Bringing Birds To the Garden

September through December proves the best time of year for planting new trees and shrubs in our area. Woodies planted now have the chance to develop strong root systems through the autumn and winter. They are more likely to survive when planted in fall than in the spring.

My ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks includes moving various shrubs and small trees out of their pots and into the ground. And I am always most interested in those woody plants which also attract and support birds in our garden.

This post contains a revised list of  more than 30 woody plants which attract and support a wide variety of birds.  These are native or naturalized in our region of the United States.  Adding a few of these beautiful trees and shrubs guarantees more birds visiting your garden, too.

Read on for specific tips to increase the number of  wildlife species, especially birds, which visit your garden throughout the year.

-WG

Forest Garden

July 11 2013 garden 011~

Do you feed the birds?  Most of us gardeners do.  Unless you are protecting a crop of blueberries or blackberries, you probably enjoy the energy and joy birds bring to the garden with their antics and songs.  Birds also vacuum up thousands of flying, crawling, and burrowing insects.  Even hummingbirds eat an enormous number of insects as they fly around from blossom to blossom seeking sweet nectar.  Birds are an important part of a balanced garden community.

We have everything from owls and red tailed hawks to hummingbirds visiting our garden, and we enjoy the occasional brood of chicks raised in shrubs near the house. There is an extended family of red “Guard-inals” who keep a vigilant watch on our coming and goings and all of the activities of the garden.  There are tufted titmice who pull apart the coco liners in the hanging baskets to build their…

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‘Faux’ Snow?

It remained above freezing, 32F, during our snow yesterday and well into the night. How did this snow accumulate on such a warm day?

It remained above freezing, in the mid 30s F,  during our snow yesterday and well into the night. How did this snow accumulate on such a warm day?

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I remember watching it snow through the classroom window, all those years ago. 

Snowflakes filled the air, and we all hoped for an early release followed by a ‘snow day’ off.  But as hard and fast as the snow fell, it barely covered the grass outside our school; the parking lot shiny wet but clear.  It just wasn’t sticking.  Why?  Do you remember when it had to be freezing for snow to ‘stick?’

In grade school science classes we learned that ice forms at 32F or 0C.  Snow formed in the frozen clouds high above our heads and drifted down to Earth.  But if the Earth was still warm, it melted on contact.  Oh, those were the days….. of real snow and normal weather.

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January 17, 2016 snow2 005

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Yes, I’m nostalgic.  As lovely as our snow might have left the garden yesterday, the uncomfortable little secret, the truth in other words, is that our temperatures remained in the mid-30s all day yesterday and well into the night.  And yet, we watched huge, sloppy wet flakes of snow quickly cover the ground, the shrubs, tree branches and roofs.

We had nearly 2″ of snow on the deck railings before it quit in mid-afternoon.  And such a heavy snow!  It weighted down the shrubs and bamboo terribly, uprooting and bringing 30′ bamboo stalks over to touch the ground under the weight of it clinging to their upper branches.

We had early morning rain, yesterday, before it changed over to the frozen stuff, which left puddles of water on the front patio.  Those puddles never froze all day; and yet flakes of ‘slush’ floated on top much of the afternoon.

When I made my afternoon circuit around the yard, broom in hand knocking some of the weight off of the bamboo and the shrubs, my boots sank down into the muddy wet ground.  The ground was far from frozen, and yet was covered in an inch of ‘snow.’

How is this even possible? 

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Snow remains on trees, roofs, and the garden late this afternoon. Once the temperature finally dropped overnight, it went down to the 20s for much of today.

Snow remained on trees, roofs, and the garden late this afternoon. Once the temperature finally dropped overnight, it went down to the 20s for much of today.

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Maybe you remember, as I do, a certain company’s TV ad slogan : “Better Things for Better Living…. Through Chemistry.”  It was their official slogan from 1935 until 1982, so I grew up hearing it often.  Chemical company research has improved daily life in many ways.  And it has also produced some pretty noxious products which have done great harm to our environment.  Scientific research remains a mixed bag in any area you care to name.

But it was in the early 20th Century, in our modern era, when entrepreneurial scientists first began to offer their services to ‘make rain’ in drought stricken areas of our country.

The city of San Diego hired Charles ‘Rainmaker’ Hatfield for $10,000 to fill the Lake Morena reservoir, after several years of severe drought.  Hatfield mixed and then heated certain chemicals together to ‘seed’ the clouds; with dramatic results.  He couldn’t spray them from an airplane, but he burned the chemicals on tall towers around the lake.  Hatfield was too successful.

After 17 days, 11.4 inches of rain fell, flooding the lake, bursting dams, causing mudslides.     Residents sued the city for millions of dollars worth of damage.  San Diego never paid their ‘Rainmaker’ for his efforts because of their catastrophic results.

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Beginning as rain, our snow yesterday soon grew thick and heavy. The forecast for 'scattered flurries' mushroomed into hours of heavy, accumulating snow. More is on the way....

Beginning as rain, our snow yesterday soon grew thick and heavy. The forecast for ‘scattered flurries’ mushroomed into hours of heavy, accumulating snow. More is on the way….

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There is a long history of efforts to change the weather; a mostly silent history, as it is very controversial.  California cities have been hiring rainmakers off and on through much of this century to relieve droughts, according to a series of articles published in the LA Times.

Our government grew interested in manipulating the weather as a way to influence the battlefield as early as the 1940’s Project Cirrus.  Experiments have been ongoing, under many project names.  You didn’t read about this in your high school history class?  I can’t imagine why….

Ask a Viet Nam veteran about how our government extended the monsoon season to flood North Vietnamese roads in the 1960’s.  Known as “Operation Popeye,” this highly classified program continued from 1967-1972.

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Just before sundown today, and I'm surprised at how much snow remains.

Just before sundown today, and I’m surprised at how much snow remains.

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The first successful experiment in creating a snowstorm came as early as November, 1946 over New York.  Dry ice was dropped from a plane into the clouds, and it snowed.

But results from these experiments continue to be unpredictable.  Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they work too well, causing property damage and loss of life from the ensuing storms. 

But the experimentation not only continues, it is now global.  Popular Science Magazine ran a series of articles about the weaponization of the weather as early a 1958.  In 1977, the United States was one of several countries who ratified a Convention at the UN to ban weather modification as a weapon of war.  Even so, accusations between nations continue as fantastic weather events unfold each year.

But now there is a new adversary in these ‘weather wars’:  the warming of the planet.  Though there are a myriad of causes for our steep increases in temperatures lately, scientists are working with many experimental protocols to slow the trend.

Which brings us back to snow.

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January 18, 2015 snow 005

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Have you ever used a chemical ice pack?  These are kept at the ready for athletes to ice their injuries, and are sold in most every drug store.

Our chemists have learned how to mix chemicals in a way to create ice.  And, our geoengineers have come up with a chemical soup they can spray over rain clouds, which will cause ‘chemical ice nucleation.’  This is how snow can fall when it is as warm as the low 40s F. Several US patents have already been granted for these mixtures and processes.

We all know that water can absorb and store heat.  Water vapor super cooled chemically, has proven effective in sucking heat out of the atmosphere as it falls.  This is how it suddenly grows much colder while this ‘faux snow’ is falling, and how it can remain in a ‘frozen’ crystalline form even when the ground on which it has fallen remains above freezing.  This is an ‘endothermic reaction’ where the water vapor in our atmosphere absorbs heat energy, even as it chemically freezes.

In fact, this engineered snow, which may begin when temperatures are well above freezing, eventually results in  deadly cold temperatures.  Have you noticed the unusually cold temperatures, following snowstorms, over much of the planet in recent years?  These much publicized winter storms help confuse us about the extremely warm temperatures in other parts of our planet.

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Snow freezes to the limbs, and lingers for a very long time. This photo was taken nearly 30 hours after our snow stopped yesterday.

Snow freezes to the limbs, and lingers for a very long time. This photo was taken nearly 30 hours after our snow stopped yesterday.

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When you hear ‘heavy, wet snow’ predicted, be suspicious.  This geoengineered snow is much heavier than natural snow, and does tremendous damage to trees and shrubs.  For one thing, it freezes to the limbs and won’t fall off naturally, adding weight to limbs and branches for an unusually long time.

Geoengineered snow contains a number of heavy metals, used in the chemical nucleation process.  These metal particles, like Barium and Aluminum, contaminate everything they touch and get into our ground water supply.

Are all snow storms the product of geoengineering?  Probably not.  I hope not.

Once you begin to delve into this subject, you begin to watch weather forecasts with a different frame of reference, though.

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January 18, 2015 snow 009

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If you have read this far, and you’re thinking, “That Woodland Gnome really is a nut case to write this stuff;” then please just do a little more reading.  And please notice that I’m saying, “Please.”

Pour yourself a mug of your favorite beverage, polish your reading glasses, and just follow a few of the links I’ve embedded for you.  Each of those links will lead you to a few more, and you will see the vast body of hard evidence to back up what I’ve shared with you here.

Why would you do this?  Because you want to know a little bit more about this weird weather we are all experiencing lately. Just as we do.  

And while you’re at it, take a look at the Weather Underground’s Wundermap the next time a storm is approaching your area.  Set the parameters for several hours of history, and just watch closely.  Play around with it a little bit.  You may be a little surprised at what you see.

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We enjoyed clear skies, brilliant sunshine, and very cold winds today. How wonderful to see a clear blue sky.

How wonderful to see a clear blue sky.  We enjoyed brilliant sunshine today, with frigid winds.  Looks alike a cold week ahead.

 

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

 

 

 

Summer Spreaders

These Black Eyed Susans were growing in the garden when we came here, but we spread the plants around when they emerge each spring. The clumps spread and also self-seed.

These Black Eyed Susans were growing in another part of the garden when we came here, but we spread the plants around when they emerge each spring. The clumps spread and also self-seed.

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Is there a large area in your garden which you would like to fill with plants with a minimum investment of cost and effort?

Many of us have large areas to tend, and welcome plants which make themselves at home, colonizing the surrounding real estate.  If we like a single specimen, we might also enjoy a larger area filled with the same plant.

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Colocasia growing with Canna lily

Colocasia ‘China Pink’  growing with Canna lily and hardy Hibiscus.

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One way to accomplish this is by buying multiples of a single plant to begin with; say seven or nine or thirteen pots of the same cultivar, planted together in a large bed.  If your budget doesn’t allow such a splurge very often, consider buying plants which spread themselves around in a fairly short time.

Most of these spreading plants grow radiating stems which creep along just under or just above the ground.

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A new plant begins to grow from a Colocasia runner.

A new plant begins to grow from a Colocasia runner.

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As the stems grow away from the original plant, they send up new sets of leaves some distance away, and root at that spot to form an entirely new plant.

Over time, each of these new plants will send out its own runners.

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August 5, 2015 butterflies 017~

The new plants can be cut away and replanted elsewhere or allowed to grow in place, thus expanding the original planting.

Many plants spread themselves in this way, eventually forming dense colonies.  Some begin to crowd themselves out after a year or two and appreciate thinning.  Others may be left alone indefinitely.

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Clumping Hazel trees form the backdrop to this bed filled with hardy Colocasia and Canna lilies.

Clumping Hazel trees form the backdrop to this bed filled with hardy Colocasia and Canna lilies.  The  bed was planted this spring from divisions of established plants.

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In fact, many of the plants we consider ‘invasive weeds,’ like wild strawberry and crabgrass, spread themselves in this way.  Leaving any part of the plant in the ground when weeding may result in a new plant cropping up in a matter of days.

One of my current favorite plants for covering large areas with interesting foliage is  Colocasia, or Elephant Ear.  These are marginally hardy here in Zone 7.  Some cultivars have returned for us while others have died out over the winter.

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August 2, 2015 garden 018

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Winter hardiness is an important consideration when choosing a plant to spread.  While a tender plant allows one to easily change one’s mind after the growing season; a hardy plant will most likely become a permanent fixture in the garden.  It pays to do plenty of research into the plant’s needs and habits before making that initial investment to bring it home to the garden.

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C. Black Magic growing in 2014

C. Black Magic, growing in 2014, did not survive our winter.

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Of the several Colocasia cultivars I planted last summer, only two proved hardy in our garden.  The species, C. Esculenta and C. “Pink China” survived our winter.  While the species hasn’t spread beyond its immediate area, C. “Pink China” has spread prolifically this year.  I moved several plants to a new area this spring and they have all sent out runners as well.

One of the cultivars which didn’t survive our winter was C. “Black Runner,” prized for its ability to spread.  Although Plant Delights nursery indicated it is hardy to our Zone 7B, only those plants I kept in pots in the basement survived the winter.

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Butterfly Ginger Lily comes into bloom in late August in our garden.

Butterfly Ginger Lily comes into bloom in late August in our garden.  It is very fragrant, perfuming this whole area of the garden for more than a month.

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Three large, spreading plants we enjoy in the summer garden are the Colocasia, Canna lily, and our hardy Butterfly Ginger Lily.

Our first ginger lily, Hedychium coronarium, came as a gift from a neighbor as she prepared to move.  She allowed me to dig roots from her garden and I happily replanted them  in a new bed near our driveway.  These plants die back to the ground each winter, and then grow to around 6′ tall each summer before blooming at the end of the season.  Their fragrant blooms keep coming until a heavy frost.

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Our first Lycoris of the season blooms beside stems of ginger lily. These create a thick, creeping mat and must be dug each season to keep them in bounds.

Our first Lycoris of the season blooms beside stems of Ginger Lily. The Ginger Lily create a thick, creeping mat and must be thinned each season to keep them in bounds.

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I’ve since dug up roots to share and to spread to a wider area of the garden.  The stems grow very densely together and make a good screen for about half of the year.

Most of our Canna lily were also a gift from a gardening friend.  She brought me a grocery sack of roots dug from her garden late in the summer we lost several tall oaks, transforming our very shady garden to nearly full sun.   Although I planted the roots with several feet between each, they have grown to form dense clumps in just two summers.  The named cultivars with more ornamental leaves planted last year have not proven nearly as prolific in their growth.

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A new bamboo 'shoot' emerged far from the bamboo forest, right in front of a fig tree. We cut this down after taking a photo.

A new bamboo ‘shoot’ emerged far from the bamboo forest, right in front of a fig tree. We cut this down after taking a photo.

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Bamboo, another spreading giant, already grew at the bottom of our garden when we arrived.  Technically a grass, its rhizomes now cover much of our lower garden.  We are surprised each spring to see where the new stems emerge.  We promptly break these off when they emerge out of boundaries for the bamboo.

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Bearded Iris spread easily when planted in full sun with moist, reasonable soil. They may be allowed to grow into large clumps, or divided and spread around.

Bearded Iris spread easily when planted in full sun with moist, reasonable soil. They may be allowed to grow into large clumps, or divided and spread around.  This is I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ which blooms reliable again each fall.  I’ll shortly be digging these to share with our next door neighbor.

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We enjoy several other hardy perennials which spread over time, although on a much smaller scale than these lovely giants.

German Bearded Iris quickly grow to form large clumps when they are happy with the light and soil.  They prefer full sun and reasonable soil.

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Iris rhizomes may be divided into small pieces, as long as each piece has at least one root.

Iris rhizomes may be divided into small pieces, as long as each piece has at least one root.  They are planted shallowly so the rhizome remains visible above the soil.

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Iris must be divided every few years as their rhizomes age and play out after a while.  We grow mostly re-blooming Iris, which offer two seasons of blooms each year.

Daylilies will clump and spread as well, as will many species of Rudbeckia.

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The large fern in the blue pot is my favorite tender lady fern, which spreads its self around generously. Most ferns spread by rhizomes, gradually growing larger and larger each year.

The large fern in the blue pot is my favorite tender lady fern, which spreads its self around generously. Most ferns spread by rhizomes, gradually growing larger and larger each year.

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Many ferns spread by rhizomes growing at or just below the soil’s surface.  The Japanese ferns and various “walking ferns” are especially good at covering real estate.

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July 21, 2015 garden midday 010

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One of my tender lady ferns is especially prolific at spreading it self around a hanging basket or pot and may be divided again and again without harming the original plant.

Many plants sold as ‘ground cover,’ like Ajuga, quickly spread out to carpet large areas of the garden.

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Ajuga, which forms a dense ground cover in one of our beds.

Ajuga, which forms a dense ground cover in one of our beds.

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Vines, like Creeping Jenny and Periwinkle, or Vinca minor can root at each leaf node, spreading themselves out indefinitely.  Although only a few inches high, these plants spread quickly to offer large areas of uniform coverage in beds and under shrubs.

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Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densly matted ground cover.

Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densly matted ground cover.  Here it is interplanted with a hardy Sedum.

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Many succulent varieties offer the same rapid spread through their rooting stems.  These make good ground cover for pots as well as in rock gardens or sunny beds.

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August 13, 2015 spreaders 001

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Members of the mint family, including Monarda and Lemon Balm,  remain notorious for quickly spreading to cover as much territory as possible.  Because their runners travel both above and below ground, one must be ruthless to yank out rooted stems growing beyond their boundaries.

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Pineapple mint

Pineapple mint

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Shrubs, and even some trees, will increase through spreading rhizomes, as well.  Hazel, Forsythia, Sumac, Lilac, Crepe Myrtle, some Figs and many sorts of berry bushes will quickly form large clumps.

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Crepe Myrtle tend to sucker and slowly spread. Lovely and prolific, many gardeners allow them to grow into a large area each year. This one has returned from its roots after being broken down in a 2013 storm.

Crepe Myrtle tends to sucker and slowly spread. Lovely and prolific, many gardeners allow them to grow into a large area each year. This one has returned from its roots after being broken down in a 2013 storm.

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This ability to generate new plants, clones of the original, from spreading stems may be desirable to you or not; depending on your situation.  If you have space to allow the expansion these new plants can be a blessing.  If you are gardening in cramped quarters, the spreading tendencies of many plants may become a nuisance.

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Strawberry Begonia spreads prolifically with long runners, tipped with baby plants which will root wherever they touch the soil.

Strawberry Begonia spreads prolifically with long runners, tipped with baby plants which will root wherever they touch the soil.  An attractive foliage plant, they bloom in the spring.

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It helps to have gardening buddies who are willing to receive extra plants, as well as those who will share free plants with us.  Some of our favorite plants came as gifts from generous and loving friends.

And we appreciate the prolific growth of our favorite plants each summer when they fill our garden with beautiful leaves and fragrant flowers.

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Red Canna flowers and Hibiscus attract both hummingbirds and pollinating insects, including butterflies.

Red Canna flowers and Hibiscus attract both hummingbirds and pollinating insects, including butterflies.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 090

 

 

Sunday Brunch, Or, One Thousand Shades of Green

June 20, 2015 garden 043

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I took Sunday brunch in the garden today, feasting on the sounds, smells, and beautiful sights the garden offers on this mid-summer’s Sunday.

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It is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  In Williamsburg, our sun rose today at 5:47 AM and will set at 8:30 PM for an astronomical day length of 14 hours and 44 minutes.

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June 20, 2015 garden 026

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Interestingly, our period of the summer solstice began on June 17 this year when the sun rose at 5:46 AM and set at 8:30 PM.  Our days will remain this exact length until June 24.  The sun will rise a single minute later on June 25, at 5:48 AM.  The sun will continue to set at 8:31 until July 6, when it will finally set a single minute earlier at 8:30 PM.   By then, the sun won’t rise above the horizon until 5:53 AM, a full six minutes later than today.

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June 20, 2015 garden 021~

The sun is felt, even after it has dipped below the horizon.  It stays light now for more than an hour past the moment of ‘sun-set,’ and it stays hot from dusk to dawn.

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June 20, 2015 garden 024

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We had violent thunderstorms move through Virginia again last night, feeding off the muggy heat which envelops us.  We were among the fortunate who kept our power and our trees as the storm passed.

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June 20, 2015 garden 003

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And this morning dawned rain soaked, hot and bright.  Opening the slider to the deck, I inhaled the greenness in the morning air.

Our cat slipped past my ankles to drink the fresh rain water collected in his dish overnight.  He lingered a little while to listen to the birds chattering from their hiding places in the overhanging trees.

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June 20, 2015 garden 048

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But he lingered only a little while.  He was ready to slip back inside to the shade and cool of our house when my partner appeared at the door.  Wise old cat, he knows this heat can be deadly.

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He was asleep behind a chair when I suited up and headed out to the garden an hour later.  Camera in hand, I went only to appreciate and record the morning’s beauty.

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But you know the truth of good intentions.  Before long I was deadheading something here, pulling a weed there, and finally succumbed to the lure of the herbs we picked up on Friday morning still waiting in their tiny nursery pots.

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June 20, 2015 garden 036~

I was in the lowest, sunniest part of the garden planting a Basil when my partner’s voice reached me.  He was back out on the deck, searching for a glimpse of me in the green forest below.

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June 20, 2015 garden 081

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His voice broke the spell the garden had woven around me. 

He reminded me of the heat, and called me back inside.  It was only then that it registered that my clothes were soaked with perspiration and I was exposed to the fullness of the still rising sun.

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June 20, 2015 garden 046~

We lost a friend this past week.  We lost one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving people in our circle of friends.

Long retired, he was a tireless volunteer in our community; a gardener, caretaker for stray cats; devoted husband, father, and grandfather.  Our friend was out walking in this relentless heat mid-week, and collapsed.

He was doing what he loved, out of doors, and left us all peacefully and swiftly.

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June 20, 2015 garden 005~

The news reached us yesterday morning.  As much as we will miss him, we are so grateful that he left us all on his own terms, and was active until then end.  May it be so for each of us.

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June 20, 2015 garden 008

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And yet his passing in this way is a stark reminder to all of us. 

We must respect this extreme weather, and remain cautious in the face of the heat and sun.  Our children, our pets, our elderly and even ourselves need a little extra consideration during this hottest part of the year, in the northern hemisphere.

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June 20, 2015 garden 004

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The sun burns, and burns quickly.  The heat overpowers our body’s cooling systems.  The heavy, humid air makes it that much harder to breathe.

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June 20, 2015 garden 011~

I will not pretend to understand climate change; but I can see the signs that our climate is changing, rapidly.  And so we must change and adapt.  We must shift our behaviors to survive.

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June 20, 2015 garden 015

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Our friend’s passing was only the latest in a string of untimely loss this week.  I won’t rehearse the litany of loss; I trust you’ve been watching the news, too.

But the common denominator in all of these heart wrenching stories boils down to this:  People going about their business, doing what they have always done, were caught in extraordinary circumstances.

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There is a a message here for each of us.  Perhaps it is no longer, “Business as usual.”   Perhaps we all need to be more mindful of our changing environment and plan for the unexpected to touch our lives.

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It is summer in Virginia.  Our theme parks and beaches are full of tourists.  There are festivals every weekend, and holiday traffic fills our roads.

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And our garden is full of fragrance, color and sound.  Something new blooms each day.  Blackberries ripen, bees buzz from flower to flower and the herbs release their perfume to the caress of the sun.

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Everything is growing so fast.  A thousand shades of green filled our garden this morning. 

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Most people, when asked, will tell you how much they love the summer; and will give you a long list of things they love to do in these few sweet weeks from June through August.

May this summer be filled with joy for you and yours. 

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June 20, 2015 garden 058

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And please, remain mindful of a few simple things you can do to keep yourself and loved ones safe and healthy during this special season:

1.  Stay hydrated, and always carry water with you for everyone in your party when traveling.

2.  Keep your head and skin covered when outside.

3.  Wear sunscreen, routinely, to protect yourself even further from the sun’s rays.

4.  Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day.  Seek the refuge of shade.

5.  Pace yourself.  Don’t overexert when it is hot and muggy.

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6.  Watch the weather forecast, several times a day, and plan accordingly.  Stay off the roads when heavy rains and are expected.

7.  Keep pets indoors when it is hot, and keep fresh water available.

8.  Never leave a child, a pet, or a companion waiting outside in a car during the heat of the day.

9.  Remember that our environment is rapidly changing. Expect the unexpected.  Remain alert to these changing conditions, and prepare in advance to survive potential hazards and extreme weather events.

10.  Balance pleasure with vigilance.  Enjoy the fruits of summer and all of the special experiences it brings.  But do so smartly and cautiously, so all survive to enjoy many more summers to come.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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With fond remembrance of our treasured friend,

Lt. Col. Alden George Hannum.

May his memory always bring  joy to those who loved him.

Monday Vase: Feeling Spring Close At Hand

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 015

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With spring like temperatures today, we were finally able to work a little in the garden. 

We worked outside comfortably all morning, beginning late winter’s  clean-up work.  What a delight to find several patches of Hellebores in bud.  We finally began the cutting away of last season’s leaves, and were happy to find lots of new flowers underneath, beginning to emerge from the Earth.  Is it safe to start cutting back the protection of the large old leaves, now, and let the new growth fend for itself?

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 016

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You can see a little scorch already on the leaves on this new stem.  I certainly hope this pruning wasn’t premature.  We only took about half of the old leaves from the largest bed to hedge our bets, and will return for more on the next warm day.

This whole vase has the scorched, wind burned look of our late winter garden.  Even though the branch of bamboo was found well sheltered out of the wind, there are still brown tips visible on some of the leaves.  Such is February.

The bright yellow Forsythia make their third vase appearance in a row, now almost fully open.  Outside, our Forsythia shrubs remain tightly closed; weeks away from bloom.  But these have relaxed and opened in the warmth indoors.

The ivy came from a sheltered pot on the deck, where it has continued growing through the winter months.  You can see from the red veins and dark green leaves that it has frozen many times now, but it continues to soldier on.  I like this cultivar and hope these sprigs will root in the vase.

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 018~

You might recognize this cobalt vase as the one we purchased in December from glass artist John Shelton.  It normally sits in a window where it catches the light, but seemed a good vase to hold this Hellebore cutting today.

If the vase today looks like it got “short-shrift,” you may be right.  We were so busy working on other projects that the wind had already shifted to the north, and the rain begun to fall, before I began clipping for today’s arrangement.  Prior planning may prevent poor performance, but not when procrastination precludes pursuing the plan….

With appreciation to Cathy over at Rambling In the Garden for hosting this In A Vase On Monday Challenge.  Please do visit her site where you’ll see a beautiful arrangement with the first Iris of the season.  Following the many links in her comments will take you on something of a international tour of beautiful flowers, all clipped from gardens today

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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February 9, 2015 Rhodie 019

Vase by John Shelton of Shelton’s Glass Works in Williamsburg, Virginia.

 

Reaching For the Sky

 

June 7, 2014 at dusk

June 7, 2014 at dusk

The bamboo  has not only tried to creep up the hill into our garden this season, now it is reaching for the sky.

The new stems have already grown a good 12 to 14 feet higher than the bamboo standing from previous years.

June 12, 2014

June 12, 2014

And, they are still growing! 

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We watch each day as they reach higher and higher wondering what has sparked such tremendous growth.

I have enjoyed the rain-kissed spires reaching up towards our treetops this week.

June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014

Did I mention there is no level ground anywhere in our garden?

So when we look out at the bamboo, we are already much higher than where they have sunk their roots.  These are truly giants.

Mid-May

Mid-May

We appreciate the wonderful screen they provide, offering privacy, breaking the wind, and muffling sound along our little ravine.

They make a thick living fence , offering abundant cover for our families of song birds.

They also cool the yard.  Their deep shade is always noticeably cooler than anywhere else in the garden.

The march of the bamboo up the hill back  in early May.  We have had to control the growth up towards the garden.

The march of the bamboo up the hill back in early May. We have had to control the growth up towards the garden.

We don’t know what sparked this prodigious growth, and wonder if they can continue to grow taller year after year.

There is bamboo on the approach to Jamestown Island and in other odd spots around Williamsburg.

I would love to know whether this is a native plant, or whether it has simply naturalized in our area.

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Another “legacy plant” in our garden, we come to love it more and more each year.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Nature’s Way

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Nature’s way brings elements of the natural world together into relationship.

Rarely will you find just one of anything-

Prickly pear cactus growing in a field beside the Colonial Parkway with assorted grasses and Aliums.

Prickly pear cactus growing in a field beside the Colonial Parkway with assorted grasses and Aliums.

It is our human sensibility which wants to bring order from the “chaos” of nature by sorting, classifying, isolating, and perhaps eliminating elements of our environment.

Pickerel weed growing from the mud in a waterway on Jamestown Island.

Pickerel weed, cattails, and grasses  growing from the mud in a waterway on Jamestown Island.

Nature teaches the wisdom of strength through  unity and relationship.

Gardens in medieval Europe were often composed primarily of lawns, shrubs, and trees.

A similiar group of plants growing along the edge of College Creek in James City County, Virginia.

A similiar group of plants growing along the edge of College Creek in James City County, Virginia.

This is still fashionable in American gardens today.  But it is a high maintenance and sterile way to garden.

I won’t bore you with a re-hash of the arguments for and against lawns… but will only say that wildflowers of all sorts find a home in ours.

White clover growing with purple milk vetch and other wild flowers on the bank of a pond along the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown, Virginia.

White clover growing with purple milk vetch and other wild flowers and grasses on the bank of a pond along the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown, Virginia.

And I’m not an advocate of allowing every wild plant to grow where it sprouts, either.  There are some plants which definitely are not welcome in our garden, or are welcome in only certain zones of it.

Wild grapes grow on this Eastern Red Cedar beside College Creek.  Do you see the tiny cluster of grapes which are already growing?  Grapes grow wild in our area, but many pull the vines, considering them weeds.

Wild grapes grow on this Eastern Red Cedar beside College Creek.   Do you see the tiny cluster of grapes which are already growing? Grapes grow wild in our area, but many pull the vines, considering them weeds.

But in general, I prefer allowing plants to grow together in communities, weaving together above and below the soil, and over the expanse of time throughout a gardening year.

Perennial geranium and Vinca cover the ground of this bed of roses.

Perennial geranium and Vinca cover the ground of this bed of roses.  Young ginger lily, white sage, dusty miller, Ageratum, and a Lavender, “Goodwin Creek” share the bed.

A simple example would be interplanting peonies with daffodils.  As the daffodils fade, the peonies are taking center stage.

Another example is allowing Clematis vines to grow through roses; or to plant ivy beneath ferns.

Japanese painted fern

Japanese Painted Fern emerges around spend daffodils.  Columbine, Vinca, apple mint and German Iris complete the bed beneath some large shrubs.

Like little children hugging one another as they play, plants enjoy having company close by.

When you observe nature you will see related plants growing together in some sort of balance.

Honeysuckle and wild blackberries are both important food sources for wildlife.

Honeysuckle and wild blackberries are both important food sources for wildlife.

And you’ll find wild life of all descriptions interacting with the plants as part of the mix.

The blackberries and honeysuckle are scampering over and through a collection of small trees and flowering shrubs on the edge of a wooded area.  All provide shelter to birds.  The aroma of this stand of wildflowers is indescribably sweet.

The blackberries and honeysuckle are scampering over and through a collection of small trees and flowering shrubs on the edge of a wooded area. All provide shelter to birds. The aroma of this stand of wildflowers is indescribably sweet.

When planning your plantings, why not increase the diversity and the complexity of your pot or bed and see what beautiful associations develop?

Herbs filling in our new "stump garden."

Herbs filling in our new “stump garden.”  Alyssum is the lowest growing flower.  Tricolor Sage, Rose Scented Geranium, Violas, White Sage, Iris, and Catmint all blend in this densely planted garden.

Now please don’t think that Woodland Gnome is suggesting that you leave the poison ivy growing in your shrub border.

Although poison ivy is a beautiful vine and valuable to wildlife, our gardens are created for our own health and pleasure.  So we will continue to snip these poisonous vines at the base whenever we find them.

Another view of the "stump garden" planting.  Here African Blue Basil has begun to fill its summer spot.

Another view of the “stump garden” planting. Here African Blue Basil has begun to fill its summer spot in front of Iris and Dusty Miller.

But what about honeysuckle?  Is there a “wild” area where you can allow it to grow through some shrubs?  Can you tolerate wild violets in the lawn?

Honeysuckle blooming on Ligustrum shrubs, now as tall of trees, on one border of our garden.

Honeysuckle blooming on Ligustrum shrubs, now as tall of trees, on one border of our garden.

The fairly well known planting scheme for pots of “thriller, filler, spiller” is based in the idea that plants growing together form a beautiful composition, a community which becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Three varieties of Geranium fill this pot in an area of full sun.  Sedum spills across the front lip of the pot.  A bright Coleus grows along the back edge, and Moonflower vines climb the trellis.

Three varieties of Geranium fill this pot in an area of full sun. Sedum spills across the front lip of the pot. A bright Coleus grows along the back edge, and Moonflower vines climb the trellis.

I like planting several plants in a relatively big pot; allowing room for all to grow, but for them to grow together.

Geraniums, Coleus, Caladium, and Lamium fill this new hypertufa pot.  This photo was taken the same evening the pot was planted.  It will look much better and fuller in a few weeks.

Geraniums, Coleus, Caladium, and Lamium fill this new hypertufa pot. This photo was taken the same evening the pot was planted. It will look much better and fuller in a few weeks.

This is a better way to keep the plants hydrated and the temperature of the soil moderated from extremes of hot and cold, anyway.

But this also works in beds.

Two different Sages, Coreopsis, and Lamb's Ears currently star in this bed, which also holds daffodils, Echinacea, St. John's Wort, and a badly nibbled Camellia shrub.

Two different Sages, Coreopsis, and Lamb’s Ears currently star in this bed, which also holds daffodils, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, and a badly nibbled Camellia shrub.  The Vinca is ubiquitous in our garden, and serves an important function as a ground cover which also blooms from time to time.  The grasses growing along the edge get pulled every few weeks to keep them in control.  

Choose a palette of plants, and then work out a scheme for combining a repetitive pattern of these six or ten plants over and again as you plant the bed.  Include plants of different heights, growth habits, seasons of bloom, colors and textures.

So long as you choose plants with similiar needs for light, moisture, and food this can work in countless variations.

A wild area between a parking lot and College Creek.  Notice the grape vines growing across a young oak tree.  Trees are nature's trellis.  Bamboo has emerged and will fill this area if left alone.  Beautiful yellow Iris and pink Hibiscus and Joe Pye Weed grow in this same area.

A wild area between a parking lot and College Creek. Notice the grape vines growing across a young oak tree. Trees are nature’s trellis. Bamboo has emerged and will fill this area if left alone. Beautiful yellow Iris, Staghorn Sumac,  pink Hibiscus and Joe Pye Weed grow in this same area.

This is Nature’s way, and it can add a new depth of beauty to your garden.

It can also make your gardening easier and more productive.

It is important to observe as the plants grow. 

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If one is getting too aggressive and its neighbors are suffering, then you must separate, prune, or sacrifice one or another of them.

Planting flowers near vegetables brings more pollinating insects, increasing yields.

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Planting garlic or onions among flowers has proven effective in keeping deer and rabbits away from my tasty flowering plants.

Planting deep rooted herbs such as Comfrey, Angelica, and Parsley near other plants brings minerals from deep in the soil to the surface for use by other plants.

Perennial geranium growing here among some Comfrey.

Perennial geranium growing here among some Comfrey.

Use the leaves from these plants in mulch or compost to get the full benefit.

Planting peas and members of the pea family in flower or vegetable beds increases the nitrogen content of the soil where they grow, because their roots fix nitrogen from the air into the soil.

Purple milk vetch is one of the hundreds of members of the pea family.

Purple milk vetch is one of the hundreds of members of the pea family.

Planting Clematis vines among perennials or roses helps the Clematis grow by shading and cooling their roots.

The Clematis will bloom and add interest when the roses or perennials are “taking a rest” later in the season.

Japanese Maple shades a Hosta, "Empress Wu" in the Wubbel's garden at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Japanese Maple shades a Hosta, “Empress Wu” in the Wubbel’s garden at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Just as our human relationships are often based in helping one another, so plants form these relationships, too.

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The more you understand how plants interact with one another, the more productive your garden can become.

It is Nature’s way…

A "volunteer" Japanese Maple grows in a mixed shrub and perennial border in our garden near perennial Hibiscus.

A “volunteer” Japanese Maple grows in a mixed shrub and perennial border in our garden near perennial Hibiscus.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Forest Lane Botanicals

Forest Lane Botanicals display garden.

WPC: Bamboo, On the Move

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Our grove of bamboo, growing in the edge of the ravine when we bought this property, is on the move again. 

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Every spring it expands its reach, little by little.  This year we stopped it sternly in its first attempt to move up the hill towards the butterfly gardens.

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It has responded with strong new growth.  On the move, claiming as much of the garden as possible, we will need another conversation about limits.

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We love the bamboo’s cool green shade in summer.

The bamboo’s thick growth stops the deer, and offers shelter to our family of cardinals, who retreat into its depths at dusk.

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It is a beautiful barrier, muting sound and cleansing the air.    This is an ongoing negotiation with our forest garden.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Weekly Photo Challenge:  On the Move

Conscious Seeing

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A friend invited me to an event for gardeners and artists today held at our College of William and Mary, and sponsored by the Williamsburg Garden Club.  Mr. Gordon Hayward spoke on “Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design.”

You may know Mr. Hayward’s work from his many articles over the years  in Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening, and other publications.  The author of many books on garden design, he is well known as the designer of many lovely gardens here in the United States and in Europe.

Several friends and I had the privilege of  spending some time this afternoon hearing his thoughts on the principles of good design in the garden.

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It was the perfect time for us to hear him speak, here in the depths of January. We are clearing out the last of the old in our gardens while making plans for what we will change, and what we will grow in the new year.

The suggestions offered today are quite simple and straightforward, and yet the effects of applying them make a profound difference in the appearance and “feel” of the garden.

We examined paintings by Renoir, O’Keeffe, Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, and many other artists to see what principles can then be applied to design, plant selection, and even pruning in our gardens.  Mr. Hayward illustrated these principles with side by side slides of  paintings paired with  photos of gardens, including many he designed.

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If this interests you, I recommend that you read Mr. Hayward’s gorgeous book, dedicated to his wife, Mary; Art and the Gardener:  Fine Paintings as Inspiration for Garden Design.Art and the Gardener: Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design

The starting point of today’s talk was Rene Magritte’s “The Eye,” and a conversation about “conscious seeing.”

We Americans, perennially in a hurry as we tend to be, rarely take time to simply observe, over an extended period of time.

We see superficially, but rarely allow ourselves the unstructured time to see deeply; to visually explore something in any depth.

As there is a “slow food” movement today, so there is also “slow art,” where we take significant time to view and converse with someone else about the art we’re viewing.  We may also choose to engage in “slow gardening.”

Mr. Hayward described gardening as the slowest of the performing arts.  He urged us to take our time  in appreciating the garden as a whole, as well as the individual plants in the garden; and also to allow time for a garden to evolve.

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A good garden has an aura of timelessness, and in one you may lose track of time as you become absorbed in the beauty and mood of the space.

And so I would offer you the opportunity to begin, here and now, with the photos in this post, to slow down and “see” consciously.  To spend more than a few seconds with each.

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Go beyond the superficial recognition and naming of what you see, to an appreciation of its color, its form, the geometric shapes you might recognize, and awareness of both positive and negative space.  How do you feel while looking at each of the photos?

By seeing beyond the obvious, we uncover layer after layer of beauty and meaning in the world around us. 

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As we slow down, we deepen our experience.  We enrich our appreciation, and in the process, we feel a little bit better ourselves.  Our energy increases, our happiness expands, and we are filled with the peace that a lovely garden offers.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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What Is It, Anyway?

How did a scallop shell find its way to the ravine?

How did a scallop shell find its way to the ravine?

As you’re out walking, do you ever stop to look at something more closely, and ask yourself, “What is it?

Did the pearl already fall out of the oyster?

Did the pearl already fall out of the oyster?

Whether you’ve spotted a bird or a leaf, a flower or a pebble, perhaps you’re engaged, for a moment, in simply looking.

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Our chameleon world loves to masquerade.

You may have noticed that one things often resembles the other.

How can coral grow in a forest?

How can coral grow in a forest?

Sometimes it’s our minds and our eyes playing tricks on us.  We catch sight of a color, a flash of movement.

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In the moment between seeing and naming, the world is wide open to new possibilities.

What do you see here?

What do you see here?

When silence is allowed, the tap of thought turned off tightly,

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Eyes engage the world in novel and unexpected ways.

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Perhaps instead of explaining the world away, our mind allows questions to burble to the top of consciousness:

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“Where did it come from?”  “What does it do?”  “Why is it here?” “What does it mean?”

“What is it, Anyway?”

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These are some of the best questions, the important questions, but …

 

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Simply observe, without naming, and allow the world to open up in beautiful, and unexpected ways.

 

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there,

not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something,

not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone,

will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

―Huang Po

Woody Flowers? (Forest Garden)

First Signs of Spring (Forest Garden)

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