Garden Gnome Ecosystems

Creating a sustainable system for gnomes to play in.


Grow Write Guild Post #2: Dream Garden

Another Grow Write Guild post, as prompted by Gayla over at You Grow Girl.


This one’s a challenge for me.  A professor recently recommended that I read The Other Side of Eden by Hugh Brody. Just previous to that, I stumbled on Toby Hemenway’s video, discussing the cultural impacts of agriculture.

Both have left me reeling.  I want, so desperately, to have a piece of land to call my home, my own.  I want control.  

These works have challenged me to look at the world as something that, perhaps, no one can own.  Damn it, I don’t want to share.  I want a room all to myself at home.  I want a garden all to myself in my front yard.  I’ll welcome visitors, but I want to the final say as to which plants go where.

But more than that, I want a society in which people are treated in an equitable manner.  I want respect for all nations, all genders, all ages.  I want to be part of the change.  And that might mean giving up the dream of owning land.  Owning the land means being able to sell it.  Who are we to trade in a resource that will last for all eternity?  What does this belief, that we can own the land, do for our interactions with other human beings?  With our partners, friends, and enemies?  As I pose these questions, I realize that I’ll probably never entirely know the answers.  If this intrigues you, go read Brody.  Watch Hemenway.  Enlighten me. I don’t know where to go from here.  I have so many questions.  More, every day.  I haven’t even started seeds, because I can’t decide if I want to grow on the sort-of-rented-but-not-really land I live on.  I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. (Disclaimer, I never made it through all of Hemenway’s video – he might have the answers, if I watched ’til the end).

‘Bout this dream garden though.

If, in fact, owning land can be part of an equitable society – even if it can’t, I suppose – I want a place to be, with a lush green canopy above a hammock.  I want a tiny back deck, right outside my kitchen door, with pots of herbs and rain barrels filling the space. I want a garden that pushes the limits of the climate, and welcomes nature in.  I want to grow hardy kiwi.  I want a garden that produces most of the food that my family needs.  I want a garden with an overwhelming harvest that demands I ask neighbours for help in processing it all.  I want a garden full of art.  Most of all, I want a garden that welcomes and strengthens the community, while providing a (very necessary) sanctuary for me.  It’s about nature, the planet, and the environment, yes.  But more than that, it’s about the people.

It should feel something like the picture at the top. Vivid, dense, and exploding with life.

It should be all the pictures and articles and learning I’ve collected here, somehow crafted into something whole.


Grow Write Guild Post #1: My First Plant

The snow in my backyard is at least four feet tall in some places.  I’m having trouble bringing to mind images of plants that live outside, so I’ll stick with my first very-own plant, one that lived in a cheap green pot, and only flowered once.  Maybe.

I couldn’t remember what the plant was, except that it had tall leaves, and a white flower.

I asked Google what the plant was.  Then I texted to ask my mom what the plant was.  She’s my plant dictionary.

“Hey Mom, do you remember that plant with tall skinny leaves that only maybe flowered once?  The one where you suggested that I part with it a few months after it flowered, since it wasn’t likely to ever flower again, but I insisted on carting around the three tall leaves for a few years?  I might have just made that part up in my head.  It might not have ever flowered.”

“Indoors? Amaryllis? It’s hard to get them to flower more than once.”

“That’s it. Thanks Mom. And thanks for quelling my fears that I really am a terrible gardener, when it comes to indoor plants, even if I was 5 when I started trying to force a second flowering.”

Sorry Google, mom won this round.  You just showed me spider plants, and tiny white flowers.

I think the bulb was a birthday gift.  Perhaps it was a Christmas gift.  Maybe it was Easter.  I can’t remember.

I wasn’t unfamiliar with the wonder of a tiny green shoot poking up through the soil, but this one was mine, and I’m sure I checked it every day.  When it finally flowered, I’m sure I showed everyone.  Those flowers are stunning.

The flower eventually died, and then I started to stare at the leaves, talk really nicely to them, and otherwise attempt to will my pretty plant into flowering again. I might have even petted the leaves.

This is starting to move towards fiction; I can’t remember that much from my childhood.

It’s been four moves and three cats since I planted that bulb, and I’m not sure where it went missing. Most likely it didn’t survive long enough to even attempt the first move, but I haven’t a clue. Maybe one of the first two cats ate it. It definitely wasn’t around long enough for number 3 to eat it. He would have.

Sometimes I miss it.

My first plant was a white amaryllis; thank-you to Gayla at You Grow Girl for the push back into a wonderful memory.

I’ve since moved on to a jade plant, aloe vera (x2), dracena and a boston fern.  They’re all beautiful even if they don’t ever flower for me.  I’ll save the flowering plants for the outside garden.

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Crassula ovata ‘Variegata’ – Variegated Jade Plant

Every Tuesday, I walk through a short sunny walkway between two buildings at the university. And every Tuesday, I get part way through the walkway, and I stop at a variegated mint and cream jade plant and wonder where I can find one just like it. Then I contemplate taking one of the leaves that have fallen off and are lying in the dirt, but ultimately I realize they’re already shriveled, and probably wouldn’t sprout anyways. I come home and wonder where I can find one for myself.


Friday I spent my afternoon finding the species name, and reading up on the jade plant, and then trying to find a supplier. In the process of all this googling, I found myself realizing that my neglect of my current (plain) jade plant hasn’t been harsh enough, and it’s getting leggy. I’ll be waiting for it to wilt before its next watering. I might even trim it back, and try to sprout the cuttings.

If I lived somewhere remotely warm, finding the jade plant wouldn’t be a problem, but I live in zone 2b. We’re set to break a record for snowfall this year; the snow on my front lawn is at least two feet deep, and the weather man says we’re going to get another few inches before it all melts away. The last frost date isn’t until May 21st.

I called my favourite local garden center, and they had some tropicals on the way, but nothing in stock yet. I emailed a succulent greenhouse two hours away. I even emailed the university maintenance department, to see if they could tell me where to get the elusive variegated jade plant. I’m hoping they let me take the fallen leaves. I even checked e-bay. I watched the water drip off my neighbour’s icicle clad downspout, went and stood in my sunny kitchen, and nearly exploded with all the pent up gardening energy.


Two and a half months to go.

Update (a little late, I’ve been writing term papers and finals):

The pretty plant at the university started to look a little sad – perhaps the floor cleaner ran into it – and was soon replaced with a plain jade plant.  😦

The succulent greenhouse just outside of Saskatoon got back to me and they have variegated jade in stock! If you’re in Saskatchewan – here’s the website:


Macrame Plant Hanger

macrame plant hanger

Today was Seedy Saturday, here in my town, and I was out chatting with community members about the gardens I helped to run last summer, and trying to keep myself tied to my chair so as to avoid the temptation of tables full of local, organic, heirloom seeds. I succumbed and, bought a packet of black cherry tomato seeds.

black cherry seeds

Today was also delightfully warm. Sunny, melty, slushy, feels like spring, and it’s only March 2 kind-of-warm. Abandon plans for homework and housecleaning in order to dream about plants and make crafty plant hangers kind-of-warm.

I’d recently seen this on Pinterest, and decided that enough was enough, I needed to make something to hang plants in my sunny kitchen window. Did I mention that the sun was out today?

So, inspired by the pretty pink hanger, but lacking pink cord, and being too caught up in spring fever to try to dye the leftover clothesline I found in my junk drawer, I started in on a triple layer plant hanger.

Materials used:
approx. 20 feet of clothesline
3 small pots (3 or 4 inch)

1. Cut four pieces of clothesline, in almost equal lengths, and fold them over to make 8 strands.

2. Tie an overhand knot to make a hanging loop at the top.
3. For each pot holder, tie four square knots (each using two strands), about 8 inches below the overhand knot.
4. Take one strand from two adjacent knots in the first level, and tie a square knot with them, a couple of inches below the first square knots. Repeat with remaining 6 strands.
5. 2-3 inches below the second row of knots, tie an overhand knot with all eight strands.

6. Repeat steps 2-5 for each tier you want to make.

The tutorial I was inspired by does a great job of visually explaining the method behind the alternating square knots, if a visual tutorial makes more sense to you. 🙂

Total cost: $0

The final product:

macrame plant hanger tassles

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Temperate Climate Permaculture: Permaculture Plants: Stinging Nettle

Looking for a plant to keep bicycles from plowing through your garden?  Or something to caution your kids about?  Try Stinging Nettle.

My mother used to feed us Stinging Nettle every spring.  I have yet to discover a way that I enjoy eating cooked greens of any kind, but the soup he talks about over at Temperate Climate Permaculture sounds delicious, and the information is so thorough.

I must find a way to grow some nettles in the neglected corner of my yard that sits between the garage and my neighbour’s fence.

Temperate Climate Permaculture: Permaculture Plants: Stinging Nettle.


Aloe Vera in Wintertime


I’ve had this Aloe plant for three years, and often wondered if I’d killed it. It just wasn’t happy in the house, even though I let it dry out between waterings, fertilized it occasionally, and generally gave it adequate care. Recently it seemed to adjust to life with us, and put out plenty of young leaves.

The weeks before Christmas were crazy, and for two weeks, I neglected to water my plants. Then we went home for a week and a half. I came home to very dry soil. Thankfully, the only plants that can survive in my house – very little direct sunlight in summer, less in winter – are desert house plants.

After we returned to school, I returned to regularly watering my plants, and just yesterday I noticed a baby plant springing out at the base! It’s alive! In winter! How strange.