right Flower Essence for a situation. I have learned to keep fiddling with a garden design until I get this click moment. Sometimes the click moment doesnâ€™t come until I am planting the garden, but that is okay. Sometimes I feel itâ€™s a bit of unknown for the Angels and Elementals what plant or configuration is going to work and that they too need decisions to be game time decisions. I have stopped thinking that changes in design mean I got things wrong. Now I know it means things are changing. Hmmmm once again, this sounds a lot likeâ€¦â€¦Life.
I am going to walk you through this yearâ€™s Venus Garden to give you an example of this whole process. The Venus Garden is my annual commitment to metaphorically knit an Aran Island sweater pattern more difficult than what I think I can do. The designs of this garden are such that the Angels usually have to remind me frequently that, â€œItâ€™s just knitting and purling, knitting and purling.â€ Over the years, I have learned to accept that I may have moments of anxiety when it comes to designing and planting the Venus Garden, but that these moments donâ€™t have to drive me. The fact that I have so far been able to bring into form the designs I have received for this garden is confidence building as are the Angels and Elementals. As they remind me, the voice of doubt in my head is just a hangover from childhood and not based on fact.
This year when I asked about the Venus Garden design I received the message, â€œThe theme of this yearâ€™s Venus Garden is the transmutation and purification of the Water Element, a rebirth in waterâ€¦Water is the necessary matrix for the transformation of the planetâ€¦It is both a vehicle of cleansing and a vehicle of rebirth. Embrace the water. It is your ally in this transformation.â€
My reaction to this news was both delight and puzzlement. I adore water. I crave lakes. I feel about my shower each morning like some people feel about their first cup of morning coffee. But we have no stream or lake or river or pond here at the farm. While I have created several water elements in various gardens, including a small pond in the Arbor Garden and another outside this office, nothing about the farm screams WATER. A Venus Garden about water sounded like both my heartâ€™s desire and a stretch of the imagination.
I began to stretch.
And sketch. Some yearâ€™s the Venus Garden has been more up in the air and dimensional than other years. Of course, the garden is always in at least three dimensions, but some years it feels like the Angelsâ€™ designs play on the idea of many dimensions much more obviously. This is one of those years.
In my first sketch, a drawing I would gladly share if one of my children had not walked off with the digital camera, I drew seven rows coming out from the center of the garden like rays from the center of the sun. At the outer rim of the garden I connected the end of each of these rows with seven individual trellises, each triangular in shape. This sounds more complicated than it looks on paper. The Angels have had me do a lot of trellising over the years. For example, the peas have often been on trellises tied in the shapes of spider webs or spirals. These seven trellises between the rows will be a bit simpler. Twine will go from a center pole down to the ground on either side to form a triangle. I wasnâ€™t sure what Flowers or vegetables were supposed to be on the trellises. What plants that were all about water might want to be on these trellises? I let the question simmer. Melons and cucumbers came to mind. This duo is all about the glory of water! These plants felt right, but later I was prompted to add Sweet Peas in some overlapping trellises. That addition gave me the ah ha feeling I was waiting for. When I plant the trellis rim, something else may be added or subtracted. Except for the original Venus Garden which we called â€œThe Eight Gardenâ€ none of the designs for this garden have been cast in stone. To complete planning for the trellises, I went through my seed catalogs and inventory of seeds bought in previous years to find the cucumber and melon varieties that felt right for the job. I also ordered a big packet of mixed Grandiflora Sweet Pea seeds.
With the seven rows from the center of the garden, I sensed that with all the architecture of the trellises on the outside of the garden, maybe there would be more connecting strands ABOVE the rows to the center of the garden too. I looked for the right plant for the actual rows and some other watery plant that would grow along the twine above the rows.
When the Angels said about the Phoenix Rising version of the Venus Garden, â€œPlant every flame colored Flower you can grow,â€ it was easy to go through seed catalogs and pick out seeds. This was a year when I went through books and seed catalogs a lot before getting any clicks. Every plant needs water to live, but what Flowers and Vegetables that donâ€™t actually grow in water still really sing of WATER? Most plants did not feel quite right for these rows. I finally let it go and waited. One day I knew Parsley was the plant for the rows and vining Nasturtiums were to be grown on the twine above.
This drove the next question; Where do these Nasturtiums get planted to encourage them to climb on the twine and not just cover the ground? Do they start in the center of the garden and go out or do they start at the edge and grow in? This question led to the question of what was in the center of the garden.
I felt that in the center of the garden there had to be some water, a literal container of water, maybe with some water plant growing in it. I thought about putting fish in the container, but that felt like, well, a red herring. I considered what plant was supposed to be in there. This was the most symbolic place in the garden and perhaps the most important plant choice. I wondered about Lotus. Lotus felt wonderful, that or Cardinal Flower. I decided I would seek out Lotus first and then move to Cardinal Flower if the Lotus proves difficult to come by.
Having settled on a container of water for the center of the garden, I could get back to the Nasturtiums. I decided the Nasturtiums could grow around the water container and out along the twine from the center of the garden towards the rim. The way I could do this came to me in sort of a daydream.I am going to put a wooden half barrel in the center of the garden, fill it with the kind of poor soil Nasturtiums loves, then put a slightly smaller water container on top of that with the Lotus or Cardinal Flower in it. All around the edge of the wooden barrel, I will plant the Nasturtium seeds. Then I will tie lines from the barrel out to the trellises. I had to laugh when I envisioned this network of twine because no one will be able to walk in this garden all summer because of all this twine. Crawl maybe, but now walk. So be it! I am just satisfied that from their place in an elevated barrel the Nasturtiums will be more inclined to take off onto the twine lines than if I grew them at ground level. Plus, I will be able to move them onto the twine manually if they droop over the barrel towards the ground.
Early in the design process I had drawn a spiral of plants from the water barrel out to the trellis outer rim. Now I feel like that is not going to be necessary. I will wait until planting time to see if that is something the Angels still want. Right now, it feels like enough will be going on without this extra dimensional element, but at planting time we will know for sure. The fun thing is that no matter what gets planted, the garden will end up being a lot more beautiful than I can even imagine. This is one of the reasons I am better able to let go of last yearâ€™s Venus Garden than I used to be. I have found that, year after year, the Angels always come up with a new design that completely enchants us all. No matter how attached I was to the previous garden, and the â€œDonâ€™t Worry-Bee Happyâ€ garden was glorious, I know this one will be just as wonderful. This cooperation has helped me so much to go with the flow of the seasons. I really canâ€™t recommend working with the Angels and Elementals highly enough!
A swatch of earth, a couple packets of seeds, a request to work more consciously with the Angels and Elementals and a willingness to fork a few handfuls of Earth. Thatâ€™s all you need for a great festive season of celebration. These partners really are that good!
I give Emily Dickinson and the bees the last word.
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,-
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.