Signs Of Spring

Iris histrioides

Iris histrioides

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Signs of spring draw us outside, and lead us step by step, path by path, through the garden today.

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Daffodils

Daffodils

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There is a newness to the greens emerging now from the warming, moist soil.  Can you smell the smell of green on the breeze? 

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Vinca minor

Vinca minor

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We won’t bother with labels like leaf or weed, grass, shoot, stem or bud.  It is all welcome on a day such as this.

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Another warm day, that is; with bright sunshine and blue sky and soft breezes setting the Daffodils dancing to some unheard ( by us) spring jig.  But the birds flitting from shrub to shrub surely hear it.  Their chirps and bits of tune harmonize with the wind song in the still bare branches high above the garden.

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We went out to admire the bits of clearing and pruning we’ve completed already, and take stock of what is still needed to welcome spring.

The Vinca has already given soft lavender flowers; new leaves emerge still tightly wound in their buds.  This is the one time of year when I actually like the Vinca vines which threaten to take over every bed we start.

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The one Iris we discovered Saturday afternoon has multiplied, and now stands in company with its sisters.  Their petals almost startling blue, gauche perhaps against winter’s neutrals, but so welcome.

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Blue Iris and soft purple Crocus stand low against the soil, timid almost, to have shown their faces so early in the season.

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Crocus

Crocus

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But cheeky Daffodils open bravely, budding and unfolding  with such speed that we delight in finding new ones each day.  The first of the miniatures appeared yesterday.

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And today I noticed a divided Daffodil bulb exposed to the afternoon sun.  It lay on a steep bank below a shrub, a few of its roots determinedly reaching down into the soil even as leaves and a flower bud emerged from each bulb’s tip.

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How did it get here?  Did it wash out of its bed in heavy rain, or can we thank some curious squirrel for its plight?

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Rep-planted, and ready to grow!

Re-planted, and ready to grow!

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I was simply glad to notice it, and moved it to a more accommodating spot where it can ‘live long and prosper…”… I hope.

We can never have too many Daffodils brightening a February day!

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The seedling  Hellebores I transplanted last spring are blooming now, too.  They hybridize themselves promiscuously, and I’m endlessly fascinated to see the first of their flowers open.

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No named beauty in a catalog is quite as lovely as these debutantes, bred in our own garden.

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I find it deeply satisfying to see their  leaves and buds stretching for the sun, appearing in places I had forgotten I’d planted them.   And today I made mental notes of where to plant a few more seedlings later this week.

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Forsythia flowers are opening, and even the Hydrangea buds have begun to burst and show a hint of green.  Tender new leaves have emerged now on the roses and from woody vines on the trellis.

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What do you think?  Do we trust this early spring?

We moved our Olive and Pomegranate trees back outside this weekend to let them enjoy a bit of fresh air and real sunshine.  I hope, for my back’s sake, that they can stay!

All of the hanging baskets had a holiday on Sunday, out of the garage, and a good deep drink with a bit of  Neptune’s Harvest mixed in.  We opened the garage door to let air and light in to the pot-bound Begonias and Bougainvillea sheltering there.

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A Virginia spring is never a settled thing.  It teases and promises, but never can be trusted until early May, at least.  I’ve spent too many Easter Sunday mornings huddled in a winter coat and shivered through too many April snows, to fully trust an 80 degree February day.

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Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny

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We happily use these sweet warm days, opening windows and doors and starting new projects.  But the furnace kicks in again by dusk.  There is no long-term contract signed, yet. 

Still, we will marvel at each emerging bud and fiddlehead, and keep our fingers crossed that March will be gentle with our garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is.

And when you’ve got it, you want—

oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want,

but it just fairly makes your heart ache,

you want it so!”

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Mark Twain

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Shades of Brown

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Do you know anyone whose favorite color is brown? 

Can’t say that I do, either….

We gardeners often remain partial to green, or possibly to colors in our favorite flowers.  But brown?  Why not?

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We certainly look at it for much of the year! 

Brown is woody skeletons of trees, fallen leaves, peat, seeds, mushrooms, stems, and the debris waiting for me to clear from perennial beds. 

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But brown is also rotten apples, faded flowers, insects, compost, bare Earth.

 

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Brown generally presents a challenge.  It invites effort.  It signals something coming or going in the garden.

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But I am at least at peace with brown. 

I wear khaki shirts and skirts and brown leather belts. We love polished wooden furniture, rattan, and hardwood floors. 

Brown can be restful when polished up, and made useful. 

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Brown colors  our garden today.  Sodden mulch, rotting leaves, bare stems, and wet trees dominate the picture.

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But oh, when those brown stems pop open to release a flower, what delight!

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Brown is the color of pure potential, and holds its own silent promise. 

Beautiful brown….

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Color Your World: Perseverance

The Star Magnolia wants to break into bloom in the depths of our Virginia winter. February 11 Grey

The Star Magnolia wants to break into bloom in the depths of our Virginia winter. February 11 Grey

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“Begin doing what you want to do now.

We are not living in eternity.

We have only this moment,

sparkling like a star in our hand-

-and melting like a snowflake…”

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Francis Bacon

We woke this morning to the unexpected beauty of our garden covered in snow.  An inch fell sometime between midnight and morning.  The clouds were long gone by the time I wandered to the window to look out on this new day; a day bathed in warm golden sunshine, reflecting off that brilliant and sparkling snow.

We are in those depths of a Virginia winter when one must expect the unexpected.  We’ve more snow on the way, and we are preparing for night time temperatures to grow ridiculously cold by Saturday night.  These are the days and nights a gardener dreads, when those tiny bits of life one tries to nurture through till spring finally might succumb to winter’s frigid touch.

Knowing this, we moved the olive trees into the garage at sunset yesterday.  Now nearly 4 feet tall, they have made it through three winters in their very portable pots.  Hardy to Zone 8, I have left them out longer this winter than ever before.  But now they are situated in the garage to survive these next few frosty nights.

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Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' shrugs off the cold without a single leaf withering. They may turn a bit rosy in the cold, but always recover. February 13 'Yellow Green' and February 7 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown.'

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ shrugs off the cold without a single leaf withering. They may turn a bit rosy in the cold, but always recover. February 13 ‘Green Yellow’ and February 7 ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown.’

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“You never know what’s around the corner.

It could be everything.

Or it could be nothing.

You keep putting one foot in front of the other,

and then one day you look back

and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

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Tom Hiddleston

I’m always a bit restless in February.  I want to keep on gardening, but most of the garden has gone dormant.  I wander around looking for signs of change and growth.  Perhaps I’m looking for reassurance that things are still alive.

While it is fine to have a rest from weeding and watering, I miss the dynamic change of watching plants grow and develop into the fullness of their beauty.

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Selaginella with a new Amaryllis

Selaginella and Strawberry Begonia with a new Amaryllis bulb. February 10 ‘Granny Smith Apple Green.’

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This time of year challenges our spirit of perseverance.  

We plan, we order, we clean, we prune, and we wait.   I fiddle endlessly with those plants wintering indoors, too; taking cuttings, watering, and admiring those in bloom.

I planted up the last of our autumn Amaryllis bulbs today with some beautiful Selaginella adopted from The Great Big Greenhouse last week.   Understanding how February affects us all, they compassionately have a full month of special events to promote tropical houseplants.  I made it for the last day of their sale on ferns, but  will miss the Orchid presentation next Saturday….

The little Strawberry Begonia has been growing outside in a pot since last summer.  Today I finally rescued it,  and brought it inside for this arrangement.  Maybe it will respond to the warmth by sending out runners and ‘baby’ plants some week soon.

There are rarely immediate results from those tasks we tackle in winter.  We have to bide out time and wait for our efforts to bear fruit sometime further along in the season.   We wait and watch for those first tiny signs of spring’s awakening, ready to celebrate each unfolding.

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The first tiny green tips of awakening bulbs break ground in this pot by the back door. February 8, 'Gold.'

The first tiny green tips of awakening bulbs break ground in this pot by the back door. February 8, ‘Gold.’

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I am happy, this February, to participate in Jennifer Nichole Wells’s new “Color My World: One Hundred Days of Crayola” photo challenge.  Jenny is working from the Crayola Crayon chart of colors, and offers a new color challenge each day for 120 days, beginning January 1.   I’ll aim for one post each week, sharing photos of as many of that week’s colors as I’m able.

This week’s colors include:  Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown, Gold, Goldenrod, Granny Smith Green, Grey, Green, and Green Yellow.  These colors were easy to find in the garden today, even in a February garden.  There are abundant signs of life in our Forest Garden, and we appreciate finding each and every one.

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Goldenrod yellow shines in the face of this tiny Viola. February 9, "Goldenrod."

Autumn’s ‘Goldenrod’ yellow shines in the face of this tiny Viola. February 9, “Goldenrod.”

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“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one.

Of course, we are all familiar with the first book

he wrote, namely Scripture.

But he has written a second book

called creation.”

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Francis Bacon 

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Our Forsythia continues slowly breaking bud in the garden. We didn't enjoy Forsythia until mid-March in 2015. Here it blooms by the drive.

Our Forsythia continues slowly breaking bud in the garden. We didn’t enjoy Forsythia until mid-March in 2015. Here it blooms by the drive.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Our pond at sunset last Saturday. February 12, 'Green"

Our pond at sunset last Saturday. February 12, ‘Green”

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“Even in the mud and scum of things,

something always, always sings.”

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Sunday Dinner: Patience

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“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing.

It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose,

looking at the night and seeing the day.

Lovers are patient and know that

the moon needs time to become full.”

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Rumi

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“Patience, he thought. So much of this

was patience – waiting, and thinking

and doing things right.

So much of all this, so much of all living

was patience and thinking.”

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Gary Paulsen

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“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”

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Fulton J. Sheen

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“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

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Benjamin Franklin 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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In A Very Special Vase This Monday

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A very special vase, made by our friend, Denis Orton, filled with budding branches and ivy, sits in our dining room this week.  I cut the Ivy, Forsythia, Magnolia, and Elaeagnus while our ground was still covered in snow last week.  It has had five or six days for the buds to swell, and our first Forsythia flowers began to open over the weekend.

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This is our first tribute to spring, although we still have piles of snow here and there in the garden.  I expect the last of the snow to dissolve in tonight’s warm rain.

Warm?  In February?  you might wonder…. Our sunny day today reached the mid-70s by early afternoon.

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But I noticed this lovely Magnolia bud while shoveling snow off of the driveway a week ago, and decided to bring one inside.  These are magnificent as they unfold each spring.  It is the first time I’ve added one to an arrangement of winter branches.

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Our Forsythia began opening an occasional bloom even before Christmas.  They are so sensitive to the littlest bit of warmth, and their buds have swelled throughout all the various shrubs around the garden.   We could cut a few branches of Forsythia every week between now and the end of March, and you’d never notice them missing!

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Whenever we are lucky enough to have a branch root in the vase, I find a place to plant it back in the garden.

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The ivy was poking out of a snow covered planter box when I clipped it last week.  It amazes me how hardy these delicate looking leaves prove themselves to be even when covered with ice and snow.  They keep growing right through our Virginia winter.

Our friend, a retired chemist and professional potter, has been experimenting with crystalline glazes for several years now.

I think this is his most beautiful crystalline glaze yet, filled with soft greens and blues and punctuated with sparkling metallic crystals.  He surprised us with the vase, filled with fresh flowers, a day or two before Christmas.  We were so excited and pleased to receive the vase, as beautiful hand made pottery is a special joy for us.

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These glazes produce pieces which are absolutely unique. 

I’ve been looking forward to using Denis’s gorgeous vase in a Monday post.  It has been sitting on our dining table, empty, through much of January.

But now that we have traveled a month into the new year, I am happy to fill it with flowering branches, and wait for the show to unfold!

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, for sponsoring our Monday vases.   Please visit her post today to see a lovely antique vase filled with beautiful spring flowers.  If your heart needs Hyacinths and Daffodils, you will enjoy gazing at her photos today.  You’ll find a multitude of links to vases arranged by other gardeners around the world.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Fresh

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Fresh:  new, different, out of the ordinary….

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A perfect theme for this opening of a new season. 

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The world is freshly washed in crystal clear raindrops.  Fresh flowers finally opened in the garden. 

Our spirits feel re-freshed through the transition from bleak to bright

as we hover now on the cusp of spring.

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Fresh:  energetic, clean and cool, unspoiled,

Full of life and promise-

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The Daily Post challenges photographers to show something which is fresh.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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A Vase On Monday: Unfolding Buds

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Have you ever meditated on a bud’s unfolding?  The process of its growth from a tight, scaly bump on a branch to a softly colorful flower or leaf continues to amaze me.

Forsythia branches open their buds so elegantly that bringing them inside is an annual ritual of spring in our home.

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You think you might recognize this vase?  Well, perhaps you do…

But its contours have shifted, haven’t they?  My partner declared that the Hazel branches had to go as they released their golden pollen into the dining room.  Lovely as they were, there was no denying the sneezing and our watery eyes might have been related to their virility.

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So we are left with just the Forsythia and ivy from last week’s vase, transformed by the passage of time.

But finally, it is March.

And one day soon we’ll get up and find daffodils blooming in the garden.  Longer days and a bit of warmth promise to re-ignite the whole magical process of unfolding buds, lengthening stems, greening grass, and awakening perennials.  Let color return to this wintery garden!  Let new leaves clothe the shivering bare branches!

Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden hosts “In A Vase on Monday” each week.  Please visit her post today and find links to beautiful vases created by gardeners this first Monday in March.  A few minutes spent admiring such beauty and creativity is good for us all.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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…But It Feels Like Spring In Here…..

Monday's vase of branches from the garden unfold their buds and release their pollen.

Monday’s vase of branches from the garden unfold their buds and release their pollen.

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There may be a eight inches of new snow outside, but it feels like spring in here!  The branches we brought in for Monday’s vase are unfurling in our balmy heat indoors.  And with spring comes, pollen.

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It is a timely reminder to enjoy the moment, without trying to rush things too much.  Every season has its own joys and trials, after all!

But the air outside is squeaky clean and fresh today.

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It was well-scrubbed by snow, which fell all night long and well into mid-day here.  Heavy and wet, it has done what it has done in the garden to some of our shrubs.

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I did a little bit of snow clearing on the deck before heading for my make-shift potting area in the basement.  Ignoring appearances outside, I am feeling the quickening of spring and decided to get on with it indoors.

This is a good time to find gardening supplies on clearance sales, and I picked up several beautiful ceramic pots at half-price earlier this week.  Since the last of last season’s potting soil was ‘buy one get one free,’ naturally, I stocked up.  What a huge blessing!   

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A lovely fern found at Lowe's this week can grow on in its new pot until time to go outside for the summer in a large basket.

A lovely fern found at Lowe’s this week can grow on in its new pot until time to go outside for the summer in a large basket.

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I’ve also been shopping the ultra-affordable deals at our local Lowe’s store.  I brought home a beautiful pot-bound fern this week, and had already picked up a bag of Canna lily roots a few weeks ago.  Two bags of seed potatoes, some Ranunculus roots and a bag of Gladiolus bulbs sit in our garage waiting for action.

It may be too early to start seeds without a light kit, but it is a fine day for potting up!

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Those Begonia Rex I’ve been rescuing from sale tables have proper pots this afternoon, and look much happier for it.  The footed ferns I’ve brought home this winter also have lovely ceramic pots and a spot in what little sun we have to offer.

I like to start Canna roots indoors in a large plastic  storage box half filled with potting soil.  Though hardy, it is way too early to set new plants outside.  So I’ll give this group of eight a few weeks of growth indoors before moving them outside in late April.  It was surprising to see how much their buds have grown while sitting in their package.

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Trader Joe's offered this lovely fern in early February.  Finally out of its nursery pot and into a larger ceramic pot today.

Trader Joe’s offered this lovely fern in early February. Finally, it comes  out of its nursery pot and into a larger ceramic one today.

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The tiny Ranunculus roots also went into pots today with a division of overwintering Spikemoss.  I love their bright rose-like blooms in early spring.  These can break dormancy in the garage, and their pot will go outside on fine days once they show new growth.

The list of spring garden chores will just have to wait a while longer.  The weather hasn’t settled enough for us to begin pruning back woody plants or cutting back perennials.  Given how late our last spring came, it may be wise to wait until at least the second week of March. Cutting too early leaves the pruned stems exposed to moisture and to cold.

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Another Begonia Rex, also from Lowes this winter, settles into its new pot.

Another Begonia Rex, also from Lowes this winter, settles into its new pot.  The small division I cut out of it grows on in its “seafoam” pot.

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After killing a plant or three in my eagerness to start the spring clean up too early; I’ve learned to wait for that magical time after the worst of winter’s weather has passed, but before too much new growth has begun to  sprout.  This is a hard chore to time properly, and I feel badly cutting back branches already in growth.  The roses, especially, are always eager to get on with spring several weeks before winter weather has passed.

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Once the snows melt and soak in a bit, we may start some clean up of winter’s leaves.  They can be shredded once they dry out and go back to the garden as mulch.  There is Holly Tone to spread and beautiful packets of fresh seed just waiting to begin growth.

But that may be a while yet…. It is snowing hard again this afternoon.  Temperatures are dropping, and this will all be ice by morning.

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No matter;  it is already spring for us indoors.  We are getting a bit of a head start with a little pre-positioning of resources, and a lot of love.

 

Woodland Gnome 2015

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Monday Vase: Feeling Spring Close At Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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

 

The Price of an Education

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The price of an education is experience.

Which means, I’ve earned a tremendous amount of useful information over the last day while dealing with the challenges presented by the plagiarism of my posts from Forest Garden.

First, the thank-yous:  I appreciate each and every person who has contacted me over the last day by phone, email, and comments to commiserate, offer support, and to make helpful suggestions.  One friend expressed, ” …”hell hath no fury” like a woman plagiarized. ”  More on that in a bit.

I also appreciate Christine at Bluelime Media in Vancouver, BC, who very calmly let me know that no, her company had nothing to do with the offending site; other than having produced the theme which farmersmiths.com pirated.  Her company develops themes for WordPress, and she helped re-direct my efforts towards finding those who needed to be found.

And I appreciate those involved with farmersmiths.com and related sites who voluntarily removed my content from their pages last night.

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I also appreciate the WordPress platform, because it provides help on just about any blogging related topic one can need.  Their article about content theft provided a list of actions to take, and the links I needed, to figure out how to handle this situation.

WordPress makes our everyday publishing so easy that we can produce endless content with a minimum of technical know-how.  To solve this conundrum yesterday, it was necessary to dig beneath the surface of things to hunt for clues.

But this has been far from an easy process.  In fact, it is a very frustrating, time intensive scavenger hunt of clues and dead-ends when one enters the shadier reaches of cyberspace in search of hard, actionable information.  That is where the ‘fury’ part comes in handy. 

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The first meaning of fury, in many dictionaries, has to do with a wild rage.  That is superbly unhelpful in a case such as this.

I prefer the more ancient meanings of fury, which is derived from those loveable Furies of Greek literature.  Do you recall them?  It is the energy of the anger, the fury, which is useful when once needs to get something done well, and done quickly.

So for the second time in a week, with apologies, I’ll share with you some bits of information which you might find useful.  It is very hard to stay out of the garden this long, but we bloggers must help one another from time to time.  Here are the highlights of what I’ve learned:

1.  Keep an eye on ‘your brand.’  A blogging friend tipped me off that she had found my content on another person’s website unattributed.  Had I searched in Google or Bing for my own blog post titles I could have discovered the miscreant myself.  But I didn’t think to do that.  Late last night I did search for several recent posts, and found the link to the miscreant site listed on the list of returns, above my own….

2.  Theft of published content is an international crime, with protections outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  It turns out those who stole my content are based in Australia.  One begins to request restitution with a DMCA notice directed to the domain and the domain host.

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3.  One begins with an inventory of exactly what has been stolen.  This includes taking screen shots of the offending website.  One may also copy and paste from their site into a word processing file.  The lovely thing about most word processing software protocols is that they reveal a great deal of information not visible on a ‘live’ website.  Since theft is very much a crime, even online, collecting this data first, before doing anything else, ensures you have the evidence you need on down the  line.

4.  One can also get the full details about any website through a Domain Search.  No, I hadn’t heard of it either, until last night.  Here is another useful resource to combat internet plagiarism, with the links you need to begin the search.

5. Explore every link on a questionable site.  By clicking one of the photographs on farmersmiths.com, I found a link to a related business, also selling gardening products.  That business had contact information, and there was even a gmail address for a person connected with that business.  A friendly email to that person, requesting their assistance in contacting ‘Farmer,’ who signed his name to my posts reprinted without permission on his site, was fruitful.  She managed to locate him and pass on the message.  I appreciate that.  My plagiarized posts came down within the hour.

6.  Finally, publish an ironclad disclaimer statement on your blog.  Hugh Roberts directed me to an excellent post on crafting your own personal disclaimerSerin’s post explains why this is essential for every blogger, and gives excellent links to additional resources on blog security.

7.  Maintain an attitude of gratitude.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to publish each day, and for those who join with me in this adventure.  It is life’s challenges and frustrations which force us to climb those steep learning curves in our daily lives.  Have you noticed? 

~

First Forsythia of the season....

First Forsythia of the season….

~

I’ve learned a good deal from this experience.  And I hope the miscreant who thought he or she would quietly get by with ‘lifting’ my work each day, through some as yet undiscovered pipeline through cyberspace, has learned a bit over the last 24 hours, as well.

And I hope that you, whether you write a blog yourself, or not; might have learned a useful trick or two through reading about my experiences.

Thank you for visiting Forest Garden today, for your wonderful comments, and for giving me a very good reason to spend time writing and taking photos each day.

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

 

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