Archive for Essays

The Sunday Before Christmas, and all Through the House…

The Sunday before Christmas, and all through the house,
The children are bouncing, all over the couch.
The presents were wrapped, with some noticable tears,
By the kids in hopes, to see what will be theirs.

The tree had fallen, and still laid on its back,
It’s Christmastime, there’s no use giving flake.
Daddy in jammies, and I on his lap,
We had just settled down, for a long night cap.

When out in the garden, I could see a body,
I strang from his lap, nearly spilling my toddy.
I tripped over the tree, creating a clatter,
No harm to me, but many ornaments did shatter.

Nose pressed to the window, and squinting to see,
I saw a lady, walking away with a tree.
Not understanding at all, what I just saw,
I decided to ignore, this women’s shortfall.

At Christmastime we plan, and prepared,
Barely acknowledging, those in despair.
In our world, where we are rich in family life,
I’m saddened by others, who have other plights.

I come back to Daddy, who is righting the tree,
Asking if the noise, woke our little three.
Up the stairs, we climb for a peak,
We find little angles, snoring asleep.

We stare at each other, with amazement and wonder,
At the gifts God has given us, but we no long ponder.
Children have made, our own world complete,
But we always liked it best, when they were fast asleep.

Merry Christmas to all to all good sleeps!

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Honest Scrap Award – Honestly, Who Cares?

My friend, Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener tagged me for the Honest Scrap Award.  The award has two components. You have to first list 10 honest things about yourself (and make them interesting), and second present the award to seven other bloggers.  Honestly, who cares?  Well, I guess Kathy cares enough to ask; so I will answer.

10 Honest Things About Yourself

  1. At some point, on most days, I will eat a can of sardines at my desk.  I no longer bother with dirtying up a dish…I just each them right out of a can – yum.
  2. I’m not fond of babies.  At this stage, they are like a larvae waiting to morph into something I like – a child.
  3. I’ve never met a garden I didn’t like.  People’s passions come through in the creating of each individual garden.  I like that.
  4. I’m tidy, inside and out.  When everything is in its place, I’m a happy girl.
  5. I didn’t like to do homework when I was in school and I don’t like to do it with my children.  I make my husband do it.
  6. I play Christmas music in June, if I need to.
  7. I like to write USA after the zip code when addressing envelopes.  I just like the way it looks.
  8. I’m consistant in my thinking.  If I like you today, I will like you tomorrow.
  9. I’m a very good judge of people.
  10. I am an engineer and I think like an engineer.  There is nothing that can’t be figured out, although I’m not always inclined too.

Present the award to seven other blogger

Hopefully, the bloggers I tagged for this also think like number 8…here you go!

Flower Garden Girl – Anna Lopper

Gardens of the Wild, Wild West – M.A.  Newcomer

Indigo Gardens – Lynn Felici-Gallant

Inter Leafings – Laura Livengood Schuab

Miss Rumphius’ Rules – Susan Cohan

Seasonal Wisdom – Teresa O’Conner

Toronto Gardens –  Helen and Sarah

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

(sung to The Sound of Music ‘s My Favorite Things)

Raindrops on roses and clippers for pruning

Bright colored tulips and treating as annuals

Brown paper lunch bags filled up with my seeds

These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored patios and green garden settees

Mail box and lamp post and vines for cover

Wildlife that fly with the moon on their wing

These are a few of my favorite things

Cherries in pink with weeping long branches

Hostas that stay from the deers hungry noshes

Green grass in winter that doesn’t need mowing

These are a few of my favorite things

When the black spots

When the bee stings

When I’m feeling mad

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so sad

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook  friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Why I Garden

Why I Garden

Finishing up after a day in the garden, a glass of wine in hand, I sit hard on the back porch chase.   “Ah, I say a little more loudly than necessary.”   I thought the need to express myself mattered only to me.  It’s the sound of a good day in the garden.  At the sound, Lily perks up.  She knows by the sound, I’m available.

From the moment born, Lily has loved flowers.  Perhaps it’s her destiny.  A smart girl at nine, she knows I may not put a puzzle together with her, and knows I definitely won’t play card games of any kind, but she has learned to ask me to stroll around the garden, something I’ve never refused.  Today is no different.  Even without the taste of my first sip, I happily agree to join her.

Taking her little hand in mine, we start our journey before ever leaving the stone floor of the covered porch.  As Lily points out a humming bird and butterfly, I find I’m watching Lily as her eyes brighten up at the bold colors of the wildlife entering the garden.  Her delight is my delight.  And so we begin our evening walk.

As we journey down the garden path, we pretend we are the wildlife entering the garden.  We see what the birds, bees and butterflies see.   We go to plants that entice us to take our noses and bury them deep in the flower’s nectar.

We share stories of friends, foods, and flowers.    This time together is uninterrupted; we cannot hear if the dryer buzzer blares or if the phone rings.  We are alone.  It is our special time together.  As Lily chatters, I reflect on why I garden.

Gardening provides me relaxation, creativity, beauty, and the satisfaction of knowing I’m making a difference in the one little plot of land that is in my care.  Without the garden, the kids wouldn’t have secret spaces to venture into or value the earth in her abundance.  First hand knowledge is second nature to them.  Even though I gardened for decades before the kids came along, I now garden for us.  For these moments.

My mind comes back to the reality of Lily’s chatter as she asks me,  “Do you think my hair makes my head look like a triangle?”  “No way,” I said.  “But if it did, you would be in good company, do you see the shape of the Praying Mantid’s head?   Here’s one; look closely.”  And so it goes on our evening stroll.

Why I garden was submitted to M.A. Newcomer over at Idaho Gardener for a contest.  Head on over HERE and give her your reasons to garden.  It was fun figuring out why I garden.

This is my second of these kind of blogger writing contests.  The first was at Garden Rant for their 99 word fiction contest.  I wrote
Nature’s Way, Simplified.  I didn’t win anything, but sure did enjoy writing it.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening With Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook  friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2009


This child runs free; but freedom is not free


and their families

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Cheatin’ through Tweetin’ – Sipping from the Social Media Water Cooler

Cheatin’ through Tweetin’  Sipping from the Social Media Water Cooler

GWA 2009 Tweet up (7)

Michelle Gervais @Michelle_at_FG, @Susan L. Morrison, Teresa O'Connor @SeasonalWisdom

On Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 18:42, I opened a Twitter account.  As I get ready to celebrate – yes, celebrate – my one year Twitter anniversary, I wondered how I got here and why.

I kinda remember my friend @DebraPrinzing suggesting I start, but beyond that, I don’t recall how I connected so well with Twitter.  I didn’t go gently into that good night.  I went kicking and screaming. Never would I have guessed I would be the Twitter champion I am today.  Yet, intuitively, I knew I must tweet.  Just as I knew I  must have a Facebook account (fan me at Helen Yoest and fan my business, please, Gardening With Confidence Facebook Fan Page and a LinkIn account.

I took to social media.  I don’t otherwise consider myself very social.

If you ask my former colleagues, from when I actually worked in an office, if I was always so social, they would laugh out loud- or LOL to some and LMAO to others.  I’ll let you figure that one out, but here’s a hint, this four-letter acronym  (LMAO) has a  three-letter naughty word in.  Acceptable to some, but to others like my friend @DebraLBaldwin, she would stop following you for using a bad word.  I respect this.  I’ve read some $%&@ on Twitter and really never thought it was necessary.  I like it when folks challenge themselves to find a more respectable word to convey these sentiments.  I like to convey thoughts  in a clean, I want to write this as if my children will read it, sort of way….but I digress.

Back in the old days when I worked in an office, the local social media was held at the water cooler.  The water cooler for me was nothing more than a small sip water.  Yes, I valued it for needing to tap information in a casual way, but I could always go to their office.   If I wanted water, I would fill my water bottle from the fountain.  I had work to do. I didn’t have time to chat at the water cooler.  So why is Twitter so different, you ask?  It’s not.  Twitter is a modern day water cooler.

When I first messed around with Twitter, I just didn’t “get” it.  I hear that a lot from others. Yet, I knew I needed to figure this thing out.  I was determined to make the time to “get” Twitter and it was made easier with a few helpful tips from fellow tweeps; they had me “getting it” in no time.

Some of those folks still tweet, others don’t.   This is not uncommon; not unlike at college when the professor, on the first day of class, asked you to look left and then look right to exemplify one of you will not be there at the end of the semester.  Would you not go to college because of these odds?  Nope.  So, would you not tweet because of these odds?  Nope.

By many standards, my social media meter is still on low side of the social scale, but I at least “get it” enough to play, and have a great time doing so.  But it’s more than that, of course, in the process of trying to “get it”, I befriended some fantastic friends.  Not just great like-minded people, but the cream that rises in any setting.  I’m sipping, and going back for more.

As these social friends became real friends, as my friend Laura Schaub @InterLeafer puts it, I became to value and respect who they are and what they do.  I cannot think of any other way these meetings would have occurred.  Folks from California were not likely to be hanging around my Raleigh, NC office water cooler….now they are.  As such,  I began to tap their expertise.

I  find Twitter to be an incredible resource.  One day, alone working in my office, preparing a presentation on creating a backyard wildlife habitat, I had a great image of a spider.  I didn’t know the name of the spider, but wanted to know it in case someone in the audience asked me.  I remembered sharing many tweets with Debbie Hadley @AboutInsects. During the course of our tweet relationship, I found her to be really nice, incredibly knowledgeable and totally into her field.  So I figured I’d ask her.  Otherwise, it was pulling resource books or googling until I found what I was looking for.  A click to @AboutInsects with an accompanying photo and tweet asking if she would mind identifying a spider for me, please?  I had my answer in less than 10 minutes, common and latin names, no less.  Next up was a frog.  A tweet and an uploaded photo to Kelly Senser @klsnature resulted in an answer in less than a half hour.

It is not uncommon to see a posting and photo to the tweepsphere for help in identifying a plant.  Answers arrive is seconds!

For my presentation preparation, the generosity was unbelievable.  The delivery was professional and spot on.  I felt like I was cheatin’ through tweetin’.  It was really more than that.  I had resource at my fingertips and I like to think I have since reciprocated to others.

We are a family of friends of mutual respect, committed to our craft, no matter what it is.  Casual conversation brought us together, tweet by tweet, we built respect, while also sharing about ourselves.  If I need to know what tomatoes I should plant next year, I know I can count on Teresa O’Conner @SeasonalWisdom to suggest some to me (yep she did, and yep they are on my list for next year.)

If I need a plant identified, no doubt, Christina Salwitz @Aracdia1 will top my list.  If it’s a really weird plant, I heading over to Keith Alexander @Hyperating; he knows his stuff and is willing to help out.

I have @joegardener and @ShawnaCoronardo to give me green advice (as well as many others), there’s @SusanLMorrison @SusanCohan, and Lynn Felici-Gallant @IndigoGardens to bounce ideas off of.  I also have easy access to my editors and publishers.  @gardenpublisher also keeps us abreast on the state of the book publishing world.

On the days I want a dose of some really weird garden humor, I can count on Steve Bender @grumpy_gardener.  If I have a social media question, I’ll shoot a DM to @JeanAnnVK.  If I want to see what’s on edge in the gardening world, I head over to @GardenRant

My social standing is not 6 sigma.  But my water cooler has me sipping from nearly every state in the US and abroad.

A year later, it is very clear why I tweet.  My first tweet was something like, “Ok, I joined Twitter, now what?”  One of my first tweet replies was from my now friend Katie Elzer-Peters @GardenofWords telling me to just start writing.  So I did.

I use to talk Twitter up and found I was trying to convince folks the value of Twitter.  I no longer do that.  I’m beyond convincing anyone to tweet.  They need to figure it out on their own.   If they don’t get it, they don’t get it. But, social media is not going away – thank goodness.

My story is no different from many naysayers. My excuse for not wanting to tweet @HelenYoest, was because I didn’t have the time to tweet.  I found the time and I’m glad I did.

Not “getting it” seems to be a popular excuse not to tweet.  Some of these folks, I think,  hope  if they can say it loud enough, it will make it go away.  I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

As I end this post, I’m getting thirsty for knowledge.  I need a sip from the social media water cooler…here I come tweeps…

Post Script I was not able to mention all the tweeps I follow and admire.  For a full list, check out @HelenYoest following.  A a very personal thank you for all the tweeple who have given me tips, advise, and friendship – you know who you are!

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World Events Make Garden Trends. Follow The Tomato to Understand

GWA 020c

This essay is in response to a Garden Rant blog post by my friend Susan L. Morrison. Great post Susan…let the discussion continue….

World events make garden trends.  Follow the tomato to understand.

My dad’s dad grew tomatoes because his dad did so in the “Old Country.”

My dad planted them, as a child during the depression, because he had to.  As an adult, he grew them because they were symbolic of never going hungry.  It gave him comfort to know if all else failed; he would have a tomato to eat.

I (the last of the baby boomers) grew them because I wanted to be with my dad.  My dad was in the garden, so I was in the garden. My brothers, no; they were nowhere near my dad or dirt.

It was a new era.  We were rich (in that my dad had work, mom stayed at home to raise the family; we had no debt, owned our own home and we were loved.)  My youth was between wars; neither war precipitated the need to grow a tomato.

I never grew tomatoes…well; maybe I stuck one in the ground now and again.  But it wasn’t for any altruistic reason.  It was a tomato.  It had no meaning for me.  I was enjoying the peace and love stuff more than growing tomatoes.

I didn’t get the tomato thing.  I got that my dad never forgot the depression.   I wanted to grow pretty flowers.  I didn’t feel the pangs of hunger that motivated him.  That was his thing, give me ornamentals; give me peace and love.  Peace and love are priceless.  I can buy a tomato.

As my generation basked in the glory of the profits following the depression era, a new era was built on steady work and the power of compound interest, we didn’t want to GROW our own tomatoes…we wanted to BUY them, because we could.  We wanted to have pretty, manicured gardens around us.  Tomatoes were bought just like a new sofa was bought.  We wouldn’t think of making our own sofa, would we?

Now my kids look around and see flowers, pretty flowers, everywhere.  As they became informed, they noticed I had no tomatoes, they wonder and asked why.   I explained, that my generation (sorry, don’t mean to be speaking for everyone) didn’t want to grow food.  We wanted to grow beauty…our symbol of comfort.

Because of my kids,  I tore up a patch of the front lawn and planted a veggie garden  we now tend together.  We grow tomatoes.  As I harvest a fresh tomato, I think of my dad and his dad.  I am hopeful my kids will never “need” to grow a tomato, but if they had to, they could.

My kids find their version of peace and love in the earth as a functional entity.  Give to the earth and the earth will give back.  Yep, if they want some information, they bypass by shelves of books and stacks of magazines for Google or Bing or RedZ. I do too.

I find comfort in holding a book or a magazine.  But, I can’t and wouldn’t dictate that they hold the same value I do for the printed word.  But maybe they will because that is where mom is and they want to be with mom.

As writer I wonder how to better communicate.  I wonder how to best reach the new readers.  I earn my living writing for magazines, blogs and I’m beginning my first book.   I have to keep the future on my radar screen.  I’m not alone.   This wonder is being widely discussed.  The what ifs abound.   When I’m asked my opinion, I give my pat response for any query about the future and how I feel about it.  My answer is this –  I have no answer.  The issues of the future haven’t been invented yet.  In the meantime, I will evolve with the new generation and not hold onto my version of peace and love, but be ready to welcome theirs.

Vivre la différence

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening With Confidence Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her Facebook page, the Gardening With Confidence fan page. Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.

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The best and hardest thing to give your garden is time…

Fathers day 006

Try as I might,  all I need is time.

As I look around Helen’s Haven, evaluating what she needs to shine for upcoming garden tours and photo shoots, I realize all she needs is time. Most gardens do. I don’t need to add a little something here or there. The design is set. Now all I need to do is wait it out. This is the hardest part.

Nothing I do will make the boxwood fill in as I imagine they will to offer repose between the formal and causal – the boundary demarking my garden between tameness and wildness.

Nothing I do will make the verbena hurry up and fill in the void at the mailbox.

Nothing I will do will leap the Rose of Sharon into adulthood.

By most standards, my garden is full, lush, and mature. It is I who sees the holes, flaws, and flubs. Helen’s Haven is not a garden for everyone. No doubt, when you visit for the first time, high maintenance comes to mind. With dismay, I can say, Helen’s Haven is not a high maintenance garden. Herein lays the problem. I like to putter in my garden and I run out of things to do, so I start tinkering. It is this tinkering that must stop. All my garden needs now is time.

Don’t be mistaken, there are many areas of improvement. Often times I wonder how I would have designed her if the children were not part of the equation or if I had unlimited funds. But this is my garden for here and now; for now and for 10 years from now. And at the end of the day, all she needs is time.

As the Raleigh regional representative for the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour for many years, I’ve selected gardens for tour. And before that, I did it for other local garden tours. I receive many calls from gardeners to consider their garden for tour. Often times, these gardens are newly installed. The excitement to share their gardens with others is contagious. Breathtaking designs and displays; most diffently, gardens worthy of the Garden Conservancy – in a year or two.

To the causal visitor, a brandy new garden may be beyond their expectations, yet, it is still best to wait to see the garden in her full glory. Only time can give this.

Knowing that a new garden is sitting on someone’s drawing board right now is comforting to me. Maybe right now, the merits over a Kousa versus Native Dogwood are being discussed; flagstone paths or stamped concrete? Brick or boulder walls? Curvilinear or linear lines? The choices are many and can be overwhelming.

Maybe the owner of the new garden is strolling her newly installed garden right now and while knowing her garden is but an infant, she sees her mature, filled in and ready to become a remarkable garden of the future. Only time will tell.

I will rest in the comfort that weeds defy time as do shrubs that need pruning, and grass that needs mowing. There is always something that needs to be done. But for now, I’m done trying to fix what only time can give.

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

P.S. The “Helen’s Haven” marker was gift from a my dear garden blogger buddy, Tina at

In The Garden

P.P.S.  And of course, it never hurts to add  more mulch!

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Garden Rant announcing 99 word fiction contest

The gardening gals over at Garden Rant have posted a fun contest Garden Rant.   It’s a short fiction, garden writing contest – 99 words or less. Prizes are even involved.

If you choose to participate, leave your entry in their comments.  Its fun and easy to do.  I invested 20 minuets in this endeavour and learned a lot.  It is also fun to see what others wrote.

Here’s my first 99 word fiction:

Nature’s Way, Simplified

Life abounds, all around. As I journey down the garden path, I see holes in the leaves, but butterflies in the trees.

In Nature, one life balances the other; there’s no need to interfere.

The ladybug hungers for the sweet taste of aphids, thwarting the sapping of life from a rose. A bird spies a bug, a cat spies a bird, a fox chomps a cat. Flowers send scent through trumpets of red, ablaze for hummingbirds to spread. A frog feasts on slugs, then croaks with pride. Attracting a mate, to procreate. So it goes, all around, life abounds.

~ Helen Yoest

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Wordle – Groundhog Day Spring Hope

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