Gardens and Garden History


Vernal Equinox

Potted Pansies

Potted Pansies

There is cause for much celebration because today is the Vernal Equinox!  It is the first day of spring.

Each year the vernal equinox happens this time of year  on either March 19, 20 or 21st. The date is decided by the path of the sun. When the sun shines directly on the equator the length of day and night are almost equal all over the globe.  This happens only twice a year, on the spring equinox and the autumn equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere today we celebrate spring, while in the Southern Hemisphere today they are celebrating the autumnal equinox.

It is traditionally a time of new beginnings.  Ver  is the Latin word for spring, so officially the day is known as the vernal equinox, but is more commonly called the spring equinox.

Although this is an unusually cold spring  and there is still a lot of snow covering my garden, I will be celebrating today’s first day of spring by potting up pansies and keeping an eye on the temperature to see when I can put them outside. What are you doing to celebrate?



Here is a new concept I hadn’t heard about before reading about it on my friend Jan Johnsen’s blog   serenityinthegarden.blogspot.com   I usually don’t reblog but I want to share this concept of shrinin-yoku with you  and Jan said it so well I am borrowing her post verbatim.
 I didn’t know the great feeling of walking in the woods had a name, but I whole heartedly agree with the therapeutic benefits. Do you feel better after a walk in the woods? Read on and learn why.

Forest Therapy – A walk a day keeps the doctor away….by Jan Johnsen

I often take a walk in the woods near my house.
I walk on paved streets to reach this forest trail, taking rapid strides and often breathing  in chilled morning air. I catch the early sunlight through the trees. It is such a wonderful time and I feel calmer and more centered.
My little morning reverie has a name: ‘ forest bathing’ or, in the original Japanese, ‘Shinrin-yoku’.  This relatively new therapy, the Japanese tell us, literally instills peace, calms us and promotes immunity to disease!Like a walking healing meditation, “forest bathing” coordinates breath and movement in the presence of the scent of forest trees to uplift us.

Ever since a Japanese government agency coined the term, ‘forest bathing’  in 1982, ‘shinrin-yoku’ has slowly made its way into the vernacular in Japan  It has a great many Japanese fans who now can visit forty two ‘forest therapy’ parks for stress relief.Their goal is to set up 100 within the next decade.

The phrase ‘shinrin-yoku’ really means “taking in the forest atmosphere” and recently, Japanese scientists quantified the effects of this atmosphere through several studies.

They credit ‘phytoncides‘, the airborne chemicals (odor) emitted by plants that protect them from disease and insects, as the elements that provide a positive, protective chemical reaction within us humans.
One Japanese study followed 280 healthy residents. Some were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours while others were asked to walk through an urban setting.
On the second day, they traded places. Those who spent time in the woods experienced lower levels of cortisol (which induces stress), a lower pulse rate and lower blood pressure while raising levels of white blood cells.
Also in 2007, Japanese men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent increase in the levels of natural killer (NK) cells, white blood cells that kill tumors and viruses.
And another study found an increase in white blood cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.
What this tells us is that inhaling scent from the trees, or more specifically,  the volatile oils from trees, makes us healthier. And since we have spent most of our evolutionary history in natural environments – walking in the woods is like a physiological homecoming.
How this works is simple:  These aromatic chemicals go straight up our nose to the limbic portion of our brain which releases health inducing hormones and more to reduce our stress and boost our immune system instanteously!
(There is a reason the Magi’s gifts included frankincense and myrrh….)
Of course breathing in and out also plays a part. Breathing meditation calms the mind and develops inner peace. When you do this in a forest, park or botanical garden and inhale those healthy tree scents you double the benefit.
And if you envision yourself connected to the earth and to others in the same way that a forest is connected by its web of roots then the beneficial health effect is magnified.
In summary, a healthy mind and a healthy body are both rejuvenated in healthy forests. A group who promotes forest therapy walks writes this:

It was not an herb walk and it was not a nature walk! It was not a “power walk” through nature, it was a way to become part of the nature-moment.”

This group, Shin-rin yoku looks to be quite wonderful…I don’t know them but click on their name to go their website.


My Garden Photo(s) of the Day at Fine Gardening

Fine Gardening has chosen to feature some of my photos today in their Garden Photo of the Day category.

Check out my photos in Fine Gardening at:


Some of my featured photos include:

Kwanzan Cherry in October

Kwanzan Cherry in October

Garden Pixie

Garden Pixie



Peonies in early evening light             Peonies in early evening light

I hope you’ll visit Fine Gardening and have a look at the rest of my photos. I must say, I am excited that Michelle Gervais, a senior editor at Fine Gardening, has chosen my photos to share. I love photographing my garden.  It’s nice to know others enjoy looking at them.


Clerking at the Boston Flower Show

IMG_0010I learned something new today. Actually, I learned lots of new things today. I was a  clerk, 2nd clerk to be exact, at the Boston Flower Show assigned to assist several of the judges in the Amateur Horticulture Category. I was instructed  first and foremost to keep my opinions and comments to myself, which required a great deal of self control. Beside this, I was to make myself as helpful as possible by locating the plants which needed judging, running to ask any necessary questions, stapling the right ribbon on the right plant, and throwing away empty water bottles.

It’s not in my DNA to be a fly on the wall.  Nevertheless after today I highly recommend standing silently behind experts as they appraise what they know best. It was fascinating, illuminating, humbling, educational and fun, not to mention a real lesson in cooperative management.

Although organized by professionals, The Boston Flower Show is run  by volunteers. I have been attending the Flower Show for more than a decade, and have volunteered before wearing my Master Gardener hat, but I have to say, even though I have joined the ranks, I am constantly amazed by the knowledge and dedication of the volunteers who year after year keep the Flower Show running. I commend each and every one of my fellow volunteers, including those  volunteers who participate by entering a plant, flower arrangement, photograph or floral display.

The Show  has gone through a few metamorphoses in the past decade. It is not as it was in its prime. It is held in a smaller location with  fewer participants ( although the number of people who visit remains high). Nonetheless, the zeal and enthusiasm of those who do participate is unaltered.

Any of you reading this who would like to participate next year, or visit this year, check out the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s website:


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Jonas Dahlberg’s MEMORY WOUND

The Norwegian government announced last week the winner of the Memorial Sites after 22 July competition. The winner is Jonas Dahlberg of Sweden who has designed three innovative memorials to commemorate the 22 July 2011 massacres in Norway.

The most stirring of the 3 memorials is the highly successful memorial landscape called Memory Wound. It will be an 11-foot gap literally cut through the Sorbraten peninsula.

Model for Memory Wound. Picture Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Model for Memory Wound. Picture Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Aerial View of Memorial. Picture Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Aerial View of Memorial. Picture Jonas Dahlberg Studio

Dahlberg’s ambitious design is impressive in its concept and engineering. Its visual simplicity belies the complexity of thought behind its creation. Dahlberg describes his proposed intent for the site as “it should be difficult to see the inherent beauty of the setting, without also experiencing a sense of loss. It is this sense of loss that will physically activate the site…People will find their own way through the landscape around the cut, looking down at the channel and at the victims’ names from high up…establishing their own private ways of seeing and remembering…The void that is created evokes the sense of sudden loss combined with the long-term missing and remembrance of those who perished. The proposal is radical and brave, and evokes the tragic events in a physical and direct manner.”


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