Wednesday Vignette: Rest

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“You rest now. Rest for longer

than you are used to resting.

Make a stillness around you,

a field of peace.

Your best work, the best time of your life

will grow out of this peace.”

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Peter Heller

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“Your call to power is to slow down and reflect within.

Gather the peace within yourself

before you go out and act among the world….

Establish this peace in your life

and you will experience a whole new reality

of the world that flows with you in every way possible,

rather than against you.”

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Alaric Hutchinson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Late Summer Golden Haze

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Like living sunshine, waves of golden flowers splash across the meadows at the Yorktown battlefields.  We found a quintessential meadow planting, windsown, as we drove through this patchwork of fields and fences, earthworks and reminders of the battles where the British finally surrendered to the Americans in October of 1781.

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Tall native grasses grow in an Oudolph style matrix, punctuated by native  Solidago catching and reflecting the late summer sunlight.  Peaceful now, these fields stand empty as a silent memorial to the passions which bought liberty for our United States.

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The Yorktown battlefields lie at the Eastern end of the Colonial Parkway.  Beyond the fields one finds the little village of Yorktown on the Southern bank of the York River.   We visit from time to time, enjoying the waterfront which hosts concerts, craft fairs, sailing ships and a pleasing variety of restaurants and shops.  Families relax along its sandy beach.

Here, time blurs.  Present day life blends seamlessly with artifacts and memories of the past.

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We enjoy the peace which permeates this place now.  And we enjoy seeing the seasons painting their colors across the fields and trees; the gardens in the village; the river and sky.

Goldenrod is one of the highlights of late summer and autumn here.  This is the wild, native Goldenrod.  While gardeners can purchase several more refined hybrids for their gardens, this is the same Goldenrod the early colonists and Native Americans would have known.

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It grows freely, still, along roadsides throughout our area.  Like so many ‘native perennials,’ Solidago may be seen as a wildflower by some, a weed by others.

It seeds take root in unexpected places.  In fact, native Solidago grows in one of our shrub borders.  Once I realized what it was, I began leaving it to grow undisturbed each year.  It grows very tall in this shaded area.

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While a bit weedy, it feeds many pollinators now at the end of the season, and its beautiful clear golden flowers brighten even the dullest autumn day.

In large masses, Goldenrod creates a lovely late summer golden haze; living, growing sunshine which  brightens the last few weeks of the season.

More on growing Goldenrod

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunday Dinner: Reflection

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“A lake is a landscape’s

most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder

measures the depth of his own nature.”

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Henry David Thoreau

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“There is no future without a past,

because what is to be cannot be imagined

except as a form of repetition.”

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Siri Hustvedt

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“Learning without reflection is a waste.

Reflection without learning is dangerous.”

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Confucius

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Once you reject fear,

you will become the perfect candidate

to receive and reflect Truth.”

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Suzy Kassem

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‘Sweet Carolina’ Charms

Caladium 'Sweet Carolina'

Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’ on September 22, 2016, about seven weeks after planting the tubers.

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‘Sweet Carolina’ Caladium takes the prize for the most entertaining Caladium I’ve grown; maybe the most entertaining foliage plant of any sort I’ve grown.  Why?  Because no two leaves unfold the same.

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There is so much going on with this plant!   First, there is the background color of the leaf.  Will it be cream or green?  How chartreuse will it turn?  How much darker green, and where?

Then, there are the blotches of cherry pink.  How many will appear?  How light or dark might they be?  What shape and patterns will they take?

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And finally, there are the veins.  Will they be pink, red, or white?  Will the edges of the leaf have a pink stain, too?

Thus far, no two leaves have come the same.

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‘Sweet Carolina’  is bred to take full sun, which is very unusual for a Caladium.  Ours grow in several different places with varying amounts of light.  I wanted to see how the plants would perform in everything from mostly sunny to partly shady.  I’m growing four plants directly in the ground, others in pots.

I’m also watching to see how tall the plants will grow.  Breeder Dr. Robert Hartman reports they grow into large, bushy uniform plants.  The Classic Caladium website indicates they will grow to over 36″ tall.  This hybrid is know for its large, broad leaves.

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There are four tubers growing together in this pot.

There are four tubers growing together in this pot.

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Ours have been growing now for between 5 and 7 weeks.  The pot started the first week of August is doing the best, and the tallest leaf is at around 18″ growing in only partial sun.  Fed with both Osmocote and regular feedings of Neptune’s Harvest, these plants are very well nourished.

Caladium tubers planted directly in the soil have not performed as well as those in pots.  They are shorter and have fewer leaves, and got a slightly later start.  I expect them to show a great deal of new growth now that there is plenty of moisture in the soil again.

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Caladiums delight us with their beautiful colors, patterns and forms.  They also satisfy us because they suffer little or no damage from grazing animals.  This makes them a good value for us.

The exception here is some insect damage to a few leaves of our ‘Sweet Carolina.’  Caterpillars ate a few leaves of a single potted plant.  Removing the caterpillar solved that problem.

But some of the plants in the ground have lost their tips to some other sort of grazing insect.  I’ve not noticed this problem with other Caladium varieties.

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This pot holds Begonia 'Arabian Sunset' and Begonia 'Richmondensis along with a single Caladium.

This pot holds Begonia ‘Arabian Sunset’ and Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ along with a single Caladium tuber.

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We expect to enjoy our Caladiums outside for about another month.  We will see how these plants develop now that they are all in active growth.

Our nights are dropping into the 60s now, a little on the cool side for Caladiums.  But we are still enjoying warm days.  With the warmer than average weather we’ve had so far this year, we may get to enjoy Caladiums into early November.

I hope you find these plants as interesting as we find them.  They are different from the more standard Caladiums in several ways, but that is part of their charm.  Their colors blend beautifully with other plants we enjoy.

All in all ‘Sweet Carolina’ Caladiums are an excellent addition to our forest garden.

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Woodland  Gnome 2016

The Quest: WPC

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Quest: (N) A long and arduous journey in search of something of importance.  A seemingly impossible task or challenge.  A mystery solved only through a journey into unknown territory.

What is your quest?  What is it you seek?

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When I taught literature, I challenged my students to look at many novels we read together within the paradigm of  ‘The Heroe’s Journey.’  We talked about the personal qualities which enable someone to set off from home to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.

And, of course, accepting the challenge and finding the will to leave the comforts of home behind, for the sake of the journey, counts as the first ‘seemingly impossible’ task for nearly every hero.

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Each challenge along the way finds the hero discovering more and more… about themselves.  The hero returns home transformed, perhaps even enlightened.

Sometimes  returning home may actually mean finding a new home, a better place to live, at the end of their journey.

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But one thing always true of quests is their mystery.   There is rarely a map, and one must navigate from the heart.

Guides almost always appear when needed most, yet the hero still makes the choice to turn one way or another, to engage or to avoid encounters along the way.

There are struggles to survive, and battles with evil ones.   There is never any guaranteed success.

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When one begins any journey, little of the road ahead can be seen.  Maybe we can see the first bit of the path, perhaps there is a even a destination in mind.

But things rarely turn out to be what they seem, and the path leads us ever onwards into the unknown; sometimes  into the unknowable.

Following a quest requires courage and determination, openness and heart. 

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And heroes often understand, when the quest is finished, that their journey through the world was also a journey into the mystery of themselves.  They find, within themselves, the true object of their quest.

What is your quest?

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Woodland Gnome  2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Quest

 

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A few of my favorite stories of quests and heroes:

The Teachings of Don Juan:  A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda
The Return of Merlin by Deepak Chopra 
The Alchemist  by Paul Coelho
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
The Odyssey by Homer
Hatchet by Gary Paulson
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
The Celestine Prophecy series by James Redfield
The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Epic of Gilgamesh  traditional Sumerian story

 

 

 

Water-Colored

The James River

The James River

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Wetness upon wetness, and still it rains.  Beautiful clouds swirl through the skies, allowing glimpses of piercing September blue high above them.  Great mounds of heavy rain-filled cloud soon follow, and the staccato tapping of rain on the roof and porch heralds yet another tropical shower.

Water oozes with each step in the garden now.  Clear water trickles through the ditch under our drive.  Roadsides and parking lots mirror the sky.

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Our long drought has broken.  On this first day of autumn, the equinox, we celebrate each cool breeze over the wet garden.  The land is replenished, refreshed, revived, and reinvigorated.

We see new growth, the resurrection of what had grown dry and desiccated.  We move into the new season with fresh confidence, looking forward to those seasonal changes still to come.

We are fortunate, here in Williamsburg, that the land is riddled with creeks and ravines.  There is always somewhere else for the water to flow.  The land drains, and so flooding remains rare.

Neighbors to the south and east have not fared as well.  Flooding has stopped daily routines in many areas nearby.  This week became an unplanned holiday for many as streets became canals;  parking lots ponds.

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We saw a family of happy turkeys this afternoon, finding their dinners along the roadside.  My partner counted eight.  Dusk was gathering, but their movements let us see them through the gloom.

We found herons and eagles along the banks of the creeks, deer in the open fields, and fish jumping clear of the river.   What rich diversity of life shares this place!

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The reeds and grasses in the creeks have turned golden now, and have been beaten down in places from the rain and high tides.  Shorter days and cooler nights will soon reduce them to buff colored chaff , and then the mud will shine through, and before long push-ups will dot the marshes again; homes to small creatures through the winter.

The seasons come and go like the tides; more slowly, but just as constant.  This week we feel the season turning from dry heat to wet coolness; from expansion towards rest.

Eagle nests stand empty in the trees, the youngsters now out exploring the creeks.

Soon we’ll hear the cries of geese flying over the garden each morning.  Whether they stay or go elsewhere, they still gather into great Vs and fly, singing their ageless melodies at dawn and dusk.  They often stop at the pond below our garden, finding food in the shallows and safety on its calm waters.

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And the garden calls me back outside, now that the ground has grown soft and workable again.  I’ve a few shrubs waiting to stretch their pot-bound roots into the native soil.  There are potted ferns, and soon there will be bulbs to plant.  There are beds to weed, some Irises to divide, and perennials which need a bit of grooming.  All these tasks were made to wait until the drought was ended.

But as the garden sits refreshed, so also do I.  The cool breezes breathe fresh energy into us, too.  And Indian Summer is upon us, one of the most beautiful seasons of our year.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wednesday Vignette: Dreaming Trees

Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre' 2014

Ficus afghanistanica ‘Silver Lyre’ planted 2014

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“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world

would go to pieces,

I would still plant my apple tree.”

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Martin Luther

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Star Magnolia 2015

Star Magnolia planted 2015

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“My own heroes are the dreamers,

those men and women who tried to make the world

a better place than when they found it,

whether in small ways or great ones.

Some succeeded, some failed,

most had mixed results…

but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it.

Win or lose,

I admire those who fight the good fight.”

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George R.R. Martin

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Crepe Myrtel 2015

Crepe Myrtle planted 2015

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“Most of the important things in the world

have been accomplished

by people who have kept on trying

when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

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Dale Carnegie

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Do you plant trees?  Planting a tree, whether for yourself or someone else, is one of the most powerful gestures one can make to assure a happy and healthy future.  Here are just a few of the trees we’ve planted over the last five years.

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The Arbor  Day Foundation sponsors several worthwhile programs to ensure that more community trees are planted each year.  The one which has my interest right now is “Neighborwoods Month.” October is a great time of year for planting trees in our region.   

Perhaps you will consider planting a tree or two of your own between now and the end of October. 

Here is the child’s tree dedication prayer recited in Philadelphia at the planting of a new community tree: 

” We dedicate this tree to beauty, usefulness, and comfort. 

May our lives grow in beauty, usefulness, and comfort to others

even as these trees expand their leafy boughs. 

Let us strive to protect and care for them

and they may so be enjoyed by all people…”

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Finally, Rain

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The first fine mist of rain found us at sunset on Sunday evening.  I noticed the sweetness in the air first, that smell of wetness we’ve missed for so long.  The cool mist touched our skin as we came outside, and we saw the tiniest of water droplets on the car’s windows.

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Mexican Pegunia, Rueilla simplex

Mexican Petunia, Ruellia simplex

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Finally, rain.  After weeks of unrelenting, unnerving heat and drought, here in Williamsburg, the promise of rain felt real.

The sunset sky was filled with mounding tropical clouds.  Some heavy and grey, others white and touched with sunset pinks and golds; they were reaching for one another, but did not yet cover all the bright blue above.

We had watched their progress all day, swirling above us.  It was hot again, 90.  The forecast rain failed to appear, again.  Until sunset.

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Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana feeds songbirds for many months each fall.

Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana feeds songbirds for many months each fall.  Considered a weed, I still love the color of its berries.

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And that was the beginning of this luxurious, generous, welcome rain.  The streets were wet when we drove home Sunday night, and the rain has come in fits and starts, downpours and drizzles ever since.

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Our brick hard garden, baked by weeks of dry heat, drinks in every drop.  Burned leaves still fall.  Every gust of wind carries sheets of brown leaves  from desiccated branches down to the hard earth.  Dead leaves coat every bed and gather in every pot.

Squirrels have been shredding Dogwood berries as they form; there are no acorns in our garden to feed them through the winter coming.

 

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But every bird and squirrel welcomes this rain, as do we.  A cardinal chirped and preened in the top of the Crepe Myrtle near the window yesterday, as the rain fell.  Such happiness!

But it seems every recent weather event touches the extremes.  As we watched the rain nourishing our garden, others watched it filling their streets and parking lots.

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Oxalis

Oxalis

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A nearby high school had a foot or more of water gathered in their parking lot by afternoon, with students sloshing through standing water to their buses and flooding cars.  And inches more rain are coming as what is left of Tropical Storm Julia meanders northward past the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay today.  Not that we’re complaining….

We talked, over dinner on Sunday, about how long we can manage to adapt to the changing climate here.  If each year comes on hotter than the last, what does that mean for us in another five years? Ten? If these trends continue on, how will our lives change?

That conversation is likely unfolding around a lot of dinner tables these days.  Heat and floods, drought and extreme winter storms have insinuated themselves into our lives in odd and expensive ways.

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Basil gone to seed, before the rains, delight our goldfinches and other small birds.

Basil gone to seed, before the rains, delights our goldfinches and other small birds.

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I walked in the rain this afternoon, taking stock of the garden’s response.  It’s good to see the plants plump and happy again as they fill themselves with this cool rain.

It’s even better to find myself indoors watching it, rather than outside with the hose, trying to give each area enough water to survive another day.

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Calaldium, 'Desert Sunset'

Calaldium, ‘Desert Sunset’ bathed in fresh rain

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I’ll admit we’re  worn a bit thin at the moment, after weeks of standing in the hot sun, watering the parched earth for hours every day.  And we wonder whether next summer will bring more of the same, or worse.

My partner asks with each new plant, “Is it drought tolerant?”  

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“Well…. in normal weather, or extreme?”  

That is the question all of us gardeners  eventually ask ourselves:  “What is ‘normal’ any more, and will we experience ‘normal’ again anytime soon?”

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It may be the one thing each of us can do to help our climate, our planet really, is to plant more trees.

We can make an effort towards restoring our ecosystem, trapping carbon, filtering the air, and re-balancing the water cycle with every tree and large woody shrub we plant.

But it takes all of us, each doing what we can on many fronts, to change this equation.

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Alocasia 'Stingray' thrive in heat and humidity. These tropical plants help filter the air and trap carbon with their huge leaves.

Alocasia ‘Stingray’ thrive in heat and humidity. These tropical plants help filter the air and trap carbon with their huge leaves.

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The long drought here is ended, but the challenge goes on and on.

I hope you are tuned in to this issue, and are doing what you can, where you can, to address the challenges this climate change brings to us all.

But mostly, I hope you are also finding pleasure and relief from the heat, when it finally rains.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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“The physical threat posed by climate change

represents a crisis that is not only material

but also profoundly spiritual at its core

because it challenges us to think seriously

about the future of the human race

and what it means to be a human being.”

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Grace Lee Boggs

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“Knowledge empowers people

with our most powerful tool:

the ability to think and decide.

There is no power for change greater

than a child discovering what he or she cares about.”

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Seymour Simon

(Speech about Global Warmingread on the National Mall
for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, 2010)

 

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: In Color

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People observe the colors of a day

only at its beginnings and its ends,

but to me it’s quite clear that a day

merges through a multitude of shades and intonations,

with each passing moment.

A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.

Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues.

Murky darkness.

In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them. ”

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Markus Zusak

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“Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?

Can one really explain this? No.

Just as one can never learn how to paint.”

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Pablo Picasso

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“White is not a mere absence of color;

it is a shining and affirmative thing,

as fierce as red, as definite as black.

God paints in many colors;

but He never paints so gorgeously,

I had almost said so gaudily,

as when He paints in white. ”

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G.K. Chesterton

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“The world is exploding in emerald, sage,

and lusty chartreuse – neon green

with so much yellow in it.

It is an explosive green that,

if one could watch it moment by moment

throughout the day,

would grow in every dimension.”

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Amy Seidl

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“Love was a feeling completely bound up with color,

like thousands of rainbows

superimposed one on top of the other.”

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Paulo Coelho

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Above:  Caladium ‘Cherry Tart’
Below:  Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’
Friends and I are trialing both of these new introductions
for Classic Caladiums of Avon Park, Florida

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“Music gives color to the air of the moment.”

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Karl Lagerfeld

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Blossom XVI

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“Plants are also integral to reweaving

the connection between land and people.

A place becomes a home when it sustains you,

when it feeds you in body as well as spirit.

To recreate a home, the plants must also return.”

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Robin Wall Kimmerer

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Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

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“I have a very simple arrangement with my plants:

I give them love and they give me flowers.”

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Joseph Rain

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“Groom yourself and your life like a shrub.

Trim off the edges and you’ll be stronger

in the broken places.

Embrace the new growth

and blossom at the tips.”

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D’Andre Lampkin

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize

so that just by being, just by shimmering

at the meadow’s edge or floating lazily

on a pond, I could be doing the work of the world

while standing silent in the sun.”

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Robin Wall Kimmerer

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