The Aromatic Garden

Have you ever taken a walk through the forest taking in the sights, when you realize that the scents are as powerful an impact at the visual?  As you hike the trails or walk the path, the piney scent that is crushed underfoot or the cedar you brushed against in a narrowing of the trail infuses the senses and makes a memory.  The brushy sages that keep their perfume a secret until you pinch a leaf or break a branch in passing only adds to the discovery of your visual journey. 

Trees, shrubs, grasses, herbs, flowers all speak to us with beauty, while some speak with “scents”.  They actually wake our sleeping sensory emotions and in doing so, plant or solicit a memory.  Plants can have a scent that pushes us away, or lifts us up, takes us back, or compels us.  Essential oils can calm, revive, make you more alert, or clear your sinuses.  They have power in their fragrance, as do the plants they are derived from.  That is why your aromatic garden will be unique to you since fragrances affect your mood and can convey an array of emotions.  Scientifically, our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of our brain, the virtual seat of emotion.

It will be your scratch and sniff place that brings you peace, joy and contentment.  It will be very personally pleasing with all your favorite fragrances that charge your battery, calm your nerves, or solicit memories.

Planning this garden will be a journey of its own.  When you explore nurseries, forests, gardens, you will need to take notes of what pleases your senses.  It can be a rose, or rosemary…it can be cedar or bay leaves, lemony or sweet, savory, minty, or fruity.  The possibilities are endless. 

You can start by defining a space in your garden, or inter-mingling your aromatics with other plantings.  It’s all up to you.   Begin with intention … as you create your unique space, perhaps leaving a room for a seat or two.  It can lead to a lifetime adventure of discovery that feeds your soul and speaks to your heart.

I’ve listed a few plants that can get you started, but they are merely suggestions.  I hope this “scratch & sniff” experiment brings you joy!

Till our next time together…


The Aromatic Garden Suggestion List


Salvia clevelandii

Lemon verbena

Scented Geranium



Fragrant Roses

Pink Jasmine vine

White Sage

Lemon grass

Plectrantus amboinicus (Cuban Oregano)

Helichrysum italicum


The Succulent Sea Garden

Living in San Diego brings  trips to the beach, boogie boarding, surfing, building sand castles and long walks on the beach.  Whether you are young or old we are drawn to the sound of surf and sea gulls.  The salty sea air is the first hint we are getting close to the shore.

Some years ago, Tom & I went to the Del Mar Fair and Jeff Moore had done this amazing undersea design with succulents, and cacti that left me spellbound.  I wasn’t a fan of succulents (especially cacti) at the time.  No attraction what so ever!  Then, that day at the fair…I was transformed.  Being a beach lover and avid fan of those nature shows on TV that let you explore the depths of the ocean, viewing all the plants and creatures below amazing splendor, I became hooked on the marine life under the sea.  It’s so compelling and peaceful.  The thought of creating that look on land was exciting.

Tom and I took a trip to Kauai for our vacation one year and I got to try snorkeling.  I was just a beginner, but was captured by the amazing fish I could swim along with underwater.  Being more accomplished at free diving, Tom got to see more wonders of the deep than I, enjoying being at one with the underwater world…plants, turtles, etc. and I can’t wait to try again someday.

Living here at “Waterwise Botanicals” it gets more than a little hot in the summertime.  My thoughts ramble to cooler places and my feet want to take long seaside walks at the beach while wandering the nursery taking photos. I recently started noticing the plants that would be good for designing into a Succulent Sea Garden…or Seascape.  Just thinkin’ I must need a little beach fusion!  With that thought in mind, I have put together some photos for you to imagine a sea garden on land, one that can emotionally transport you to the depths of the ocean while you are still at home.

 You would need to start with preparing your garden by creating some variations in topography, some highs and lows to help resemble the undersea formations.  Then place your selected plants in natural looking positions as though you were looking underwater.  I’d suggest using some large and small pieces of lava rock in your planting along with gravel and sand & crushed lava rock for a dressing. Shells could also enhance the vision you are creating…maybe drifts of small shells.

Below are some plant specimens to light up your imagination.  You will also find some fun photos of Jeff’s seascape at the fair the day I was so visually transported underwater by the use of succulents and cacti that I fell in love with these remarkable plants.

I am a big fan of Jeff Moore who has a nursery in Solana Beach, does beautiful designs and has written and done the photography for several books on Succulents.  Bob Wigland did the photography on our “featured photo at the top of the page…one from he fair almost 20 years ago.  He is an accomplished photographer in horticulture, an is now doing wildlife photos as well.   Enjoy the succulent slide show…till next time,

                                                                             Jackie Jesch



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Don’t Worry….”Bee” Happy

Don’t Worry….”Bee” Happy


After what seems like months…the sun came out the other day and I found an energy emerging that had been buried in the gloom.  I wandered into the yard and felt the warmth and beautiful glow of an old friend.   

    I saw a couple of butterflies lighting on flowers in my wildflower garden and on a rose under the bedroom window…then as I watch them, a bird flew into the yard and landed on a bush, then moved to the tree and back down to some low growing geraniums.  As I stood there absorbing the feel of my bare feet in the dew covered grass, I heard a soft hum and looked around the garden only to discover that bees were at play… going from flower to flower, from geranium blossoms to roses.  There was a time when I would have run from the bees, not wanting to get stung.  But instead, I have learned that they are just going about their business and we can and should share our garden.  Their buzz…or hum, as I call it, is music in the garden as much as the birds singing.  Together they harmonize quite nicely and it feels comforting as I enjoy my morning in the garden. 

It made me wonder at the greater significance of these visitors, so I began a little research on the web.  Oddly enough…that’s when I discovered that there is an upcoming week set aside to celebrate our little helpers, but I learned a few other interesting facts to ponder.  These pollinators…or the few I recognize, help keep our crops producing, thereby keeping our planet fed.   Some of the other pollinators are Hummingbirds, Flies, Lemurs, Honey Possums, Lizards, Beetles (lady bugs J), Moths, and Bats.  According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, these hard-working animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants, and nearly 75% of our crops.  Often we are oblivious as they go about their work, yet without them, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds, and we would miss many fruits, vegies and nuts, like blueberries, squash and almonds, PLUS Chocolate and Coffee!   

I also discovered the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture sites that during the past 30+ years, our nation’s pollinator populations have suffered serious losses due to invasive pests and diseases, exposure to pesticides and chemicals, and loss of habitat.  One quote from this article says “Without pollinators, we don’t eat—it’s simple as that.”   I’d say that’s pretty alarming!

I found some ways we can all help the situation from the Natural Resources Conservation Service listed below. 

Here is a list of seven ways to make your garden a haven for native pollinators:                           

  • Use pollinator-friendly plants in your landscape.
  • Add a mixture of plants for spring, summer and fall with different colors, shapes, and scents to attract a wide variety of pollinators.  Adding plants to containers on a patio or in window boxes can help!
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape. Always use pesticides sparingly if possible and responsibly.
  • Accept some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.
  • Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, or birdbath using half-submerged stones for perches.
  • Leave dead tree trunks, in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles.
  • Support land conservation in your community by helping to create and maintain community gardens and green spaces to ensure that pollinators have adequate habitat.

It was enlightening to learn more about the roll these visitors to my garden play in the bigger picture pollination makes to our food chain.  Most of the time I just enjoy them as part of the sensory experience…their song, their beauty, or flight, not giving a deeper thought to their existence, but this adventure opened my eyes and helped me to more appreciate my nature buddies.  I hope it encourages you to learn more about the plight of our pollinators and share it with your kids and grand kids, or fellow gardeners.

Till next time…

                                                                        Jackie Jesch

The Meaning of Springtime


Not only is springtime a season, but, according to the dictionary, it is “the early part or first stage of something”.  Are you in the “springtime” of something? …a project of remodeling the house, redecorating, planning a trip, or maybe a relationship? 

Beginnings can be exciting…or they may be tough… changes in a loved one’s health, a change in finances, a difficult move, or a loss of a job.  But, if we hold on to all the beauty of the season, we can learn that we can look forward to blossoming in the process.  Often, starting a journal is a great new opportunity for self- exploration, something I have done many times, only to abandon in the swirl of everyday life & its adventures, or busyness, or demands.  I sometimes wonder what it would be like to pick up my old journal and imagine the thoughts & feelings I could have explored…the mistakes I could have predicted, and the opportunities I passed up.  Oh…what I could learn from pages never written! 

This spring, I choose to blossom.  I want to learn something new, choose to make a difference in the world around me, take a class and renew some old loves I have let go.  I used to play tennis, doubles for the most part, but now with a resolved back issue, I have been thinking I might give it a try…ease back into it and see if the joy of a great serve, volley or return still brings the excitement I remember.

After all the rain we have had recently, I’ve been itching to get out into my yard and do some rejuvenation.  When I was out in the unexpected sunshine the other day, I was surprised by the blossoms on our Red Bud tree…and then our apple, and the peach tree too!  They gifted me with the most rare, joyful, unexpected moment.  Now, I’ve got to find a vase …a large one for the cut branches I plan to bring inside. 

One day this week, I pulled out of the garage and looked into my eclectic flower garden in the front of the house, and discovered brilliant orange Poppies.  I suddenly felt the need to plant colorful perennials in every bleak and unadorned spot I could find. 

I absolutely yearn to take off on a site seeing jaunt to see the wildflowers announcing spring in all their glory…like the many Facebook posts I’ve seen lately.  They look breathtaking with all the glorious colors.  I suddenly feel spring gives us the ability, to face, overcome, and embrace whatever challenges come our way with new life.

So, I’d like to encourage you to be Daffodils, Poppies, and Wildflowers this spring and brighten your world…take that hike, ride that wave, make that move, take that chance, start that class, ski that mountain.  Let’s blossom together. 

Till next time,


The Wonder of the Winter Garden



Southern California is a great place to live…you can have snow in the mountains, and still have a great day on the beach, or in your garden, where most of us can frequently be found.  The winter season does not stop us from enjoying what we love most…getting out into our gardens!  Yes, even maintenance excites us.  I love to zip up my sweat shirt and do some pruning, but as I do…the creative part of my brain is visualizing colors, varieties…changes for the coming year.  It could be as simple as adding a bird bath, or a search for a piece of garden art.  Literally, I look through antique or salvage/vintage stores hunting for the right quirky find for my garden.  Who knows what interesting item I might discover?  It can be anything that strikes me with a fire of inspiration. 

We are all familiar with the usual maintenance items for winter, but as we go about those tasks, we are working our muscles, breathing in the fresh air and (I like to think of us as artists) creating a fresh start with a list of what we need …fertilizer…a new pruner…some interesting rock?  The therapy begins as we work. We solve problems that have been giving us a twitch at the corn of our eye, or giving us a stomach ache.  We start to feel joy spring to life…a smile start to take shape as wrinkles between our eyes relax and begin to disappear.

No matter what kind of landscape or garden you have, something is blooming and something needs to go!  It’s a lot like life, right?  Before you know it, I’ve filled trash cans with clippings and leaves, snipped vines that have invaded their boundaries, removed and renovated to make room for change, considered painting the iron table by the chaise lounges with a new color, and decided to try that new recipe for dinner.  It’s a marvelous feeling, isn’t it!  As we make room for our gardens to change and experience new growth, we do too!

Locally, in Southern California, Aloes are blooming beautifully with brilliant orange color in the winter. It’s especially striking when I walk through the nursery around sunset and see the orange all around me… the sky, the Euphorbia tirucalli, Aloes in bloom and the reflection of it all in the ponds! 

I’ve always loved Iris and have a few patches of them in the back of the house that need some thinning out.  They surprise me with their varied colors, and their graceful, ruffled petals each year. 







 Roses seem to be individuals needing pruning intermittently, but for the most part, all roses like a good trim in the winter, growing back quickly with fresh foliage and flowers. 

This is a season when Succulents are stressed by the cold, giving them surprising color ranges, however if you live in an area that gets much frost, be careful of your varieties and cover them when the temperatures dip.  Sage and Rosemary like cool weather and perform quite well here in the winter, as well as my amazing orange, black-eyed Thunbergia vine that happily grows along a fence.  I call it my happy plant! 


Tagetes lemonii also gives winter a burst of golden daisy-like flowers that almost makes me feel a warmth glowing from it’s golden color. 


Leptospermum is bearing a flurry of tiny flowers like confetti at a New Year’s Party!  One of my favorite plants ever…Lavender, will soon start blooming.  I can almost close my eyes and imagine its scent.  I will be filling in some spots in my garden with it, so I can enjoy the scent through springtime, but it really doesn’t like the heat of summer here in North County.


This is also the time of year for planting Sweet Peas.  I have a passion for these amazing plants.  They are not forever, but some of the best things in life are not.  You need something for them to climb up, so I plant them next to a chain link fence dividing two spaces.  Some are hardier than others, but I get mine at Rogers Gardens in Newport Beach.  They come from England and are a wonder!  They are so strong; they must have been raised on super vitamins.  The drive to Newport is only about an hour or two depending on traffic, but it’s worth it for this great variety and picturesque destination.   The colors are magnificent and abundant, but you don’t get to see them until they bloom.  I choose them from a color chart at Rogers.  When they do bloom, I get bouquet after bouquet to enjoy with a scent that can only be called “heavenly”. 

Winter and white go together …I guess because it makes me think of snow.  I’d like to contemplate having a white garden someday, or maybe mostly white.  I love white gardens!  I find them enchanting.  You can blend whites, grey or pale green, both foliage and blooms to create a wondrous garden from the tall…to the small.  The fun is leaving some spaces to fill in with new varieties as you find them, leaving enough room for grace and surprises.

Speaking of surprises, we just spotted those beautifully stripped Caterpillars on our Milk Weed!  That was a happy surprise so early in the year… meaning we can look forward to getting Monarch Butterflies in the spring. 

I always enjoy our time together.  Wishing you a new year of surprises. 

                                                                                    Till next time,


A Wreath for all Seasons

A wreath on the door is welcoming, friendly and adds a touch of charm to your entry.  Before the door is even opened, it sends a hug or handshake to your guests.

Wreaths can have many personalities, so it’s good to pick one that represents you.  Take some time to choose the “bones” of your wreath.  I personally love the twig wreath.  It can represent all seasons with a few simple adjustments.

First you might need to browse the internet or hobby store for a wreath that has the basic structure and appearance you want to convey to your guests.  Of course, the option of buying one pre-assembled is a short cut you might want to consider.

Generally speaking you can find a very natural look of twigs, pine, leaves, etc. to enhance by wiring, or tying your adornments to the body of your wreath.  I prefer a light leafy look or a few grassy, or wild-flower, stems to dress my twiggy wreath.  A ribbon or cord of your choosing and a wreath hanger will are helpful support system items for your wreath. ( I have to admit I have a nail I pounded into the door in my excitement to hang a wreath one year, and it has been there ever since…and works just fine!)

You can get ideas from images on line, or magazines before you begin your process.  However, I’ve been known to emotionally engage on the spur of the moment while I walk the isles of the craft store or art mart grabbing rolls of ribbon, berries, dried leaves or flowers and grasses to intermingle as i begin to get inspired.  It’s such fun; I just get it and keep it for other projects (they make wrapping presents a lot more fun) or to change out my wreath’s appearance another time.

We have reached that ‘twixt time of year when we can decorate for fall, or falling into Christmas.  I’m planning on adding some Christmas twinkles to my wreath pictured above.  I love simple, so it may have very slender ribbon strands, snatches of berries and maybe some tin stars…or rustic bells.  I’m getting excited to start already, but I don’t want to rush Thanksgiving out the door before it begins.

I hope you enjoy your project…I always recommend making a cup of tea or hot chocolate, unless you prefer a glass of wine to enjoy while working on your wreath.  I’ve been known to put on an old classic movie or turn on some music to balance my manic creativity.  

PS…You might want to have a wreath making party!  Set a date, invite a few friends to join you and bring the bones, etc. for their wreath…set out your refreshments and make some memories. 

                                                                           till next time,



Fall…An Abundant, “Fun”tastic Season


From beginning to end, fall is a cornucopia full of fun.  Here in southern California the change in leaf color is barely noticeable, but you can find it in a few variety of trees.  Living near 034Fallbrook, I love the way the gold shines out on our little, windy roads that lead into town.  Even the local vineyards turn to gold.  Pumpkins begin to show up in front of grocery stores and Lavender Hill Pumpkin Farm opens with its amazing varieties in all shapes, sizes, and colors spreading throughout in their growing ground.  006 Mike is the seed collector and business man, while he is often joined by his wife who loves to play her guitar and sing folk songs for the children…and often adults find her enthusiasm delightful too!

I love to begin buying pumpkins to use for decorating  from September through November.  I feel like a kid in a candy shop as I begin to pick my pumpkins for their color, size or unusual Our patio table pumpkinspatterns.  I put them both in and out of the house to welcome the season.  Decorating with them can be an art in itself.  I love to use burlap or plaid fabrics in fall colors on tables, in wheel barrows, boxes or draped over cabinets or tables covered 028with nuts, gourds and…of course, pumpkins with big, fat candles or luminaries to add fall intrigue to the display.  Then, I bring out any wooden bowls or bright colored pottery I’ve gathered through the years to find the right look for my pumpkins.  I like to contrast oranges with deep blue and white.  Outdoors, they wind up in boxes, cuddled together on the patio, or randomly placed in the garden.  We have been known to take a little tip to central coast to visit “Avila Farms” to see their mounds of pumpkins and to “See Canyon Apples” to celebrate fall.

Then, in October we can add the fun of Apple Season!  I love to visit the Apple Farms in Oak Glen or have Apple pie in Julian.  I even begin making pumpkin bread and Fall Vac 09 021 apple pie as time allows.  On top of that we have Halloween to enjoy.  A soft plastic skeleton or bat finds it’s way to the garden or  front porch lending to the fun.  I formerly lived in a neighborhood where the mailbox was up by the door on our front porch deck.   When I had outgoing mail, I tucked a waxy, fake hand into the mailbox holding my outgoing mail to have a little fun with our mail carrier… OK, that might be going a little overboard, but it was fun and I had kids at home to enjoy my mischief.  Halloween is scary fun…a time for dressing up just to be silly and laugh…to pop out and go Boo!  I loved to hang the black cats, witches, and bat drawings the kids made on the fridge.  How about you?  

The fun still lives on through Thanksgiving with turkey, pumpkin and apple pie, corn-on-the cob, butternut squash, cornbread…should I continue?  It’s a “fun-tastic” time when the chill hits the air and the fireplaces get lit…when trips to the mountains bring fall tree colors, and hot cider…when friends gather and we feel thankful for whatever abundance has come our way during the year.  When kids giggle and get to carve pumpkins, and hand tracings turn into turkeys, it’s a time for heart- warming memories for me, and the fun lives on.  Pumpkins can be very resilient …and I’ve been known to keep my best pumpkins out in the garden till spring!


Wishing you a season filled with fun and happy hearts.

                                                                        Celebrating  Fall,                                

                                                                                      Jackie Jesch