Rosi Goldsmith talks to plants. Surprise! They talk back. Take the scarlet red oriental poppy Goldsmith spied in a Seaview, Wash., garden during a recent chat. Goldsmith said the poppy, a well placed knockout in a perennial and shrub border, begged for attention. We rewarded the gorgeous plant with a photo.

Gardeners who take the time to communicate with their plants, and to love them for what Goldsmith calls their "intrinsic beauty" and place in nature, will too be rewarded. Their gardens will become bounteous plant havens and the creatures within the garden, such as slugs, beneficial insects and others, will also find their place. Goldsmith has written about guiding slugs to a specially planted patch of lettuce so that the nibblers have their own food to eat. She said by telling them to stay away from her own lettuce garden, the slugs have learned to be less harmful.

Goldsmith will teach a class called "Communicating with the Plants and Insects in Your Garden" Aug. 3 in Seaview, Wash. The seminar, which will take place at a home surrounded by thriving flower and vegetable gardens, will focus on creating balance in the garden and connecting with what Goldsmith calls "the intelligence in Nature." Accessing that intelligence comes only through creating "co-creative" solutions in the garden, said Goldsmith, such as her mini-lettuce patch for slugs. It is her belief that "the universe and the various systems within it may behave in a conscious, intelligent and purposeful manner" and that by practicing good gardening, we can tap into those systems.

The most non-toxic way to grow flowers and vegetables, said Goldsmith, is to become aware of how we communicate with our plants and to expand those ways. She favors what she calls "whole-body listening," a method that employs not just ears, but "all of the senses, and the heart," Goldsmith wrote in an issue of the magazine Sentient Times. We also need to learn "how to praise plants and to know when they are talking back." An ailing plant is telling us something - it is our job to listen.

Goldsmith has found peace with the insects and animals in her world by developing positive attitudes toward the creatures. She does not view them as invaders, even if they are happily munching away on a prized plant. They all have their worth. She urges us to "overcome our prejudices" when we negotiate with creatures to a point of cooperation. Goldsmith is not above some firmness when dealing with such garden visitors as slugs - years ago, she said she threatened a particularly hungry group of slugs with bait if they did not comply and get out of her family's lettuce patch. Luckily the lure of their own lettuce bed tempted the slimers to move along.

On her bookshelf, Goldsmith keeps books about Findhorn, Scotland, where many of the principles she follows were first developed. She also recommends Machaelle Small Wright's "The Perelandra Garden Workbook" and "The Secret Life of Plants," by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. Creating better relationships with plants and garden creatures has brought Goldsmith closer to nature, she said, and has opened up the intelligence of her own backyard.

For more information about Goldsmith's work and her upcoming class, call (541) 660-5614 or email rosig@rvi.net

Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to peterson@pacifier.com

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