Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

Canna

Canna

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Buddleia, 'Harlequin'

Buddleia, ‘Harlequin’

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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.

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A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

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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.

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Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

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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.

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

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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.

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Hardy Begonia

Hardy Begonia

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz'

Our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz’

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Oxalis blooms here all summer.

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

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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.

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Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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One Word Photo Challenge: Mahogany

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Rich, deeply polished wood comes to mind when I think of “mahogany.”  Dining room tables and chairs dusted each Saturday morning, antique dressers, and cool living rooms arranged on old Asian rugs fill my memories.

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Crepe Myrtle

Crepe Myrtle

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Like chocolate, Brazil nuts, coffee beans and vanilla pods; this shade of dark reddish brown may not be bright, but it is strikingly beautiful.

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

for her One World Photo Challenge: Mahogany

 

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Rain-Glow

Forest Garden in this afternoon's rain.  All of our Crepe Myrtle trees, save one, have come into bloom.

Forest Garden in this afternoon’s rain.   All of our Crepe Myrtle trees, save one, have come into bloom.

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“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Confucius

 

You would never know it was August, here in Williamsburg, without consulting a calender.

We have embarked upon another stretch of cool, moist, overcast days.   It is wonderfully fresh outside.

Good sleeping weather, actually, and we count ourselves fortunate that our garden  remains  well watered without our assistance.

Geranium and ornamental pepper near the door.

Geranium and ornamental pepper  grow near the door.

 

We have enjoyed the garden today, in short bursts, between showers.

How satisfying to see it is growing just as winter’s imagination promised.

 

Begonia

Begonia,  from the Homestead Garden Center

 

Cooler, moister days give us vibrantly deep color in petal and leaf.

Leaves grow into gigantic versions of their springtime selves.

 

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii" just keeps growing to gigantic proportions.  There are also a few "offsets" at the base, nearly ready to dig to share with friends.

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii” just keeps growing to gigantic proportions. There are also a few “offsets” at the base, nearly ready to dig to share with friends.

 

Layer upon layer of life  shimmers with rain-glow today; almost as if we were suddenly transported to the beautiful Northwest, or the magical gardens of the  British Isles, from the view out of the window !

 

Cannas fill in this border nicely, Colocasia, Sages, and Lantana at their feet and Hibiscus behind.

Cannas fill in this border nicely; Colocasia, Sages, and Lantana at their feet and Hibiscus behind.

 

Our hummingbirds have grown plump and sassy.

Every view punctuated with nectar rich flowers, they drink their fill, then pause on a handy branch to survey it all.

And we watch them, and talk to them like pets.

 

Ajuga, Coleus, and Petunias.

Ajuga, Coleus, Ivy, and Petunias.

 

Who knew August could be so lovely in Virginia?

We have been blessed with the sort of comfortable day which finds one reaching for those favorite jeans, a cup of coffee, and a good book.

 

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”

Sir Francis Bacon

 

Autumn "Brilliance" Fern with Creeping Jenny

Autumn “Brilliance” Fern with Creeping Jenny

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

The Blessing of Shade

Hydrangea, Macrophylla

Hydrangea, Macrophylla remains one of my favorite shrubs for shade.  Deer candy, we grow it now in pots on the deck, where it can’t be grazed.

 

A Forest Garden offers the blessing of cool, relaxing shade.

Crepe Myrtle enjoys full sun,, while offering shade to an Ivy Geranium basket and an Asparagus fern.

Crepe Myrtle enjoys full sun  while offering shade to an Ivy Geranium basket and an Asparagus fern.

 

Even on the hottest July day, we step into the refuge of shade, appreciate what breeze there might be,  and gather the energy to continue with whatever tasks come to hand in the rest of the garden.

 

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Our shade here is spotty.  A previous owner cut several large trees, and we have lost several  more to storms.

So the area nearest our home gets more direct sunshine than we’d wish at the height of summer.

A basket of Asparagus fern and Begonia hangs near the house on our back deck.  Normally shaded, here it basks in late afternoon sunshine.

A basket of Asparagus fern and Begonia hangs near the house on our back deck. Normally shaded, here it basks in late afternoon sunshine.

 

The trade off, of course, comes during the rest of the year.

We get solar heating in winter, and we have enough light coming through the windows to grow our garden indoors during the cooler months.

But when it stays consistently hot, for days at a time, we appreciate every bit of shade we have.

 

Colocasia enjoys sun to part shade.  Here it enjoys late afternoon shade from nearby shrubs.

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii”  enjoys sun to part shade. Here it receives  late afternoon shade cast by nearby shrubs.

 

And we enjoy  a variety of plants which grow beautiful leaves and flowers with very little sun.

 

Begonia, "Gryphon" enjoys morning sun and afternoon shade on our front patio.  Recently grazed heavily by deer, it is gfowing a new crop of leaves.

Begonia, “Gryphon” grows well in  morning sun and afternoon shade on our front patio. Recently grazed heavily by deer, it is growing a new crop of leaves.

 

Shade vs. sun is another of the vagaries of gardening.

Very few areas are all one or the other.

 

Many "shade loving" ferns can tolerate more sun than you might expect, when hydrated.  These grow in a bank in partial shade.

Many “shade loving” ferns can tolerate more sun than you might expect, when hydrated. These grow on a bank in partial shade.

 

Most fall somewhere between “part shade” and “part sun” depending on the time of day and time of year.

The very nature of a “forest garden'” also allows for sun to shine through the bare branches of trees during the winter; and the trees’ canopies to catch and use the sunshine all summer, giving shade to the garden below.

 

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Hydrangea Macrophylla. Purchased on sale in a 4″ pot in late spring, this shrub grows happily in a pot on the deck.

 

This can make selecting and siting plants even more challenging.  What may work for a plant in May might be too much sun by August.

A plant which could never survive in a full sun area in June might thrive in the same spot in November.

 

This basket of mixed Begonias and fern hangs in a Dogwood in partial shade. These Begonias are fairly sun tolerant, but we've still had some burned leaves during these last few very hot weeks. This basket needs daily watering when there is no rain.

This basket of mixed Begonias and fern hangs in a Dogwood in partial shade. These Begonias are fairly sun tolerant, but we’ve still had some burned leaves during these last few very hot weeks. This basket needs daily watering when there is no rain.

 

I’ve worked out a fairly successful system over the years to keep shade loving plants happy.

And the secret?  Watering.

 

Caladiums, ferns and Begonias remain my favorite plants for shade.

Caladiums, ferns and Begonias remain my favorite plants for shade.

 

Not really a secret, you’re thinking?  Too obvious?

Probably…. But the secret of frequent watering is frequent observation.

Well hydrated plants can tolerate far more direct sun than dry ones, at least among the shade lovers.

 

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And frequent attention to watering allows changes in a a stressed plant’s position before a condition goes too far.

 

These pots live right "on the edge" of how much sun they can tolerate.  They get full morning sun, and then spend the afternoons in shade.

These  plants live right “on the edge” of how much sun they can tolerate. They get full morning sun, and then spend the afternoons in shade.  Known to be relatively sun-tolerant cultivars of Begonia and Caladium, they still need daily water and watching.

 

In our garden, moving a plant a few feet in one direction or the other can make a tremendous difference in how much sun it receives.

Some need a little more sun to encourage flowering.

Yet too much sun can burn their leaves.  It is a fine balance.

After finding this Staghorn fern on the clearance rack at Lowe's, I was dismayed to read its tag which said, "No direct sun."  Hanging in this Dogwood tree, it gets partial sun each day.  I keep it well watered, and, since May it has doubled in size.

After buying this Kangaraoo fern, Microsorum pustulatum, from the clearance rack at Lowe’s, I was dismayed to read its tag which said, “No direct sun.” Hanging in this Dogwood tree, it gets partial sun each day. I keep it well watered, and, since May it has doubled in size.  You can see a little scorch on some of its leaves, however.

 

Morning sun affects plants differently than mid-day or afternoon sun.  Some plants can thrive in an Eastern exposure which would fry on the Western side of the garden.

Many of our shade lovers live in pots and baskets which  can be moved around as the seasons progress each year.

 

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And we move plants as often as needed to keep them, and us,  happy.

We also practice “layering,” just as nature does.

This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome again.  It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome once again.   It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

 

Shade loving plants can live in hanging baskets hung in trees.  A particularly delicate plant can live underneath another, enjoying shade provided by its companions.

 

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Plants, like people, thrive in communities.

Building a community, where each plant’s needs are met, is an ongoing challenge.

But when it works out well, it multiplies the beauty of the individuals.

 

Can you spot the little Rex Begonia in the midst of the Caladiums and ferns?

Can you spot the little Rex Begonia in the midst of the Caladiums and ferns?

 

You see, a “green thumb” is actually just a matter of attentiveness.  Observation is an honest teacher.

Once a gardener understands a plant’s needs, it is simply a matter of providing the correct amount of light and water, nutrition and protection to allow that plant to grow into its potential for beauty.

 

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And then there is the small blessing of summer shade… for the garden and the gardener.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Linear Beauty

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Lines, arcs, and angles.

The geometry of our world.

As energy coagulates into matter,

 

 

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As electrons choose “particle” over “wave” and

Join their sparks into atoms,

Molecules,

Solids,

To inhabit the world of form;

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The lines are drawn.

Geometry comes from light,

Manifesting life-

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A continuum…. a

>>>   line  >>>

Of unbroken beauty.

 

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Opening

The first every buds opening on a "volunteer" Crepe Myrtle which has finally grown large enough to bloom this season.

The first ever buds opening on a “volunteer” Crepe Myrtle which has finally grown large enough to bloom this season.

Hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into seasons;  as we drift through the unfolding year something new  always opens up for us, even as something spent is crumpling and falling away.

Gardenia

Gardenia

The first week of July, well into the summer, hosts a fresh round of openings and beginnings here in our forest garden.

Buddleia, "Harlequin" has come into bloom.

Buddleia, “Harlequin” has come into bloom this weekend.

Hibiscus and Buddleia, Dill and Crepe Myrtle are all opening and unfolding the first of their flowers at the moment.

The first bud of the season ready to open on our hardy Hibiscus, H. moscheutos moscheutos

The first bud of the season ready to open on our hardy Hibiscus, H. moscheutosJapanese beetles have been active eating its leaves this summer.

I love to find a plant covered in buds; full of potential and beauty, ready to open itself to the garden.

Tiny grapevines have sprouted from the Muscadine seeds I planted last fall.

Tiny grapevines have sprouted from the Muscadine seeds I planted last fall.

 

July, as flower-filled as May in our garden, also offers up an incalculable array of shades and hues of green.

 

Canna, gift from a friend's garden, survived our harsh winter.

Canna, gift from a friend’s garden, survived our harsh winter.

 

When rain has been plentiful, as it is this year, greens are fresh and vibrant.

 

Redbud "volunteer" has grown well this season.  Perhaps next spring it will bloom.

Redbud “volunteer” has grown well this season. Perhaps next spring it will bloom.

Greenness generates the energy needed for growth; and one may almost hear the whispers of unfolding leaves and lengthening stems on a warm summer evening.

 

Joe Pye Weed planted about a month ago is growing well now.

Joe Pye Weed planted about a month ago is growing well now.

Change comes minute upon minute in the garden during deep summer.

Abundant moisture and  constant heat provide the hothouse for outrageous growth.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

Vines stretch and new seeds germinate.

Shrubs magically expand and ferns fill in the open spaces.

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Buds constantly opening fill every breeze with sweetness.

First Crepe Myrtle blooms of the season open on this favorite tree>

First Crepe Myrtle blooms of the season open on this favorite tree>

 

Every part of the garden glows with color.

 

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A garden serves as a reliable text book for life.

 

Fungus are key to opening the fertility of soil to plants.

Fungi  are key to opening the fertility of soil to plants.

 

Lessons trivial and profound are written daily in the sky and soil.

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Pruned hard exactly a year ago, this beautiful old oak shows strong new growth.

 

Every creature and plant is a willing tutor to those who engage with them with mind and heart open to their wisdom.

 

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The changing light weaves a new story each day; a faithful Scheherazade for those who will listen and take pleasure in the tale.

 

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In July, the garden’s theme is abundance and profound love.

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Source is generous with its gifts, nourishing through its fruits, and rich in its beauty.

 

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Nature is ever at work building and pulling down,

creating and destroying,

keeping everything whirling and flowing,

allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion,

chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.

John Muir

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Choosing A Tree For the Garden

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When you’re ready to plant new trees in your garden, how do you choose which kind? 

Most plant catalogs give so little information to help you choose, and their photos are often tiny.    A new tree likely will still be growing in your garden long after you’ve moved on, so it’s important to make a wise selection.

Like choosing a mate, sometimes it’s just a matter of falling in love with a particular plant.  We fall in love with a beautiful Magnolia, which unfolds its delicate flowers in earliest spring, and just want one growing in our garden.

It always pays to look a little beyond love at first sight when making a life-long selection, as most of us have learned by now.  So let me share a few thoughts on how to choose a tree, with which you will fall in love, and also to make a few suggestions for those whose gardens are similar to ours.

Mountain Laurel, a small evergreen tree, blooms each May.  Since every part of it is poisonous, deer leave it alone.

Mountain Laurel, a small evergreen tree, blooms each May. Since every part of it is poisonous, deer leave it alone.  Dogwood to the left just finished blooming in April.

My neighbors and I have lately developed a “love hate” relationship with our trees.  Let me rephrase that for clarity:  a “love-fear” relationship.  We love our trees.  Most of us chose this neighborhood because we love the heavily wooded, shady, beauty of our community.  And yet, we’ve all had fallen trees on our own or a neighbor’s property, and seen our roads blocked and property damaged from storms destroying our trees over the last few years.

We’ve seen how the huge old oaks and beech trees we love all summer for their shade can blow over in an instant during strong storms.  There have been only a few, rare days over the past seven months when we haven’t listened to chainsaws, grinders, blowers, and heavy trucks in our neighborhood as storm damage is cleaned up and tree trimming and removal continues.

We’ve all looked up into the canopies surrounding our homes, wondering which trees are vulnerable in the next high wind.  We’ve looked for dead limbs, leaning trees, and thick canopies which need pruning to survive.

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So the first criteria for any new tree we plant is its mature height.  When you know how tall a tree will grow over the next 20 to 50 years, you know how far to plant it away from your home.

Now, most of us have old trees in our yards which were growing here when the lots were cleared for our homes.  The builders left them, and we’ve loved them all these years.  These are the old oaks, poplars, beech trees and pines falling all around the Williamsburg area.

Any tree planted within 100’ of a home should have a mature height of less than 100’.  Many of our native hardwood trees reach that height, and more.  So we need to check the height of any new tree, and plant it a minimum of that distance away from our roof and driveway.

Most of our trees grew here long before the houses were built, and tower over 100' in their maturity.

Most of our trees grew here long before the houses were built, and tower over 100′ in their maturity.

A second criterion is what material the tree will annually drop, and where that will fall.  Have you ever lived near a mulberry tree?  I love mulberries, and they are beautiful trees.  Birds love them, too, and sit in their branches gorging on mulberries for several weeks each summer.  You know what happens next, don’t you?

White pine trees not only drop their needles each year, but also pine cones and dead branches.  Our native pines grow quite tall, and suffer frequent wind damage.   One always watches the nearby pines swaying in a heavy storm.  I’ve spent many hours at a previous property picking up cones and raking needles to use as mulch.  It is a constant responsibility, and an expensive project to have them trimmed or removed.

Some trees, like Bradford pears, bloom beautifully in early spring, but have weak wood.  They drop branches, they split, and they develop disease.  Once a popular landscaping tree, like the Lombardy Poplar, many have found they are problematic as they age, and have them removed.

Any fruit or nut producing tree will also present a challenge.  One must properly care for the tree and harvest the produce, or be ready to clean up spoiled fruit which falls.  Our garden is filled with fruit and nut trees, and yet we don’t get most of the harvest.  Who does?  The squirrels, who can get through any net, and will strip the tree of peaches and apples before they can ripen.

American Holly surrounded by white pines.

American Holly surrounded by white pines.

Another concern in our neighborhood is the hungry herd of deer, who graze on certain trees and shrubs.  Although we have a list of deer resistant plants which grow in our area, the deer don’t always read the list or heed it.  It is hard to protect certain new plants, even with cages, fences, sprays and any other repellant you can think to try.  We certainly don’t want to plant a tree they like, which will draw them in even more.

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Magnolia, one of the earliest trees to bloom, is rarely touched by deer. An early bloomer in March, this tree gave us bloom again in late summer.

Finally, choose a tree for its beauty.  Whether you want something evergreen, or a tree which transforms with the seasons, choose a tree which you find beautiful.  I love trees which bloom, and later have beautiful fall color.  Some trees have beautiful bark and branches; others have intricate bright leaves all season.

Every tree has some value for wildlife.  It provides shelter, harbors insects the birds will eat, provides spots for nesting, and usually has some sort of berry or seed birds will eat.  Many provide nectar in early spring for bees.  Even so, I favor generally native or naturalized trees over exotics imported from Europe or Asia.  Our native trees are uniquely suited to the vagaries of our climate and they already fit neatly into the forest ecosystem.

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When choosing a tree, remember to consider its fall color and its winter bark and form. Spring blooms are nice, but fall color finishes the season so beautifully.

With all of these criteria in mind, here is my personal “short list” of desirable trees for my Williamsburg forest garden:

Dogwood Cornus florida  This beautiful understory tree thrives in sun to partial shade, and is beautiful every day of the year.  White or pink flowers in April are followed by attractive leaves which turn scarlet in autumn.  Scarlet berries follow the flowers, and winter branches hold the buds for next spring’s flowers.  Graceful and strong, these trees only reach 20’-30’ tall.  Native to Virginia, they manage to survive any grazing deer and have adjusted to our soil and climate.

Magnolia grandiflora This huge, glorious, evergreen tree simply shines every day of the year.  Its large oval leaves are glossy green, and its large white lotus-like blossoms perfume the summer air from May on.  Another native, a Magnolia demands space.  It can dominate a yard as it spreads its long branches to cover a space 30’ to 40’ across.  It may eventually reach a height of 90’ or more.  This is an exceptionally strong tree, wonderful for children to climb, and rarely seen blown over in our summer winds.

Figs are the only fruit tree on my short list, because the fruit is able to ripen without getting eaten by the critters.

Figs are the only fruit tree on my short list, because they are beautiful, andthe fruit is able to ripen without getting eaten by the squirrels or deer.

Deciduous Magnolia species.  There are many other species of Magnolia which bloom in early spring before their leaves unfurl.  Most of these species originated in Asia.  Magnolia soulangiana, or tulip Magnolia, blooms in shades of pink, purple, white and yellow.  This is one of the most beautiful trees in the spring garden, and one of the earliest to bloom.  Trees are very graceful, with beautiful bark and branches.  They rarely grow over 30’.

A young Magnolia grandiflora grows in the shade of pines.

A young Magnolia grandiflora grows in the shade of pines.

Holly Our native holly, Ilex opaca, is one of many beautiful evergreen hollies which grow well in our gardens.  Although deer have grazed hybrid holly plants just home from the nursery, the native holly survives the deer.  Beautiful red berries cover the female plants all winter.  If planting, make sure to purchase at least one male holly plant for every 5 to 6 female plants.  Rare specimens will eventually grow to more than 40’ or so, with a spread of around 20’.  Another understory tree, holly prefers full sun, but can grow in partial shade.

Live Oak  Quercus virginiana The live oak, another graceful, spreading, evergreen tree; is known for its enormously strong wood.  At one time, the US Navy maintained oak forests to produce wood for ships.  These lovely oaks will reach maybe 60’ over many years, in exceptionally good growing conditions.  But live oaks usually grow wider than they are tall.  Their branches often droop down to nearly touch the ground before growing up towards the sky again.  It is extremely rare for a live oak, one of the strongest trees, to suffer wind damage unless hit by a tornado.  These trees host many other species of plant along their branches, to include mosses, ferns, and ivy.  They provide shelter for wildlife and produce acorns each autumn.

There are over 90 species of oak native to the United States. Most will reach 60’-80’, or more. As much as I love oak trees, all four of the trees we’ve had fall, destroying other trees as they fell, were oaks.  Most species grow very tall and develop thick canopies each summer, which can catch a strong wind like a sail.   When they fall in a storm, a huge portion of roots is also torn out of the ground, leaving a huge, deep hole, with roots 12′-15′  up in the air. For these reasons, I’d be very cautious about planting an oak, and make sure it was planted far enough from the house to not hit if it falls 50 years from now.

Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

Birch Birch trees, small to medium sized with beautiful bark, are native to many different temperate regions around the planet.  There are some native birch species, but many imports from Europe and Asia naturalize easily.  Strong wood, graceful habit, and good fall color make these a beautiful choice.

Maple There are hundreds of varieties of maple, native to many temperate regions around the planet.  Although some species grow quite large, many smaller, and even dwarf species are on the market.  Maples are known for their beautiful foliage.  Many Asian species have red, purple, or even variegated leaves all summer.  Maples are deciduous, have love bark, and are very healthy trees.

White Crepe Myrtles front the Kingspoint Clubhouse property.

White Crepe Myrtles bloom from July through September.  They rarely suffer any damage from wind or grazing deer.

Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, though not native in Virginia, have naturalized here easily.  These beautiful trees cover themselves in flowers from early July to September.  Generally small trees, they have beautiful bark, fall color, and rarely suffer damage in the wind.

Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia is really more shrub than tree.  Rarely will it grow beyond 12’ high in our area.  Evergreen, with beautiful flowers in early summer, it grows in dense clumps, often on hillsides and along riverbanks.  Native to Virginia, it is never grazed by the deer because it is poisonous.  All parts of this lovely shrub with its twisted trunks and branches are poisonous.  It is a good alternative here to Azaleas, which the deer devour.

The Eastern Red Bud tree is a bright addition to the early spring garden.  These long-lived trees bloom with the early daffodils.

The Eastern Red Bud tree is a bright addition to the early spring garden. These long-lived trees bloom with the early daffodils.

Fig Ficus cariga The one fruit bearing tree which makes it to my list is the fig.  Most of my fig trees produce green or golden fruit, which generally survive to ripen, and for us to pick and enjoy.  The figs don’t fall on the ground or attract insects, and are rarely bothered by deer or squirrels.  Fig trees tend to grow broad and stand up to the wind fairly well.  Huge, beautiful leaves cover the fig all summer, and its form is beautiful when the leaves have dropped.  Many different species, with different colors of fruit and overall tree size are available.  Figs can be grown in large pots or in the ground, and most are hardy in our climate.

Pomegranate ripening

Pomegranate ripening.  Not on my list of 10, but a good tree in our garden.

So here is my personal list of ten trees I would choose to plant, knowing what I know now about this acre garden in coastal Virginia.  If I had to whittle this list down to one tree to recommend to anyone in my neighborhood, it would be our native Dogwood.  Small enough to fit any of our yards, it can tolerate shade and still bloom each spring.  Neat, strong, hardy, and beautiful throughout the year, it is the state tree of Virginia.

Dogwood leaves and berries turn criimson in Autumn.  This photo from the first week of November.

Dogwood leaves and berries turn crimson in Autumn. This photo from the first week of November.

I hope you are looking at your garden, and thinking about whether you will plant a new tree this year.  A gift yourself, a gift to your garden, and a gift to the planet; I know of no greater gesture of optimism and love.

Which beautiful trees will plant in your garden this spring?

Dogwood tree in April

Dogwood tree in April

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.”

 Confucius

Deer Resistant Plants Which Grow in Our Neighborhood

Bringing Birds to the Garden

What’s There to Eat?

More Tree Wisdom

Pruning

Winter Pruning

december 15 2013 Santas 008

When winter days turn warmish and dry in the afternoon, many of us like to get outside and do some small thing in the garden.

This is the perfect time to begin pruning hardwood trees and shrubs to shape them up for the coming season.  Why prune at all?

Pruned shrubs have put on new growth and buds by mid-May.

Pruned shrubs have put on new growth and buds by mid-May.

– Improve the plant’s shape and general appearance

-Control the plant’s size

-Improve the plant’s health

-Increase the plant’s vigor and bloom in the coming season

This little Crepe Myrtle put on a lot of growth after its June damage in a storm.  Now is the time to prune and shape the new growth.

This little Crepe Myrtle put on a lot of growth after its June damage in a storm. Now is the time to prune and shape the new growth.  Much of the new, twiggy growth needs to go so energy is channeled into growing a new structure for this tree.

Many small trees, like Crepe Myrtle and Rose of Sharon, produce lots of chaotic, twiggy growth during the summer season.  With the leaves gone, we can take a moment to examine each one and determine what to leave and what to prune.

Before pruning any flowering shrub, please make sure you know whether it blooms on old wood left from the previous season, or on new wood.  Shrubs like Forsythia, Azalea, Hydrangea, and Lilacs set buds for the coming spring blooms during the previous autumn.  Any late winter pruning removes the branches set to bloom in the coming spring.  A hard pruning will sacrifice that season’s bloom.

The same Crepe Myrtle, after pruning.

The same Crepe Myrtle, after pruning.

An unpruned shrub is a confusing mass of little twigs and larger branches.  Before making the first cut, take a few moments to study the plant.  Look for its structure; the  main skeleton which gives it shape and form.  If you are new to pruning, take photos of the plant and spend some time studying them on your computer before making any pruning cuts.  As you examine the plant you’ll begin to see what should be left behind to support the new season’s growth.

Here are the general things to consider before beginning to prune any woody plant:

Size:  Is this plant at its mature size?  If a plant is still growing into itself, you want to help it develop a strong structural skeleton of branches.  Consider whether you want one main trunk with side  branches, a main trunk which forks and bushes out into several main branches as it gets taller, or whether you want a clump of main stems which branch out into a large canopy of branches.

Roses respond to pruning with abundant bloom on new wood.  These English shrub roses don't require the same hard pruning a tea rose requires.

Roses respond to pruning with abundant bloom on new wood. These English shrub roses don’t require the same hard pruning a tea rose requires.

Any time you cut the tip off of a branch, you will activate the buds lower on the branch so they grow into new lateral branches.  If you cut the tip off of a main vertical stem, two, three, or more new man stems will grow from the buds below that cut in the coming year.  A “fork” will develop, multiplying your one main stem into several.  The canopy will grow broader.

Crepe Myrtle will "sucker" with new vertical growth around the main stem.  Remove this new growth to grow a single trunk.  Leave only a few strong stems to grow as a clump.

Crepe Myrtle will “sucker” with new vertical growth around the main stem. Remove this new growth to grow a single trunk. Leave only a few strong stems to grow as a clump.

If you want to keep a clumping shrub, like Crepe Myrtle, to a single trunk; remove the new smaller vertical growth coming from the base.  If you want a ‘ clump”, remove all but the strongest few vertical stems.

If grazing deer attack your garden, as they do mine, remember to “limb up” trees as they grow so the lowest limbs are too high for the deer to reach.
This is especially important if you have any fruit trees, so tasty leaves and fruits are out of reach.  If you don’t do it, deer are attracted to graze in your garden and will do the pruning for you…

Thin Rose of Sharon, and remove seed heads at the ends of branches any time now through early March.  These shrubs bloom on new wood, so light pruning increases the number of blooms.

Thin Rose of Sharon, and remove seed heads at the ends of branches any time now through early March. These shrubs bloom on new wood, so light pruning increases the number of blooms.

Density:  Most shrubs and small trees need light to penetrate through the canopy to the interior of the shrub.  Keeping the branch structure somewhat open will increase flowering and improve the plant’s health.  Air circulation allows the plant to dry faster after a rain, reducing fungal disease.  An open structure allows strong winds to pass right through, limiting damage in storms.

Remove branches growing towards the plant’s interior.  Keep all lateral branches growing outward towards the periphery.

Where branches cross, select one to keep and one to remove.  Don’t leave branches touching one another, or crossing in the interior of the shrub.

January 1 2014 Parkway 005

Very old, and damaged trees and shrubs might need heavy pruning. All damage and dead wood should be removed, then the remaining branches thinned. In extreme cases rejuvenate by cutting the tree down to a stump. New growth will come from the stump in most cases.

Where many tiny twiggy branches have grown, especially on a vertical stem, remove all but a few strong ones placed where you want new branches.  If the shrub is small, and these twiggy branches are close to the ground, you can safely remove them all.  Remove up to a third of the wood on most small trees and shrubs.

If a shrub must be pruned to keep it smaller than its natural size to fit its spot in the garden, keep in mind that every cut stimulates new growth.   Cut the main vertical stems shorter than you want the plant to be by mid-summer, since the pruning cut will stimulate new vertical growth.

This Josee Lilac is still young and requires little or no pruning.  Its buds are set in autumn and should be pruned in early summer after its first bloom.  Removing spent blossoms will cause it to rebloom several times during the summer.

This Josee Lilac is still young and requires little or no pruning. Its buds are set in autumn and so it should be pruned in early summer after its first bloom. Removing spent blossoms will cause it to rebloom several times during the summer.

It is better to remove a branch all the way back to a main stem than it is to “head it back” part way, unless you intend to stimulate new lateral branches.  If you prune off the tip, all of the buds below the tip are activated to give new branches.

Appearance:  Remove any branch or stem which is obviously dead.  Cut back any broken or damaged branches to an inch or so below the damage.  Remove or head back any branch which ruins the silhouette of the plant, or conflicts with the general lines and shape you have established.

“Dead head” seed heads left from last year’s flowers.  Remember that when you cut back a branch, you stimulate growth of new wood, and therefore new spots where flowers will emerge.

Butterfly bush, Buddhleia, blooms on new wood.  Cut the plants hard, within a foot or two of the ground, to control the shrub's size and get abundant bloom.  This shrub will continue to bloom until frost if you cut the dead flowers away throughout the summer.

Butterfly bush, Buddleia, blooms on new wood.  Cut the plants hard, within a foot or two of the ground, to control the shrub’s size and get abundant bloom. This shrub will continue to bloom until frost if you cut the dead flowers away throughout the summer.

A fine point:  Examine a branch before making the pruning cut.  Notice the tiny buds along the branch.  Choose the bud you want to stimulate to grow and make the pruning cut just above it.

January 9 pruning 007

Notice three new stems are left in addition to the original trunk of this Crepe Myrtle tree, cut off when the tree was crushed in June. I could remove all of these, but left them to form a clump to eventually hide the damage. Notice how little wood is left after pruning. All of the plant’s energy will pour into these branches in spring, and the tree will grow by several feet in the coming season.

Notice the buds are positioned all around the circumference of the branch.  Some point inwards, others outwards.  Choose a bud growing in the direction you wish the dominant new branch to grow, and cut just above this bud.  Make a diagonal, angled cut just a millimeter or so above the chosen bud.

Your newly pruned plant will look very clean and open when you are finished.  Remember this is just the plant’s skeleton.  Spring will clothe these branches not only in leaves, but also in new wood.  The shrub will fill out very quickly through spring and early summer.  Vigorous new growth is a hormonal response to pruning.  A pruned plant will actually grow larger and more vigorous in the following season.

Exceptions to the rules:

Some shrubs, such as Butterfly Bush, want to be cut back nearly to the ground.  Use heavy pruners or a small saw to cut the entire plant back to only a foot or two tall.  This is called “coppicing,” and this form of pruning is used to rejuvenate many species of shrub and tree.  New growth from the remaining trunk will be fresh and vigorous.  Butterfly Bush often grows too large for its space, and flower production declines when it is left unpruned or is pruned too lightly.  Do this in late winter, but after the worst of the freezing weather is over.

Forsythia buds were set by late autumn.  Winter pruning removes the spring flowers.  If you must trim a Forsythia back in winter, save the branches to force blooms inside in a vase of water.

Forsythia buds were set by late autumn. Winter pruning removes the spring flowers. If you must trim a Forsythia back in winter, save the branches to force blooms inside in a vase of water.

Roses are often coppiced.  Tea roses respond well to hard winter pruning, giving more blossoms on the newly grown wood.  Climbing roses and
English shrub roses shouldn’t be pruned so hard.  Shaping, removing dead or damaged wood and crossed branches are all that is required.  An old, thick rose may be rejuvenated by pruning up to a third of the older stems back to just above the bud union.  Younger plants don’t require such drastic treatment.

Spring blooming shrubs, like Forsythia, should be pruned in late spring, after they bloom.  If you do tidy up a Forsythia with light pruning in late winter, bring the pruned branches inside in a vase of water and enjoy them indoors as cut flowers.  I’ve had these forced branches eventually form roots, and have planted them outside where they grew into new shrubs.  All woody spring blooming shrubs can be forced to bloom early indoors in this way.  If you have fruit trees to prune, you might want to bring some of the branches indoors, in a vase of water, to enjoy their early blossoms.

Beauty Berry responds well when it is pruned hard in winter with abundant summer growth and flowers, followed by autumn berries.

Beauty Berry responds well when it is pruned hard in winter with abundant summer growth and flowers, followed by autumn berries.

Tools:  There are many brands and styles of hand pruners on the market.  Choose pruners which feel comfortable in your hand, have a sharp blade, and are sturdy enough to trim the shrubs you need to prune.

Keep the pruners cleaned by disinfecting the blade from time to time, and keep them sharp.  Ragged or torn cuts allow disease to enter a stem.  Make sure your pruners make clean, sharp cuts.  Use loppers or a pruning saw for larger branches.

Gather your cut branches on a tarp on in a large bag and remove them from the garden.  There are many traditional uses for larger branches.  Some may be used to build trellises, small fences, stakes, or may be used in building a raised bed.

Grape Mahonia shrubs need no pruning at all.  Their winter flowers will open sometime in the next month.  These shrubs remain compact and neat.

Grape Mahonia shrubs need no pruning at all. Their winter flowers will open sometime in the next month. These shrubs remain compact and neat.

Use or dispose of all your trimmings.  Just leaving them lying about on the ground encourages disease and insects.

Pruning can be done a little at a time over the next two months in Zone 7b.  Further north, it pays to wait until February or March so plants aren’t stimulated to grow too soon.  Further south, pruning is an ongoing task in the garden.  Winter allows us to see the bones of our gardens, and the structure of our plants.  It is a good time to shape, refine, and lay the ground work for the garden we will enjoy this coming spring.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

Sumac berries are still an important food source for wildlife.  However, cut away the old to make way for new growth by early spring.

Sumac berries are still an important food source for wildlife. However, cut away the old to make way for new growth by early spring.

Planning That Happy New (Gardening) Year

December 28, 2013 garden 032

Spring gardening catalogs started showing up in my mailbox this week.  In fact, I believe the first arrived on Christmas Eve.  The new Burpee catalog features a huge; I mean pumpkin sized, beefsteak tomato lovingly cradled in the gardener’s hands.

Our Lantana bed remains full of hungry birds much of the day.

Our Lantana bed remains full of hungry birds much of the day.

It is Saturday, and I’m itching to work on my garden, even if the temperature is still hovering in the low 40s out there.  Actually, my partner just changed to mucking shoes and headed out the door.

Here we sit firmly between Christmas and the New Year.  The tree is still up, but I’m definitely feeling the fresh breeze of welcoming in a new year, and a new gardening season.

The cane Begonias, and even some Caladiums, are quite happy with their spot inside.

The cane Begonias, and even some Caladiums, are quite happy with their spot inside.

Even as I gather the last of the wrappings and packaging for the recycling bin my eye is on that little stack of catalogs.  My mind is turning to what will soon fill the pots emptied by our frosts and freezes.

This morning we took time to water all of the plants living inside and gather up the fallen leaves.  We’re happy to see the Bouganvillea, which first dropped its rose pink flowers, and then dropped most of its leaves on the living room floor, breaking out with a new crop of leaves to carry it into the spring.  As they grow out its sharp spines look extra dangerous, and it commands tremendous respect.

Jewel orchid ready to burst into bloom

Jewel orchid ready to burst into bloom

There are at least three orchids throwing out flower buds.  The Jewel Orchid, with its burgundy, silver, and striped leaves will soon cover itself in long spikes covered in creamy white flowers.

Several of moth orchids have buds swelling and will give us many weeks of their delicate lavender and pink flowers in late winter.

Moth orchid

Moth orchid

Many of our cane Begonias are in full bloom.  We are fortunate to get light from many directions, and so keep the plants happy most of the time.  Caladiums are in leaf, ferns throwing out new fronds, and the Philodendrons all have new leaves emerging.  So far so good on keeping everyone alive through the winter!

But, winter it is.  And will be, here, for many weeks to come.  Our local garden centers are enjoying a long break now, and have only the barest bit of leftover stock.  We can look forward to freezing nights for at least another 15 weeks.

Our very happy Christmas cactus, and an olive tree surviving its first winter.

Our very happy Christmas cactus, and an olive tree surviving its first winter.

So, what is a gardener to do while waiting for spring?

Here is a bit of a beginning of a list.  It isn’t all inclusive.  My mind is still in recovery from the holidays.  But here are a few reminders to carry us through January, at the least.

1.  Keep the houseplants groomed and watered.  Wipe off leaves when they get dusty and remove those old ragged looking leaves.  New ones will soon follow to replace them. Deadhead faithfully after flowering to encourage new blooms.  Give those which will bloom all winter a drink of dilute fertilizer every other week, and turn the pots from time to time to encourage even growth.

This poor geranium won't come back after our hard freezes.  It is time to cut it back, along with all other frost damaged foliage.

This poor geranium won’t come back after our hard freezes. It is time to cut it back, along with all other frost damaged foliage.

2.  Cut back and remove the remains of any frozen herbs and annuals.  It’s time now to tidy up.  Perennials destroyed by frost can be left a few more weeks to give food and shelter to the garden birds and to protect the plants’ roots.

3.  Take a good look around and plan changes to the garden.  Now that you can really see the bones, plan any new spring projects.  Will there be new raised beds?  Any changes in the lines of existing beds?  Will there be new pathways, arbors, walls, ponds, or patios to build?  January is a good time to take photos, make sketches, read gardening books, read articles online, and plan out purchases for the necessary materials.

This cane Begonia lives happily inside, just a few feet from where it summered on the deck.

This cane Begonia lives happily inside, just a few feet from where it summered on the deck.

4.  At the same time, plan what you want to grow in the year ahead.  Will you focus on vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs, or shrubs?  Do you want to add any trees to the garden?  Will you repeat your 2013 garden, or try some new crops?  Are you growing enough of your own food?  Do you want to attract more wild life?  Do you need more areas of shrubs and perennials which look after themselves?

Now  we get to enjoy the catalogs.  There is a lot to learn about new introductions, cultivars of old favorites, and cultural requirements of unusual plants in the nursery catalogs.  I always learn useful things by reading them carefully.  I’m also inspired to try new combinations of plants, and perhaps shift to new colors in the new season.

5.  Develop shopping lists for new purchases.  This is where self-discipline is required.  I have spent dozens of winters reading gardening catalogs, making lists of what I want to grow.  This can be a very expensive hobby, and I’ve learned to let those lists sit for days, if not weeks, before ever making an order.

I waited months between wanting an Edgeworthia and finally planting this one.  After several trees fell in summer storms, I had the right spot to plant it.

I waited months between wanting an Edgeworthia and finally planting this one. After several trees fell in summer storms, we  finally had the right spot to plant it.

Truth is, there just isn’t the right spot for a lot of the plants on my “want” list.  Especially after working with a garden for a few years, there isn’t room for many new plants.  One also learns what not to plant in a particular garden because the conditions aren’t suitable.

So the wish list made in January needs serious editing before purchases are made closer to spring.  Another reason to love January, when everything seems possible.

6.  Build and improve the soil.

Although Camellias grow well in our garden, it is a constant struggle to protect new plantings from the deer.  Daffodils have begun to peak out of the soil at the base of this little shrub, and it is ready for a topdressing of fresh compost..

Although Camellias grow well in our garden, it is a constant struggle to protect new plantings from the deer. Daffodils have begun to peak out of the soil at the base of this little shrub, and it is ready for a topdressing of fresh compost.

If you’ve been gardening more than a season you know good soil makes the difference in the vitality of your plants.  Plant in poor or compacted soil and your plant will struggle and eventually die.  Plant in a well prepared bed, and the same plant will grow huge and productive.

Good gardeners feed their soil.  Spread all of those coffee grounds and tea leaves on your garden beds.  Dilute left over brewed coffee or tea and use it to water, or pour over frozen beds.  Rinse and crush egg shells to use as mulch where slugs are a problem, or where more calcium is needed.  Continue to chop up fallen leaves and spread them under shrubs or on perennial beds.  Save cardboard and newspaper to spread on the ground where you plan to create new beds this spring.  Not only will they kill the grass underneath, but they will attract earthworms, and enrich the soil as they decompose.

This crepe myrtle, which sent out lots of new growth after getting flattened by our fallen oaks, needs pruning now.  We will remove most of these new branches, sending the plant's energy into a few strong leaders which will form the new structure of the tree.

This crepe myrtle, which sent out lots of new growth after getting flattened by our fallen oaks, needs pruning now. We will remove most of these new branches, sending the plant’s energy into a few strong leaders which will form the new structure of the tree.

7.  Prune hardwood shrubs and trees.  Now that you can see the plant’s structure, remove extra branches.  Limb the plant up to reveal its trunk.  Head back laterals to encourage branching, especially on fruit bearing trees.  Remove any crossed limbs, and prune deciduous shrubs to control their size.  I’ll be working on my Rose of Sharon and Crepe Myrtle shrubs soon.  It is still a little early to work the roses, as they will try to send out new growth during warm spells; but I’ll tackle them by early February.

A final word of caution: If you are a gardening addict, as am I; the growing pile of glossy garden catalogs is heady temptation.  The photos are just exquisite, the plants so healthy and alluring.  I want to grow them all.

A favorite Begonia, which bloomed all summer, continues on into the winter indoors.  Fertilize to keep winter blooms coming.

A favorite Begonia, which bloomed all summer, continues on into the winter indoors. Fertilize to keep winter blooms coming.

But, I’ve learned, that what comes in the mail once you’ve ordered bears little resemblance to the photo.   Although some companies now send living starts, plugs as they’re called, many others still send “bare root” plants, bulbs, seeds, or tubers.

If you are patient, and skilled, you can eventually grow this pitiful beginning into a lovely plant.

Ajuga, commonly offered in winter plant catalogs, is always sold at garden centers in spring.  By waiting, you'll get a healthy clump of living plants ready to grow and bloom, at a similiar, or lower, price.

Ajuga, commonly offered in winter plant catalogs, is always sold at garden centers in spring. By waiting, you’ll get a healthy clump of living plants ready to grow and bloom, at a similiar, or lower, price.

Please notice the “if.”  I’ve done it, you may have done it.  But why go through the effort if you can buy a healthy, similarly priced plant at your local garden center later into the spring?

In fact, I’ve found better, bigger plants of the same variety, at a lower price, at the correct time for planting; by waiting to shop my garden center.

Which brings us to my last suggestion for winter gardening:

Violas are a specialty of the Homestead Garden Center here in Williamsburg.  They grow thousands of plants each autumn.

Violas are a specialty of the Homestead Garden Center here in Williamsburg. They grow thousands of plants each autumn.

8.  Shop your local garden center.  I’m not talking “big box store” here.  The locally owned, family run garden centers aren’t getting much business between Christmas and Easter.  It is a slim time for them, and your business means a lot.  Even if you just stock up on some fertilizer, a few new tools, maybe some fresh pots or baskets; buy something.

It is also a great time to shop for deals and establish a relationship.  If you take the time to chat with the folks who run your local garden center you will learn a great deal.  They are experts at gardening in your area.  Then, later, when you want to ask whether or not they will carry that particular variety you’re shopping for, you will know who to ask.  And chances are good that they know you, and will do their best to order it.

Ivy shines on winter days.  Remember to walk around and enjoy the winter garden.

Ivy shines on winter days. Remember to walk around and enjoy the winter garden.

So please pour another glass of Eggnog, if you enjoy it; or a more inspiring beverage if you don’t.  Settle into that warm and cozy chair with a stack of gardening books and catalogs as the sun sets in late afternoon for a few more frozen weeks.

It’s time to dream that New Year’s garden into reality.

December 28, 2013 garden 029My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.  H. Fred Dale

In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.  Robert Brault

Gardens are a form of autobiography.  Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

December 28, 2013 garden 021

Bare

December 4 garden 015

There is a special beauty in the form and structure of a bare tree after it has dropped its annual crop of leaves.  Like the beauty of a classical statue, one can see the truth of its bones.  Leaves, for all of their movement and color, veil the beauty of branches and buds.

Looking at a bare tree is a study in pure potential. 

Sycamore with seed pods

Sycamore with seed pods

All of the life drawn inwards to the wood and roots as it prepares itself to weather another season of freezing cold and winter storms.  It has strengthened itself without becoming brittle.  It has released its sheaf of ice and snow catching leaves which would weight it and break it in winter’s icy winds.

Isn’t it ironic that as we add layer upon woolen and fleecy layer to weather winter’s worst days, the trees are shedding their summer garb to survive the months ahead?December 5 2013 DOG St 060  Left to themselves, the leaves gather and drift into brown and crinkled blankets, insulating and nourishing their own roots.

And those roots hold the life of the tree and promise of another spring.  No matter if branches break or get pruned.  Life will flow again in the rising sap to grow back and grow more than ever before.  The buds of new life are forming even during the seeming sleep of winter.  Look closely, and you’ll see those buds swelling on every twig.

Dogwood covered in buds for spring's flowers.

Dogwood covered in buds for spring’s flowers.

Now we return to the season of lacy silhouette, drawn against the ever changing skies.  Perfect algorithms of division and multiplication reveal themselves.  Each family of tree revealing its own peculiar geometry and idiosyncratic proofs and promise of the coming season’s growth.

Seed pods, nuts, fruits, and cones still clinging to twigs guard the seeds of another generation in wait; suspended between autumn and spring; each containing the entire blueprint of the whole encrypted in microscopic perfection.

Like Jonah, many must first be swallowed into the belly of a beast before seeing light, again, and a chance for germination.December 5 2013 DOG St 070

Those  who know Pirsig understand this blurring of science and art; philosophy and living technology.

The world is not one or another.  It is all.  Only in sensing the all do we begin to understand its poetry of perfection.

This is a tale to unravel in winter, when all is revealed to those who look with wonder and understanding.dec 2 2013 parkway 021

-Woodland Gnome

The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do.”

Robert M. Pirsig

“The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha – which is to demean oneself.”

Robert M. Pirsig

 

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

November 30 Parkway 021

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