Growing Herbs for the Beauty of It

Culinary tri-color sage grows alongside perennial Geranium and fennel.

~

I grow herbs mostly for their beauty.  That, and their toughness as season-long dependable plants in our pots, beds and baskets.

~

Rose scented Pelargonium grows near emerging Colocasia.

~

I haven’t built them their own little parterre, and I don’t grow them in cute little matching terra cotta pots, either.  I treat them like any other plant and let them earn their spot in my heart and in our garden.

~

A newly planted Spanish lavender will soon fill this pot.  It is surrounded with wild violets and wild strawberries.

~

Herbs may be some of the oldest plants cultivated and passed on generation to generation and from one culture to the next.  They are celebrated in story and song.  They can heal us, feed us, soothe us and delight us.  Herbs are intensely fragrant; a living, growing perfume.

But I would grow them even without their rich mythological and pharmacological mystique.  Why?  Because I can depend on them.

~

The first fennel flowers of the season opend this week.

~

The strong fragrance and coarse texture of many herbs makes them distasteful to the deer I want to foil.  I learned in the early years of this garden that I could plant herbs in the spring, and expect them to still be merrily growing in our garden, sans critter damage, the following October.  I like to believe that planting lots of fragrant herbs can also protect more desirable plants growing nearby.

They are a good investment.  They bring me peace of mind.

~

Basil

~

But the more I tried different cultivars of favorite herbs, the more I delighted in them for their own sake.  They are entertaining plants to grow.  Let me explain.

~

Chocolate mint

~

Most herbs draw in pollinators.  That means that on a sunny day, I’ll find bees, wasps, butterflies, and all sorts of bright little insects that I can’t name without a field guide hovering around them and blissing out on their sweet nectar.

As I observe and photograph the visitors, I can crush and sniff their wonderfully fragrant leaves.

~

Black Swallowtail butterfly and caterpillars on fennel, August 2017

~

Many herbs, like the mints and scented geraniums, produce compounds in their leaves that repel biting insects.

~

Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum, is a versatile herb with strongly fragrant leaves.  The Garden Club of America  has named it their 2018 native plant of the year.

~

If a buzzy or bitey is getting too up close and personal with me, I can pinch a stem and rub the fragrant leaves on whatever skin might be exposed.

~

Pineapple mint with lavender

~

Mountain mint, though not so beautiful, is an especially effective insect repellent with no toxicity to harm my family or me.

~

Rose scented ‘Skeleton Rose’ Pelargonium repels insects with its fragrance. Growing here in a basket with Lantana, this basket makes a tough combination for full sun.

~

That same fragrance makes herbs appealing as cut flowers, too.  Stems worked in with other flowers make interesting, long lasting arrangements.

My favorite herbs for the vase are Basil, Pelargoniums, Artemesia, and Salvias. The interesting colors, shapes and textures of herbal foliage pumps up any vase.  Oftentimes, a stem will root in the vase and can be planted out to grow on when the arrangement is disassembled.

~

Basil with pineapple mint, Lime Queen Zinnia and roses.

~

Just as herbs create interesting contrasts with flowers in a vase, so they also pump up pots, baskets and perennial beds.

~

White Monarda came to our garden as a gift from a gardening friend.  It is edible, can be used for tea, and looks lovely in a vase.  Also known as bee balm or Oswego tea, this plant is a useful North American native herb.

~

Although herbs bloom, most have relatively small and insignificant flowers.  With a few exceptions, like some basils, dill, borage and fennel; herbs are grown more for their leaves than for their flowers.

~

~

Now rosemary is a delight all unto itself.  Sometimes evergreen if the winter is mild, usually perennial, it delights us with its blue, winter flowers.

~

Rosemary in bloom

~

Rosemary often comes into bloom in late autumn, and many years I can include blooming sprigs of rosemary in our holiday wreathes in December.

~

A newly planted rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’ will triple in size by fall. Sedum ‘Angelina’ shares the pot.

~

The pungent fragrance of rosemary exudes from a lovely little shrubby plant.  With rosemary, as with other Mediterranean herbs, the hotter the better in summer.  Growing to 4′ tall or more, a rosemary hedge by a fence or wall is possible in Zones 7b or 8 and warmer.

~

An upright shrubby rosemary grows here with prostrate, creeping  rosemary.  Most of our rosemary plants died in our cold winter, and so I’ve had to replace them with new this spring.

~

Many people grow herbs primarily for use in the kitchen.  And most, but not all, are edible.  Herbs generally respond well to the continual pruning that frequent use entails.

There are whole encyclopedias of information on using herbs for cooking, crafts, healing and housewifery.  I’ll leave you to read them if you want to learn more.

~

Creeping Rosemary makes a good groundcover, or a good ‘spiller’ in a pot in full sun.

~

I get busy and forget to cut and use them, I’ll admit to you.  My plants might be bushier if I used them more.

But I love watching my Pelargoniums grow huge and fill the gigantic pots I grow them in.  I love watching butterfly larvae growing plump as they harvest my parsley and fennel for me.  And yes, quite often the plants regenerate themselves within a few weeks once the larvae crawl off for their transformative naps.

~

~

And so it is that I end up growing herbs much like any other garden plant; no special fuss required.

~

Comphrey with Artemesia

~

That said, keep in mind that herbs such as lavenders, culinary sages, thymes, rosemaries, oregano, germanders, Artemesias, Santolinas, and a few others originated in hot, mountainous areas where the soil may be a bit rocky and the rain scarce.  They aren’t used to coddling, and they don’t much appreciate our muggy damp summers in Virginia.

Our soil may be a bit too acidic and heavy with clay.  Our nights too damp and warm, our rain too intense.  There may be some rot or mildew.  Their roots may not thrive.

~

~

There are a few simple things to do to make these Mediterranean herbs a bit more comfortable.  I tend to grow many of them in pots more successfully than in our heavy clay soil.

But culture in the soil is possible.  I like to dig some dolomitic lime and a little pea gravel into the planting hole before I plant a new transplant.  I set the crown a little high, mounding up the back-fill around the top-most roots, but not up the stem.  Then, I mulch with gravel out a few inches around the plant.  I’m told that chicken grit or broken up oyster shells work well for mulching herbs, too.

~

~

Roots of these Mediterranean herbs want good drainage.  They can rot easily if left sitting in wet soil for very long.  That is why it is smart to amend the soil and plant them high.  If your soil is too heavy with clay, also dig in some compost before you plant, to loosen and improve it a bit.

~

~

If planting in a pot, I mix some lime into the top few inches of the potting soil, set the plants a little high, and mulch the pot with pea gravel.

The gravel reflects sun and heat up into the plant on fine days, holds a little extra moisture during drought, and prevents soil from splashing up onto the lower leaves when it rains.  The gravel mulch helps protect those lower leaves from any disease harbored in the wet soil.

When growing an herb plant with woody stems or grey to blue leaves, take these precautions if your soil and weather is like ours.

~

Artemesia with lavender and Iris

~

Basil, dill and cilantro are annuals.  Parsley a biennial.  Chives and other Alliums are perennials, even when they are harvested annually for their bulbs.   All are soft stemmed and want a bit gentler treatment.  They appreciate more water and richer soil… but not too rich.  Herbs grown without much fertilizer have better flavor and aroma and grow more compactly.

~

The Alliums are just beginning to bloom.

~

Grow all of these in full sun, or the most sun you can manage.  The more sun, the more growth in most cases.

Also, give them space to grow.  Your little transplant fresh from its 4″ pot may look a bit small, and your new planting a bit sparse at first.  But please remember that most herbs grow quickly.  Mind the mature height and spread and allow space for your herbs to grow into their potential.

~

Pineapple sage in its fall glory, still sending out new buds in late September 2017.

~

Crowding, in our weather, makes it more likely for mold or rot to get a start where the branches stay too wet, and where air can’t easily circulate around their leaves.

~

Thyme needs a good trim now and again. The stems get too long, with new growth only towards the tips.

~

I wait each spring to see which of our perennial herbs made it through the winter, and which were finished off by the cold and damp soil.  Ironically, most will make it through until early spring.  It is those last few weeks and those last few frosts that may prove too much.

That is why I wait until I see new growth sprouting from their branches, before I cut them back.  Once they are growing and the weather is milder, I can cut with confidence.  Cut too soon, and a late freeze may be too much of a shock.  I killed a beautiful Agastache this spring by pruning it too early.

~

Breakfast at the Agastache… summer 2017.

~

Cut back any obviously dead wood, and trim most of the branches by at least a third to stimulate new, healthy growth.  But don’t throw all of those trimming away!  Many herbs, like Artemesia will root from these stem cuttings taken in late winter or early spring.  What will you lose by trying? 

And there is nothing complicated in my technique.  I open up a hole in the earth with my blade, insert a stem a few inches deep, and close the hole.  It roots and begins growing within a few weeks.  That is how I’ve spread Artemesia all around my garden over the years.

~

Pineapple sage has beautiful leaves, but won’t bloom until late September.  It is hardy in our garden.

~

Most herbs will root from stem cuttings.  You might cut several stems of basil, use most of the leaves, and root the stems in a glass of water to generate new plants over the summer.  Herbs like thyme are easy to divide.  Just take a stem on the outside of the plant, with some roots already growing, cut it off and plant it where its needed.  Do this with most Salvias, too.

~

Apple mint roots easily in water. But easier still, pull a stem with some roots attached and planted it up elsewhere.

~

If you’ve shied away from planting herbs in the past, I hope you’ll try a few this year.  You don’t need to be an expert gardener to succeed.  Most are very easy, and forgiving.

~

An heirloom Pelargonium that I managed to root from a gifted stem cutting is now out in a basket for the summer.  This cultivar was brought to Williamsburg by the early colonists and grown here in the Colonial era.

~

And this is the perfect time to begin, now that we are into the second week of June.  Garden centers in our area have just begun to mark down their herbs by 20-30%.  There are great bargains available this month as plant shops clear out their stock.

Unlike more tender plants, herbs will establish just fine in summer’s heat, so long as you don’t let them completely dry out as they grow new roots into the surrounding soil.

~

Deadhead lavender, and other herbs, to keep the flowers coming all season. This is Spanish lavender, with its ‘rabbit ears’ atop the flower.

~

There is always more to learn, there is always more to try, and there are always more beautiful and interesting plants to introduce in our gardens.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018
~

Advertisements

Fabulous Friday: Growing Herbs

~

One of the nicest things about summer is the garden filled with fresh herbs.  Most herbs prove very easy to grow.  They enjoy full sun, can stand a little dry weather, naturally repel pests, and smell delicious.

Herbs have such beautiful and interesting foliage, that I enjoy using them in containers and in the perennial garden. They also add an interesting touch in a vase.

~

Rose scented Pelargonium grows with parsley and fennel.

~

Evergreen perennial herbs, like rosemary, often maintain a presence through the winter.  Even when frost damaged, most will begin to recover and grow again by early spring. Although many Mediterranean herbs are marginally hardy in our climate, we’ve had enough success overwintering them that it is well worth making the effort.

~

Overwintered Lavender and Artemesia. Artemesia propagates easily from stem cuttings in early spring.

~

Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Artemesia, culinary sage, Santolina, germander, oregano, chocolate mint and many varieties of Lavender remain evergreen in our garden.  Other herbs, like comphrey, dill and fennel, return with fresh growth once the weather warms.

~

Comphrey is one of our earliest herbs to bloom each spring.

~
 

We’ve had mixed experience in overwintering one of my favorite herbs, scented Pelargoniums.   I’m always thrilled to see tiny leaves emerge in early spring where one has survived the winter.  Perennials, they aren’t fond of winter indoors, unless you have a spot to keep them in bright light.

~

Thyme provides lots of early nectar for pollinators. It grows into an attractive edging for perennial beds and borders.

~

Scented Pelargoniums rank high on my spring shopping list, as I scout out choice varieties wherever herbs are sold.  P. ‘Citronella,’ sold to ward off mosquitoes, can be found in many garden centers and big box plant departments.  But I am always watching for the rose scented varieties and an especially pretty plant called P. ‘Chocolate Mint.’ 

~

Pelargonium ‘Lady Plymouth’ has the scent of roses

~

Basil grows particularly well for us here in coastal Virginia.  It really takes off quickly in our late spring and summer heat.  Sometimes I begin with seeds, but most often watch for my favorite varieties at herb sales.  Some varieties, like African Blue Basil, are hybrids and can’t be grown true from seeds.

African Blue and Thai Basil quickly grow into small, fragrant shrubs.   I let them flower, and then enjoy the many pollinators they attract all summer.  Their seeds attract goldfinches and usually stand in my garden until after the holidays, when I finally pull the plants once the seeds are gone.

~

Basil gone to seed, delighted our goldfinches and other small birds last September.

~

Our garden is filling up again with growing herbs, now that we are into mid-May.  Taking some time to enjoy our herbs makes this rainy Friday fabulous.  The perennial herbs are into active growth now, and I’m finding and planting choice varieties of Basil, Salvia and Pelargonium.

~

Newly planted Santolina and purple Basil will grow in quickly.

~

We experimented with a relatively new Lavender cultivar last year:  L. ‘Phenomenal.’  This very hardy (Zones 5-9) and disease resistant cultivar was introduced by Peace Tree Farms in 2012. Hybrid ‘Phenomenal’ can take our muggy summers, so long as it has reasonably good drainage, and doesn’t die back during the winter.  It will eventually grow to a little more than 2 feet high and wide.  I was curious to see how it would grow for us, and bought a few plugs through Brent and Becky’s Bulbs last spring.

I was so pleased with how fresh they looked all winter, that I ordered new plugs this spring.   The plugs are still growing on in pots, but I look forward to planting them out before the end of May.

~

Culinary purple sage grows well with German Iris and other perennials.

~

If you have faced challenges in past years overwintering your Lavender, or losing them during a muggy summer; you might want to give L. ‘Phenomenal’ a try.  These will work nicely in a good sized pot if your space is limited.  Add a little lime to the potting mix or garden soil, and try mulching around newly planted Lavender plants with light colored gravel to reflect the heat and protect the foliage from splattered soil.

~

Spanish Lavender also proves very hardy and overwinters in our garden.  This is my favorite Lavendula stoechas ‘Otto Quast.’

~

Herbs prove such useful plants.  They nourish, they heal, they repel pests, and they thrive in challenging garden conditions.  Their unique leaves and healing scents add beauty to our lives.

Do you rely on herbs in your garden?  Wild at heart, they simply want a place to grow.  Why not try one this summer you’ve not grown before?

~
~
Woodland Gnome 2017
~

August herbs in a vase

~

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

In A Vase On Monday: Good Enough to Eat….

August 29, 2016 vase 005

~

August feels like a very ‘green’ month; especially here in coastal Virginia where we are totally surrounded by green trees, vines, lush green lawns, billowing green Crepe Myrtles and other rampant growth.

From Lamas in early August, to Labor Day weekend in early September, our world remains vibrant and green!

~

Sunset, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

Early evening, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

~

You can watch some plants literally grow hour to hour and day to day, given enough water.   If you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a hot-house or conservatory, welcome to a Virginia August!   This is the time of year when we seek the cool, green shade of large trees and vine covered trellises to help us through the relentless heat.

~

Herbs in our August garden.

Herbs in our August garden.  Our swallowtail butterflies love the chive flowers.  This clump remains one of their favorite stops to feed.

~

And so it feels appropriate to cut cool green stems from the garden today.  I’ve cut an assortment of herbs for their fragrant leaves.  The burgundy basil flowers and white garlic chives serve only as grace notes to the beautifully shaped, textured and frosted leaves.

Much of this arrangement is edible.

~

August 29, 2016 vase 002

~

Except for the ivy vines, a little Artemesia and a stem of Coleus; you could brew some lovely herbal tea or garnish a plate from the rest of our vase today.  There are two different scented Pelargoniums here, including P. ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’,  and African Blue Basil.

~

August 29, 2016 Vase2 010

~

To make this arrangement feel even cooler, it sits in a cobalt blue vase from our local Shelton glass works on a sea-green glass tray.  A moonstone frog rests nearby.

~

The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

~

Today’s vase is so fragrant that my partner commented as soon as the stems came into the room.  It is a spicy blend of rose scented Geraniums and sharp Basil, with an undertone of garlic from the chive flowers.  It makes puts me in the mood to mix up a little ‘Boursin Cheese’ with fresh herbs from the garden, and serve it garnished with a few chive blossoms!

~

August 29, 2016 Vase2 005

~

Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink again today, with some beautiful lilies she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

~

August 29, 2016 Vase2 014

~

 Woodland Gnome 2016

~

Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today's vase....

Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today’s vase….

 

In A Vase: Celebrating Lammas

August 1, 2016 Lamas 010

~

Our days remain muggy and hot; yet signs of the changing season surround us.  Dried leaves blow out of the trees on the winds heralding summer thunderstorms.  A red cast overshadows leaves on the Dogwood tree and Sumac.  Corn is ripening and local veggie stands overflow with the season’s bounty.

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 004

~

This is Lammas, a traditional Celtic celebration of summer’s harvest.  It is a holiday, celebrated as July melts into August each year, to feast on the season’s bounty, share meals with loved ones and bake bread with the first of the season’s harvest of grain.

We have a full month of summer stretching ahead of us, hot days washed clean with summer storms.  Crickets, locusts and frogs compete to sing loudest and longest.  Their music fills the air night and day.

Herbs in the garden have covered themselves with flowers, hoping to lure me out into the heat and humidity to cut them back.

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 012

~

And yet change is in the air.  We can see, smell, hear and feel the approach of autumn as each day grows imperceptibly shorter.

The sun bakes our garden, and many perennials and new shrubs have drooping leaves.  No amount of rain or watering will re-hydrate them for long in the parched Earth where the sun beats down all day.

The first Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, bloom where they’ve seeded themselves around the garden; miniature golden yellow suns shining happily amidst the deeper green of herbs and shrubs.

~August 1, 2016 Lamas 001

~

I’ve cut herbs and summer flowers for a vase today to honor the festival of Lammas.  There are the bright yellow fireworks flowers of Fennel and tall cool violet spires of Thai Basil exploding from a base of Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ and Pelargonium ‘Gray Lady Plymouth.’

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 009

~

The remaining fresh stems of Crocosmia sparkle with deep reddish orange hues, colors of this ancient summer holiday.  All colors of the sun and fertile Earth come into play at Lamas, and this arrangement is sprinkled with new golden Black Eyed Susans.  But there are also sprigs of pink blooming Oregano and stems of purple Verbena ‘lollipop’ tucked into the vase today for contrast.

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 011

~

Our friend, potter Denis Orton, made the porcelain vase and glazed it with one of his unique crystalline glazes.  The metallic crystals form as the piece cools.  We admire his glazes and collect pieces now and again as we can.

This one was found when we visited him at a local arts festival on Mother’s Day this year.

~August 1, 2016 Lamas 008

~

The loose arrangement in our vase today looks a bit droopy in the day’s heat.  It is an echo of a similar one I gathered on Friday to take as a welcome gift to a new neighbor family.  I felt inspired to gather another for us to enjoy this week.

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 006~

The heat index went over 100F here again today.  It has become normal for the temperature to rise several degrees above the forecast before evening storms blow through, cooling things off again as darkness gathers.  Thunder echoes in the distance again this evening…..

Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink today, showcasing some of the stunning Zinnias she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 013

~

“At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh,

it’s time to celebrate the first harvest of the year,

and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end.   

The plants of spring wither and drop seeds to ensure future crops.

Grains are ready to be harvested and the fruits are ripe for picking.  

We can give thanks for the food on our tables.”

.

Herne

~

August 1, 2016 Lamas 007

 

In A Vase on Monday: May Remembered

November 30, 2015 iris 001

~

On this last day of November, we filled our vase with fresh cut roses and the last of our Iris.  This is one of the many reasons we love gardening in coastal Virginia!

~

November 30, 2015 Roses 003

~

Today proved wet and mild.  It was in the mid-40s when we went out on mid-day errands, and the low white sky promised more slow and steady drizzle.  A damp glaze on everything and muted light made the remaining golden and scarlet leaves on our trees glow radiantly.  What a simply beautiful day.

Those trees still holding their leaves were  like torches set against the bleak November day.  Our roses shone like beacons across the garden.

~

November 30, 2015 Roses 006

~

It was already dusk when I finally got outside  to cut the roses.  We thought the frost last week had finished our Iris for the season.  But the buds survived, and this lovely I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ opened today as though the frost had never even happened.

~

November 30, 2015 iris 002

~

Our Artemisia survived the first few frosty nights as well, glowing with silver light on this dark and rainy day. Our little vase of flowers reminds us of the sheer joy of May; a last gift of the season before we face December in the morning.

~

November 30, 2015 Roses 001~

The vase itself came to us through the Habitat for Humanity shop.  I spotted it last summer, and noticing it was made in France, and is quite old; decided to add it to our collection of vases.  I love its cream and gold colors and classic shape.

We’ll enjoy these vibrant apricot roses and deeply purple Iris as we leave autumn behind now, and welcome winter and the holiday season for another year.   Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, has cut autumn roses from her garden for her vase today, too.  It shows me how small our world really is to see we are both cutting similar roses on the very same day, thousands of miles apart from one another!   I hope you’ll pop over to see her gorgeous apricot rose named, “The Poet’s Wife.”

Cathy faithfully hosts this challenge to post a vase of fresh cut flowers each Monday, and I’m happy to join her coterie of flower gardeners again today.

~

November 30, 2015 Roses 008

~

Soon we will all be awash in red and green, silver and gold as more and more holiday decorations find their way out of storage.

I hope you had a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend spent relaxing with loved ones.  As the garden drifts off to sleep through another winter, our attention turns to other things inside, where it is warm and dry.

~

November 30, 2015 Roses 009

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

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

In A Vase on May Day

May 1, 2015 flowers 015~

May brings the most wondrous array of fragrant flowers to gardeners everywhere north of the equator on our shimmering blue planet.  Our gardens fill with herbs, Iris, Rhododendrons, Columbine, violets, Clematis blossoms, and of course, roses this month.

I always celebrate the first of May. And so since I was away and unable to post a vase on Monday, I have snipped a few stems to fill the beautiful vase I found on Saturday at the Mossy Creek Pottery near Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

~

The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery in Oregon.

The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery in Oregon.

~

Melanie, who owns Mossy Creek Pottery, told me that they display work from potters all over Washington and Oregon.  I found a few mugs, and this lovely vase, which arrived in the mail today.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 007

~

Today dawned cool and rainy, and it is raining still.  There has been no warm sunshine, and I’m wearing the same snug cowl-necked sweater I found a week ago in Oregon to wear for the duration of my visit there.  The misty cool weather followed me home.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 006~

It was still raining as I headed out to snip flowers for today’s vase.  The brightest clumps in the front garden, aside from the Azaleas, are the lovely Comphrey which will bloom from now until frost.  I thought their clear violet flowers blend beautifully with the glaze on this little vase.

There are also many varieties of Aquilegia, Columbine, blooming now, and I snipped a few stems to bring inside and admire.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 010~

When I went in search of a little silvery Artemisia foliage; there, to my delight, were the first of the Lavender blossoms.  This Spanish ‘rabbit’s ear’ lavender has bloomed as early as March after mild winters.  Its buds are just beginning to show color here on May 1, but  I snipped a few for the vase since their texture is still lovely.

A bit of Asparagus fern tucked into the back of the vase helped hold the other stems in place.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 013~

You might notice that this little bouquet was re-arranged multiple times from photo to photo.  I’ve shown you the work in progress as new stems were added along the way.

The final photos inside also show you a few of the minerals I picked up on the trip.  There are geodes from the aquarium in Newport, Oregon and a few Apophyllite crystals found at the Crystal Wizard at Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 016~

I appreciate Cathy’s tolerance for tardy posts to her “Vase” meme each week at Rambling in the Garden.  I hope you have already visited her page earlier this week to see what other gardeners have found in their gardens in the last lovely days of April.  I am always delighted with the beautiful arrangements she creates and hope you visit to enjoy them, too.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 021~

A week away from the garden leaves me discovering it all again.  Things change so quickly in late spring, and I’m thrilled to find the roses covered in thousands of buds, perennial Geraniums showing their first blossoms, and plump spikes of Iris shooting up everywhere.

I plan to cut some of the Iris and arrange them in another of the pieces which arrived from Mossy Creek today, for a vase this Monday coming.  Perhaps you will decide to join “A Vase On Monday,” with photos of your own flowers this week.

We work  hard to nurture beauty in our gardens, and it a joy to bring a bit inside, in a vase, to share.

~

May 1, 2015 flowers 020

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

One Word Photo Challenge: Seafoam

February 11, 2015 daffodils 022

~

Seafoam; such a soft pastel color hovering between green and blue.  This color always transports me back to the color palette of the 1950s.  It feels cool.  It tastes minty to the eyes.

Definitely a watery color, it remains far more chic than the fluffy beige foam which washes up on east coast beaches.

~

Artemesia

Artemesia last October

~

This color proved a challenge for me this week, in case you were wondering, Jenny.  The closest I could find in nature were the greenish greys of Artemesia and Lichens.

~

~

Which is how this week’s challenge inspired a newly minted moss garden, using a tiny pot purchased from the artist.

The pot was probably made by local Williamsburg artist John Watters.  I can’t quite read the signature to be sure, but it was made in 2013.  John works with delicious glazes in lovely blues and greens.  There is no drainage in this little pot, but I laid a layer of gravel, sand and glass chips below the soil.

~

February 11, 2015 daffodils 025

~

The plant is a tiny Begonia Rex surrounded by mosses and lichens scraped from the garden.  It will grow on happily here for a few months until I can transplant it into something larger and set it outside in the shade.

Do you see the sheen of silver on its leaves?  In the bright sun earlier today it looked as though its leaves were covered in finely ground garnets.  So beautiful!

~

February 11, 2015 daffodils 024

~

And we had beautiful sun today.  Each sunny day now feels like a gift.  Each day brings us closer to spring, and will make it that much easier to find color in the garden once again.

With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

and her One Word Photo Challenge:  Seafoam

Seafoam

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2015

Lavender Lovers

August 19, 2014 lavender 016

 

When Jennifer issued her One Word Photo Challenge: Lavender this morning, I headed out between showers to capture a few photos of our lavender flowers in the garden.

We have been admiring the lavender Rose of Sharon from the living room windows.

 

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

In fact the hummingbirds have been hovering near them them all morning between the showers, and we enjoy watching them come and go.

But I suspected there might be other lavender flowers blooming this morning, if only I’d go out and notice them.

Chocolate mint in bloom

Chocolate mint in bloom

How does one draw a firm line between what is lavender and what is blue or pink?

There are so many shades, and all shine differently depending on the light.

Salvia nemerosa with Artemesia

Salvia nemerosa with Artemesia

 

Soon I was straying off the patio and into the wet grass, following the trail of lavender flowers through the garden.

August 19, 2014 lavender 011

And despite the wet, overcast weather, the garden was still buzzing with hungry creatures flying from flower to flower.

August 19, 2014 lavender 019

Perhaps moving a bit more slowly today, they seemed not to mind  me closing in with the camera to capture their portraits.

I wonder how these flowers appear to our bees, and to our dragonflies.

Bumblebee on Joe Pye Weed

Bumblebee on Joe Pye Weed

 

Do their compound eyes see these colors even more intensely than ours?

Can they see flowers in ways we can only dream them?

A butterfly shares the Joe Pye Weed blossoms with the bee.

A moth shares the Joe Pye Weed blossoms with the bee.

What must it be like to spend one’s entire lifetime in pursuit of flowers, and the sweet nectar and pollen they hold?  Might bees, like whales and dolphins, have a level of intelligence in advance of our own?

We have learned much about bees, and their language of dance, in recent years.  

Now scientists have learned they can be trained, even more quickly than dogs, to sniff out certain odors.

August 19, 2014 lavender 017

New technologies are in development which use trained bees to sniff out drugs and other substances.  It is all quite amazing to realize that bees can communicate with us in so many ways.

The low hum of their contented buzzing filled our garden this morning, much like the hum of a cat’s purr.

Hearing from friends across the country that bees are scarce in some gardens this summer, we feel special appreciation for the bees who choose to visit ours.

 

August 19, 2014 lavender 001

Another vital link in the web of life which brings food to our own table, we  appreciate the lives of bees;

and all of the other small creatures who spend their lives in pursuit of nectar, moving from flower to flower in the garden.

 

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

One Word Photo Challenge: Lavender… Forest Garden

More One Word Photo Challenge: Lavender photos

 

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

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

Join 655 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest