My Social Media Garden


In the time of the Coronavirus, social distancing, and self quarantines, I am sowing seeds indoors under grow lights, potting up iris starts (also indoors), and dreaming of my warm season 5b garden – when I can squeeze in time from the computer and homeschooling kids. I feel lucky to be able to stay home where my family is safe (and so far COVID-free, fingers crossed).

With our ongoing intermittent snowfall – such as the blizzard going on outside right now, I’ve been spending most of my time indoors. When the weather is nice – and there isn’t snow on the ground, the family has pitched in to build a raised bed that will be about the length of the barn (more on that soon in another post). Until we can get outdoors and really start working on developing our new garden, I’m periodically checking my social media feeds, enjoying the sights in others’ already warm season gardens, and taking notes on ideas for my own soon-to-be garden, currently buried under six inches of snow and counting.

I’m dreaming of spring flowers.

I’m careful to balance my screen time with other activities, as well as keep my mental wanderings and health in check. I realize that, for my sanity, cultivating moments of awe is essential. (Read more on the transformative nature of awe and the healing power of awe, supported by recently published research in the journal Emotion. Here’s another article I wrote on positive emotions and awe for the Horticultural Therapy Institute blog on The Power of Nature and Awe.)

So the social media I follow is limited to family and friend activities, funny memes, and beautiful nature and garden imagery. Essentially I’m actively curating my small moments of awe indoors by looking at beautiful tulip fields in Holland, wild animals roaming the National Parks, creative cutflower arrangements by professional floral designers, majestic mountain scenes posted by National Geographic, blooming cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden, and flowering fruit trees in my former professors’ gardens. These are all images I see in my cultivated garden of nature themed social media.

Tulips in spring

Here are some of my favorites…not all of them, just some.

Floret Flower Farm – as I write this today, Floret has just posted a photo of the stunning frilly pink peony flowers of Tulip ‘Cool Crystal.’ This picture is in the midst of other photos of floral arrangements filled with what’s in season, romantic shots of favorite flowers, and the latest happenings on this Washington farm, including their upcoming docuseries on the new Magnolia network (coming later in 2020).

Layla Robinson Design – this Welsh floral designer creates beautiful arrangements, wreaths, and other ephemeral art using dried flowers and other materials. It has inspired me to plant certain seasonal flowers in my garden, just so I can harvest them and attempt to use them in a similar way. To see beauty in flowers in this unique way…I appreciate perspectives that challenge the way I view and experience the world.

Gomphrena in the garden

National Geographic – some of the world’s best photographers catch amazing sights of the natural world, with the human species occasionally in there too. I’ve seen some of the most spectacular shots of rare and endangered animals, exotic locations around the world, and unusual sights that I never knew even existed. It’s an education and marvel in one.

Jamie’s Jungle – avid houseplant gardener Jamie Song often gives video and photo tours of his indoor London flat “garden.” I love the unique assortment of tropical houseplants that he displays like an art collection. The pots in which his plants are planted are also pretty cool.

Homestead Brooklyn – fellow urban houseplant gardener Summer Rayne Oakes features the plant collection in her New York City “apartment garden.” She has been YouTubing her world travels and 365 days of (house)plants, with information about one plant and its care – YouTube channel Plant One on Me. And I was quoted in her recent book How to Make a Plant Love You.

Corrie Beth Makes – can’t get your hands on that cool new houseplant? Artist Corrie Beth Hogg makes her own with paper! Sometimes I have a hard time telling which plant is real and which is paper. Her creations are THAT good! You can learn to make your own too from her book Handmade Houseplants. Might be something fun to do during quarantine.

Flora Grubb Gardens – amazing California plants are featured by this San Francisco garden center. The spiky plants and even spiky flowers are a nice escape from my Colorado winter-spring.

Edible pansy flowers in salad

Niki Jabbour – having just moved from my warm Zone 8a garden and learning to navigate my new Rocky Mountain 5b cold weather garden, I really appreciate the gardeners makin’ it work in cooler climates. Niki Jabbour has figured out how to grow year-round in her Nova Scotia garden, even amongst the deer (it’s been a long time since I had to deal with deer). She uses cold frames, covers, and hoops, and I’ve already learned so much through her social media and website, SavvyGardening, which she co-hosts with fellow horticulturists and writers Jessica Walliser and Tara Nolan. I’ve also been consulting Niki’s books The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, Veggie Garden Remix, and soon Growing Under Cover.

Leslie F. Halleck – among the horticulture industry people I follow, I appreciate Leslie’s perspective on horticultural topics, business, and women in the industry. She shares interesting articles, along with photos of her favorite Sinningia, grow light systems, and veggies from her garden. Since I’ve been starting a lot of seed using grow lights, I have been consulting Leslie’s books, Gardening Under Lights (I have a signed copy!) and Plant Parenting.

Grow! with Katie – Known for her appearances on QVC, Katie Dubow interviews horticulture industry movers and shakers on her Facebook Live videos. She has interviewed a variety of really interesting people on different topics – you should be able to find something that appeals directly to you. Katie is a second generation business owner of Garden Media Group, which studies and communicates about industry trends.

Palm House, Kew – circa 2008

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – I love the storied history of this 260+-year-old botanic garden, as well as old school collections of plants gathered together by trained horticulturists and plant hunters, present and past. To be honest, one of my favorite memories is from my studies at Kew in 2008 – our classroom overlooked the pond and, just beyond, the iconic architecture of the Palm House, how lucky was I? I loved walking through the Waterlily House and Princess of Wales Conservatory or across the treetop walkway (which had just opened). I remember walking quickly through the gardens, past the formerly caged Wollemi pine, to the Orangery restaurant to grab lunch and then stroll the gardens near Kew Palace. It’s a nice stroll down memory lane when I look at Kew’s Instagram.

Caged Wollemi pine at Kew – circa 2008

Chanticleer, a pleasure garden – as I create my own new pleasure garden in the Rockies, I’ve always been inspired by the horticultural wonders and creations at Chanticleer since I first visited in 2003. Even though I’m in the mountain setting, I’m still gonna grow my spiky succulents and tropical caladiums, inspired by the plantings I often see on their social media. Perhaps I’ll start floating flower petals in a water feature (note to self: build one first) or grow my own sweeping ornamental grain planting in the pasture. Maybe I will!

Eye candy hydrangeas

A few more “eye candy” social media I follow:

Hilton Carter, artist and author of Wild Interiors

Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix, Arizona

Becky Crowley, English cutflower grower who grows flowers for Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Terrain, inspired garden lifestyle shop

M Creative J, botanical fiber artist

Creating a Wildlife Friendly Habitat


In 2015, I wrote about an initiative in which President Obama proposed a “pollinator highway” that extends along Interstate 35.  The I-35 corridor runs north to south from Minnesota through Texas and follows the monarch butterfly migration route. I-35 runs right through the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and every fall it is an amazing spectacle to see the monarchs feeding on nectar plants as they travel through on their way to Mexico for the winter. (Check out the monarch migration routes in North America on the map found here. Read more about pollinators here.) This highway would be planted with milkweed and other pollinator friendly plants that would make for easy “rest stops” for butterflies (and other pollinators too!) to eat and rest along their journey. (Read more about the pollinator highway proposal here.)

Monarch butterflies on Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Blue’

Fast forward to late 2015, the National Wildlife Federation sponsored an initiative called the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, which is “a national campaign asking mayors to commit their cities to a series of specific actions to make their urban habitat friendlier to the declining monarch butterfly and other wildlife” (Argueta, 2015). Several mayors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area signed this pledge, along with mayors from communities around the country. (Read more about the pledge here.)

Swallowtail caterpillar on bronze fennel

In therapeutic horticulture programs, teach clients about pollinators and other wildlife. In learning their stories, these can become great lessons on shifting focus from the self to the broader world and recognizing that we are all citizens of the world, even bees, hummingbirds, and bats. A client might also be able to compare his or her own experiences in dealing with personal challenges when learning about the plight of certain pollinators, who themselves face various challenges like threatened habitats. The story of the trek that the monarchs make during their migration can be a metaphor for the hero’s journey – overcoming the odds and experiencing transformation through struggle.

Sulphur butterfly on petunia

One way to introduce this concept is to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and cultivate a wildlife friendly garden as part of your program…then get your garden certified as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. A wildlife friendly garden incorporates food and water sources for various types of wildlife, options for shelter and places to raise their young, and sustainable gardening practices. In order to meet the requirements of NWF’s wildlife habitat program, refer to their website for more details.

Bee on Texas mountain laurel

During National Horticultural Therapy Week this week, the staff, clients, and volunteers at Arden Courts of Richardson in Texas held a ceremony to honor the recent NWF wildlife habitat distinction of their gardens, which include raised beds, containers, and in-ground planting beds. This distinction was earned as the result of many people’s hard work, sweat, and plenty of dirt under our fingernails. The gardens contain a variety of sensory stimulating herbs and other plants that are pollinator friendly and drought and heat tolerant, birdhouses, birdbaths, among other garden features. Check out some photos of our garden spaces.eatbreathegarden_wildlifehabitatsign

eatbreathegarden_ACbutterfly eatbreathegarden_ACAsters eatbreathegarden_ACgarden eatbreathegarden_ACpots eatbreathegarden_ACraisedbed eatbreathegarden_ACsunflower eatbreathegarden_ACgardens

The Transformative Experience of Basil Seed


At a time when gardeners are sowing seeds in preparation for the spring garden, let’s talk about seeds…basil seed in particular.

About a year ago, friend and fellow practitioner Charles Plummer of Youth with Faces told me about how basil seed can change before your very eyes, if you just add water. He had learned this from Rebecca Haller, HTM, during one of the Horticultural Therapy Institute’s courses.

Somewhat skeptical, I said, “Well, what happens?”

He encouraged, “Just give it a try and see what happens.”

It took me a couple more months – when I was preparing to lead a seed sowing session with one of my groups – before I was in the same room as basil seed, an eye dropper, and some water. So in taking Charles’ advice, I gave it a try.

And WOW!

Did you know that basil seed can change right before your eyes in just a few seconds?

In a world of instant gratification, clients can sometimes get impatient with the “slow growing” nature of plants in the garden. This is a great opportunity for a meaningful lesson, or actually a series of lessons, on the phrase “Good things come to those who wait.” The act of nurturing a plant – from seed to seedling to full grown plants that can be harvested for eating or collecting seed – can help the gardener experience the cyclical nature of life in real time. Some things just don’t happen overnight…patience is a virtue.

However, at other times, an activity with instantly gratifying results can be equally as powerful and transformative. Here, watching a basil seed from start to finish can help shift a person’s self-focused attention outside of themselves to something that is so tiny. In a sense, it can be incredibly grounding for one’s perspective to watch a seed that’s a centimeter in size transform itself. (Read more on the transformative nature of awe and the healing power of awe, supported by recently published research in the journal Emotion.)

So what exactly does the basil seed do when you add water? As Charles would say, just give it a try yourself. I’ll give you a sneak peek below.

BasilSeedTransformation_eatbreathegardenTo start, gather together the following materials: basil seed (I used the Genovese type because it was handy, though I’m sure pretty much any basil seed would work), cup of water, eye dropper, and your hands.

BasilSeedTransformation_eatbreathegardenOpen your hand out flat so that the palm of your hand is facing up toward the sky. Gently tap some basil seed out of the seed packet into the palm of your hand. Take note of what the basil looks and feels like at this time. The seed is tiny in size and black in color – it kinda looks like the poppy seeds that get stuck in your teeth after eating a poppy seed bagel. Use a finger from your other hand to roll the dry seed around in your hand. Focus your attention on the sensation of the seed rolling around in your hand.

BasilSeedTransformation_eatbreathegardenNext, get some water in your eye dropper and add a few drops of water over the top of the seed. Make sure the seed has contact with the water.

BasilSeedTransformation_eatbreathegardenNotice how the added water feels to your skin – cool and wet. And watch.

BasilSeedTransformation_eatbreathegardenFocus all of your attention on the seed. Be patient and watch. It doesn’t happen instantly. And, don’t worry, the seeds aren’t jumping beans, so they won’t start popping up into your face. They also don’t grow spikes or turn into orange and blue polka dots.

Just watch…

And watch…

And watch until…

There! Do you see it?!?

What happened? The basil started turning a different color. What color? It’s kind of a gray color, right?

Keep watching…

BasilSeedTransformation_eatbreathegardenAfter a few seconds – at least 30 seconds, probably more – the basil seed will soak up most, if not all, of the water. The seed will have changed from tiny, black seeds to slightly larger, puffier, whitish gray seeds. If you look very closely, you can actually see the layer of seed mucilage over the seed coat.

So what is seed mucilage? It is a thin gelatinous layer that forms over seeds when exposed to moisture. Basil seeds form noticeable amounts of mucilage. You can even do this same experiment with chia seeds and notice the copious amounts of gel that form. Weird. (Read more about mucilage and its purpose here.)

After I first did this activity, I felt exhilarated and inspired to learn more about why these seeds do this – and every time I have done this activity since then, I’ve felt the same way. There is always a point – typically right when the water is added to the seeds – at which I think to myself, “Will the seeds change?” And then it happens.

Aren’t plants amazing?

What Florists Know [And What We Wish We Knew] About Holiday Plants

By Lesley Fleming, HTR, and Sarah Bayat

Photos by Susan Morgan

Celebrate the festive season with beloved holiday plants. To make the most of these colorful, live plants in the dark days of winter, consider the following tips.


Show-stopping sizes (miniature to large), double blooms, and a color spectrum from pure white or deep red to salmon orange and even stripes, amaryllis feels like a holiday miracle. Watch it grow daily until the blossom opens before your very eyes. Note that the larger the bulb, the larger the flower. Flowering occurs four to eight weeks after planting with the succession of bud openings lasting two weeks. Buds prefer several hours of direct sunlight and temperatures of 75-80 degrees F. Watering is not necessary once bud has cracked. Blossoms can be prolonged by moving flowers out of direct sunlight. Bulb will re-bloom in container or garden bed in milder climates.

Christmas cactusChristmas Cactus

Colorful and readily available in the holiday season, Christmas cactus are regarded as easy to maintain houseplants. In preparation for the holidays, the grower will have ensured 12 hours of darkness required for blooming at just the right time. The plant prefers to be in bright indirect light, root-bound in containers and soil drying between watering. Cuttings taken from Christmas cactus can be easily propagated.

Christmas treesChristmas Trees

Once home, place the fresh cut trunk in an appropriately sized reservoir-type stand that holds water. To prevent drying, place tree away from heat sources, keep tree watered, lower temperatures at night, and use low heat tree lights. Consider recycling the tree. Check out tips on how to care for a live tree with roots here.


Ruffled flowers in white, pink, and red, heart shaped leaves, and blossoms of every size make this plant charming. Avoid direct sunlight, provide good drainage watering from the roots up, and use water soluble fertilizer every two months. For re-blooming, let leaves die back, stop watering, place plant in cool, dark place, and let sit for several months. Then soak soil and resume regular care.


Now available in double blooms and many colors-pink, red, burgundy, yellow, white and even marbled colors, poinsettias are popular because they thrive for long periods of time with minimal care. They prefer temperatures of 70-80 and direct sunlight, but no drafts or sitting water. Poinsettias are not poisonous but the milky sap may irritate skin. Read about growing poinsettias outdoors here.

Authors Lesley Fleming and Sarah Bayat combine their talents for this series. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who uses holiday plants for therapeutic activities. Sarah is creative director of Floris Flowers Co.

This is the second in a series of four articles sharing tips on seasonal plants. The third article will offer tips for spring bulbs.

Unique Trees That Have Faced Adversity

Wollemi Pine eatbreathegarden

Just like people, plants can tell some interesting stories. Check out the tales of these trees.

Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis). A prehistoric tree that grew 90 million years ago, the Wollemi pine was thought to be extinct until a stand of the trees was found about 20 years ago growing in a national park just north of Sydney, Australia. The photo above is of a Wollemi pine taken at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, England, about ten years ago. Read more about the Wollemi pine here.

Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora). A nearly 400-year-old Japanese bonsai survived the Hiroshima blast and is now located at United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. Read more about this bonsai here and here.

Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). The 1988 fires burned over one million acres in Yellowstone National Park. Though it burned through acres of vegetation, the fire actually heated up the resin within the pine cones of the lodgepole pine, releasing the seeds which otherwise would have been held captive inside the cones for many years. Many seedlings germinated by the following year. Read more about the lodgepole pine here.

General Sherman giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum). The world’s largest tree by volume is located in the Sequoia National Park in California. Check out the stats on the General Sherman tree here.

[Note: This article was originally published as part of a larger article “Warrior Plants” in the AHTA News Magazine for the American Horticultural Therapy Association.]