Blossom XVIII: Tough

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“We have not journeyed all this way

because we are made of sugar candy.”

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Winston S. Churchill

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“Anyone can be tough for a season.

It takes a special kind of human

to rise to life’s challenges for a lifetime.”


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Chris Matakas

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“If you’re looking for the easy challenge,

you’re not cut out for success.”


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T Jay Taylor

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“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face

conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”

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Greta Garbo

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Helleborus argutifolius 'Snow Fever'

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’

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Do you often think of flowers as ‘tough’ ?  Likely not.

And yet look at these beautiful Hellebores blooming in our garden today.  So fragile looking, but tough enough to bloom in January.  These sheltered under the deep  snowfall when temperatures here dipped into the single digits two weeks ago.  That is extremely cold for coastal Virginia, but the Hellebores kept  on growing and even blooming despite their environment.

There is a lesson there for gardeners; perhaps for all of us.  Such beauty is an expression of itself.  It fulfills its own plan and promise.

Hellebores fill a special niche in our garden.  They are one of the toughest perennials we grow.  Their graceful evergreen leaves maintain a presence year round, through summer’s heat and drought as easily as through frigid winter days.  Their delicate veins and subtle shading express the same sort of athletic beauty as a ballerina.   And just when it looks like the garden has suffered defeat at winter’s hand, these wondrous flowers emerge from the frozen Earth.

And they last.  The cut flowers last a long time whether left growing out of doors or cut for a vase.  These plants will still be blooming when the garden has filled with Daffodils and Azalea next April.

A new neighbor and I were chatting today, and she asked me what perennial I would recommend for her front garden.  She has a wide sheltered bed near the street; an inviting  bed and breakfast for every rabbit and deer in the neighborhood.  It is shaded with a thick growth of native hollies and young hardwood trees.

I’ll be you know what advice I offered…. Hellebores.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
Blossom XI
Blossom XII
Blossom XIII
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Blossom XVI
Blossom XVII
Blossom XX

 

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Sunday Dinner: “Just For a Second…”

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“Sometimes I feel like if you just watch things,

just sit still and let the world exist in front of you –

sometimes I swear that just for a second

time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt.

Just for a second.

And if you somehow found a way to live in that second,

then you would live forever.”

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Lauren Oliver

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“It is looking at things for a long time

that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.”

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Vincent van Gogh

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Sunday Dinner

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“Today expect something good to happen to you

no matter what occurred yesterday.

Realize the past no longer holds you captive.

It can only continue to hurt you

if you hold on to it.

Let the past go.

A simply abundant world awaits.”


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Sarah Ban Breathnach

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“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”


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Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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“Excellence is the Result of Caring

more than others think is Wise,

Risking more than others think is Safe,

Dreaming more than others think

is Practical, and Expecting more

than others think is Possible.”


.

Ronnie Oldham

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Our brightest blazes of gladness

are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”

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Samuel Johnson

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The Beauty of Hellebores

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Hellebores are one of the great joys of our winter garden.

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Each one is so different.  These are some of the most interesting and exotic flowers we grow.  They are even more special now, when most of the garden remains dormant.

Hellebores provide some of the earliest nectar and pollen for overwintering insects, too.

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Hellebores cross-pollinate and sow their seeds abundantly.  Areas where we first established them, more than four years ago now, sport a large crop of ‘volunteers.’

I’ve moved quite a few seedlings to new areas to expand our winter garden.  They  need to grow on for three years or more before they bloom.  Which makes the anticipation build to discover the unique colors and patterns of the seedlings’ blossoms.

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Cold and wind take their toll on last year’s evergreen foliage.  This is the time I begin cutting back the older leaves so the flowers and new leaves show better.

Always remember that Hellebores are highly poisonous.  I avoid handling the leaves or sap by wearing gloves.  Then those precious leaves are recycled anywhere we’ve been troubled by voles.  As they decompose into the Earth, they also offer that bit of the garden more protection from their tunneling.

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And the plants themselves protect the beds where they are planted.  No creatures dig or graze around them.  Every year they grow more beautiful, blooming so enthusiastically even in shade and less than perfect soil.

Hellebores have become some of my favorite plants in our Forest Garden.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Harbingers ….

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“A tiny change today brings a dramatically different tomorrow.”
 

Richard Bach

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Photo by Woodland Gnome 2016

Searching for Spring

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“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle

that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all.

It was more the idea of a colour –

as if the trees were dreaming green dreams

or thinking green thoughts.”

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Susanna Clarke 

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It is still winter here.  It only takes a single step out on the porch to prove this.  I still reach for a chunky sweater each day, and huge pots of home made soup offer us warmth and comfort.  I keep reminding us both of March snowstorms in years passed.

And yet we, and everyone we know, are waiting for spring.  We’re watching for the earliest signs of nature’s shifting.    All it takes is a few hours of warmth and sunshine to draw us outside.

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Flowers from our garden, finally in their vase.

Flowers from our garden, finally in their vase.

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Yesterday, we drove out to visit our friends at Homestead Garden Center.   They are weather watchers, too, of course.  I was curious to see what signs of spring they might have on offer.

Aside from freshly delivered pallets of compost, we found precious little.  They know that winter’s not yet finished with us, too.

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They did have a cart of gorgeous bright primroses, raised since autumn in their greenhouses.  They time the first ones to arrive just before Valentine’s Day.  What joy to simply gaze at them and soak in the colors!

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And inside the shop, we found sprouting Hyacinth bulbs.  Our first sweet breath of spring.  I always bless those whose planning makes these late winter flowers possible.

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These precious winter flowers get us through February.

We left with a tray of little bulbs in their forcing glasses, some compost, and a set of empty pots.  The compost is ready for that next warm day when I’m itching to work in the garden.  The pots stand ready to move the olive trees up for the season ahead.

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And the bulbs are for sharing spring with a few loved ones who need it as much as  we….

 

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Sunday Dinner: The Mystery

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“The most beautiful experience we can have

is the mysterious.

It is the fundamental emotion

that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

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Albert Einstein

 

Robin, at Breezes at Dawn, has been participating in the Three Day Quote Challenge.  She was invited by our mutual friend, Eliza.   Both have  issued a general invitation for any of their followers to join in.

The rules are simple:  Post an inspirational, uplifting quote for three consecutive days, and invite three other bloggers to join you.  If you are reading this, please consider yourself invited.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

WPC: Vibrant

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“Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?

Can one really explain this? no.

Just as one can never learn how to paint.”

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Pablo Picasso

This week’s photo challenge topic is just what I needed today:

“This week, share a photo of something vibrant.
Vivid colors, a lively portrait, or perhaps a delightfully colorful landscape, if you’re in a warmer climate.
Let’s wash the web with a rainbow of colors to keep the winter gloom at bay.”

What a wonderful idea!  We could all use some rainbow colors right about now, as January melts away into February.

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Sunset Wednesday evening along the James River. When I saw the colors in the sky reflected in the river, I just had to stop and try to capture it in a photo.

Sunset Wednesday evening along the James River. When I saw the colors in the sky reflected in the river, I just had to stop and try to capture it in a photo.

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“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours;

let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”

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Kahlil Gibran

There hasn’t been a great deal of color outside, lately, and I miss it.  Snow still blankets parts of the garden.  Other parts remain cloaked in wet brown leaves.  Bright moss peaks out here and there, but nature’s range of color has shrunk into winter neutrals.

But this photo challenge inspired me to go on a treasure hunt today, searching for glorious vibrant colors in the garden.  I was amazed to find how quickly many of our plants have recovered from last weekend’s winter storm, and regained their color and vitality.

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“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning,

and unallied with definite form,

can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. ”

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Oscar Wilde

This color speaks to me of the miraculous power in the life force of plants.  These cabbage leaves froze last night, and spent several days under a dome of frozen snow.  Yet what color!  These leaves survived, and the plant is steadily growing new ones from its heart.  I had to observe closely, but was able to find gold and red, purple, green, pink and orange; living colors in the midst of winter.

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Yes, this dandelion is blooming in our garden today like a tiny sun ....

Yes, this dandelion is blooming in our garden today like a tiny sun, blazing with energy and optimism ….

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“The beauty and mystery of this world

only emerges through affection, attention,

interest and compassion . . .

open your eyes wide and actually see

this world by attending

to its colors, details and irony.”

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Orhan Pamuk

Robin, at Breezes at Dawn, has been participating in the Three Day Quote Challenge.  She was invited by our mutual friend, Eliza.  Both have  issued a general invitation for any of their followers to join in.  Robin published a quotation today from one of my long time favorite authors, Benjamin Hoff.

How can I resist?  Robin and Eliza, I am joining your challenge, and inviting my other blogging friends to join us as well.

The rules are simple:  Post an inspirational, uplifting quote for three consecutive days, and invite three other bloggers to join you.  If you are reading this, please consider yourself invited.

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We adopted this lovely Yucca 'Color Guard' from Brent and Becky's shop in Gloucester late last summer. It seems to be holding its own through the cold.

We adopted this lovely Yucca ‘Color Guard’ from Brent and Becky’s shop in Gloucester late last summer. It seems to be holding its own through the cold.

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Just as ‘… two colors, put one next to the other sing…’ ;  this is often true with people, too.  We find a harmony together, and each brings out the best in the other.

I feel this way about Eliza and Robin, and the conversations we have with one another and the inspiration we offer one another through our presence in our blogs.  If you’ve not met them yet, I hope you’ll follow these links to find their beautiful photos and thoughtful quotations from the quotation challenge.

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Purple Sage, still growing despite the cold.

Purple Sage, still growing despite the cold.

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It takes a little more energy and effort to remain vibrant through the winter months.  But what beauty shines now, for those who seek it out.

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Color Your World

January 24: Cerise

January 24: Cerise tinged Hellebore buds

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There was a time, not so long ago, when Tuesdays found me visiting Jennifer’s One Word Photo Challenge,and scrambling to find or create photos to fit her chosen color of the week.  For a very long time, Jennifer’s word of the week described a color. And what wonderful words she chose! Shamrock,‘ ‘Eigengrau,‘ ‘Teal,’ and Saffron.’ 

It was always an interesting challenge to find the photos, and often it evolved into an afternoon drive as we set out in search of the week’s color.

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January 25, Cerulean blue sky

January 25, Cerulean blue sky behind our mistletoe laden tree limbs

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  In addition to Jenny’s rules, I tried to always use current photos and also remain true to my ‘Forest Garden’ themes.  But sometime last year, when Jenny moved from color in her photo challenges to weather, I drifted away.

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January 26: Chestnut bark of our Crepe Myrtles glows against the snow.

January 26: Chestnut bark of our Crepe Myrtles glows against the snow.

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And so last night, when I stumbled across Cee’s blog featuring “Cerulean,” I was quite happy to click back and discover Jenny’s new “Color My World: One Hundred Days of Crayola” photo challenge.

Now Jenny offers a new color challenge each day for 120 days, beginning January 1.  Although we are already 26 days into the challenge, I am happy to tag along once again, and hope you will visit Jenny and explore links to other photographers participating in this Color Your World challenge.

But I will switch things up a bit and clock in only on Tuesdays, with current photos featuring as many of the week’s colors as I’m able.  I’m featuring Jenny’s challenge  colors from January 24: ‘Cerise’ through January 30: ‘Dandelion‘ in today’s post.

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January 26: Chestnut colored leaves nearly hiding an owl, sheltering in the tree from heavy snowfall.

January 27: Copper colored leaves and catkins nearly hide an owl, sheltering from heavy snowfall at the edge of our ravine.  This owl, and its mate, often appear here in the trees, keeping watch on our comings and goings.

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I have always enjoyed Jenny’s color challenges because they guide me in focusing on the changing color palette of the garden, as the seasons progress.

While our garden sleeps under its snow cover this week, we find breathtaking shades of blue in the sky; wondrous ever-greens in the shrubs, ferns and other perennials; every shade of grey and brown in the woody stems of our trees; and other interesting neutral shades in our hardscaping.  These are the colors which fade into the background during much of the year.  But we see them clearly now.

Although January remains a quiet time of year, color wise, we’re only a breath away from late winter’s flowers and the bright buds of early spring.

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January 28 Cornflower fills the sky behind bare limbs

January 28 Cornflower blue fills the sky behind bare tree limbs

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Color always tickles our emotions.  Whether we feel sheer delight in a bunch of crimson roses or relax peacefully in a shady green garden, the colors surrounding us also color our moods.

Our clear blue skies, present since the snow  crept away early Sunday morning, fill me with energy and optimism.  I look out across our snowy garden and feel gratitude for every green leaf, shining in the afternoon sun.

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January 29 Cotton candy describes these lovely Camellias, blooming in late December before snow found our garden.

January 29 Cotton candy describes these lovely Camellias, blooming in late December before snow found our garden.

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What a pleasure to notice the range of colors living in our garden, even in the midst of winter.  I am happy to take part in this new color challenge; and through it; celebrate our journey through winter and into spring 2016. 

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January 30 Dandelion yellow perfectly describes the bright stamens at the heart of a Hellebore

January 30 Dandelion yellow perfectly describes the bright stamens at the heart of a Hellebore

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Shadows also bring color to a snowy January day.

Shadows also bring color to a snowy January day. Rabbits left their footprints here in the snow.

On A Tray: Beautiful Bouquets

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Inspiration waits everywhere; especially in a good gardening magazine.

Particularly inspiring is the article ‘Beautiful Bouquets’ in the current special edition Plant Issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine.  Plantswoman Anne Townley suggests delicious combinations of plants one might grow together, expecting to later cut them for beautiful and unusual bouquets.

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Clockwise from top left: Violas, Edgeworthia, Artemesia

Clockwise from top left: Ivy, Violas, Edgeworthia, Lavender, Artemesia, Iris, Mahonia, Fennel, Black Eyed Susan.

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Her plant choices are quite idiosyncratic, at least to this Virginian gardener.

The photography for this article was my inspiration, however.  Photographer Andrew Montgomery created a stunning tableau with each combination of plants Ms. Townley selected.  Please follow the link to see these artful vignettes of petal and leaf composed to illustrate this lively article about cutting gardens.

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Clockwise from top left: Viola, Camellia, Cyclamen

Clockwise from top left: Camellia, Viola, Pineapple Sage, Camellia, Cyclamen, Viola, Edgeworthia, Ivy, Rose, Salvia, Hellebore,  Pineapple Mint, scented Pelargonium.

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Emulation remains the highest form of flattery, and so I couldn’t resist assembling a little tableau of my own this morning from what looks fresh in our garden today.

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Part scavenger hunt, part journey of discovery; what a surprisingly diverse collection of leaf and flower waited for me in the garden!

Wandering, cutting and arranging, I quickly realized that most of these bits of horticultural beauty would have grown unnoticed save for this challenge.

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Clockwise from top left: Rosa, 'The Generous Gardener,' Ivy, Viola, Black Eyed Susuans,

Clockwise from top left: Rosa, ‘The Generous Gardener,’ Ivy, Viola, Black Eyed Susan, Rose hips, Mahonia, Fennel, Iris.

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Each newly snipped blossom and leaf delighted me.  Though cut from many different areas of the garden, from pots, beds and shrubs; they harmonize.  What a helpful way to get a ‘read’ on how well the plants in one’s garden go together.

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Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: Purple Sage, Viola, Rosemary, Pineapple Sage, Lavendar, Dianthus, Vinca minor,  Cyclamen, Viola, Ivy, Salvia, Hellebores, Pineapple Mint, Pelargonium, Camellia

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I could have just sat and admired this tray full of cuttings over a steamy cup of coffee.

But, other projects called, like the bin filled with Brent and Becky’s bulbs, gleaned from their end of season clearance sale, just before the holiday.   We had been granted another good day for planting, and so I didn’t tarry over the tray too long.

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Rather, I recut the stems and tucked them into a vase, floated the blossoms in a bowl, slipped the ivy into a jar of rooting cuttings, and headed back out to the garden.

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Because there were  just one or two stems of each plant on the tray, this is a somewhat unusual vase.  It needed photographing from all sides as each of its ‘faces’ is different.

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I am happy to join Cathy at Rambling In the Garden for her “In A Vase On Monday’ meme this week.  She has created a ‘Moondance’ by the sea; more inspiration, as always!

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Although we are enjoying our little vase this afternoon, my partner and I remain intrigued by the possibilities of simply arranging stems  on a tray.  I plan to tour the garden, tray in hand, at some regular interval from here on just to see what there is to see.

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And, inspired by several excellent articles on garden color  in Gardens Illustrated, I also took my bin of bulbs back out to the garden for a few happy hours of planting today.  Bulbs planted a few weeks ago have already broken ground with their first, tentative leaves.

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Winter blooming Iris have started into growth in this pot with Violas and Moss.

Winter blooming Iris have started into growth in this pot with Violas and Moss.

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I dug new areas and planted Daffodils, Muscari, Leucojum, Cyclamen and more, before covering everything with a fresh coat of compost.

Although imagination is a wonderful thing,  I can’t wait to actually see these new additions grow into the tapestry of our garden in the months ahead.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

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