Friday, February 22, 2013

Designing a Garden

Silent Moon - How can we find silent time to restore and regenerate our enthusiasm for our lives/work/relationships? ~ CAYA's Full MoonQuestions.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~ Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard's Egg

Love which planted a glorious garden redolent with precious herbs and noble flowers--roses and lilies--which breathed forth a wondrous fragrance… ~ Hildegard of Bingen letter to the Monk Guibert, 1176

It’s getting close to spring.  I can see the days getting longer.  The sun is above the trees when I drive home after work.  I’m anxious for that change in the rain smell.  I’ve been getting e-mails daily from all the seed catalogues enticing me with 2 for 1 deals.  And, I paid my fee for my community garden plot.

Last night my Gurney’s Seed Catalogue came in the mail.  I flipped through it relining on the couch.  The cover shows three bright photos: Ka-Bluey Blueberries, Big Beef Tomatoes and Biggie Sweet Chilies.  I’m pulled into the size and redness of that tomato.  My mouth waters as I imagine its July sun sweetness – right off the vine - sliced between a baguette with fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, salt and fresh cracked pepper.  My finger itches to press its seeds into the dirt.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is considered to be a master gardener and herbalist. Her two treatises on medicine and natural history were widely read even today and probably have influenced modern pharmacology.  In her Causae et Curae, she catalogue over 47 known diseases during her time period (i.e., cause, symptom and treatment).  The treaty also provided lists of 300 medicinal plants and their use in treatment. 

The abbey Hildegard was prioress would have followed the Benedictine tradition by being self-sufficient. There would have been a vegetable/kitchen garden, farm fields, orchard, and physic garden.  Her medieval kitchen garden would have included: turnips, parsnips, onions, leeks, various legumes, mint, basil, wormwood, borage, mugwort, nettle and melons.  Whereas the physic garden would have traditionally grown sage, rue, aloe, rosemary, southernwood, poppy, mint and pennyroyal, parsley, gladioli and marigolds.

Hildegard was also a woman ahead of her time.  She adopted a way of eating that was based on color.  She believed and wrote about how foods offered specific viriditas associated with their colors.  She encouraged eating a multi-colored food diet as a way to promote well-being - mentally, physically and spiritually.  Today her “diet” for healthy living is better known as the Rainbow Diet, the Chakra Diet or My Plate 

Hildegard held the emerald colored foods above all.  Today we know that these dark green leafy vegetables are the powerhouse of the vegetable.  They are rich in minerals (i.e., iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium) and the B vitamins.  It is written the fennel was her favorite green colored food.  The herb is known to help with digestion and improve sight.  Eaten it tastes a little like anise.
"... Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: 'Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind's eternal creation' (Faust, II). And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions." ~ C. G. Jung
BEMS @ 2013
My class on Hildegard also includes learning to draw mandalas.  Up front, I’m not an experienced mandala drawer and consider at the most an amateur mandala coloring in the lines person.  

What I’ve learn so far is that some people consider mandala is like a garden temple or sacred space.   In many traditions it is used as a tool where one can use for meditation or trance.   It can assist the meditator on their journey for inward towards their sacred center for healing and commune with the Divine one.

Each day I focus on one of Hildegard’s writings and let my creative side take over. 

During my silent times of coloring, cutting and pasting, I’ve been inspired to move away from the boxy 9”x9” squares in my community garden to circles and fluid lines.  My research landed me on sites discussing mandala and keyhole garden structures.  These kitchen garden structures are non-linear and fluid.  They are considered more ecological and kinder to the soil.  Additionally, the design is said to be more pleasing to the eye - meditative. I can picture the rectangle I'm renting to look more like a mitochondria - the powerhouse organelle of our cells who's DNA is from our mothers.   

My mind contemplates the possibilities and my finger itches to press seeds into soil.

Recipe for rainbow eating – inspired by Martha Stewart and BonAppetit

Blood Orange, Beet, and Fennel Viriditas Salad

2 medium 1 red and 1 yellow beets, tops trimmed and roasted and peeled and sliced
3 blood oranges, peel, pith cut off and sliced into segments  (Make sure you catch the juice)
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
Small container of greens
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp of olive oil
1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1 small container of feta crumbled

Into salad bowl, greens then beets, fennel, orange, onions.  Mix orange juice, olive oil, and vinegar together and dress the salad.  Add feta cheese and serve.


  1. Great resource! Two thumbs up! This surely gives me an idea for my art class for next week activity… Thanks for sharing! XOXO:D


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