Sunday Dinner: Provision

July 27, 2016 morning garden 077

~

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches

is that our relationship to the planet

need not be zero-sum,

and that as long as the sun still shines

and people still can plan and plant,

think and do, we can, if we bother to try,

find ways to provide for ourselves

without diminishing the world. ”

.

Michael Pollan

~

July 27, 2016 morning garden 072~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Bright and Beautiful

Forsythia

Forsythia

~

The garden looks bright and beautiful today with golden October sunshine on our colorful leaves.

~

Dogwood

Dogwood

~

We are still on the early side of the transition here, with many trees still green.  Others have a halo of color along their silhouette, or sport leaves with mottled color.  We enjoy the beautiful transition from green to bold before they brown and blow away.

~October 23, 2015 trees 024

~

We enjoy colorful foliage throughout the season, and select plants for the garden with interesting and colorful leaves.

~

October 23, 2015 trees 031

~

Some of these, like purple sage, will remain unchanged as winter approaches.

~

This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

~

I’ve read several articles this week about winter gardens.  While we don’t have much man made architecture, we enjoy the living sculpture of deciduous trees, hollies, Camellias, and a few conifers.  We have added many shrubs for winter interest in the garden during our short time here, and now many of them have begun to grow into their promise.  Our Hellebores are spreading and we have added many evergreen ferns.

~

Camellias growing through Dogwood

Camellias growing through Dogwood

~

I catch myself imagining what the garden will look like after the frosts cut back the tender growth in a few weeks.  Some of our new Camellias are now covered with buds.  But they are hidden behind Cannas and other leaves at the moment.  It won’t be long until they come back into view, shining in the winter sunshine.

~

October 23, 2015 trees 028

~

Yesterday was Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day.  I’ve been taking photos of our beautiful leaves all week, focusing on the special beauty of our forest garden now, in late October.

~

October 18k, 2015 extraordinary 019

~

We are blessed with many interesting trees and shrubs in our garden.  Most have been here now for decades, but we have planted several dozen more.  We love their foliage, their bark, their flowers, and the shade they give.  We enjoy the variety of birds who visit to eat their berries, feed on insects living in them, and find shelter in their branches.

~

October 18k, 2015 extraordinary 015

~

A friend, who understands my love for trees, gave me an article last night written by an English gardener who has experienced the loss of Ash and other trees to various pests and diseases around  in the English countryside.  She wrote poignantly about how trees give us a sense of place.  They define our familiar landscapes.  They create our beautiful spaces which make us feel ‘at home.’

~

American Holly

American Holly

~

While every tree has a lifespan, most live much longer than do we humans.  We expect the trees of our lives to live on past us.  We know that most mature trees were here long before we were born.  We see them as stalwart and as a fixture of our lives we may depend upon.

It is always a bit shocking when one comes down in a storm or dies of a blight.  It is heartbreaking when wildfires claim them.

~

Leyland Cypress

Leyland Cypress

~

The author spoke about our rapidly changing landscapes, and how our children and grandchildren may grow accustomed to losing trees and forests; seeing meadows developed into shopping centers; and wooded areas cut for subdivisions in a way earlier generations have not.  When we lose our landscape, we lose something of our sense of place, our feeling of familiarity and ‘home.’

Our community in particular, and the east coast of the United States in general, have lost many beautiful old trees in recent years during storms.  A friend lost more than two dozen of her mature trees during a hurricane a few years back.  You could play softball in her front yard now, which once was like an arboretum.  We’ve lost so many trees to storms that many neighbors call in crews to simply cut those trees near their homes, before they can fall on a car or deck, or worse.

~

October 14, 2015 Camellias 026

~

While I understand their fears, I mourn for the lost trees.   And so we plant, and nurture as many of the volunteers as we can allow to grow.

~

Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

~

And each autumn, we celebrate our beautiful trees.  If you have lost trees in recent years, I hope you have planted new ones to replace those you lost.

There are many beautiful choices available now.  Many of the newer trees have disease resistance, improved foliage, and other desirable qualities.  And this is the perfect time to plant new trees across much of the United States.  It is a gesture of love; a gesture of faith, and a gesture of hope for a beautiful future.

~

Our newly planted Magnolia tree will look beautiful next spring.

Our newly planted Magnolia stellata tree will look beautiful next spring.

~

You might enjoy visiting Christina to see her beautiful garden in the Hesperides in its October glory.  She has done quite a bit of renovation this year, and it is lovely now that her new plants have settled in.  You’ll find links to many other beautiful gardens from around the world.  We can draw ideas and inspiration from them all.

~

October 23, 2015 trees 040~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

October 23, 2015 trees 036

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

May 20, 2015 garden 014

~

After our unusually long and cold winter, we’ve been concerned about which plants survived and which plants didn’t.  We’ve been making the rounds of the garden for weeks now looking for signs of life from plants which normally survive winter here just fine, but have not yet leafed out this spring.

There is an ancient Jasmine vine which has grown along the railing by our kitchen door for decades.  Much of it died back over the winter of 2014, but somehow came back with new growth by last summer.  Blooms were scarce, but it survived.  We are still watching for signs of life from that Jasmine vine this spring; watching for a single green leaf to show us it is still alive.

Our potted Hydrangeas suffered as well.  I believe they began to bud too early and were hit by a late freeze.  I check every few days for a sign of new growth from the roots.

One thing the garden teaches us is that dormant is not dead.   Many plants simply need a rest to gather their strength to grow again.

~

May 20, 2015 garden 013

~

Deciduous trees rest from autumn until earliest spring, when their buds swell and eventually open into new leaves.  We learn their rhythm early on in life, if we live in a region which has winter, and trust the process.

But what happens when things don’t go as expected?  What happens when it takes weeks longer than we think it might for those first leaves to show?

Most years our figs are quite leafed out by now.  But they have taken a hit of cold for two winters running.  Huge old trees have stood starkly naked all through spring and into this stretch of early summer heat.

~

May 20, 2015 garden 012~

And now one by one, we are finding signs of life.  For some, new shoots are appearing directly from the roots.  Others have budded on trunks and branches, tiny leaves finally emerging into the warmth of May.

There are two potted fig trees, one on the front patio and the other on the back deck, still giving us no sign of life.  I’m still hopeful that one day soon we’ll see those first leaves appear.

After all, dormant is not dead.

Life goes deep within the tissues of a plant sometimes, into its rhizome or seed; into its deep roots while everything green and growing withers away.  We have to know these cycles and work with them.

Cyclamen die back in spring to rest for the summer.  They will sprout again in autumn to give flowers through many more winters to come.

Begonias and Caladiums may do the same in autumn, taking a winter rest before springing back to life with a single leaf to herald their awakening.

~

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 had leafed out from a bare rhizome again in this photo taken last June. It has gone dormant on me many times over the years, and I’m waiting for new leaves to appear on it now.  It died back in the house in early spring, but I trust it will spring to life again soon.

~

Sometimes we need to do the same thing.  Going dormant for a while can do us a lot of good.  We give ourselves a chance to rest and rejuvenate.  When we’re ready to get back in the game, we are somehow richer and stronger.  We’ve taken quiet time to brood and plan.

We need, sometimes, to think about what is most important to us, and to re-define our priorities.  We can’t just keep going on forever at full steam, like a perpetual motion machine.

~

Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

~

Because we are alive, our life is governed by the rhythms of nature.  We have our own rhythms, too; of  breathing and sleep, activity and rest.

Several blogging friends have touched on this issue, lately.  They are long time writers who have expressed their need for time away… time for a rest.  I respect them so much for listening to their own hearts and taking the break they need.

Writing is a very peculiar pursuit.  Those of us who feel compelled to write each day do so because WE need to do it.  We all have a purpose and some message we need to share.

We don’t write for our audience so much as we write for ourselves, and hope someone else finds what we write useful or amusing, instructive or thought provoking.

We all know when we’ve written enough for a while, and need to take some quiet time to rejuvenate our creative spark before speaking up again.  And that is simply the nature of things.

And no, I’m not saying this to preface an announcement of my own; only to say to my blogging friends who need that break, that I understand your point of view.  And to remind you:  Dormant is not dead. 

We know you are still very much alive, and hope that one day soon you’ll feel like it is time to grow active once again.  We miss the beauty you bring to the world.

~

The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May.  We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May. We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

~

Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories challenge, and this is my second post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.  Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

And today, I am inviting another Virginia blogger, Dor, of Virginia Views, to join the challenge.  Dor tells wonderful stories about her life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on her blog, and I know she will have a few hilarious tales to tell for this challenge.  I enjoy her point of view, and hope she will play along with  Barbara and me. 

In fact I hope you will visit both Dor and Barbara, both of whom are very entertaining and generous story tellers.

~

These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead.  Just look at them now!  And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead. Just look at them now! And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

~

The moral of the this story today is that we will gain a lot through patience and perseverance…. both with plants and with people.

When we keep the faith that spring will come to each of us in our own time, life rewards us with abundance.

~

May 20, 2015 garden 008

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

 

Still in the Garden

 

Beautiful tomatoes were grown in a friend's garden last. summer

Beautiful tomatoes were grown in a friend’s garden last. summer

*

Hugh Roberts, who challenged us all to show what sits atop our Christmas tree, has chosen the Alzheimer’s Research UK research charity to receive his very generous  gift of L250 sterling.  Hugh pledged to give a pound to charity for each entry his challenge received from participants around the world.

I learned of Hugh’s challenge early on in December through fellow blogger Sue Vincent and chose to participate.   Hugh published his round up post earlier this week, with links to all participants, and the story behind his tree-top angel, Angela.

Hugh chose to support the Alzheimer’s Research charity because that is the disease which took both his grandmother and his mother from him. It runs in his family; as degenerative brain disease runs in many of ours.

We have our own legacy of Parkinson’s disease and stroke casting a shadow in our own family. It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness the elders of our family, who we love, and respect, wrestle with these devastating changes to their lives.

 .

Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow together in my friends' deck garden.

Flowers, vegetables and herbs grow together in my friends’ deck garden.

.

Which is why I stumbled across the wonderful book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss, by Jean Carper, earlier this summer. Although the suggestions in this book are wide ranging, and include physical exercise, community involvement, sports and games; the suggestions always return to nutrition.jean-carper-book-large  By the way, gardening is also a wonderful way to keep one’s brain healthy and active !

Food is a very personal subject for us all. Food is comfort. Food is tradition. Food connects us to our family’s roots. Food is recreation and food is survival.

It is often only when facing a serious health challenge, whether diabetes, blood pressure, or cancer that we come around to realizing that food is also our best medicine.

Remember that the first humans were given a garden to meet all of their needs. Indigenous people the world over, who are generally very healthy and long-lived, still understand how to “live off of the land.”

 .

My friend fashioned this lovely dragon fly ornament for her garden.  Creating works of art also protects and strengthens our brains.

My friend fashioned this lovely dragon fly ornament for her garden. Creating works of art also protects and strengthens our brains.

.

Physicians and medical researchers establish a clear link between what we eat and how long we live. Our quality of life is a direct result of our nutrition. And I learned this summer, from Jean Carper’s wonderful book, that eating the right foods also protects our brain from Alzheimer’s, dementia and other degenerative brain diseases.

Researchers and practicing physicians have proven over and again that plant based foods are the ones which heal us. Animal based foods feed the diseases which kill us and destroy our brains.

This is jarring for most Americans and Europeans, who eat meat, eggs, fish and dairy multiple times every day. Our traditional meals and favorite foods are all centered on animal products.

And yet, learning to eat and enjoy plant based meals is always the prescription for good health. We must eat from “the garden.”   We not only need to eat plant based foods, but also choose those which don’t come laden with the agricultural chemicals which will poison us.  Locally grown food, grown organically, nourishes us and heals us.

  .

My friend coaxes fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs from her steep slope.

My friend coaxes fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs from her steeply sloping garden.

.

After reading Jean’s book this summer, I compiled a simple half sheet list of “Foods Which Protect Our Brains” for my parents, and shared it with my siblings. There is abundant research to back up the healing powers of each food on the list

Since then, another close family member began treatment for a very aggressive cancer. One of her survival strategies has been to follow a vegan, and mostly raw, diet. And it is helping her to remain active and energized as she continues with the other treatments her doctors prescribe.

  .

Herbs hold the power to heal us.  Our own garden in July-

Herbs hold the power to heal us. Our own garden in July-

.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose book, Eat To Live, I read several years ago, realizes that he is a “doctor of last resort.” Most of his patients would never consider following his diet advice unless it was their last hope of survival.Eat to Live

What is that radical advice? To under-consume calories. He recommends a mostly raw diet of only selected vegetables, little or no oil or butter, whole grains, and no sugar. A typical meal includes a huge bowl of salad chopped vegetables dressed with a home-made fat free dressing.

Dr. Fuhrman has since generated cookbooks and a number of additional titles including: The End of Diabetes, Super Immunity, Disease Proof Your Child, and The End of Dieting. His advice is based in his own practice with terminally ill patients,  as well as up to date research in disease prevention.  Dr Fuhrman’s first book, Eat To Live, clearly describes how animal foods create and feed those diseases which destroy our bodies and brains.

  .

Dill in our garden last July

Dill in our garden last July

.

I “returned to the garden” in 1986, giving up all flesh foods, for a variety of reasons. I won’t bore you with those reasons, but they were far ranging. And I’ve never once been tempted to add meat back into my diet. I haven’t been as successful with eliminating dairy, although I continue to reduce the amounts we consume. 2015 may be the year for that final shift, however.

I prefer to focus on learning new ways to prepare delicious meals rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and herbs.

Our creators (Elohim, from the Hebrew) gave us every single thing we need for healthy living, and we honor them, and ourselves, by living vibrant, healthy lives.

  .

Fig tree in our garden, August 2014

Fig tree in our garden, August 2014

.

Please allow me to share the list of brain healthy foods I compiled for my parents this past summer, based on reading Jean Carper’s book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss.

Adding these simple and delicious foods to our diets in greater quantity may protect our brains, and our lives, for many more years to come.

Foods to Eat Frequently

To Heal and Protect Our Brains:

Coffee, Tea, Cocoa (Caffeine)

  Fresh Vegetables (5+ daily)

Spinach, Chard, Kale, Tomato

Nuts:  Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews

Fresh Fruit (5+daily)

2 Apples each day (or apple juice)

Berries: Blueberries, Blackberries   Strawberries, Cranberries 

Cherries

Juice: Pomegranate, Apple

Cranberry, Purple Grape

Olives, Olive Oil 

Whole grains

Cinnamon

    Eggs, Fish, Fish oils

Dark Chocolate

  .

Our pear crop, August 2014

Our pear crop, August 2014

.

Woodland Gnome 2015

Fantasy and Reality

This old Rosemary has fully recovered now from last winter's cold.  It grows here with volunteer Black Eyed Susans.

This old Rosemary has fully recovered now from last winter’s cold. It grows in the front border with volunteer Black Eyed Susans.

 

Autumn is a time to come to terms with both the fantasy and the reality of gardening.

We fantasize about the beautiful garden we can create.  We intend to grow delicious fruits and healthy vegetables.  We see visions of beauty in areas of bareness, and imagine the great shrub which can grow from our tiny potted start.

I’ve come to understand that gardeners, like me, are buoyed on season to season and year to year by our fantasies of beauty.

Surprise lilies poke up through the fading foliage of peonies and St. John's Wort.

Surprise lilies poke up through the fading foliage of peonies and St. John’s Wort.

 

I spend many hours pouring through plant catalogs and gardening books; especially in February.

And I spend days, sometimes, making lists of plants to acquire, shopping for them, and making sketches of where they will grow.

As far as fantasies go, I suppose that dreaming up gardens rates as a fairly harmless one.  Expensive sometimes, but harmless in the grand scheme of things.

 

One of our few remaining  Coleus plants not yet destroyed by the squirrels, growing here with perennial Ageratum.

One of our few remaining Coleus plants not yet destroyed by the squirrels, growing here with perennial Ageratum and Lantana.

 

But there are times for planning and imagining; and there are times for dealing with the realities a growing garden presents.

I spent time bumping up against the realities, this morning, as I worked around the property; preparing for the cold front blowing in from the west.

 

Lantana, the toughest of the tough in our garden, grows more intense as nights grow colder.  This one is not about 7' high.

Lantana, the toughest of the tough in our garden, grows more intense as nights grow colder. This one is now about 7′ high.

 

I spent the first hour walking around with a pack of Double Mint chewing gum dealing with the vole tunnels.  This is our new favorite way to limit the damage the ever-present voles can do.

Recent rain left the ground soft.  My partner spent several hours and three packs of gum feeding the little fellas on Tuesday.  So the damage I found today was much reduced, and I only used a pack and a  half.  Much of the tunneling was in the lawns, but I also found it around some of the roses.

 

Colocasia have grown wonderfully this season.  This one has sent out many runners and new plants.  I need to dig some of these soon to bring them in, since they aren't rooted deeply like the adults.

Colocasia have grown wonderfully this season. This one has sent out many runners and new plants. I need to dig some of these soon to bring them in, since they aren’t rooted deeply like the adults.

 

Another hour was invested in deadheading, cutting away insect damage on the Cannas, pulling grasses out of beds and digging up weeds.

I wandered about noticing which plants have grown extremely well this year, and which never really fulfilled my expectations.

As well as our Colocasias and Cannas have done, the little “Silver Lyre”  figs planted a year ago remain a disappointment.

 

Ficus, "Silver Lyre" has grown barely taller than the neighboring Sage.  Maybe it will take off next year....

Ficus, “Silver Lyre” has grown barely taller than the neighboring Sage. Maybe it will take off next year….

 

Sold as a fast growing variety, these barely reach my knees.   Between heavy clay soil which obviously needed more amendment and effort on my part at planting, and our very cold winter; they have gotten off to a very slow start.

I hope that they will catch up next year and eventually fulfill their potential as large, beautiful shrubs.

 

October 1, 2014 garden 011

I admired the beautiful Caladiums, and procrastinated yet again on digging them to bring them inside.  Maybe tomorrow….

Even knowing the weather forecast, I don’t want to accept that cold weather is so close at hand.  I am reluctant to disturb plantings which are still beautiful.

Begonia, "Sophie" came in today, and will likely stay inside now.  Started from a small cutting, this lovely plant has grown all in one season.

Begonia, “Sophie” came in today, and will likely stay inside now. Started from a small cutting, this lovely plant has grown all in one season.

 

I did begin bringing in Begonias today.  And, I’m starting to make decisions about which plants can’t be brought inside.

Space is limited, and my collection of tender plants expands each year.

 

Another of the re-blooming iris decided to give us a last stalk of flowers this week.

Another of the re-blooming Iris decided to give us a last stalk of flowers this week.  Their fragrance is simply intoxicating.

 

Each season brings its own challenges.  There are the difficult conditions brought by heat and cold, too much rain and drought.

Then there are the challenges brought on by the rhythms of our lives.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 016

 

I’ve been away from the garden a great deal this spring and summer.  And when I’ve been home, I’ve often been too tired to do the tasks which have other years become routine.

 

This series of borders has gotten "hit or miss" attention this summer.  These sturdy daisies have kept going in spite of my neglect.

This series of borders has gotten “hit or miss” attention this summer. These sturdy daisies have kept going in spite of my neglect.

 

What I was doing with loved ones was far more important than trimming, weeding and fertilizing in the garden.

And my partner has helped a great deal with the watering this year.  But the neglect shows. 

I am surveying the reality of which plants were strong and soldiered on without much coddling; and which didn’t make it.

I pulled the dead skeletons of some of them today.

 

Pineapple Sage reliably fills the garden with beauty at the end of the season.  Here it is just coming into bloom as we greet October.

Pineapple Sage reliably fills the garden with beauty at the end of the season. Here it is just coming into bloom as we greet October.

 

This is a garden which forces one to face the facts of life… and death.  It is probably a good garden for me to work during this decade of my life.

At times effort brings its own rewards.  Other times, effort gets rewarded with naked stems and the stubble of chewed leaves.

 

October 1, 2014 garden 031

It forces one to push past the fantasies which can’t make room for disappointment and difficulties; for evolution and hard-won success.

 

Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is.  These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer.  Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

Beauty berry grows like the native (weed?) it is. These self-seed around the garden, and never suffer from hungry deer. Our birds take great delight in the berries as they ripen.

 

The wise tell us that all of the suffering in our lives results from our attachments.

That may be true.  And yet, I find joy even in this autumnal mood of putting the garden to bed for the season.

Autumn "Brilliance" fern remains throughout the winter.  Tough and dependable, they fill areas where little else can survive.

Autumn “Brilliance” fern remains throughout the winter. Tough and dependable, they fill areas where little else can survive.

 

Even as I plan for the coming frost, and accept that plants blooming today soon will wither in the cold; I find joy in the beauty which still fills the garden.

I am deeply contented with how I have grown in understanding and skill, while gardening here,  even as my garden has grown in leaf and stalk.

 

October 1, 2014 garden 012

And I am filled with anticipation for how the garden will grow and evolve in the year to come.

It is a work in progress, as are we all. 

 

Fuchsia "Marinka"

Fuchsia “Marinka”

 

While fantasies may lead us onwards and motivate us to make fresh efforts each day; so reality is a true teacher and guide.

Our challenge remains to see things just as they are.  To be honest with ourselves, learn from our experience, and find strength to make fresh beginnings as often as necessary as we cultivate the garden of our lives.

 

October 1, 2014 garden 025

 

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

October 1, 2014 garden 001

 

 

Unusual Leaves: More Texture

'Silver Lyre' Afghan Fig

‘Silver Lyre’ Afghan Fig

Unusual leaves bring a wonderful texture, as well as interesting colors, to the garden.

Coleus

Coleus

 

The variety available to an adventurous gardener feels infinite… and probably is infinite when one considers how many interesting new cultivars of plants like Coleus,   Heuchera, Begonia, Hosta, fern, and Caladium come on the market each year.

 

Heuchera

Heuchera

In addition to these perennials, there are a few new introductions of trees and shrubs with interesting variegation or unusual leaf color each season.

‘Black Lace’  Eldeberry, Sambucus nigra; ‘Ruby Falls’ Redbud, Cerceis canadensis; and ‘Maculata’ Lacecap Hydrangea come to mind immediately.

‘Black Lace’ Elderberry is on my “wish list” at the moment.

 

A variegated Lacecap Hydrangea

A variegated Lacecap Hydrangea

 

Some of these perennials, trees, and shrubs also offer beautiful flowers.

But the flowers are just a little something “extra,” compared to their beautiful leaves.

And while the flowers may add interest in their season, the fabulous foliage brings beauty to the garden month after month.

 

Buddleia, "Harlequin" sports beautiful variegated foliage all season long.

Buddleia davidii, “Harlequin” sports beautiful variegated foliage all season long.

 

Do you experiment with unusual  foliage in your garden?

So many residential gardens rely on a few standard, well known plants commonly available in “big box” shops.

This Begonia, purchased from The Homestead Garden Center several seasons ago, is similar to Plant Delight's "Pewterware" Begonia, hardy to Zone 8B.

This Begonia, purchased from The Homestead Garden Center several seasons ago, is similar in appearance  to Plant Delight’s “Pewterware” Begonia, hardy to Zone 8B.

 

These commonly used plants are easy to find, and we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from them.

They bring their own beauty, but overuse can also dull our appreciation of them.  Like white paint on a wall, we hardly ever notice them after a while.

 

A Begonia Rex, with fern.

A Begonia Rex, with fern and other Begonias.

 

Searching out a variety of plants with interesting foliage adds novelty and a touch of the unexpected to our garden.

 

Scented Pelargonium

Scented Pelargonium graveolens

 

Most any gardening “need” can be filled, whether we are creating a drought tolerant garden nourished only by a few inches of rain each  year, or a Forest Garden, unappetizing to deer and rabbits!

 

Collection of succulents.

Collection of succulents.

Small local nurseries, web nurseries, and specialty nurseries offer the most interesting varieties.

( I’m writing this within just a day or so of receiving Plant Delights Nursery’s fall 2014 catalog!  Yes, I’ve been closely studying it!)

 

 

It is the thrill of the hunt, and the fun of curating a collection, which fuels my search for unusual foliage plants.

 

This interesting Sedum, which I've not noticed before this year, was purchased at The Homestead Garden Center.

This beautiful Sedum, which I’ve not noticed before this year, was purchased at The Homestead Garden Center.  It will grow much like an Autumn Sedum, but with more interesting leaf color.

Plants with unusual leaves often grow best in  shady gardens.

Heuchera, ferns, Hosta, and Hydrangeas generally perform best in partial shade.

 

August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 056

Newer cultivars can often withstand more direct sun than older varieties; but shade, especially during the heat of the day, is lit up by the outrageous foliage of these  flamboyant plants.

 

August 3, 2014 butterflies 047

Layering them creates interesting and complex compositions; dynamic living sculpture in the garden.

 

August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 055

 

But wonderful foliage plants grow in full sun, also.

 

Siberian Iris, a gift from a dear friend, in a sunny garden

Siberian Iris, a gift from a dear friend, grow in a sunny garden area with Lavender, Comfrey, variegated iris, Eucalyptus, Artemisia, and other herbs.  Planted this season, the area is still filling in.

 

All of the amazing varieties of succulents enjoy sun to partial shade.

 

August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 028

Variegated  Cannas, Hibiscus cultivars like ‘Kopper King” and nearly all of the herbs thrive in sunny beds.

 

Sage Officinallis, "Tricolor"

Sage Officinalis, “Tricolor”

 

Whether you search out the most interesting varieties of a particular group of plants, like Hostas or Ferns; or amass a collection of silver foliage plans, variegated plants, or purple leaved plants; you may discover that the more you work with foliage in your own garden, the more satisfied you feel with your efforts.

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.

Author Unknown

 

Staghorn Fern with Begonia

Staghorn Fern with Begonia

 

As for any artist, an expanded palette of plant possibilities inspires new ideas and presents novel solutions to site based problems.

 

Caladiums and other poisonous plants can grow mostly in peace in gardens plagued by deer.

Caladiums and other poisonous plants can grow mostly in peace in gardens plagued by deer.

 

It helps me to remember that,  “Gardening is the slowest art form.”

July 18, 2014 package 018

Wonderful effects can be created in the garden using just foliage; and they just keep getting better and more fully developed over time.

 

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way — things I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 066

Planting Pots

Pot constructed by the Pattons and offered for sale at their Homestead Garden Center in James City County, Virginia.

Pot constructed by the Pattons and offered for sale at their Homestead Garden Center in James City County, Virginia.  Please notice the contrasting colors and shapes of these sun loving plants.

Pots are the easiest way to garden.

If you have only one  square foot of sunlight where something might grow, you can grow your garden in a pot.

Gardening in a pot allows you to be spontaneously creative…  and outrageously unconventional in your plant choices and design.

Situated in full sun at the street, this newest, unprotected pot must tolerate heat, drought, and stand up to our herd of deer.

Situated in full sun at the street, this newest, unprotected pot must tolerate heat, drought, and stand up to our herd of deer.  It is planted with Zonal Geraniums, Caladium, Lamium, Ivy, Coleus, and Cane Begonia.

 

Pots are  the “trial and error” notebook of a gardener’s education.

 

My first ever pot of Pitcher Plant.  Once I learn how to grow it, I can use it in combination with other bog plants.

My first ever pot of Pitcher Plant. Once I learn how to grow it successfully, I can use it in combination with other bog plants.

 

A friend was telling me yesterday that she’d love to find a class to teach her about designing potted plantings.

This brilliant and creative friend, an artist by profession,  could definitely teach such a class !

I asked her to please let me know if she found one, because I would come with her…

These aquatic or bog arrangement is also at Homestead Garden Center for sale today.

This aquatic,  or bog arrangement, is also at Homestead Garden Center for sale today.

But I’ve never taken a class on making pots.  I have studied thousands of photographs of others’  pots in gardening books and magazines.  And I’ve grown plants in pots since I was a child.

Maybe a local garden center offered such a class, once upon a time, and I just missed it.  Hard to say…

An experiment:  Do you see the vase "neck" embedded in this hypertufa pot?  It is an opening to the soil, and ivy grow out of the neck.

An experiment: Do you see the vase “neck” embedded in this hypertufa pot? It is an opening to the soil, and ivy grows out of the neck.  A friend generously gave me the pieces of her broken vase to use in this pot.

 

But here is what I’ve already learned about growing potted plants, by long years of trial and error;  and  what I can share with you:

1.  Choose the largest pot your space and budget allows.  From a design perspective, big pots have impact.

A few big pots make a much better statement than two dozen tiny ones; unless they all match and are grouped artistically  together somehow.

This large hypertufa pot is home made.  It still needs water daily to support the rapidly growing plants.

This large hypertufa pot is home made. It still needs water daily to support the rapidly growing plants.

 

Big pots allow plants to grow lush and healthy.  There is more room for the roots to grow and it is easier to keep the planting mix hydrated in a large pot.  A larger mass of pot and soil helps moderate soil temperature  in extreme weather, too.

2.  Feed the soil with compost; organic amendments like Plant Tone and Osmocote; coffee grounds (high in nitrogen), and organic liquid feeds like Neptune’s Harvest.  Most potting mixes are nutritionally sterile, so the plants must be fed to perform well.

 

This large pot of Geraniums also supports Moonflower vines on a trellis.  This pot hasnt' moved in the four years since we placed it here.

This large pot of Geraniums also supports Moonflower vines on a trellis. This pot hasn’t moved in the four years since we placed it here.

3.  Site the pot, then choose the plants.  Know first of all where your new pot will go in your home or landscape; then select plants which will grow with the level of light and exposure to the weather that location offers.

You may have the same pot in the same spot for many years, but the plantings will switch in and out seasonally.

4.  Select a ” community of plants” which will grow together harmoniously for each pot.

Sometimes it works to have several of the same plant growing together in a pot.  Here, several cultivars of Caladium share the space.

Sometimes it works to have several of the same plant growing together in a pot.  Here, several cultivars of Caladium share the space.

Choose plants which share similiar needs for light and water, but  will “fill” different spaces so they weave together into a pleasing composition.

5  Select plants for contrast.  Choose plants whose differences create an interesting composition.

Dahlia and Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida, grow near purple basil and a Jasmine vine.

Dahlia and Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida, grow near purple basil and a Jasmine vine.  This planting was inspired by Becca Given‘s comment on the “Eggplant” post about her sister in law’s eggplant and turquoise kitchen  color scheme.

 

Contrast color of foliage and bloom to create an interesting, and maybe a dramatic, visual statement.

 

Geraniums and Fennel.  Fennel, Dill, and Asparagus fern all give a large, airy cloud of foliage to a pot.

Geraniums and Fennel. Fennel, Dill, and Asparagus fern all give a large, airy cloud of foliage to a pot.  Variegated, textured  foliage also creates contrast and interest.

Contrast foliage texture and shape, and choose plants which will grow to different heights and proportions so there is a balance of tall, trailing, airy, flat, round, and spiky.

6.  Study nature for inspiration.  Analyze how plants blend into communities in the wild.    Notice what you like, and what you don’t. 

June 3, 2014 Parkway 010

Do you enjoy wide expanses of a single species growing to a fairly uniform size?  Do you like  grasses mixed in among the flowers?

Do you like lush vines covering structure?  Do you want a classically symmetrical static look, or an asymmetrical spontaneously evolving look?

These differences matter, and you can achieve them all in pots.

Ornamental Pepper with Creeping Jenny and a cutting of a scented Geranium.  The cutting will eventually grow quite large over the summer.

Ornamental Pepper with Creeping Jenny and a cutting of a scented Geranium.  The cutting will eventually grow quite large and fill out this pot  over the summer.

7.  Develop a mental image of what you hope to create in the pot before going to the garden center to purchase the plants.

Have an idea of what you hope to create, and which plants you want to use.

Lantana always attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Drought tolerant, it grows into a small shrub and blooms until frost in full sun.

Lantana always attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Drought tolerant, it grows into a small shrub and blooms until frost in full sun.

I often take a list with me.  Others take photos.  With a smart phone, you might even bookmark some photos online which are similiar to what you hope to purchase.

Now, it is a rare treat when the garden center actually has in stock everything on my list.

But, if you know your parameters for light, moisture, size, color and price; you can often make brilliant substitutions.

 

This pot, in full hot sun, is designed around a fig cutting which rooted over the winter.  It will grow with other heat loving and drought tolerant plants, including Rosemary, Sedum, and Graptopetalum.

This pot, in full hot sun, is designed around a fig cutting which rooted over the winter. It will grow with other heat loving and drought tolerant plants, including Rosemary, Sedum, and Graptopetalum.

 

8.  Be realistic about what you can grow.  Apologies here for the downer… but realism at the beginning saves later disappointment.

Know, in advance, what you can sustain.

This simple, neat basket features a Fuschia, just coming into bloom, and impatiens.

This simple basket features a Fuschia, just coming into bloom, and impatiens.   We grow Fuschia to draw the hummingbirds close to our windows.  The only safe place to grow these plants is on our deck, where the deer can’t reach them.

I know I can’t grow certain plants where deer or squirrels can reach them.  I learned that I can plant tomatoes all I want, but no net or screen will prevent squirrels from stealing them as they ripen, even on the deck.  I know that certain plants, like impatiens, left in reach of deer will be grazed.

Sedum, heat and drought tolerant, requires little care.  I was surprised to find it grazed by deer last summer, as it is supposed to be "deer resistant." This one grows on the patio,, right against the house.

Sedum, heat and drought tolerant, requires little care. I was surprised to find it grazed by deer last summer, as it is supposed to be “deer resistant.” This one grows on the patio,, right against the house.

Maybe you can’t water hanging baskets of Petunias every day in summer, or you don’t have enough light to keep them in bloom where you have space to hang baskets.

Once you learn and accept the parameters of your current gardening situation,  it allows you to find beautiful  alternatives.

Starting pots with cuttings and small starts is economical.  Plants grow rapidly during summer, and pots fill in very quickly.

Starting pots with cuttings and small starts is economical. Plants grow rapidly during summer, and pots fill in very quickly.

 

9.  Let time be your ally.  Plant slowly and carefully, leaving sufficient room for each plant to grow.

Remember to use some combination of rooted cuttings, seeds, tubers, bulbs, and actively growing plants.

Unless you’re planting for an immediate show or competition, plan for the arrangement to evolve during the season as the plants grow, peak, and fade.

 

This basket of Petunias requires daily water.  Someone who travels during the summer might not be able to keep the basket alive.  Like a pet, it requires daily care.

This basket of Petunias requires daily water. Someone who travels  a lot during the summer might not be able to keep the basket alive. Like a pet, it requires daily care.

 

Different plants will take over as “stars of the pot” at different times during the season.

Plants will grow at different rates, and some will try to muscle out others.  You will have to referee with your pruners from time to time.  That is OK, and makes it more interesting.

10.  Treat your potted plants like pets.   K now their names, know their needs, and give consistent loving care.  Expect to learn continuously when you garden.    There is always more to know; and the more you know about each plant you grow, the better care you can take of it.

The green Brugmansia in the center grows to 5' tall.  It came as a rooted cutting weeks ago.  Gradually, it will grow to  dominate this pot before it blooms in late summer.

The green Brugmansia in the center grows to 5′ tall. It came as a rooted cutting weeks ago. Gradually, it will grow to dominate this pot before it blooms in late summer.

Plants need to be appreciated to grow well.  Visit each regularly, and take care of its needs.  Whether it needs water, pinching, training on a support, turning, or simply a kind word; remember that is a responsive living being.

And, a bonus:

Our plants love for us to share with them.  You give your dog toys, don’t you?  Plants respond to our love just as animals will.

June 15, 2014 Father's Day 048

What can you share with a plant?  I dilute leftover tea and coffee, and use it to water potted plants.  Tea and coffee are high in nitrogen and other phyto-chemicals.  (The same pot doesn’t always get the tea, and there are plenty of “plain water” waterings so the soil doesn’t get too acid.)   I use finished coffee grounds and rinsed egg shells  as mulch in large pots around fruits or vegetables.

When making a pea gravel mulch, I often include something beautiful such as a shell, agate, glass marble, or crystal resting on top of the soil.

A friend scatters trimmed hair around her plants, which also helps keep deer away.

June 20 Between 061

As you work with each of the plants in your potted garden, you will learn to know what it needs, and to provide for those needs.  You also learn which plants grow well together, and which will not.

The real difference between someone with a “brown thumb” and someone with a “green thumb” comes down to how much attention the gardener pays to providing what each plant needs to fulfill its potential for beauty and productivity.

Each pot, each season, teaches us something new.  

We continue to grow, just as our plants do.

 

A hanging basket of various Begonias.  Richmondensis, in the foreground, is a tough Begonia which grows vigorously in baskets.

A hanging basket of various Begonias. Richmondensis, in the foreground, is a tough Begonia which grows vigorously in baskets.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

WPC: Between II

Ants crawl between the buds of this Trumpet Vine.

Ants crawl between the buds of this Trumpet Vine.

 

“Betwixt and Between” is one of our favorite expressions.

To us, it means being  “in process” and not quite finished with something.  As in, “Betwixt and between re-working the deer fence, I chatted with our neighbor.”

June 20 Between 020

Were you in my English class, I’d patiently explain that “Between” is a preposition, and must never fall as the last word of a sentence.

It is an expression of position, and only has meaning in reference to other ideas.

See the Bald Eagle visible between the trees?

See the Bald Eagle visible between the trees?  It was chattering to its family this afternoon as they flew over the marsh.

 

As in, “Between a rock and a hard place.” or perhaps, “Between you, me, and the cat….”

So “Between” expresses relationships.

The sun setting, between its zenith and the western horizon.

The sun setting, between its zenith and the western horizon.  In case you’re wondering, this is a very healthy crop of poison ivy growing between the trees.

 

Come to think of it, don’t we live in a state of, “Between?”

What are you “Between?”  What processes are unfolding in your life?

 

June 20 Between 039

Gardeners live in a constant state of “Between.”  For us, process is continuous. 

The Silver Lyre fig, which died back to the ground over the winter, has begun to grow.  This will grow to a 20' tree... eventually.

The Silver Lyre fig, which died back to the ground over the winter, has begun to grow. This will grow to a 20′ tree… eventually.

We are “Between” seasons, or “Between” harvests.

Sometimes we are “Between” planting and blooming; or “Between” blooming and dieing back.

These vines grow in the spaces between the Earth and Sky, on a tree growing between others in this bit of woods.

These vines grow in the spaces between the Earth and Sky, on a tree growing between others in this bit of woods, between the Colonial Parkway and the river.

 

“Between” is a bridge, a connection, and a journey.  It separates, even as it connects.

 

June 20 Between 008

And sometimes, it delights.

 

June 20 Between 012

Between can be the “long and winding road” which takes us along in life to unanticipated pleasures and unplanned achievements.

 

June 20 Between 051

 

After a long stretch of “Between,” sometimes we look around and realize we have arrived at a new place- a place of beauty where we can catch our breath for a moment, before starting out on the next leg of the journey.

 

June 20 Between 076

May you walk in beauty

between here and there;

now and then;

between this breath and the next;

this you, and who you are becoming.

***

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Between

 

WPC:  Between

June 20 Between 067

… Wait For It…..

June 7, 2014 garden 081

Our unusually intense winter made a devastating impact on several plants in the garden.  The amount of snow and ice the garden endured, and the longer period of freezing cold weather before winter finally melted into spring made this a record breaking winter in Williamsburg.

Although we are technically in Zone 7b (average low temperatures of 5-10 F) , many winters, especially in recent years, have been far milder.  Plants rated for hardiness in Zones 8-10, like our Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, have made it through recent winters just fine.

Normally evergreen, with thick, glossy dark green leaves, our Star Jasmine has been an important feature of this garden for decades.  Planted in brick planter box beside the railing and fence which enclose our side entrance, this vigorous vine grew to completely cover the metal structure long before we came to the garden.

June 7, 2014 garden 079

Its tough woody stems have twined themselves into oneness with their support.

We find the vine beautiful.  We enjoy it year round, but especially in winter when it is still green and leafy.  We also enjoy many weeks of its white blooms perfuming the air each summer.

June 7, 2014 garden 078

This vine is a vigorous grower and will expand its reach each year if not frequently pruned.

And so when its leaves began turning brown and dropping in February we were concerned, but hoped the vine would survive the season.  As winter turned to spring, more and more of the vine turned brown so that  our once healthy green living wall of Jasmine by the side entrance shriveled into an unsightly mass of bare vines.

I’ve avoided showing you photos of our poor Jasmine vine.   It has been such a depressing sight.

June 7, 2014 garden 077

We both had confidence in  its strength and eventual recovery.

Soon after we recycled the pots of our seemingly dead Bay trees, and after we gave up on several Rosemary and Lavender plants, we finally agreed the time had come to prune the Jasmine vine hard in hopes of shocking it into growth.

A few remaining green leaves here and there were testament to a bit of life still in the vine, but these were few and far between.

So in late April we both had a hand in the great pruning.  We took almost half of the vine, trimming back to where the structural woody branches were clearly visible.

I poured Neptune’s Harvest over the roots, and have included the planter box in all of my outdoor watering this spring.

And the vine is slowly recovering.

From a distance our Star Jasmine remains a mass of brown, with patches of green around the edges.  But up close, new leaves and fragrant flowers are visible all over the vine now.

After a hard winter, sometimes you just have to wait for plants to respond to spring on their own time.

Osmanthus Goshinki lived happily in a pot on the deck until this winter.  Since it still has some leaves alive, we hope it will soon sprout new growth.

Osmanthus Goshiki lived happily in a pot on the deck until this winter. Since it still has some leaves alive, we hope it will soon sprout new growth.

 

We still have any number of plants “in recovery.”

An Osmanthus goshiki shrub has lived in a pot on the deck for three previous winters, but has only a handful of green leaves at the moment.

We moved the pot to a shady recovery area and I we keep checking for evidence of new growth.  So far, we’re still waiting.

A new fig shrub has growth coming from the roots, but none has broken out of its woody structure, yet.

This little fig, planted in autumn of 2012, trippled in size last summer.  So far new growth is visible only from its roots.

This little fig, moved from a container to the garden  in autumn of 2012, trippled in size last summer. So far new growth is visible only from its roots.

 

I haven’t pruned off the old wood, waiting to see whether it responds to our warm May before giving up.  So from a distance the shrub looks like a casualty of winter.

Nature has its own rhythms and patterns of hot and cold, light and dark, moisture and drought.

June 10, 2014 wait for it 003

 

We observe and respond, sometimes an ambivalent dance partner with nature taking the lead in this ever unfolding dance of life.

 

A more established fig, elsewhere in the garden, finally shows new growth from its branches.  I'll continue to wait for our newly established fig to sprout new growth before pruning it bakc.

A more established fig, elsewhere in the garden, finally shows new growth from its branches. I’ll continue to wait a few more weeks for our newly established fig to sprout new growth before pruning it back.

 

Often patience is our best ally.  And we are often rewarded with beauty when we are willing to simply …. wait for it…..

 

June 7, 2014 garden 080

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Photo Challenge: Glow In The Dark

 

Hosta growing in a friends' garden.

Hosta growing in a friends’ garden.

 Shade is “The Dark” in a forest garden. 

A flower stalk of Adam's Needle, a variety of Yucca, will open with white flowers in this very shady spot beneath trees.

A flower stalk of Adam’s Needle, a variety of Yucca, will open with white flowers in this very shady spot beneath trees.

Forest Gardeners work with varying degrees of shade as the sun moves across the sky each day, animating shadows as they dance across our gardens from dawn until last light.

 

Tiarella growing in the display gardens at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Tiarella growing in the display gardens at Forest Lane Botanicals.

As the hardwood trees and shrubs leaf out and begin to grow, areas illuminated by the sun all winter and into early spring disappear into cave like darkness.

 

Ferns and Lamium grow in one of the shadiest areas of our garden, below a stand of Hazel trees.

Ferns, Creeping Jenny, and Lamium “Orchid Frost” grow in one of the shadiest areas of our garden, below a stand of Hazel trees.

Grottos appear in deep shadow cast by surrounding trees.

 

May 25, 2014 garden 056

So we light up the darkness with variegated shade loving plants which enjoy the moist, cool, shadows.

 

Begonia grown by Wendy Wubbels at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Begonia grown by Wendy Wubbels at Forest Lane Botanicals.

We celebrate the contrast of light and shadow with brightly patterned, foliage, but few flowers.

 

Tiarella blooms in partial shade.  Used here at Forest Lane Botanicals in the shadow of mature Azaleas.

Strawberry Begonia,  Saxifraga stolonifera, blooms in partial shade. Used here at Forest Lane Botanicals in the shadow of mature Azaleas.

 

Bits of chartreuse,  creamy white, pink and silvery grey reflect what little light may be; illuminating our shade gardens and “glowing in the summer ‘s darkness.”

 

New growth begins at the base of a fig tree, in deep shade.

New growth begins at the base of a fig tree, in deep shade.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her 

One Word Photo Challenge:  Glow In the Dark

 

May 19, 2014 new raised bed fern garden 008

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

Join 678 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest