Tag Archives: burdock

Zen Garden On Paradise Lane

Meditation Benches

Everyone should be quiet beside a little stream and listen.

I love Karen Maezen Miller. I love everything she writes, I love everything she says and everything she doesn’t say. Her new book Paradise In Plain Sight is beautiful, but it’s not about gardening. Thank goodness. I do love her Lessons From a Zen Garden. Her book inspired me to think about what lessons I have learned from my garden.

It reminds me very much of another favourite book  Fly Fishing Through a Midlife Crisis by Howell Raines. His book wasn’t about fly fishing either. He had some lessons as well:

  •  Always be careful about where you fish and what you fish for and whom you fish with.
  •   Be even more careful about what you take home and what you throw back.
  • The point of all fishing is to become ready to fly fish.
  •   The point of fly fishing is to become reverent in the presence of art and nature.

There is no way you would call my current garden a “zen garden” or a Japanese garden. I did have one once. It was at our last house on the wet coast.  A modern-day version of what western gardeners thought an Asian Garden should look like. It was peaceful,  quiet and beautiful.  Already there when we bought the house, the garden was rumoured to have cost $30,000. It was based loosely on the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden and designed on the harmony of four main elements: rock, water, plants, and architecture.

When we moved here to Paradise Lane just off Paradise Road on the treeline above the grasslands I brought all my previous garden knowledge and  prejudices with me. I wanted to keep gardening the same way. Ha!


Well… I did have the same elements; rock and lots of them, plants I had never seen before…….. what was a plant or a weed. I had water, underground in a well and a raging creek as my property line. Some days it was there and some days not at all. Dependent on what the master gardener Mother Nature decreed, we also had fire and wind.

Life and gardening lessons were in abundant supply. Peace and plenty were interchangeable with chaos, mayhem and nothingness, and nothing was controlled by me. But, this is after all, paradise, right here.


I grew up being taught that man has dominion as a gift from ‘god” overall. Genesis 1:26
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

After 13 years here I know that any desire I have to conquer or have dominion over this garden is for not.

I have learned that:

Field of Dandelions

1. Dandelions are not a weed.  There are no weeds, just aversions. Dandelions here are the first food for bees and if you are walking through a field of dandelions and it is not buzzing, your crops are in trouble. I have already blogged about One Man’s Weeds Are another Man’s Toilet Paper.

Ever wonder how so many dandelions end up in your garden?

As a teenager my mom had a phrase about squeezing zits on your face. When you kill one  a hundred more come to its funeral. Weeds and resentments react the same way.

1a. These are not dandelions. They are yellow and you never see them in anyone’s garden but sometimes in the spring they cover the hillside for a very short time and photographers vie for the best shot of mass balsam in bloom. The biggest resentment in my garden is Burdock.

BalsamWeeds & resentments are very similar.

2. Something very, very small can cripple or enhance a garden, a life, an economy.

dead pinePine trees grew everywhere in these parts and farther north. They were part of the basis of our forestry resource sector. A tiny beetle the size of a grain of rice killed millions of acres of pine, sometimes destroying whole communities. Little things can also be a sense of joy and renewal. The tiny violets hiding under the no weeds.                                                                       IMG_5824 IMG_5803

The baby tree, a gift from its mother, protected by her dying roots and fed from her decaying body, or the first damselfly of spring.


3. Water is important for living and nurturing. Water from a shallow well can be a great teacher if you mindlessly leave a tap running and drain the well.  How you water your garden is also how you should water your life. A gentle shower nurtures growing plants better than the harsh jet setting on your hose nozzle. Relationships are the same.









4. Be careful whom you invite to  your garden, just like being careful whom you invite to fish with you. If you live with five cats be prepared for the Nepeta to be eaten to the ground. If you live with a non gardener don’t expect them to know the difference between dandelions and balsam. Be careful what you ask of them; like weed whacking, or watering. Not everyone has the soul of a gardener, but they do have a soul. Forgiveness helps.

Dwarf Mane Coon

5. Rocks,  integral to a Zen Garden, and dirt are important in my garden as well. They teach about sensing, seeing and listening.

You can build walls with rocks, use them as  a door stop or make them part of your  meditation. I am an addicted rock collector. I am always picking them up on walks. Rocks have solid stories to tell. They are the foundation of the earth. I always add the small ones that talk to me to my fountain below. The large lava formed rock is a “grandfather” used in aboriginal sweats….the ancestors are always invited and blessed at a sweat lodge.

grandfather rockIMG_5817IMG_5837

Nature is always talking to us. Even dirt has something to say. Chef Dan Barber  says in his new book  The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food  “soil is a living organism (made up of billions of smaller living organisms — just like us). It inhales and exhales, procreates, and digests. And it has a personality, too…..but soil is constantly talking to us, communicating what it needs. It shoots up milkweed if it’s hungry for zinc, and wild garlic if it needs more sulfur. If you see chicory or Queen Anne’s lace in a field, that means the soil is low in fertility”

We just  have to observe and listen. (especially for the birds)

blue bird grasslands

6. I  have a notion that change happens slowly, It only took a short time here with a windstorm and a fire to disabuse that belief. In ten years over 100 trees have died or fallen. We spent two weeks evacuated by a raging fire. Impermanence gets bandied around so much today. Yes, eventually everything changes and disappears. Even saints  get old and broken.

IMG_5796 IMG_5795

Gardens and living disabuse a lot!

7. Be careful who and what you feed. Feeding the birds in winter leaves unwanted plants in your flower beds. (quack grass, chickweed )


It also creates sunflowers. Leaving areas in their natural state invites deer and bears to eat and sleep. Fallen logs and overgrowth along the creek promotes bug life and shade for the returning salmon. Gardens need to be shared. This type of gardening transcends the needs of the gardener. It’s not about gardening anymore.

Sometimes the nature of my gardening seems so chaotic and out of control; my life too. Unclear or in ruin, taking refuge in wildness can give an order to all things.

8. Children belong GROW in the garden. They are washable and you can just towel dry. As a grandmother, teaching my grandchildren their first nature lessons is a privilege. I feel so sad for little ones that think  nature is something you see on tv, or who are afraid of bugs, worms, snakes and dirt. In a garden they learn they are not alone, it connects them to a world that is small and infinite at the same time. They learn their place.



9. Genuflect.

I love this word. Get down on your knees in the garden with reverence and worship. It teaches servitude and humility.

Thank you Karen Maezen Miller and Howell Raines!

Paradise is here. May we all be blessed with good gardening and great fly  fishing


More Irony in the Garden

While I am busy trying to kill the damn burdock root, an enterprising artist is creating a bear. I will invite them to my garden to pick the burrs out of my dogs for their next creation.

Irony in the Garden

One Man’s Weed is Another Man’s Toilet Paper

Creative Commons, thompson Rivers University

Burry Burdock Bear

Photo Courtesy of Thompson Rivers University

Artist is Susan Knox

Irony in the Garden

Conversation on a Friday at work.

Q. What are you doing this weekend?

A. We are going hiking in the hills to pick Burdock, it’s a healing medicine.

Q. What are you doing?

A. Working in my garden, trying to kill Burdock.

Burdock Flowers

From http://burdockroot.co/

 Burdock is a medicinal herb, native to Europe and Northern Asia, but also grows in the United States. It is a relative of the Feverfew, Dandelion, and many other biennial thistles in the daisy family. It’s main healing properties are found in the root.  It can purify the skin, remove blood toxins, eliminate fungi, prevent infections and is antibacterial. It can be used in detoxing.

I am trying to get rid of for its most interesting benefit. It was the inspiration for Velcro. After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog’s fur. The result of his studies was Velcro.

I am a natural gardener. Killing it means pouring salt on it. It took about 10 lbs. of salt. I have a lot of Burdock.


One Man’s Weed Is Another Man’s Toilet Paper

Been working hard in  the garden after all this rain, trying to get the side yard weeded and mulched. It has been left too long and the weeds have been prolific. Even Sparkle is dwarfed.

I got the sweet grass beds weeded and we should be able to start harvesting and making braids  soon.  We covered three of the raised beds in newspaper and a layer of landscaping cloth and then covered it in our beautiful new bark mulch. In the 11 years we have lived here we have lost over  100 trees to pine beetle, spruce bud worm, age and the elements, namely the wind. Finally got them all bucked up and the scraps mulched in a chipper. It smells beautiful. Perfect for keeping the weeds down. I loaded all the weeds in a wheelbarrow to take them to the compost box in the goat yard.

Hard Working Farmer

Nibbles thought it was a wonderful snack. How organic, into him and out the other end  as fertilizer.

We try hard to keep the land as natural as possible. No herbicides or pesticides and we have only native plants, except for a few annuals in my flower baskets. The rest of the garden is in perennials that will survive our cold zone 3.

I do take exception to burdock because they have thistle-like flowers that get stuck in the dog’s fur but I now just weed eat them down on a regular basis. I got out my Plants of the Southern Interior to check to see that everything I had left around the beds was native and not an interloper that had blown in on  some coastal friend shoes.


I flipped by Thimbleberry (rubus parviflorus) in the book and started reading. It is native to this area and was used by the aboriginals to eat when found. The berries are not prolific and they can’t be dried or kept in grease like raspberries but the leaves were prized for lining baskets and the young shoots were used for eating raw and stews. The use that surprised me the most was that it makes an excellent biodegradable toilet paper. So next time you are hiking in the southern interior of BC, don’t worry if you need to go in the bush. Just find a thimble berry bush.

The birds are looking forward to the Saskatoon berries ripening.

Oh, yes and it’s been snowing  cottonwood.