The Garden as Trickster


Haha! The garden continues to teach me, this time about my powers of observation, and how not all is at it might first appear! Bet you’ve had that experience, too, right? In my last post I wrote about the concept of the seed bank, and, particularly, about the “discovery” that I unexpectedly had lambs ear growing in my garden! Well, guess what? It’s Giant Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). It’s quite a joke on me, as I’d written–extensively–about mullein three years ago. Yet, there were enough differences this time that I convinced myself I was looking at a different plant entirely. I’m letting this soak in as I need to remember that it’s not uncommon to mistake one plant for another and that it’s actually critical to be fully aware of that fact. This is especially true for herbalists gathering plants in the wild. Or mushroom hunters! How did I get misled? In reflecting, I see there are several reasons, all worth noting for future.

“Mistake not one plant for another.” ~ Kathryn Hall, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden

For starters, it was a different color. It was soft grey, not green. Note the difference. Here was the mullein I’d originally written about:


And here is the leaf of the new ones:


Totally different. Even softer!

Secondly, this year’s mullein stayed close to the ground in flowerettes for a long time before any spike emerged. That was the point at which I’d concluded it was lambs ear.


Once I’d convinced myself it was lambs ear, there was no going back. Even the eventual emergence of the flowers did not trigger my old memory of the mullein that had originally visited me! I’m guessing because it was the only time I’d ever seen it anywhere. Once was not enough! It had been three years since I’d seen any growing here. I’d assumed it no longer was on this property, concluding the two or three I had in 2012 were a one-off.

Also, my perception was that this plant grew as a family, which charmed me no end. They have stood like sentinels this summer, just in front of the butterfly bush. As I compare this stand with the single one above it seems that the one above has leaves that grow more separately and more sparsely. Can the weather make a difference? Or the soil?


Imagine my delight when I read the original post today and found I’d written of a “smallish mullein” obscurely hiding under the butterfly bush! Apparently it was doing more than that! It was leaving its seeds behind to emerge as a virtual Giant Mullein forest three years later! Surprise!

So now I’m referring you to the original post, if you are interested in reading more, which was quite thorough in its practical coverage. And I offer thanks to Mary Ann Newcomer, Nancy McDonald Wallace and my cousin, Julie Rice, who all helped guide me in the right direction. I don’t think I will forget this lovely plant again! And I certainly hope it has established itself and makes an annual appearance! I have enjoyed it immensely, and so have the bees!


Love and summer gardening blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

Footnote: I’ve just looked up Giant Mullein one last time and discovered there are some who call it lambs’ tongues! So, tongues, not ears, then! I find this very funny. 😉

Book Notes: I thoroughly enjoyed running the Goodreads Book Giveaway for ten copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, and that resulted in this lovely review being posted by one of the winners, which cheered my author heart no end.

“Not knowing what to expect from this book and then reading it was a truly wonderful surprise. Plant Whatever Brings You Joy made me take deep breaths and relax as I read each page. Each of the chapters is a surprise from Kathryn Hall’s life. After I read a chapter, I reviewed the title of it and thought how it translated to my life. What a great experience. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for a copy of this great read, and for Kathryn Hall in having the wisdom to share it with us.” ~B.W.

And, btw, if you are on Goodreads, please friend me there, and if you’ve read my book I would be most grateful if you rated it on Goodreads–or Amazon! Thank you so much! It makes such a difference to authors when you do this.

The Seed Bank


Readers of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy will be familiar with this one of the 52 lessons: “Never pull up and discard what you cannot identify,” a metaphorical invitation to not pre-judge that which enters your life that seems unfamiliar. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” as we know. The blessings in our lives can show up in many different unexpected packages. So when I planted morning glory seeds in March on a rosy obelisk, well away from the rest of the garden, so it could not overcome whatever was growing nearby, I thought I was so clever both to get a head start, and to plant in a trouble-free spot. Imagine my surprise when what emerged were clearly not morning glories. To this day in May I am befuddled by what came up, and how, but the only “logical” explanation is that the morning glory seeds did not come up, but something that had lain dormant, waiting, did. But what? Reluctantly, I continued to water the mysterious seedlings, seeking patience, fostering curiosity, attempting to transcend my annoyance that my vision for my lovely blue flowers climbing the white obelisk was not to be. But what were they? For the longest time I didn’t have a clue. And then suddenly, out of the blue, I had a solid moment of surprised recognition. “I think those are hollyhocks!” I found myself thinking. Stunned. Incredulous. Hollyhocks? Two dozen in one spot? How could that be? I ran to the back of the garden and picked a large hollyhock leaf from my established hollyhocks, and ran back to compare. Indeed. Impossible to imagine, yet there it was. Identical. So the truth of the matter is that I planted morning glory seeds from my glass bottle of collected seeds from last year, still in their husks, some of them, and what emerged were a myriad of hollyhock seeds. Not a single morning glory seed among them.

For doubters (easy to imagine) let me assure you that I know my way around flat, round, dry, paperlike hollyhock seeds and hard dark morning glory seeds in their dry husks. No question. But there you have it. The only (near impossible) explanation is that I’d chosen a dry patch of earth away from the main garden, a place that never gets watered beyond rain, and beneath that seeming barren spot were the seeds of someone else’s long ago garden just awaiting that exact set of circumstances to take place.

There’s a metaphor in that one, dear ones, and I will let you ponder.

And as if that were not enough (it must be the time) I spent countless days admiring a new crop of mullein, in the exact spot where mullein had spontaneously emerged two years ago, and about which I wrote, watering it, talking to it, and wondering when it would bolt and produce some yellow flowers–which never happened, and why? One morning I looked at it and found myself saying, “You are not mullein. You are lamb’s ear.” What?? In the nine years I’ve lived on this property and tended this garden I have never seen a sprig of lamb’s ear. Not one. Nor have I planted it. Nor did it blow over the fence. No. For who knows how long, lamb’s ear has been living, invisibly, under the surface of the earth, unbeknownst to me and anyone who has ever walked My Garden, just waiting for the perfect conditions to make its beautiful self visible.
How stunning. Nine years. At the very least.


The oldest carbon-14-dated seed that has grown into a viable plant was Silene stenophylla (narrow-leafed campion), an Arctic flower native to Siberia. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed an age of 31,800 ±300 years for the seeds. In 2007, more than 600,000 frozen mature and immature seeds were found buried in 70 squirrel hibernation burrows 38 metres (125 ft) below the permafrost near the banks of the Kolyma River. Believed to have been buried by Arctic ground squirrels, the mature seeds had been damaged to prevent germination in the burrow, however, three of the immature seeds contained viable embryos. Scientists extracted the embryos and successfully germinated plants in vitro which grew, flowered and created viable seeds of their own. The shape of the flowers differed from that of modern S. stenophylla with the petals being longer and more widely spaced than modern versions of the plant. ~ Wiki

So let’s think about this, metaphorically. What beauty, what gift, what treasure lies within you, or your children, or your spouse, or your best friends, or your students, invisibly, that is awaiting the perfect conditions to make itself gloriously known, adding to the blessings that surround you? This is something impossibly close, something you are apparently oblivious to. This gift would be content to lie beneath the earth for a long long time. It has no scheduled agenda. However, with the right amount of tending, of rain, of warmth, of sunshine, it might surprise you. What would that be in your life?

I shared these stories with an elderly neighbor recently, a longtime gardener, and she said, “You know we all thought with the drought there would be no wildflowers this year. But the truth is there are more than we have seen in decades.” (She hikes. A lot.) About the hollyhocks and the lamb’s ears? “It’s the Seed Bank,” she said. Yes. The Seed Bank.

It is time, apparently, for us to suspend what we tell ourselves, what our natural expectations are, and to open to the possibility that all is not precisely what we think, how we see things. It might be different. Or better. Or unexpected. And a bigger outcome than we imagined. Better than we could have thought up for ourselves. It happens. What a miracle and blessing that the garden stands ready to remind us at any time.

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxox


Book News: Are you a member of Goodreads? If not, it’s easy to sign up. Now through June 5th Goodreads is hosting a Book Giveaway for Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. A simple click enters you into the Giveaway! And there are ten free copies being mailed out to winners! 6/10: Congratulations to the ten winners! Books were mailed to you priority mail on Monday! Enjoy! xoxo

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Plant Whatever Brings You Joy by Kathryn  Hall

Plant Whatever Brings You Joy

by Kathryn Hall

Giveaway ends June 05, 2015.

See the giveaway details
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The Rustic Quiche

rustic quiche with roasted red peppers and kalamata olives

Back when Antonia was a little girl a lovely Asian woman in San Francisco gave me a recipe for quiche which I vaguely recall making successfully a couple of times, and then, inexplicably, the recipe failed. I have no idea why. But I concluded that I “didn’t know how to make quiche.” (How many times do we do this one way or another?) I moved on to other endeavors in the kitchen. Making yogurt. Crafting tortillas. Baking bread. Astoundingly it’s taken me decades to get back to making quiches. And even that began with a failure! Even though I long ago mastered pie crusts some devilish misplaced part of me said, “Just buy a frozen one at the health food store.” So I did. Googled a recipe for quiche. Made up the mixture I’d decided upon. And poured it into the pie crust only to discover the ready made pie crust was too shallow for my filling! What a mess! So hurriedly I threw together a pie crust, which I’d ought to have done to start with, and poured my salvaged egg concoction into the deeper pan. In my haste, my crust was rather ragged, but somehow charming, and not one but two folks, upon seeing a picture I posted on social media, declared, “I love your rustic crust.” So, voila! I now have a successful recipe for Rustic Quiche and I’m going to share with you, as it’s really quite delicious, and so easy!

So, first you make a pie crust. I don’t measure a thing, so I’m no help to you, really. I put flour in a bowl. I add a bit of salt. Then I add extra virgin olive oil and about a fourth of a square of butter, and chop that in with a pastry blender. I pour in some very cold water, mix quickly, put on a floured board and roll out. And that’s that. Note the ragged edge. 😉


Place the crust into a 375ªF. oven for about 20 minutes, then pull to cool.

Then this is the fun part. You get to decide what to use to embellish the quiche! For one of the two pictured in this post, I sauteed some mushrooms in butter, carmelized a medium onion in olive oil, and chopped up some zucchini. Thusly:




And then I grated a cup of gruyere cheese.

So I had these:


Then I whisked six large eggs, into which I put all the above ingredients, as well as 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream. And then I put in a bit of salt and white pepper.

Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust. Bake until set (think custard) about 45 minutes. Serve warm.


I know by now some of you are thinking “bacon”. Yes, you can use bacon, too. 😉

Love and kitchen blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

A Goodreads Book Giveaway has been launched! To win a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, simply enter to win!

Books News: Every now and then I google the title of my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden, just to see what has sprouted here and there, and was delighted to find a blog post, which, inexplicably has just surfaced on the Net at large, in Holland, in Dutch. The author focuses on a excerpt from my book which appeared in The Intelligent Optimist in Dutch a couple of years ago. A lovely find… I can see why this would appeal to her. Her tagline is “Tips for Gardening in the City”, and the excerpt was the story of when Antonia and I dug up the sidewalks in our neighborhood in Amsterdam, and replaced the large cement blocks with dirt and flowers, transforming our entire relationship with our neighborhood. If you’ve not read this story yet, there are more, and I invite you to buy a copy of my book on Amazon today. Thank you!
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