Re-Weaving the Web

Viola papilionacea

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Our ‘lawn’ hosts many wildflowers, including the always beautiful violet, Viola papilionacea.  I’m happy to see these lovely wildflowers bloom each spring.  They are so common, and so elegant.  And I’ve always assumed that their nectar is a welcome source of nourishment for bees and other pollinators in early spring.

But I was surprised to learn, when browsing recently on the National Wildlife Federation’s website, that the common, native violet is a larval host to 30 different species of moth and butterfly.   By simply allowing these pretty spring wildflowers, rather than stopping their growth with a ‘broadleaf weed’ herbicide, I’ve been helping to support moths and butterflies.

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Monarch butterfly on hybrid Lantana, an excellent source of nectar.

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Once we begin to understand our own lawns and gardens as part of an intricate web of life; the daily decisions we make, and the actions we do, or don’t take assume an entirely new and more meaningful context.

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Spiders often weave large webs in our autumn garden.

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I certified our garden as a wildlife habitat some years ago.  Ever since, I get regular mailings and emails from the National Wildlife Federation offering me things if I’ll only send a bit more money to them.  I respect their work and detest the constant fundraising.  But an email last week somehow caught my attention, and in a spare moment I began clicking through to find a personalized list of native plants that thrive in our zip code and also support wildlife.

Imagine that!  A personalized plant list just for me and my neighbors to assist us in preserving habitat!

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Our native redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, supports 25 species of butterfly and moth larvae.  Our dogwood tree supports 110 larval species.

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Also on my list: Fragaria, Solidago, Aster, Geranium, Hibiscus, Rudbeckia, Achillea and good old Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium.  It’s the first plant on this list, Fragaria, that nudges that guilty sense that maybe I’m not as good as I want to be.

Common (weedy) ground strawberries, Fragaria virginiana, thrive in our garden.  They thrive and spread themselves over and around every bed I start and every other thing I plant.  Along with the ubiquitous Vinca minor vines, Fragaria are the plants I find myself pulling up and throwing away the most.  And to think that this common and enthusiastic plant; which feeds pollinators, songbirds, small mammals and reptiles; also supports 73 different species of larval moths and butterflies.  How did I ever miss that?

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Wild strawberries, Fragaria, mix with other wildflowers as ground cover at the base of this stand of Narcissus. Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens, Gloucester VA.

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You may have read Dr. Doug Tallamy’s revolutionary manual, Bringing Nature Home.   Dr. Tallamy makes a clear argument for why including native plants in our home landscape matters, and offers simple advise about how to do this in the most practical and easy to understand terms possible.

The National Wildlife Federation has based their Native Plant Finder on his work, and will give anyone an individualized list of native plants that form the basis of the ecosystem in their particular area, down to their zip code.

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The American Sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis, supports 43 species of larvae, including the beautiful Luna moth..

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The change in my sensibility came when I realized that I don’t really have to do anything special to grow a garden of native plants.  Rather, I need to allow it to happen, by understanding and respecting the natural processes already at work in our garden.

We modern American gardeners are often conditioned to feel like we need to go and buy something in order to be gardening.  Dr. Tallamy helps us to understand that going to our local garden center or nursery may not be the best way to heal our local ecosystem.

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How many of us already have an oak tree (or two or three) growing in our garden?  They are handsome shade trees, and I’ve always admired oaks.  Did you know that in addition to producing acorns, oak leaves support over 500 species of larval butterflies and moths?  A birch tree supports over 320 species.  That is a lot of mileage from a single tree, when it comes to supporting the insect world!

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Virginia Creeper, a native vine which crops up in many areas of our garden, provides nectar, berries, and it also supports 29 species of butterfly and moth larvae.

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Keep in mind that this is only a counting of butterflies and moths, and doesn’t even consider the hundreds of other insect species which live on our native trees.  Even a pine tree supports over 200 species, and the simple mistletoe already growing in several trees around our yard will support 3 species of moth larvae.

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 Zebra Swallowtail feeding on Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ at Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens in Gloucester .

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I keep returning to this conundrum about native vs. ‘exotic’ plants. I listen closely when experts, like the erudite speakers at our local chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, speak on this matter.  I have also been doing a bit of reading about the balance between natives and non-native plants in our home gardens.

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Hibiscus syriacus is not our native Hibiscus… but our bees and butterflies love it anyway.  It has naturalized in our area.

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Some landscape designers suggest planting exotic plants near our house and native plants towards the edges of our property.  This assumes, I think, that the native plants may not be beautiful enough or refined enough to plant along our daily paths.  Somehow, I know there must be a better way….

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Purists try to demonstrate to us that ‘native’ means the plants that have grown in our particular location for centuries, maybe even millennia.  It is the particularly adapted sub-species that have grown in symbiotic relationships with the local fauna and geo-forms which matter most.  They are adapted to our soil, climate and may not be truly ‘native’ 30 miles down the road.

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Asclepias incarnata, July 2017

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The problem with this analysis comes from understanding that there was a lot of movement of people and spreading of plants in North America before the earliest recorded European inhabitants.  It doesn’t matter whether you take that back to the Vikings, Sir Henry Sinclair, The Templar fleets or Captain Chris; the truth is that many different groups of native Americans carried plants around from place to place and established agriculture long before there was a European around to observe and record their activities.

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Muscadines are a native North American grape.  Vitis species support 69 larval species, and were cultivated long before the European migration to our continent.

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Many of us mail order an Asclepias or two and know we have done a good thing for the Monarchs.  But Asclepias only supports twelve larval species, while the Rudbeckia systematically colonizing our entire front garden support 20!

But Rudbeckia don’t feed Monarch larvae.  And neither do many of the Asclepias I’ve planted in recent years.  Their leaves remain pristine.  It is not just what we plant, but many factors in the environment that determine whether or not a butterfly will choose a particular plant to lay their eggs.

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I am happiest when I realize that the plants I want to grow anyway also qualify as ‘native’ and benefit wildlife.

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Native Hibiscus moscheutos grows in our garden, and has naturalized in many wetlands in our area.  Sadly, non-native Japanese Beetles feasted on its leaves.  Hibiscus supports 29 species of butterfly and moth larvae.

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I am content when the ‘exotic’ plants I want growing in our garden also offer some benefit to wildlife, whether it is their nectar or their seeds.  And I still stubbornly assert my rights as The Gardener, when I commandeer real-estate for those non-natives that I passionately want to grow, like our beloved Caladiums. 

As long as I find hummingbirds buzzing around our canna lilies and ginger lilies each summer, and find the garden filled with song birds and butterflies, I feel like we are doing our small part to support wildlife.

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Many of us enjoy watching pollinators gather nectar and pollen from the flowers in our garden.  We enjoy a variety of birds attracted to seeds, berries, and insect life in our gardens, too.  But how many of us relish watching caterpillars nibble the leaves of our garden plants?

We see nibbled leaves as damaged leaves, without taking into consideration that before we have butterflies flitting from flower to flower, we must shelter and support their larvae.

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Black Swallowtail butterfly and caterpillars on fennel, August 2017

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Assuming that you have read Doug Tallamy’s work, let me invite you to take the next step by reading Larry Weaner’s thought provoking new book,    Garden Revolution:  How Our Landscapes Can Be A Source of Environmental Change.  Where Doug Tallamy writes about plant choice, Larry Weaner is all about ecological landscape design.  He teaches how to begin with a tract of land and restore an ecosystem.  Weaner teaches us how to work with the processes of nature to have plants present their best selves, with minimum inputs from us.

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Restoring our environment, preserving our ecosystem, are holistic, systemic endeavors worthy of our energy and attention.  As we develop a deeper understanding and sympathy for these matters, our aesthetic, and our understanding of our own role in the garden’s evolution, also evolve.

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The Devil’s Walkingstick, Aralia spinosa provides nectar when in bloom, and thousands of tasty berries in the autumn.  It also supports 7 larval species. A volunteer in our garden, it is one of the most spectacular trees we grow.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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“The wild is where you find it,
not in some distant world
relegated to a nostalgic past or an idealized future;
its presence is not black or white,
bad or good, corrupted or innocent…
We are of that nature, not apart from it.
We survive because of it,
not instead of it.”
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Renee Askins
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Hummingbird moth on a hybrid butterfly bush growing among native Rudbeckia. 

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Snow Surprise

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Did I say surprise?  Little should surprise us anymore.  We live in such a ‘land of confusion’ these days that I’ve started taking a lot of what I hear, including weather forecasts, with a grain of salt.  Which is probably why I didn’t expect it to snow, at least not here, despite the forecasts on every wavelength and website. We decided it was as good a day as any to venture out to Toano for some shopping, and chose to ignore the sputtering rain as we headed out on our errands just before noon.

We listened to the sleet bouncing off the car as we returned in the early afternoon from our foray to the Tractor Supply Co.  It is one of our favorite stops in early spring, and we took some time browsing among the boots and hats before heading off to see what was new and interesting.

I was interested in the tools and shrubs and baby chicks huddling under heat lamps in the middle of the store.  There was an ‘instant flower garden’ seed mix complete with mulch and fertilizer; just sprinkle and add water.  I contented myself with a giant bag of potting soil, and we headed back out into the rain and darkening skies.

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After one more stop at a big box store to pick up some bags of bare-root ferns, we hastened home as the storm picked up.  I still expected hours of mixed precipitation with just barely above freezing temperatures through the rest of the afternoon.  The staccato tinkling of sleet sounded oddly comforting, and I turned my attention to pulling together something warm for lunch.

It was only an hour or so later, when I looked up from what I was reading, that I noticed huge flakes of snow falling past the windows.  The cat was asleep beside me and took no notice of our world gone oddly white.  I can’t remember when I’ve ever seen snowflakes the size of eggs, but that is what filled the sky and was already sticking to the deck.

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I quickly pulled up a radar weather map to get the latest guess on what was happening.  Right.  Our whole region still registered as heavy rain according to the NWS map on my screen.  Nothing is quite what it seems these days, but I sort of still hope that at least the radar map will reflect reality.

I looked back to the window, and put the map in motion.  It clearly showed the blue and pink clouds moving over the state well to our west, and we were under dark green and yellow.  Maybe there was still some rain mixed in with these gargantuan snowflakes?

I grabbed my camera and headed for the deck to see for myself what was actually falling.  The budding pear tree, now covered in snow, was shaking strangely.

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At first I thought that two large birds had settled into its upper branches.  I focused carefully and snapped, determined to get a closer look at what had landed in our tree.  And then they moved again, oddly for a bird, and I saw the give-away furry tails of a trio of squirrels happily snacking on our opening flower blossoms despite the falling snow.  And no, there was no rain mixed in; it was pure, fluffy wet snow falling in our yard.

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It felt far colder than the windowsill thermometer reported.  We decided that we should retrieve the mail before the box had a chance to freeze, and so I found boots and something warm and hooded for the hike to the box.  It was only an excuse, of course, to get a better look at our snow filled garden.

It looked absolutely surreal to see pops of bright springtime yellow and fresh green under the white and brown and grey of a snow covered garden.  The pavement was already slippery under almost an inch of snow; the sky thick and white and filled with falling blobs of crystallized wetness; the garden bent under the weight of this spring time ‘snow surprise’.

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Well, for my friends in the northeast, my smugness has been knocked down a notch today.    I’ve been showing you flowers and sunshine, while knowing you were getting hammered up there with winter storms.  Your gracious admiration of my springtime flower photos is appreciated.  Now, I hope you get a good chuckle seeing our snow covered garden this afternoon.

Of course, we wonder how much damage this may cause.  Last spring the Magnolia liliiflora had already bloomed when we got a hard freeze, and all of those buds and blossoms were lost.   A second flush came a few weeks later, but the damage was done.

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Our roses are showing new stems and leaves, despite my reluctance to prune them back yet.  And the redbud trees were just showing their first blossoms this weekend.  The Camellias along the street are covered in red rose-like blossoms.  The fruit trees are beginning to bloom, and the first of the Japanese painted ferns were just showing their earliest fiddle heads yesterday morning.  We’ll know what comes through unharmed tomorrow, won’t we? 

A gardener comes to accept uncertainty.  We keep on planting and tending with some measure of confidence that it will ‘all be OK.’  There is always the chance of a late freeze or snow, a summer storm, a flood, drought, earthquake or even an asteroid, I suppose.  Yet, we keep tending the soil and planting and pruning and protecting tender things when it’s cold like this.

In four months, when the ground is parched, we’ll water and mulch.  And tonight, we’ll linger by the window and find beauty in this last (?) taste of winter before spring settles in for good.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

Were you around in 1986, in the early years of MTV, when this song filled the air?  Somehow it still sounds fresh and true today….  We can still take comfort in our tunes, especially when the weirdness of the day’s news feels like a bit too much.

Land of Confusion

Genesis 1986

I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear their marching feet
Moving into the street

Now, did you read the news today?
They say the danger’s gone away
Well, I can see the fire’s still alight
Burning into the night

Too many men, too many people
Giving too many problems
And not much love to go around
Can’t you see this is the land of confusion?

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

Oh, Superman, where are you now?
When everything’s gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour

This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
There’s not much love to go around
Tell me why this is the land of confusion

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

Make it a place oh, yeah

This is the world we live in (oh, I remember long ago)
This is the world we live in (oh, the sun was shining)

Songwriters: ANTHONY BANKS, MICHAEL RUTHERFORD, PHILLIP COLLINS
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Green Thumb Tip #16: Diversify!

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Strange but true:  Gardening can become political, too.

This disturbing notion is reflected in our gardening styles.  Consider the traditional scheme of evergreen shrubs and lawn.  Maybe there is an urn filled with bright annuals, somewhere.

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A ‘monoculture’ garden where the same plant, or small number of plants is repeated over and over, lacks diversity.  Most everything in the garden is green.

Now, where there is a limited palette of plants, there will also be a very limited number of insects, birds and small mammals supported.  What will they eat?  Where will they rest?  Other than a few robins pulling worms from the lawn, there will be a very small number of species observed.

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This common scheme, repeated over and again in neighborhoods across the country, gives us a clue as to why native birds, butterflies, amphibians and other small animals have been in decline for some time.  We have transformed woods and prairie and farms and natural riparian communities into suburbs.  Suburbs of lawn and largely imported shrubs and trees.

Once we introduce a larger palette of plants, providing more ‘niches’ for both plants and animals, the diversity and interest increases exponentially.  And interestingly, our garden comes alive with synergistic abundance.

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For example:  A single oak tree can support over 250 different species of insects.  It serves as a host for many common butterfly larvae, too.  The insects it harbors attract songbirds who will visit to eat, but will also use the tree for cover and nesting.  Every native tree and large shrub will provide food and shelter to wildlife, and will become a hub of life in the garden.

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Native Live Oak in Colonial Williamsburg

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Trees form the backbone of our garden and of our ecosystem.  They offer us shade.  They freshen the air, fix carbon, and may even bloom in the spring.

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Dogwood was chosen as the Virginia Native Plant Society’s Wildflower of the Year for 2018.  Its spring blossoms support pollinators, and fall berries feed birds.  Many sorts of insects, including caterpillars, live in its canopy each summer

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Native trees support more animal species than do exotic imports, but all trees have value.  Willow, Magnolias, poplars, sycamore, black cherry, beech and redbud all enrich the lives of wildlife and of gardeners!

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March 2017, with the flowering Magnolia trees in our garden covered in blossoms.

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Deciduous trees mark the passing months, providing different sorts of beauty in each season.  Evergreen trees anchor the landscape, serve as windbreaks, and give us bright green structure through winter.  Many, like hollies, also produce berries to feed wildlife when little else can be found.

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American Holly

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As we add various layers to the garden with ground covers, ferns, herbaceous perennials, shrubs, vines and trees; the number of wildlife species our garden can support increases exponentially.  But even more importantly, it comes alive as an interesting and intriguing habitat for us humans as well!

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A dynamic cast of horticultural characters come and go with the seasons.  They grow and change, transforming the character of our outdoor space as well.  We bring color, fragrance, texture and maybe even delicious flavor to our garden as we diversify our planting scheme.

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We can begin with what we have, converting turf into habitat a little at a time.  Plant ground covers under existing shrubs to form a living mulch; plant large shrubs to anchor new planting beds, or begin to cultivate wide borders beside walls or fences.  Early spring is the perfect time to plan and establish new plantings.

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Brent and Becky Heath’s Gloucester display garden December 4, 2015

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A tidy benefit of this approach comes with reducing the amount of turf we need to maintain each year.  Consider the savings when there is less grass to water, fertilizer, treat with chemicals and to mow.  Turf is the most expensive landscape plant, per square foot, of any commonly grown plant in North America.  It demands the most effort and gives the least return.

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The Heath’s display gardens in Gloucester, October 2015.

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It is our adventurous spirit which motivates us to try new plants each year.  As our gardens evolve, we evolve with them; building a wealth of experience and appreciation with our ever expanding community of plants and wildlife.  We add beauty to our home and to our neighborhood.

We help preserve species for future generations, sustaining the wildlife that sustain the web of our own existence on planet Earth.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Gardening for Wildlife

Butterfly Garden Plants

Bringing Nature Home by Dr. Douglas Tallamy

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Black Swallowtail butterfly and caterpillars on fennel, August 2017

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“Green Thumb” Tips: 
Many visitors to Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help grow the garden of their dreams.

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.

If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.
Green Thumb Tip # 13: Breaching Your Zone
Green Thumb Tip # 14: Right Place Right Plant
Green Thumb Tip # 15: Conquer the Weeds!
‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

WPC: Out of This World

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“I address you all tonight for who you truly are:
wizards, mermaids, travelers,
adventurers, and magicians.
You are the true dreamers.”
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Brian Selznick

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“We travel, some of us forever,
to seek other states, other lives,
other souls.”
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Anaïs Nin

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“It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
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Ursula K. Le Guin

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“Every dreamer knows
that it is entirely possible to be homesick
for a place you’ve never been to,
perhaps more homesick
than for familiar ground.”
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Judith Thurman

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“Wherever you go
becomes a part of you somehow.”
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Anita Desai

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All photos from the water garden at Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens in Gloucester, Virginia.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Out of This World

 

Knowing Winter

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“One can follow the sun, of course,
but I have always thought that it is best
to know some winter, too,
so that the summer, when it arrives,
is the more gratefully received.”
Beatriz Williams

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Much of North America lies frozen this week beneath a layer of icy whiteness.  Weather maps on TV are clothed in shades of blue, purple and white.  It is a respite from this year’s heat, perhaps, and a novelty for those who enjoy winter.

Here in Williamsburg, in coastal Virginia, we see temperatures drop below the mid-twenties only occasionally, and not every year.  But we are also in the midst of this Arctic cold snap at the moment.  There is a chance for snow tomorrow evening.

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The garden, and the larger world are frozen tight and hard this week.  Those winter faring plants I potted up so carefully last month sit brittle, a bit limp and desiccated in their pots today despite the brilliant sun shining on them.  I gave each pot a bit of tap water yesterday afternoon, hoping to thaw the soil long enough for roots to draw a bit of moisture in to the thirsty plants.

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We’ve wrapped our olive trees in clear plastic bags and set them in the warmest corner of our front patio, where they capture the mid-day sun.  They’ve grown too large now to bring indoors each winter.  We hope they make it through to warmer days ahead.

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But there is only so much anyone can do when such bitter cold blows in to one’s neighborhood.  The lowest temperature we’ve seen here since Christmas was 12F.  It feels a bit odd to cheer on the mercury to climb through the 20s, hoping it might actually make it up to 32F before the evening chill returns.

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But such is our life at the moment, and so we have decided to enjoy the novelty of it.  It is the season to trot out one’s heavy sweaters and gloves, and possibly even a jacket.  I had forgotten which drawer our gloves got put away in last spring, and needed a reminder.  A pair now live in my bag, ready to pull on whenever I step outside into this frosty world.

But clad in hat and gloves, wool and pashmina and jeans, I set off to capture photos of ice today.  My partner kept the car warm and idling while I scampered about on the banks of Mill Creek and the James River in search of ice sculptures.

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The wind was almost quiet, and the sun blazing bright and glinting off the frozen marshes.  It was nearly 24F as I captured these photos today.

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We were delighted to find eagles flying in lazy circles above us and large congregations of geese gathered along the roadsides.  I could hear waterfowl splashing into the creek in search of lunch as I picked my way down the frozen trail to the water’s edge.

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A heron clung to a branch along the bank, watching as gulls dove into the creek and ducks cavorted along its glassy surface.

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Halves of minnows, cut up by some intrepid fisher-person for bait, lay scattered about on the sandy beach.  Frozen hard, they held no appeal for the foraging birds around us.

I marvel at the sight of spray cloaked grasses and ice glazed stones.  The river and creeks here are tidal, and the rising and falling water and windblown spray make for ever-changing textures along their banks.

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Sheets of ice get pushed up in the marshes on the incoming tide, and slushy brackish water takes on odd hues in the wintery light.

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Our oddly frozen world dreams this week in weirdly grotesque forms.  Frozen soil pushes up in the garden, heaving fragile root balls not properly mulched and insulated against the cold.  Ice crystals sprout from stems and leaves in the first light of morning.

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Only the birds appear impervious to the cold.  Small flocks of blackbirds gather on the frozen grass.  Songbirds hop about in the trees as we pass.  I wonder at the mysteries of nature which allow them to survive such frigid weather.

Whether sitting on the ground, swimming in the frozen creeks or gliding on a current of air, they appear almost comfortable.  This is a great gift they enjoy, and that we do not.

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We are mostly watching through the window panes to see how the rest of this month unfolds.  Our cat spends long hours dozing, curled up in a blanket on the couch.  He shows no interest in exploration beyond his food bowl at the moment.

Surely the world will soon be slick and white if the forecast is to be believed, and our garden will slumber on under a bit more insulation as we dream of spring.

Yet, in this moment, we know winter; and see its beauties all around us.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“There is an instinctive withdrawal for the sake of preservation,
a closure that assumes the order of completion.
Winter is a season unto itself.”
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Haruki Murakami

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2017 Favorites

Japanese Maple, found in our front border in 2010 when it was a seedling, and nurtured ever since.  April 2017

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November finds me sifting through the year’s photos in search of our favorites for the coming year’s calendar.

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Out of the thousands of photos I capture each year, sixty-one may come to be selected, re-cropped, and published in our limited edition ‘A Forest Garden’ calendar.

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We set parameters.  First, I use only photos taken here in our own Forest Garden.  All of those photos taken while visiting and traveling never have a chance to make it to the calendar.

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Next, I decide on certain types of photos each year.  One year, I wanted a photo of a bird for every month.

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I always want to use photos of butterflies, bees, dragonflies, and the other interesting creatures who have visited our garden during the year.  We love watching them, and plant to attract and feed them.

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Our 2018 calendar’s theme is ‘Flowers Every Day of the Year.’  I focused more on photos of flowers,  and a little less on  beautiful foliage.  Selecting the year’s favorite photos requires a major investment of time and thinking.

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It is instructive, as it illustrates the garden’s annual progression of growth.  I watch the colors of our garden shift from month to month and season to season.

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I learn so much about our garden by reviewing the year’s photos. This discipline of studying the photos also helps spark fresh ideas, and clearly shows where a little extra effort may be required!

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Now that my holiday efforts are complete, there is time to look one more time through the photo file I compiled while working on our 2018 calendar.

I hope you enjoy this retrospective of the past year in our Forest Garden.

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If you would like to have a copy of our 2018 “A Forest Garden” calendar, they are available through The Nurtury in Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia.  As in past years, this is a working gardener’s calendar.  Moons, solstices, equinoxes, and first and last frost dates in Zones 5-9 are noted.  Each month features gardening tips and reminders.

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This week between Christmas and New Year, this longest night of the year, remains one of my favorite weeks of the year.  It is a time for looking back at fond memories, and also for looking ahead to those plans and projects on our personal horizon.

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It is a time for favorite friends, favorite activities, favorite keepsakes, and favorite memories.

 

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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April 3, 2017, and our Magnolias have put out both leaves and new blossoms after a late frost in March.

 

 

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  2017 Favorites

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“A Forest Garden 2018” calendar is available,
should you wish to have one,
at The Nurtury, 6619 Main Street, in Gloucester Court House, Virginia. 
Reach The Nurtury at 804.695.4417 for more information. 
The Nurtury ships merchandise around the world.

Winter Fairy Trees, In Miniature

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A dear friend and I have been collaborating on a series of miniature vignettes these past few weeks.  I have made the trees and mounted them, using Pacific beach stones and assorted calcite and quartz crystals.

She has brought them to life with her delicate miniatures.

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ML has been sculpting miniatures for most of her life, and she combines them in charming vignettes, which each tell a story.

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We enjoyed our miniature winter scenes as table centers for a ladies’ luncheon yesterday.  Each was a bit different, but together made up an enchanted forest of wintery scenes.  We call these our ‘fairy trees,’ because they look like hospitable places for fairies to gather.

Do you invite the fairy folk to live in your home and garden?  They always bring a bit of magic with them, wherever they may go….

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We enjoyed sharing the trees with friends, yesterday.  Now our challenge is to pass them on to loving homes.  We know that there are others who will take pleasure  from them, too.

You will recognize the one tree I’m keeping, from this series, because ML created a little ‘Woodland Gnome’ to live beneath that tree!

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You will see that ML even created a tiny fawn to eye the topiary in this vignette.  She struggles with the deer just as much as we, and many of our other neighbors do.  This one was made as  a gift for a friend who is moving soon.  Look closely, and you’ll see the clippers our friend, who is known for her gorgeous flower arrangements, always carries with her.

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December is the month for magic and enchantment; for wishes and dreams to come true.  We hope our fanciful fairy trees add a bit of whimsy and magic to the holidays, for all of us still young at heart, who choose to ‘Believe!’.

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Miniatures by ML
Trees by Woodland Gnome 
The Fairy Trees are available, should you wish to purchase one,
at The Nurtuy, 6619 Main Street, in Gloucester Court House, Virginia. 
Reach The Nurtury at 804.695.4417 for more information. 
The Nurtury ships merchandise around the world.

 

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Wreathed in Smiles

Colonial Williamsburg, December 2017

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We had to laugh and smile when we saw these deer themed Christmas decorations along Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg yesterday.  The cheeky population of deer over-running the neighborhoods is a frustration shared by so many of us living around this area.

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Herds of them rampage through the ravine behind our garden.   Drivers stay on their guard, knowing a deer could run out into the street at most any time, especially at dusk.  We find hoof prints and deer scat in the garden, a calling card for the  lonely doe or fawn who snuck in for a snack.

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The floral designers at CW showed a mischievous sense of humor in their designs this year.  Beyond the staid circles of pine needles ornamented with apples or pomegranate, there were a few energetic and amusing creations that caught our attention.

We know that whoever created these deer themed pieces must live nearby and have their own deer tales to tell.

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Ironically, more deer live in James City and York Counties now than in the Colonial era.  These beautiful animals were prized by the Native Americans who once claimed this rich region of coastal Virginia.  Every part of the deer was useful to them, and so the deer were freely hunted.  Colonists valued the deer as well for their meat and fur.

With no natural predators, the deer population in Virginia is held in check these days only by recreational hunters.   Although development continues to carve slices out of their habitat, the cunning deer have adapted to live quite well in our neighborhoods.

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A troupe of costumed minstrels played and sang as they rode through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg in an ox drawn cart yesterday afternoon.

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We rarely see deer wandering the streets of old Williamsburg, but we did see quite a few horses, and even a team of oxen yesterday.   There are always lots of dogs to admire, even one with this troupe of interpreters entertaining us yesterday.

Often, we’ll find small herds of sheep or even bulls grazing in the CW pastures.

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The workshops of Colonial Williamsburg aim to keep the old everyday arts of artisanal manufacture alive.

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Many of the wreathes serve double duty as advertisements, cleverly luring curious customers into the shops.

Someone asked me the other day, “Do they re-use the wreathes at CW year to year, or are there new designs each year?”

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That is an interesting question.  While much stays the same in terms of style and materials, there is a fresh interpretation and presentation every year.  The wreathes are freshly made from scratch each November, and hung in time for the Grand Illumination, which boomed and thundered the holiday season into our community last Sunday evening.

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We have thus far photographed only a fraction of this year’s offerings.  We started near Merchant’s Square and explored only as far as the Governor’s Palace.  We intend to return throughout December, and I will share the best of them with you, as we also enjoy the wreathes of Colonial Williamsburg  this month.

 

Woodland Gnome 2017
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This deer themed ‘chandelier’ is hanging on a Colonial Williamsburg porch, near the deer themed wreathes. Male deer lose and re-grow their antlers each year. Discarded antlers are sometimes found on walks in the woods.

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Cheeky

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Will you join this year’s Holiday Wreath Challenge?

 

Blossom XXXIII: October Blues

Can you help me identify this perennial? It is lovely, and I don’t know its name.

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Blue-violet lends a snazzy counter weight to the warm yellows, oranges and reds of our October garden.  Blue flowers and foliage shine and draw my eye with their cool elegance.

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Mexican sage, Salvia Leucantha

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After weeks of Indian summer, cool colors help us forget how hot and muggy the garden still feels many afternoons.  They promise that  cooler weather will soon blow our way.

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Agastache

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Blue-violet flowers also promise a good meal of nectar to the pollinators still buzzing about the garden.

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Salvias and Agastaches produce abundant nectar over a very long season.  Their generous natures support many creatures as the days grow shorter and nights grow cool.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Blossom XXXII: Apple Scented Pelargonium

Sunday Dinner: The Beauty of Tenacity

Siletz Bay, Oregon

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“Most of the things worth doing in the world
had been declared impossible
before they were done.”

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Louis D. Brandeis

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“There are times in life
when people must know when not to let go.
Balloons are designed to teach small children this.”

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Terry Pratchett

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“People can be at their most vulnerable,
but still tenacious at the same time.”

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Toni Bernhard
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Rhododendron re-blooms in October at the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy.

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“The qualities of a successful man
are tenacity, perseverance, courage
and the will to win”

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Sunday Adelaja

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Mussels grow amid barnacles on rocks jutting up through a sandy beach on Oregon’s central coast.

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“Tenacity is the dance

within the art of opportunity”

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Rasheed Ogunlaru

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Aging Rhododendrons regenerate with new growth at the Connie Hansen Garden.

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“NEVER GIVE UP.
No matter what is going on,
Never give up.
Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart.
Be compassionate,
Not just to your friends,
But to everyone.
Be compassionate,
Work for peace.
In your heart and in the world,
Work for peace.
And I say again,
Never give up,
No matter what is going on around you.
Never give up.”
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Tenzin Gyatso, Dalai Lama XIV
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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Ferns cover the exposed rock work at Cape Foulweather along Highway 101 in the coastal mountains of Oregon.

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“Beauty is seen in repetition;
keep repeating your beauty
even if your beauty is not all that beautiful,
you shall still leave a mark
and there shall come a moment
when the beauty will be seen”

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Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

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