Sharing Christmas

Some of you might recall that awhile back I was invited to do a booksigning at Whispering Winds Nursery here in Mendocino County, and the generosity of spirit of the owners drew me back recently when the idea of securing live Christmas trees for our recent fire survivor families was suggested on a Facebook page I was following. This nursery is clearly a destination nursery, built under the canopies of various centuries-old redwoods and oak trees, one which sports a rambling ladybanks rose in summer. That’s co-owner Kristine Hill with me in the pic above. And she was delighted to help make that vision a reality by offering a 10% discount to those who wanted to supply fire survivor families with a live Christmas tree which they could later plant on their properties. I happily notified the editor of the local newspaper, thinking she might lend us a tweet, and boom, two days later this Christmas story ended up on the front page of said paper!

As fate would have it I had an unexpected visit from a longtime dear friend, Eta, an artist you would appreciate as she makes the most delightful succulent container gardens, which she sells throughout the Bay Area, who spent the night, and in the morning I was inspired to take to Whispering Winds. Both of us immediately brought out our cameras, well worth sharing with all of you here this Sunday morning. May the goodness and joy of this project and venture find its way to open hearts and kindle the spirit of Christmas in your lives.


my favorite tree

St. Francis




Christmas trees




Eta and Kathryn, proving old friends are the best!

Love and Christmas blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Anyone still pondering gifts for the thoughtful on your list, please do consider gifting a copy of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. You can find on Amazon (which has currently lowered price!) and GreenPrints and a few indie bookstores around the country, including Malaprop’s in Asheville; Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino; Three Sisters in Ukiah; various Copperfields in Marin and Sonoma; Book Depot in Mill Valley; Book People in Austin; Eureka Books in Humboldt County; Four Eyed Frog in Gualala; Sun Dance Bookstore in Reno. Ask your local store to order and I will send directly. ISBN is 978-0-9815570-0-7. If you want an autographed copy let me know and we can go through the PayPal door, and I will pay your postage! I even can giftwrap and send elsewhere in the country! Ebooks are available worldwide on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through Kobo as well. There’s still time! Thank you! Merry Merry Christmas to you and your family! XOXO

What to do with your rose hips!

4th of July roses

For years now I have been pruning the roses without pulling off the rose hips, thinking vaguely of what I might be tossing away of value, but imagining myself too busy to explore and process, all the while ignoring old hippy wisdom that treasures rose hip tea. But not this year! I had researched sufficiently to know to harvest them “after the first frost” and conveniently there have been two mild frosts this month, so I had determined that Thanksgiving weekend might be an opportune time to finally get to the rose hips. Happily, the weather cooperated, by offering a before dawn sprinkle, and a mix of fog and gentle sun the rest of the morning.

rose hips

My 4th of July rosebush is quite mature now, and is an abundant source of hips without resorting to harvesting a single other rose in my garden (though I am thinking of adding a few from the heirloom arbor rose, simply for variety and the added experience). It was a simple enough task of cutting off the rose hips from the bush with a small pruner. What a joy to know they are organic and pesticide-free! I then brought them inside, washed them off thoroughly, and pulled off the “tails”.

Ideally the next step is a task you might want to do with someone else helping, while chatting over tea as this is the most time-consuming part. For you need to cut off the top and bottom of each hip on a cutting board.* Then cut each hip in half. This is the easy part. And then you need to remove the seeds and fuzz inside each seed. Fortunately my nails are long, strong and clean as I really did resort to digging out the seeds with my nails. It was very basic and I rather enjoyed it in a primitive kind of way. I knew I was reconnecting with a long valued human skill not often relied upon as in earlier times. And I must warn you that the fuzz on the inside of these seeds can be a teeny bit prickly to the skin. I can easily see why it’s recommended that you do remove it, as it can be “an irritant to the stomach.” So just be mindful of it. Scrape it away from you as it accumulates on your cutting board. Or wash it off periodically, to avoid contact with it. Also, be sure to toss any hips that are split, too dark or mushy, or, underripened. So out go the seeds and fuzz from each hip. And you are left with these wonderful treasures, rich in vitamins C and A, in iron, magnesium and calcium. My original harvest left me with just one cup.

“In ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition, rose hips were strung together and worn by the hopeful to attract love. Legend has it that raiding Vikings fortified themselves with these berry-like fruits while invading foreign lands. During World War II, British children took doses of rose hip syrup when fresh foods were scarce.” ~ Traditional Medicinals

And now it’s time to dry them. I set my dehydrator at 135°F., the fruit setting, and dried mine for six hours.

Final result:

dried rose hips

To make rose hip tea simply use 2 teaspoons dried hips per cup of boiling water and allow to steep for 15 minutes, then add a bit of honey. I intend to mix some of my hips with hibiscus, as is commonly done. It is a marvelous hot drink you will fully enjoy to help stave off the chill of this time of year. You can store the hips in a glass jar in a cool, dark place for months. Or seal tightly and freeze indefinitely.

I would love to hear of your rose hip adventures in your kitchen! Anyone ventured into rose hip jelly or syrup?

Love and gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

*The British call this “topping and tailing”! 🙂

11/29/2017: Adding this tip, which I just discovered! It’s a good idea to do the topping and tailing of each hip on one day, and then dig out the seeds on the following day, when they’ve had a chance to air dry just a bit. #learning #refining

Book/blog News: So pleased that an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy is included in the November issue of that beautiful publication out of North Carolina, one of my favorites, Western North Carolina Woman. It’s available online as well as stores in the deep South. Also, exciting that news of this blogger and blog was recently featured in Reader’s Digest, in a story on the value of being a horticulturist/gardener. Lastly, please watch for an upcoming book giveaway on this blog of copies of the new Bunny Mellon biography! Details soon!

How to Grow Hollyhocks

For the last month an elderly neighbor and I keep initiating the same conversation, apparently. She’s one of those folks who has totally transformed her front lawn into dozens of perennial flowers, patchworked into loveliness that everyone who passes admires. There are always multiple flowers in bloom, and the landscape is always changing. And I have asked her more than once, “What about hollyhocks?” which I grow randomly and generously around my garden–primarily because they are self-seeding and abundant. And she always says the same thing, “I think they don’t like much water.” To which I respond, “I water my hollyhocks every day.” And we have had this dialogue several times with no resolve, really. So I finally took the time to get my facts straight and now I will share with you. And her.

Hollyhocks actually do like water, though they need to drain properly. And she most likely has this impression as they don’t like to get their leaves wet as they are prone to rusting and this means it’s much better to water them early in the morning when there’s plenty of time for water to evaporate by day’s end, lessening the likelihood of rust problems. So I’ve inadvertently been caring for them according to their needs and they have responded accordingly and most beautifully.

I knew, as you might also know, that once the seeds have fallen on the soil (or planted just below the surface if you are doing it yourself, which I’m imagining you most likely are) they will sprout, grow foliage lower to the ground the first year, and then the second year they will emerge tall and their flowers will blossom. So it takes some patience.

Bees love hollyhocks, and one of the most enchanting experiences is to find a bumblebee tucked inside fast asleep until morning, when it will awaken to the warmth of the sun and resume where it left off. Is anything more charming? I think not. And then one day this happened:

Hollyhocks that are happy in the sun, away from strong winds and watered properly can grow very tall. I love planting them along a side fence, which offers some support should they need it as the season progresses.

At season’s end, in fall, the petals will have fallen and the seeds become very apparent inside drying pods, all stacked next to each other in a circle.

I personally collect some seeds, which I share with other hollyhock lovers, and then I simply cut the dry stocks off and toss them along some patch of earth that I think might well benefit from their beauty. There is a community alley I’ve chosen to be the primary beneficiary of these stalks and each year there are more emerging, which is a secret delight.

Have you had success with hollyhocks in your garden? They are a nostalgic choice that seems to kindle fond memories of family.

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo
Oops! Meant to mention! If you do spot any leaves with rust (usually ones near the bottom that get wet when you water them), remove them and conventional teaching is, get rid of them, so they don’t spread their rusty selves around! 😉

Book News: Watch for upcoming excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in Western North Carolina Woman‘s November issue! Note that copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy can be purchased on Amazon. Ebook versions are available Amazon, on Barnes and Noble, and, most recently, Kobo, making it available in many new countries with Kobo sites! This includes Porrúa in Mexico. Also GreenPrints magazine features Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in their online bookstore!
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