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The Art of Watering

By Michael Alliger, Master Pruner

Summer’s here in Sonoma County California and the rains have stopped.  This means it’s time to water.  Since water is increasingly precious it’s important to use it to best effect.  My pruning mentor Dennis Makishima enlivened in me the love of growing trees in containers and it was he who said, “Watering is an art”.  Those words changed me forever, remaking what might have been a mindless routine into a conscious relational act bordering on spiritual.  As I came to understand it watering is a complex, intriguing aspect of plant care.

Over-Watering

Effective watering depends on a plant’s needs, soil composition, sun and wind exposure, and temperature.  A recurring concern is how much water and how often.  Over-watering is especially problematic since we generally don’t see the effects until it’s too late with no remedy short of re-potting.  To avoid this dilemma we learn from bonsai artists to use soil mix that is virtually without organic matter consisting only of drainage material.  Most bagged potting mixes have high levels of humus, compost, etc. which retain water in such varying and unknown quantities that accurate assessment of soil moisture is difficult.  Using the high drainage formula allows excess water to drain immediately.  While eliminating the fear of over-watering this mix also means we must guard against drying out.  So a regular seasonal schedule of watering is required.  To help gauge soil moisture an inexpensive hydrometer may be available at local hardware stores or nurseries.  In the absence of a hydrometer, a quick check of water retention can be done by lifting the container (when possible) to judge weight.  A light container likely means it’s time to water.  A plant that has seriously dried out can be dunked in a bucket of water; holding the soil level below water will elicit bubbles as air spaces are filled with water.  Remove the container and water runs out to proper level. Another aspect of humus-free mix is that fertilizing is up to us.  Proper fertilizing is an art unto itself and too lengthy a discussion for the current effort.  Stay tuned.

Hose-end hand watering is best with a gently showering nozzle.  This implement avoids splash-out of soil while freshening foliage without damage.

sprayer

In-Ground Plants

Most considerations for watering containers are applicable to watering in-ground plants.  While clearly we are not responsible for overall soil conditions in our garden (e.g. loamy, clayey, sandy) amending that soil is critical.  Adding humus-y composted material is almost always a good idea.  It adds nutrients, aerates, and paradoxically improves both drainage and water retention.  Hand-watering (holding a hose in hand) is generally ineffective for getting water to the roots of all but the slightest of bedding plants.  For trees and shrubs a simple inexpensive sprinkler does the job nicely, especially when combined with a calendar and a standard household timer.  For most trees, it’s best to water infrequently and deeply:  every 3 to 4 weeks; 45 minutes; shrubs 20-30 minutes.  Native plants may require less water, but please remember that drought “tolerant” plants may actually do somewhat better with slightly more water.  Careful experimentation is the key.  Established trees and shrubs should be watered out to the drip line (foliage circumference) as this is where the feeder roots grow.  Watering at the trunk is largely ineffective.  Newly planted specimens should be watered so as to encourage roots to spread out.

Drip Irrigation

Regarding drip irrigation, there are pros and cons with both containers and in-ground gardens.  On the plus side, drip allows us to water without being present and it can be automated.  It helps sustain life, especially with initial planting.  On the other hand, while seemingly carefree drip irrigation requires regular attention.  We must examine emitters for location and potential clogging due to soil and bugs.  Tubing should be checked for leaks, disconnects and kinks.  Also, dissemination of water is limited by emitters (narrow gravity-driven trajectory) and sprayers rarely get deep enough.  In addition emitters are rated at gallons per hour and it’s unusual to see a system set for more than 15 to 20 minutes.  This might be ok for bedding plants but has little effect on trees and shrubs.  Just as we water the newly planted  increasingly toward the drip line, drip emitters must be periodically moved outward to accommodate spreading roots.

For me the biggest drawback to drip is that it separates us from actually tending to and interacting with our plants in an essential way.  Hand-watering, when done consciously, affords an opportunity to inspect our trees forinsects, disease and general well-being.  We become familiar with a healthy look and are therefore more aware of changes that indicate stress or threat.  Perhaps the most profound benefit is the intimacy it brings – a chance to say hello to each plant and to bask in the silence of its reply.

5 Tips for the Optimal Osmosis Summer Experience!

Couple at lunch in Osmosis garden
Summer. A time for being in nature. For fresh air. When our skin gets to feel the warm sun, lie in the cleansing sand. The season designated for relaxation. So what are the best ways to relax at Osmosis this summer? Luckily for us, our beautiful place along Salmon Creek in the scenic village of Freestone makes for a wonderful getaway. Our outdoor areas allow time in nature which is so vital to our physical, mental, and emotional restoration! Here are our top five ways to enjoy Osmosis during the season of abundance.

Pagoda massage osmosis day spa

Massage in the Pagodas. Take a stroll down the wooded paths to a private pagoda and enjoy the songs of nature as you treat your muscles, your skin, and your mind, to some healing kneading.

Hammocks. Need we say more? Sway in the soft breeze along Salmon Creek and rock yourself into a blissful summer dream while receiving a Metamusic sound therapy session.Field of Hammocks

Lunch in the forest. Taste the bounty of local Sonoma County farms while enjoying a fresh, local meal prepared by Fork Roadhouse. Get lost in the views from our eating areas tucked away among the trees.

Summer Skin Care. Let one of our expert estheticians rejuvenate you face, heal sun damage, and hydrate your skin–leaving you looking and feeling your best.

Meditation Gardens. Soak up some rays or relax in the shade. Let your mind come to stillness as you soak in the tranquility of Heart Mind Pond. Take a deep breath. This is what summer is all about.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, make sure you get out and enjoy this beautiful part of the country! These majestic natural landscapes make for wonderful getaways. The time in nature is so important to our physical, mental, and emotional restoration!

twilight in garden

What’s New at Osmosis? T’ui Na

T'ui Na MassageThis active style of Meridian Massage releases deeply held tension. Combining rocking, compression, stretching and joint mobilization, T’ui Na clears blockages, revitalizes your energy, and opens the joints for great ease in movement. This massage leaves you feeling both relaxed and energized.

 

T’ui Na Origins

The Chinese have taught us that tension or pain in the body is the physical manifestation of blocked or stagnant Chi. Developed over 5,000 years ago in China, T’ui Na is an ancient form of Meridian massage, aimed at increasing the flow of Chi through the channels, clearing blocked energy, thus decreasing pain and increasing ease of movement.

Emphasis in this massage is on opening the joints, the “gateways” through which Chi can flow from one body area to another. T’ui Na is an active style of massage mobilizing your joints, stretching muscles and Meridians, and energizing your Chi flow.

To understand T’ui Na, you must first understand the premise on which this massage was developed.  The Chinese medical model understands the human being to have 3 aspects:

  1. The Yang aspect of one’s being, the physical body, which manifests as activity or movement in the world.
  2. The Yin aspect, the Chi or bioelectrical aspect of the body.
  3. The refined product of the Yin and Yang relationship, which is the mental and spiritual body.

In T’ui Na, all 3 aspects of a person’s being are addressed, nourishing health on every level.

Understanding Chi

To many Westerners, Chi may be a difficult concept to grasp. Because it is invisible, people often wonder what it is or if it even exists. Ancient China knew little about the science of electricity. Electromagnetic science has been a field of growing knowledge in the West, in recent decades. Both Eastern and Western practitioners of Chinese medicine and massage have recognized that this energy referred to as “Chi” is the same thing as what today’s science calls “bioelectricity.” Dr. Robert Becker has done important research in the field of bioelectricity. It is understood now that the human body is constructed of many different electrically conductive materials and that it forms a living electromagnetic field and circuit. The body’s bioelectrical energy, Chi, is not only responsible for maintaining life, but also for repairing it.  It is the healing force when tissues of the physical body are damaged or body systems are limited.

tuina massage

Many Healing Benefits of T’ui Na

The Chinese understand that Chi circulates throughout the body through 12 organ Meridians, each of which connect to a different organ system of the body. Through T’ui Na Massage, Chi or energy flow to the internal organs is increased helping to heal tissues that may be weak, strengthening our organ functioning.

T’ui Na takes massage from the level of relaxation to the next level: deepening  health and well being. T’ui Na recharges the batteries of life.

It not only clears tension, promoting ease in the body and life, it also builds Chi, bringing increased energy to the tissues and organ systems of the body.  And as the Chi body (Yin) nourishes the physical body (Yang), we begin to feel more balance between the Yin and Yang aspects of being. There is a sweet sense of well-being that emerges from this feeling of balance. This feeling of well-being penetrates the physical, emotional and spiritual realms. This is the deepest healing that any spa service can offer.


Raizelah Bayen, Spa Services Manager Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. She has 25 years in the field of massage, 15 years as a massage and yoga instructor, and is additionally certified in acupressure, herbology and aromatherapy. Her teaching specialties include Eastern Massage Modalities and Acupressure, Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers, and Integrative Wellness workshops, weaving herbs, aromatherapy, self-massage and yoga into a cohesive themed workshop, such as the one above.  If you are interested in hosting a workshop, please contact Raizelah at raizelah@osmosis.com. For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming trainings in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

Planting Our Future

by Michael Stusser

forestPlanting trees and preserving forests can balance many of the negative effects of human activity on our ecosystem before the threat from rising global temperature becomes irreversible.

Focus on Forests First

Of the many environmental factors that are currently at risk, the issue of forests is a critical leverage point for recovering balance quickly. Restoring global forest cover is one of the fastest and most effective natural solutions to the rising global temperature and the myriad related potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. 

Planting enough trees of the right kinds in the right places fast enough will reduce the amount of C02 in the atmosphere and reverse climate change.

Here are the facts:

  • Forests represent one of the largest, most cost-effective climate solutions available today. Halting the loss and degradation of natural systems and promoting their restoration have the potential to contribute over one-third of the total climate change mitigation scientists say is required by 2030. Restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land could sequester up to 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. ~IUCN,  Forests and Climate Change Issues Brief
  • IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] numbers suggest that if deforestation ended today and degraded forests were allowed to recover, tropical forests alone could reduce current annual global emissions by 24 to 30 percent. ~ Center for Global Development, Why Forests, Why Now?
  • Old growth trees, dense mature vegetation and rich soils in primary forests including intact forest landscapes are unmatched in terms of carbon sequestration and storage (30-70% more than logged or degraded forests). Forests are thought to remove 25% of all human generated emissions of CO2, and primary forests play a substantial role in this extraordinary carbon sink. ~ IUCN, Raising the profile of primary forests
  • NASA study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion. – NASA Finds good news on forests and carbon dioxide  ~Data courtesy of verdantworld.org

What We Are Doing:

Freestone and the surrounding hills were logged out following the 1906 earthquake to rebuild San Francisco. We feel a responsibility to restore our own forests here at a local level. By planting a redwood forest at Osmosis it is our hope that this action that can also help to build more awareness of the fact that protecting and restoring forests around the world can reverse climate change.

Nurturing Osmosis’s Japanese Garden – Winter/Spring 2019

japanese garden master pruner

By Michael Alliger, Master Pruner

Here in west Sonoma County, California, 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean, March is the turning point of the seasons. In the Osmosis garden, winter work is nearly finished with the anticipation of spring’s soft explosion at hand. Though the weather varies, the seasons are consistent. Winter is marked by the loss of leaves on deciduous trees indicating the relative inactivity or dormancy of all plant material. Among the first signs of spring are the flowers of plum, which precede leaf growth.

 

Window of Opportunity

The window of opportunity for winter pruning is in this dormant period indicated by bare branches. Insect activity is also reduced at this time, lessening the chance for infestation. Winter work falls into two categories: Structural Reduction & Correction and Refinement of the winter silhouette (look).  We learn from Japanese gardens that within the garden walls trees are kept at human scale, not towering above, as is their wont. Therefore, a consistent effort to contain trees and shrubs throughout the year is ramped up in winter as dormancy allows for more aggressive pruning. 

One such situation in the Osmosis garden is the presence of a planted Monterey Cypress. Left on its own it would dominate and outgrow the limited space it is afforded. Yet for nearly 20 years we have managed to keep it at approximately 15’ with a fairly natural appearance. Normally this tree would not be a good candidate for a garden but, it was a gift and we have taken it on as an experiment to see what might be the possibilities and limitations of this native plant.

We have a large Mayten tree (broadleaf evergreen) anchoring one corner of our tea garden.  This fast-growing tree is necessarily reduced and thinned each winter. We also have two Douglas Firs (another native) which are maintained in our bath garden as large shrubs (!) at about 8’.

Osmosis has a limited number of Japanese Maples with each being planted at a primary location (path or pond) in the garden. Ranging in size from diminutive (18” x 36”) to person-sized (6’ x 5’) these trees must look excellent all through the year. This means winter pruning is required not only to set up a beautiful spring/summer look but also to treat the eye in winter to the intricate delicacy of bare branches.

Pine Trees

red pineAlong with the evergreens previously mentioned Osmosis has a number of Pines that get close attention.  We have three Red Pines and three Black Pines.  Two of the red pines are structurally pruned in winter to maintain proper scale.  All the pines are groomed of excessive needles both as a matter of appearance and to help limit spring growth by reducing photosynthesis.

Support plants such as Grasses and Tamamono (mound-shaped shrubs) are also seen to in winter.  Grasses are cut to the ground in anticipation of spring’s regeneration while the sheared shrubs may get a thorough opening up with hand pruners to allow light and air to reach inner branches that back budding may occur. Back budding is the breaking out of new leaves on bare wood. The vitality of inner wood helps ensure fullness at the time of spring shearing.

Bamboo

Thinning of Bamboo is begun in fall and may continue into winter.  Third-year culms (canes) will be dying back and are thus removed along with weak or excessively crowding culms.

Transplanting is also scheduled for winter again because of dormancy.   This year we flip-flopped Hellebores with Red Buckwheat plants that found themselves in each other’s microclimates.  We also removed a large and languishing Rosemary from our entryway and replace it with a grouping of three small Hinoki trees and an array of Manzanitas.

Advent of Spring

japanese maple

With the advent of spring, the gardener sharpens tools, restocks sunscreen and cinches up her belt in preparation for the marathon to come.  The surge of the plant world is both inspiring and

daunting.  With so much growth at once, the garden pruner must establish priorities.  Decisions are based upon the degree of unruliness and visual prominence.

Though Japanese Maples are amongst the most meaningful plants in the Osmosis garden their gently soft spring growth is so welcome and complacent that pruning may be set aside for more pressing matters. 

When the time comes, Maples are both thinned and reduced for proper scale and a natural look.  The one caveat is that when maples are in full sun or receive a lot of afternoon sun care should be taken to not open large holes in the canopy as inner leaves and bark can burn if suddenly exposed to strong heat/light.

Importance of Hedges and Shrubs

green dragon hedgeOne of the possibly more pressing matters mentioned above is the 30’ Green Dragon Hedge separating the meditation garden from its entry gate.  The importance of this hedge cannot be overstated as it provides the hide-and-reveal effect so integral to Japanese gardens allowing for a gradual revelation as guests follow the path.  Once grown out wild, this element becomes more of a distraction than subtle influence so it’s imperative to keep it in bounds.

At Osmosis, we use manual hedge shears rather than gas or electric powered.  The cleaner, sharper result is well worth the extra time and effort in a garden where aesthetics encourage a peaceful meditative state.

Along these lines, the individual sheared shrubs (we use variously Berberis, Euonymus, Spiraea and Germanderare sometimes overlooked in deference to the dramatic appearance of pines and maples yet their function in the garden is paramount as a grounding element and counterpoint to the focal trees.  These smaller shrubs (Tamamono) must be tended with consistent care especially with spring’s first burst.

Flowering Trees

Perhaps flowering trees such as Camellias, Rhododendrons, Ribes and Magnolia present questions as to when to prune them.  In all these cases, as with Plum, the flowers appear before the leaves.  This means that a well-maintained plant won’t need pruning (except grooming and deadheading) until after the new vegetative (leafy) growth occurs and extends.  Observation leads to pruning guidelines.

pine

Lastly, in our discussion of spring pruning is the Japanese Black Pine.  Whiles there are many approaches to pine pruning, here at Osmosis we

remove the candle growth in spring followed byselective thinning in fall and winter. Candle is the term for the initial spring shoot growing on pines. Candle growth generally signal the strength and will power of the tree as it tries to attain its genetic height (60’).  This size being beyond “human scale” in the garden, forces us to meet the tree’s will with skill and an aesthetic will of our own. As they extend, candles initially look like tubes; when they stop extending needle open out from the tubes.  It is at this time they are removed in favor of their replacements, which develop over the summer in greater numbers and lesser length.

We who garden are fortunate to be so attentive to the seasons as this draws us closer to the unseen world. Make sure you leave time to visit our gardens during your next visit to Osmosis. We also offer Horticultural Garden Tours throughout Spring and Summer for a more in depth look at the underlying Zen themes built into the rock arrangements and pond layout, as well as information about the planting themes and plant materials.

Find your Garden Tour Here!