Sunday Dinner: Looking Up!

Hibiscus moscheutos

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“In these times

you have to be an optimist

to open your eyes when you awake in the morning”

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  Carl Sandburg

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Salvia coccinea

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“There is no such thing as a problem

without a gift for you in its hands.

You seek problems

because you need their gifts.”

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Richard Bach

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“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands” (Richard Bach).

And if not every problem, then just about every one.

Even spectacular sunsets are not possible without cloudy skies.

Troubles bring a gift for those who choose to look.

And since I can’t avoid my problems,

why waste them? I should look for the gift.

My life will be far, far richer for finding it.”

.

Steve Goodier

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Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’

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“Being an idealist is not being a simpleton;

without idealists there would be no optimism

and without optimism

there would be no courage to achieve advances

that so-called realists would have you believe

could never come to fruition.”

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  Alisa Dana Steinberg

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“Few things in the world are more powerful

than a positive push – a smile.

A word of optimism and hope,

a ‘you can do it!’

when things are tough”

.

Richard M DeVos

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“Pessimism never won any battle.”

.

  Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Solidago

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“A tiny change today

brings a dramatically different tomorrow.”

.

  Richard Bach

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Senna marilandica

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“An easy life doesn’t teach us anything.

In the end it’s the learning that matters:

what we’ve learned

and how we’ve grown”

.

  Richard Bach

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crape myrtle

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“Nobody knows how things will turn out,

that’s why they go ahead and play the game…

You give it your all

and sometimes amazing things happen,

but it’s hardly ever what you expect.”
.

  Gennifer Choldenko

~

Cleome


Hanging Basket Hacks: Hydration

A two year old planting, ready for rejuvenation

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Considering I’d originally planted the basket a couple of years ago, and that the ‘annual’ Verbena survived two Williamsburg winters to return and bloom the following spring,  I can’t complain.

Add to that poor soil (compost I found on-site at the garden) and those daffodil bulbs I planted in there for spring interest.  By early summer 2020, the basket was struggling.   It hung in full sun at the botanical garden where it got irregular, but loving attention.  The Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, had grown in lushly.  But the basket was no longer beautiful, and the Verbena was fading.  We just couldn’t keep the plants properly watered in July’s unrelenting heat.

Do you have a hanging basket that is struggling in summer’s heat?  Do you have plants under-performing because you can’t keep their container sufficiently watered?

The ongoing challenge with any container planting, especially baskets and window boxes, is to keep the plants supplied with nutrients and enough water that they don’t frequently wilt.  Some climates make container gardening easier than others.  Many municipal plantings get daily, professional attention from a team of horticulturalists.  Some plants adapt better to growing crowded into baskets with just a few inches of soil, than others.

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When you think about it, a hanging basket is a pretty extreme environment for many plants.  That said, there are some reasonably simple and inexpensive hacks that anyone can use to make that basket more comfortable for living, blooming plants.

It is smart to begin with the largest basket your space, and the support it will hang from, can accommodate.  Larger baskets mean more soil to hold moisture, and more space for roots to grow.  A 14″-16″ basket is a good size to work with.  If you are working with a window box rather than a basket, look for ones at minimum 6″ deep.

Next, use good, fresh potting soil.  You might add additional perlite to equal a quarter of the total soil volume, which improves drainage and makes the finished basket much lighter.  Mix this in well, along with some slow release fertilizer like Epsoma’s Plant Tone or Osmocote.  To keep plants actively growing and blooming, they need nutrients.  Most potting mixes are sterile, without the nutrients commonly found in garden soil (which is too dense and heavy for a hanging basket or container).  Adding slow release fertilizer helps bring out the best performance in your chosen plants.

Mix up enough amended soil to fill the basket in a separate container, and then use a scoop to transfer a little at a time to fill in around each plant as you place it.

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This wire basket has a fresh coir liner and an inner liner of a plastic bag. A sponge cut into small bits will help conserve water.

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I generally prefer wire baskets with a coco or coir liner.   Baskets will dry out exceptionally fast when the heat index is over 100F and there isn’t a cloud in the sky for hour after hour on a summer day.  Even baskets watered generously before 8 AM may be dry again by mid-afternoon.  Coir makes a better liner than the traditional sphagnum moss, but is still exceptionally porous.

My first hack is to line the basket with an additional plastic liner to aid water retention.  You might use a large plastic shopping bag, a dry cleaner bag, or similar light-weight sheet of plastic.  If there aren’t holes in the plastic already, use the point of your scissors to poke a few holes so the basket will drain in heavy rain.   I used a shopping bag disqualified from cat-litter duty due to a few large holes already poked in the bottom.  The bag probably won’t fit into your basket perfectly, and you’ll likely need to cut some vertical darts to allow it to open wide enough to lie smoothly against the sides of your liner.

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My second hack involves a cellulose kitchen sponge.  I have a bag of new, dehydrated and pressed Trader Joe’s brand sponges and am giving this brainstorm a trial to see how well it works.  If you don’t have dried pressed sponges available, try any cellulose sponge that doesn’t have any chemical or soap products pre-loaded on it.  Just cut the sponge up into small pieces.  Use most of them in the bottom of the basket between the plastic liner and the soil.  I partially filled the liner with soil, and then added a few more fragments of sponge around the outside edge of the basket.

The sponges will serves as little reservoirs to soak up excess water when it is available and release it later to the soil and roots when it is needed.  I placed several sponge fragments around those holes in the bag to soak up water before it drains out.

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Use fresh potting mix amended with slow release fertilizer like Osmocote (here). If the mix is dense, add additional perlite, up to a quarter of the total volume.  Here additional pieces of sponge are added around the edges of the basket.  These will plump up once the basket is watered for the first time.

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Fill your container about 1/2 full of fresh potting soil and then begin placing plants, and filling back around each one with prepared potting soil.

I placed the entire soil ball from my old basket planting in a plastic box before using my hori hori knife to begin prying the various plants apart.  I saved and re-used all of the pieces of the Verbena that I could find and the rooted bits of Dichondra,which had filled the basket last summer.  Only a few bits of it survived the winter and have been competing with the Lysimachia for resources.

A lot of cleaning up may be needed to remove old, withered leaves and stems.  A pair of sharp scissors is my favorite gardening tool.

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Break apart the individual plants into smaller hunks, discarding most of the old soil.  Clean out old and withered stems and leaves as you re-plant each division.

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I settled the divisions with Verbena in the center and added a few chunks of Lysimachia around the edges.  Creeping Jenny grows quickly and will fill in within a few weeks.  I want the Dichondra to have a chance here to re-establish itself.  I’ll reserve the remaining parts of the old planting, including those dormant bulbs, for another use.

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Settle the divisions you want to re-use into fresh soil

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Finally, I still had a few rooted cuttings of Portulaca on hand.  I brought home a generous portion of cuttings from my favorite grower a few weeks ago and have had them rooting on the deck in a box of vermiculite and potting soil.  I’ve been planting them out in various places for the last few weeks,  but had enough still on hand to add seven or eight rooted stems to empty spots in this new planting.

Rooted cuttings can be worked in to established basket arrangements to refresh and update them.  They are easier to work in than nursery plants since they have a smaller root ball.  Keep well watered as they grow in.

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Rooted Portulaca cuttings ready to transplant

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Using very drought tolerant plants is the next hack for planting drought tolerant basket arrangements.  Succulents, like Portulaca or Sedums, have the ability to absorb and store water when it is available and then go for long periods of time without additional watering.  They have a waxy coating on the epidermis of each leaf and stem to reduce evaporation.  They can remain plump and vital when other plants are crisping up in the sun.

When selecting plants for baskets, pay attention to their water needs and their resilience to drought.  As more beautiful succulents come to market, choosing appropriate succulent and drought tolerant plants for container arrangements becomes easier.

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Lysimachia, Creeping Jenny, is a drought tolerant vine that tolerates full sun. It roots at every node and can take over a planting. Here, I’ve used a few divisions and left the remainder for another use later.

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The final hack for hanging baskets involves applying a mulch.  Bare soil loses moisture much faster than does mulched soil.  The best mulch in our climate is fine gravel, like aquarium gravel.  Pea gravel is another choice.  Both choices do add some weight to the basket, but they reduce evaporation, keep the plants clean and healthy without soil splashing up on them, cool the soil, and provide some protection to roots and geophytes you may plant in the basket.  We have curious squirrels who sometimes dig in pots and baskets if not discouraged by a gravel mulch.  Other choices include larger stones, small seashells, flat glass beads, marbles or glass chips, moss, and vines that fill in as a ground cover, like the Lysimachia.

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I have used a few rocks, glass beads and shells to anchor rooted cuttings in this new arrangement and have sprinkled additional Osmocote on top of the planting.  use rocks or shells to hide the raw, trimmed edges of the plastic liner.  I still need to apply some fine, gravel mulch before this basket is ready to return to the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.

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Once the basket is planted, and potting soil worked in firmly around all of the roots, add your mulch, and then water the basket well.  I like to water the basket with plain water first to wet everything, and then come back a short time later with a foliar feed of fish and seaweed emulsion to help the plants adjust and to provide trace minerals to the soil.

In spring, you can get by with hanging that basket into its permanent place right away.  In summer, I like to give a day or two for the plants to settle in and adjust in the shade before moving the basket to its permanent spot.  A stretch of cloudy, wet weather is best for a new basket.  But when there is a lot of sun, I like to give the plants a head start on settling their roots into their new home in a shady spot before putting them under stress in full sun.

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A Portulaca cutting has been growing in the edge of this basket for a few weeks now. Once established, they grow quickly and bloom prolifically in full or partial sun.

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Each gardener has to understand their own micro climate and preferred plants to come up with solutions that work for them.  If I were gardening in the Pacific Northwest, I might not need to line my basket with plastic or add cut up sponges to the soil.  The more realistic we are about our own growing conditions, the better job we can do with our plantings for lasting beauty.

If your hanging baskets have been less than spectacular, you might try some of these hacks to see how they work for you.  Don’t be afraid to re-work an established basket with an eye to improving it.  Changing out some of the plants, removing some of the more agressive plants, fertilizing and refreshing the soil may make all the difference in how well your planting performs.

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The basket rests in a shady spot before being returned to its place at the garden.  The Portulaca and Verbena will fill in and begin to bloom again by the end of July.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

Sunday Dinner: Bloom Where You Are Planted

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“To accomplish great things we must not only act,
but also dream;
not only plan, but also believe.
.
Anatole France

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“Only those who attempt the absurd
can achieve the impossible.”
,
Albert Einstein

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“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion,
which is life,
by artificial means and hold it fixed
so that a hundred years later,
when a stranger looks at it,
it moves again since it is life.”
.
William Faulkner

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“People pretend not to like grapes
when the vines are too high
for them to reach.”
.
Marguerite de Navarre

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“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing
unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…
I have never in my life envied a human being
who led an easy life.
I have envied a great many people
who led difficult lives and led them well.”
.
Theodore Roosevelt

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“Not much happens without a dream.
And for something great to happen,
there must be a great dream.
Behind every great achievement
is a dreamer of great dreams.
Much more than a dreamer is required
to bring it to reality;
but the dream must be there first.”
.
Robert K. Greenleaf

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“One bulb at a time.
There was no other way to do it.
No shortcuts–simply loving the slow process of planting.
Loving the work as it unfolded.
Loving an achievement that grew slowly
and bloomed for only three weeks each year.”
.
Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

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Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Sunday Dinner: Ever Widening Circles

Monarda fistulosa

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“I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Daucus carota with Cyrtomium falcatum

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“I beg you, to have patience with everything

unresolved in your heart

and to try to love the questions themselves

as if they were locked rooms

or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers,

which could not be given to you now,

because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps then, someday far in the future,

you will gradually, without even noticing it,

live your way into the answer.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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“To love is good, too: love being difficult.

For one human being to love another:

that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks,

the ultimate, the last test and proof,

the work for which all other work

is but preparation.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

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“We need, in love, to practice only this:

letting each other go.

For holding on comes easily;

we do not need to learn it.”

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Rainer Maria Rilke

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Zantedeschia albomaculata

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’

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“Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now,

lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words

that sometimes do you good.

His life may also have much sadness and difficulty,

that remains far beyond yours.

Were it otherwise,

he would never have been able to find these words.”
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Rainer Maria Rilke

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Clematis

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“It is spring again.

The earth is like a child

that knows poems by heart.”
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Rainer Maria Rilke

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Sunday Dinner: Waiting for the Mud to Settle

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“A good traveler has no fixed plans

and is not intent on arriving.”

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Lao Tzu

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“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.

Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.

Let reality be reality.

Let things flow naturally forward

in whatever way they like.”

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Lao Tzu

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“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

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Lao Tzu

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“Do you have the patience to wait

until your mud settles

and the water is clear?”

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Lao Tzu

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“Doing nothing

is better than being busy

doing nothing.”

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Lao Tzu

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“I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.”
.
Lao Tzu

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“The Way to do is to be.”
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Lao Tzu

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“Your own positive future begins in this moment.

All you have is right now.

Every goal is possible from here.”

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Lao Tzu

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“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”

Lao Tzu

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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Some photos from the Williamsburg Botanical Garden May 1 and May 3, 2020

Illuminations: Walking in Beauty Every Day a daily photo of something beautiful and a thought provoking quotation

Sunday Dinner: Symmetrical

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“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birds’ wings.”
.
Jelaluddin Rumi

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“There are moments when i wish i could roll back the clock
and take all the sadness away,
but i have a feeling that if i did,
the joy would be gone as well.
So i take the memories as they come,
accepting them all,
letting them guide me whenever i can.”
.
Nicholas Sparks

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“He felt that there is a loose balance of good and evil,
and that the art of living
consists in getting the greatest good
out of the greatest evil.”
.
Machado de Assis

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“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
.
Ursula K. Le Guin

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“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos,
including orderliness, balance, harmony,
logic, and abstract beauty.”
.
Deepak Chopra

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“what is joy without sorrow?
what is success without failure?
what is a win without a loss?
what is health without illness?
you have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other.
there is always going to be suffering.
it’s how you look at your suffering,
how you deal with it, that will define you.”
.
mark twain

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Photos by Woodand Gnome 2020

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“You must let what happens happen.
Everything must be equal in your eyes,
good and evil, beautiful and ugly,
foolish and wise.”
.
Michael Ende

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In memory of Robert Nowak 1941-2020

and for those he’s left behind

Sunday Dinner: Allies

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“Trees in fog stand without leaves,
dark stems in a maze of inexhaustible intricacy.
Patterns laid upon patterns in a seeming randomness
that gives way to a single beautiful scene.” 
Akiva Silver

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“We all have a lot to learn about living on this Earth. 
It is a strange and wild place
with endless nuance and variation. 
As soon as we learn something, we find more questions.”
Akiva Silver

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“When I look at the sky, what I see there is not simply blue. 
There’s a radiance, an energy, a power. 
It is from this power that trees feed. 
Literally building their bodies out of the radiant sky,
trees of power are strong beings to ally ourselves with.”
Akiva Silver

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“Trees speak to our souls because they offer life to our bodies,
a timeless proposition that predates and outlasts us. 
Trees connect us to forever.”
Samuel Thayer from the foreword to
Trees of Power- Ten Essential Arboreal Allies by Akiva Silver

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“Trees beckon us to sit at their feet, humbly, and listen. 
They speak of the supposedly distant past,
reminding us that it was scarcely more than yesterday. 
They link us to a future that becomes, through them,
imaginable, almost palpable. 
Perhaps we cannot guess what the future holds,
but we can plant it.”
Samuel Thayer

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Trees are the answer to many of our ills,
and the ladder to many of our dreams. 
They are the arms and hands of the Earth,
reaching up to the heavens on our behalf,
grasping the slippery currency of sunlight and rendering it,
through their wondrous alchemy,
in to the stuff of life –
our life and theirs.”
Samuel Thayer

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“We breathe these trees through our lungs,
shelter ourselves with their wood,
and fill our bodies with the energy of their fruit.
Akiva Silver

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“We live at a time where there is widespread disturbance all around us. 
The ground is open and waiting for seeds. 
We can bemoan the tragedies that nature has endured
or we can cast seeds and plant a future.” 
Akiva Silver

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Every seed, cutting or small tree that you ever hold in your hands
wants to live.  It wants the same thing you do. 
You are its ally, as much as it, yours. 
You are able to see and do things that are not possible for the plant. 
Humans can be amazing helpers to the plants we choose to work with. 
Alliances work both ways.”
Akiva Silver

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“Partnering with trees is as natural as breathing. 
We inhale their exhalations and they inhale ours. 
We are designed to work with each other.”
Akiva Silver

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The Trees of Power cover

Sunday Dinner: Here and Now

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“Here we are,
trapped in the amber of the moment.
There is no why.”
.
Kurt Vonnegut

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“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees,
you see all these different trees.
And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight,
and some of them are evergreens,
and some of them are whatever.
And you look at the tree and you allow it.
You see why it is the way it is.
You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light,
and so it turned that way.
And you don’t get all emotional about it.
You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that.

And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’
That judgment mind comes in.
And so I practice turning people into trees.
Which means appreciating them
just the way they are.”
.
Ram Dass

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“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion.
What you perceive as precious is not time
but the one point that is out of time: the Now.
That is precious indeed.
The more you are focused on time—past and future—
the more you miss the Now,
the most precious thing there is.”
.
Eckhart Tolle

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“You and I are the force for transformation in the world.
We are the consciousness
that will define the nature of the reality we are moving into.”
.
Ram Dass

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“It’s being here now that’s important.
There’s no past and there’s no future.
Time is a very misleading thing.
All there is ever, is the now.
We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it;
and we can hope for the future,
but we don’t know if there is one.”
.
George Harrison

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“Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment,
whether we mean to or not.
Our actions and states of mind matter,
because we’re so deeply interconnected with one another.
Working on our own consciousness
is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment,
and being love is the supreme creative act.”
.
Ram Dass

~

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“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
.
Tennessee Williams

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019 

In appreciation for the life of Richard Alpert:

Teacher, writer, explorer, visionary

April 6, 1931- December 22, 2019

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“Prolong not the past
Invite not the future
Do not alter your innate wakefulness
Fear not appearances
There is nothing more than this”
.
Ram Dass

Silent Sunday: December 1

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“It is December,

and nobody asked if I was ready.”

.

Sarah Kay

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“I followed the footprints

until they stopped in front of a very old mysterious tree

– a grandfather tree”

.

James Barbato

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“Find the sweetness in this holiday season.

Embrace the endless love that surrounds you.”

.

Amy Leigh Mercree

~

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“A gift for the holidays?

A holiday is a gift in itself.”


.

Ljupka Cvetanova

~

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“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.

A magical thing. And sweet to remember.

We are nearer to Spring than we were in September.

I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”

.

Oliver Herford

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“Now is the time of fresh starts.

This is the season that makes everything new.

There is a longstanding rumor that Spring is the time of renewal….

Spring is too busy, too full of itself, too much like a 20-year-old

to be the best time for reflection, re-grouping, and starting fresh.

For that you need December. …

December has the clarity, the simplicity,

and the silence you need

for the best FRESH START of your life.”

.

Vivian Swift

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Photos by Woodland Gnome
the orchid tree can be found at The Great Big Greenhouse
at Huguenot and Robious Roads, Chesterfield County VA

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“From a little spark may burst a flame.”
.

Dante Alighieri

 

Seeds of Appreciation

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“The invariable mark of wisdom
is to see the miraculous in the common.”
.
Emerson

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“Those with a grateful mindset
tend to see the message in the mess.
And even though life may knock them down,
the grateful find reasons,
if even small ones, to get up.”

.
Steve Maraboli

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“Life off Earth
is in two important respects not at all unworldly:
you can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations.
And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience,
the everyday moments,
or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones.”
.
Chris Hadfield

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“Tiny seed (embryo, food, a coat and a code)
gathered food from the dirt and turned itself, slowly,
into a giant tree.
Simple thing became complex and strong.
But for the embryo to eat and grow,
it needed water to activate enzymes to break down storage compounds.
Soil poverty also affected plant growth:
the seed needed loose soil rich in organic matter,
a good soil temperature, oxygen in the soil,
and light to germinate.
People were like seeds.”
.
Tamara Pearson

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“The word is like a seed, and the human mind is so fertile,
but only for those kinds of seeds it is prepared for.”
.
Miguel Ruiz

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“Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea.
The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos,
the fountains are bubbling with delight,
the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.
Let us dream of evanescence
and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”
.
Kakuzō Okakura

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Wishing you every happiness this Thanksgiving

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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