WPC: Relax

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“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life,

live in the moment, live in the breath.”

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Amit Ray

This week’s photo challenge invites us to share photos of what helps us to relax.

What a wonderful gift!  and what a marvelous way to stop and catch our breath after this first week of the ‘Christmas season.’

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“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon

against your challenges. So relax.”

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Bryant McGill

This December presents many of us with gnarly challenges.  As if  we weren’t already stressed enough this year with global politics; that still plays in the background as we scramble with holiday  plans; Cyber week sales; finishing projects at work or at school; and still the ongoing dramas of our daily lives.  Whew! 

Let’s relax a little, already!

My stress was multiplied this week by a demented phone.  I can’t quite remember what year I got it… it’s that old.  But its dementia began the day before Thanksgiving.  Suddenly it dropped calls, or made them on its own without my touch.  Sometimes the voice activation program turned itself on… and I couldn’t disable it or turn it off.  I kept getting messages from friends and family about my phone calling theirs, unbidden, and had to leave it mostly off.

When I took it to my carrier’s store on Monday they offered no help at all, except to shame me for my old phone.  Wouldn’t I like to consider payment plans for a new one?

I overheard one of the other agents calmly explaining to her I Pad customer that while the new phones were only designed to last a year or two, she might get as much as five years of service were she to buy a new I Pad.  Really?  With the new phones costing over $600.00?  Really?

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“I wish you water.”

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Wallace J. Nichols

After an hour of negotiation and resolve, one of the nice young agents hearing my conversation with the store’s manager suggested a great little LG basic phone which would do only what I need it to do.  It is a sleeker nicer model of the one I’ve had.  And yes, they had to special order it.  It’s too obsolete to keep in stock….

And best of all, it didn’t require me to take out a payment plan.  I could actually afford to just pay for it.

I finally picked up my new phone on Thursday afternoon.  It is something in between a Wal Mart ‘burner’ and a handheld computer, and I am glad to have it.  A little stress finally resolved…

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And that is when my partner and I both took a few deep breaths, and headed to the Colonial Parkway.  We headed to that special place where we can relax and just ‘be’ for a little while.  Sunset’s golden light lit the scene, quiet now in early December.  Only a few of us locals head out this way so late in the year, keeping company with the shore birds and park rangers.

We watched sun and water, admired the fall color still clinging here and there on the trees, and took a moment to celebrate our success.

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This is a long and tiring month, December.  We have lots we want to do, and lots we need to do before Christmas comes and a new year dawns next month.

And I’m sure you have a lot on your mind, too.  And so let us take just a moment to breathe; to let a bit of peace seep into out souls.

We have only to pause, to let ourselves relax,  and appreciate the beauties of the world around us.

And then we get back to work…..

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“The Warrior knows that no man is an island.
He cannot fight alone; whatever his plan,

he depends on other people.

He needs to discuss his strategy, to ask for help,

and, in moments of relaxation, to have someone

with whom he can sit by the fire,

someone he can regale with tales of battle.”

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Paulo Coelho

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Relax

Wednesday Vignettes: The Path

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“All we have to decide is what to do

with the time that is given us.”


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Gandalf

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“Courage will now be your best defense

against the storm that is at hand-

—that and such hope as I bring.”


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Gandalf

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“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

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Gandalf

 

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Halfway Creek

Halfway Creek

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“This is your realm,

and the heart of the greater realm that shall be.

The Third Age of the world is ended,

and the new age is begun; and it is your task

to order its beginning and to preserve

what must be preserved.

For though much has been saved,

much must now pass away;…”

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Gandalf

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Jamestown

Jamestown

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“However it may prove,

one must tread the path that need chooses!”

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Gandalf

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

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“He that breaks a thing to find out what it is

has left the path of wisdom.”

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all quotations from  J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Flow

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“Be like water making its way through cracks.

Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object,

and you shall find a way round or through it.

If nothing within you stays rigid,

outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water.

If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.

You put water into a bottle

and it becomes the bottle.

You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot.

Now, water can flow or it can crash.

Be water my friend.”

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Bruce Lee

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We have watched more rain fall in the last two days than I can ever recall.  If  ‘we’ includes every soul from Jamaica to Maryland, then we have perhaps witnessed the most rainfall in recorded history.

It’s ironic that the Daily Post chose “H2O”  as the theme for their Weekly Photo Challenge on Friday, as Hurricane Matthew chewed up the Caribbean and the East Coast of the US.

Ocean swallowed land, breaking up buildings and piers like tinker toys.  Waves crashed over sea walls and battered against homes and hotels.  Historic, torrential rains have washed away hillsides and towns.

Here, the water flowed.  We are blessed with a topography which can handle rain.

But all around us  in Virginia and North Carolina, at the northern edge of this great storm, it rose.  We watched streets become ponds and roads float away, carrying so much of people’s lives and livelihoods on the rising tide.

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We watched this on TV and the internet, of course; here, we simply watched water run in sheets across the streets, fill the ditches  and puddle on the patio.

We drove to Jamestown late yesterday afternoon, watching the river rise to the top of its banks and the creeks and marshes fill like bathtubs.  Herons stood along the shallows,  gazing with curiosity at the rising tide.

Yesterday, the world was wet and grey.  The clouds hung low and spewed sheets of water from sea to land.  And now the storms have moved away.  The sun was out here by this afternoon.

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And with sunlight comes every beautiful color of the day:  blue sky, golden flowers, green leaves and shiny patches of lichen on the dark wet bark of trees.

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Water teaches the lesson of change.  As it changes forms itself, so it also changes everything it touches.  Judging ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sometimes begs more questions than it settles.  Even the lack of water, a summer drought, shows us this truth.

And so we learn to flow, like water; to adapt, to reflect, to adjust, and to persist.  And above all, to hope to nourish and refresh with  our very presence.

What can hurt can also heal; what can destroy is also the basic unit of every living thing.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

 

 

For the Daily Post’s

One Word Photo Challenge:  H2O

Late Summer Golden Haze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on growing Goldenrod

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunday Dinner: Reflection

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“A lake is a landscape’s

most beautiful and expressive feature.

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

measures the depth of his own nature.”

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Henry David Thoreau

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“There is no future without a past,

because what is to be cannot be imagined

except as a form of repetition.”

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Siri Hustvedt

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“Learning without reflection is a waste.

Reflection without learning is dangerous.”

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Confucius

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Once you reject fear,

you will become the perfect candidate

to receive and reflect Truth.”

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Suzy Kassem

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The Quest: WPC

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

What is your quest?  What is it you seek?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your quest?

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Woodland Gnome  2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Quest

 

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A few of my favorite stories of quests and heroes:

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

 

 

 

Water-Colored

The James River

The James River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Edge

Sandy Bay, which frames one end of Jamestown Island, provides a home for many species of birds in its shallow waters. Bald cypress trees grow along its banks.

Sandy Bay, which frames one end of Jamestown Island, provides a home for many species of birds in its shallow waters. Bald cypress trees grow along its banks.

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Edges and borders;

Boundaries or invitations

To enter elsewhere?

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Alight from the known,

Venture into

What is not.

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Borders frame,

But cannot contain

Curious awareness.

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Where is happiness?

What waits

Beyond the edges?

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Edge

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wednesday Vignettes: Transformation

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“Sorrow prepares you for joy.

It violently sweeps everything out of your house,

so that new joy can find space to enter.

It shakes the yellow leaves

from the bough of your heart,

so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place.

It pulls up the rotten roots,

so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.

Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart,

far better things will take their place.”

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Jalaluddin Rumi

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“When you become the image of your own imagination,
it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.”
.
RuPaul

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

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Philosophers speak of ‘The Music of the Spheres.”  Since ancient times, we have understood the musicality of nature.

Not only is the physical world based in pure mathematics, as is music; the sounds created by Earth, sea and sky flow together as a symphony.  Everywhere there is sound:  pitch, rhythm, harmony and the melodies found in the voices of whale, wind, bird, cricket and human.

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Morning Glory vines are annuals in our climate, but drop their seeds each summer. These prolific seeds germinate in early summer and the vines bloom from mid-summer until frost.

Morning Glory vines are annuals in our climate, but drop their seeds each summer. These prolific seeds germinate in early summer and the vines bloom from mid-summer until frost.

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Our gardens grow to their own rhythms, too.  And the wise gardener comes to know these rhythms as closely as their own heartbeats.

Understanding the growth rhythms of the seasons in your own region, and the rhythms of the various plants you grow, allows a gardener to work confidently with nature.

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These Morning Glory vines scamper over roses and Lantana.

These Morning Glory vines scamper over roses and Lantana.

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Not understanding these basic rhythms can set you at  cross purposes to the unfolding happening around you.  And worse, ignorance of a plant’s natural rhythms can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress for the plant and the gardener!

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These hardy Begonias share the pot with the perennial Heuchera. There are a few spring bulbs, too, which will begin growing in the months ahead. The Caladium 'Florida Moonlight' will need to come out before frost. But these plants can all share the same space and take center stage at different seasons of the year.

These hardy Begonias share the pot with the perennial Hellebore. There are a few spring bulbs, too, which will begin growing in the months ahead. The Caladium ‘Florida Moonlight’ will need to come out before frost and will be replaced with Violas. But these plants can all share the same space and take center stage at different seasons of the year.

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What rhythms does an effective gardener understand?  Well, first, we must feel the rhythms of the seasons.  This is different for each place, as one season melts into the next.

The official dates of solstice and equinox, new moons and full, frost dates and summer heat help us begin to feel this rhythm.   But the fine details are learned through years of observation.

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For example, there is a great deal of ‘see-sawing’ between hot days and frosts here each autumn and each spring.  We might have roses blooming until mid-December after a brief November snowstorm.

But we might also have days over 80F in March followed by snow in April.  Temperature changes prove gradual and unpredictable here, and we have to pay attention to the daily forecast.

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Autumn roses are the best. Our shrub is recovering from summer drought and beginning to produce roses again.

Autumn roses are the best. Our shrubs are recovering from summer drought and beginning to produce roses again.

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Beyond climate, there is the rhythm of each plant we grow.  So many prove ephemeral, appearing and disappearing quite suddenly with the seasons, like our Hurricane Lilies.

It helps to know what plants are annuals in our region and are ‘gone forever’ once they die back, and which will return.  What plants grow from ever multiplying bulbs and tubers?  Which plants have perennial roots?

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Our 'Hurricane Lily,' Lycoris radiata, just suddenly appears when its time is right. We often forget where the bulbs are planted year to year so they are always a delightful surprise.

Our ‘Hurricane Lily,’ Lycoris radiata, just suddenly appears when its time is right. We often forget where the bulbs are planted year to year so they are always a delightful late summer surprise.  The vinca Minor vines growing as ground cover remain evergreen, but bloom with the Daffodils each spring.

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When rain was abundant this spring, I started a new nearly full-shade garden bed  filled with ferns,  Caladiums, and a few low perennials.

It was coming along beautifully, until our hot spell in late July and August came while I was spending a great deal of time out of town.  My watering fell behind here, and by the last week of August many of the plants appeared to be dead or dying.

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The new garden on July 18, when there still was abundant rain. All of the new plants were growing well.

The new shade garden on July 18, when there still was abundant rain. All of the Caladiums and ferns were growing well.

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I was so disappointed in myself to have allowed all of these beautiful new ferns to ‘die.’

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I started watering intensively here, and then Hermine brought us a good day and a half of cool, cloudy wet weather.

And, ‘Voila!’ Even though the fronds of my potted Athyrium niponicum may have all shriveled in the drought,  their roots survived.  And today I discovered new growth in the pots.   What relief!

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These hardy ferns aren’t evergreen and so die back each autumn.  They won’t be seen again until early spring, when their new leaves emerge.

But now I’ve learned they can survive a drought in the same way they survive freezing temperatures; they pull their life back into their roots.

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Spring bulbs have begun to grow in ths container, also recovering from August's drought.

Spring bulbs have begun to grow in this container, also recovering now from August’s drought.  The Sedum can root from any part of the stem and remains evergreen through our winters.  The Creeping Jenny is also a perennial here.

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So many plants will survive in one small part of the plant; whether seed, bulb, root, rhizome or tuber.  Knowing this lets us move from season to season with confidence, knowing how to help our favorite plants not only return, but also multiply.

When will each appear, grow and bloom?  When will they disappear again in the cycle of the year?  Which seeds can we scatter with confidence that they will germinate and grow?

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This perennial butterfly Ginger Lily will die back to the ground after frost, but its rhizomes spread each year. These will bloom from the end of August until killed by frost in November.

This perennial butterfly Ginger Lily will die back to the ground after frost, but its rhizomes spread each year.  The plants return in May and grow all summer, topping out at 7′-8′ tall.  These will bloom from the end of August until killed by frost in November.

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Plants come and go with the seasons.   The appearance of our garden may change radically from one month to another.

Learn these rhythms and time your ‘doings’ and ‘not-doings’ to work in harmony with them.  This is one of the hallmarks of a true gardener.

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

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

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3 Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

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And suddenly, it is beginning to look like autumn here. Jones Mill Pond, as it looked last evening.

And suddenly, it is beginning to look like autumn here. Jones Mill Pond, as it looked last evening.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

Please visit and follow Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues to see all new posts since January 8, 2021.

A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

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