Happy Valentine’s Day–from the high desert!

Dearest followers of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, when I wrote my last post from Northern California in all honesty there was nowhere on my conscious Bingo card that imagined my next post would be written from my new home in the high desert of New Mexico. But here we are! Border Collie Nana, tortie Coco and I made the journey down the entire length of California, crossing Arizona into northern New Mexico and headed south. And here we are in our new home. This post is to give you a visual overview of some of what we have seen and experienced.

Incredibly, the first part of our journey here, south of Albuquerque, unexpectedly included days spent at lodging where every morning more than fifty sandhill cranes flew in and spent the daylight hours nearby. They were absolutely Buddha like and their presence marked a memorable entry into high desert country.

Nana and I took early morning walks together into landscapes heretofore never seen. Nana always insisted we walk far enough to visit a family of five cows. Temps were freezing, but they were always outside near the fence where we walked.

Our walks meant we were seeing plants that were completely new to us. Here’s a beauty, whose name I still do not know.

After weeks of searching for a new home, giving us the opportunity to explore the area, ever refining what felt right, I at last found a home I knew we could settle into in New Mexico.

I could not imagine an environment more different from our years in Northern California. And certainly I did not anticipate last week’s dumping of snow, which Nana was thrilled to play in! And, yes, that is pampas grass just over the fence!

Here’s the view out my new office window:

One more amazing New Mexico sunset. The sky here is open and available and continually magically offering unlimited configurations to enjoy and appreciate.

From here it would appear that the scope of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy blog will expand. I am meeting fascinating people who are doing research into land erosion control and water preservation whom I want to interview. I also met a woman who helped two different communities create community gardens whom I want to showcase as inspiration. And my explorations have led me to a lovely man and his wife who have a honey apple farm! He has over 150 bee hives and numerous kinds of apples he sells on his property. I will introduce you to all these new people in my life and will share my learning curve and adventures. I am looking forward to sharing the journey with you! Please feel free to share any special New Mexico stories!

Love and gardening adventures,
Kathryn xoxo

This is called coyote fencing. I love it.


New Chapter in the Life of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy!

Dearest followers of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy,

This morning a fellow gardener was lamenting that perhaps her garden was not quite up to being on display at an annual Garden Tour she participates in, and I was immediately reminded of this post titled Leaving Your Critic at the Garden Gate, and sent her a link. Rereading the post I realized that, synchronistically it is the perfect post to send out as an overview and reminder of what this particular garden has meant in the life of this blog over the years. And now I find myself letting it go to begin a new chapter in my life, and thus in the life of this blog. I will be creating a new garden elsewhere, yet to be fully revealed to me. And I will be creating it with this adorable new puppy, named Nana, who entered my life two months ago. She is a full blooded white Border Collie and continues an unfolding tradition of my life with Border Collies and gardening. Wish us well and stay tuned! Thank you for your continued readership and gardening love reflected here, for which I am profoundly grateful. Thanks also to readers of my book, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden.

Blessings and much love,
Kathryn XOXO

Recently I’ve had an epiphany, and it’s about me and how I have felt about presenting my garden to the world. I know my critic has been voicing her little nags about this for a long time, and I’d like to say I largely ignored her, but that would not be true. The job of the critic is to protect us from being hurt, based on our notes taken as a little child, all learned from Mommy and Daddy as they laid down The Rules. The ones we were to obey if we wanted to be loved and accepted. It’s a big shift to become the adult in the room and to be able to thank the critic voice for her input (it’s her Job, afterall), but you are the conscious adult and you are in charge now, and able to reassess whether her notes are still pertinent, or were ever even true. So there was that. And I suppose I’d been thinking that as “a gardening blogger” my garden was “supposed to look a certain way.” Not Better Homes and Gardens, but, you know. Nice. So I would carefully select how I presented my garden in pictures, trying to avoid certain corners. Or, the whole big picture, if I’m being really honest, and that’s what this post is about.

I’d already begun to think about this, catalyzed by noticing I was surprised when an elderly neighbor came to visit my back garden, and given that she’s a kind of random gardener herself, I showed her every corner, thinking she would appreciate it. She did. After I walked her around she said, “I feel like I’ve been on a gardening tour.” Really? And then I was left wondering why I would be so surprised. What’s that about?


But the real ah-ha moment occurred when a gardener I know was lamenting that at end of winter her garden didn’t really show well, and for some reason, that one clicked. Because what I recognized was that the voice of the critic was lying await under what she was saying. This led me to some serious and honest thinking, which led me to this conversation with my daughter this morning.

“I’m going to write about leaving one’s critic at the garden gate, my own included. And I’m going to stop thinking my garden has to be showcased as anything other than it really is. And what it really is, Antonia, is a very big DOG RUN with a LOT of things growing on each side, mostly roses.”

And we both cracked up laughing.

Because it’s basically true. I took one look at that near block-long yard ten and a half years ago, and I saw a place my overly energetic Border Collie, Conner, could happily be exercised and safely kept behind tall garden walls. I also saw a random garden created by various renters that allowed me to know I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, and that appealed to me very much. I could experiment, and pretty much anything I did create would have been an improvement. And it has been. Let me take you beyond the garden gate and give you a really good look at what lies behind it!

First, the primary motivators, playing ball. (They are the main attraction!)

Conner and Ruby

And here’s where they get to play every day.




That’s basically the dog run part. But there’s also a bit of patio, where we sometimes play, and this is a peek at some of that.


It’s a big back yard, and it has secret places. I somehow managed to arrange it as if it were divided into vignettes. Here’s the hammock.


And my most recent foray is something I’ve long thought about, as the true myrtle (one of my favorite areas) grows in rather a circle, so I’ve always imagined that I could put something inside that circle and create something special. And that one I’ve just begun, so stay tuned. I’m seeing videotaping little chats from an early morning garden, with tablecloths and vases of flowers and hanging lovely things in the trees. Can you see it?

The Myrtle Circle

Then there was the haphazard developing of the Rose Garden, which evolved out of taking out an enormous plum tree that did no one any good, ever, not even the birds, and a teen age neighbor boy who actually told me, “I’m the brawn, not the brain” plopped in a circle of roses I’d salvaged from some elderly folks on the block who had intended to trash these amazing heirloom roses! So that happened. And was I inclined to take out the volunteer borage? No. Not at all. I’m not that kind of girl. So I enjoy the contrasting blues and reds and pinks and yellows and the abundance of honeybees and bumbles that frequent my garden from early morning ’till dusk and beyond.


Also, compliments of same brawny teenager, the lemon tree got dragged into the center of the “dog run”, in the sun, and adjacent to a grape vine I put into a large pot who is getting bigger every year. Oh, dear. And I spend a fair amount of time making sure it doesn’t wind itself into the lemon tree or get in the way of focused doggies, which does happen on occasion. Poor grapes.


There’s a large picnic table on this end of the garden, well used.


And a honeysuckle screen looking out into that area.


And, of course, the Dr. Hueys.


Among the other blessings on this property are a fig tree, an organic apple tree, a plum tree (which had been hiding behind the one pulled up!), and the English walnut.


And what I’ve added includes three butterfly bushes, insuring tons of butterflies and pollinators, lots of herbs, raspberries, blackberries, roses and more roses, irises, lilies, campanula, and all manner of flowers. I am especially grateful for the perennials.

But what this garden most offers is a habitat for birds and critters. A safe one, free of pesticides, one where nests might be built. It offers respite from my work life. Fresh air. Quiet. Safety. No deer. No snakes. (Only black widows, which I watch carefully for.) All gifts for which I am incredibly grateful. And is it “perfect”? No. It is garden tour worthy? Probably not. Do I care? No. So I hope this sharing encourages you to have the garden that suits you. Please, please, leave your critic at the garden gate. Let things go a bit, and learn about the plants you are growing. How else would I know oregano can take over a veggie garden, had I not let it happen? Or that mullein is a magical plant if I’d ripped it up before it became a stalwart force in my garden? Where would I play with hummingbirds in the early morning, showering them with a spray from my hose? Learn about scrub jay fledglings? Let your garden be. Shape it as you will. But make it a place of joy and wonder and learning. Because that’s what it is.

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo


Nurture, nurture, nurture

Each year in May gardeners around the world celebrate World Naked Gardeners Day! This year I fancied gathering large red heirloom roses off the back arbor, as well as some small yellow rose blossoms and some branches from white lilac in the front garden, creating a floral wreath for myself as I “hid” behind a local painted fence. So fun! May is also a time when working in the garden becomes more a focus of our lives as the tasks of spring emerge and take our attention. These two activities brought to mind the chapter in my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden based on the simple lesson, “Nurture, nurture, nurture,” which here follows for your reading pleasure.

Nurture, nurture, nurture

Near as I can tell life on planet Earth is mostly about taking care. Taking care of our families. Taking care of our friends. Taking care of the work that we take responsibility for. Taking care of our homes, taking care of our possessions, our animals, our gardens, our plants, our cars, our water, our air, our land. Our churches, our communities, our cities, our roads, our poor, our sick, our wounded, our frail and elderly. Taking care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves physically. Taking care of ourselves mentally. Taking care of ourselves emotionally. And taking care of ourselves spiritually. Yep, I’d say that pretty much covers life on our planet for we human beings, and it certainly reflects my experience!

Now how we go about that is endless in its possibilities. As varied as the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the plants in the forest. And notice they are all taking care as well.

If I ask myself what is the central principle behind this endless and perpetual taking care, I’d have to say life itself. Life reaching towards life. Life ensuring life continues. That essentially is the drive behind it all, is it not? Each and every living thing on planet Earth is hardwired for doing well, for keeping the whole thing going, for perpetuating life. The lengths various species go to ensure their sticking around boggles the mind.

As we are caught up in our own individual dramas and the illusions (and grandeurs) of our sense of separation, it is easy (and convenient) to forget what the essential driving force behind all this is. Truly there are beings walking planet Earth thinking it was about them. “What? It’s not about me?” Well, it is. You and over six trillion other people and a several trillion other species. It is humbling to contemplate when we take the time.

And the distorted ways in which some of us choose to take care of ourselves and others are absolute abominations, there is no doubt. But often underneath the aberration one could find this slender thread of life’s longing at the core, hard as that might seem.

What would our lives look like if we consciously brought the value of taking care, of nurturing to the fore? How would aligning ourselves with that single focus impact our lives and the lives of others? If we acknowledged fully our intrinsic programming to care and nurture for all that came within our view, our path, our neighborhood, our own small radar, what impact would that accumulative shift have on our larger reality?

Jesus said to love one another. Was that not the same?

Love and garden blessings from my heart to yours,
Kathryn xoxo

Note: This post is dedicated to my beloved Border Collie companion, Thistle, who this week moved to heaven. I will forever be grateful for our shared life together and for our deep loving bond.

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