About the Pumpkin Tree

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My dearest readers and very especially my new and longtime loyal subscribers, tomorrow is Halloween! I love Halloween, don’t you? And in celebration I am sharing the story from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden that speaks of one of my favorite Octobers, in North Carolina, on the occasion of Antonia’s one visit to Appalachia. I have shared this story once before, titled “Invest in Trees” a few years ago, and it is nudging me to be told again. I do hope you love and enjoy!

Happy Halloween, dear ones!

Love and fall blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

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About the Pumkin Tree
My daughter was making her first journey to Appalachia! And
knowing we would not see each other that Christmas I leapt at the
chance to create a holiday with her in October. Fortunately Halloween
is one of my favorite holidays of the year, upon which I could readily
build, with vast support from the magnificent changing of leaves in a
North Carolina fall.
I called a tree farm outside Asheville inquiring if he had “anything that
looked like a Christmas tree”. Puzzled, he asked why. “Do you really want
to know?” I responded, grinning into the phone. He did. I explained that
my daughter was coming, that it was her first trip to North Carolina,
that I did not anticipate seeing her that Christmas, and that I wanted to
make us a pumpkin tree. This man knew how to hear a mother’s heart.
Clearly touched, he invited me to come out, even though it was a wholesale
business, and he would “find me something”. I drove myself out into the
country with my dog, and eventually spotted the long red gate he had given
me as a landmark. I pulled through the gate and found myself entering a
magical environment of all manner of trees in pots. I had never been to
such a tree farm before, and I was instantly enchanted. When I exited
from the car a warm young man came out to greet me, anticipating who
I was. He indicated I should follow him and I followed his lead through
pots and pots of trees, about which I could scarcely contain my curiosity,
until we stopped before what appeared to be some kind of small and
noble cedar. I felt strangely comfortable with its green upward spiraling
flat branches. It was a narrow tree, about five and a half feet high, and he
called it an arborvitae. “Tree of life,” I smiled excitedly. “I’ll take it!” When
I arrived home I wetted it down, then brought it inside (promising the
tree it was only for a few days) and began the joyful task of wrapping
smiling round pumpkin lights about its limbs, then topping it off with
a long strand of shiny red and gold tiny autumn leaves. I plugged in the
pumpkin lights and stood back to admire my creation: A Pumpkin Tree!

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I grinned with glee and anticipation of my surprise. A couple of welcoming
gifts wrapped in orange and gold papers with Halloween stickers
strategically placed about the packages finished off the project. When
Antonia arrived, tired from the long journey, the tree stood in a living
room corner in shining festive welcome and as she spotted it, her weary
face broke into a broad grin. I was so tickled, so pleased.
So now I own two trees. My ginkgo and a Western Red Cedar, as
it turns out, which, curiously, really belongs in the Pacific Northwest.
Nomadic as I am known to be, I am the owner and caregiver of two
trees, who will now make their way with me in my travels. Somehow
they give me great comfort. I fantasize, and have spoken with family
members about placing these trees in our family cemetery plot. Here
lie my greatgrandmother and greatgrandfather and grandmother and
greataunt, and a bevy of cousins are buried nearby, throughout the small
town cemetery. The plot was purchased over one hundred years ago for
us by my greatgrandfather, a true investment in a longterm proposition,
which is, in fact, what a tree is about. One day perhaps I will be buried
there and my body, first purified in the grace of fire, will become part of
these trees I nurture, who in return nurture me.
The trees in my life are not all physical and recognizable trees.
There are the traditions, maintained devotedly year to year, creating
the substance of family memories on which we hang our lives. Chai on
Christmas morning. Gingerbread and popovers and the familiar ornaments
that carry their special memories year after faithful year. Graves
tended. Birthdays honored. Scrapbooks and photo books marking the
passages of life. A wedding veil passed from grandmother to daughter
to sister to grandchild. Stories long told from generation to generation,
each word repeated faithfully as it was first heard by a grandchild or
greatgrandchild. Such is the stuff of families, the roots of which go long
and deep before us.
Who and what are the proverbial trees in your life to which you make
the faithful annual pilgrimages?
What does the honoring of these longheld
traditions give in return? How does change or turning away from them
affect your heart and soul? How can they be maintained, tended, and
cared for in a world that will not stand by waiting for us, but catapults
us further into a future we cannot predict, that we cannot count on to
stay the same? What will you take in your hand, your heart, your being
to sustain you on this ever-changing road, the trees of your life that lend
substance, courage, strength, rootedness, and meaning?

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Visit of a Hummingbird Moth

One of the greatest gifts our gardens have to offer is to see who shows up. Right? Does it not cheer you immensely when a different kind of bird is spotted in a backyard tree, building a nest? Or the delight in finding ladybugs helping out with aphids that are invading your roses? Who is not thrilled with finding a butterfly never seen before among our blossoms? And it is even more exciting when we are able to catch the visitor on our cameras and to share on social media! These are some of my favorite moments in the garden and I love sharing those discoveries with all of you here on this blog, on FB and Twitter. (I am just now sorting out Instagram, and can be found at TheKathrynHall, if you would like to follow.)

And so it was very exciting the afternoon a creature I’d never seen before, ever, anywhere, came flitting through the largest of the butterfly bushes in the back garden. It seemed to be a hummingbird, but I knew it was not. Then what was it?? And whoosh, in a few seconds it was gone, and I’d scarcely gotten a view. I did a bit of research and realized it was apparently a hummingbird moth! I’d never even heard of a hummingbird moth before. Have you? In speaking with people it doesn’t seem they are so common, though they do not appear to be endangered I’m happy to report.

And so I wished deeply another would visit, and one afternoon, weeks later, I got my wish fulfilled, as, above the tallest branches of the butterfly bush, among purple blossoms, was the fast moving creature–and, luckily, and I happened to have my iPhone in hand, set to video! I’ve learned in photographing butterflies, how precious these moments are, and I quickly set the video in motion, capturing this dance of this little hummingbird moth. Inspired I used Flipagram to add music, and above you may have already viewed the result!
It captures the moment and allows me to share with all of you to pique your interest. They surely are one of the sweetest visitors to my garden, and I hope for more.
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What are some of the unexpected visitors to your garden that brighten your day?

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: A new review of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy has just appeared in Readers’ Favorite Book Review. And an excerpt from my book will appear in the winter issue of GreenPrints Magazine. I want to extend a sincere thank you to all who have taken the time to post reviews of my book on Amazon. Each one is a treasure and it makes such a difference in letting others know of your love for the book. Thank you! xoxo


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Book Notes: Reimagining the California Lawn

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A recent visit to a local gardening club allowed me to meet someone from the local chapter of a group dedicated to encouraging the planting of native plants. Among their materials was a book I was drawn to immediately, Reimagining the California Lawn: Water Conserving Plants, Practices and Designs (Cachuma Press) authored by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien. As I’m sure you know, Californians statewide are grappling with reduced water resources and alternatives are being sought out by landscapers and home gardeners alike.
Now entering our fifth year of reduced rain and snowfall, pouring water out onto our long held practice of lush green lawns is no longer feasible, or even acceptable. Gardeners everywhere are turning to practical alternatives, and the results are often a delight. And Reimagining the California Lawn is helping to light the way! The book is graced with the exquisite photos of well known and highly regarded gardening photographer Saxon Holt, as well as editor/photographer John Evarts. I found all the photos invaluable, as they truly do highlight the many possibilities of a lawn reimagined. This shift in rethinking how we plan and use our gardens is nothing short of a sea change, and I think we all need all the help we can get, don’t you?

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Reimagining the California Lawn is structured around three primary chapters: Garden Designs for Lawn Replacement; How to Manage, Reduce, or Remove Your Lawn; and a very extensive and helpful third chapter, called Plant Profiles, which readers will very much appreciate. These three sections are followed by a Recommended Plant Selections, listing choices for these considerations: Aggressive, Aromatic Foliage, Attractive to Bees, Bulletproof, Deer Resistant, Dried Arrangements, Dry Shade, Dry Wind, Fast Growing, Frost Tender, Hummingbirds, Poisonous/Allergenic, Poor Drainage, Seashore Conditions, Silver,Gray, White or Blue Foliage, Slow Growing, Spiny or Prickly. Isn’t that a resource-rich list? It makes me want to look plants up right away!

Here are some more visual suggestions taken from Reimagining the California Lawn:

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Barrel cactus

Carex praegracillis-Lawn substitute Carex praegracillis

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Artichoke agave with blue fescue

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Canyon Prince wild rye and autumn moor grass

While Californians and other westerly states might best benefit from this book, I believe there is a bit of something for everyone. And the photos alone are worth the price of the book. It’s that beautiful and inspiring. I’m very happy to have it in my library. Highly recommended!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Pleased to announce an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden will be included in the winter issue of GreenPrints magazine! Also, this blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy was recently named Gardening Blog of the Week by Nature Hills Nursery, America’s Largest Online Plant Nursery! We are honored!


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