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Plants Have Your Back

January, oh, January. Such a straddle of seasons. You, dear January, are so full of “new”. You give us the opportunity with all that “resolution” business and fresh start stuff to be mindful of our heart’s desires, our “original nature” – our ZEN of being more present right here, right now. 

So we’ve packed away our outdoor holiday dressings and decor and entered the New Year. Our outdoor living spaces have gone from looking like a living holiday greeting card to containers laid bare. The quieting scene outside reminds of the importance of dormancy and honoring the season we are in (yes, yes).

Yet, for those of us who take nourishment from our #serenegreenscene, we’re hungry for a little foliiferous planting design snack to hold us over. One that offers that important calming benefit, with a dash of delightful with a side of beautiful. You know, restorative.  

These little container gardens keep us aware. They are mini Healing Garden Happy Places that invite us to focus right here, right now. They are a respite during what some call the “bluest month” of the year. There’s a peace, grounding and ZEN practice in connecting with nature outside and our true nature inside.

So what to do this January for those bare containers? Pick plants, ZEN-fully!

10 Zen Plants for Your New Year Containers for that design resetting you crave.

You’ll notice a theme. Where there are blooms, expect the color to be white (with 1 exception). My design instincts assign white to the month of January.  Its appeal of brightness that uplifts and the symbology of the color (purity, starting new, fresh and clean), makes white a perfect choice.

There’s more to these 10 Zen plants than what meets the eye:

  1. All of these plant lovelies may function as a “2-fer” for you! What’s that?

    Red Bird container design process: invest once, benefit twice. I design plants for client containers that, when time, can be moved into the landscape. 

  2. These 10 Zen have been selected using a Restorative Garden Plant Selection value rating. How’s that?

    Design psychology evidence shows when plants have certain wellness characteristics, they are considered boosters to our healing and recovery process. That’s where your “Zen” comes in. These plants are not only beautiful, but they come with mind, body, soul benefits too!

For each plant listed, I’ve used Red Bird’s Restorative Garden Plant Selection value rating method for selecting plants to boost the restorativeness of your garden. I’ve also included a link directly to the plant for information (in most cases to Monrovia’s reliable website).

Cliff notes version: more icons = higher Restorative Garden Plant value of the plant and greater pleasure and benefit for you.

I love the playfulness of this fringy flower that dance across the branches of this shrub come spring. Meanwhile, in the winter container, she plays the role of a terrific diva. A little on deciduous action may occur. No matter as the shape is lovely to rest your eyes upon, given her silhouette. I find that no two plants have anywhere near the same shape, really, with this specimen which is very exciting.

Evergreen clematis vine comes staked ready to trail. Plant in a pot that sits against a blank wall. Up and over and along it’ll go, vigorous, once establish, and a take no prisoners beautification machine. With blooms of white in February/March (depending on weather) and fragrance that is heady, this plant could easily be an evergreen stand-in for Wisteria. Telling the time of year with its perfumed blossoms in early, early spring, this plant also relays the truth about its micro-micro growing conditions (read: “feet in shade, head in the sun”).

If there was ever a green machine sheen plant to swoon over, it just might be this one. I use this plant in my shady containers for the evergreen appeal as well as the arching form of the branches. Now, a bonus (for some) is the fragrance. Often I tell my clients that come late, late winter into early, early spring, you’ll step out onto your patio and smell a divine fragrance forcing you to look high and low for the source. It’s this plant, quietly doing its thing with tiny white flowers.  Upon its graduation from your container, it dancing nicely with a shady, dry garden.

Here’s your quintessential “specimen form” often mentioned in design publications.  Dwarf Pagoda Japanese Holly is upright, remarkable with the loveliest, small, dark leaves and absolutely irregular in branching structure. This ain’t your red berry holly. Stays evergreen and so little care required – my goodness, very statuesque and could be a solo element, should you dig the minimalism approach.

Dramatic, moody, rich. That’s Black Mondo Grass. And strappy both in appearance and in function. This grass is so helpful in filling out the base of a container and offering a rich contrast to more diva-like plants. There’s an exotic flair to this baby and best planted in groupings to really get the full visual benefit.

This is a low, evergreen, golden grass-like plant that brightens the day and the edges of containers. And because we get a lot of rain (and apparently snow too), this plant can hang with wet soils. When you’re ready move it from the pot to areas along wet woodlands or ponds.  In container design, the very nostalgic part of me pairs this plant with white pansies.

White blooming right now! Jacob hellebore is my fav. These blooms are so happy they sit upright as though to smile back at you. And this is THE white that I compare all other whites against. Pure, clean, fresh. Bonus: deer and rabbit resistant!

Hens and chicks will be your carpet or groundcover in your containers. There is so much versatility when it comes to Sempervivum. Look over your choices closely and consider if you want color change with new growth or with the weather’s chill. When I tire of these in containers, I pop ’em right into the ground as a sweet little accent here and there.  You’ll want to look for hens and chicks grown by Little Prince of Oregon.

Newer in my repertoire is this rhododendron. What draws me to this plant is the variegated leaf which provides pop in the gray days of winter. This gal blooms in spring and can get quite large, so keep an eye on her in your container and invite a friend over to assist with the transfer to the garden when time. I love this plant is like shoulder pads and is a container pop-stop!

Like the annual primrose, this perennial shares its pop of (white) color on ruffled leaves. Well, the blooms are little, white, happy, fragrant candelabras of flowers. A perfect plant for containers that don’t dry out quickly and to repurpose in an area where it can hang out in wet soil and naturalize. Think: shady dells of England…

Here’s what to do next:

Download my Secret Decoder Ring for Restorative Garden Plant Selection here.

Use the Secret Decoder Ring when selecting plants for your special space. (Yes! Carry it with you for those trips to the retail garden store. It’ll help with impulsive plant shopping and narrow down all the pretties to those that will really rally to renew you.)

Remember: choose for the beauty AND the benefit to boost the Restorative Power of your garden.

Oh! And share your favorite zen plants in the comment section below.

(For part 2 of a 3-part series skip on over here. Would you like the cliff notes version? Click Here Your 3 Cures Tip Sheet!)


Cure 3: Green Screen it!

In Cure 1, I urged you to Lighten Up to make sure you reduce your chances for SADness. In Cure 2, I shared with you one of my fav ways to bring nature’s season right to our desktops to support the sacred work (and whole lotta effort!) we do.  For Cure 3, I want you to imagine in your mind’s eye a happy place you’ve traveled to or have on your “I Will Manifest This” list. Make it a healing, happy nature place ’cause we’ve going for the gold $$$ here.

What does it look like? Tropical? Mountainous? Verdant fields of green?

Now drop down into your heart zone – you know, that place where the passion for the good work you do beats from… how does that dreamy scene make you feel? Zoom in on that feeling as deep as you can go. Zoom in on the details of natural elements that really stand out for you in that scene. Picture the details. Walk around in it. Give your imagination all the attention you can muster to fully experience that place.

What do you see? What do you feel?

My bet is that you feel pretty darn de-lish… and I’d put my money on it, honey, that you’re feeling a bit refreshed and motivated just thinking of it. Let’s call it what it is, focus.

Now imagine [bctt tweet=”what powerful things you accomplish with regularly focused attention brought to you by nature?” username=”AnnieRedBird”] Thanks to imagery that is both pretty and meaningful to you, great work is not far out of your reach, friend. It’s really within an arm’s reach.

This Cure Boosts Your Attention Span in a Matter of Seconds

 Rx: Turn your computer screen into a green dream scene.

  • Switch out your screensaver /wallpaper to a favorite view of that healing nature happy place that you dream of or reminds you of a favorite vacation. Then give yourself 40-second “green-microbreaks” to view taking in that #serenegreenscene throughout the day to restore from the tedium (and remind you of dreamier, *green-i-er* pastures).  
  • Need some wallpaper inspiration? Come on over & follow me on Instagram (I’m @AnnieRedBird). I post a #PositiveMomentaryDistraction pic every Monday just for the purpose of inspiring you to connect with nature’s beauty and benefits with nature doses that help #mindthegardenofyourmind, if even for a micro-second.

And you know who else uses her fav nature scene as her screen saver? Ms. Oprah! Yep, heard live on a recent Facebook Live, that my (yours too?) CEO hero, has a picture of those glorious Super Soul Sunday oaks as her screen saver.

Why? Because when Oprah is busy traveling (away from her #healinggardenhappyplace), that screen saver picture of her oak grove reminds her “that joy will come”.

[bctt tweet=”If a joyous nature scene works for #Oprah’s screen; maybe viewing nature will work for you, CEO?” username=”AnnieRedBird”]

Science says:

Research found that office workers’ focus AND performance increased when they had a microbreak green viewing on their computer screen — just 40 seconds. This helped with task-interruptous and attention.  Set your timer and go on a little nature soul stroll with your eyes.

Your brain will thank you, especially as the day wears on and our attention wears down.

Bank Yourself Some Style Points:

This is a quick, fa-fa-free decor intervention of beauty + benefit. That screen takes up a lot of real estate in our immediate, arm’s reach, workspaces and sprucing it with a serene green scene changes your mood and instantly beautifies your office area. You can personalize your wallpaper for your season, your mood, your motivation.


So which Cure is first on your list? Do you need to lighten up , spend a little shrine time or let your creative brain recharge on a sip of a green serene micro-scene? 

As CEO, it’s your #1 job to attend to your best nature on the inside, so that you may get on with the good work you do on the outside.

Did you find this Cure helpful? Pass it on! Inspired to make a beautiful and happy space for your workplace?

Get your 1-page Tip Sheet of my 3 Cures for Greening Your Workplace Blues to Boost Your Mind-Body-Soul Bottom Line.

Click for 3 Cures Tip Sheet!

And I’ll make that 1 click a 2-fer by tucking you safe and sound onto Red Bird’s update list where I share great resources and announcements with my VIPers. Fret not, if at any point you want to exit stage left and remove yourself, there’s a 1 click unsubscribe button at the bottom of every single email. Easy peasy.

Are you a style-keen, nature-loving, holistically-inclined “soilsoulsister (or brother) who wants to tune out stress & dis-ease & tune into your mind.body.spirit connection, thanks to your own slice of everyday, personal paradise? Plant-tas-tic! Sign up for news, resources, good shares and we’ll get on with thriving outside & healing inside.
(This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Read part 1 here. Would you like the cliff notes versionClick Here Your 3 Cures Tip Sheet!)

Shrine Time to Green Your Work From Home Blues_Cover

This is sacred stuff, sis. 

Sometimes we need to be reminded that for all that pushing uphill, we are connected and supported by an unending supply of love. Our magic precedes us, and… under the paper, the social media dings, the interruptions… we could use a little refresher on who we are in all of this hustling. 

  • You and your work matter.
  • The energy and love you put into all that you do to help people because of your business are powerful.
  • You have a ripple effect wider and deeper than you imagine.

Grounding our awareness on something physical in our environment – something deeply personal and very meaningful – reconnects us to that deeper part of our spirit. You’ve heard the phrase “windows to the soul”. Having an empowering environment is like a mirror, reflecting back to us our natural self. Our inspiration and creativity reserves are recharged.

Need a recharging station at your creation station? Read on my big-giver, big-doer friend. This is especially meant for you working from your world HQ’s (at home). 

In Cure 1 of this series, I told you to Lighten Up! because the sum-total effects of a working space that has a nature deficit zap our passion and leave us work-from-home commander & chiefs feeling blue-by-you. Ready for the next Cure? 

Cure 2: Shrine Time

If you’re feeling as though the work you do isn’t making much of a difference or your creative channel is fogged over, you may need some nature-based #shrinetime to support you in focusing back on the good work you do and the sacredness of the environment around you.

This Cure Recalibrates Your Perspective for Inspired Possibilities

[bctt tweet=”Desktop nature-infused sacred space encourages connectedness to your sacred purpose.” username=”AnnieRedBird”]

In this video and post you’ll learn:

  • My shrine time practice of collecting healing nature’s beautiful bits outside to support the healing garden inside my spirit – so that I remain feeling connected to my inner world, purpose, and precious self.  
  • My tips for how to create a desktop healing garden shrine all your precious own to cure your ache for renewed creativity.
  • The science and style behind this powerful talisman act that keeps your inspiration intact. 

Fact: I’m deliberate in making space for my/my business’ greatness. (And my cat is an ever helpful “intern”.)

 Rx: Create a sacred space right on your desk, infused with restorative nature.

  • Arrange a little collection – a shrine of happy, nature-infused items that you’ve picked up on a walk – that reflects back the divine and alive work you do.
  • Choose a corner of your desk and create this mini happy place with an indoor plant (that’s some O2 for you!) or place seasonal budding branches into a vase.
  • Arrange your nature-infused mini serene scene so that it’s seen out of the corner of your eye.
  • Add candles or essential oils for a triple sensory pick-me-up (Peppermint for mood boost, citrus for spiritual support).
  • Take visual sips of your shrine throughout the day, allowing yourself to rest your mind and gaze on what you cultivate with your good work paired with a sense of admiration of the arrangement and the tokens of bliss, serenity and symbolism.

Science says:

One of the top reasons people adopt shrines into their daily realm is to support a state of mindfulness. There’s a meditative power that comes with your within-arms-reach arrangement of positive, grounding nature elements on your desktop. It reminds you that you are within a sacred (creation) space. Joseph Campbell once commented,

“your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” 

The benefit of a mindful, restorative nature-infused, working environment is that it offers an ongoing state of meditative focus so that you flow back to your purpose.

Studies have shown that such a state reduces blood pressure, prepares us to deal with stressful situations, helps us out of the trap of the debilitating context switching.

Bank Yourself Some Style Points:

Infuse your desktop shrine with nature’s seasonal symbolism as I did at my very own #creationstation, especially if your workspace doesn’t provide you with access to #greenviewstohelpyou.

Here’s my quick pick list of elements and their symbols so you may bring nature’s bliss and powerful meaning onto your creation station:

Pine cones – birth abundance, health, fertility, fortune

Budding branches – awakening, promise, fragility, life is short so bloom!

Flowers – love, unity, growth, connection

Pebbles – grounding, foundational, enduring

Feathers – Divine order, ascension, spiritual connectedness

Seed pods – progression, sanctuary for the seed of creativity

The presence of green, living things is curative. Why not breathe some green life into that desk space… and your spirit?

It will leave you “shrining” and “be-leaf-ing” in your natural purpose again.


Your Cure #3 for Greening Your Work-From-Home Blues! is right here waiting for you.

Did you find this Cure helpful? Inspired to make a beautiful and happy space for your workplace?

Get your 1-page Tip Sheet of my 3 Cures for Greening Your Workplace Blues to Boost Your Mind-Body-Soul Bottom Line.

Click for 3 Cures Tip Sheet!

And I’ll make that 1 click a 2-fer by tucking you safe and sound onto Red Bird’s update list where I share great resources and announcements with my VIPers. Fret not, if at any point you want to exit stage left and remove yourself, there’s a 1 click unsubscribe button at the bottom of every single email. Easy peasy.

DSC_9163 - cutoutWelcome! I’m Annie Red Bird, Empowering Environment Translator, Serenity Stylista & Feel-Good Garden Designer. I dig deep, crusading about nature’s beauty & benefit to illuminate our truest, best selves, because the spaces we keep have a profound impact on our wellbeing & soul-fulfilling greatness.
Are you a style-keen, nature-loving, holistically-inclined “soilsoulsister” (or brother) who wants to tune out stress & dis-ease & tune into your mind.body.spirit connection, thanks to your own slice of everyday, personal paradise? Plant-tas-tic! Sign up for news, resources, good shares and we’ll get on with thriving outside & healing inside.