Fabulous Friday: Hide and Seek With the Butterflies

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I’ve been playing ‘Hide and Seek’ with the butterflies at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden at Freedom Park, trying to spot as many different pollinators and butterflies as I can among the lush growth of flowers.

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Silver-spotted Skipper on a Zinnia

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It feels like the entire garden is designed to welcome every beautiful winged creature that frequents our area.  Flowers grow everywhere, interspersed with those host plants butterflies need to raise their next generation.

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden grows lush with summer flowers.

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There is the widest possible selection of native flowering plants, augmented with many bright nursery trade annuals and perennials filled with sweet nectar.

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Can you spot the bee, coming to share the nectar?

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There are places for caterpillars to find shelter as they gorge themselves on delicious leaves and grow towards their future as bright butterflies, spots for butterflies and other pollinators to find a drink, and lots of shelter for them to rest.

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One might expect the air to be thick with butterfly wings above this tempting wildlife banquet.  Where are they all this week?

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Common Sootywing butterfly on Basil

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I stopped by all of their favorite nectar plants, watching for the fleetest glimpse of wing.  There was the Tiger Swallowtail that flew away before I could focus the camera and the Black Swallowtail spotted by a friend.

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Pearl Crescent butterfly on Lantana

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I’ve no photo to offer you of either of these beauties, just one from a few weeks ago of a lovely Zebra Swallowtail.

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Zebra Swallowtail butterfly on Agastache June 15, 2018

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Lantana proves a butterfly magnet, and there is plenty of Lantana growing now in the garden.  If you want butterflies to visit your garden, planting Lantana, still available in local garden centers, is a reliable way to attract them.

Zinnias also prove popular, and our native purple coneflowers.  Please be careful to avoid using insecticides if you want to attract butterflies and pollinators.

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A Common Buckeye butterfly feeds in this bed of Lantana, with bronze fennel growing nearby.

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I like to plant nectar plants together with herbal host plants such as parsley, fennel, and dill.  Many gardeners also plant Asclepias, the preferred host plant of the Monarch.  Butterflies also feed on native trees or shrubs.  These may already be growing in or near your garden.

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Some gardeners might think it strange to grow plants intended as food for insects. Others recognize the beauty of participating in this magical web of life.  Asclepias incarnata grows here in our Forest Garden.

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By this time in the summer, the hunt is on for caterpillars. 

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This instructional garden stone was crafted by a Master Gardener custodian of the Botanical garden, and rests in the pollinator garden.

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You may notice ragged foliage before you see them, as they start off very tiny from their eggs.

I wonder sometimes, do butterflies remember their days spent munching leaves as caterpillars?  Do they fly back to their host plants, only to get distracted by nearby flowers, instead?

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It is fabulous to find ourselves enjoying the magical beauties of summer, once again.

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A bumblebee enjoys native Monarda fistulosa.

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I trust you will find those creatures you are hunting for, and enjoy their rare beauty as we celebrate summer together.

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Male Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on a button bush flower, June 14

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious… Let’s infect one another!
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Woodland Gnome 2018

Most photos were taken in the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

at Freedom Park in James City County, VA

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“There are times to stay put,

and what you want will come to you,

and there are times to go out into the world

and find such a thing for yourself.”

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Lemony Snicket

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Allow for Success

Alyssum maritimum

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Truth be told, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in fragile little annuals like sweet Alyssum these days.  They come in such tiny cell packs each spring, bright and full of promise, but oh so tender looking.  Once summer’s heat sets in, it is anyone’s guess which annuals planted with such hope in early spring will survive through until the heat fades again in September.

I’ve lost quite a few to summer drought and distracted neglect over the years.  This spring, I didn’t even buy any sweet Alyssum until they went on sale in late May.  I’m partial to this purple variety, and planted four to dress this pot holding a Clematis vine.  The pot sits by our kitchen door and was looked after all summer.  When the first frosts came last month, I made no move to either save these little plants, or pull them out.  And look at them now!

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Here we are in the second half of December, and the sweet Alyssum still blooms in its pot by the door.  You have to smile at that, and admire this hardy little plant that not only survived our Virginia summer, but also hung on through a few nights that have  dipped down into the 20s.

These tiny purple flowers blooming this morning inspire me beyond what words can convey.

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How often do we let our low expectations snuff out the possibility of success?  How often do we choose not to make the effort, or allow for someone else’s effort, when stunning success is within easy reach?

I will try to always remember these tiny, fragile purple blossoms greeting us this December morning.  We must allow for success before we can savor the pleasure it brings.

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June, when the Clematis vine first bloomed, and the Alyssum was in its prime

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Waiting

Milkweed pods crack open to release their seeds onto the wind.

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Our lives unfold to the cadence of waiting.  We wait for the milestones of maturity; birthday candles, privileges, grades passed.  We wait for friendship and love.  Sometimes we wait for a soured relationship’s messy end.

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Garlic chives go to seed all too quickly.

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We tick off the long awaited steps of our lives at first with eagerness; later with longing.  We wait for spring.  We wait for summer’s heat to break.

We wait for the trees to bud and for the roses to finally bloom in May.

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We wait for storms to come and to pass; for children to grow independent; for dream vacations; for retirement.

Which is sweeter, the wait, or the fulfillment?

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Beautyberry ripens over a long season, to the delight of our many birds.

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“We never live;
we are always in the expectation of living.”
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Voltaire

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I await the much loved succession of our garden each year:  emergence, growth, bud, bloom, fruits and seeds.

By September, many of the season’s flowers have already gone to seeds; others are still just coming into bloom.

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Obedient plant blooms with Rudbeckia hirta, black-eyed Susans.

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Hibiscus, Echinacea and Basil seeds bring a small cadre of bright goldfinches darting about the garden.  They have waited long months for their delicious ripening.

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Hibiscus pods split open in autumn to offer their feast of seeds to hungry birds.

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And sometimes, after the longest of winter waits, those dropped and forgotten seeds fulfill their destiny, sprouting and growing into the fullness of maturity.  Self-sown plants, appearing as if by magic, are a special gift of nature in our garden.

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Self-sown Basil going to seed again.

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No, I’m not speaking of the crabgrass or wild Oxalis sprouting in the paths and in the pots.  I’m speaking of the small army of Basil plants which appeared, right where I wanted them, this spring.   I’m speaking of the bright yellow Lantana growing now in the path, and the profusion of bright golden Rudbeckia in our front garden.

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A Black Swallowtail butterfly feeds on perennial Lantana.

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And, I’m speaking of the magnificent Aralia spinosa blooming for the first time this summer.  It’s gigantic head of ripening purple berries reminds me of why we tolerate its thorny trunk.

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Aralia spinosa’s creamy flowers have faded, leaving bright berries in their wake.

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Gardeners soon learn the art of waiting.  We wait for tiny rooted slips of life to grow into flowering plants, for bulbs to sprout, for seeds to germinate, for little spindly sticks to grow and finally bear fruit. We wait for the tomatoes to ripen and the pecans to fall.

We wait for hummingbirds to fly north each spring; for butterflies to find our nectar filled floral banquet.

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We wait year upon year for our soil to finally get ‘right.’  We wait for rains to come, and for the soggy earth to dry out enough to work in the spring.

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We are waiting for the Solidago, Goldenrod, to bloom any day now, drawing even more pollinators to the garden.

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And we wait for ourselves, sometimes, too.  We wait for our fingers to grow green enough that we can tend our garden properly, coaxing beauty from the Earth.

So much to learn, so much to do, so much to love…..

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
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Fulton J. Sheen

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Waiting

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WPC: Nostalgia

october-1-2016-patchwork-025

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My dad loves Coleus, and I remember watching him plant Coleus and Scarlet Sage, Impatiens, Calaldiums and Begonias since I was a little girl.  He loves growing flowers and tending bright annual beds each summer.

And his love of flowers came from his mother’s mother, who had an overgrown garden of old roses and bright perennials behind her house decades after she was able to go out and tend to it herself.  I remember picking flowers in her garden as a very young child; flowers and mulberries, which we ate over ice cream.

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Always the Boy Scout, Dad believes in leaving a place a little better than he found it.  And part of that philosophy always expressed itself in making beds of flowers and cultivating the lawn at each of our family homes.

And he is a talented gardener with an artist’s eye for color and a pastor’s touch for making things thrive.  He still breaks off bits of annual stem and thrusts them into moist soil, somehow coaxing them to root into new plants at his whim.

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And now I join him in his gardening projects again.  Others might call me his ‘enabler’ with undisguised disdain.  And that is fine with me. 

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Caladiums and Impatiens growing this summer in my father's garden.

Caladiums and Impatiens growing this summer in my father’s garden.

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Despite physical handicaps, his gardener’s heart is strong and craves color and flowers as it always has.  Sometimes we openly visit the Great Big Greenhouse together, loading the cart he pushes for us.  The shopping cart is even better than his walker for letting his legs follow where his eyes see something of interest.

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One of the Coleus plant we bought together this summer, and shared by rooting cuttings.

This is one of the Coleus plants we bought together this summer, and shared by rooting cuttings.

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Other times I quietly leave offerings of little plants on the back patio where he knows to find them, without saying a word about them in front of  Mother.  I’ve filled his tubs with Caladiums this summer and helped him plant a hedge of Coleus beside the back walk.  The Coleus we both love so much. 

Nostalgia can hurt or heal.  We all know this.  But I believe that nostalgia heals when it keeps us in touch with those people and things we love.

Nostalgia helps us share our happiness from generation to generation.

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Caladiums in my father's garden.

Caladiums in my father’s garden.

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Nostalgia

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: August

August 13, 2016 morning garden 075
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“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”
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Lady Bird Johnson

Butterflies drift on the summer breeze from flower to flower in search of nectar; I find an earthbound path of my own, camera in hand, to drink in their beauty.

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August finds our garden filled with flowers.  Some, like the roses, struggle with this late summer heat to pump out a few small flowers here and there.  But others, like our spider lily are just getting started with their annual show.  Our fall flowers have begun to fill the garden with fierce, stubborn color.

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Lycoris radiata, or Red Spider Lily, blooms in late summer.

Lycoris radiata, or Red Spider Lily, blooms in late summer.

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.”

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Claude Monet

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Basil attracts many pollinators

Basil attracts many pollinators

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Butterflies have their favorites, just as I have mine.  Lantana flowers always draw butterflies, and hummingbirds sometimes, too.  Many of the flowers in our garden are selected especially for their appeal to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and interesting nectar-loving insects.

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Our Cannas and Salvias delight the hummingbirds.  But I plant many herbs, and let them flower, for the nectar they provide.  They may not be the showiest of flowers, but they are good for the wildlife we hope to attract.

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When allowed to bloom, Coleus provides abundant nectar and attracts many pollinators.

When allowed to bloom, Coleus provides abundant nectar and attracts many pollinators.

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“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it,

it’s your world for a moment.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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Begonia 'Flamingo'

Begonia ‘Flamingo’

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Some of the Begonias, too, have finally covered themselves in flowers.  Simple and delicate, Begonia flowers come only when the mother plant is happy.  Ours have finally recovered from their winter indoors with vigorous new growth.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 077

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We grow several different sorts of Begonias, each with its own unique leaf and flower.

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They all grow in pots or baskets so we can keep them from one year to the next, and most root very easily from stem cuttings.

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It is good to cut back the cane Begonias, especially, as the stems will grow many feet long.  Prunings go into a vase of water to soon begin life again in a new pot either in our garden, or as a gift to a friend.

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Also a Begonia, this grows from a tuber and produces flowers like tiny roses.

Also a Begonia, this one grows from a tuber and produces flowers like tiny roses. Oxalis blooms beside it.

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“It is only by selection, by elimination,

and by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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Begonia 'Richmondensis' with Caladium

Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ with Caladium

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Late summer brings its own ‘woody’ flowers, too.  Rose of Sharon, butterfly bush, Crepe Myrtle, and Hydrangea all cover themselves in flowers each August.

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So does a very odd plant, Aralia spinosa, also known as ‘The Devil’s Walking Stick’ for its exceptionally thorny stem.

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Aralia spinosa in bloom

Aralia spinosa in bloom

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This small tree crowns itself with a cloud of tiny, greenish-yellow flowers which soon swell into a cloud of dark inky purple berries.  Another plant to delight wildlife, this one is not so delightful in the garden.  It spreads by seeds and underground runners.

But my gardening philosophy tends towards, ‘The more, the merrier!’  It is a very laissez-faire approach, admittedly.  But it serves us well, in this forest garden.

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Echinacea 'Green Jewel'

Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’

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“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”

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Oscar Wilde

Many thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.  When last I looked, Carol had nearly 50 other gardeners sharing links to their posts this August.  Just looking through these virtual garden tours is a fun way to see what others are doing and to find fresh inspiration.

I hope you will visit Carol’s post, and as many of the other links as time allows.

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If  ‘A flower blossoms for its own joy,’ we photograph and admire them for our own. 

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I have created a series of flower portraits this summer, simply called ‘Blossom.’  This simple posting format has brought me a great deal of joy and comfort over the last few weeks.  It has allowed me to post when no words would come.

Flowers, no matter their size or color,  delight.  Perhaps it is their very fragility which begs us to appreciate them in the moment.  If we procrastinate, they may be gone.

Certainly, they each have their season, as do we.

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Two dear members of our family have passed from this Earthly life over the past few weeks.  We still miss them keenly.  Their passing has reminded each of us who loved them to share our love, our joy, and our appreciation with those we care for, as often as we can.

We can not afford to put off to tomorrow that which we may enjoy today.  Our lives prove as ephemeral as the flowers which fascinate us.

We are all creatures in time, and so must make the time to share the beauty and wonders of this life; and to share it with those we love.

Woodland Gnome 2016
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August 13, 2016 morning garden 007

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In Loving Memory of

Rachel Mae Downs-Lewis  1975-2016

In Loving Memory of

Patty Jo “Tinker’  Rishworth  1961-2016

In A Vase: Celebrating Lammas

August 1, 2016 Lamas 010

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Our days remain muggy and hot; yet signs of the changing season surround us.  Dried leaves blow out of the trees on the winds heralding summer thunderstorms.  A red cast overshadows leaves on the Dogwood tree and Sumac.  Corn is ripening and local veggie stands overflow with the season’s bounty.

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This is Lammas, a traditional Celtic celebration of summer’s harvest.  It is a holiday, celebrated as July melts into August each year, to feast on the season’s bounty, share meals with loved ones and bake bread with the first of the season’s harvest of grain.

We have a full month of summer stretching ahead of us, hot days washed clean with summer storms.  Crickets, locusts and frogs compete to sing loudest and longest.  Their music fills the air night and day.

Herbs in the garden have covered themselves with flowers, hoping to lure me out into the heat and humidity to cut them back.

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And yet change is in the air.  We can see, smell, hear and feel the approach of autumn as each day grows imperceptibly shorter.

The sun bakes our garden, and many perennials and new shrubs have drooping leaves.  No amount of rain or watering will re-hydrate them for long in the parched Earth where the sun beats down all day.

The first Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, bloom where they’ve seeded themselves around the garden; miniature golden yellow suns shining happily amidst the deeper green of herbs and shrubs.

~August 1, 2016 Lamas 001

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I’ve cut herbs and summer flowers for a vase today to honor the festival of Lammas.  There are the bright yellow fireworks flowers of Fennel and tall cool violet spires of Thai Basil exploding from a base of Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ and Pelargonium ‘Gray Lady Plymouth.’

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The remaining fresh stems of Crocosmia sparkle with deep reddish orange hues, colors of this ancient summer holiday.  All colors of the sun and fertile Earth come into play at Lamas, and this arrangement is sprinkled with new golden Black Eyed Susans.  But there are also sprigs of pink blooming Oregano and stems of purple Verbena ‘lollipop’ tucked into the vase today for contrast.

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Our friend, potter Denis Orton, made the porcelain vase and glazed it with one of his unique crystalline glazes.  The metallic crystals form as the piece cools.  We admire his glazes and collect pieces now and again as we can.

This one was found when we visited him at a local arts festival on Mother’s Day this year.

~August 1, 2016 Lamas 008

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The loose arrangement in our vase today looks a bit droopy in the day’s heat.  It is an echo of a similar one I gathered on Friday to take as a welcome gift to a new neighbor family.  I felt inspired to gather another for us to enjoy this week.

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The heat index went over 100F here again today.  It has become normal for the temperature to rise several degrees above the forecast before evening storms blow through, cooling things off again as darkness gathers.  Thunder echoes in the distance again this evening…..

Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink today, showcasing some of the stunning Zinnias she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

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“At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh,

it’s time to celebrate the first harvest of the year,

and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end.   

The plants of spring wither and drop seeds to ensure future crops.

Grains are ready to be harvested and the fruits are ripe for picking.  

We can give thanks for the food on our tables.”

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Herne

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August 1, 2016 Lamas 007

 

Blossom VII

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“If patterns exist in our seemingly patternless lives —

and they do —

then the law of harmony insists

that the most harmonious of all patterns,

circles within circles,

will most often assert itself.”

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Dean Koontz

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016
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“What we call chaos

is just patterns we haven’t recognized.

What we call random

is just patterns we can’t decipher.”

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Chuck Palahniuk

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August 1, 2016 blossoms 001

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Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VIII

 

Plant Now For Spring Living Flower Arrangements

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Who wants to look at empty pots for the next four months?  I am as interested in planting attractive pots for the winter season as I am interested in replanting those pots for summer.  And each fall, I keep an eye and and ear open for new ideas.

Brent Heath offered a workshop last month at his Bulb Shop in Gloucester that I sorely wanted to attend.  He even offered to bring his workshop across the river if I could pull a group together in our community.  And how I wish my time and energy had stretched far enough to invite him!

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Miniature daffodils grow to only 6"-8" tall and work well in spring pots. Plant the entire bulb and foliage out into a permanent spot in the garden when switching out plantings for summer.

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Brent, a master horticulturalist, teaches the finer points of loading containers with bulbs.  Now even though he and his wife Becky are known internationally for their prodigious offering of Daffodils; they sell hundreds of different bulbs and perennials.  Brent’s workshop teaches how to layer several different species of bulbs into a single pot to create a “Living Flower Arrangement” which changes over time as different bulbs appear, bloom, and fade.

I wanted to attend Brent’s workshop to learn a new trick or two.  I’ve used various bulbs in containers for many years now, but there is always a better way, when one is open to learn from someone more experienced.  But the stars haven’t aligned this season, and so I’ve been experimenting on my own with the bulbs we’ve been collecting.

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Violas with white Dianthus, and Muscari. Miniature Daffodils bloomed later in the season.

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The idea is elegantly simple:  since one plants bulbs at different depths depending on the size of the bulb, and since new growth from most bulbs is very narrow before it reaches the light,  one can plant one ‘layer’ of bulbs on top of another, allowing the emerging stems to sort out the spacing as they grow upwards towards the light.  In fact, three or four ‘layers’ of different types of bulbs may be planted into a single large pot.   This very crowded planting works for a single season, but must be unpacked by early summer.  The bulbs may be transplanted ‘in the green’ into garden beds, to allow the leaves to fully recharge the bulb for the next season of flowers.

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 Containers for sale at the Heath's Bulb Shop last April

Containers on display at the Heath’s Bulb Shop last April

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I modify this idea to include annuals, perennials, woodies and moss so the planting has immediate interest while we wait for the bulbs to emerge in the spring.

Begin with a clean pot.  I use coffee filters or a paper towel over the drainage holes to hold the soil while the roots are growing.  The filters will soon decompose.  Choose a good quality, light, commercial potting soil with nutrition already mixed in.  The annuals and perennials are heavy feeders, and the bulbs will perform better in rich soil.  Many of the ‘organic’ potting soils now come pre-loaded with worm castings!

Now one must  ‘do the math.’  Having chosen 2-5 species of bulbs, depending on the size and depth of the pot, first study the proper planting depth of each.  If you are using Daffodils, for instance, which are planted at a depth of 6″, then fill the pot with soil to within about 7″ of the rim.    Set the first ‘layer’ of Daffodil bulbs on the soil by pushing the root end slightly into the soil so that the tip points upwards.  Space these Daffodils 3″-4″ apart from one another and at least an inch or two inwards from the sides of the pot.  Carefully fill in around these bulbs with more potting soil so they are barely covered, and firm the soil with your palm.

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Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted Redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and Daffodils early last spring.

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Choose your next bulb, adding just enough soil so it is planted at its correct depth, and arrange these bulbs by lightly pushing them into the soil.  Try to avoid setting a new bulb directly over top of a deeper one.  Lightly top with soil to hold this layer in place, and add an additional layer or two of bulbs.  I like to select a few bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, or Galanthus nivalis, which will emerge in late winter.  These will often be the ones planted most shallow.

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Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I've tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I’ve tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

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If your living flower arrangement will contain only bulbs, then simply top off the soil with a layer of living moss, water in, place the pot, and wait.  You can certainly add a few branches, pods, stones or cones to the pot to catch the eye while you wait for spring.

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Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with Creeping Jenny and a hardy Sedum ‘Angelina’ last April.

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But I want a living flower arrangement which goes to work right away.  I always add some annuals or perennials to the mix, which complicates the bulb planting a bit, as you don’t want bulbs directly under the huge root ball of a perennial or shrub.   I tend to place  a shrub or perennial in the pot first, then plant the bulbs around it.  This is a good use for those clearance shrubs with tiny root balls so easy to find in late October or November.  Or, for the many evergreen shrubs showing up now in tiny quart or 1 gallon pots.

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March 20 2014 spring 006

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Many vines and some perennials root easily from cuttings.  Simply tuck bits of Creeping Jenny, hardy Sedum, or divisions of Ivy or Ajuga into the soil of your finished pot.  These will grow in place.  Consider sprinkling seeds for perennials like Columbine, which like to overwinter out of doors.  They will begin to sprout next spring as the bulbs emerge.

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Creeping Jenny last March

Creeping Jenny last March

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You might complete your design with some winter annuals.  You can pot up the deeper layers of bulbs, and then plant a few Violas, Pansies or snaps in the top three inches of the pot.  Layer in your Crocus and Muscari bulbs around them.

~ April 7,2014 spring flowers 002

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I still finish the pot with moss or pebbles.   This topdressing not only looks more attractive than plain dirt; it helps hold moisture, insulates the roots as temperatures dive, and it offers some protection from digging squirrels.  If I were using Tulips in the pot, I would be tempted to lay some chicken wire, with large openings, over that layer of bulbs for further protection from marauding rodents.  Tuck in a few cloves of garlic or onion sets to protect your Violas from grazing deer and rabbits.

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Now, the ultimate ‘multi-tasking’ for this sort of planting:  hardwood cuttings.  Many of our woodies will root over winter if stuck into moist soil and left alone for several months.  If you have some shrubs you would like to propagate, take your cuttings and push them artistically into the finished pot.  If they root, fine.  If they don’t, you have still enjoyed the extra sculptural elements they lend over winter while the bulbs are sleeping.

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I've added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

I’ve added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

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This sort of winter ‘living flower arrangement’ takes a bit of planning.  There are lots of choices to make about timing and color schemes, size and scale, costs and placement.  You have to imagine how the bulbs will look when they emerge, so the tall ones are more to the center and the shorter ones nearer the edges; unless the shorter ones will finish before the tall ones emerge.  And the container must be large enough to contain all of those robust roots without cracking; and of material which will hold up to your winter weather.

~March 6, 2015 garden 002

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This is an excellent way to showcase miniature Daffodils and other delicate, small flowering bulbs.  You might combine several types of daffies to include those which flower early, mid- and late season.  Daffodils with blue Muscari always look great together.

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Ornamental cabbage with Heuchera in a newly planted pot.

Ornamental cabbage with Hellebore in a newly planted pot.

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You might also compose an arrangement of various Iris.  Include some combination of Iris unguicularis, Iris bucharica, Iris histrioides, Iris reticulata, Dutch Iris, and perhaps even a root of German Bearded Iris for a long season of beautiful Iris blooms.

If your winter is especially harsh, plant your container now, water it in, but leave it in an unheated garage or shed until February.  Bring it out into the spring sunshine and enjoy the bulbs when the worst of winter has passed.

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Newly planted Violas with Heuchera

Newly planted Violas with Hellebores.  Bulbs are tucked into the soil, waiting for spring.

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We enjoy the luxury of  Zone 7b, which allows us to grow winter annuals which would die a few states to the north, and also bulbs which wouldn’t survive in the warmer winters to our south.  We also have many winter or early spring  flowering shrubs to plant in our container gardens.

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Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.

Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.  Foliage will fill this pot all winter, with flowers appearing in the spring.

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Here are some of the plants I choose most often for these dynamic pots:

Perennials:  Hellebores, Heucheras, Cyclamen hederifolium, Arum, Iris unguicularis, evergreen ferns, culinary Sage, Rosemary, Ivy, Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny), Sedum rupestre, ‘Angelina’ and other hardy Sedums, Ajuga, Vinca Minor (Periwinkle), hardy Oxalis, Columbine, Dianthus

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Pansies will soon respond to wramer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

Pansies will soon respond to warmer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

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Annuals:  Violas, Panolas, Pansies, Snapdragons, Allysum, ornamental kale or cabbage

Whatever combination of plants you choose, think of these living flower arrangements as narratives which unfold over time.

Time truly is the magical ingredient for baking bread, raising children, and creating beautiful gardens.

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March 25-28 013

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Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase: Rooting

May 26, 2015 vase 037

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The flowers and foliage in today’s vase were clipped late this afternoon; mostly from pots on the deck.

So many stems cut for the Monday vases this spring rooted in place, that I chose this particular combination with that intention in mind.

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May 26, 2015 vase 051

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These Coleus, from the “Under the Sea” collection, were clipped from the nursery pots I bought them in on Saturday.  I took cuttings immediately to leave with my father, another Coleus devote’, and now I’ve snipped a little more for cuttings of my own.  The original plants will remain in their pots for another day at least.

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May 26, 2015 vase 039

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Coleus root quickly and easily in water.  My father simply breaks stems from a growing plant and pushes the stem into the soil in another pot.  He has great success, but I am not quite that self-confident.  I enjoy watching the little white roots form in a vase by the kitchen window before tucking the well rooted little cutting into some soil.

I’ve managed to collect three of the “Under the Sea” cultivars this spring.  So far I have C. “Lime Shrimp,” C. “Bonefish,” and C. “Gold Anemone.”  These are some of the most delicate and unusual forms of Coleus I’ve ever found, and I like them alone or in combination with annual flowers.  Have you found these at your garden center?  The “Under the Sea” Coleus is easy to grow.  It tolerates more sun than some older cultivars of Coleus, and can grow into a good sized plant over the season.

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May 26, 2015 vase 046

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With the Coleus is a cutting of a dusky purple Petunia I’m growing in baskets this summer.  I like this unusual color, which was the closest I could find to the wonderful gold and purple striped Petunias I grew in baskets last summer.  Sadly, the plants didn’t make it through the winter.  I hope this Petunia will root, as we enjoy it in the vase.

Our Heuchera, or Coral Bells, have bloomed in pots on the deck.  I grow them for their unusual leaves, and these delicate stems of flowers are a bonus from time to time.  The other stems of flowers were cut from Oxalis.

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May 26, 2015 vase 053

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Finally, I had to add a few little pieces of our Muscadine grape vines, which are such a beautiful shade of green when young and tender.  It is highly unlikely these will root, but I have a place ready for them if they do.  One of the vines I transplanted in early spring has not leafed out, and I cut it back today.

Our mineral today is a cluster of Aqua Aura quartz.

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May 26, 2015 vase 038

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This is actually clear quartz, which was specially treated to create this unusual blue color.  Our little moonstone turtle sits with the vase, also, as a reminder of the turtle eggs incubating now in our garden.

This is the season when there is always more to do in the garden. 

We’ve both been spending our mornings, into the early afternoon, working outside.  We love this time of year, when the garden is growing so rapidly, but it takes enormous time and energy to keep up with it all.  I stayed a bit too long today out in the hot sun, and so wanted something cool and delicate in our vase indoors.

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May 26, 2015 vase 045

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Please remember to visit Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, who sponsors “In A Vase On Monday” each week.  I appreciate her tireless inspiration to cut and arrange home grown flowers, and to encourage other garden bloggers to do the same.   This week she has created a stunning arrangement she calls, “Storm in a Teacup.”  You’ll find many links to other gardeners’ blogs in her comments.

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May 26, 2015 vase 035

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And remember, you can enjoy beautiful foliage in your vase while it roots.  Just as our gardens find their structure in foliage and accents in flowers; so our arrangements may, as well.

We enjoy both the pleasure of its beauty and the gift of a new plant when we eventually take it all apart.  It is sort of like eating your cake, and having it, too .

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May 26, 2015 vase 041

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Switching It Up

This planting needs

This planting needs some  ‘switching up’ to renew it for summer.  I went to work last night removing all of the plants and finding new spots for them to grow.

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When the weather finally warms up, late April or early May, those winter and early spring pots we planted so lovingly last autumn just don’t look so good anymore.

Between plants which never quite recovered from winter’s bite, and early season annuals gasping in the heat; there comes a day when you really look at a pot and say to yourself, “Enough! Time for a change.”

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"Enough!"  Monday afternoon this poor planting looked ragged enough I was determined to change it out.

“Enough!” Monday afternoon this poor planting looked so ragged I was determined to switch it out for something fresh.

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That day was yesterday for the large hypertufa tub installed on the ‘pedastal’ in our ‘stump garden’ last spring.

I like the idea of ‘four season’ pots which drift from season to season in the garden with only minor adjustments.  While that is an nice idea, it doesn’t always work out as planned.

The original Dusty Miller planted in this pot last spring lived, but was seriously burned by the cold.  I’ve moved it out of the pot now to a less conspicuous place in the garden where it can continue growing.

The Violas, still blooming, will not last much longer in full sun.  They have been moved to a bed in partial shade.  The snaps could have grown on here for quite a while.  Planted a few months ago in earliest spring, they often make it through our winters.  I’ve moved them to a bed in full sun where they should perform well this summer.

After a full year of watching this pot, I decided to populate it with plants which thrive in hot and often dry conditions.  I want a large and showy display which won’t need regular care of any sort to continue looking great.  Mission impossible?

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May 25, 2013, before the Brugmansia gained much height.

May 25, 2014, before the Brugmansia gained much height.

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The original planting last summer included Coleus, Dusty Miller, a Brugmansia, some golden Sedum and Creeping Jenny.  I expected the Brugmansia to grow several feet and bloom with huge pendulous flowers in late summer.

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July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014

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Although it grew, it never performed as expected.  Everything else in the pot looked great all summer, but required nearly daily watering to avoid the late afternoon wilts.

So I’ve chosen a new group of plants this summer in hopes of an even more vibrant display, even on those days when I don’t have the opportunity to water this trough.

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May 5, 2015 garden 002

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The headliner is a pink Mulla Mulla, Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey,’ which will grow to 15″ in full sun.  This tender perennial (Zone 9) loves neutral to chalky soil with sharp drainage.  Beside the Mulla Mulla grows a very large leaved variety of culinary Sage.  Sage thrives in full sun and well drained, even rocky soil.

There is a very subdued palette of color in the pot this year, moderated by two fresh new Dusty Miller plants.  Only a recent fan of Dusty Miller, I like the lacy texture of their leaves and their ability to withstand drought and sun.  I expect texture and scale to make this planting interesting as the season unfolds.

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This heat tolerant Verbena will fill an area almost two feet in diameter.

This heat tolerant Verbena will fill an area almost two feet in diameter.

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The only concession to soft trailing flowers comes from the Lanai Twister Purple Improved Verbena draping over one end of the pot.  I hope it will spread to soften the entire top of the ‘pedestal.’

Finally, I added several clumps of the golden Sedum back into the pot since it obviously thrives here year round and makes a nice pop of chartreuse against the silvery foliage and lavender flowers.  The entire pot is mulched in fine, light colored pea gravel.

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The newly planted pot on its pedestal, this evening just before sunset.  All of these newly planted varieties will grow quite large over the summer with very little attention.

The newly planted pot on its pedestal, this evening just before sunset. All of these newly planted varieties will grow quite large over the summer with very little attention.

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The Creeping Jenny and remaining Sedum removed from the pot is already earmarked for use in a new bed I’m ready to construct tomorrow.  It will grow alongside Oxalis triangularis in the back garden.

This is my first experience growing Ptilotus exaltatus and the Lanai Twister hybrids of Verbena.  It is good to try new things each year, and the Mulla Mulla is known as a good flower for cutting and for drying.  I am looking forward to growing them on and seeing how these varieties grow together over the coming months.

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I plant to "switch up" this pot tomorrow adding Salvia, Ivy Geraniums, and maybe even some Basil.  The tiny plant on the far right is a "Kent's Beauty" Oregano which survived the winter.

I plant to “switch up” this pot tomorrow adding Salvia, Ivy Geraniums, and maybe even some Basil. The tiny plant on the far right is a “Kent’s Beauty” Oregano, which survived the winter.  The bare stump is from the Brugmansia I tried to over-winter outside.

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There are still lots of pots with actively growing Violas around the garden.  I’ll be moving them to shady spots this week as I continue re-planting containers for summer.  I purposely waited this long both to enjoy them, and to give time for some of the dormant plants in the same pots to awaken.  While patience is a virtue, at some point patience creeps into procrastination.

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May 5, 2015 garden 012

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I’ve collected several trays of new plants this week, and I’m ready to work with them over the next few days.  There are lots of geraniums this year, a fair lot of Salvias, a good assortment of fragrant Basils, a few more Dusty Miller plants, now a half-dozen large white Marigold plants I’ve been waiting for the Patton family to offer for sale at their Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  They grow the marigolds, and many other annuals, organically in their own greenhouse each spring. If one has patience to wait for them; healthier, more affordable plants simply cannot be found in this area.

Planting pots for the coming season, or switching up established pots, requires the vision, energy and creativity needed for all of the other art forms.  Like painting a canvas, all of the elements have to come together harmoniously.  But as in music, time is the essential element.  Only as plants grow and weave themselves together does the gardener’s vision materialize.

Whether it takes weeks or years, our gardens remain works in progress.

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May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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