Garden Gold

Fennel flowers allow for easy access to their nectar.


The hotter it gets, the more gold in the garden glitters and shines.  As the mercury goes up, yellow and gold feel almost cooling.


An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly feeds on Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow,’ a fairly new perennial Lantana introduction. WBG


I don’t understand the alchemy of that, but I do understand the clear attraction of gold for all of our nectar seeking pollinators.



Gold flowers may just taste sweeter.  They certainly draw in the bees, wasps and butterflies who draw sustenance from their sugary depths.


Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ is also a perennial in Zone 7. WBG


All the while, these prolific flowers are also ripening seeds to delight goldfinches and other small birds who will feast on their ripe seeds well into the barren months of winter.


Flocks of goldfinches took wing from the wildflowers where they were feeding, as I walked through the Williamburg Botanical Garden yesterday afternoon.


Golden and yellow flowers often prove among the easiest for a gardener to grow.  Turn to dill, fennel and parsley for their distinctive round umbel inflorescence, all flat and easy to access;  Rudbeckias and Helianthus for their many petaled sunburst flowers.


The first black eyed Susans, our native Rudbecki hirta, have begun to open in our garden.


Coreopsis, Lantana, marigolds and Zinnias all bloom in shades of yellow, orange and gold.



The season ends on a wild and native note as Solidagos burst into bloom in September and October, towering over the black eyed Susans in our garden like great feathery plumes of living gold.


Solidago blooms alongside Rudbeckia in our garden, October 2017.


If the entire garden were nothing but green and gold, animated with swallowtail butterflies and goldfinches, what a beautiful display we would still enjoy.



Woodland Gnome 2018



“Any patch of sunlight in a wood

will show you something about the sun

which you could never get

from reading books on astronomy.

These pure and spontaneous pleasures

are ‘patches of Godlight’

in the woods of our experience.”


C.S. Lewis

Late Summer Golden Haze



Like living sunshine, waves of golden flowers splash across the meadows at the Yorktown battlefields.  We found a quintessential meadow planting, windsown, as we drove through this patchwork of fields and fences, earthworks and reminders of the battles where the British finally surrendered to the Americans in October of 1781.




Tall native grasses grow in an Oudolph style matrix, punctuated by native  Solidago catching and reflecting the late summer sunlight.  Peaceful now, these fields stand empty as a silent memorial to the passions which bought liberty for our United States.



The Yorktown battlefields lie at the Eastern end of the Colonial Parkway.  Beyond the fields one finds the little village of Yorktown on the Southern bank of the York River.   We visit from time to time, enjoying the waterfront which hosts concerts, craft fairs, sailing ships and a pleasing variety of restaurants and shops.  Families relax along its sandy beach.

Here, time blurs.  Present day life blends seamlessly with artifacts and memories of the past.




We enjoy the peace which permeates this place now.  And we enjoy seeing the seasons painting their colors across the fields and trees; the gardens in the village; the river and sky.

Goldenrod is one of the highlights of late summer and autumn here.  This is the wild, native Goldenrod.  While gardeners can purchase several more refined hybrids for their gardens, this is the same Goldenrod the early colonists and Native Americans would have known.




It grows freely, still, along roadsides throughout our area.  Like so many ‘native perennials,’ Solidago may be seen as a wildflower by some, a weed by others.

It seeds take root in unexpected places.  In fact, native Solidago grows in one of our shrub borders.  Once I realized what it was, I began leaving it to grow undisturbed each year.  It grows very tall in this shaded area.




While a bit weedy, it feeds many pollinators now at the end of the season, and its beautiful clear golden flowers brighten even the dullest autumn day.

In large masses, Goldenrod creates a lovely late summer golden haze; living, growing sunshine which  brightens the last few weeks of the season.

More on growing Goldenrod


October 8 Parkway 042


Woodland Gnome 2016




September 18, 2015 goldenrod 007


“Preconceived theories are the misfortune of painting and painters. 

Nature is the most discerning guide,

if one completely submits oneself to it;

but when it disagrees with you all is finished. 

One cannot fight nature.”


Claude Monet


September 18, 2015 goldenrod 008



“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.”


Claude Monet


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“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand,

as if it were necessary to understand,

when it is simply necessary to love.”


Claude Monet


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“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way.

So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”


Claude Monet


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015


September 18, 2015 goldenrod 003

This series of photos was taken at a pullover along the Colonial Parkway near Colonial Williamsburg.  They reflect how our natural areas have already changed  in mid-September.  Even as the last of the fall perennials, like this native Goldenrod, come into bloom; our leaves are already dropping, and have been for several weeks now.  Many are fading and turning brown without showing bright color along the way. 

A period of unusually dry weather has turned our lush landscape of early summer to one showing the stress many plants are feeling. 

Still, there is beauty.  The golden sunlight of  early evening gilds  the trees as it falls lower in the sky.  As Monet observes, “One cannot fight nature.”


September 18, 2015 goldenrod 010



October 29, 2014 fall color 076

A messy season, fall, when you think of it. 

“Fall,” of course, refers to the countless leaves browning and blowing from every limb of every deciduous shrub and tree.


October 29, 2014 fall color 041


The autumn winds sweep away every bit of what is tired, worn, and dying.

Of course, those same winds also pick up the downy seeds released by wildflowers.


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They catch the seed filled pine cones and scatter them far from the mother tree.


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Berries, seed pods, nuts and acorns all take flight on the wind, perhaps landing where they can thrust roots into moist and accepting soil, and grow.


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Like  monks sweeping away a completed Tibetan sand painting, nature has a hand in her own dissolution. 


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Vibrant greens gradually fade to reveal the essential golds and purples, scarlets and orange of the forest.

Then even these colors fade to brown and take flight, leaving only the structure of things behind.


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Bare branches glow beneath their accumulations of lichen and moss, vines and animal nests;  scars of lost branches and broken limbs revealed.


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And it is still beautiful.

All of the essential parts remain. 


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Wind and rain, insects and worms work their magic all winter long, transforming all that has fallen to the Earth into the rich medium of life.


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Dissolution, cleansing, transformation.

Stillness and rest.


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Making way for new growth.



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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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One Word Photo Challenge: Mustard

Wildflowers on the roadside on Rt. 101 in Oregon.

Wildflowers on the roadside along  Rt. 101 in coastal Oregon.

“Mustard” shows itself everywhere in the September landscape.  Jennifer offers an easy challenge this week!

Goldenrod, and other wildflowers, bloom in the rich, dark shade of golden yellow known as mustard.

Hosta leaves have already begun to fade.  The summer's drought in coastal Oregon has taken its toll on the landscape.

Hosta leaves have already begun to fade. The summer’s drought in coastal Oregon has taken its toll on the landscape.

Leaves fade to this shade before turning brown and crinkly. 

Seeing the shade in nature recalls the spicy, bitter taste of good mustard.

Mustard colored flowers grow beside an exhibit at the aquarium in Newport, OR.

Mustard colored flowers grow beside an exhibit at the aquarium in Newport, OR.

I prefer mustard made from coarsely ground seeds, rich with texture and bursting with flavor.  Spread on a slightly sweet brioche bun, it is the perfect accent for a black bean burger and sweet potato fries!


September 17, 2014 Oregon 055

Goldenrod grows among other natives in this area around the sea lion display in Newport, OR.

And “mustard” flowers and leaves spice up our autumn landscapes.

Heralds of colorful changes in progress, accent against late summer greens;  we welcome the golden “mustards” of September.

September 17, 2014 Oregon 308

Wildflowers at the entrance to “Road’s End” beach access in Lincoln City, OR.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Mustard

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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