The Legend Of Leaf Man

There is a joke in my family about a recurring dream that used to haunt me, long, long ago when we lived in our very first house in Pennsylvania. It is the beginning that has no end.

I sleep on the left side of the bed, preferring that because I am left handed, some would say left brained as well. A very few feet away from my pillow, inches really, was our master bedroom closet. It was a scrawny thing that was shared with my husband. There were sliding doors on this wee space, that would get hung up regularly on the track so they were left open, always. Often, perhaps weekly, I would wake up in the middle of the night shaking and frightened, telling my husband, well before he became The Financier of Fairegarden, that there was a man standing in the closet looking at me. The man was not threatening, he was not evil or scary, but he was green and covered in leaves. Always the same. He did not speak or move, he was simply there. In my closet. And so, many things were blamed on Leaf Man. Food left out of the refrigerator overnight, clothes not hung up or put into dressers, homework forgotten, lights left on were all the doings of Leaf Man.

It was in this first house that real gardening began. Not just pots of Philodendron and containers of Begonias or water filled jelly jars with Coleus cuttings in them, but actual seeds and plants placed in the ground, my ground. There were mature apple trees, a large crabapple, white birches and lilacs, and they all had leaves. Leaves were raked and piled on the vegetable patch to be burned and turned under. It was understandable to have dreams about leaves. Clothes hanging in a closet could be mistaken for a human figure by eyes blurry from through the night feedings of tiny babes.

The image of Leaf Man faded from view as we moved from state to state, house to house. The sleep was no longer interrupted by the benevolent figure covered in verdant raiment, peering out at me. But he is not forgotten. (The Wood Spirit who sees no evil, speaks no evil nor hears no evil was a Christmas gift from my boys Gardoctor and Brokenbeat. Thanks, my dears!)

The move to our present house and garden in Tennessee found us empty nesters, with no children living among us. The creation of a large garden on a steep slope continues to while away the hours. In this home and garden dwell descendents of the long ago figment of foliage. Sculptures and plaques adorn walls and plantings with likenesses of male and female faces surrounded with leaves. I am drawn to masks and faces, still and always. The tall stand of mature Loblolly pines and the presence of the fallen maple, Ferngully inhabit this place. Trees, woods, the forest hold the playful beings known by many names, the Green Men (and Women).

There is much lore and legend about the Green Man throughout history and in many cultures. There is a common thread of nature and rebirth, new beginning and spiritual contentment, being one with the Earth and everything in it that runs through the mythology. It seems true and right to me, as a gardener, to be surrounded with reminders of the power that dwells in us all. And that it is leafy green.

One of our earliest posts, back when the majority of comments were left by my family members, was written about these faces. You can read it by clicking
here-Faces In The Garden
. There have been some additions to the collection since then, gifts and creations. Rather than copying the information from good old Wikipedia, click
to learn more for yourselves about Leaf Man through the ages, if you are so inclined. He gets around.


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26 Responses to The Legend Of Leaf Man

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You have definitely faced your fears and conquered Frances. I have always admired your collection of leafy peoples. Have a great weekend.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. Yours was among those first comments, I appreciate your loyal readership! πŸ™‚

  2. Randy Andrson says:

    Thanks for sharing your garden whimsy with us. Your story of the leaf man was very entertaining and enjoyed.It’s 5 below this morning but my heart is warm now. Thanks again!

    Yikes, Randy, that is toooooo cold! Thanks for visiting. I am glad you are feeling a little warmer now. πŸ™‚

  3. Carol says:

    I hope Leaf Man also did some good things around the house and garden. Around here, anything “bad” or unexplainable is blamed or credited to the garden fairies, as the case maybe.

    Hi Carol, thanks for reminding us that Leaf Man does good things, too. His best work was done in the garden! The garden fairies and Leaf Man are in cahoots! πŸ™‚
    Happy Birthday!

  4. Donna says:

    I love the Leaf/Green Man and also have many images of him around my garden and in my house!! He brings the fairies to my garden where it is safe!!

    Hi Donna, thanks for adding here. I am glad you have Leaf Man and fairies in your gardens. They keep us company while we are weeding. πŸ™‚

  5. What a great collection Frances. I find it interesting what garden art rocks peoples worlds. You and yours rock!

    Thanks Helen, you are too sweet! Garden art does rock! If something has branches or leaves, if it has a face or human figure, I love it. If it has both, like Leaf Man, it has to come home with me! πŸ™‚

  6. Eileen says:


    The garden sculptures are wonderful! Check out the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. It is written for children but beautifully illustrated and written. It is one of my favorites and I am a grown up child.


    Hi Eileen, thanks. I will look for that book. Children’s book have great appeal to some adults as well. πŸ™‚

  7. You’ve an impressive collection Frances! So many beautiful objects to complement the beautiful plants. I love the Green Man too, though in English folklore he is often a rather sinister figure.

    Hi Janet, thanks. It is that dark side that makes the Green Man to intriguing to me. The fairies are also said to be sometimes mischievious if not downright bad to the bone. πŸ™‚

  8. Layanee says:

    Your choice of garden sculpture says so much about your love of nature and naturalistic garden. I like them all.

    Thanks Layanee, what a sweet thing to say. I do love nature, there is no denying that. You were the first to comment on the old Faces posts, too. We share that love of faces! πŸ™‚

  9. commonweeder says:

    Your Green Man images have always fascinated me. I think of them as watchful guardians, although I suppose even guardians can be mischievous. In our house it is always the coyotes to take socks and notepads and gloves and who knows what all when we aren’t looking. We are sure we have seen them wearing our socks on their ears as they lope across the field.

    Hi Pat, thanks so much. I would love to see your coyotes with sock ear gear! What a great image that conjures. πŸ™‚

  10. What a fascinating post. I love how you’ve turned a rather scary figure from your old closet into a important, comforting part of your life.
    I recently had some queries about the avatar on my blog, which looks like a Green Man, but is in fact a little monkey mask from a great Italian garden. Visitors seemed very interested in the story behind the image. I wonder what it is about faces in nature that so fascinate us…

    Hi Jill, thanks so much. Leaf Man was never scary to me, although a man in my closet was frightening. But since he was a garden friend, it wasn’t so bad. I do love masks as well and will check out your Italian monkey! πŸ™‚

  11. Delightful post, thanks for adding a bit of whimsy to my morning. Stay warm!

    Hi Meredehuit, thanks. Life is much too short to take everything seriously! You too stay warm. The temps are cold today, but the sun is shining brightly, a good thing. πŸ™‚

  12. Rose says:

    So interesting to read about the origins of the Leaf Man, Frances. I hope that he and all his descendants are staying warm somewhere; it’s -3 here this morning.

    By the way, I wanted to correct an earlier comment I made. The quote about “fish and guests” was actually from Ben Franklin, not Shakespeare. I should have known better–old Ben was more concise than Will. But I know Shakespeare said something about smelly fish:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. Anything below 20 is to cold, in my opinion. Do try to stay warm there. I would never question your quote knowledge, but Ben Franklin seems more likely. Perhaps Shakespeare said something similar? πŸ™‚

  13. Steve says:

    Frances, thank you for a hugely evocative and touching post. The personal part reminds me of some of my own thematic sorts of “archetypal” figures, lol. I remember dreaming once about Yogi Berra and Satan having a conversation around the ol’ campfire. πŸ˜‰ Really, really neat post, Frances. I liked this as much as any you’ve posted, thanks.

    Hi Steven, thanks for adding to the conversation, and what a conversation that must have been in your dream! I appreciate your kind words, as always. Personal stories are always best, like your stump and rhodie stories, my favorite posts of all time. πŸ™‚

  14. I went through a similar period where I saw someone standing by my bed. They were not threatening but were terrifying because they didn’t belong there. Also I was awake in the sense that it wasn’t a dream, I could see the actual room around the figure. A super-doctor friend thinks they are migraines without the headache. Did you ever see light patterns as they were a common part of my visions?

    Hi Carolyn, very interesting. I don’t have headaches much, but have seen light patterns, only when I close my eyes though. I am sure that my eyes were open and I was awake when gazing upon leaf man. It happened so many nights, for years, I finally convinced myself he wasn’t really there and not to be worried. Then we moved to California and so on and so on.

  15. You have such fabulous faces, indoors and out. I’ve always liked the legend/mythology of the Green Man (as is shown by my sculpture, “Becoming the Green Woman”). It has a lot to teach us technology-dependent, divorced from nature humans in the 21st Century.

    Hi MMD, thanks. I do love and admire your metal sculpture! I feel very close to nature and am glad to live in such a small and slow moving town where it is possible to feel at one with the earth and growing things. πŸ™‚

  16. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, I love synchronicity~A few days ago I was researching The Green Man and thinking about adding him to the garden. Your final statement sums says so much “It seems true and right to me, as a gardener, to be surrounded with reminders of the power that dwells in us all. And that it is leafy green.” He does a physical representative in my garden; although, he is here in spirit. xxoogail

    Dear Gail, thanks for joining in here. I do believe a Green Man would be happy in your lovely wild garden, to join in the spirit of the place. πŸ™‚

  17. Donna says:

    This is a fun and interesting story of your experience and dreams. By coincidence, while I am reading your post, there are three cats howling at each other right outside my office. Spooky sounding in the whiteness of winter. Now my dreams may include a leafy green guy, who knows.

    Hi Donna, thanks for sharing that. Howling cats fit right in with a dream sequence. Perhaps they will be in my leafy dreams as well. πŸ™‚

  18. E.C. says:

    I’m so glad I surfed on to your blog. I’ve really enjoyed this post and intriguing tale of the Leaf Man. I think it’s wonderful that your family shares in the joy that your encounter of such a curious character had. That’s just good ol’ sentimental fun. πŸ™‚

    Hi EC, thanks and welcome! My family is the most important thing in my life, always, with gardening a close second. I am glad you liked the tale and hope you return for more Fairegarden adventures. πŸ™‚

  19. Lola says:

    Hi Frances, I’ve always admired the Leaf Man & wished I had one in my garden. I have a particular one in mind. As I so admire garden art I shall try to add him to my garden.
    I really like all yours placed ever so lovingly by a gardeners hands.

    Hi Lola, thanks for joining in here. That is great thay you already have a chosen Leaf Man for your garden! May he gladden your heart in your own space. πŸ™‚

  20. Town Mouse says:

    A good friend looked for green man in churches in Europe and said she found at least one in most of them.

    Hi Town Mouse, thanks for adding that. We saw some Green Man figures in a few of the gardens we visited in England. There was a really cool one over a doorway at Sissinghurst.

  21. Alistair says:

    Hi Frances, a ghost story for gardeners worldwide.

    Thanks Alistair, hope you weren’t too scared! :-0

  22. Left-handed person on the left side of the bed… We have a framed quotation at our house (my husband is left-handed): “Left handed people are the only ones in their right brain.” ha?

    At any rate, you are truly a creative person and always provide plenty of entertainment! πŸ™‚ So – are you over the nightmares now?

    Hi Shady, HA indeed! I haven’t dreamt of Leaf Man in more years than I can count. It seemed to have something to do with where the closet in relation to my pillow. Thanks for those kind words. πŸ™‚

  23. I only have one Green Man in my garden. He guards the north west corner, actually. Lovely post, but I can’t help wondering why a benevolent creature would frighten you so. Our night fears are never rational, so great that you have worked it into the family legend and in your garden.

    Hi Hands, thanks for joining in here. Seeing someone standing in my closet was scary, as someone said, he didn’t belong there. I am glad he moved on outside where he belongs. πŸ™‚

  24. Carol says:

    Love this post! What a wonderful story and a great collection of garden sculptures. My garden is under a lot of snow and it is only about 8 degrees out but I look forward to Spring and seeing the plants poke their heads out of the warming soil. It’s such a hopeful occurrence.

    Hi Carol, thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it. There is nothing like the hope for spring to make a gardener’s heart beat a little faster. Do stay warm! πŸ™‚

  25. Cindy, MCOK says:

    As scary as those dreams must have been, it sounds like the Leaf Man was indeed a benevolent guide sent to usher you into the garden. We’re glad he did!

    Hi Cindy, thanks for the support. My sleep habits were not so good back then with the babies and Leaf Man conspiring to keep me up! I sleep better now. And you cannot keep me out of the garden! πŸ™‚

  26. Kirsten says:


    I was online searching ‘leafman’ when I found your page. I had a dream of a stange figure last night that I would best describe as a leaf man. He was carrying a load on his back and the figure and his load was just a mass of dried leaves. I knew he was a mythological or spiritual figure at the time and upon waking couldn’t help but be curious!

    He wan’t scary at all, he was quiet and just picking his way slowly next to a creek, but I seem to remember that he made crunching sounds as he walked πŸ™‚

    Hi Kirsten, thanks for sharing your leaf man dream! It is nice to know there are others whose subconscious holds such ideas. You must be a child of the Earth.

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