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…

View original post 3,029 more words

Advertisements

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

Canna

Canna

~

I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate what is blooming in our garden this September.  Many of us are fortunate to have something in bloom every day of the year, with a bit of planning.

September is one of our best months of the year for a wide variety of blossoms.

~

The white Sage has bloomed since mid-spring when it was planted, but looks lovely set off by our fall blooming blue mist flowers.

The white Sage has bloomed since mid-spring when it was planted, and now looks even better set off by our fall blooming blue mist flowers.

~

Not only have some of the spring annuals come back into bloom, but we also have those autumn perennials we wait all summer to enjoy.  Our garden is intensely fragrant this month as we enjoy both Butterfly Ginger lily and lovely white Moonflowers.

~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~

Both offer an intensely sweet fragrance which floats across the garden, drawing one ever closer to enjoy these special flowers up close.

~

Blue Mexican Sage just coming into bloom. It will bloom until frost cuts it down.

Blue Mexican Sage just coming into bloom. It will bloom until frost cuts it down.

~

Our blue Mexican Sage has begun to uncurl its very first flowers of the season.  It has grown quickly from its nursery pot to give a respectable showing this year.  Assuming it can survive winter, it will be much larger next year.  Some years it returns, other years are too harsh for this marginal perennial in Zone 7.

~

September 15, 2015 Begonias blooming 012

~

We continue to enjoy our Black Eyed Susans, although they are beginning to look a little spent.  Once I trim them back they will continue on through October.

~

Buddleia, 'Harlequin'

Buddleia, ‘Harlequin’

~

We also have drifts of our blue mist flower weaving through many areas of the garden.  Our Buddliea, ‘Harlequin’ continues to pump out flowers, as it has all summer.  It offers a small but intense purple bloom.  I enjoy it as much for its beautiful leaves as for its flowers, which attract butterflies and hummingbirds through the season.

~

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

~

The few surviving Coleus plants continue to produce tall stalks of flowers attractive to many butterlies and hummingbird.  Many of our plants have by now been shredded by squirrels.  Has this happened to you?  Systematically, one by one, squirrels have taken each plant apart.  We’ve wondered if they are drawn to the water in the plant’s stems?  They leave most of the leaves lying where they fall.

~

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

~

Our established Cannas are nearly finished for the season.  But a newly planted one, which is probably in more shade than it likes. has given its first flowers of the season this week.  It is a striking golden yellow.  I will remember to move pieces of it to a sunnier location next spring.

Also coming into bloom this month are our hardy perennial Begonias.

~

 

~

 

I enjoy Begonias of many different types.  Most of ours come inside and bloom throughout the winter.

~

 

~

But I have a special fondness for these very tough, if fragile looking hardy Begonias.  They are easy to divide and spread around, rooting easily and also producing tiny bulbs at their leaf joints.

~

Hardy Begonia

Hardy Begonia

~

Each little bulb can send roots into the soil and expand into a tiny plant.   I’ve learned that these survive winter much better in the ground than left in a pot.  They are late to emerge and late to bloom.  But they are very lovely in both bloom and leaf once they come into their own.

~

September 15, 2015 Begonias blooming 002

~

Although each flower is a simple affair, their color is very satisfying.  Almost as lovely as the pink flowers are the pink stems of this plant.

We choose our plants with both birds and nectar loving insects in mind because we enjoy watching the many creatures drawn to our garden for food and safe haven.

~

Seeds of our Butterfly tree are even more colorful than the flowers of a few weeks ago.

The seeds of our Butterfly tree are even more colorful than the flowers of a few weeks ago.

~

And it is in late summer and early fall when many of summer’s flowers have faded that their seeds appear.  I often leave the flowers to go to seed, looking forward to the goldfinches and other small birds who will visit to eat from the drying flower stalks.

~

~

Basil seeds and Echinacea seeds are a particular favorite.

And berries have also begun to form in the garden as well.  Often the berries are much showier than the original flowers, which often were quite small and plain.

~

~

We enjoy the bright color and interesting texture the berries offer until the birds finish them.

It is nearly time to shop for autumn Violas and Snaps.  We will plant both by late September, planning to enjoy them through the winter months and into mid-spring.

~

Our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz'

Our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz’

~

Autumn is an excellent month to plant winter annuals and vegetables as well as many shrubs, trees, and perennials here in Zone 7.  I’ve already been planting new Iris and several new perennials.  I will be planting a few hundred Daffodil bulbs over the coming weeks, and we planted a new Crepe Myrtle tree a few weeks ago.  It continues to bloom even as its roots settle into their new home.

~

Rose of Sharon began its season of bloom in late May. It makes abundant seeds which feed our birds all winter long.

Rose of Sharon began its season of bloom in late May. It makes abundant seeds which feed our birds all winter long.

~

Although winter has already visited some parts of the United States, we will enjoy warm weather for another six weeks, at least.

~

Bougainvillea normally blooms in the winter in more southern climates. Ours was just beginning to bloom as we had to bring it inside for autumn last year. We are glad to have these blooms early enough to enjoy outside.

Bougainvillea normally blooms in the winter in more southern climates. Ours was just beginning to bloom as we had to bring it inside for autumn last year. We are glad to have these blooms early enough to enjoy outside.

~

We normally enjoy a last blast of warm weather in early October, even after a few fall like days and cool nights in September have enticed us to anticipate the cooler days and lower humidity of autumn.  September and October are every bit as busy for us in the garden as April and May.

~

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

~

As much as we enjoy the varied foliage of our garden, our fall flowers bring great pleasure, too.  Especially as we enjoy the seeds and fruits they leave behind for the birds migrating through Virginia on their way further south.

~

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

September 6, 2015 garden 011

 

“Indian Summer”

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

September is nearly gone.  We will greet October in only three more days.

Yet summer lingers in our garden.

Shorter days and cooler nights have brought color to our Dogwood trees.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime.  Cool nights send them into dormancy.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime. Cool nights send them into dormancy.

 

The Caladiums began to crumple and lose leaves three weeks ago.    But we forgive them.  They are tropicals, after all; and they hate temperatures below 50 F.

We know the cool nights, sometimes dipping into the 50’s lately, have sent a strong signal that it is time for a rest.

It is nearly time to dig them and bring them in for winter.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 015

But most of our herbs and flowers looks as lovely as they did in May, June, and July.

Here, near the coast, we have something like a  “second spring” in September and October.  And I grew up calling it, “Indian Summer.”

Although nights may be cool, we still enjoy sunny days of 70 and 80 degrees.  Last week’s rain signaled an opportunity for new growth through most of the garden.

September 27, 2014 garden 001

The color palette may have shifted towards richer, deeper tones  now that the Black Eyed Susans have opened.

And our Pineapple Sage opened its first scarlet flowers this week.  Perhaps I’ll remember to take some photos of them tomorrow.

I gathered figs today, and pears.  There is pear butter cooking in the crock-pot this evening, filling the house with the rich aroma of cinnamon and cloves, brown sugar and stewing fruit.

 

September 25 iris 003

But the Basil still blooms, perfuming the garden with its spicy sweetness.

Some of our Lantana now bloom over my head,and I’m rather tall for a Woodland Gnome.

"Miss Huff" Lantana, now in its third summer, blooms at "head height" now.  It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

“Miss Huff” Lantana,  in its third summer, blooms at “head height” now. It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

The Cannas still open their crimson flowers  each day, and the Elephant Ears grow larger than toilet seats.

That may not be an elegant way to describe them, but I bet you know exactly how large they’ve grown!

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii" is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b.  I'mn debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance...

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii” is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b. I’m debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance…  This one spent the winter in the garage.

Geraniums still offer up  fresh fuchsia, cream  and pink blossoms in their pots.  They love these cooler days and nights.  Almost embarrassingly bright now, they soldier on as though summer will last forever.

Those who spent winter in our garage are most determined to keep the blooms coming, savoring each new day out of doors.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a 6 pack in April.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a six pack in April.

 

And of course, our Begonias have covered themselves in tiny pink blossoms; hundreds of them on every stem.

Their new foliage has grown in, replacing the pale winter leaves with which they greeted May.  I”m a little sad now, realizing they have grow so much there isn’t room for them all to come in next month.

All of those little cuttings I stuck into pots with such optimism are now full fledged plants.

These blooming adults need new homes of their own if they are to survive.  I am hoping to find some willing adoptive parents among my gardening friends.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia "Flamingo" remains covered in flowers.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia “Flamingo” remains covered in flowers.

I sent home a little division of a favorite Begonia, tucked into a clam shell as there was not pot at hand, yesterday evening with a beloved friend.  We are sisters at heart, although she grew up half a world away, speaking different languages and eating different foods.  Somehow our paths brought both of us to this community at about the same time.  And now she fosters Begonias for me over the winter in her bright, sunny home.

Colocasia, "Black Magic"

Colocasia, “Black Magic” is supposed to be hardy here, and should survive winter with a little mulch over its crown.

 

And yes, it is time to begin the move back indoors for those tender plants who won’t make it through the  first hard freeze.  Another friend and I were chatting today, as I visited her garden for the first time.

We agree the coming winter will be as cold and harsh as winter 2013.   She is waiting to buy perennials for her newly made border, knowing in her bones they don’t have time to establish before the weather shifts.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

 

This “Indian Summer” may be tantalizingly sweet, but it will be brief.  Gardening friends to the north already feel the change that is coming.

And so I’ll begin to close the garden down next week.  I’ve already been walking around and making plans; assessing what will be hardy and what is not.  My windowsills are full of cuttings.   I’m gathering seeds; pulling up spent annuals.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 003

But it’s not quite time to bring all the pots back inside, yet.  It is still September, and the sun shines bright and golden on the garden this weekend.

Bearded Iris have come back into bloom and there are new buds on the roses.  Bumble bees still hum around the herbs.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 005

New leaves are opening on the figs, and early mornings feel like spring.

I hope summer still lingers in your garden.   

I hope a few vegetables are still ripening on your vines, and flowers are still blooming in your beds.

 

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen.

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen near the street.

 

As the trees turn up the volume of color a little more each day, there is no mistaking the crisp scent of change  in the air.

But let summer linger just a little longer, before it fades back into memory.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 002

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Readings From “The Book of Nature”

 

Virginia  Creeper

Virginia Creeper

*

There is new life in the soil for every man.

There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits,

there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes.

Remember that nature is your great restorer.

CALVIN COOLIDGE

*

 

Eastern Yellow Swallowtail on butterfly tree.

Eastern Yellow Swallowtail on butterfly tree.

*

All those who love Nature she loves in return,

and will richly reward, not perhaps with the good things, as they are commonly called,

but with the best things of this world-

not with money and titles, horses and carriages,

but with bright and happy thoughts, contentment and peace of mind.

 

JOHN LUBBOCK

*

August 16, 2014 garden 055

*

Nature goes her own way, and all that to us seems an exception

is really according to order.

GOETHE

*

August 15, 2014 050

*
When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop,

striped and dotted with continents and islands,

flying through space with other stars

all singing and shining together as one,

the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

John Muir

*

August 15, 2014 047

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

August 16, 2014 garden 060

Off the Shelf

Take a look at your bookcase.

If you had enough free time, which book would be the first one you’d like to reread? Why?

 

Cool August Morning

August 16, 2014 garden 006

 

This morning found us out in the garden watering, pulling grass, deadheading spent flowers, and generally admiring the beauty around us.

Morning sun shines through the Hibiscus and Cannas, illuminating their leaves like stained glass.

Morning sun shines through the Hibiscus and Cannas, illuminating their leaves like stained glass.

It was the sort of cool, breezy morning which invited one out of doors to enjoy the day; and to look around for things which need doing while enjoying it.

I’ve finally had a stretch of days at home, and have turned to pulling grass and weeds in preparation for some late summer planting and sprucing up.

August 16, 2014 garden 045

The first warning to go gently came from friend turtle. 

One of our Eastern Box turtles had sought shelter at the base of a Dogwood tree, under the lacy canopy of grasses.

As I worked steadily closer to him, he made no noise and gave no sign of his presence.

When I finally pulled out the grasses sheltering him, he turned to look up at me, but stood his ground.  Our turtles know us by now, as the lizards do, and know there is nothing to fear so long as we see them.

August 16, 2014 garden 012

Finally turning my attention to the stump garden, after a good watering, I worked my way around the bed trimming  spent Gladiolus stems, pruning the Catnip,  pulling the odd vagrant weedy growth, and trimming the Comfrey.

My attention was on the plants, and I almost didn’t see the delicate web of this  black and yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia.

 

August 16, 2014 garden 018

The sparkling drops of water caught on its strands caught my attention just before I cut one of the stems anchoring it.  What beauty!

 

The male spider

The male spider

 

My partner came over and we admired the web and two resident spiders for a while.

 

The larger female spider, with yellow markings, is joined on the web by a more slender male spider.  These non-poisonous spiders garden spiders are common throughout most of the United States.

The larger female spider, with yellow markings, is joined on the web by a more slender male spider. These non-poisonous spiders garden spiders are common throughout most of the United States.

 

Large spiders like these begin to show themselves and cover the garden with their webs in late summer, here in Virginia.  It is nothing to find webs several feet across from  shrub to shrub sparkling with dew in the early mornings.

 

August 16, 2014 garden 004

So long as our butterflies don’t end up trapped in the webs, we try to leave them alone and bless the spiders for each mosquito they can eat.

So after photographing the spiders and their web, I gathered my tools and moved on, leaving the spiders in peace.

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly tree this morning.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly tree this morning.

 

The signs of autumn have appeared all around us here in Williamsburg.

These cool nights and mornings feel more like late September than mid- August.  Dogwood trees along the Colonial Parkway have taken on a rosy hue as the chlorophyll fades from their leaves.

 

August 16, 2014 garden 031

Sweet Autumn Clematis came into bloom this week, and our Tulip Poplar trees have begun to turn bright yellow and to drop their leaves.

It will be an early  and cool autumn across much of the United States.  Summer has been compressed this year between a late spring and an early fall.

 

The Devil's Walking Stick, , Aralia spinosa, is in full bloom now, and is covered by bees.  Notice the leaves beginning to change colors.

The Devil’s Walking Stick, , Aralia spinosa, is in full bloom now, and is covered by bees. Notice the leaves beginning to change colors.

 

We have enjoyed the cooler summer, and we’ve had enough rain to make things green and lush here.

But this is not the year to sow late crops and expect to harvest them before frost.

 

Our mild weather has been kind to the roses this summer.

Our mild weather has been kind to the roses this summer.

 

Cold winds will blow down from Canada and the Great Lakes with frost much earlier than most expect them.

But not for a while yet.  At the moment we are still celebrating the butterflies and hummingbirds who find our garden.

 

August 16, 2014 garden 021

We’re encouraging the lizards to gorge themselves on insects, watching out for the turtles, and admiring the spiders’ weaving.

And planting….

 

August 16, 2014 garden 034

But I’ll show you the garden bed I’m rehabilitating in another post.

For now, let’s just enjoy this beautiful August weekend, and celebrate summer in our Forest Garden.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

August 16, 2014 garden 019

 

Always Evolving

August 3, 2014 butterflies 019

 

Why do you choose certain plants to add to your garden, and not others?  What drives your selections?

My answer shifts from garden to garden, year to year, and even season to season.  Perhaps your priorities for your garden shift, also.

 

Basil, "African Blue" grows in a bed of plants chosen to be distasteful to deer.

Basil, “African Blue,” Catmint, and scented Pelargoniums  grow in a bed of plants chosen to be distasteful to deer.

 

We garden to fill a need.  Some of us need to produce some portion of our own food.  Some of us want to grow particular ingredients or specialty crops, like hops or basil.

Some of us want to harvest our own flowers for arrangements, or produce our own fruit or nuts for cooking.

 

August 3, 2014 butterflies 074

Once upon a time I focused on growing flowers, and am still struggling to grow decent roses in this wild place.

And our garden is filled with flowers; some already growing here, some that we’ve introduced.

But our current inventory of flowers is driven more by the wildlife they will attract  than by their usefulness as cut flowers.

Lantana attracts many species of nectar loving wildlife to our garden.

Lantana attracts many species of nectar loving wildlife to our garden.

 

Although I could still walk around and clip a decent bouquet most any day from February to November, we rarely harvest our flowers.  We prefer to leave them growing out of doors for the creatures who visit them whether for nectar or later for their seeds.

Purple Coneflower, a useful cut flower, will feed the goldfinches if left in place once the flowers fade.

Purple Coneflower, a useful cut flower, will feed the goldfinches if left in place once the flowers fade.

 

Our gardening  focus is shifting here.  It began our first month on the property.  I moved in ready to cut out the “weedy” looking Rose of Sharon trees growing all over the garden.

I planned to replace them  with something more interesting… to me, that is.

And it was during that first scorching August here, sitting inside in the air conditioning and nursing along our chigger and tick bites, that we noticed the hummingbirds.

 

 

Hummingbirds hovered right outside our living room windows, because they were feeding from the very tall, lanky Rose of Sharon shrubs blooming there.

The shrubs didn’t look like much, but their individual flowers spread the welcome mat for our community of hummingbirds.

And watching those hummingbirds convinced us we could learn to love this Forest Garden.

This butterfly tree and Crepe Myrtle, volunteers growing along the ravine, normally attract dozens of butterflies each day during the weeks they bloom each summer.

This butterfly tree and Crepe Myrtle, volunteers growing along the ravine, normally attract dozens of butterflies each day during the weeks they bloom each summer.

 

Our decision to not only leave the Rose of Sharon shrubs, but to carefully prune, feed, and nurture all of them on the property marked a shift away from what we wanted to grow for our own purposes, and what we chose to grow as part of a wild-life friendly garden.

August 3, 2014 butterflies 098

After a year or two of frustration and failure, hundreds of dollars wasted, and a catastrophe or two; we realized that we had to adapt and adjust our expectations to the realities of this place.

A dragonfly and Five Line Skink meet on a leaf of Lamb's Ears.

A dragonfly and Five Line Skink meet on a leaf of Lamb’s Ears.  Lamb’s Ears is one of the ornamental plants we grow which is never touched by deer.

 

What had worked in the past became irrelevant as we had to learn new ways to manage this bit of land.

And how to live in a garden filled with animals large and small.

August 3, 2014 butterflies 094

The other major shift in my plant selection has been towards interesting foliage, and away from flowers.

Fig, "Silvre Lyre" and Sage

Fig, “Silvre Lyre” and Sage

 

Although the garden is filled with flowers loved by hummingbirds, butterflies, bees of all sorts, wasps, moths, and who knows what else; the ornamentals we choose for our own pleasure run more towards plants with beautiful and unusual leaves.

 

Huge Cannas and Colocasia chosen as a screen between home and road have interesting leaves.  The Cannas also produce wildlife friendly red flowers.

Huge Cannas and Colocasia chosen as a screen between home and road have interesting leaves.  The Cannas also produce wildlife friendly red flowers.

 

If they produce flowers, those are secondary to the foliage.

There is such a wonderfully complex variety of foliage colors and patterns now available.

 

Begonias in a hanging basket are grown mostly for their beautiful leaves.

Begonias in a hanging basket are grown mostly for their beautiful leaves.

 

And leaves are far more durable than flowers.  While flowers may last for a few days before they fade, leaves retain their health and vitality for many  months.

Begonia foliage

Begonia foliage

 

We enjoy red and purple leaves; leaves with  stripes and spots; variegated leaves; leaves with beautifully colored veins; ruffled leaves; deeply lobed leaves; fragrant leaves; even white leaves.

 

"Harlequin" is one of the few variegated varieties of Butterfly bush.

“Harlequin” is one of the few variegated varieties of Butterfly bush.

 

While all of these beautiful leaves may not have any direct benefit for wildlife- other than cleansing the air, of course –  they do become food now and again.

These Caladiums are supposed to be poisonous, and therefore left alone by deer.... But something ate them....

These Caladiums are supposed to be poisonous, and therefore left alone by deer…. But something ate them….

 

It’s easier to find plants with distasteful or poisonous leaves, than with unappetizing flowers.

Our efforts to grow plants the deer won’t devour may also drive our move towards foliage plants and away from flowering ones.

Scented Pelargoniums offer pretty good protection to plants near them.  This pepper has survived to ripeness.

Scented Pelargoniums offer pretty good protection to plants near them. This pepper has survived to ripeness.

 

Our interests, and our selections, continue to evolve.

Gloriosa Lily, new in the garden this year, is hanging down off of the deck.

Gloriosa Lily, new in the garden this year, is hanging down off of the deck, still out of reach of hungry deer.

 

We choose a few new plants each year to try; and we still seek out a few successful  varieties of annuals each spring and fall.

The garden never remains the same two seasons in a row.

 

Spikemoss is a plant we've just begun using as groudcover in pots and beds.

Spikemoss is a plant we’ve just begun using as ground cover in pots and beds.

 

It is always evolving into some newer, better version of itself.

As I hope we are, as well.

 

August 3, 2014 butterflies 018

Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

 

August 3, 2014 butterflies 105

July Remembered…..

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana

Here we are in the second week of February, with another major winter storm sweeping across the United States.  Every weather forecast sounds more dire, with snow projections rising and temperatures dropping.

Our neighbors to the south, across Georgia, and the Carolinas, are bracing for another blow of winter snow and ice, having just dug out from the storm two weeks ago.  Normally temperatures are moderating for us here in the Southeast by mid-February.

But, we still had leftover snow in Williamsburg until today, sulking in shady spots and parking lots.  We have two fresh bags of ice-melt stacked in the garage, ready for what is apparently on its way.

July 5 garden at sunset 009

It is time to remember July.  It is time to dig out photos of summer flowers and butterflies, green, leafy trees and a garden alive with activity.  Spring feels very far away at the moment, and I just need a reminder of what lies ahead.  Perhaps, you do too.

A volunteer sunflower, growing happily in a pot from, feeds a happy bee.

A volunteer sunflower, growing happily in a pot from, feeds a happy bee.

So here are some of my favorite photos from last July.  I hope you enjoy a brief  “summer vacation” as much as I do, even as we shiver through this very frigid February.

Stay warm! 

“Powerful Stuff,” Epsom Salts

Like most serious gardeners, when I get a little “ding” I generally just keep on going and choose to ignore it.  That’s probably why I have absolutely no idea how I injured my thumb last week.  I get lots of dings between work in the garden and the kitchen.  They almost always heal right up and I stay in motion.

One of the best values of the home pharmacy!

One of the best values of the home pharmacy!

This thumb injury, right where the nail meets the skin, started out that way.  But, I made the cardinal mistake of working outside without gloves over the weekend.  Add in all of the dish washing, and general cleaning up, and I exposed the little nick in my skin to some nasty bacteria somewhere along the way.  It was sore on Saturday, worse on Sunday, but by yesterday it was throbbing as I typed.  And it kept getting worse.

If you’re like me, you do most of your own “doctoring” and avoid the AMA crowd whenever possible.  Trying to remember all of the home remedies for infections, I remembered Epsom Salts.  We try to keep some around all the time because it’s useful for so many things.  Well, I finally found a carton in the garage next to the Plant Tone, covered in cobwebs and potting soil.  Not exactly sterile looking.  The last time I had used it was on the roses in early summer.

The flower bed I reworked and bordered this weekend

The flower bed I reworked and bordered this weekend

Epsom salt, or Magnesium Sulfate, is not really salt at all.  Originally found at a mineral spring in Epsom, Surrey, England; it is a combination of Magnesium and Sulphate, both very healing to the body.  Epsom salt is an extremely versatile crystalline product (probably why it’s called “salts”) which enhances growth, bloom, and general vigor in many types of plants; greens your lawn; kills insects; soothes muscle aches and pains; reduces inflammation; and draws toxins out of the body.  (More uses for Epsom salts here)

By the time I realized that my whole thumb was red and throbbing, it was late in the day yesterday and I had no interest in heading to the store or the urgent care.  A long soak in a bowl of hot water and dissolved Epsom salts finally brought some relief.  Temporary relief that is.

I went on the offensive with mega doses of vitamin C, topical antibiotic cream, and even some colloidal silver; which was the antibiotic of choice before the pharmaceutical industry made so many  specific antibiotics available.  A full assault on the nasty microbes attacking my thumb at least kept the infection from spreading any more, and we got a few hours of sleep here and there.

You can feel the pain draining away during an Epsom salt soak.  Whether we’re talking tired muscles, infected finger, or any of a number of other maladies; Epsom salt is a powerful healing agent.  It can penetrate through the skin, across the cell membranes, to bring healing and draw out toxins.  Soaking for 20 to 30 minutes, every four hours or so, made a huge difference.

Snapdragons from Homestead Garden Center, grown by the Patton family, moved into their new bed on Saturday morning.

Snapdragons from Homestead Garden Center, grown by the Patton family, moved into their new bed on Saturday morning.

Given no other option, the finger might have healed up in a few days with the healing protocol I’d started.   But I’ve read too many stories lately about fast moving infections, and by this afternoon decided to pay the price and get the script.  The doc was great, except for the forceps under the nail to make sure nothing was still lodged there.   AND, she told me that she would have suggested the Epson salts soak had I not already initiated it.  So, with the antibiotic coursing through my system I’m beginning to feel better, but will keep soaking the thumb until at least tomorrow.

Do you have Epsom salts in your pantry?  It is basic equipment for a serious gardener.  It, along with pure water, is as good for the gardener as it is for the garden!

What have I learned from this little misadventure?  It always pays to reflect and tote up the lessons to carry forward.

Newly planted snapdragons

Newly planted snapdragons

1.  Always wear gloves when working in the garden.  Protect the skin from nicks, and the nicks from the nasties in the soil.

2.  Put a clean bandage and an alcohol wipe in the gardening vest, right next to the pocket knife.  I’ve never done that, but will going forward.

3.  Don’t ignore little injuries hoping they’ll go away.  I don’t mean to sound like a wimp, but a little more care on the front end could have prevented this infection.

4.  Spring for two packages of Epsom salts.   Leave one in the garage with the plant foods, but keep another one in the pantry for healing.

Tonight I’m still a nine fingered typist, but managed to get a few photos of the garden before dusk.

Here are Tuesday’s Snapshots from the forest garden.

Stay well, be careful in the midst of all that gardening fun, and keep the first aid kit well stocked!

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Savoring the Sweetness

September 24 2013 garden 034Sometimes I think the bright colors of autumn, we all look so forward to, serve to distract us from what is actually happening.  September 24 2013 garden 003

I sat in the bright, cool morning, under the intensely blue September sky, admiring the Beautyberries and reddening Dogwood leaves, hardly noticing the leaves falling from trees all around me.

A slow walk through the garden is full of tell-tale signs of the approaching winter. September 24 2013 garden 004The butterfly tree is almost bare of flowers now, its bright blue berries disappearing, too, into the mouths of hungry birds. Brown husks where Echinacea bloomed only weeks ago, grasses gone to seed, shriveled leaves on the lawn, and Coreopsis shutting down for the season all hint at the approaching winter chill.

September 24 2013 garden 010Suddenly the Pyracantha berries are turning bright orange, and the inky purple Pokeweed berries with their bright red stems shine along roadside.  We hear the “alarm geese” flying over the house each morning around 7.  The flocks keep sounding larger with each passing week.

A lonely bee is still hanging around the Pentas, Sage, and Coleus.

A lonely bee is still hanging around the Pentas, Sage, and Coleus.

We noticed quite suddenly that the butterflies have disappeared.  It seems only yesterday that they were constant companions on our walks through the garden.  We watched them flying together in wild spirals near the Lantana, covering the butterfly bushes and competing with the hummers for the tastiest blossoms.  Where did they go so suddenly?  And when did it happen?

I was thrilled to find a bee today buzzing from sage blossom to sage blossom, and another on some Pentas.  Where are the rest?  It is as if they all suddenly had their fill of nectar and disappeared, although the buffet of flowers is still generously spread out across the garden for their enjoyment.

Butterfly bush offers its seeds to the hungry birds, its flowers nearly fallen away in the advancing chill of September.

Butterfly Tree offers its seeds to the hungry birds, its flowers nearly fallen away in the advancing chill of September.

Now the garden is quiet, with only the occasional bird call.  Even the grass is growing more slowly.  We hear fewer lawn crews mowing the neighbors’ lawns, and find that our mornings are no longer scheduled around watering, buzzing and mowing.September 12 Parkway 006

It is as if the whole area is breathing a huge sigh of relief.  The humidity has evaporated, and the air is crisp.  Autumn is a restful time as nature begins to shut down and prepare for the silence of winter.  The lush green of summer is dying back to branch and soil, withering to gold and orange, and finally brown, before crumpling to the Earth.  The birds have fewer places to hide.

For so many years of my life I was too busy to notice the slow involution of September.  I was completely engrossed with my classes, whether as student or teacher.  New books to read, fresh syllabi to accomplish, students to learn, classrooms to decorate, stacks of papers and journals to go through, parents to greet, and PTA fundraisers to promote.  By the time I came up for breath summer had already slipped into full orange and brown October.  I missed the quiet beauty of September mornings and this glorious “in between” time as summer makes a graceful exit.

Sept 24 2013 pumpkins 003We bought pumpkins for the front porch today, and a huge Chrysanthemum.  The year progresses in its steady march and continuous change.  I want to savor the sweetness of September a while longer, though.  I’m not quite ready to let go of warm afternoons and the busyness of insects buzzing in the garden, crickets and frogs filling the nights with music, and morning glories in the sharp morning air.  September should be savored, like a delicious Muscadine grape: chewed slowly, tasted thoroughly and appreciated for the delicious and fleeting sweetness it offers.

September 24 2013 garden 020

All Photos by Woodland Gnome

Sept 24 2013 pumpkins 006

Look More Closely…

Sometimes we just need a closer look. Most of us survive by focusing on the big picture.  We’re watching traffic, following world events, planning the next shopping trip, scanning the email.  The minutes of our lives whiz past while our attention is elsewhere.  Sometimes we just need to focus, and breathe. Life is now.  We … Continue reading

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 654 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest