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Gardening with the Fairies, Part II

The photo above was cropped out of an untouched image Joseph took in our back yard. Here’s the original, which I found just this morning while selecting images for this blog post. Can you see the little Light Being in the lower right?

A trick of the light? Or … a real garden fairy caught playing in the sunbeams?
The photo was taken in our back yard in December, 2010, nine months after we moved into this rental house in the Tierrasanta area of San Diego. But we never noticed the fairy image before today! It was just another shot of sunlight and fallen leaves and rocks in our collection … until now, when I’ve come to write the follow-up to Part I of “Gardening with the Fairies.” (If you haven’t read Part I yet, follow that link. And be sure to read Part III, where my Cosmic CoAuthors weigh in on the subject; I’ve quoted them as clearly as I can.)

Okay, if that doesn’t convince you that the fairies have followed us to California, how about the story of this little one. I first spotted it, this lonely little sunflower, forcing its way up into the patio from between the loosely laid pavement and the ill-fitting boards the landlord installed, evidence of the birdseed we’d tried putting out last summer (until it attracted a rat in the fall, the most undesirable sort of fairy, a story I’ll get to in a moment.)

Right after I took this picture, I backed up from watering a hanging plant and …. oh, nooooo!!!! I crushed it! The stem was completely broken at the base, the whole plant lying on its side. That was on February 26. Then this morning, March 24, while we were eating breakfast on the patio, surprise! A month later, he pops out with his little face, as if to greet all of you! Because he knew that I planned to write this today? Does this look fairy-like to you, or is it just my imagination?

Now look way down at the bottom of this image, where this sunflower is located. The plant is growing in an L shape, completely overcoming the broken stem!
This is the kind of lesson the Fairies are always bringing home to us. I’d say today’s lesson could be called “Perseverance,” what do you think?

And on a more mundane level: NEVER NEVER NEVER use Round-Up. Anywhere. For any reason! Look at what we would have missed! And take note of what the sign above that little sunflower warns:

Thanks to my dear friend from high school, Rhonda, who saw this in a store in Atlanta, knew nothing about this blog post or our gardening habits, but just “had” to send it to me despite the fact that it’s been decades since we exchanged gifts! (We won’t say how many decades, either.)

We have neighbors on three sides and across the street in this crowded but aging subdivision. Some of them use poison in every bare nook and cranny. They kill spiders and bees and wasps and snakes out of fear. They loathe anything they consider to be a “weed,” and they will not let a fallen leaf or catkin or seed pod remain on the ground or pavement for more than an hour or so. I am not exaggerating; they’ve told me so.

They also let their hired gardeners use gas-powered blowers on the bare dirt around their bushes and on perfectly clean driveways. Noisy, smelly, obnoxious, wasteful, and unhealthy for the gardeners and the fairies and the people living in the home. Ugh. And if only they’d all do it on the same day so we could get it over with.

Okay, that’s enough criticizing the neighbors; they just don’t know better yet. But it explains why neighbors often don’t understand fairy gardening. And why we’ve done some leaf removal out front purely to please them. Some, but not all, because those leaves have served our garden well, particularly in this very warm and dry winter we’ve just had. They’ve formed a natural mulch to keep what little moisture there was in the soil. Of course, we won’t dig them in; that might steal nitrogen while they decompose. But so far, I haven’t come upon the day this year when the fairies said, “Okay, time to get rid of the leaf cover.”

Oh, no, I don’t “hear” them; only through my inner ear. Just in case you were wondering if there were little squeaky voices in my ears every time I set foot outside. Not quite; although they do have helpers and messengers, as you’ll see.

When we rented this house in February, 2010, the landlord told us he would not pay for the water, and that he knew nothing about nor did he care about the landscape as long as we returned the home in the same shape we found it. (Foolish investor, huh? Or was he smart because he knew we’d fix it at our own expense? It’s our philosophy of renting: treat it as if you will live there for a long time and you’ll benefit most of all.)

But we’re in the midst of a long-term (perhaps permanent) drought in San Diego. Water is very expensive here because it is mostly imported from the Colorado River. It costs us about $100 a month for our water and sewer bill. The water we receive is also full of chlorine and fluoride (we installed filters indoors). We normally rely on the rainy months of November through March or April to turn the arid landscape green in San Diego. But this year, almost no rain fell until St. Patrick’s Day!

Our first spring here was a very rainy one, thankfully, because it rescued plants the previous tenants had allowed to die over the summer. They’d stopped watering for six months, neighbors told us, because the husband lost his job, which is also why they left the home vacant for us. But before they moved, the man was gifted with some kind of chainsaw, a neighbor who loves trees told me. Perhaps being out of work frustrated him, because he managed to brutalize nearly every tree on this tiny lot with his new toy, cutting them back in the extreme and leaving some barely alive and one lemon tree completely dead.

Now, it’s rare to have deciduous trees here to begin with, but the original owners of this lot must have been wise garden planners. Which is probably one of the things that attracted us to it: their loving energy, deeply buried beneath the misguided ministrations of uncaring landlords and poverty-stricken tenants. It’s all about the layers of energy infusing a place, you know.

In the back yard, so nicely arranged with paved and terraced areas: a beautiful showcase Japanese Maple. Over the back fence, a humongous mulberry, as wide as it is tall. Out front, a delicately flowering silk tree, a tall liquid amber, a rare pine, and a year-round magnolia variety, with a red-bricked patio bordered by drought-tolerant junipers. All had been butchered by the angry tenant. But the good bone structure was there, and thankfully, they’re all beautiful once again. All it took was some water (thank you $$Joseph$$) and paying attention to the fairies.

Liquid amber in autumn
Japanese maple in spring… and you can guess what it looks like in autumn!

On the “dark,” almost-north-facing side of the house, our garden-loving neighbor who plants everything in pots pointed out that when it rained, the water would gush through from under her fence, over what was then vacant sandy dirt in a raised area of our yard, splashing down over the retaining wall onto the pavement below, then flooding under our gate, down the sloping driveway, and into the street out front. What an ugly waste of water!

Why so much bare dirt? Because the non-watering tenants and the thoughtless landlord conspired with misplaced trash bins and tossed debris. Elsewhere in this narrow, elevated strip, wild things grew in a tangle of tropicals and unidentifable bushes dying from the lack of water. The fence in question was literally falling over, with plenty of gaps, propped up by old bits of wood or debris. The landlord promised to replace it before we signed the lease; months later, after much reminding, he finally did so when the neighbors agreed to pay half. That required ripping out a lot of pretty vegetation clinging to it, which the fairies quickly renewed.
The story repeated in many areas of this lot, front and back: dead lemon trunk sticking up like an accusing skeleton, a broken and rusting homemade brick barbecue (unfixable, with a promised removal that took two years and nagging), more bare ground swept clean of tree droppings, and extensive areas of bland “decorative rock,” which is at least a form of water-efficient landscaping.
This is our front yard today. You can already see that, with help from the resident bunny, we’ve encouraged things to violate that rocky restriction: wild grasses near the sidewalk that attract birds; clumps of alyssum that flourish and smell heavenly in rainy years, and the beloved, drought-tolerant gazania clump in the foreground. During the hot months, anything desirable or blooming gets a little hose water. All were lovingly “pruned” and savored and fertilized by the bunny who spent long hours in our yard.

That’s because the bunny loved to eat the (yellow) gazania flowers. These are complete volunteers blown in or “fairy-lifted” from the neighbor’s yard, but we all welcomed them (bunny, Joseph, me) and cared for them and encouraged them to grow. On the right, a Spanish lavender and a rosemary bush we rescued from pots, so we did actually install these two by getting Joseph to dig through at least a foot of rock and plastic. Notice how I’ve left the leaves around them this year to conserve water. The stubs of alyssum in between would normally be in full scented bloom.

When we moved in, the patio had been scrupulously sprayed with herbicides, no doubt, because it had not a single weed between the bricks, and because the rock-filled strip on the right (invisible in photo) *still* is not healed. Plants we’ve put there (after I dug out the rocks) actually shrank, then died. I have my fingers crossed for this year. So the edges of the patio were all bare right up to the juniper hedge and the white rock. The dwarf lemon wasn’t there, nor were any of the volunteer clumps of ivy, gazania, or alyssum which thrive every time I water the lemon tree. And that baby palm tree sticking up from the junipers? Fertilized by the bunny’s long afternoons hiding beneath the hedge, it, too, is a complete volunteer that appeared after we moved in. One day, it will enhance the patio with more shade, if the neighbor doesn’t have it removed as she’s threatened.

To many eyes, this is all very messy now. To ours, it’s a beautiful arrangement of blooming fairy plantings, with minimum to no effort or cost on our part!

The plants soften the entire area, which happens to comprise two “missing” feng shui areas from the house design, relating to “knowledge and self-cultivation” and “career.” (No wonder that poor tenant lost his job! In the back yard, the “wealth and prosperity” area is also missing from this house.)
The bird bath came with us from Michigan. The gazanias open in sunlight; they were not completely open yet this morning when I took the photo above because (yay!) there’s a rainstorm on the way. And you can’t see the small branches of fairy-planted purple lantana bush that have sprouted up in several places, foreground and background, which will one day be hedges of drought-tolerant color. Or the wild strain of scarlet salvia volunteers which will soon bloom again beneath our window, another “weed” I refused to pull out until I knew what they were. Now I grant them water wherever I find them, and the fairies like to choose the locations.
 I do selectively pull and cut weeds from between the bricks, the ugliest or most invasive. But the hot sun of summer will quickly take care of them. No chemicals needed! (We use only organic fertilizers, and no pesticides or herbicides or fungicides.)
The edging of plants also offers a kind of visual, “energy hedge” to block the flow of chaotic traffic-energy that was radiating up that bank of plain rock right into our kitchen window. The baby magnolia casting the shade in the picture has also regrown from the severe pruning enough to block the neighbor across the street from gazing directly through our many-windowed kitchen from his upstairs bedroom. And we consoled the naked pine tree for the chainsaw damage by wrapping its bare trunk with solar -powered star-shaped lights that glow a gentle bluish white every night.
When we moved in, the landlord offered to cut down that “spiky bushy thing” clinging to the front of the house, next to the kitchen window. With a touch of horror, we hastily assured him that no, we liked it just fine. This picture was taken on January 25 of this year.
The special thing about this “spiky bush” is that for the last two autumns, it’s been nearly stripped of leaves and blossoms by late-season caterpillars, which also devoured its cousin in the back yard. We could spray with BT as other gardeners do, but we chose to handle the invasion the fairy way. We merely waited for predators to show up and rectify this imbalance of Nature.
They came in the form of wasps, and then tiny flocks of bush-tits, adorable little birds that sweep in and clean the branches. They came back again and again, calling to one another in their characteristic way as they move from tree to bush to tree around the yard.
We also found huge spiders building nests between the eaves and the plant, the better to catch the moths that laid the eggs that hatched the caterpillars. I must admit, last fall the poor bush looked like it would never recover! But here’s what the “Raspberry Ice” bougainvillea looks like this morning:
 Here are a couple more views from the kitchen window:
Rodney Rupert Rabbit, taking a nap break from his hard labors as a fairy-helper. He used to sleep in broad daylight in this poisoned strip of dirt, trying his best to heal it. We miss him, after two seasons, but he left behind some beautiful flowers. We think he met his demise from another fairy-helper who suddenly showed up last fall. Our neighbor caught this photo in her back yard:

This guy came trotting blithely down our back yard sidewalk one day when we were eating lunch under the maple. I had my back to him but as soon as he and Joseph locked eyes, he zipped back beneath the fence. Nevertheless, he used this spot in the neighbor’s yard for a bathroom for a week or so, and then all the rabbits on our street disappeared and the lizards vanished from our yard for a while.

Yes, I’m sad about it; I loved that rabbit outside my window every day, even as he devoured the flowers while keeping one eye on me, watching from the window. But I understand the cycles of nature, and the role the fox must play.
Now every property has its energy layers of history. Our house is located on what they like to call an “island in the hills.” This relatively new subdivision in San Diego was built on a series of dry hilltops surrounded by deep chaparral and riparian canyons, home to hawks, lizards, coyotes, rabbits, foxes, rattlesnakes, and so on. The hilly streets of our neighborhood are sitting on something like long fingers of foothills that extend out from the mountain ranges to the east. I believe glaciers at one time stretched down through these hills, presumably melting and flowing toward the ocean to the west, carving out the canyons.
Native Americans added their energy layer to the land, living throughout San Diego County, migrating winter and summer from high foothills and mountains in the east, to the ocean on the west, both foraging for food and “managing” (rather than planting) crops of wild, native plants. Hmm, does that sound familiar?
Maybe Joseph and I really have lived on this land before? We did once choose to rent a rough little house out in the higher and dryer foothills not far from the Mexican border, only to discover acorn-grinding areas worn into the boulders in our back yard, and a secret view of the sacred native site high above us to the east, known for its rocky face as “Madre Grande.” Some past-life clues for me to reconsider?
Back to Tierrasanta: Everyone in San Diego by now knows about the conquistadores, of course, and the priests’ enslavement of the natives to build their missions, and about its modern military history, which causes the Marine Corps jets to zoom noisily over our heads, since what used to be the Navy’s Top Gun training center is right next door to us. But this little piece of land on which we now make our home was known during World War II as Camp Elliott. During the war it was used as a practice firing range. When the building contractors began this planned community in the early 1970s, everyone was assured that the military had made a “clean sweep” of all unexploded ordnance.
But in 1983, two eight-year-olds died and a twelve-year-old companion was injured when the boys found some unexploded World War II era ordnance in the much-vaunted “planned open space” area at the end of their street. Since then, several sweeps of the canyons and open areas have been made, the most recent yielding 3,787 small arms (smaller than 50 caliber), 1,016 large arms, 26,321 pounds of ordnance-related scrap, and 142,253 pounds of trash.
So to say that the fairies here were in hiding might be an understatement. But they’ve certainly responded to the small bits of attention we’ve given them!
Joseph and I are not really consistent nor persistent gardeners. We love nature. Simple. And we find great joy in tinkering with it now and then. We also listen carefully and proceed cautiously.
One of my first tasks when we moved in was to try to put flowers in the mostly-dead area next to the back patio, where the lemon tree had expired. So I started weeding. But something told me not to pull out those weird-looking weeds just starting to come up. Not very pretty, with their large leaves. But it was just a persistent, nagging, “Don’t do it.” (Remember, the landlord is clueless about plants, trees, and all growing things. I’ve tried asking him what things were, but no luck. We were fortunate that he told us where to find a sprinkler nozzle out front; unfortunately, the system is broken. He did leave a hose, and we bought another two.)

The weeds got taller and taller, and pretty soon they had some tightly pointed, narrow things that just might be buds. But they also reminded me of noxious, poisonous weeds from my Michigan childhood. Still, I restrained myself as we planted a bare-root Rio Samba rose in the midst of them, taking the place of a dead one we dug out. And then one day in May:

I searched all my garden books and found a picture “by accident” finally: Mexican primrose, a rhizome that spreads like crazy. But when it blooms, very pretty!
Over in the tangled area of tropicals, we identified the tree-sized specimens as schlefferas because they look exactly like the houseplant version, and sure enough, that’s what they are. A little more research told us they’re poisonous, so we’re cautious about the flowering bracts. We soon had giant philodendrons coming back to life as well, something the landlord volunteered to remove. But beneath them, I was puzzled by a very homely sort of shrub. Being water conservative, I didn’t spare much for this darker area.
I’m now sad to say I lost one of those two “ugly” shrubs because of my hard, prejudiced heart; a lesson for me. Because by some fairy miracle, one of the pair of them managed to spit out a bloom or two that first year, just so I’d know what they were. Too late for its sibling! Heart breaking!
 But this one we saved and lavished with the pine needles from the front yard. Everyone knows, AZALEAS love acid soils and pine needles grant just that!! And I’ve never seen one with such huge blossoms! Here’s a photo from this spring, after surviving neglect long enough to enjoy two seasons of love and fertilizer and water and pine needles and judicious rescue from the ivy and morning glory vines that were strangling it:
Everywhere Joseph and I dabbled in the yard, we listened to the fairies after that. Joseph came in one day and told me that he’d been instructed not to PULL the weeds, but to break them off if he must, because their roots were intricately intertwined with the desired plant’s roots. And because in this dry climate, weeds themselves were actually healing the bare, damaged areas of the yard, adding nutrients when they died, breaking up the hard dirt.
Below is another recovering area in our front yard, where our landlord had stored the heavy trash and recycling bins. They were the first thing you saw when you pulled into the driveway. The dirt beneath them and beneath the silk tree (trunk in picture) was bare, heavily compacted ground. We moved the trash bins behind a gate where they belonged and tried to plant seeds. But this is also where the rains would rush through in winter, leaving little behind because the ground couldn’t absorb anything. So, we did as the fairies advise: we first encouraged any weed that dared to appear. These would break up the soil and add nutrients. Then, when the strappy gazania leaves started poking up, we nurtured them, pulling or cutting any weeds crowding them. When liquid amber and silk tree leaves fell over the area, we left as many as the neighbors could tolerate. 🙂 Then the trailing African daisies appeared, perfectly balanced in white and purple varieties. And of course, the alyssum to complete the bouquet.
All the flowers you see here are volunteers, fairy-planted. I love the way they mix and balance the colors! This year, you can see the trash-can area is still recovering, but we seeded it with native wildflowers. In the middle is a purple lupine and some tiny daisy-like flowers that will be blooming soon. The silk tree (trunk) is recovering nicely from the severe pruning. Note the retaining wall at the back? It’s another damaged area (see below).
This is also part of the formerly bare area where the water rushed through, just above the retaining wall, still beneath the silk tree. The neighbors behind that row of bricks used to store their trash bins here because no one stopped them, so it’s sandy and compacted. We tried planting many things, but all that grew was the fennel you see in the foreground (planted by aforesaid neighbor). We harvested its seeds and watched the beautiful caterpillars that favor it. But everything else died and the fairies seemed to have deserted this sunny spot. ???? Then we discovered that, although we got them to hide the trash bins behind their gate as the community prefers, the neighbors’ gardeners kept raking this area bare every week! So our seedlings were destroyed; our aloes killed, etc. We finally installed the little black fencing, and after I complained about the gardeners, they responded with the red brick. Nice! A week or so ago, I found pulled weed debris thrown here, so I added the sign. And now our wildflowers are just coming up.
Joseph threw those wildflower seeds all over yard this year. Imagine if we’d had rain! These native lupines are magical in themselves: they add nitrogen to the soil. We didn’t even bury the seeds!
Tiny yellow wildflowers just opening … mystery flowers sprouting beneath the lupine.
And in the back yard, in a “dead” area by the air conditioner …
Look where this young blossom appeared in February, all by itself on that fragile stem! A lot of people would have plucked out the “weed” popping up on their “groomed” ground beneath the maple. (Ours is purposely covered with leaves, as you can see.) In a wetter winter, quite a few of these bloomed on a far distant side of the house. But here? Who planted it? This is where that fairy light showed up in Joseph’s photograph above, by the way.  Hmmmm….
And the annual lobelia lived through the winter to bloom again this spring:

Now, I’m beginning to wonder how far I should go with this. The fairies have been designing amazing things all over this yard, while we just keep trying to cooperate. Every tiny area has a story. But maybe more pictures will save us some words. Most of the following are “weeds” that simply grew in unexpected places and we let them be. Starting with this butterfly-attracting succulent that appeared beneath my favorite rose bush, just fat, fleshy leaves. And then:

I do love this wild gazania’s color:

After the new fence, enormous geraniums started to appear, along with endless morning glories, asparagus ferns, the restored azalea, ivy everywhere. That skinny stem in the middle is a fairy-planted apple tree, currently bare, that grew during our stay here from something that must’ve fallen from the one the neighbor has in a pot on the other side of the fence. Maybe one day it will have apples? The philodendron suffered from the low water year, but it will be back. This one grew from an old stump buried under the ivy.
We planted the Crystal Palace lobelia; fairies added the ferns and white fern blossoms.
In a sea of green, this pair appeared. We planted neither.
The orange bougainvilla was here; African daisies in the foreground volunteered, as did the orange gazania variety and the poppies. Ice plant (pink, middle right) was probably planted to secure rough, uneven bank. A neighbor unkindly called all of these “freeway flowers” because they bloom along San Diego’s thoroughfares in spring. But they are all drought-tolerant!
More “freeway flowers” on the same bank.
Wildflowers and grasses now protecting the “wash” area, soaking up water, breaking up hardpan dirt.
Volunteer freesia and nasturtiums are helping, covering a lattice we rescued from a trash pile.
California poppies are always a welcome, drought tolerant, self-seeding presence. Fairy-planted, of course.

By June of 2011, the sandy “wash” area was covered in the remaining wildflowers and a few other things, such as these two lobelia varieties that appeared near Joseph’s worm composting bin in the darkest, driest, least friendly area. I suppose they’re a result of all those waters running through the neighbor’s yard, picking up seeds from her own garden? But they’d never stopped to sprout before. Did the fairies give them a little push down into the sand, just so, perfectly arranged among the ever-spreading morning glories?

Those morning glories are so pretty when they bloom. But everyone knows, they love to take over. Some fairies are so exuberant, they must be restrained, or …

I’m not superstitious, but that happened right around Halloween season, after we’d been distracted while Joseph had pneumonia and we’d had a little rain.

Then, about three days before Halloween, we were eating outdoors and I said, “Hey, what’s that in the garden over there by the fence?”

“I don’t know,” Joseph said. So we went to investigate.
We called him Stick Man. And he stayed with us for many weeks. But there are other fairy helpers:
Camouflaged and quick!
About this snakeskin in the last picture: I was watering last September and thought I heard a rattlesnake rustling in the heavenly bamboo, exactly as I’ve heard in the wild. I moved back, well aware that there are rattlesnakes in the area. Decided I’d done enough watering and quickly (ahem) slipped back indoors.
Next day as I was eating outdoors, I looked down at the heavenly bamboo and jumped about a mile. The little fellow had used the thick branches to help himself (herself?) ease out of this skin. But no rattle! Joseph assures me from the shape of the head and lack of rattle, it was only a gopher snake or some such. Interestingly, last week we found another skin in the very same place! But this one had feet. We decided it was an alligator lizard skin.
We have a lot of those but they sneak around and avoid us usually. Although occasionally one comes to me as a kind of “animal totem” that actually belongs to my sister. Long story; ‘nother day. (Kinda creepy, they are, slithering like snakes.)
But our ordinary lizards routinely come out to investigate us. A couple weeks ago, one bold guy ran straight over to Joseph and sniffed under his moccasins! Probably smelled good because he’d been wearing them in the kitchen. Or maybe he’d stepped on a tasty bug. I caught one lizard outside the front door with a caterpillar in his mouth that was about a third of his own length!
We also have a lot of crows and beautiful hawks visiting, along with countless species of birds migrating through. We just watched a California gnatcatcher (an endangered species) hopping in and out of the lattice, looking for a nesting place, and the Western bluebirds love the bird bath. The list goes on and on, and I’m pretty sure we’ll enjoy more animal adventures here before we’re done. I grew up in the Michigan woods watching all sorts of creatures, but who knew a suburban California lot could provide so much wildlife!
Last July, we found this guy cowering against the retaining wall. Oh, what a cute lost little mouse, eh?
Then last December our Cara Cara dwarf orange produced a record amount of fruit.

We were enjoying them plucked fresh off the tree each day, a bounty to be savored over the coming weeks. Except we started finding half-eaten oranges lying under the rose bush every morning, and rat droppings on the worm compost bin. (Sorry, lost those photos in a technical snafu. But this was the same time Rhonda’s sign arrived: “Don’t Piss Off the Fairies.” We figured it was meant as a warning for the rat!)

Sometimes, you have to protect your crops. So Joseph bought traps, using peanut butter for bait as instructed. No luck. Finally, I said, “Why not give him his favorite?” So early one evening, Joseph reset the trap with an orange slice. Within an hour or so, Joseph’s keen ear recognized our local barn owl screeching nearby. We knew: there’s a rat in the trap!
He checked and sure enough, found the very dead, instantly killed fellow who’d been pilfering our oranges. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d eaten the whole thing each night, but he took one each night for five or six days, and only ate a small bit of each!

Having had a prior experience with “calling down the owls” by feeding them trapped mice, Joseph placed the much-deceased but still fresh rat body out in the open for the owl fairy-helper. We support the food chain, and that’s also why we don’t use poisons. The owl obliged, although he left a bit of gore on the pavement and some owl pellets, the usual sign of his visits.

 As a reminder that gardening is sometimes a matter of exchanging our energies by eating each other, so that we must always have respect, here’s how Joseph celebrated our fairy garden yesterday:
 Nasturtium and sauerkraut salad! And yes, those are real raindrops he left on the nasturtiums. It finally rained! (P.S. Some of our plants are poisonous and some are edible. Not wise to eat any of them unless you have researched it carefully!)
What the Fairies Have Taught Us So Far
  • Never pull a weed until you know what it is
  • Pick up trash and human debris, even the small stuff like bottle caps or broken toys
  • Understand which types of plant debris hinder or help which plants (for instance, fallen camellia blossoms harbor pests and must be removed; fallen pine needles benefit acid-loving plants such as camellias)
  • Sprinkling native wildflower seeds can heal a bare spot; even weeds can heal damaged ground
  • Don’t be too quick to judge a “pest”—the squirrel “farmed” our sunflower to multiply his dinner and our flowers; the caterpillars pruned the bougainvilla, causing more blooms; the rabbit left fertilizer in the rocky landscaping and also kept the flowers blooming
  • Don’t disrupt the food chain by poisoning pests who’ll be eaten by fairy helpers
  • No gas lawnmowers, blowers, or other noisy, toxic implements (goats, sheep, or cows for vast areas)
  • Don’t poison insects or diseases; find the balance instead (good lesson for human-body ecosystems as well!)
  • Patience, perseverance, opportunism, and cooperation. Rabbit teaches us to leap at opportunity and away from danger. Sunflowers taught us perseverance. Weeds that turned into flowers taught us patience. Bare ground is an opportunity for wildflowers, but we learned to cooperate by pouring out seeds.
  • Inner guidance and attunement, the most important lessons of all! Right up there with:
  • Enjoyment, exuberance, and expressiveness. All living things carry an Infinite Intelligence and a unique potential for expression of that Infinite for the betterment of all others. Even the rat served his purpose, keeping that amazing owl healthy and strong.
  • Balance. A little for you and a little for me.
* * * *

And now for Part III: At last, my Cosmic CoAuthors weigh in on the whole “fairy” subject. Don’t miss it! (I promise it’s MUCH shorter than this post! But it might include a tiny video.)

 Photo credit goes to husband Joseph for many of these images. And if you’d like more recipes like Nasturtium Salad, visit his Cosmic Cooking blog!
Published inFairiesGardening


  1. Trisha Trisha

    I never kill outdoor bugs and such. I figure I am disturbing their home, not the other way around. But I do prefer they not take up residence inside my home! I’ve been trying to find plans that are native to Michigan. I don’t have much room to plant anymore but am trying to make the best of it. I had gigantic grasshoppers living by my front door. They were beautiful.

    • Oh, have we got grasshoppers here in San Diego this year! It’s been a tough garden year here, with practically no rain at all last winter and a few teensy drops all summer. Even the trees are diminished in leaf size and growth because of the lack of ground water. But we’re doing our best to keep it all alive and hope for a wetter year this winter. Meanwhile, I’m learning a lot about the value of water, which is so abundant in Michigan.

      Trisha, when we lived in Grand Haven, a local agency hosted a special show and sale of Michigan native plants. I think if you Google it, you might find a lot of native plant societies and growers in whichever area of Michigan you live. So many people there have become alerted to the need for restoring and preserving the native vegetation.

      But as our climates continue to change, we gardeners must also be alert to change. It might be that what once grew here will be replaced by something that now thrives.

      Also, as a reward for anyone who’s stuck with this series so far, I am going to reveal the all-time #1 garden secret Joseph and I have discovered this year. It might seem shocking, unless you read the labels of your rose fertilizers. Main ingredient? Urea. What’s that come from? You guessed it! We are experimenting with using urine as fertilizer and it is perfect. Nature again knows best! We were brought here to this planet and didn’t have flush toilets, which pollute water systems. Our waste, just like all waste in the forest, is filled with things that make plants thrive, we’ve discovered, with the exception of a few that actually like the alkaline soils of our desert-like climate in San Diego.

      If you don’t believe me, or think I’ve completely lost my mind, you can read all about this at Scientific American: Or Google it! Our roses and ground covers and other plants are loving it. It’s safest to use a bucket and dilute it, especially for potted plants. But sometimes the direct method works, too. And that, of course, depends on the equipment you have for delivery 😉 and how close the neighbors live.

      I’d love to compare notes with anyone who reads this and tries it!

      And thanks, again, Trisha, for your support. May all your gardens be beautiful!

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