Sunday Dinner: Trust In This

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“I promise you that the same stuff galaxies are made of, you are.

The same energy that swings planets around stars

makes electrons dance in your heart.

It is in you, outside you, you are it.

It is beautiful.

Trust in this.

And you, your life, will be grand.”

Kamal Ravikant

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“We are all connected;

To each other, biologically.

To the earth, chemically.

To the rest of the universe atomically.”

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  Neil DeGrasse Tyson

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“If you want to find the secrets of the universe,

think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

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  Nikola Tesla

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“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

The winds will blow their own freshness into you,

and the storms their energy,

while cares will drop away from you

like the leaves of Autumn.”

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  John Muir

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

Caladium bicolor ‘Splash of Wine’

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“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”
.

Aristotle

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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: Considering Our Place

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“Consider your own place

in the universal oneness of which we are all a part,

from which we all arise,

and to which we all return.”

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David Fontana

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“The Destiny of Man is to unite,

not to divide.

If you keep on dividing

you end up as a collection of monkeys

throwing nuts at each other

out of separate trees.”

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T.H. White

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“This is my country,

that is your country;

these are the conceptions of narrow souls –

to the liberal minded

the whole world is a family.”

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Virchand Raghavji Gandhi

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“And in the case of superior things like stars,

we discover a kind of unity in separation.

The higher we rise on the scale of being,

the easier it is to discern a connection

even among things separated by vast distances.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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“A choir is made up of many voices,

including yours and mine.

If one by one all go silent

then all that will be left are the soloists.

Don’t let a loud few

determine the nature of the sound.

It makes for poor harmony

and diminishes the song.”

.

Vera Nazarian

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“Each person you meet
is an aspect of yourself,
clamoring for love.”

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Eric Micha’el Leventhal

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“I say to you all, once again –

– in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return,

we are only as strong as we are united,

as weak as we are divided.

Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading

discord and enmity is very great.

We can fight it only by showing

an equally strong bond of friendship and trust.

Differences of habit and language are nothing at all

if our aims are identical

and our hearts are open.”

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  J.K. Rowling

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“Pit race against race, religion against religion,

prejudice against prejudice.

Divide and conquer!

We must not let that happen here.”

.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“I felt knowledge and the unity of the world

circulate in me

like my own blood.”
.

Hermann Hesse

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Sunday Dinner: “A Discipline With a Deadline”

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“Butterflies used to reproduce

on the native plants that grew in our yards

before the plants were bulldozed and replaced with lawn.

To have butterflies in our future,

we need to replace those lost host plants,

no if’s, and’s or but’s.

If we do not, butterfly populations

will continue to decline

with every new house that is built.”

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Douglas Tallamy

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“We were the product and beneficiary

of a vibrant natural world,

rather than its master.”

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  Douglas W. Tallamy

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“Knowledge generates interest,

and interest generates compassion.”

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  Douglas W. Tallamy

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“We can no longer afford

to consider air and water common property,

free to be abused by anyone

without regard to the consequences.

Instead, we should begin now

to treat them as scarce resources,

which we are no more free to contaminate

than we are free to throw garbage

into our neighbor’s yard.”

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  Douglas W. Tallamy

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“Our privately owned land

and the ecosystems upon it are essential

to everyone’s well-being, not just our own.

Abusing land anywhere has negative ramifications

for people everywhere.”

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  Douglas W. Tallamy

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“My point is this:

each of the acres we have developed for specific human goals

is an opportunity to add to Homegrown National Park.

We already are actively managing

nearly all of our privately owned lands

and much of the public spaces in the United States.

We simply need to include ecological function

in our management plans

to keep the sixth mass extinction at bay.”

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  Douglas W. Tallamy

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“Conservation biology . . .

[is] a discipline with a deadline.”

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E. O. Wilson

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To Learn More (These books should top the reading list of every serious naturalist and gardener…. Woodland Gnome)

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy

 

 

Six on Saturday: Texture and Form

Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’

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A bright flash of darting yellow caught our eye this morning as we were backing out of the drive.  The first two goldfinches of the season, startled by our movement, took off and flew across the garden to a low branch, where they could observe us in safety.

Color excites.  It attracts our attention and directs our eye from one colorful thing to the next.  We were delighted to notice the goldfinches, and my eye lingered on the royal purple panicles of Buddleia just opened and white calla lily blossoms shining in the morning sunlight.

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Zantedeschia began to bloom this week in a sea of native perennials.

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But too much color, especially if the color mix is random and uncoordinated, sometimes makes us feel a little anxious.   We might feel annoyed or turn away if it doesn’t feel harmonious.  We might need to buffer bright flowers within a frame of green to appreciate them.

And sometimes, I enjoy the restful and calming beauty wrought more of texture than of color.  There are uncounted shades of green.  Especially if one includes the blends of grey-green, silver, chartreuse green, blue-green, and green tinged white.

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When one begins to notice the intricate shapes of green leaves, their posture on a stem, and their degree of matte or shiny finish; wonderful compositions grow together from these living brush strokes.  Ferns of all sizes, textures and shades serve as both composition and frame.

I have been seeking out beautiful leaves lately.  I found a new Artemesia ‘Sea Salt’ this week, and am trying it in both a hanging basket and in a rock garden.  Artemesia likes it hot and dry, thrives in full sun and needs little attention.  This one is low growing, and I hope it won’t get washed out in our summer rain.  Its leaves are silvery white.

So many of our foliage plants like ferns and Hosta, Caladiums and Heuchera want shade, that it is good to find interesting foliage plants for full sun.  Calla lily leaves like the sun, and won’t end up chewed by caterpillars the way our Cannas often do.  Stachys is another great silvery grey leaf that thrives in bright parts of the garden.

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Gardenia shrubs bloom in full to part sun.

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I planted a basket this week for a shady spot, with just an emerald green shield fern in the center, and silvery Dichondra around the edges.  I expect it to be stunning as the Dichondra fills in and drapes over the basket’s sides.  I have some little Begonia semperflorens stems rooting in water, and I’m debating whether to add them around the fern, or just leave the basket in shades of green.  The flowers are a soft pink and the leaves variegated chartreuse and light green.  Too much?

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A little bright color cheers us up.  But all things in moderation, right?  This summer I am enjoying the calmer corners of our garden, those bits that invite close observation to fully appreciate their beauty.

The flowers will come and go, as they  always do.  But the tapestry woven by these interesting leaves will last all season.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

 

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.”
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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: Never Assume….

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“Advances are made by answering questions.
Discoveries are made by questioning answers.
.
Bernard Haisch

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“Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in a while,
or the light won’t come in.”
.
Isaac Asimov

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“It is useless to attempt
to reason a man out of a thing
he was never reasoned into.”
.
Jonathan Swift

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“Assumptions are maintained by the hug of history.
Yet, history does not guarantee their validity,
nor does it ever reassess their validity.”
.
Michael Michalko

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“You think you know this story.
You do not.”
.
Jane Yolen

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“Don’t build roadblocks out of assumptions.”
.
Lorii Myers

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“The surface of the earth is soft
and impressible by the feet of men;
and so with the paths which the mind travels.
How worn and dusty, then,
must be the highways of the world,
how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!
I did not wish to take a cabin passage,
but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world,
for there I could best see the moonlight
amid the mountains.”
.
Henry David Thoreau

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“There was no Jedi so wise
that he could not be undone
by his own assumptions.”
.
Claudia Gray

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“Assumptions close doors.
Intrigue opens them.”
.
Sam Owen

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“You find the magic of the world in the margin for error.”
.
Heart of Dixie

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Sunday Dinner: Cycles

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“Every good thing comes to some kind of end,
and then the really good things
come to a beginning again.”
.
Cory Doctorow

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“Time has a way of eternally looping us
in the same configurations.
Like fruit flies, we are unable to register the patterns.
Just because we are the crest of the wave
does not mean the ocean does not exist.
What has been before will be again.”
.
Tanya Tagaq

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“It’s all a series of serendipities
with no beginnings and no ends.
Such infinitesimal possibilities
Through which love transcends.”
.
Ana Claudia Antunes

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“What was scattered
gathers.
What was gathered
blows away.”
.
Heraclitus

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“I think that to one in sympathy with nature,
each season, in turn,
seems the loveliest.”
.
Mark Twain

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“People can’t live with change
if there’s not a changeless core
inside them.”
.
Stephen R. Covey

 

Sunday Dinner: Time and Time Again

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“There are those of us who learn to live completely in the moment.
For such people the Past vanishes and the future loses meaning.
There is only the Present…
And then there are those of us who are trapped in yesterdays,
in the memory of a lost love, or a childhood home,
or a dreadful crime.
And some people live only for a better tomorrow;
for them the past ceases to exist”
.
Salaman Rushdie

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“You never know beforehand what people are capable of,
you have to wait, give it time,
it’s time that rules, time is our gambling partner
on the other side of the table
and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand,
we have to guess the winning cards of life, our lives.”
.
José Saramago

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“Measuring time isn’t as simple
as adding or subtracting minutes from a clock…
You must find your own measuring stick.”
.
Lindsay Eagar

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden

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“Brass shines with constant usage,
a beautiful dress needs wearing,
Leave a house empty, it rots.”
.
Ovid

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“Spend one more day
in pursuit of art that only you can produce,
and somewhere, someone
is envying your courage to do just that.”
.
Teresa R. Funke

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Everything passes,
but nothing entirely goes away.”
.
Jenny Diski

 

Six On Saturday: Time for a Change

Geraniums bloom in the midst of scented Pelargoniums and other herbs, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and ivy.

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Color touches and excites us.  Of all the reasons for cultivating a garden, enjoying beautiful color throughout the year inspires me more than most.

Color ebbs and flows in waves through the seasons, with beautiful oranges, reds and golds reaching an autumn crescendo some time in October, most years, with colors steadily fading to browns and greys in November .

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Camellia ‘Yuletide’ bloomed this week, a bit earlier than usual.

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Cooler weather brings us renewed, intense color in late season flowers and bright autumn leaves.   Autumn’s flowers celebrate  gentler, wetter weather with a vibrancy they’ve not shown since spring.

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Oakleaf hydrangea holds its colorful leaves deep into winter.  Behind it, the Camellias bloom and flower buds have formed on the Edgeworthia.

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We noticed the first changing leaves in late August.  Maples and sycamores began to turn in late summer, followed in September by the first hits of red on the dogwoods.  Holly berries began to fade from green to orange in early October, and still aren’t fully red.

Our long, warm autumn has held off the usual brilliant autumn foliage of hardwood trees deep into the season, and many trees have dropped their leaves already, lost to wind and drought.  Those that have hung onto their branches long enough to shine, brilliant for a while before falling, are enjoyed all the more this year.

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Purple beautyberries shine against the shrub’s changing leaves.  This isn’t the native, and I don’t recall this particular shrub’s provenance.  But I like its smaller leaves.   ‘African Blue’ and ‘Thai’ basil still bloom prolifically and will continue through the first heavy frost.

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Goldenrod fills our upper garden beds.   A Virginia native, its golden yellow flowers feed the late pollinators and offer a last wash of soft color among stands of brown seedheads and withering perennials.  Our garden remains alive with every sort of little bee, a few Sulphur butterflies and a late Monarch or two.

We came home after dark this week to the rare and magical sight of a lone hummingbird feeding on the ginger lilies.  A hummingbird glows in the wash of headlights, reflecting a bright pin-point of light from its little eye and sparkling in its movement from flower to flower.  One might mistake it for a little fairy moving among the flowers after dusk.

We had thought the hummingbirds had already flown south, and sat for a long time at the top of the drive just watching its progress from flower to flower.

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Butterfly ginger lily is a favorite late nectar source for hummingbirds.

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And so we celebrate the colors of the season, even as the garden fades for another year.  This week I’ve dug Caladiums and replaced them with spring flowering bulbs, Violas, snaps and sprouting Arum lily tubers.

I’m taking up our collection of Alocasias and Colocasias, re-potting them and bringing them inside before our colder nights bite them, too.  We now have low temperatures in the 30s predicted for the next few nights, and they won’t like that.  It’s time to bring in the Begonias, as well, and I’m not looking forward to all the heavy lifting this day will require.

From an afternoon high near 80F on Thursday, we’re suddenly expecting winter-time temperatures at night.  Change is in the air this week.

But even as we turn back our clocks this weekend, so we dial back the garden, too.  Winter is a simpler, starker season, but still beautiful.  And as leaves fall and perennials die back, the Camellias shine.  Every sort of berry brightens to tempt the hungry birds, and we notice the color and texture of all of the different barks on our woodies.

A little planning and thoughtful planting now will insure color in the garden through until spring.  A gardener always has something to enjoy, and something interesting to do while enjoying the beauty surrounding us.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

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