Blossom XXV: Elegance

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The Calla lily always feels elegant and exotic.  Its long slender leaves, slender stem, and simple form might have been designed by Coco Chanel for all of their tres chic simplicity.  Until a trip to Oregon two years ago, I assumed they were best found at a high end florist.  But no.  Calla may be grown in any temperate garden as simple perennials.

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The Calla growing in every other front garden in the beach communities I visited along the Oregon coast, grew in thick clumps, about 4′ high.  They were already blooming in April of 2015.  I was mesmerized, and determined to find something similar for our own garden.

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Zantedeschia aethiopica blooming at the Connie Hanson Garden in Lincoln City, Oregon in late April 2015.

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My search took me first to Plant Delights, which offers two selections of ‘Giant’ Zantedeschia, both hardy in Zones 7-10.  By ‘Giant,’ we mean plants topping out at perhaps 6′ tall.  Like other aroids, Zantedeschia, called Calla lily, grow from a tuber.  And each year the tubers grow larger as the clump spreads.  The clumps I saw in Oregon had clearly been growing for many years.

I began searching out Zanteschia tubers later that year, and have added a few to our collection each spring since.  I’ve learned these are hardy for us and may be left alone year to year to simply grow to their own rhythm.  They are fairly heavy feeders and appreciate good soil, plenty of moisture, abundant sunshine, and a little support.  Their leaves are spectacular, even before and after the blossoms.

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Z. ‘Hot Chocolate’ with its first bloom of the season.

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We’ve not yet grown any Zantedeschia that reached more than perhaps 3′ tall.  But I have noticed our clumps, left in the garden last fall, bulking up this year.  In fact, I dug up several clumps which grew in pots last summer, and moved them out into the garden in late October.  What a welcome sight when they broke ground this spring!

These South African natives adapt well to our climate.  They aren’t invasive, so far as I know.

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Zantedeschia albomaculata, with white spots on its dark leaves, prefers moist soil and will even grow in a pot partially submerged in a bog garden or shallow pond.  It will grow to about 24″.  Zantedeschia aethiopica, with solid green leaves, grows a little taller.  And it also enjoys moist soil.  Although we normally think of Calla lily as a white flower, there are many named hybrids with flowers of various colors, including some of very dark maroon or purple.

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Zantedeschia emerging in early May. The first leaf tips emerged in late March.

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Zantedeschia grow well in pots or planted directly in the ground.  If you live north of Zone 7, you can bring the pots in when your weather turns, and keep them going indoors as house plants.  In fact, our local Trader Joe’s has proven a reliable source of potted Callas with bright flowers, ready for your patio or to be gifted to a friend on a special occasion.

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If you are looking for something elegant, simple, and different for your garden this year, you might try growing Calla lilies.  Deer leave these leaves alone.  Callas have crystals in their leaves, like other Aroids, which cause them to irritate an animal’s mouth.  Given sufficient moisture and sun, these elegant, yet easy perennials will happily fill your garden with beauty.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“I won’t regret,
because you can grow flowers
where dirt used to be.”
.
Kate Nash
~

 

Like other Aroids, the Zantedeschia ‘blossom’ consists of a spadix, surrounded by a modified leaf called a spathe. Seeds form in tiny berries along the spadix after the spathe falls away. This plant is very much like the Arum italicum, and the two plants may be grown side by side to give a full year’s worth of foliage and a longer season of flowers.

 

 

Blossom XXIV: Amaryllis in Summer

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Like seeing an old friend, in an unexpected place, our winter Amaryllis bravely blooms again in the midst of early summer perennials.  How often do we assume that the stately Amaryllis we buy for a holiday gift or decoration is simply a disposable house plant?

As their pale leaves stretch and flop in January, most of would gladly chuck the whole thing once its blooms have finished.  But a gardener’s patience is usually rewarded, and so it is for that Amaryllis bulb that we care for through the winter.

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Bulbs always have some months of awkward growth when their leaves fortify the bulb for the next season’s bloom.  You probably are wondering what to do with the floppy foliage of spring’s daffodils right about now, just as we’re still letting it rest in annoying disarray.

An Amaryllis is no different. If you allow its leaves to grow for several months, and then force it to go dormant; it will reward you with even more blooms the following year.  And like other bulbs, Amaryllis form offsets as they mature.  Read that, “Free bulbs!”

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Amaryllis bulbs, freshly dug up from the garden last December.  After allowing these to rest for several weeks, I potted these up to bring them back into growth.

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Amaryllis, more properly called  Hippeastrum reginae, come to us from the southern hemisphere.  That is one reason they are so popular during our winter; they still believe it is early summer, and time to bloom!  And however huge and exotic an Amaryllis may appear, they are very easy to grow.   All they require is water, light, and space to grow.

Once the weather warms enough and frosts have finished in mid-spring, simply plant the Amaryllis into good garden soil in full or partial sun.  Leave any remaining leaves intact.  They will soon be replaced with sturdier, brighter leaves anyway.

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Hippeastrum ‘Tres Chic’

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Planting depth depends on your plan.  If you plan to bring your Amaryllis back inside in August, cut away the foliage, and let it rest dormant until late autumn; go ahead and plant it so the leaves emerge right at soil level.  When potted, most Amaryllis are planted shallow.  So dig a hole large enough to accept the root mass, and plant it only slightly deeper than it was in its pot.

If you live in Zone 7 or south, chances are you may be able to leave your Amaryllis outside permanently.  Check the zone of your bulb to make sure it is hardy to at least Zone 8.  Then plant the bulb a few inches deeper than it was in its pot, and mulch with another inch or so of whatever mulch you use.

Like with so many bulbs, you will likely forget where you planted the Amaryllis once it goes dormant.  And then one early summer day, “Surprise!”  Your Amaryllis will sprout thick, sturdy stalks topped with large buds, and you will be thrilled with its beautiful blooms.

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H. ‘Tres Chic’ in bud in late April

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Plant in rich, well drained soil.  Bulbs don’t like to sit in wet, soupy soil; especially when they are dormant.  I like to add a little Espoma Bulb Tone, dug into the surrounding soil, when I plant the Amaryllis out in a perennial bed.  Use a little when you pot up a new Amaryllis, too.

Since Amaryllis are poisonous, they won’t be bothered by grazing rabbits or deer.  Finally, a lily we can grow that won’t become ‘deer candy!’    Once their blooms have finished, cut back the bloom stalk, and let the leaves grow on.  They won’t require much space, and will provide structural foliage during the rest of the season for whatever else you have going on in that perennial bed.

I find an Amaryllis’s summer blooms to be even more spectacular than its winter show.  We may appreciate them more in winter, when most flowers have finished for the year.  But little else grab’s one’s attention quite like the elegant trumpet shaped blossoms of an Amaryllis.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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Blossom XXIII: Iris

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“…Every day I discover even more beautiful things.

It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all –

my head is bursting…”

.

Claude Monet

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“The priceless lesson in the New Year

is that endings birth beginnings and beginnings birth endings.

And in this elegantly choreographed dance of life,

neither ever find an end in the other.”

.

Craig D. Lounsbrough

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The best is yet to be.”
.

Robert Browning

Blossom XXII:  ” …and Spring After Winter…”

Blossom XXII: “…and Spring After Winter.”

Redbud

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth

find reserves of strength

that will endure as long as life lasts.

There is something infinitely healing

in the repeated refrains of nature –

– the assurance that dawn comes after night,

and spring after winter.”

.

Rachel Carson

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“Live in each season as it passes;

breathe the air, drink the drink,

taste the fruit,

and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

.

Henry David Thoreau

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“I only went out for a walk

and finally concluded to stay out

till sundown,

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

.

John Muir

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

Wednesday Vignette: Living Geometry

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“The geometry of the things around

us creates coincidences, intersections.”


.

Erri De Luca

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“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book

which ever is before our eyes –

– I mean the universe –

– but we cannot understand it

if we do not first learn the language

and grasp the symbols in which it is written.

The book is written in mathematical language,

and the symbols are triangles, circles

and other geometrical figures,

without whose help it is impossible

to comprehend a single word of it;

without which one wanders in vain

through a dark labyrinth.”

.

Galileo Galilei

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“You don’t see something

until you have the right metaphor

to let you perceive it”

.

James Gleick

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“The harmony of the world is made manifest

in Form and Number,

and the heart and soul

and all the poetry of Natural Philosophy

are embodied in the concept of mathematical beauty.”

.

D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson

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“Number rules the universe.”

.

Pythagoras

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“Maths is at only one remove from magic.”

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Neel Burton

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“A circle has no end.”

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Isaac Asimov

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

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More on Geometry:

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

 

Wednesday Vignettes: Confidence

february-28-2017-magnolia-033

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“We either make ourselves miserable,

or we make ourselves strong.

The amount of work is the same.”

.

Carlos Castaneda

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“I am only one, but I am one.

I cannot do everything, but I can do something.

And because I cannot do everything,

I will not refuse

to do the something that I can do.”

.

Edward Everett Hale

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february-28-2017-magnolia-022

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“I learned this, at least, by my experiment;

that if one advances confidently

in the direction of his dreams,

and endeavors to live the life

which he has imagined,

he will meet with a success

unexpected in common hours..”

.

Henry David Thoreau

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february-28-2017-magnolia-025

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“Human spirit is the ability to face

the uncertainty of the future

with curiosity and optimism.

It is the belief that problems can be solved,

differences resolved.

It is a type of confidence.

And it is fragile.

It can be blackened by fear, and superstition. ”

.

Bernard Beckett

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Magnolia liliiflora

Magnolia liliiflora

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“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.”
.

Marty Rubin

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march-1-2017-in-bloom-016

Blossom XX : February Iris

february-17-2017-first-iris-003

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Imagine our surprise to find this vibrant miniature Iris reticulata blooming in the garden this afternoon.

We’ve had a sunny day today.  Once the wind died down, the temperature crept over 50F.  And so late this afternoon the warm February sun coaxed this bud to open.  What a joy to find it as I cleaned up from planting the carrots!

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february-17-2017-first-iris-004

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“Isn’t that the only way to curate a life?

To live among things that make you gasp with delight?”

.

Maira Kalman

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february-17-2017-first-iris-001

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

 

“Being here to witness the beauty,

to learn, to be astonished, to love –

is enough. Being able to create

in addition

is a delightful honour.”

.

Jay Woodman

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

Blossom XIX: First Snowdrops

The first Snowdrops of spring.

The first Snowdrops of spring.

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We were delighted, and a bit surprised, to discover these pretty snowdrops blooming on the bank behind our house today.  Sheltered, and facing the afternoon sun, these tiny Galanthus emerged to brighten our day with their pristine flowers.

Our bulbs have been popping up all over the garden during the last fortnight.  But these are the first bulbs to bloom in our yard this year.  The premier act, we expect others soon to follow.  Galanthus nivalis lead the season, closely followed by the Crocus and early Daffodils.  I’m happy to see a little clump forming here where the original bulbs have matured and multiplied.  One of the nicest things about many spring bulbs is that they naturalize over time, making spreading patches of  color to delight my gardener’s heart.

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february-6-2017-flowers-013~

We enjoyed a sunny afternoon in the mid 60s today, and used it productively.  I made the tour and spread a bag of Milorganite around the perimeter of our garden, watching for signs of spring.  I”m still pruning, cutting back spent perennials, replenishing mulch and noticing buds swelling on many shrubs and trees.

We can’t get overly confident just yet.   We expect wintery weather to return by the end of this week.   Williamsburg often endures winter storms right through March or even early April.

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february-6-2017-flowers-011

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But with that said, we feel spring in the air.  The Heaths opened their  Bulb Shop up for the season at their Gloucester gardens last week.  I find it satisfying somehow that the first of our spring bulbs has blossomed within a week of their spring opening!  We will make a trip later this month to enjoy their display gardens, see what is new, and perhaps pick up a bag or two of something nice for this summer’s display.

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These lovely evergreen Arum italicum are from Brent and Becky's bulbs. This clump in its second season, growing with Violas.

These lovely evergreen Arum italicum are from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. This clump in its second season, growing with Violas.

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So for my gardening friends snowed under this week, please let these little snowdrops cheer you with their promise of spring to come!  It won’t be long now until your gardens will also burst into the beauties of springtime!

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Camellia japonica opened its first blooms of the season this weekend. These are our 'winter roses.'

Camellia japonica opened its first blooms of the season this weekend. These are our ‘winter roses.’

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

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

 

Blossom XVIII: Tough

january-20-2017-garden-014

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“We have not journeyed all this way

because we are made of sugar candy.”

.

Winston S. Churchill

~

january-20-2017-garden-009

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“Anyone can be tough for a season.

It takes a special kind of human

to rise to life’s challenges for a lifetime.”


.

Chris Matakas

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“If you’re looking for the easy challenge,

you’re not cut out for success.”


.

T Jay Taylor

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january-20-2017-garden-012

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“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face

conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”

.

Greta Garbo

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Helleborus argutifolius 'Snow Fever'

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’

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Do you often think of flowers as ‘tough’ ?  Likely not.

And yet look at these beautiful Hellebores blooming in our garden today.  So fragile looking, but tough enough to bloom in January.  These sheltered under the deep  snowfall when temperatures here dipped into the single digits two weeks ago.  That is extremely cold for coastal Virginia, but the Hellebores kept  on growing and even blooming despite their environment.

There is a lesson there for gardeners; perhaps for all of us.  Such beauty is an expression of itself.  It fulfills its own plan and promise.

Hellebores fill a special niche in our garden.  They are one of the toughest perennials we grow.  Their graceful evergreen leaves maintain a presence year round, through summer’s heat and drought as easily as through frigid winter days.  Their delicate veins and subtle shading express the same sort of athletic beauty as a ballerina.   And just when it looks like the garden has suffered defeat at winter’s hand, these wondrous flowers emerge from the frozen Earth.

And they last.  The cut flowers last a long time whether left growing out of doors or cut for a vase.  These plants will still be blooming when the garden has filled with Daffodils and Azalea next April.

A new neighbor and I were chatting today, and she asked me what perennial I would recommend for her front garden.  She has a wide sheltered bed near the street; an inviting  bed and breakfast for every rabbit and deer in the neighborhood.  It is shaded with a thick growth of native hollies and young hardwood trees.

I’ll be you know what advice I offered…. Hellebores.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
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Blossom XII
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Blossom XX

 

Blossom XV

september-6-2016-morning-garden-006

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“Generosity has little to do with giving gifts,

and everything to do with giving space to others

to be who they are.”

.

Patti Digh

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
Blossom XI
Blossom XII
Blossom XIII
Blossom XIV
BlossomXVI
Blossom XVII
Blossom VXIII

 

 

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