WPC: Orange

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Orange does liven things up a bit.  Its warmth and energy feel like the perfect foil for the icy garden outside our windows.



Just as orange juice brightens up a wintery morning, so a collection of orange photos might make us all feel a bit warmer as we close out this first full week of March.


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When I think of orange, I think of October.

Today’s collection of photos, all from October of 2014, take us back to butterflies and roses; leaves changing color on the trees and warm autumn sunsets.



I hope you will soak up a little of their warmth as you enjoy this photographic retrospective.


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Inspired by the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Orange

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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Our garden is flooded with warm sunshine today. 

We have spent much of the day outside, enjoying it, and making preparations for the freeze which should overtake us by next weekend.


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Although we expect to remain on the milder, southern edges of the storm already bringing snow to so many; we know it is finally time to bring in the hoses and the last of the tender plants we don’t want to freeze.


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The forecast continues to shift, with night time temperatures falling ever lower.

I don’t trust it, and so we continue to prepare for the approaching Arctic blast.


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But even so, we enjoyed the company of butterflies and bees today as we moved about the garden.

Like us, they are soaking in every possible moment of golden sunlight.


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Illumined by the waning November sun, surrounded by brilliant autumn leaves, and encouraged by birds feasting on our ripening berries; we filled more pots with bright pansies where Basil grew all summer long.

Our perfectly clear blue sky slowly filled with cloudy haze as the day progressed.


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Falling leaves filled the air, leaving bare branches in their wake.

November  undeniably has touched the garden already, and will leave it’s frosty fingerprints on even more of it  by week’s end.


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And yet we’ve enjoyed warmth and sunshine today; a gift of another bright and beautiful day well into November.


“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself

and to the life illumined by it.”


  Eberhard Arnold



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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014


The Butterfly Effect

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After a summer spent watching for butterflies, we celebrate each one which crosses our path this October.

I say, “Crossing our path” intentionally.  We  cringed each time a Monarch came fluttering towards the windshield as we drove along  the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

We believe they all survived, carried in the wind over the roof of our car and safely on their journey.

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Often, as I stopped to take photos, familiar orange and black wings lit somewhere nearby.

Monarchs and Painted Ladies  delight us as they flutter around our garden on these warm, late October afternoons.

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A Painted Lady enjoys nectar from Lantana in our garden.


Paging through the new “Winter” issue of Arts and Crafts Homes,  I was a little surprised to see a photo of Monarch butterflies crowded on an evergreen branch.  Since the butterfly is a common motif in “Arts and Crafts” decor, the decline in our butterfly population rated an article even here.

Artist Amy Miller is raising Monarch butterflies in her kitchen!

The article explains how Amy set up a “mating tent” made of mosquito netting in her home,  stocked with nectar flowers and fresh milkweed.  Amy brings pairs of butterflies to the tent, releasing the males back into the wild after mating.  Females are kept until they lay their eggs on the milkweed.

Amy carefully raises the caterpillars until mature butterflies emerge.  Thus far, Amy has released more than 500 adult monarchs back into the wild.  Her 27 acre property along Wisconsin’s Trimbelle  River, is a natural habitat for Monarchs.


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Also mentioned was fellow blogger Kim Smith, who initiated the Cape Ann Milkweed Project  in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Kim distributes milkweed seeds and  encourages homeowners to create more habitat for Monarch butterflies.

Kim often blogs about Monarchs and her efforts to support gardeners around the country willing to grow their host plant.  Milkweed is the only plant on which Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. Monarch larvae eat only milkweed as they grow.  Often considered a weed, few homeowners include it in their landscape.

Monarcch on Staghorns umac along the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

Monarcch on Staghorn Sumac along the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

As natural areas, and the native plants they support, disappear; and roads, neighborhoods and shopping centers proliferate across the landscape; we see the direct consequences in our dwindling butterfly populations.

Many of us in the blogging community have written about our search for Monarchs and other native butterflies this season.

Many of us share the concern that they haven’t visited our gardens in their usual numbers this summer.

This male Monarch has made himself at home in our garden, enjoying the Lantana buffet these last few weeks. Do you see the spots, near the body, on his rear wings? These spots indicate a male butterfly.

This male Monarch has made himself at home in our garden, enjoying the Lantana buffet these last few weeks. Do you see the spots, near the body, on his rear wings? These spots indicate a male butterfly.


Eliza Waters, another Massachusetts based blogging friend,  also documents her efforts to support the Monarch population in her gardens.

Much like Rachel Carson raised the alarm about our native birds in her 1962 Silent Spring, so our generation documents our concerns for the butterflies.  Carson’s book launched the environmental movement in the United States, bringing about sweeping changes in our laws; eventually  banning DDT and other harmful insecticides and pesticides.

And now, more than 50 years later, we witness a resurgence of the  environmental movement inspired, in part, by the loss of our beloved butterflies.

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We know that herbicides used in commercial farming, along with over development, play in a major role in the loss of both milkweeds and the nectar flowers Monarchs, and other butterflies, depend upon for their life cycle.

And although this problem appears very large, each of us can do our own small part to make a positive difference.

We can each have our own tiny “Butterfly Effect.”  Do you know the term? 

Edward Lorenz coined the term in 1961 to describe how one tiny change in the initial conditions of a system may dramatically effect the outcome.  It is an axiom of Chaos  Theory.


Monarch spotted feeding in our garden this morning.

And while we might feel helpless to have much effect against multinational corporations spraying herbicides on their GMO crops, or the energy giants building thousands of miles of new gas pipelines across our communities; we can create a safe and supportive habitat on our own properties for butterflies, frogs, songbirds, and the other beautiful little creatures whose presence indicates a rich web of life in our garden.


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Tiny insects on Rose of Sharon seedpods

We can plant milkweed for the Monarchs. And we can plant  fennel, parsley, dill, black cherry trees, and other native trees to host  the other butterflies we love.

Even those of us gardening on a condo balcony or patio can grow these simple host and nectar plants in pots.

Every tiny effort makes a positive difference.


Joe Pye weed, new in our garden this season, has fed many creatures over the season.

Joe Pye Weed, new in our garden this spring, has fed many creatures over the season.


We can stop using pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers in our gardens, thus keeping them out of the water supply and out of the food chain.


Unknown larvae feed on Virginia Creeper vines growing on this Eastern Red Cedar.

Unknown larvae feed on Virginia Creeper vines growing on this Eastern Red Cedar.


We can include berry and seed producing shrubs and trees in our garden, and leave some untended “wild” places for creatures to nest and shelter.

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And we can support our neighbors in their efforts to create wildlife habitat in their own gardens.


MIlkweed pods bursting to release their downy seeds is a sure sign of October in Virginia.

MIlkweed pods bursting to release their downy seeds is a sure sign of October in Virginia.  These grow beside  College Creek in our community.


Let us all keep “The Butterfly Effect” in mind. In our seemingly chaotic world, every small act of kindness and goodwill has the potential to make an enormous difference as our story unfolds here on Earth.

Every milkweed seed we nurture may host hundreds of Monarch butterflies.

Every bit of garden we cultivate may feed thousands of creatures.

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


The Daily Post Writing Challenge:  The Butterfly Effect


The Butterfly Garden- plant lists



Sweet October

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We are living through the sweetest days of a Virginia autumn:


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leaves changing, fruit ripening, flowers still blooming, and warm sunny days followed by cool clear nights.

Freshly picked Virginia apples sit on our kitchen counter.  Our slider stands open all day letting fresh air blow through the house; all traces of summer’s humidity gone.

The air is fragrant and golden; sunwashed  and noticeably cool early in the morning and after sunset.

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Most of the plants brought in ahead of last weekend’s cold nights have found their way back outside to enjoy a few more days of bright light and warm breezes.

A huge Begonia, covered in hundreds of tiny pink blossoms, protested its spot inside by dropping those blossoms like confetti.  I carried it out to the deck this morning to re-join its summer companions for a few more days .


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The Staghorn fern, tripled in size over the summer, is returned to its shady spot in the Dogwood tree.

As sweet as these days may seem, we know they are numbered. 

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Yesterday morning I finally dug the first of the Caladiums and tucked them snugly into a pot where they will winter in the garage.  Their summer pots now sport tiny rose colored Viola starts, and a spindly little ornamental Kale seedling.

Oh, and did I mention the garlic?  I am  planting little garlic cloves, tucked into the soil between the Violas.  We learned last winter that garlic cloves  offers pretty good protection from those hungry creatures who might otherwise dig them up, or gnosh on our tasty Violas.


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Today I dug up a tender Lady fern to bring inside.  Closer inspection found it already spreading, and there were four tiny starts to dig and tuck into other pots to overwinter indoors.

There are as many flowers blooming now as there were in May. 

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Now that the summer’s heat has broken, and it has rained deeply, our roses have covered themselves in buds once again.

Fall blooming perennials, full of huge, vivid flowers, light up the garden.


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Pots and baskets have recovered from the late summer drought with tender new growth.

October offers many sweet pleasures for all who will venture out of doors to enjoy it.


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The landscape is lit with bright berries and changing leaves.

Flocks of birds sing to one another as they gather and gorge on the berried feast, ahead of their long flight south.

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Butterflies stop by to sample the nectar, and clear night skies shine brightly with stars.

It is all, maybe a little sweeter, since November lurks in the next turn of the calendar page.

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And we are blessed with a bit more time  to  drink full measure of these last, lovely days of Indian summer.

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

A new butterfly visited the Joe Pye Weed today.  Can anyone identify it for us?

A new butterfly visited the Joe Pye Weed today. Can anyone identify it for us?


Texture, like color, presents itself to our eye and fingertips absolutely everywhere we turn in the garden.

Every petal, leaf, trunk and bit of gravel or soil present intriguing textures for us to explore and enjoy.


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But so do the creatures who live here with us.


A grasshopper "hides out" on Creeping Jenny.

A grasshopper “hides out” on Creeping Jenny.


And of all the creatures buzzing and skittering around the garden today, our welcome guest, hummingbird moth,  presented the softest and most inviting texture.


Hummingbird Moth feeding on Lantana in the garden this morning.

Hummingbird Moth feeding on Lantana in the garden this morning.


Would you love to reach and and stroke its velvety back?


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Hummingbird moths are much calmer guests than hummingbirds.

Though their movements from flower to flower are so similiar that many people mistake the moths for the birds; the moths are less skittish around humans with cameras.


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This guy allowed me to take perhaps 20 shots over several minutes, asking only the nourishment of Lantana nectar in return.

The hummingbirds who interrupted the photo shoot buzzed in and out before I could focus on them; chasing one another away from these Lantana flowers, and across the roof of our house towards the hummingbird delicacies growing around in the back.

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They are also silky soft; immensely “petable” creatures… but I’ve yet to master the art of hummingbird whispering to draw them to land on a finger.

And so my focus returned to the little hummingbird moth; the insect who masquerades as a bird.

When in doubt, look closely for antennae, compound insect eyes, and clear wings.  This identifies the creature as an insect, not a true bird.


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This is the first one we’ve seen this season.

It is unlikely he is alone, so we will keep an eye out for his companions.

This Painted Lady butterfly shared the Lantana with our Hummingbird Moth.

This Painted Lady butterfly shared the Lantana with our Hummingbird Moth.


Other visitors sporting interesting textures today included butterflies, dragonflies, a grasshopper, and bees.


The first of the lifeless bees we found today rests on a Pelargonium leaf.  Hypertufa stepping stone, made this spring, in the background.

The first of the lifeless bees we found today rests on a Pelargonium leaf.  Glass topped stepping stone, made last winter, in the background.


I was especially disturbed to find several lifeless bees, their bodies resting on leaves.

It is most unusual to find a dead bee here in the garden.

It may be another sign of the advancing season.


We've been trying for weeks to identify this shrubby "volunteer."  Does anyone know this plant?

We’ve been trying for weeks to identify this shrubby “volunteer.” Does anyone know this plant?  The fruit have been hard and dark purple for weeks.  Now they are swelling and turning red.  What a wonderful pebbly texture to their skin.


Just as a few leaves have begun to show gold and red, warning that autumn is coming sooner than we expect; so too the animals begin to respond to the ever turning wheels of time.


Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon, still in bloom, with a visitor.


But our garden was alive for another summer day, animated and  buzzing  with a satisfying array of creatures.


Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly


Scaly skinks climbed the walls and window screens of the house.   Shiny blue black wasps played in the grasses.

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Bright red cardinals, and their mates, foraged among the ripening Hickory nuts.


Dragonfly has wonderfully intricate texture in his wings.

Dragonfly has wonderfully intricate texture in his wings.


And finally, the garden has come alive with several species of butterflies.


Painted Lady on Salvia

Painted Lady on Salvia,  with culinary sage with its pebbly texture behind.


Noticing the varying textures of all this life is simply another way to appreciate its beauty.

Another way to drink it all in, while August lasts.


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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


Weekly One Word Photo Challenge: Texture



Painted Lady on Salvia

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