Daffodils, In A Vase

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There are so many beautiful daffodils to grow, with more cultivars available each season.  This is such a deeply satisfying genus to collect because Narcissus prove so easy.  Once planted, they just keep going year to year, and each clump continues to expand.

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I’ve noticed a few new clumps in odd places this spring, and I wonder, “Did I plant those there?”

Narcissus provide a generous supply of nectar for early pollinators, and allowed to go to seed, those seeds spread themselves around.  As logical as I try to be when planting bulbs in the fall, or transplanting clumps ‘in the green’ from pots to the garden the following spring, I can’t always rule out an odd placement.

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A bag of bulbs and a sturdy trowel can provoke their own peculiar mania.  Once some of us begin planting, we may not be able to justify, later, all of those strange things we do with roots and bulbs.

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My neighbor suffers from the same affliction.  We brag to one another about how many new daffodils we’ve planted each fall.  He has even crafted his own special bulb planting tool, which he loans to me on occasion.  It is easier on knees and back, though it allows for only one bulb at a time.

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My habits run more to digging broad, odd shaped craters and stuffing them full of 3, 5, 7 or more plump bulbs and then covering them all back with sweet, moist earth and crunchy mulch.   This is best done on hands and knees, face close to the soil and both hands engaged.

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A more efficient gardener would surely mark the spot with a label, or at least a golf tee.  I pack the ground snugly around the bulbs, trying to erase all signs the earth was ever disturbed so as not to alert the squirrels to this newly buried treasure.  And then I often forget myself what went where.

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And that is good, because when winter turns to spring, and leaves begin to push up through the mulch, I’m left guessing which flowers will appear.

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And so there are fresh surprises nearly every day as petals open and each flower turns its face up towards the sun.  How many petals?  What color, and what shape is the corona?

Is this a new hybrid, or an heirloom species daffodil?

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Daffodils open over a very long season, from very early to very late.  Our first ones open sometime in February, and the latest are still opening in late April or early May.   Each new and different cultivar delights me with its unique beauty.

So many of our flowers we never cut; we enjoy them growing in the garden, but rarely bring them indoors for the vase.

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But daffodils are different.  Wind and rain often blow them down.

I can walk around and ‘rescue’ those blown over, tugging each flowering stem loose, bundling them loosely in a left-handed bunch.

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There is no need to explain to anyone why I’ve robbed the garden of its flowers; I’ve only saved them from the indignity of flopping on the ground.

And then we have the pleasure of their company, the pure luxury of their beauty in a vase inside, for a few precious days each spring.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Autumn Roses, Safely in a Vase Today

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The wind is cold out of the west.  Even with brilliant sunshine, it was shivery cold as I dug the last tender fern to bring in today.  Frost has been forecast several times over the last week, but thus far its  been only a flirtation with that first autumn frost which decimates what’s left of our summer garden.

Most of our tender plants are either inside already, or snuggled up against the walls of our protected patio.  I trust that area to stay a few degrees warmer than the garden, which will suffice until the weather turns truly frosty next month.

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I cut a half dozen roses early Saturday morning to take to my parents, believing if left growing, they would be frozen that night.  But, as you can see, the roses keep unfolding peacefully.  The colors may be a little off from May.  Yet I believe these are almost more beautiful.

Last night hovered around 33F for a few hours around sunrise.  But tonight, I believe, will be ‘it.’  We’ve had several weeks now to prepare and remember every last thing we can possibly bring indoors.

Except the roses….

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Even yesterday afternoon, I made cuttings from our favorite scented geraniums thinking to stick them in pots around other things in hopes they will root and last through winter in the garage/conservatory.  And this afternoon, I cut a few more beautiful and wonderfully scented sprigs for this vase.

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The roses are the main attraction here.  But they are accented with a few of the very first little starts I set out last April:  A lacy Spanish lavender and a beautiful blue mealy sage.  Both have bloomed non-stop for the last seven months.  They might even come back next spring if our winter is mild.   You might also notice a few stems of Euphorbia, ‘Diamond Frost,’ still blooming in the garden, and a few tiny trumpets of lavender Oxalis.

The vase was made by our potter friend, Denis Orton.  These wonderful crystalline glazes are one of his passions, and we enjoy collecting pieces of his work from time to time.

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The roses are heavily perfumed ones, and have filled the house with their beautiful aroma as they warm up indoors.  If frost does come tonight, we will still have roses to enjoy for the next few days, and the house will still smell of summer.

That was reason enough to venture out this afternoon to cut them for a vase, and touch with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden yet again.  She faithfully cuts and arranges beautiful vases of flowers each week, photographing them and writing each week about what is fresh in her garden.  I admire her dedication to this meme, and appreciate her giving other gardeners the opportunity to join in every Monday.

Please visit her page to see what other gardeners around the world have to arrange this week as we slip ever closer to the holidays.

I am far more likely to plant up a pot of something for the house than to cut flowers and arrange them.  But every now and again, I can’t resist harvesting a bit of beauty and bringing it in for us to enjoy.  And so with theses roses, safely in a vase indoors before the frost.

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Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden....

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is available now

Woodland Tableau

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Cathy, at  Rambling in the Garden, urges us to bring cut flowers indoors for a vase each Monday.  But instead of filling a vase, I’ve made my foliage arrangement today in small pots.

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My inspiration came from an intriguing photo in the fall 2016 Country Gardens magazine.  In the article, ‘The Splendor of Seedpods;” there is a log centerpiece, covered in moss, small ferns, Rex Begonias and various seedpods.  It is simply stunning. 

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But, copying this arrangement meant finding a partially hollowed out log of the right size for one’s table.  The more I thought about putting a real decaying log in my dining room, and the little bugs which might come with it, the more I searched for another way to accomplish a similar effect.

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Center pot from Mossy Creek pottery in Lincoln City, OR.

Begonia Rex in a hand thrown pot  from Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, OR.

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My version uses a handmade pottery tray as the base.  The  ferns, ivy, and Rex Begonias are all potted, then their pots arranged with small animals, bits of glass and stones.  Moss pulled from the garden finishes each little pot.

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The three main pots are cast clay, shaped to look like stones.  I’ve grown succulents in them most years, but they’ve been empty for the past several months.  They recycled nicely into this arrangement.

The two glazed pots came from Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, Oregon.   The tray was found at a tag sale a few years ago.  But it is a signed original, and I enjoy it very much.

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The classic terra cotta pot has languished in my potting area for several years, awaiting inspiration to find it a new use.  It, and the other pots with drainage holes were lined with a sheet of burlap before I filled them with good potting soil.  Lay a layer of aggregate, like pebbles, in any pots without drainage holes, before adding the plant and its soil.

I’ve chosen two tender ‘Tabletop’ ferns (Pteris species) and a division of a tender Lady fern from one of my hanging baskets.  These little ‘tropicals’ are easy to find at big box stores which sell little houseplants, and the needlepoint ivy and Begonia came from our local Lowes.

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This is a nice, relaxed, woodsy arrangement to carry us through the autumn months.  I can add a few little pumpkins or gourds in the weeks ahead.  All of these plants should grow fine in the low light of our dining room.

If you want to copy this design, be creative with re-purposing things you already have lying around.  I’ve been thinking about this for nearly a week,  collecting the materials and plants before assembling it all this afternoon.  It can be great fun to find new ways to use containers already in ‘the collection.’

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I hope that Cathy will accept this humble aberration from her floral meme.  Eventually, those Begonias will sport blossoms, after all.

But I find great beauty in foliage, too, and appreciate its longevity.  This little arrangement should be alive and growing for many weeks on our dining table.

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Tabletop or brake fern is tender in our climate, but often sold as a 'houseplant..'  These from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, Virginia.

Tabletop or brake fern is tender in our climate, but often sold as a ‘houseplant.’ These from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, Virginia.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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In A Vase On Monday: Good Enough to Eat….

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August feels like a very ‘green’ month; especially here in coastal Virginia where we are totally surrounded by green trees, vines, lush green lawns, billowing green Crepe Myrtles and other rampant growth.

From Lamas in early August, to Labor Day weekend in early September, our world remains vibrant and green!

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Sunset, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

Early evening, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

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You can watch some plants literally grow hour to hour and day to day, given enough water.   If you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a hot-house or conservatory, welcome to a Virginia August!   This is the time of year when we seek the cool, green shade of large trees and vine covered trellises to help us through the relentless heat.

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Herbs in our August garden.

Herbs in our August garden.  Our swallowtail butterflies love the chive flowers.  This clump remains one of their favorite stops to feed.

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And so it feels appropriate to cut cool green stems from the garden today.  I’ve cut an assortment of herbs for their fragrant leaves.  The burgundy basil flowers and white garlic chives serve only as grace notes to the beautifully shaped, textured and frosted leaves.

Much of this arrangement is edible.

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Except for the ivy vines, a little Artemesia and a stem of Coleus; you could brew some lovely herbal tea or garnish a plate from the rest of our vase today.  There are two different scented Pelargoniums here, including P. ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’,  and African Blue Basil.

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To make this arrangement feel even cooler, it sits in a cobalt blue vase from our local Shelton glass works on a sea-green glass tray.  A moonstone frog rests nearby.

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The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

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Today’s vase is so fragrant that my partner commented as soon as the stems came into the room.  It is a spicy blend of rose scented Geraniums and sharp Basil, with an undertone of garlic from the chive flowers.  It makes puts me in the mood to mix up a little ‘Boursin Cheese’ with fresh herbs from the garden, and serve it garnished with a few chive blossoms!

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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 again today, with some beautiful lilies 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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 Woodland Gnome 2016

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Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today's vase....

Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today’s vase….

 

In A Vase: Celebrating Lammas

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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.

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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.

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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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Not Just A Vase: Pots by Dorothy Steele

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“I have always seen clay as organic in substance and form,

and have been drawn to the Earth, nature and its colors. 

It is out of this core inspiration that I create my pottery.” 

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Dorothy Steele

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It was love at first sight….

I fell in love with Dorothy’s enchanting pottery immediately, when I discovered it more than a year ago, at Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, OR.  None came home with me on that trip, but I purchased two of her mugs when I returned this April, as a gift for my partner.

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I chose designs from her sea themed collection, embellished with mermaids, shells, sea grasses and a long tentacled jellyfish.  We’ve used them daily since, remembering our love for the Oregon coast as we do.

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But a flurry of emails between us found Dorothy agreeing to construct a few more mugs for us with her signature grapevines, dragonfly and other garden motifs.  She offered to make several to give me a choice.  But, I loved them all. 

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Also a gardener, Dorothy uses cuttings from her garden in her work.  She presses ferns, leaves, vines and other natural objects into slabs of porcelain to create organic artworks which also happen to be functional.

I love using beautiful works of art every day, taking fresh pleasure in them with each sip of coffee.

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Dorothy and I share a love for beautiful pottery, which is enough to begin a transcontinental friendship.  But then we have both invested chunks of our lives teaching in public school and elsewhere, and we share a deep passion for our gardens and the natural world.  We both love making beautiful things with our hands.  And I admire her wonderful imagination for creating in clay and glaze.

Dorothy moved her studio home to Gresham Oregon in 2010, and from there supplies six galleries in Oregon, another in Washington, and participates in numerous juried shows, retail craft fairs and wholesale craft markets.  She and her potter colleagues also participate in ‘Empty Bowls’ to help feed the hungry in the greater Portland area.

These mugs are perhaps the tamest of her creations.  Most of her bowls, tea pots, candlesticks, sake and sushi sets take whimsical, organic forms as well.  If you have a moment, please follow the links to Dorothy’s site to see more of her pots.

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To make a long story longer, I couldn’t choose between the mugs Dorothy constructed for us and advised her to, “Send them all!”  One or two will find their way to loved ones at the holidays, and we will enjoy the rest.  I am beguiled by the dragonflies and curling vines; summer captured forever in clay.

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I’m using them as vases today, holding a few clippings of Oxalis, Coleus and Heuchera from pots by the door.  I squandered the cool early morning hours watering, weeding, planting and photographing; neglecting cuttings for a vase until after it was too hot to breathe.  I hope these few stems will do….

Cathy, at Rambling In the Garden always inspires with her floral creations.  And today her vase is expertly filled with Hydrangea and Cosmos, and many other delectable blossoms.  Please visit her to see what other gardeners around the planet snipped for their vases today.    You’ll find links in her comments to many wonderful garden sites. We all appreciate Cathy for hosting this tete a tete of flowers each Monday.

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Gardening friends in Oregon likely know Dorothy and her work already.  But I want to share her unique porcelain pottery with others, too.

My collection of Steele pots is destined to grow in the years ahead, and perhaps yours might, as well…..

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Email: steelepots@gmail.com

Email: steelepots@gmail.com

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Moss, Ferns, and a Fairy House

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This certainly has been a wonderful spring for working with mosses and ferns!   Abundant rain, muted light, humidity and cool days provide the perfect conditions for our ferns to grow and mosses to thrive.  Sometimes it feels like Oregon’s climate followed me home to Virginia!

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The various ‘moss gardens’ I started this spring continue to grow, but not as rapidly as the wild mosses taking over in more areas of the garden than ever before!   We continue to find new little ferns popping up in unexpected places even as all those we’ve planted take off in our moist, cool May.

This hypertufa trough held succulents in full sun, until a couple of weeks ago, when I re-purposed it for our newest moss garden.

We refreshed the trough with fresh potting soil, over a layer of gravel for drainage, planted out some tiny fern starts found at The Great Big Greenhouse, and moved the container to shade.

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An extensive collection of tiny 1″ plants for terrariums and Bonsai always excite me at this favorite Richmond area greenhouse, and I end up ‘collecting’ a few more with each visit.  They are fun to use indoors all winter and grow quickly to standard sizes.   We had a few brake ferns, and what are likely bird’s nest ferns, which needed more room to grow for summer.  The trough seemed the perfect container for them.

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There are also a few starts of Leptinella pusilla, Purple Brass Buttons, which look like tiny purplish ferns.  If you’ve seen a display of ‘Steppables’ at your local nursery, you have likely seen this plant for sale.  I first used it when a friend and I constructed fairy gardens in 2014.

It is a tough but beautiful ground cover for shade which spreads with horizontal stems.  I took the clump out of its nursery pot, pulled a few rooted stems loose from the mass, and tucked them in among the moss of this newest garden.  The rest of the clump went into a shallow pot of its own ready to divide again and use elsewhere…..

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And of course the soil is carpeted with several varieties of lush, beautiful moss lifted from the yard.  Although it takes a few weeks to establish, it will soon begin growing again here in the shade of our grape vines.

But what really inspired me to construct this newest little trough garden was a wonderful ‘fairy house’ made by local potter Betsy Minney.  We were thrilled to find her at a local artist’s show on Mother’s Day, with several new items added to her offerings.  Betsy’s work is always uniquely textured, whimsical, and beautifully glazed.

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We wanted to enjoy Betsy’s little fairy house in a properly ‘wild’ setting, and that meant outside amidst mosses and ferns. Knowing how our birds love to peck at moss, we now wire it in place while it establishes.  Since the fairy house now lives outside on our porch, we also want to protect it from getting knocked over by a curious bird or squirrel!  It is supported here on broken chopsticks and held in place, like the clumps of moss, with bent floral wire.

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These ferns aren’t hardy in our winters, so the entire garden, and especially the fairy house, will come inside in late autumn.  But we’ll have a good six months of enjoyment of this woodland garden by our kitchen door before the weather shifts.

You could make a similar garden using hardy ferns, especially some of the small deciduous cultivars of Athyrium niponicum and native harts tongue ferns, or Asplenium scolopendrium.

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One of our newer Ary 'Joy Ride.'

One of our newer Athyrium niponicums in another part of our garden.

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I’ve not cut flowers for a vase today.  Most of our roses and Iris have suffered from heavy rains these last few days.  But I will share this little potted garden with you, and still link to Cathy’s In A Vase on Monday post at her Rambling In The Garden.

I hope you will visit to enjoy her beautiful vase of white flowers, and follow the links she posts to other gardeners around the world, to see what is blooming in their gardens today.  There is always so much beauty to enjoy from these dedicated florists and gardeners!

Woodland Gnome 2016

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In A Vase On Monday: Harvest of Daffodils

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Astrological spring and meteorological spring finally agree with the reality in our garden.  We’ve touched every milestone along the way, avoided a late snow last night, and can breathe deeply again with confidence that spring has indeed arrived.

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We will celebrate the New Year, Nowruz, which comes on the spring Equinox, with friends this afternoon.  And we’ll be taking them this vase filled with Daffodils, ivy, and a blooming branch from our apple tree.

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Our earliest Daffodils have begun to fade even as the mid-season bloomers open.  We have perhaps seven or eight different types blooming now, with a few late bloomers not yet ready to appear.

It is a long season of beautiful Daffodils in our garden, and in our community.  Many of us have caught the Daffodil Fever from our friends across the York River in Gloucester.  Their Daffodil Festival comes the first weekend of April.  But Daffodils have already  been blooming now for several weeks in coastal Virginia.

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Daffodils not only bring early color and movement to the garden.  They also offer protection from moles and voles for the roots of other plants.  Now, I plant rings of Daffodil bulbs  around newly planted shrubs to protect them.  Every part of a Daffodil plant is poisonous, including its roots.  Those roots grow into a secure network of protection for several inches in every direction from the bulb.

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Daffodils return each spring, increasing into larger clumps with more flowers each passing year.  If allowed to set seed, they will spread far across the garden.

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Most Daffodils will outlive the gardener who planted them with minimal care.  We enjoy a large wave of golden Daffodils left by the first gardeners of our property more than 25 years ago.  And every fall we plant more, expanding their reach to every portion of our garden.

Appreciation, as always, to Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, for sponsoring our Monday vases.   Please visit her post today to see a simply stunning vase she has made herself, filled with beautiful spring flowers.  If your heart needs more bright sunny Daffodils and species tulips, you will enjoy gazing at her photos today.  You’ll also find of links to many creative vases arranged by other gardeners around the world.

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Not a vase, but a container planted up last fall with Daffodils, Hellebores, moss, and other spring bulbs has come into its own this week.

Not a vase, but a container planted up last fall with Daffodils, Hellebores, moss, Violas and other spring bulbs has come into its own this week.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Searching for Spring

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“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle

that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all.

It was more the idea of a colour –

as if the trees were dreaming green dreams

or thinking green thoughts.”

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Susanna Clarke 

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It is still winter here.  It only takes a single step out on the porch to prove this.  I still reach for a chunky sweater each day, and huge pots of home made soup offer us warmth and comfort.  I keep reminding us both of March snowstorms in years passed.

And yet we, and everyone we know, are waiting for spring.  We’re watching for the earliest signs of nature’s shifting.    All it takes is a few hours of warmth and sunshine to draw us outside.

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Flowers from our garden, finally in their vase.

Flowers from our garden, finally in their vase.

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Yesterday, we drove out to visit our friends at Homestead Garden Center.   They are weather watchers, too, of course.  I was curious to see what signs of spring they might have on offer.

Aside from freshly delivered pallets of compost, we found precious little.  They know that winter’s not yet finished with us, too.

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They did have a cart of gorgeous bright primroses, raised since autumn in their greenhouses.  They time the first ones to arrive just before Valentine’s Day.  What joy to simply gaze at them and soak in the colors!

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And inside the shop, we found sprouting Hyacinth bulbs.  Our first sweet breath of spring.  I always bless those whose planning makes these late winter flowers possible.

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These precious winter flowers get us through February.

We left with a tray of little bulbs in their forcing glasses, some compost, and a set of empty pots.  The compost is ready for that next warm day when I’m itching to work in the garden.  The pots stand ready to move the olive trees up for the season ahead.

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And the bulbs are for sharing spring with a few loved ones who need it as much as  we….

 

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Sunday Dinner: Patience

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“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing.

It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose,

looking at the night and seeing the day.

Lovers are patient and know that

the moon needs time to become full.”

.

Rumi

~

February 6, 2016 branches 011

~

“Patience, he thought. So much of this

was patience – waiting, and thinking

and doing things right.

So much of all this, so much of all living

was patience and thinking.”

  .

Gary Paulsen

~

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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.”

.

Fulton J. Sheen

~

February 6, 2016 branches 015

~

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

.

Benjamin Franklin 

~

February 6, 2016 branches 004

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

~

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