Monday, January 30, 2012

Paperwhites for Imbolc

Our first set of paperwhite bulbs bloomed obligingly for the Solstice and Christmas, and now the second set is celebrating Candlemas with me. White flowers in a red ceramic pot are perfect for Candlemas, and as an added bonus, buying paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs after Christmas generally means getting them half off.

My plans for the holiday itself are uncertain, but may involve making candles with a good friend and fellow witch in the tradition and having a class with a lovely, witchy student. It will definitely involve having a session with a life coaching client, going to class and doing a simple ritual involving many, many candles (of course!).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Valentines Day meets Candlemas

Irritatingly enough, Candlemas/Imbolc doesn't really correspond to a holiday celebrated widely in US culture. Valentines Day is about as close as it gets. But, Valentines is closer than you might think in terms of symbolism.

Like most modern witches, I don't live an agricultural life, so the gestation process of ewes celebrated by Imbolc is not so relevant to my experience of the season rooted in my locale. Early February is cold here, and grey. The promise of rebirth is still hidden. The symbolism of spare, wintry decor, plus candles and kindling fires resonates. The importance of focusing on loving relationships also resonates. Not in term of greeting card romance and shiny gift-giving, but in terms of the sort of warmth that comes of caring relationships with family and friends. The heart theme of Valentines Day makes seasonal sense to me both in terms of valuing relational warmth during a cold time and also because both the color red and the symbolic link between the heart and the element of fire point to the themes commonly celebrated by Pagans between winter solstice and the spring equinox.

In this spirit, I made this crazily simple heart ornament. The wooden ornament itself was picked up on clearance after the winter holidays. Making this ornament involved just a few steps. First, I painted the heart a dark, cool espresso brown. Once it was completely dry, I painted the heart red. Using a light touch, I let some of the brown show through. Vintage sheet music was torn into a heart shape and glued on. The whole thing was lightly sanded to add a bit more tattered wear.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Transitioning winter décor

The Christmas-Solstice tree and sundry other bits and bobs came down at the end of the 12 days of Christmas. It can be such a challenge to figure out how decorate between the end of the holiday season and Candlemas/Imbolc. This year, I am choosing simple and spare- mirroring the pared-down nature of the landscape at this time of year. The pinecone garlands from my pinecone garland tutorial are still up. My paperwhite bulbs have died out, but a new set are growing. I still have evergreen branches pruned from my yard arranged in an antique enamel pitcher. My mantel/altar is very white and spare, with the silver and mercury glass of the holiday season tucked away. For now I am filling the open spaces with creative expression, room to breathe and fresh ideas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vanderbilt Invasives Resource

I love the many photos on this page from Vanderbilt. It makes identification of these super common Middle TN invasives easy:

Tragically, we have both bush honeysuckle and non-native privet at the little victorian. The privet is staying put for the time being, but I reluctantly admit that the bush honeysuckle has to go. I actually like the bush honeysuckle in our yard. It is in a place in the yard that needs small trees-- and it is free and already mature. It keeps its leaves later than the big tress and grows them early. It makes nice flowers. Buying big, native trees is probably not in the budget this spring, so that area is going to look pretty sad for some time. We could plant tiny, native trees or perhaps non-native, but non-invasive trees picked up cheaply at the farmer's market.

So why is the bush honeysuckle relatively high on the list of things that need to change? Not because it is invasive. But because it makes berries that birds eat... BUT with a wicked twist. The berries are actually unhealthy for the birds. It's like fast food. They fill up on the honeysuckle berries, but the berries lack the nutrition to sustain the birds through their migrations, etc.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Painting a bluebird

I have had this canvas sitting in my various kitchens over the course of the last decade. It had a print on it that I liked, but recently I was struck with an urge to paint over it. So now we have a wee bluebird. My husband has a softspot for bluebirds and he’s a chef, so this little birdie wound up being for him.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of painting lately, so maybe more goodies later.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tennessee Native Plant Sale

Even though it is months away, I am looking forward to Cheekwood's native plant sale:

March 31 2012

10:00 am til all plants are sold!
Early bird catches the worm at this annual springtime plant sale. Arrive early for the best selection of native plants to add to your garden. Choose from spring blooming wildflowers such as trillium and celandine poppies or summer blooming ones such as black-eyed Susans and summer phlox. Do not miss our great selection of shrubs, vines, and small trees. There is something for everyone’s garden at the sale. Sponsored by the Garden Club of Nashville.

Image: Trillium erectum. Photo by Ramin Nakisa.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Native Wildlife Gardening Resources

As promised, here is a selection of my current collection of online resources that relate to native gardening in a generalized way across the U.S.-- from locating information about your ecoregion to knowing the needs of wildlife as you work to create habitat:

Locate a broad ecoregion by zip code and download a planting guide:

From the US Forest Service, a set of resources about native plants (especially wildflowers) and how to avoid or replace dangerous exotics:

Basic info on ecoregions from the National Wildlife Federation:

Ecoregion mapping from the US Forest Service:

U.S. Forest Service, Gardening for Wildlife:

Ecoregional Maps and Descriptions:

NWF: Creating a wildlife-friendly garden:

USGS Landcover Trends by Ecoregion:

I like to curl up with a hot cup of tea and use these links to plan for Spring. Lots more to come on the Southeast/Tennessee/Nashville Basin!

Native Gardening Post on the Pagan Household

An article I wrote about some tips gleaned from my exploration of native gardening at the Little Victorian is published at The Pagan Household now:

Guest Poster Button

The Pagan Household is a delightful spot (me aside) so do check it out!