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     World politics, bad weather and relationship problems can all cause stress and disturb sleep. Stressful times call for stress-reducing herbs and there are many that can come to the rescue.      Herbs can be mixed together and used to fill a small pillow that can be tucked under your regular pillow with a soothing sleep-promoting fragrance. English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, promotes relaxation, relieves irritability and feelings of exhaustion. 
As well as the “tiny gardeners”
     In my last column, I wrote about the declining forests in Anne Arundel County. I know we have an ever-increasing population in central Maryland, but the value of trees extends beyond the obvious: it also affects our efforts in growing gardens and crops.

Consider “wood-air bathing”

      Even though I welcome winter as a respite from gardening, it doesn’t take long for me to begin looking at buds swelling or early bulbs poking through the ground. As I wander outside on mild days, I start to notice our trees and forests more intently. Tree trunks stand out against the winter sky. The differences in bark and circumference of tree trunks is illuminated when the leaves are gone. Do we notice what our tall sentinels do for us every day?

Open them up and dream of spring

     Seed catalogs used to come in the mail after the holidays. Not anymore. This year the inundation started around Thanksgiving. After gardening for more than 40 years, I think every seed company and mail order nursery knows my address. My mailbox seems to explode with catalogs earlier every year.      But once the holidays are over, they’re a welcome reminder that spring is coming in not so many weeks.

And give each of us better lives

     I would like to reflect on this past year and give thanks to Sandra Martin, editor of Bay Weekly, for giving me a soapbox and allowing me to continue with a gardening column that Dr. Francis Gouin started. He was a great gardener and professor with a lot of wit and wisdom and one whose shoes I could never fill.

Nature combines with spray paint and glitter for seasonal sparkle

      Bring nature’s décor indoors by making your own Christmas ornaments from the pods, seeds, vines, cones, berries and greenery in forest and garden. You’ll also need a glue gun, spray paint in red and forest green plus a can of white paint, preferably gritty, and white snowy glitter. A bit of ribbon and yarn finish the job.

Some favorites wear out; some are good for a lifetime

     With Christmas around the corner, there are a lot of gift choices for that special gardener in your life. After gardening for more than 40 years, I’ve compiled a list of useful products and tools.       My favorite tool is my Felco pruner. There are right- and left-handed types and even a lightweight version. They range from $40 to $70; rather pricey, but I’ve had mine for more than 30 years.

Nature provides the raw materials

      The traditional Christmas colors of red and green mimic the reds and greens in nature this time of year, specifically, the holly trees that bear their red jewels of berry clusters against their evergreen foliage. Their evergreen nature has long represented life everlasting.

Take a walk in the woods to fill a vase with color

     A seasonal arrangement on the Thanksgiving table helps set the mood. I find native foods to use in recipes from our colonial ancestors for the Thanksgiving feast. A walk through my garden also gives me a lot of beauty from native plants for the table centerpiece.

If the food is good, most anything else can be forgiven

     The holiday commemorating the first communal meal with native Americans and the early colonists now brings families together to enjoy a feast. I strive to gather our Thanksgiving meal from our garden and to include free-range poultry. I also like to use ingredients and recipes that our foremothers and fathers would have used.      On this holiday for memories, many rise from the creation of the annual feast. Catastrophes in their time are now family legend.