Sunday Dinner: Observant

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“To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
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Marilyn vos Savant

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“Have you noticed how nobody ever looks up?
Nobody looks at chimneys, or trees against the sky,
or the tops of buildings.
Everybody just looks down at the pavement or their shoes.
The whole world could pass them by
and most people wouldn’t notice.”
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Julie Andrews Edwards

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“If you want to really know something
you have to observe or experience it in person;
if you claim to know something on the basis of hearsay,
or on happening to see it in a book,
you’ll be a laughingstock
to those who really know.”
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Jonathan D. Spence

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For in the sciences
the authority of thousands of opinions
is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual man.
Besides, the modern observations
deprive all former writers of any authority,
since if they had seen what we see,
they would have judged as we judge.”
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Galileo Galilei

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“Look around you…Feel the wind, smell the air.
Listen to the birds and watch the sky.
Tell me what’s happening in the wide world.”
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Nancy Farmer

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“Reason, Observation and Experience —
the Holy Trinity of Science —
have taught us that happiness is the only good;
that the time to be happy is now,
and the way to be happy is to make others so.
This is enough for us. In this belief
we are content to live and die. ”
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Robert Green Ingersoll

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“A journey of observation
must leave as much as possible to chance.
Random movement is the best plan for maximum observation”

.
Tahir Shah

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“To see
is to forget the name
of the thing one sees.”
.
Paul Valéry

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The Arum Affair

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My new-found friends at the Native Plant Society might not approve, but I’m still falling in love with this beautiful Italian Arum.   After six days under the snow, with temperatures falling near zero at night, it still looks this fresh and crisp as the snow melts around it!

Arum leaves hold their vibrant green throughout the winter, as though unaffected by the ice and freezing cold.  The beautiful geometric patterns traced on their leaves in softest cream remain elegant from autumn through to early summer.  They remind me a little of a cold hardy Alocasia.

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Arum growing with our daffodils last February

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Native to Southern Europe and North Africa, Arum originated in a much warmer climate.  But it has a superpower: Arum italicum is thermogenic, capable of producing heat from its leaves and from its unusual flower.  The mitochondria in each cell produce excess heat, which gives the plant some protection from the cold.

A member of the Araceae family, it also has calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves.  These crystals are very irritating to skin and soft tissue… like the tender mouths of hungry deer.   All parts of the Arum are poisonous, including the corm from which it grows; which is the other reason I love these beautiful foliage plants.

Deer, squirrels, voles and rabbits won’t touch them.

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Columbine emerges through a winter ground cover of Arum italicum last March.

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These are a useful ground cover species in our woodland garden.  They grow best in shade and though drought tolerant, grow more prolifically in moist and fertile soil.

While I am thrilled to see these beautiful plants spread through our garden by seed and division, their prolific growth and nearly indestructible nature make them problematic in other regions of the United States.  Areas like the Pacific Northwest consider them invasive and ask home gardeners not to plant them.

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But Arum remain my cold-weather guilty pleasure.  I ordered over 200 of them this fall from Brent and Becky Heath, sharing a little more than half with my gardening friends.

I’ve planted them in beds and pots, beneath shrubs and amongst spring bulbs.  Interplant them with Hosta to keep a beautiful foliage presence in your Hosta beds year round.  Pair them with either hardy or deciduous ferns for delicious spring time associations.

I use them in parts of the garden where we grow Caladiums in the summer.  As we lift the Caladiums in fall, the Arum emerge from their summer dormant period.  Arum die back in early summer as the Caladiums fill in.

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Exotic as they may be, Arum still fill a niche in a North American woodland garden.  They hold and protect the ground against erosion.  They produce both nectar and pollen for pollinators each spring.  Birds eat their seeds in mid-summer.  And, their beautiful leaves make this gardener very happy. 

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Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens in Gloucester, VA,  feature many blooming shrubs, including this lovely Camellia. The Heath’s call Arum italicum a ‘shoes and socks’ plant because it works so well as a ground cover beneath shrubs.

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I’m still wavering up and down the native plant/exotic imported plant continuum.  I’m hanging out more these days with the native plant enthusiasts and reading the literature.  I understand the nativist point of view, and yet I still believe that there is space in our garden for a population of exotic ‘come here’ plants, too.

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How would I garden without our Camellias and Rhododendrons, Alocasias, Narcissus, Caladiums and Mediterranean herbs?

Basically, if it will grow here and not end up as breakfast for a deer, I’m willing to entertain most any plant for at least a season or two.  And when it makes me happy, I just might explore a more lasting relationship.  Which perhaps explains the Arum affair….

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Arum italicum blooming in our garden last April

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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Fabulous Friday: Arum In Bloom

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When you will only produce a single bloom each year, why not make it count?  Arum Italicum blooms once each spring.  Soon, the pale green spathe will wither, leaving the spadix, the actual ‘flower,’ to ripen.

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Green berries eventually appear, swelling as the summer passes until they turn bright reddish orange in early autumn.  It is quite the annual show.  I think it is fabulous to enjoy the fleeting unfolding of the Arum’s annual flower, spathe and spadix; in our garden today.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

Blossom XIX: First Snowdrops

The first Snowdrops of spring.

The first Snowdrops of spring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

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

 

Wednesday Vignette: Beginnings

Arum italicum seedlings

Arum italicum seedlings

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“New month, new intentions,

new goals, new love, new light,

and new beginnings.”

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April Mae Monterrosa

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Transplanted...

Transplanted seedling…

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“Letting there be room for not knowing

is the most important thing of all.

When there’s a big disappointment,

we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.

It may just be the beginning

of a great adventure. Life is like that.

We don’t know anything.

We call something bad; we call it good.

But really we just don’t know.”

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Pema Chödrön

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“The key to a better life

isn’t always a change of scenery.

Sometimes it simply requires opening your eyes.”

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Richelle E. Goodrich

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New growth beginning to unfold on a Helleborus

New growth beginning to unfold on a Helleborus

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Wednesday Vignettes: Resilience

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“Step into the center of the center of the center –

right into your Now – and see:

how elegant and honest this moment is.

Just being yourself, a world to hold your feet,

a universe to lift your gaze, a heart beating –

constant, in the center of it all.”

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Laurie Perez

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Mahonia, Oregon Grape Holly

Mahonia, Oregon Grape Holly

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“I did not tell you that it would be okay,

because I have never believed it would be okay.

What I told you is what your grandparents

tried to tell me: that this is your country,

that this is your world, that this is your body,

and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Arum itallicum

Arum itallicum

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“In life you find pleasure.

In life you find pain.

Pain and pleasure is an example

of the duality in life. Enjoy them both,

they are part of the ride.

The key is to not turn the pain

into something else – regret.”

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J.R. Rim

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“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.”

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Shane Koyczan

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Camellia

Camellia

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

* * *

 

“For many years a tree might wage a slow and silent

warfare against an encumbering wall,

without making any visible progress.

One day the wall would topple-

-not because the tree had suddenly

laid hold upon some supernormal energy,

but because its patient work of self-defense

and self release had reached fulfillment.

The long-imprisoned tree had freed itself.

Nature had had her way.”

.

Lloyd C. Douglas

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is now available.

My Current Crush: Arum Italicum

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Just as most garden perennials begin to die back and prepare themselves for a ‘long winter’s nap,’ Arum Italicum begins to grow.  Its fresh green leaves push up through the moist autumn soil and fallen leaves to begin their nearly nine months of gorgeousity.

Last winter’s experiment has grown into this autumn’s crush.  These beautiful plants performed so well, for so long, that I bought 50 more tubers in September to ensure masses of them for the coming season.  With such a royal horde of the beauties, I also shared about a dozen with friends, in hopes they will find them useful and beautiful in their own gardens.

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This Mediterranean and European native, hardy in zones 5-9, begins its annual growth in the fall with huge, gorgeously marked leaves.

Now please understand that these leaves will look just this pristine until they begin to die back next summer.  We saw absolutely no damage from frosty nights or icy blankets of snow.  And all of our Arum spent at least a few days under snow last winter.   Because they are thermogenic, the snow melted first around these plants, allowing them to emerge, undamaged.  New leaves kept emerging, from time to time, until mid-spring.

Like Colocasias, Alocasias, and Caladiums; Arum Italicum belongs to the family Araceae.  And like these other beautiful foliage plants, their flower is rather plain.  The tall, narrow spadix is partially enclosed in a modified cream colored  leaf called a spathe.  This elegant, but unremarkable bloom lasts for a few days in early May before the spathe fades away, leaving the spadix.

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The spadix will stand tall for the next couple of months as green berries swell and ripen along the top several inches.  They become far more interesting than was the flower, especially as they begin to turn bright crimson.  By late July or August, as the berries fully ripen, the leaves begin to wilt.  By mid-August the plant has faded away for its late summer dormancy.

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July 22, 2016 sunset 008

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Like other members of the Araceae family, Arums grow from a tuber.  These tubers grow and multiply each year, so that a single plant soon forms a small colony.  These colonies look especially nice growing under and around shrubs and small ornamental trees.  They form a bright, vibrant ground cover, and also work well in beds where spring bulbs will emerge in late winter.

After growing Arum italicum for nearly a year, I came across a warning that they can become invasive in some areas.  The National Park Service issued an invasive plant alert in 2012 because birds and animals disperse the plants seeds, and the tubers spread easily if you try to lift or remove a plant.  It is prolific….

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Brent and Becky Heath's Gloucester display garden December 4, 2015

Arum italicum grow beneath a blooming Mahonia in Brent and Becky Heath’s Gloucester display garden December 4, 2015

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I shared this bit with a Master Gardener friend as I was giving her a few tubers last month.  Her face brightened, and she said, “That’s wonderful!”  We’re neighbors, and share the same challenges with gardening in this forest filled with hungry deer.  This has proven to be a ‘bullet proof’ perennial in our garden, untouched by deer, rabbit, or squirrels.  Many members of the Aracea family, including this one, contain toxic calcium oxalate crystals.

If you are now interested in adding a few of these beautiful and tough plants to your garden, you will have to seek them out.  This isn’t a garden center favorite.  In fact, I’ve never seen these for sale already in leaf.

You will find them in some catalogs, but the price varies wildly from company to company.

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Brent and Becky's display garden features many blooming shrubs, including this lovely Camelia. The Heath's call Arum and 'shoes and socks' plant because it works so well around shrubs.

Brent and Becky’s display garden features many blooming shrubs, including this lovely Camellia. The Heath’s call Arum a ‘shoes and socks’ plant because it works so well as a ground cover around shrubs.

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We bought ours from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs last autumn, and I ordered my new bag of 50 from them in September.  They offer large, healthy tubers at an exceptionally good price.  But I’m glad I ordered early, because they have already sold out for the year.  They sold out early last year, too.

I’m mystified as to why this wonderful plant hasn’t entered the garden center trade in our area.  It is beautiful, easy to grow, tough, deer proof, and fills the winter niche in the garden.  These beauties should prove popular and profitable.

You will find its cousins, Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, and Philodendron on offer wherever ‘tropical’ houseplants are sold.  You’ll find Calla lily, another cousin, in most grocery store florists these days.  Why not the hardy perennial Arum?

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January 3, 2015 Arum with Violas in our garden

January 3, 2015 Arum with Violas and hardy Geranium foliage  in our garden

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If you’ve grown Arum italicum, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your experience of them.  If you’ve not yet tried them, they grow well in many different places.  They are perennial over much of the United States and tolerate many different types of soil.  They grow well in most anything from nearly full sun to nearly full shade, preferring partial shade at our latitude.

Because they will naturalize, you don’t need to be overly fussy with amending the soil, fertilizing, or mulching.  Doing these things will of course result in lusher, larger leaves… but they will survive on benign neglect.  I do water ours during a dry spell, especially during these last few weeks of unusually warm and dry weather.  I want to get them off to a good start as they emerge.

They grow as well in pots as in the ground.  I’ve added a few tubers to my autumn pot designs.  Thus far, my crush on our Arum has only grown stronger.  I can’t tell you a single annoying thing about them, yet.

I harvested last summer’s seeds and have them planted out, waiting to see how the seedlings emerge and grow.  But so far as I’m concerned, more is better; and I will happily spread them to every gardening friend interested in giving them a try.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunday Dinner: Giving

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“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

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Kahlil Gibran

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“You often say ; I would give , but only to the deserving,

The trees in your orchard say not so,

nor the flocks in your pasture.

Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights

is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life

deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.

See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver ,

and an instrument of giving.

For in truth it is life that gives unto life-

while you , who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.”

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Kahlil Gibran

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“Give freely to the world these gifts of love and compassion.

Do not concern yourself with how much

you receive in return, just know in your heart

it will be returned.”

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Steve Maraboli

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July 22, 2016 sunset 008

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity,

when I give I give myself.”


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Walt Whitman

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Life-Force

January 25, 2016 snow 006

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“All things were formed of energy,

arrangements of bundled light

that were subject to natural law.

The awareness of this truth,

defined to absolute perfection,

granted the mage-trained their influence.

To know a thing, to encompass its full measure

in respect was to hold its secrets in mastery.

Life-force was the basis of all power.”

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Janny Wurts

There is no mistaking the sun’s power on a day like today.

Waking up, yet again, to a frozen world; we watched our world thaw under the sun’s golden touch.  The long icicles which greeted us this morning dripped and evaporated to nothingness.  We hear dripping everywhere, now, as snow gathered on the roof and tree limbs melts.

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Today was given to digging out.  Every shovelful of frozen snow moved gave that much more space for the sun to heat.  It was almost balmy after lunch, a promise of spring in the air, even as snow still covers the garden.

I lifted huge drifts of snow from the chairs on the deck, then let the shovel nibble bites of frozen snow from its surface.  The sun hadn’t yet reached our shady deck, and the snow sat,  solidly frozen.

My energy wasn’t equal to its heavy inertia.   Birds watched intently from the trees, wondering how much seed would be left behind from my efforts.

 

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This Arum italicum caught my attention this morning, its life force determinedly melting the snow from around its leaves, drawing the sun’s light and heat towards itself like a magnet.  It keeps growing this winter, sending up a new leaf every few weeks.

What a wonderful plant.  How have I missed it before now?  Every garden center in our area should offer this Arum, as it is proving tough, as well as beautiful, in our garden.

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January 25, 2016 snow 009

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Tough is good, on a day like today.  It is good insurance of one’s survival.  We watch that eternal dance between ice and fire playing out on the stage of our garden.  Today, it appears the sun is winning.

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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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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Arum Unfolding

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Arum italicum is a new winter foliage plant for us.  We bought tubers and planted them in small pots last month.  Now, the first leaves have begun to unfold.

A native of the Mediterranean and parts of Europe, Arum thrives in partial shade in any average, moist soil in Zones 5-9.  It has naturalized in other areas, including parts of North and South America. Also known as ‘Italian Lords and Ladies,’ it eventually grow to about 18″ tall and wide.

Beautifully marked winter leaves will fuel creamy white spring flowers.

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But then showy red seeds will develop by late summer, which last for an extended period.  Evergreen south of Zone 6, this perennial will have an attractive presence through all four seasons in our garden.

The seeds are fertile and tasty to wild things.  They often sprout in other areas of the garden to increase the display.

Since I’ve not yet grown this Arum out, there aren’t many photos for you.  We have it in a pot and two separate beds so far, so we’ll see how it does for us.  This is supposed to be a deer resistant and somewhat poisonous plant.

Have you grown Arum italicum?  Do you have any words of advice for how to grow it to best advantage?

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Arum here with hardy Geranium, Lycoris foliage, Viola, and our first Colchicum 'Waterlily' to bloom.

Arum here with hardy Geranium leaves, Vinca minor, Lycoris foliage, Viola, and our first Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ to bloom.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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