Edible Plants for Midwest Wellness Gardens and Foraging

Although I had previously written this article about edible plants with only foragers in mind, I think it’s also a great reference for Wellness Garden designers.

Most Wellness Gardens are used in a passive manner, as in a place for sitting and reflecting. These types of gardens are called Restorative Gardens, and can be found at many hospitals, hospice and community parks.The other main type of garden is called an Enabling Garden, as it allows people to work with and among the plants.

When designing for an Enabling Garden, plant choices need to selected quite carefully as clients will be face to face with those plants. Many times clients may break branches, allowing sap to run or even eat them, unquestionably.

I have read the United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual cover to cover many times. There’s some really good information in there that can help anyone stay on this side of the grass longer during a bad situation. (BTW – There is an app for this ) There are two chapters dedicated to plants alone. Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food.

Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.

These are the steps to the Universal Edibility Test:

1. Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.
2 Separate the plants into its basic componentsโ€”leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.
3 Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
4 Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.
5 During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction
6 During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.
7 Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
8 Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.
9 If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.
10 If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.
11 If no burning, itching, numbing stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.
12 Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.
13 If no ill effects occur, eat 1/4 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals

Tips to keep you alive and well while foraging:

Be extremely careful when collecting mushrooms. Mistakes can be fatal.

Avoid collecting plants in commercially fertilized areas or where toxic herbicides or other chemicals may have been sprayed. This means avoid collecting under power lines, right of ways, in unfamiliar weedy lawns, beside commercial crop fields, or close to roadsides. Better to error on the side of caution!

Be grateful. Before picking, plucking or digging, pause for a moment and give thanks to the plant that is giving itself to you. Collect with consciousness. Make the area look as though you were not there. Take only what you need, leaving plenty for wildlife and future years.

Once the food is collected, clean and sort it โ€˜in the fieldโ€™. It is much easier there. No cook wants a sink full of muddy roots mingled with grass blades and half an anthill.

Before you eat a food, be sure to prepare correctly. Many plants can be mildly toxic and may require cooking or parboiling (and then discarding) the first and second โ€˜watersโ€™ before ingesting.

Learn to blend wild produce into a meal in subtle ways. Often the flavors can be quite strong. I like to use garlic mustard in my tomato sauces. It gives a light garlic taste.

*There is special preparations needed eat it.

** Caution this plant either has parts that are toxic or a poisonous look-alikes

Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek

Acer spp. – Maple ~ The inner bark & seeds

Allium spp. – Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek ~ The bulb & leaves

Amaranthus spp. – Amaranth ~ the seeds, shoots & leaves

Apios americana – Groundnut ~ The tubers (roots)

Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit ~ The corm (well dried)*

Armoracea lapathifolia – Horseradish ~ The young leaves & roots


Asarum canadense – Wild Ginger ~ The rootstock

Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed

Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)

Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root

Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower

Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs


Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds

Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepardโ€™s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods

Carya spp. – Hickory and Pecan ~ Yummy nuts

Castanea pumila – Chinquapin ~ nuts

Celtis spp. – Hackberry ~ The fruits

Cercis canadensis – Redbud flowers~ The young pods

Ox-Eye Daisy

Chenopodium album – Lambโ€™s Quarters ~ The young leaves and tops

Cichorium intybus – Chicory ~ young leaves & root

Cirsium spp. – Thistle ~ The young leaves, inner stem (pith) & 1st year root

Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum – ~ The young leaves

Claytonia spp. – Spring Beauty ~ corm**

Wild Carrot

Commelina spp. – Day Flower ~ The young leaves and stem

Corylus spp. – Hazelnuts ~ Yummy nuts

Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn ~ The fruits

Cyperus esculentus Chufa – Nut Grass ~ The tuber

Daucus carota – Wild Carrot ~ The root**

Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon ~ The fruits*

Erechtites hieracfolia – Fireweed ~ The young shoots and leaves

Wild Strawberry

Fragaria spp. – Wild Strawberry ~ The fruit, leaves*

Fagus grandifolia – Beech ~ nuts

Fraxinus spp. – Ash ~ The fruits

Galium aparine & verum Cleavers – Bedstraw ~ The young shoots/leaves

Gleditsia triacanthos -Honey Locust ~ The fruits

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke ~ The tuber (Makes the best soup!)

Jerusalem Artichoke

Hemerocallis fulva – Day Lily ~ The young shoots, flower, flower buds, tuber

Heracleum maximum – Cow-Parsnip ~ The young stems/ leafstalks, seeds, root**

Juglans nigra – Black Walnut ~ Yummy nuts

Lactuca spp. – Wild Lettuce ~ The young leaves

Lamium amplexicaule – Henbit ~ The new tips

Lepidium spp. – Peppergrass ~ The young leaves & seedpods

Common Mallow

Lycopus spp. – Bugleweed ~ The tubers

Malva neglecta – Common Mallow ~ The young leaves & green fruit

Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed ~ The flowers

Medeola virginiana – Indian Cucumber ~ The root & tuber

Mentha, spp. – Wild mint ~ The leaves (Did someone say Mojito?!)

Mitchella repens – Partridgeberry ~ The fruits

Morus, spp. – Mulberry ~ The fruits


Nasturtium officinale – Watercress ~ The young leaves and stems

Nelumbo lutea – American Lotus ~ The young leaves, seeds & tubers

Nuphar, spp. – Yellow Pond Lily ~ The rootstocks, seeds

Nymphaea spp.- Water Lily – The young leaves, flowerbuds, seeds & tubers

Oenothera biennis – Evening Primrose ~ 1st year taproots, young small plants

Opuntia humifusa – Prickly-Pear ~ young leaf pads,* fruit & seeds

Yellow Wood-Sorrels

Oxalis, spp. – Yellow Wood-Sorrels ~ The leaves & fruit

Pastinaca sativa – Wild Parsnip ~ The taproot

Phragmites communis Reed – Phragmites ~ The young stem, seeds & rootstock

Physalis spp. – Ground-cherry ~ The fruits

Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed ~ The young leaves**

Plantago spp. – Plantain ~ The leaves

May Apple

Podophyllum peltatum – May-apple, Mandrake ~ Only the mature fruit**

Polygonum cuspidatum – Japanese Knotweed ~ The new bamboo-like tips

Pontederia cordata – Pickerel Weed ~ The shoots & seeds

Portulaca oleracea – Purslane ~ The stems and leaves & seeds

Prunus americana – Wild Plum ~ The fruits

Prunus spp. – Wild Cherry (Choke, Black) ~ The fruits

Pteridium aquilinum – Bracken fern ~ The fiddlehead

Pteretis pensylvanica – Ostrich Fern ~ The fiddlehead


Malus spp. – Crap Apple ~ The fruits

Pyrus, spp. – Chokeberry, Chokecherry ~ fruits

Quercus spp. – Oak ~ acorns*

Rhexia virginica – Meadow Beauty ~ The tender leaves, tubers

Ribes spp. – Gooseberries, Currents ~ fruits

Robinia pseudo-acacia – Black Locust ~ The flowers (only)

Wild Rose Hip

Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ petals, fruits (hips)

Rubus spp. – Brambles ~ Fruits Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry, etc.

Rubus typhina and spp. – Staghorn Sumac ~ The fruit**

Rumex acetosella – Sheep (or Common) Sorrel ~ The tender leaves and stems

Rumex crispus -Dock, Curled and Yellow ~ The young leaves

Sagittaria spp. – Arrowhead ~ The tubers


Salix spp. – Willow leaves ~ The inner bark

Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters, ripe fruit**

Sassafras albidum – Sassafras leaves ~ The root (for tea)

Scirpus spp.- Bulrush ~ The shoot, pollen, seeds & rootstock

Smilax spp. – Catbrier, Greenbrier ~ The young shoots and leaves & rootstock

Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ The leaves and flowers

Sweet Goldenrod

Stellaria spp. – Chickweed ~ The tender leaves and stems

Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion ~ The leaves and root

Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers

Tradescantia spp. – Spiderwort ~ The shoots

Tragopogon porrifolius – Salsify, Oyster-Plant ~ The young leaves and root

Trifolium pratense – Red Clover ~ The young leaves and flowers


Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ The young leaves, flowerheads

Typha spp – Cattails ~ Young shoots and stocks (inner core), immature flowers, pollen and root

Urtica dioica – Stinging Nettle ~ The young shoots & leaves*

Vaccinium, spp. – Blueberry, Huckleberry ~ The yummy fruits

Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers

Vitis, spp. – Grapes ~ The tender leaves and fruit***


ยฉ Wellness Garden Design


ยฐ Here’s the standard warning ~ Kids, don’t try this at home! Go out in the forest and give it a try!! Please truly know you’ve identified the edible plant correctly before eating. I’m not going down for it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Keep An African Violet Blooming (Almost) All Year

African violet

An African Violet is one of the easiest flowering houseplants to own. Therefore, this makes them a popular with black-thumbs and folks that may not have lots of time or energy to care for a plant. It’s easy to see if the plant is in need of water, due to the clear glass water reservoir. And with a good initial set-up and some minor care, African Violets will bloom ten months out of the year.

Procuring an African Violet is convenient and low cost. I always goes to the indoor plant section of the Big Box Depot store where the price for one is around $2.50.

How to care for your African Violet:
African Violet Bowl
My homemade African Violet bowl

African Violets require a special acidic soil that must be kept moist. Because of this, a normal growing pot is not recommended. There are two types of pots: one type uses capillary action via a wick within the soil and a pot-within-a-pot soaking in water. I created the latter with a glass bowel, decorative rocks and a terracotta pot.

During the summer months African Violets can be moved outdoors in a partly-sunny location. When the temperatures get below 50F itโ€™s time to bring them inside. Place them in a South or West window for the most available sunlight. Most flowering plants also require a dark period to bloom. Make sure there are no nightlights in the vicinity.

African Violets do not like drafts either, hence keep them away from doors, vents, space heaters and fans.

When it comes to watering, thereโ€™s certainly nothing easier than an African Violet. Both type pots have a reservoir that only needs refilling with quality, non-softened water. No guesswork involved.

To help maintain the flowering of the plant, be sure to give is a dose of liquid fertilizer according to the labels directions.

African Violets can bloom 10 months out of the year. Care is the key to keeping it in bloom.african violet pot

Maintaining a good watering schedule is important. They can go a few days being empty, and it is ok to do that periodically, just not to โ€œdroopโ€ status. If the whole plant is drooping, water from above and fully soak pot to revive, careful not to wet leaves.

Always use good water. African Violets like it a bit more acidic and my Midwestern water is alkaline. Consequently, bottled or filtered water works well, but room temperature, melted snow is slightly acidic and a better choice if available.

Rinse off the rocks and container, monthly to avoid fungus (green) which may grow in the water, or the pot will develop a white film on it, due to mineral build-up. An old toothbrush works without using any soap. Itโ€™s OK to let a bit of water to run through the pot, as it rinses the mineral salts thru the soil and out the sides of pot, just keep the leaves as dry as possible.

African violet containerPrune off the dead flowers with a scissors, donโ€™t pull. Just trim the individual dead flower, as the rest of the main stem might still be blooming. This steps-up additional flower production for the plant.

Remember, it is seriously stressful for the plant to flower (think pregnancy!) Therefore, after a good run of blooming, the plant may chill, and just be green for awhile. Be happy with that, and anticipate blooms after a short rest. Generally, stores sell these in bloom so people would buy them. That means the non-blooming rest period may come sooner than you expected.

Prune off any bad looking leaves at anytime with scissors, don’t pull at them. The leaves that rest on the pot may get damaged/bent with age, promptly remove them if this happens.

Talk to your African Violet, it likes to listen to your problems… (it certainly also wants your CO2)

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design

Grasses for Autumn Color

fall grasses

Panicum โ€˜Heavy Metalโ€™
Panicum โ€˜Heavy Metalโ€™

Many folks think of trees and shrubs for fall color, however ornamental grasses also offer exceptional autumn color. Here’s a great list of grasses to add to your garden designs.

(Click here for Perennials with autumn color)

Grasses offering RED autumn colors:
  • Imperata โ€˜Red Baronโ€™ โ€“ Japanese blood grass – under 2 feet โ€“ Foliage turns red in late summer โ€“ Plume-less
  • Miscanthus โ€˜Adagioโ€™ โ€“ dwarf maiden grass โ€“ 3 feet high โ€“ Plumes emerge pink, then turns to white
  • Miscanthus โ€˜Grazellaโ€™ โ€“ maiden grass โ€“ 5-6 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns red in early fall – White plumes in August
  • Miscanthus โ€˜ Purpurascensโ€™ โ€“ flame grass โ€“ 3-5 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns red in mid-summer, changing to deep burgundy in fall โ€“ Cottony plumes in August
  • Panicum โ€˜Ruby Ribbonsโ€™ โ€“ switch grass โ€“ 3-4 feet high โ€“ Foliage becomes red-wine colored by mid summer – Plumes appear in late summer
  • Panicum โ€˜Prairie Fireโ€™ โ€“ switch grass hybrid โ€“ 4-5 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns deep red in early summer โ€“ Rosy panicles in late summer

    Miscanthus โ€˜Morning Lightโ€™
    Miscanthus โ€˜Morning Lightโ€™
  • Schizachyrium scoparium โ€“ little bluestem โ€“ 2-3 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns red-bronze in fall โ€“ Plumes are silvery-white in August
Grasses offering ORANGE autumn colors:
  • Sesleria autumnalis โ€“ moor grass โ€“ 12-18 inches high โ€“ Foliage turns warm rust in fall โ€“ Plumes appear summer into fall
  • Miscanthus โ€˜Nipponโ€™ โ€“ maiden grass โ€“ 4 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns red-orange in fall โ€“ Reddish-bronze panicles develop in August
  • Sporobolus heterolepsis โ€“ prairie dropseed โ€“ 2-3 feet high โ€“ Foliage is fragrant and turns rust colored in fall
Grasses offering BURGUNDY autumn colors:
  • Panicum โ€˜Rotstrahlbuschโ€™ โ€“ red switch grass โ€“ 3-4 feet high โ€“ Foliage emerges green with red tips, depending on the weather, may develop burgundy hue โ€“ Scarlet-red panicles emerge in mid summer
  • Panicum โ€˜Shenandoahโ€™ โ€“ red switch grass โ€“ 4 feet high โ€“ Foliage develops burgundy tips in early summer โ€“ Burgundy panicles appear in mid summer

    Panicum โ€˜Heavy Metalโ€™
    Panicum โ€˜Heavy Metalโ€™
  • Miscanthus โ€˜Morning Lightโ€™ โ€“ variegated maiden grass โ€“ 4 feet high – Foliage remains variegated โ€“ Burgundy plumes fade to cream color
  • Miscanthus โ€˜Silver Featherโ€™ or โ€˜Silberfederโ€™ โ€“ maiden grass โ€“ 6 feet – Foliage blends into burgundy, purple, and gold โ€“ Silver plumes in late summer
Grasses offering YELLOW autumn color:
  • Molinia โ€˜Dauerstrahlโ€™ or โ€˜Faithful Rayโ€™ โ€“ purple moor grass โ€“ 2 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns yellow in early fall
  • Molinia caerulea โ€˜Strahlenquelleโ€™ or โ€˜Source of Raysโ€™ –ย  purple moor grass – 1 1/2 – 2 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns golden yellow in fall โ€“ Purplish plumes appear from July through October
  • Molinia โ€˜Skyracerโ€™ โ€“ tall purple moor grass โ€“ 7-8 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns golden yellow in fall โ€“ Airy, copper-gold plumes appear in July and August
  • ย โ€“ switch grass โ€“ 3-5 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns bright yellow in fall โ€“ Pink plumes develop into buff colored seed heads
  • ย Panicum โ€˜Northwindโ€™ โ€“ switch grass โ€“ 5-6 feet high โ€“ Foliage turns golden yellow in fall โ€“ Seed heads are small

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design

Perennials For Autumn Color

autumn fern

When folks think of autumn color, trees are surely their first thought. However, not many folks realize that there are some perennials that put on a pretty good show at the end of the season also. So, if you’re the kind of gardener that wants the most bang-for-their-buck out of their herbaceous plants, here’s a list for you!

Click here for Autumn Color GRASSES!

Yellow Autumn Color


Yellow is probably the most common color for fall foliage on perennials. In fact, the leaves of many perennials will turn yellow before they go dormant or disappear for the winter however, here are some tried and true yellows for fall.

Amsonia tabernamontana – Blue Star

Amsonia ciliata – Downy Blue Star

Amsonia hubrechtii – Arkansas Blue Star

Sensitive Fern – Onoclea sensibilis


Royal Fern – Osmunda regalis

Autumn Joy Stonecrop – Sedum

Solmon’s Seal – Polygonatum

Balloon Flower – Platycodon

Hostas – I feel the variegated ones put on the best shows


Monkshood – Aconitum

Variegated Solomon’s Seal – Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum

Red Autumn Color

Red fall color tends to be the most brilliant color in the garden, it also tends to be the most variable, and sadly not as reliable.

Leadwort – Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Beardtongue – Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’

Japanese Painted Fern – Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’

Prairie Smoke – Geum triflorum


Peonies – Paeonia

Pigsqueak – Bergenia

Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis

Barrenwort – Epimedium

Gooseneck loosestrife – Lysimachia clethroides

Virginia creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia


Columbine – Aquilegia

Bloodred Geranium – Geranium sanguineumย  – Above all, a sure bet for red foliage.

Orange Autumn Color

Swamp Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata

Blazing star – Liatris

Perennials That Mimic Autumn Foliage Colors All Season:

Lastly, there are many colored foliage plants being created in many different species. However, here’s some of the more well known ones.

Heuchera Heucherella Mix
Heuchera Heucherella Mix

Arisaema triphyllum -Jack-in-the-pulpit – Has a bright red seedhead.

Actaea – (aka Cimicifuga) – Some have black foliage.

Heuchera – Range from yellow to orange to red to purple (Coral Bells)

Heucherella – Encompasses many colors from red to orange to yellow to purple (Foamy Bells)

Tiarella – Leaves range in color from purple to red to yellow (Foamflower)

Thalictrum – Some have black stems with yellow leaves.

Ligularia – Many types have dark stems and foliage.

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design

Happy Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the 13th!! Do you have Paraskevidekatriaphobia or just the run of the mill Triskaidekaphobia?

Itโ€™s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do. .. However, you could always stay home and cuddle-up with your internet device and read my posts all day!! =-)

Traditionally in numerology, 12 is considered the number of completeness: the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 Apostles, 12 hours of the clock, the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 days of Christmas โ€“ the list goes on. The number 13 is considered a transgression, or going beyond completeness.

There are many historical tales as to why either Friday or the number 13 are bad news:
  • Frigga (Frigg) The Norse love goddess and wife of Odin, was worshiped on the sixth day of the week. Christians though of Frigga as a witch, thus considered Friday to be the witches’ day.
  • Another Norse legend tells of one fine day in Valhalla, home to the 12 Norse gods, a party was taking place.ย  Loki (the trickster) crashed the party (13th guest) and arranged for Hoder (the blind god of darkness) to kill Baldr (the beautiful god of light) with a mistletoe-tipped arrow, his only way to die. After Baldrโ€™s death, the world got dark and mourned the death of the god. After that, the number 13 has been associated with gloom and doom.
  • The Last Supper was believed to be attended by thirteen people. The thirteenth being Judas. (That story sounds familiar?) Oh, don’t forget, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
  • Eve’s offering the apple to Adam in the Garden of Eden, supposedly happened on a Friday.
  • Chaucer even alluded to Friday as a day on which bad things seemed to happen in the Canterbury Tales as far back as the late 14th century (“And on a Friday fell all this mischance”), but references to Friday as a day connected with ill luck generally start to show up in Western literature around the mid-17th century: “Now Friday came, you old wives say, Of all the week’s the unluckiest day.” ย  (1656)
So, what can be done to avoid the curse of Friday the 13th? Maybe try starting out your Friday with one of these folklore curse remedies.*frida 13th
  • Climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them
  • Stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle
  • Greeks think sponge baths cure you of curses
  • Spitting on the person or thing causing the curse will rid it
  • Place a black candle into the black bowl, fix the candle to the bowl using the wax drippings from the candle so that it stands alone. Fill the bowl to the rim with fresh water, without wetting the wick. Breathe deeply and meditate for a few minutes. When your mind is clear, light the candle. Visualize the power the spell cast against you as living within the candles flame. As the candle burns down, it will sputter and go out as it touches the water. The curse is broken when the flames go out. Finally, dig a hole into the ground, pour the water into it, then bury the candle.
Dr. Donald Dossey, author of “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments,” thinks he’s found the cure. Once a sufferer learns how to pronounce “paraskavedekatriaphobia,” he said in an interview with NPR, they’re magically cured.
* I found these answers on the internet. Thus, since I found these on the internet, they surely must be true and factualย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Feng Shui Garden Design

Feng shui garden design

Feng Shui originated in China approximately 6,000 years ago. Feng Shui involves the arrangement of objects in relation to the flow of Qi (Chi, ๆฐฃ) โ€œnatural energyโ€ to bring about happiness, abundance and harmony. Literally, Feng Shui translates to โ€œwindโ€ (Feng) and โ€œwaterโ€ (Shui).

There are many types of Feng Shui, however this post will describe one of the original forms called โ€œCompass Schoolโ€. This form uses โ€œPatterns of Chiโ€ which involves the use of a compass, hence the name.Bagua

Feng Shui uses the 8 directions of the compass represented by the 8 outer squares with the center square represents the center of your life.

Each compass direction has certain colors and elements associated with it: earth, water, wood, metal or fire (The 5 Elements). These colors and elements are used in the design to balance and harmonize the garden. Each of these areas is called a โ€œguaโ€ in Chinese. โ€œBaโ€ means eight, therefore the โ€œBaguaโ€ means 8 areas.

Feng Shui is a concept you don’t learn in one reading. Mastery of the craft can take years of learning. However, the chart (or following verbiage) can give you a great start to the structure of your Feng Shui garden or spruce-up your current one. There are a variety of tools available in Feng Shui to unblock energy and balance the garden (and your life). So, if you feel you need some help in a certain area of your life, accent that specific qua.

  • Color adds emotional, physiological and social content to our lives. We associate certain things with color, such as holidays, events and emotions. In Feng Shui, color is primarily used to correspond and balance The 5 Elements.
  • Natural lighting is a simple way to bring more chi into your garden. Clearly, the most natural of light is sunlight and moonlight, which the garden has in spades. However, to supplement at night, use full-spectrum landscape lighting or fireplaces/pits work also.
  • Sound creates a strong connection to our natural environment. Attracting birds and other friendly wildlife can create a flurry of noises. Water features such as fountains and ponds will stimulate the movement of chi in and around your garden.
  • Any type of art can enhance chi. The selection and placement of art depends on what area of the bagua (8 areas) you need to activate. Your choice of art should reflect your specific tastes and relate positive images and feelings. Try to patch the art’s material with the element of the qua.
  • Plants and objects that utilize the wind such as grasses, large-leafed trees, wind chimes, mobiles and weather vanes attract chi into your garden.
How to enhance the 8 squares of the bagua:

NORTHrock water fall

  • Energy: This area represents your career or your path in life
  • Element: Water
  • Color: Blue or black
  • Type of adornment: Natural stone features or rocks with water

NORTHEASTzen garden

  • Energy: Corresponds to your personal, spiritual and educational growth
  • Element: Earth
  • Color: Yellow, brown, pink (other earthy tones)
  • Type of adornment: Bench to practice mindfulness or a Zen garden

EASTWooden bridge

  • Energy: Symbolizes the family and your health
  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Green
  • Type of adornment: Anything made from wood

SOUTHEASTWood sculpture

  • Energy: Represents wealth and opportunity in your life
  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Purple, green, red, blue and gold
  • Type of adornment: Wooden garden art or wood pile for burning

SOUTHswings at firepit

  • Energy: Symbolizes fame, success and recognition
  • Element: Fire
  • Color: Red
  • Type of adornment: A BBQ, fire pit or candles

SOUTHWESTdining area

  • Energy: Brings love, relationships or peace
  • Element: Earth
  • Color: Brown, white, pink, yellow, red
  • Type of adornment: Patio with table for dining

WESTyoga area

  • Energy: Is for creativity and dreaming
  • Element: Metal
  • Color: White, silver, gray or copper
  • Type of adornment: Jungle-gym, yoga/work-out spot or art area

NORTHWESToutdoor seating

  • Energy: Corresponds to travel and helping people
  • Element: Metal
  • Color: Gray, white, black, anything metallic in color
  • Type of adornment: Sitting area for family and friends

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design

Autumn Annual Containers

Autumn Pot

My favorite season is on its way, AUTUMN!!! Which also means it’s time for autumn annual containers.

The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller!

  • Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest.
  • Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of โ€˜fatter or fullerโ€™ stature.
  • Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

The only small difference you need to remember is that autumn plants do not grow like summer plants do. Basically, WYSIWYG (what you see, is what you get), you do not need to think about a plant growing into itโ€™s place. Fill the pot to itโ€™s greatest extent because this container will only be around for two months at best.

Here’s a great tip when using grasses: There’s no need to plant them! Wire, tie or tape them together right at the base (think ponytail), and stuff them in. Therefore, no high-end real estate being wasted on another bundle of roots.

Most autumn plants are also not that tall. I use grasses, sticks and other material to get the height the design requires.

Hereโ€™s what I commonly order for my autumn containers:
  • Miscanthus grasses โ€“ These add great height & texture
  • Pennisetum millet โ€“ Height & texture, fuzzy seedheads.
  • Heuchera โ€“ Coral bells โ€“ Great colored leaves available
  • Acorus & Carex โ€“ A nice bright yellow or white for a great spiller
  • Sedums โ€“ Great for spillers
  • Ajuga โ€“ Nice texture
  • Rudbeckia โ€“ Great reds, yellows and oranges available, also great for height
  • Kale โ€“ It comes in many varieties from cabbage/round style to tall parsley-looking
  • Osaka Cabbage โ€“ A staple in most of my designs. Fills those โ€˜holesโ€™ really well
  • Swiss Chard โ€“ A wonderful filler that is very colorful also
  • Mums โ€“ Surely the official fall flower!!! Great filler
  • Calibracoa โ€“ They look like small petunias, but can handle the cooler temps. Great spiller
  • Ivy โ€“ Sometimes I reuse the ivy from the summer containers (Shhh) as it still looks great and itโ€™s much bigger than the newly ordered pots
  • Ornamental Jerusalem Cherry โ€“ Looks like a tomato plant, but use with caution, they donโ€™t take the cool weather well & the โ€˜cherriesโ€™ fall off
  • Ornamental peppers โ€“ Great way to splash in some color to the filler section (No, you can’t eat them!)
  • Crotons โ€“ One of my favs! Great for a colorful thriller
  • Pansy โ€“ These cool season flowers look great and add great color to the pot
  • Bittersweet or honeysuckle โ€“ This one is not alive, but it is a great finishing touch to the design. Unfortunately, it is a very invasive species, but is grown for the floral industry. I wish someone would get a business together where they would โ€˜wild collectโ€™ this and do a โ€˜two-ferโ€™ for society, invasive removal & design enjoyment
  • Eucalyptus, magnolia leaves, corn and millet – Wonderful for height and fill

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design

Keeping Cut Flowers Blooming Strong

Cut flower arrangement

Keeping your cut flowers as fresh for as long as possible is easy with this list of tips.

First, choose a clean vase or container for your arrangement. For hard-to-clean narrow-necked containers, simply add dried beans or coarse salt to the vase with water and swish. Here in limestone land (alkaline), I use some vinegar to rid the vases of white spots (calcium).

There are other options to using a vase, florist foam (called florist oasis). If the blooms are of a taller variety, a disk of chicken wire pushed into the neck will help hold them straight. Rocks, pebbles, or florist colored-jelly balls can help hold stems upright also.

The best time to harvest flowers from your garden is in the early morning when moisture is at itโ€™s highest. When purchasing flowers from the store, never place them in a rear-window of a car, a windy location or where the sun hits them. Wrapping them in damp newspaper or paper towel will help them stay hydrated.

Aside from trimming off all leaves that could potentially be in the vase water, it is always good practice to trim at least an inch off the stem before arranging, if possible, cut under water. In addition to these two practices, here are some special treatments for some floral arrangement favorites:

Clemantis = Pour boiling water over the stems, then place them in cold water. Another choice would be to dip them in champagne for a few hours before arranging in vase. (Drink leftover champagne… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Daffodils = Cut them in bud or barely open. Fill the hollow stems with water and plug with a small amount of cotton. This works for all hollow stemmed flowers. (delphinium, amaryllis). Don’t put other flowers with them, they give off chemicals harmful to other flowers.

Dahlias = Never cut in tight bud, as they will not open.

Poppies = Harvest while still in bud. Sear the base with a lighter or by dipping in boiling water.

Gladioli = Cut when lowest floret is opening, and remove a few of the top buds.

Hellebores & Lilacs = Smash or split the stems before arranging in vase. This technique works for all woody type flowers.

Lilies = Harvest while still in bud. As flowers open, trim off anthers to prevent the pollen from staining anything nearby.

Marigolds = When re-cutting stem, trim exactly at a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Condition the flowers before adding them to the main arrangement by setting them in a vase for an hour with a tablespoon each of sugar and bleach.

Pansies = Submerge flowers one to two hours in tepid water to revive. They also fair better when a few leaves are left on.

Peonies = Cut them when the buds are half open and coloring. Slit the stems one to two inches to aid with water uptake.

Tulips = Add a few drops of vodka to keep them from drooping. I like to add some vodka to my drink, too.

Clearly, arranging cut flowers could lead to getting tipsy ๐Ÿ˜‰ Be safe out there!!

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design


Homemade Dirty Chai Latte

Chai tea ingredients

Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than a sip from a dirty chai latte! However, I’m not a big fan of the high cost or shoddy attempts some coffee shops make… I’ve literally see some pour it out of a box! The horror!

I finally started experimenting with making my own dirty chai latte. It took a few tries, however I finally tweaked it to amazing.

Ingredients for Basic Chai Tea:

I found all of the ingredients at Amazon.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups black tea powder (TEAki Hut Instant Black Tea Powder)

Dirty Chai LatteThis is your basic chai tea recipe. It can be made in many ways. Mixing a teaspoon or two in hot water is the easiest way to make it, however it packs a powerful punch.

I make mine in my Mr. Coffee!

I use 3 teaspoons of chai mix for an eight cup pot. I also add two tablespoons of espresso to the filter.

After brewing, add your favorite sweetener and creamer. Done!

Add these Ingredients to Make Chai Latte MIX:

If you’d like to make the recipe fully out of powdered ingredients, continue with these.

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 cup powdered nondairy creamer
  • 1 cup French vanilla-flavored powdered nondairy creamer
How About these Options:

Chocolate Chai Mix: Add 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa along with dry milk powder to the latte blend above. Follow serving directions above.

Chai Shake: Blend 1/8 cup Chai Tea Mix, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 cups vanilla ice cream in a blender.

White Chocolate Chai: Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped premium white chocolate to your cup of Chai Tea Mix.

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design

Plants That Tantalize All 5 Senses

When designing wellness gardens (or any garden for that matter), I prefer to use plants that tantalize all 5 senses.

Although most gardens look pretty, many don’t offer more than sight for sense stimulation.

The purpose of a wellness garden is to distract people from their current issues and to make them feel better. When senses are distracted by sights, sounds and smells, the mind can be easily swayed to relax and live in the moment.

Here are a few of my favorite plants, listed by the sense they arouse.

I see you:

These plants are all long blooming or have large blooms.

  • Phlox (all types)
  • Echinacea (coneflowers)
  • Hibiscus (moscheutos โ€“ perennial)
  • Heuchera (coral bells)
  • Gaillardia (blanket flower)


These plants all smell wonderful, some have scented foliage.

  • Monarda (beebalm)
  • Paeonia (peony)
  • Clematis (terniflora – Sweet Autumn)
  • Lavendula (lavender)
  • Hemerocallis (daylily โ€“ not all are fragrant)


These plants may need a bit of outside stimulus to create noise.

  • Chasmanthium (northern sea oats grass โ€“ rustles in wind )
  • Veronica (longifola spike โ€“ attracts noisy bees)
  • Baptisia (seedpods knock in wind)
  • Fargesia (hardy bamboo โ€“ poles bump in wind)
  • Hosta (large leaves amplify rain)


These plants are all edible and safe to eat. (Click here for more edible flowers)

  • Borago (officinalis tastes like cucumbers)
  • Nasturtiums (have a peppery bite)
  • Viola (violet – the leaves & flowers )
  • Dianthus (cheddar pinks – taste like cloves)
  • Trifolium (clover – tastes like honey)


These plants all have interesting textures or have other interesting sensations.

  • Artemisia (wormwood โ€“ so soft and fluffy)
  • Sedum (many different textures)
  • Ferns (great leaf structures)
  • Liatris (gayfeather โ€“ furry spike flowers)
  • Physostegia (obedient plant โ€“ flowers can be moved)

What are some plants that tantalize your 5 senses?

ยฉ Wellness Garden Design