Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why are there no beacon/GPS clips on the ski slopes?

Way off the topic of gardening today, but due to the recent deaths of two local people snow skiing I got to wondering : Why don't ski resorts 'build in' beacons and or GPS devices into the skiers lift ticket ?

In the early 90's I was fortunate to go snow skiing in Switzerland. I started out skiing with new found friends but out paced them and went off on my own. It was a dream of mine to ski Zermatt and the Matterhorn and I wanted to 'really ski'.
When I attained my ski lift ticket I was handed a beacon. It was the size of a Bic lighter and I thought it was a pretty good idea.
How little did I know at that point in the morning how important a beacon could be.
Several hours into my joyous day of skiing on top of the worlds most beautiful glacier I found myself dangling 15 feet off the ground while taking a ground based pulley lift up the glacier. Part of the mountain had slid away. I didn't know if I should jump off the tow bar that was now wedge up my butt crack or hold on for dear life. I ended up jumping off when the the tow bar came closer to the ground. It was a good feeling to feel the ground beneath my skis.

Later on that same day I felt the oddest feeling. I was skiing across the mountain but the snow in front of me was moving. In a blink of an eye I realized I was in an avalanche. Out of shear luck I skied down and across with the slide and ended up on my butt surrounded by a foot of snow that was not moving.

I was totally dazed. My heart was pounding and my nervous system was freaking wacked out.
As I surveyed the site I visually found the ski lift and headed for it, following it down to the small hut that was stationed next to the load up ramp. No one was there. ( WTF ! ) I then took the trail back down to base camp. Along the way I noticed that something was glowing - the beacon.
I got to the base camp and was asked some questions and was accounted for.
I sat down, ordered a hot drink and decided I had enough skiing for awhile.
When leaving I handed over the now silent lifeless beacon, knowing that it may have saved my life if the snow had decided to roll a little differently.

I can't help wondering if the two skiers who recently lost their lives would be alive now if they had a gps beacon that would lead rescuers to them before they had died. The technology is there, why isn't is being used ?
If you ski alone or in sanctioned out of bounds areas, please take your cell phone or investigate getting a beacon.

Photo taken at base camp, Zermatt, Switzerland.
From Untitled Album

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hearing the Inner Voice That's been Drowned Out by Craving

 It takes a while to develop the kind of inner attunement Nigel's now practicing.

Instead of meeting in person yesterday he phoned in for his session from his in-law's place. He and his wife and their new baby will be there throughout the break between semesters. Last year we did a couple of sessions the same way over the holidays, but the content of what Nigel talked about was very different. I was so struck by the contrast that I thumbed back in his file to check out my notes from a year ago. Here's how he started our December 20, 2009 conversation: "I'm feeling so antsy here. They live in the middle of the prarrie and they're not big on TV. I can feel this big hole where I'd usually be going to some form of electronic entertainment. I've looked through their bookshelves and pulled out three or four titles that interested me, but I just can't get into any of them. I think I'm feeling lousy because I can't get to my addiction the way I do at home. We didn't bring my laptop and their computers are all password protected. I want to be tempted, I want to have the opportunity to see something that will make me feel good, and I can't so I'm grouchy about the whole thing."

Part of what's different for Nigel now is that he has made it past the withdrawal he always went through back then whenever he managed to abstain from pornography for a time. But there's an even more important difference. He no longer attributes the antsy feeling he sometimes gets to his addiction. He doesn't interpret all of his distress as coming from an urge to go to pornography on the one hand or to a sense of guilt and shame from having relapsed on the other. He's getting so much more adept at sorting through his feelings. Here's what he told me this year: "I asked Melissa to sit down with me last night because I was feeling unsettled. It wasn't clear to me at first, but as we started talking it out I realized that I was wondering what we're doing here. What's our purpose? How will we know whether we've achieved it once it's time to head back to school? I want to make sure we open ourselves up to opportunities for good things to happen. I want to experience things that feel nice, like a real conversation with some of her siblings or her parents--a chance to connect more deeply with them. Or is there a project I can help with around their house that would help me feel good about pitching in? I decided that it might be as simple as going to the store and getting some blueberries so that I can make some pancakes one morning. As we kept talking, I realized th`t I'm also feeling some fear of the upcoming semester. It's supposed to be the hardest semester of the entire doctoral program. There's a desire to stay where someone else is taking care of everything. For some odd reason it's a little hard to enjoy the down time. In quiet moments, what's coming after the break looms it's head and stares me down."

I asked Nigel how it felt to talk all of that out with Melissa. "Oh, it was nice. It cleared my head. She's a good listener. Talking with her validates what I feel." I've learned over the years that, not only can our wives be good listeners, they tend to me more attuned to emotion than we are as men. As we talk with them about the events in our lives and, in particular, what it's like for us personally to experience them, they can often help us sense the feeling tones that color what we're going through. Before talking with our wives, we only see this messy stew of unformed things, a tangle we would rather cover up by numbing out with our addiction. Despite all the disadvantages of our addiction, at least it's a familiar problem and the emotions associated with it are well-formed and straightforward. "I haven't given in for a day/week/month, so now I'm lusting... I gave in, so now I'm feeling guilty." That two dimensional see-saw blinds us to so much of life's emotional subtlety and richness.

Nigel has always needed Melissa to draw close when he was in need, but it's so much easier for her to do it now that he's coming to her to talk about his feelings. He used to stuff his feelings... then find himself more tempted... then either fight temptation or give in... and then come to her to confess after the fact or wait until he was caught. She had a hard time relating to his wrestle with sex addiction, but she can readily relate to his real emotions: Wanting the holiday to be special. Being afraid of going back to school. These kind of feelings are universal and easy for her to empathize with.

I was so struck by how different things seemed this year compared to last, I had to check and see if Nigel could also tell the difference. "I'm looking at my notes our session a year ago. Do you remember how you used to handle it when you felt uneasy and out of sorts?"

"Oh, yeah. When I got into a dark mood back then, sometimes I didn't even realize it. That's no surprise, since I had lived my entire life ignoring my feelings. Once I did recognize I was in a down state--usually because it got so bad or lasted so long--I thought I had to get myself out of it. I needed to turn to the Lord more. Then I often felt like I didn't get any help from the Lord, but I blamed it on myself: I must not be doing my dailies well enough. I need to step up my prayers or scripture study. The Lord doesn't abandon you; you must have abandoned the Lord. The idea that when I was in that dark place, I didn't have to just trudge through it on my own, that was so new to me. That was good to learn. I don't have to just deal with hard times on my own. I don't have to just "take it." I can talk about it. That started to change as I learned to talk out what I was feeling in group therapy. And then Melissa and I started checking in each night, doing a little inventory of how we were each feeling and what was one blessing in our life. It has developed into this habit of connecting at the end of almost every day. Sitting on the couch and talking things out. If one of us has had a hard day we'll rest our head on the other one's shoulder or lap and let it all spill out. Nothing's off limits. There's this unspoken contract: we know the other person will honor whatever we're feeling without criticizing or getting defensive. We hardly ever watch TV anymore. We'd much rather connect. That time together unwinding and connecting has become our thing. I'm only realizing as I'm describing it how sacred that time has become for us. I think it's the primary reason I've gone this long without relapsing. Our relationship is getting stronger and stronger and it seems to be healing my addiction to sex."

The biggest cost of addiction is not what it makes us do, but what it makes us miss. The main price Nigel paid for his addiction was not in what he did as he got so caught up in sex, but in what he missed when he was in the orbit of resisting and succumbing. For years he missed out on the quiet inner voice that was tugging at him, telling him to reach out, subtly prodding him to find meaning and connection, to cry on your wife's shoulder and probe your brother-in-law about how he made it through graduate school and make blueberry pancakes for all of your in-laws on Christmas eve morning. Oh, what a toll addiction exacts from us weary strugglers!

Please write and tell us what you're learning as you try to tune in, take your emotions more seriously, and open up and share what your feeling instead of keeping it all stuffed inside!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The garden show (marketing) comes back around.

A couple of years ago we did an exhibition garden in San Francisco.
The design installed was a simple spa and meditation garden surrounded by a raised planter of bamboo.
From San Francisco Garden Show 2008

Today I’ll be meeting with a client who is in business negotiations to construct a new
spa , tea garden and retail boutique.
From San Francisco Garden Show 2008

This project sounds incredibly exciting to me and came to our office via the show
garden that we designed and installed a few years ago.

If all goes well this will be the second project that is not specifically residential that will be installed in 2011.
We are looking forward to the design installation of a new large outdoor dining area for an exciting new restaurant and entertainment venue in Marin next year.

My humble garden design roots got its start up on the Mendocino coast where I worked for small resorts and bed and breakfast inns perched on the edge of the powerful pacific ocean, installing, designing and maintaining gardens.
I’m looking forward to this type of design again that is open to the public that is meant to evoke resonant emotional responses and inspire people to spend quality time in these spaces.
Below, St. Orres Inn in Gualala, Mendocino county. photo taken in the early mid 80's.
From Untitled Album

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Couples Start to Heal

From early in their relationship, they shared a profound bond. When they were dating he “let her in” more than he had anyone else ever before. As she came to know the person he is inside, she saw his heart, and it won her over. She sensed deeply that she’d always be safe with him. Her guard came down and she came to trust him implicitly, without reservation.  

The discovery of his pornography habit is so piercing, so disorienting because it rocks the emotional foundation she has been building her life on for years. Some of the worst doubts, the bitterest anger, the shakiest trust are directed inward: how could she have missed the signs of something so important? How could she have been that poor a judge of his degree of devotion and fidelity? What she felt between them was as real to her as anything had ever been in her life. Now it’s like she’s in a funhouse with the moving ground and distorted mirrors. Will she ever be able to trust him—or her own judgment and sensibilities—again?

Her husband finds himself equally disoriented. This is the most important person in his life, the woman he esteems most highly and would give his life to protect. To see her so devastated takes his breath away. To know that she’s hurting because of something he’s done feels unbearable.

His own distress makes it hard for him to draw close to her in the way she needs him to right now. It makes it hard to keep hearing about her pain. Reflexively, he pulls away to give her space, hoping that the raging storm will pass, praying that her feelings will calm, and that somehow, maybe, over time, things can be good between them again. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the opposite of what she needs.

Their relationship heals as he checks his reflex to give her space and instead runs into the burning building of her distress. He helps her start to heal when he wants to hear about the dark moments in the middle of the day when they’re apart and her mind starts to play tricks on her. Their relationship keeps healing because he stays near her when she’s angry instead of retreating. When she needs her space he waits in the next room instead of leaving the house for the afternoon.

He remembers that she’s still hurting even when she acts like everything’s okay around others. He honors her reactions to sexual content on TV, in a movie, or on the news. He hangs in there through her suspicions and accusations. He comes to understand that she’s been traumatized and the world she thought she knew has disintegrated. He comes to accept that she naturally will be haunted by images both of what he’s done and what she imagines he might be capable of doing. She can’t help but keep sorting through scenarios and seeing him in those images. She’s trying to decide who he really is: the man she thought she knew or a very different one.

There are lots of ways he helps her heal. He asks if she wants a hug when she starts crying out of the blue. He keeps offering his support even though he knows that some days she will reject it. He accepts that some of the deepest wounds are reopened when they reenter the realm of sexual intimacy. He respects how hard it can be for her even if she wants to feel the closeness that sex can bring. He honors her need to call the shots and readjust her boundaries according to how she’s doing emotionally.

He has compassion for her inconsistency. One day she really is fine and feels like they’re putting it behind them… and the next day it really is right there in her face again, as fresh and large as it was the day she learned about his pornography habit. He realizes that she’s not playing games, holding it over his head, nursing her resentment. This is a genuine struggle for her, perhaps the most challenging of her life, and she’s no more of an expert through this terrain than he is.

Something happens inside of her as she witnesses his patient persistence, and then keeps experiencing it again and again. As they look deep into each others’ eyes again and again, as he lets her see what’s going on in his soul through the process of working through this problem, it is reaffirmed to her in an undeniable way: the man he truly is inside is the very one with the heart she thought she knew. Whatever role that sexual struggle played in his life, it is not as important as she is. She sees him invest his all in healing their relationship, and that makes it clear to her.

Something important happens inside for him in this process as well. As he lets himself absorb her pain, his empathy expands. As he realizes what he stands to lose, his caring for her increases. Her sensibilities about the sanctity of sex heighten his own. It’s not that he’s externalizing his conscience, but internalizing how sexuality impacts her. He grows into the man he knows she needs him to be.

How is the journey of healing is going for you and your spouse? Husbands and wives: what are you learning along the way? What have been your low points and high points? Are you stuck in a seemingly hopeless valley or looking out from a particularly inspiring peak right now? Tell us about it! We need to hear it, and you may benefit from sharing it. May the Lord keep blessing your efforts to heal your bond and draw even closer than you ever have before.

Monday, December 13, 2010

You wear that boa well.

I was recently reminded of a fantastic trip I took with The Hortisexuals a few years back to L.A.
I decided to post a few photos from that trip showing some of the different gardens, landscape architecture, sculpture and horticultural delights.

This first grouping of photos shows some of the horticultural delights that caught my eye.

This bamboo vulgaris Vittata is a favorite. I have it planted in my yard but it enjoys a much more tropical climate than I can supply. Here it is loving the LA warmth.
From Untitled Album

Another plant that I adore but I just don’t have the warmth for it to perform to its potential perfection is the Giant Bird of Paradise , Strelitzia : Exotic !
From Untitled Album

Always a crowd pleaser, Agave attenuatta is another succulent favorite.
Here it is at a private garden and again in the Norton Simon museum garden
It makes a rather nice boa, don’ you think ?
From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album

Norton Simon Museum grounds
From Untitled Album

Euphorbias do well in my northern California garden
From Untitled Album

As do Ensete ventricosum Maurelii , red banana
From Untitled Album

And Geramium madrense and tillandsias. The silk floss tree, Chorisia/ Ceiba, doesn’t thrive in my area.
From Untitled Album

I love this bamboo fence and the surrounding mexican weeping bamboo , Otatea acuminata aztectorum
From Untitled Album

We had the opportunity to visit Jay Graham’s garden in Malibu. This is his staircase down to the lower garden and stable.
From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album

More photos of LA to come later showing sculpture , art and gardens.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Male Vulnerability and the Mask of Addiction

This week I started working with two different men and their wives. On the surface, these men appear to have very different addictions. Yet as we have talked about their development, they have similar roots.

8 years ago Raymond was able to give up marijuana when Kelly made it a condition of accepting his marriage proposal. For the first four years of their lives together, Raymond recalls, “I didn’t need pot. We were everything to each other. That connection we had as a couple was all I needed.” Then Raymond and Kelly had their first baby. He started to feel less important to her. One weekend he felt neglected, got mad at her, and stayed out late with one of his old friends. He smoked again for the first time in years. He felt too ashamed to tell Kelly. After that it sometimes felt like he needed just a little to get through a hard weekend. Before long it was an almost daily thing again.

It’s been interesting to hear Raymond be more honest with Kelly about what he wants from her, deep down: her time and attention, to know that he’s important to her, to know that she won’t give up on him as he’s trying to get clean again. This is very different from the way Raymond reacted four years ago as he started to slide back into his addiction: “She’s going to be that way? Well, I don’t need her! I’m fine. I’ll take care of myself.” He couldn’t take care of himself... he needed regular doses of THC to do that for him. It reminds me of what my colleague, Geoff Steurer says all the time: As humans, we can’t help but reach when we’re in need. The question is, what are we going to reach for: an addictive substance, or that someone who means the most to us?

Then there was the other couple. Cheryl was drawn to Alan because of the tender-hearted, big hearted guy he was. Twelve years later she was ready to divorce him because of his anger. She talked him into taking an anger management class three years ago, but it did not help. If anger was his addiction, Alan seemed to be high all the time. When they came to our office for an intensive, week-long treatment, we talked about the time when things went from good between them to bad. Alan remembered hearing from a friend something that Cheryl had told that friend’s wife. It was something that hurt him deeply; “It was like a kick in the teeth.” Cheryl had never known how hurt Alan was. She didn’t remember saying what he’d been told she said, but acknowledged that, at the time, she very well may have. “I shared too much with that friend. I should have been working things out with Brad rather than complaining to her.”

What a relief it’s been for Brad to tell Cheryl about the deep hurt he’s felt over the years, from that initial comment, and then the immense shame he feels over his reputation with her family as “a monster” as his anger has worsened over the years. “I would rather have had you cut me loose and divorce me than to feel the way I did, that I was this guy you didn’t want, who was bringing you down, making your life worse.” Cheryl never knew about these hurt, and finds Brad so much easier to approach in loving ways when he’s “soft like this. When I can see what’s really going on behind the anger.”

It’s very powerful to hear these men talk with their wives about what they really need from them and from the relationship. It’s also been interesting to watch the difference between Cheryl’s and Kelly’s responses. Cheryl’s right there, willing and able to show Brad the love and acceptance he’s been craving from her once he lets her in on what he’s feeling beneath the anger. Kelly, by contrast, is not feeling very supportive or loving right now. I’ve been impressed that Raymond’s openness and honesty with Kelly is facilitating his recovery nonetheless. Seeing this with Raymond and other clients has changed my perspective. I used to think that we had to identify our real needs and have them met in order to overcome addition. There’s more power than I realized in merely talking about how we’re feeling to the most important person in our lives and exploring with them what our feelings tell us about what we need. The greatest power seems to be in the reaching, and not necessarily in the meeting of the need. Even if our spouse can’t or won’t in turn respond in the way we’d like them to and thus “give us what we need,” we feel better for having been real them. Being seen and heard for who we really are has a healing power in and of itself.

So get real with yourself about the vulnerable feelings that you’ve been masking by going to your addiction. Then get real with your beloved by opening up about those feelings. This process will help you heal your addiction… and more importantly, it will help you heal your relationship. May God bless your efforts!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wholesale, retail, semi wholesale nurseries.

A word about nurseries

Coming from the perspective of a landscape designer who has been in the business for a few years who has worked in commercial, educational and retail nurseries as well as being on the purchasing end.

I patronize both retail, wholesale and semi-wholesale nurseries.
Each has their strengths and weaknesses.

I receive copious advertisements from my favorite garden nursery retailers.
I appreciate their cheerful colorful and very descriptive marketing blurbs.
These ads come in the form of email announcements, snail mail post cards/ newsletters and if I have linked to them via a social media site I also receive their advertisements on Facebook.
It’s nice to know when they are having a sale or just received a new shipment of whatever.
This marketing info comes to me on a weekly or monthly basis.
This marketing blast is reaching out to my 'retail buying' self. Not my wholesale buying self.

On an annual , quarterly and in some cases on a monthly basis I receive marketing information from my wholesale nurseries and or my plant brokers.
Their marketing material is usually in the form of their current availability list .
Most of the time there are few if any lovely photographs but plenty of hard core horticultural info.

Bottom line, a retail nursery markets different than a wholesale nursery because they have completely different customers.

For those who are not familiar with doing business with a large scale professional wholesale nursery the experience is quite different from retail shopping.

Photos : Strictly wholesale Nursery SweetLane Nursery in Santa Rosa CA :
From Untitled Album

First of all you have to be qualified to purchase from a wholesaler. This means having a resale license, a C-27 license , your landscape architectural license or have an established design and or design and build firm.
Bottom line, most wholesale nurseries do not want unqualified unlicensed gardeners in their nursery.

Most times you drive your truck down the lanes to pull your plants. Some smaller wholesale nurseries will have automatic electric carts for you to drive and a few of the smaller nurseries have nursery carts.
Usually I drive my truck or take the electric cart along with a clip board to list the plants that I want loaded and delivered to the job site.
Only occasionally do I Ioad my truck with plants. My Toyota pick up can hold only 80 one gallon plants and that is a pretty small amount of plants to buy when doing a garden installation.

Photo: Sweetlane Wholesale - rows upon rows of mugo pines.
From Untitled Album

Then there are the retail / semi- wholesale nurseries. These are usually small to moderately sized growers that have a retail store and a separate window for semi-wholesale customers. These nurseries offer a volume discount to those who are regular customers who may or may not have their licenses. They generally offer 25 to 50 percent off the retail price.
That can be a great deal of savings, especially to those who do not have the ability to purchase directly from a wholesaler.
This type of nursery often uses the same type of retail advertising that a retail nursery uses because they are sharing and targeting to the same type of patron.

A wholesale nursery does not want a retail customer to come to their wholesale nursery.
They sell their plants to an Independent Garden Center ( IGC) and often the marketing of the plants is left up to the IGC.

The IGC and the Wholesale nursery have to walk a fine line because often times the IGC does not want the public to know who they are buying their plants from and or the Wholesale nursery does not want to get calls from Jane Gardener looking for one or two plants.

That is why a wholesale nursery and a retail nursery market their wares differently.
They have different markets.

This leaves the wholesale marketing up to the retail nursery. In some cases some wholesale nurseries are ‘branding’ themselves, such as Monrovia and Proven Winners.
This is a smart idea but once again, they are walking a fine line because they do not want to have Jane and Joe Home Gardener calling their wholesale facilities looking for one or two plants but they want Joe and Jane to buy their brand plant from the retailer.

This puts advertising and marketing for the wholesale nursery in a unique spot.
They need to get their brand name out there but they have to rely on the retail nursery
to do the actual selling of their product.

It’s not as simple as selling Coca Cola or Colgate toothpaste. Each company makes their own specific brand.
But with nursery stock, if a plant is no longer under patent registration, anyone can sell an agapanthus or agave and to most consumers it doesn’t matter what ‘brand’ or company is hosting that plant, the only thing that matters is the low price.

Comparing a retail nursery business to a wholesale nursery business is like comparing apples to elephants.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Season's Greetings from Kermit

I received a nice phone call today from one of our stone suppliers, Bay Area Bluestone :
They asked if they could use an image from one of our landscape installation projects for their Christmas card this year.
Absolutely !
Seasons greetings to all.

( all that is missing is a red bow on one of the frogs ! )

From Water fountains in the landscape

From Water fountains in the landscape

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dasylirion longissimum (Mexican Grass Tree)

From Untitled Album

- From the San Marco’s website:

Large plant native to northeastern Mexico with glaucous-green stiff unarmed grass-like 6 foot long leaves. The leaves radiate symmetrically out of a large woody trunk that can slowly but eventually grow 6 -15 feet tall. In the summer, a nine foot tall spike of small white flowers emerge from reddish buds. Plant in full sun to light shade. Drought tolerant and cold hardy to at least 15 ° F. A great container plant or focal point specimen in the garden. The older, bottom leaves can be trimmed off to expose the trunk. Also known at the Longleaf Sotol this plant has long been included in the Agave family (Agavaceae) but is now considered to be in the Nolinaceae family with Nolina and Beaucarnea. The specific epithet for this plant in reference books has gone back and forth between Dasylirion longissimum and D. quadrangulatum. In the most current reference we have available, the Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons edited by Urs Eggli (2001), the contributor for this section, Dr Colin Walker, lists Dasylirion longissimum Lemaire (1856) as the correct name with Dasylirion quadrangulatum Watson (1859) as a synonym.

We’re in the midst of a project located in an Oak forest in Marin County.
In choosing the plants for this garden we were empathetic to the existing surrounding landscape and keeping the garden low in maintenance and low in water use.

Two 15 gallon specimen Dasylirion longissimum where chosen as sentinel plants for either side of the entry stair way.

Other plants such as cistus salvifolia, arctostaphylos, coleomena, euphorbia , rosemary and lavenders were planted to work in harmony with the site.

From Untitled Album

From Untitled Album