Wednesday Vignette: Take Care of Our Heart

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“People ask: Why should I care about the ocean?

Because the ocean is the cornerstone

of earth’s life support system,

it shapes climate and weather.

It holds most of life on earth; 97% of earth’s water is there.

It’s the blue heart of the planet —

we should take care of our heart.

It’s what makes life possible for us.

We still have a really good chance

to make things better than they are.

They won’t get better unless we take the action

and inspire others to do the same thing.

No one is without power.

Everybody has the capacity to do something.”

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Sylvia A. Earle

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“There is such solace in the mere sight of water.

It clothes us delicately in its blowing salt and scent,

gossamer items that medicate the poor soul”

.

Sebastian Barry

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“What begins at the water shall end there,

and what ends there shall once more begin.”

.

Doug Dorst

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“Water records information,

and while circulating throughout the earth

distributes information.

This water sent from the universe

is full of the information of life…”

.

Masaru Emoto

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“No one can know the infinite importance

of a tiny drop of water better than a thirsty bird

or a little ant or a man of desert!”

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Mehmet Murat ildan

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“To be fully alive

is to have an aesthetic perception of life

because a major part of the world’s goodness

lies in its often unspeakable beauty.”

.

Yukitaka Yamamoto

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Photos by Woodland Gnome

For World Water Day 2017

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Blossom XXII: “…and Spring After Winter.”

Redbud

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth

find reserves of strength

that will endure as long as life lasts.

There is something infinitely healing

in the repeated refrains of nature –

– the assurance that dawn comes after night,

and spring after winter.”

.

Rachel Carson

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“Live in each season as it passes;

breathe the air, drink the drink,

taste the fruit,

and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

.

Henry David Thoreau

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“I only went out for a walk

and finally concluded to stay out

till sundown,

for going out, I found, was really going in.”

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John Muir

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Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
Blossom XI
Blossom XII
Blossom XIII
Blossom XIV
Blossom XV
Blossom XVI
Blossom XVII
Blossom XVIII
Blossom XIX
Blossom XX
Blossom XXI

Sunday Dinner: Determination

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“Achieving your goals depends more

on the way you manage to push through

the bad days, than shine on the good ones.”

.

Lorri Faye

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“An invincible determination

can accomplish almost anything,

and in this lies the great distinction

between great man and little man.

.

Thomas Fuller

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“The foolish man seeks happiness

in the distance.

The wise grows it under his feet.”

  .

James Oppenheim

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Imperfect

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“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect-

-they are much more interesting.”
.

Marc Jacobs

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For all we might celebrate spring, in reality it often appears rather ragged.  Especially when the weather is a bit off, as it has been this year, there are scars here and there where we might hope for more beauty and less brown…

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Helleborus ‘Snow Fever’ now fully in bloom

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We have such hopes for spring.   The ‘catalog perfect’ images of bud and flower live in our imaginations through the long months of winter.  We watch for those first signs of color to break the white/grey/brown/ green monotony a new year brings.

But stems fall over in the wind, dropping daffodil flowers to the ground.  Frost bites, brown leaves lodge in unwelcome spots, and even winter bugs gnaw through leaf and petal.

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It’s the transition which remains a bit rough around the edges.  The garden beds sprouted some lively weeds, perhaps.  There are newly fallen leaves to rake.  A few dead stems remain in beds and pots from last year’s growth.  There is so much still to tidy up when one takes a good look around in mid-March!

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Ajuga with just emerging Muscari

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And there’s the mud.  Perhaps your garden is perfectly mulched or paved.  Ours is not…  and perennials and ferns have begun to re-appear from the wet earth.  The photos aren’t so picture perfect as perhaps they’ll be a few weeks on.

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A newly emerged Japanese fern unfurls beside HelleboresIt may be Athyrium niponicum ‘Burgundy Lace.’

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We visited a garden Friday, and felt a bit relieved to find the same flaws there we find at home:  Toppled, frost kissed daffodils; spent perennials; broken twigs on shrubs; and copious blooming weeds feeding deliriously happy bees.  Somehow, the imperfections added charm.

We were just so very happy to be there, and to feel the sun through our coats, and to count the reassurances of spring’s victory over another winter.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The question isn’t whether the world is perfect.

The real question to consider is:

If it were, would you still be in it?”

.

Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Fabulous Friday: Flowers From Wood

Native Dogwood, Cornus florida

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There is something totally magical about flowers blooming on woody stems.  Flowers, so fragile and soft, breaking out of weathered bark as winter draws to a cold and windy close will always fascinate me.

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Since I was a child, these natural wonders have held my attention.  Now, living in a Forest Garden, we have surrounded ourselves with flowering shrubs and trees.  They are sturdy yet beautiful, easy to maintain, and remain a lasting presence from year to year.  Their early flowers feed hungry pollinators when there is little else available.

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“Double Take Scarlet” Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Scarlet Storm’ in its second year in our garden. It has proven hardy and deer resistant, so I am watching the local garden centers for more of these shrubs to appear.  I would like to plant at least one more.

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After a cold and wintery week, we are happy to greet the sun and its warmth today.  We have uncovered the Hydrangeas again, lifted sheltering pots off of our new perennials, assessed the damage wrought by nearly a week of nights in the 20s, and done a little more pruning. 
But mostly, we have admired the many flowers opening now in the garden on this Fabulous Friday.
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The peach blossoms weathered the cold without damage.

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Although the Magnolia blossoms and Camellia blossoms turned brown in the cold this week, there are still buds left to open.  The damaged flowers will drop away soon enough.  And the fruit trees are just getting started! 

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Redbud flowers erupt directly from the trunk and branches of the tree. This is the species, Cercis canadensis, which grows wild here. Newer cultivars offer flowers in several shades of pink and lavender or white. Some also offer variegated or burgundy foliage.

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If I were asked for advice by someone just starting in their garden, I would steer them towards flowering woodies. 
The shrubs, or trees, themselves provide great garden structure year round.  They provide a permanent presence over decades, with little input from the gardener once they are established.  
And when they bloom, Wow!  What amazing ‘bang for your buck’ when a flowering tree covers itself with thousands of perfect blossoms.  It may last for a few weeks only, but what ‘gorgeosity’ in the garden when they bloom! 
Even when the blooms are finished, there is still much to enjoy from their beautiful bark, leaves, fruits and berries.  Many flowering trees return with gorgeous fall color to end the season.

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March 1, when the flowering Magnolia trees were covered in blossoms.

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There are great flowering woodies to enjoy in a mid-zone garden (6-9) through  the entire year.  When you might expect a short break in late January through mid-February, while even our hardy Camellias stop blooming, the Mahonia, Forsythia and Edgeworthia fill the garden with fragrance and color.
Now that the annual show has begun, we await the Azaleas and Rhododendrons; Lilacs; several species of Hydrangeas; Mountain Laurel; Rose of Sharon; Roses;  Crepe Myrtles, which easily bloom here for 100 days; until we finally return to our fall Camellias.

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From Left: Mahonia aquifolium, Edgeworthia chrysantha, and Magnolia stellata blooming in late February in our front garden.

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This garden was already planted, by the original gardeners, with wonderful flowering trees and shrubs which we continue to enjoy. We have added many more, and continue to plant more flowering trees and shrubs each year.  I just received a new Sweet Bay Magnolia from the Arbor Day Foundation, and have potted it up to grow in a protected place for its first year or two.
Most flowering shrubs perform well in partial sun to shade and can tolerate many types of soil and moisture conditions;  which makes them good candidates for forested and shaded gardens. 
Flowering woodies remain truly fabulous in our garden!

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Magnolia stellata, March 1 of this year

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I am setting an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to write about each Friday. 

Now that the Weekly Photo Challenge has moved to Wednesdays, I am starting  “Fabulous Friday” on Forest Garden. 

If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Magnolia stellata

 

WPC: Atop

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“Indeed, I find that distance lends perspective

and I often write better of a place

when I am some distance from it.

One can be so overwhelmed by the forest

as to miss seeing the trees.”

.

Louis L’Amour

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“Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye.”

.

Samuel Johnson

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“The greatest risk to man

is not that he aims too high and misses,

but that he aims too low and hits.”

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Michaelangelo

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“A mountain still in the distance

can appear as a molehill.”

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Howard Fast

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“Utopia is a collective shift of perception away.

Abundance is all around us.

Only our efforts at tower-building blind us to it,

our gaze forever skyward,

forever seeking to escape this Earth,

this feeling, this moment.”

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Charles Eisenstein

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016-2017

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“My father says that there is only one perfect view —

the view of the sky straight over our heads,

and that all these views on earth

are but bungled copies of it.”

.

E.M. Forster

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Atop

Wednesday Vignette: Living Geometry

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“The geometry of the things around

us creates coincidences, intersections.”


.

Erri De Luca

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“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book

which ever is before our eyes –

– I mean the universe –

– but we cannot understand it

if we do not first learn the language

and grasp the symbols in which it is written.

The book is written in mathematical language,

and the symbols are triangles, circles

and other geometrical figures,

without whose help it is impossible

to comprehend a single word of it;

without which one wanders in vain

through a dark labyrinth.”

.

Galileo Galilei

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“You don’t see something

until you have the right metaphor

to let you perceive it”

.

James Gleick

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“The harmony of the world is made manifest

in Form and Number,

and the heart and soul

and all the poetry of Natural Philosophy

are embodied in the concept of mathematical beauty.”

.

D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson

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“Number rules the universe.”

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Pythagoras

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“Maths is at only one remove from magic.”

.

Neel Burton

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“A circle has no end.”

.

Isaac Asimov

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“Seed of Life” Mandala designed and stitched in cotton thread by the Woodland Gnome 2016.  Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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More on Geometry:

Sacred Geometry, Flower of Life…. (additional links at the end of the post)

 

Re-Claiming Our Joy

Narcissus ‘Katy Heath’

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“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”
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Oscar Wilde

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The past several months have been an emotional time for many of us.  We are weathering a perfect storm of disturbing thoughts and feelings about our nation’s leadership and our nation’s destiny.   We may worry about the actions of some groups  across our United States.  Our hearts go out to so many individuals who are suffering and who have suffered harm.

It is hard to witness what is happening to our government.  It all feels very, very personal. 

It isn’t necessarily easy, these days, to discern truth from disinformation; reality from ‘spin.’  And it is exhausting to just keep up with each day’s events, let alone try to participate and have an impact on our country’s future.

And I’m weary of it all.   You may be feeling weary as well

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Whatever your politics, you may share an uneasy feeling about how things are happening.  There is too much dishonesty and secrecy on display in the narrative, for our nation’s present  leadership to be working for the general welfare and good of our country. It’s clear they have a different agenda in mind…..

If they were doing good things, they would want us to know.  Secrecy hides actions that you already know are hurting people; that you already know are in violation of our laws.

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We all know, from our own experience, that living with anger, fear, suspicion and dread takes a painful toll on our minds, our bodies and our heart.  We can’t let that happen. 

Feelings like anger, depression and fear drain our positive energy and intent.  We’ve got to somehow ‘fill ourselves back up’ with the  positive energies which come from joy and contentment. 

Before this latest political season began, we each had our own concerns.  And those likely haven’t gone away.   Now we’ve added a huge helping of national angst to our own personal dramas; it is a heavy load to bear.

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“Light chases away darkness.”
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Anasazi Foundation

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But we are strong.  And we have our goals firmly in mind for ourselves, our families, and our communities. 

And we know, with every fiber of our being, that the love, support, and joy we bring to our loved ones makes us all ever stronger.

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“Joy is the holy fire

that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

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Helen Keller

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The key to our survival is keeping our focus on what is positive and life-affirming.

Bask in what brings you joy.  Draw energy from what is most beautiful.

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There is real energy available to us when we focus on beauty.  The Native Americans have a blessing, “Walk in beauty.”  It invites us to celebrate what is good, and authentic, harmonious and pleasing. 

Walking in beauty, making beauty a conscious part of our daily lives, helps us ‘plug up’ the drains on our energy and re-fill the reservoir of our joy. 

Did your parents demonstrate this life skill?  Mine did, and I bless them for this teaching.

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“The universe is energy,

energy that responds to our expectations.”

.

James Redfield

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As winter gives way to spring, let’s open our minds and hearts to the changing season.  Let’s know that change is a constant in our lives; and we always have power to affect that change. 

We are not victims.  We are not disenfranchised or alone.  There is always ‘something’ we can do to have a positive impact in our community.

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“Faith, hope and love abide, these three….

and the greatest of these, is love.”

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Paulus

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Let’s re-energize ourselves, re-claim our joy, and re-affirm the goals we are working towards.  Let’s determine to walk in beauty; and more importantly to nurture beauty in our lives. 

Our gardens offer a place to begin.  Once we set foot on that path, there is no telling where it may take us.

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“Look for light
Listen for inspiration on the wind
Let water cleanse your soul
Set yourself on a firm foundation
Serve as the plants
Do not offend your fellow creatures
Live in harmony with all creations”

.

Anasazi Foundation

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~

 Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Native Virginia Trees

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Early spring, as the buds swell and glow red or orange or softest green around the crown of every tree on the horizon; directs our attention back towards our majestic, elegant hardwood trees which fill the landscape here in coastal Virginia.  We’ve largely ignored them since autumn, when their bright leaves blew away in November’s storms. 

The many native trees discovered by our early colonists still grow wild here.  They form the backdrop to our everyday lives.  Some of us love them and choose to live in forested communities.  Others fear them.  Perhaps for good reason, after seeing these gentle giants toppled by the storms which blow through our area several times a year. 

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Yet, the great North American trees define our landscape and our lifestyle.  They shade us and offer relief from our summer heat and humidity.  Their flowers announce spring and make early summer sweetly fragrant. 

The ready supply of good strong trees for lumber allowed early settlers to build homes and churches and businesses in the wilderness.  Although it is unusual to find a fully grown, mature hardwood tree anymore, we still can find them in parks and on preserved estates.

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Cypress Trees grow large here along the Colonial Parkway at the mouth of Powhatan Creek.

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I love trees.  And I love to plant trees. I count and visit the Dogwoods, Oaks, Redbuds, Crepe Myrtles and Poplars on our property pretty regularly to monitor their growth.  In fact, I spent an hour today with a shipment of bare root trees we just received from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I get angry when neighbors cut healthy trees, changing the landscape for our entire community.  And I really hate to see stands of trees cut for new development ,  mourning the ever increasing loss of the naturally forested acres left in our area. 

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We often fail to consider how much oxygen each tree produces each year, or how many pollutants each can filter from the air we breathe.  Trees absorb greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide in their respiration, locking that carbon into their woody flesh. 

They help moderate the temperature through all of our seasons, and fertilize the Earth and build new soil with their fallen leaves.  Each tree supports and houses countless animals, feeding and sheltering birds, small insects, butterflies and their larvae, and  small mammals.

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Native Redbud, Cercis canadensis, blooms in April.

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Since trees are on my mind today, I am republishing an essay I wrote in August, 2013, about how prized our American trees became to the Europeans who financed and supported colonization in North America.  I hope you find some useful bit here you didn’t know before.   And I also hope that perhaps this essay invites you to pay a bit more attention to the trees in your landscape and your life.

-Woodland Gnome

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View towards Jamestown Island from the Colonial Parkway.

View towards Jamestown Island from the Colonial Parkway.

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Did you know there was a time, not too long ago, when the most prized plants growing on regal British estates were trees imported from, “The Colonies”?  I had no idea how much 17th and 18th Century British gardeners coveted North American plants- particularly our trees.

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American Sycamore growing along the Colonial Parkway on the bank of the James River.

American Sycamore growing along the Colonial Parkway on the bank of the James River.

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Isn’t it interesting how things are forgotten over the years, and we assume that how things are in our own experience is how things have always been?

I grew up on the East coast of North America, making annual trips to view the colorful forests cloaking the Blue Ridge Mountains each autumn.  I’ve always had brilliant autumn foliage to enjoy in my own yard, and lining the streets of whatever town I happened to visit.

We in Virginia accept these things as part of the normal progression of the seasons.  We savor them, but don’t take notice of what a rare treat we enjoy.

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An oak tree growing beside the James River near Jamestown.

An oak tree growing beside the James River near Jamestown.

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It was the book, Brother Gardeners:  Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession, by Andrea Wulf, which opened my eyes and my mind to the treasures growing here, as weeds in the woods.

Prior to the 17th century, European, and specifically British gardens, had a limited palette of plants.  The formal geometric schemes of lawn, hedge, topiary evergreen shrubs, roses, and very few summer flowers were the norm.  Green and brown were the main colors found in the garden for most of the year.  Hardscape paths, stairs, fountains, arbors, and structures were the relief from all of this green lawn and green hedge.  Gardeners overcame and reshaped nature when creating a garden.

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Dogwood tree in early November

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The notion of working with nature was born in the colonies, and exported back to England in some measure toward the second half of the 18th century.

As European ships sailed abroad to explore and claim the world, they took as treasure not only gold and silver, but also botanical treasures from all of the lands explored.

Very little of the plant material collected actually made it back alive to a gardener in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, or the Netherlands.  When a voyage lasts many months, things happen.  Things like hungry mice and storms; gnawing insects, pirates, salt spray; and unmitigated heat and cold on the deck of a sailing ship.

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But whatever seeds, bulbs, cuttings, roots, and even live plants did miraculously make it home and into the hands of a skilled gardener, were loving tended and coaxed into growing in specially built hot houses and garden plots.

Plants were grown out for seed, sold, traded, and propagated in great botanical gardens across Europe.  Botanists befriended ships’ captains and crews in hopes of bribing them to bring home new specimens.  And, as colonies were established, relationships sprang up between the colonists and avid collectors “back home” in Europe.

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Red Cedar growing in Colonial Williamsburg.

Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana growing in Colonial Williamsburg.

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The fledgling scientists of the Enlightenment realized that every new species of plant contains tremendous gifts.  Aside from their beauty and use in an ornamental garden, plants contain useful chemical compounds to heal, create new products, nourish, and enlighten.  Some of this research continues today in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil and other inaccessible and remote corners of the world

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Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.  Enlarge the photo and you’ll see the long seed pods growing in early August.

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The colonial era was an exciting time for discovering countless new species of plants. The gardens of Great Britain and Europe reflected the explosion of diversity by welcoming previously unknown flowers, trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables into their evolving and increasingly naturalistic garden schemes.

Remember, the great forests of Britain were decimated long before this era.  When Maple, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Sycamore, Cedar, Dogwood, Sassafras, Magnolia and other colorful tress and shrubs from America grew in the first garden plots of importers, they were a novelty.  The aristocracy quickly fell in love with these new plants, and clamored for a seed or a cutting to grow on their home estates.

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Oak and pine grow in abundance on Jamestown Island.

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Benjamin Franklin helped build the relationships that enabled this trade between his amateur botanist friends in the American colonies and his contacts in Britain.  The story told in Andrea Wulf’s book unfolds with the drama and personality of a good novel, and I recommend it to every like minded gardener, no matter which side of the pond you call your present home.

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Native holly

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For the purposes of this post, I will  mention a few of the trees growing wild right here around Jamestown, which were collected in the Colonial era and sent back to England.  These trees, common to us, opened up a whole new way to design and enjoy gardens for those still in Europe.  They were grown for their beautiful form, fall color, interesting bark, and some for their flowers.

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An old oak tree’s exposed roots. This tree holds the bank of the James River along the Parkway.

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Eventually, gardening became a passionate pursuit not only of the aristocracy, but for many Britons.  As we admire their beautifully tended gardens of trees, shrubs, and flowers today, so they admired the wild and beautiful plants we sent back to them from, “The Colonies”.

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Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

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Here is a partial list of trees and shrubs introduced to Britain from the American colonies:

Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple, 1725

Aesculus pavia, Red Buckeye, 1711

Colorful fall leaves were almost unknown in Britain before American species of trees were introduced n the 17th and 18th centuries.

Betula nigra, River Birch, 1736

Callicarpa americana, Beauty Berry, 1724

Catalpa bignonioides, Southern Catalpa, 1722

Chamaecyparis thyoides, White Cedar, 1736

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree, 1736

Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood, 1722

Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon, 1629

Euonymus atropurpurea, Burning Bush, 1744-6

Fraxinus americana, White Ash, 1724

Hydrangea arborescens, Wild Hydrangea, 1736

Juglans nigra, Black Walnut, 1629

Juniperus virginiana, Red Cedar, 1664

Kalmia latifolia, Mountain Laurel, 1734

Liriodendron tulipifera, Tulip Poplar, 1638

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern Magnolia, 1734

Dogwood, our Virginia state tree, blooms in April.

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet Bay, 1688

Pinus strobus, White Pine, 1705

Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore, 1638

Sassafras albidum, Sassafrass, 1630

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Dogwood, Cornus florida

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2017

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

Brother Gardeners at Barnes and Nobles

Brother Gardeners at Amazon

Sunday Dinner: Changes

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“And that is how change happens.

One gesture. One person.

One moment at a time.”

.

Libba Bray

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“Believe something and the Universe

is on its way to being changed.

Because you’ve changed, by believing.

Once you’ve changed,

other things start to follow.

Isn’t that the way it works?”

.

Diane Duane

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“One day spent with someone you love

can change everything.”

.

Mitch Albom

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“The only way to make sense out of change

is to plunge into it, move with it,

and join the dance.”

.

Alan W. Watts

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“Change will not come if we wait

for some other person, or if we wait

for some other time.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

We are the change that we seek.”

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Barack Obama

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“Keep your best wishes, close to your heart,

and watch what happens”

.

Tony DeLiso

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2017

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“Dare to dream!

If you did not have the capability

to make your wildest wishes come true,

your mind would not have the capacity

to conjure such ideas in the first place.

There is no limitation

on what you can potentially achieve,

except for the limitation you choose to impose

on your own imagination.

What you believe to be possible

will always come to pass –

to the extent that you deem it possible.

It really is as simple as that.”

.

Anthon St. Maarten

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