Published December 14th, 2016
Digging Deep
By Cynthia Brian
Fiddle leaf fig is decorated for the holidays. Photos Cynthia Brian
"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
No, the title "Pace Be With You" is a not a typo.
Halloween was a few weeks away when retail stores began showcasing Christmas goods. The day after Thanksgiving, Christmas carols were ubiquitous with garlands, wreaths, Santa statues and twinkling lights adorned every space. As much as I love the Holidays, I detest the commercialization. My sanctuary during this chaotic period is to spend quality time in a garden where the flora and fauna abide by the terms of Mother Nature. Here, there is a natural rhythm to life. When we adopt an attitude of patience and pace ourselves, peace is the result. Being in nature will help you achieve these secrets of living mindfully.
I recently rested and rejuvenated on the verdant Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where life operates at slower pace. The lush rainforests surrounded by sparkling aqua seas envelope this tiny oasis, providing a prescription for mindful meditation focused on nature. The wonders of marine life with reefs vibrant and alive with coral and fish compliment the rich tropical jungles filled with the sounds and sights of birds, reptiles, and exotic creatures. Walking through the botanical gardens is a sensory experience, definitely a sublime forest-bathing experience in the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku. Everywhere I looked I witnessed what we refer to as "houseplants" growing naturally in the rainforest and on the Pitons. Peace lilies, anthuriums, poinsettias, pothos, ferns, tillansia air plants, gingers, philodendrons and palms-all happily communed in this natural setting. To see the symbiotic relationship between vines, trees, shrubs and other plants assured me that planet Earth has a will to survive. Whether the weather was monsoon raining or brilliant sunshine, being in such a pristine environment far removed from the maddening crowd gave me reason to pause, pace and peace out!
Now that the chilly days and colder nights have halted any successful outdoor planting project, it's time to bring a festive and healthy touch to your indoor dĒcor with living tropicals. The plants from the rain forest will remove toxins, improve the air quality, and add beauty as colorful accents since during winter months when more time is spent inside. On the larger specimens like the fiddle leaf fig, you can wrap Christmas lights and sprinkle ornaments, pinecones, garlands or toppers to celebrate the season.
Staying healthy this season:
Gearing up for holiday meals may cause you to think of your waistline, but by considering the nutritional values of the foods, you'll be able to devour with delight.
Roasting butternut squash brings out its natural sweetness. It can be paired with garlic, rosemary, cumin, coriander seeds and peppers for a healthy savory dish or, for a sweeter rendition, add nutmeg and cinnamon. (In St. Lucia, every time I asked a waiter what made a particular dish so delicious, the answer would be "the secret ingredient is nutmeg!" I came home with the nuts to grate.) Squash is a no-cholesterol fruit packed with fiber and is a major source of vitamin A, providing benefits for your heart, eyes and skin.
If you grew garlic, leeks and onions this year, you are enjoying the cancer-fighting properties of the chopping, smashing and dicing. These tasty alliums contain prebiotics (not to be confused with probiotics) that keep friendly bacteria in your intestines, help you absorb calcium, ward off colds, flu and heart disease, while lowering blood pressure. Add fresh garlic to your salads and sides for an extra health boost.
Beans are nutritional powerhouses loaded with vitamin K for bone health, fiber for digestion, folate for energy and magnesium for brains. Eat fresh green beans (never canned, unless you canned your fresh produce) and you'll be fired up with antioxidants.
Sweet potatoes are very easy to grow and just one cup fulfills your daily ration of vitamin A necessary for vision and bone growth. If you are concerned about combating wrinkles, the vitamins in sweet potatoes decrease creases while hydrating and repairing your skin.
Eat your spuds cold because when potatoes are cooked and cooled, they release "resistant starch", a fiber that actually aids in burning fat.
The antioxidants in red wine decrease heart disease and protect against cancer. Share a bottle of Lamorinda wine at your holiday feast to extend your life and your relationships!
Pumpkin pie is not only delicious. It is good for your complexion with its commanding antioxidants. One slice delivers four grams of fiber. Go ahead and have a second slice.
Cynthia Brian's Mid-month Gardening Tips
BUY bulbs on sale. Many nurseries and garden centers are selling bulbs 50-75 percent off retail because it is generally accepted that the planting is over. However, I plant bulbs through the end of January because our Mediterranean climate seems to keep the soil a bit warmer. Tulips are always a special treat, although we usually only get one to two years from a bulb. Alliums are a great choice because the deer won't eat them and the blooms are terrific as a cut flower. For the fragrant scent, nothing beats hyacinth; however always wear gloves when planting these bulbs as many people exhibit skin allergies to hyacinth.
MOW your lawn only every two weeks in the winter with the mower at 3.5-inches.
SPREAD seeds of a cover crop to add nitrogen and nutrients to a vegetable plot.
DECORATE with tropical plants in varying sizes to dazzle and sparkle. The great thing about tropicals is how easy they are to grow and how long the blooms last. Read the instructions and enjoy the rainforest benefits.
SPRAY-paint end-of-season gourds and pumpkins with gold, silver or bronze for an entry arrangement with pinecones and evergreen branches.
DONATE to your favorite nonprofit for an end of year tax deduction while making the life of someone else more pleasant. Please consider our local youth 501(c)(3) charity, Be the Star You Are!(r),
STAY healthy by eating fresh fruits and vegetables in season such as pomegranate, persimmon, oranges, tangerines, lemons, winter squash, kale, potatoes and lots of lettuces and herbs.
PACE yourself. Nature is slowly going to sleep and this gives gardeners a chance to revitalize, refresh, restore and renew. You've worked hard all year. Give yourself the gift of peace.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, and hallowed holiday month. Patience and peace be with you!
Happy growing! Happy gardening!

Bird of Paradise grows in our environment.
Ginger plants in a variety of colors.
Spray painted gourds and mini pumpkins with pinecones inside a child's wheelbarrow.
The exotic golden shrimp plant can be found as an indoor tropical.

Reach the reporter at:

Copyright Lamorinda Weekly, Moraga CA