Fabulous Friday: Growing Herbs

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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.

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Rose scented Pelargonium grows with parsley and fennel.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.’ 

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Pelargonium ‘Lady Plymouth’ has the scent of roses

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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.

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

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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.

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Newly planted Santolina and purple Basil will grow in quickly.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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?

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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August herbs in a vase

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Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Wordless Wednesday

 

June 8, 2015 garden 001

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Photo by Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase on Monday: Summer’s Hydrangeas

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Finding our Hydrangea shrubs covered in beautiful flowers has been a special joy for us this season.  It is the first time they have flowered in two years.

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We celebrate this hedge of Hydrangeas, which grows across the front of our home, when it is covered in blossoms.  Some years we enjoy their bounty for several months. Others we miss them because of winter’s damage to their buds, or because they are grazed by miscreant deer who find their way into the garden.

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This area of Virginia used to be reliably warm enough in winter to support our Hydrangea macrophylla shrubs without worry.  Our unusually cold winters lately have taken their toll.  All of our potted Hydrangeas on the deck were lost last winter, despite getting pulled up close to the house, out of the wind.

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And so we celebrate the survivors, here studded with the first stems of Lavender to bloom this summer.

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The antique coffee pot belonged to my partner’s mother.  It lost its lid along the way before it found its way to our home, and so it can be enjoyed filled with flowers.

Our minerals this week are these  little green pebbles of Malachite.

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I’m joining Cathy at Rambling In the Garden, and other gardeners all over the planet; in finding beautiful things growing in our gardens to bring inside today.  Appreciation to Cathy, again, for hosting this In A Vase on Monday meme.

I hope you will visit her page today to see her garden fairy, and to follow the  links in her comments to enjoy the many other beautiful floral arrangements photographed today.  You will find a plethora of interesting blogs to visit written by dedicated gardeners.

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June 8, 2015 hydrangeas 008

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Do you remember the “Flower Power” slogans of the 1960’s? 

We have finally realized that vision, enjoying the power of beautiful flowers to bring bloggers together,  in appreciation of one another’s efforts.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase on May Day

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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.

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The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery in Oregon.

The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery in Oregon.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

In A Vase on Easter Monday

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Spring has settled gently across our garden.  The warmth has returned quietly to re-awaken the many creatures who slumbered in the Earth through our long winter.

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A sea of daffodils fills the awakening perennial beds and rings our newly planted shrubs.  Woody stems burst into bloom.  Ferns have begun to uncurl their new fronds, and the front lawn is awash in wildflowers.

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Gigantic bees bumble and buzz from flower to flower in giddy joy at the feast.  We hear lizards skittering beneath the dry leaves, and hear frog song in the evening.  The breezes carry sweetness from the flowers, along with clouds of pollen from the trees.

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Ah, spring….

Today’s vase showcases some of our smaller, white daffodils which might otherwise be overlooked among their larger and brighter cousins.  N. “Thalia” remains one of my favorites, along with the larger N. “Mt. Hood,” which I didn’t cut for this vase today.

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April 6, 2015 vase 017

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I did cut small branches from a deliciously sweet shrub in our side garden which covers itself in white blossoms each spring.  It looks to me like a plum, but fruit never follows its flowers.  The flowers last only a few days, and then we must wait another year for this little woody thing to shine again.  It rarely shows growth, probably because the area where it grows remains hot and dry, and the scene of much tunneling from the voles.  Everything here struggles despite my best efforts to keep the area more accommodating.

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Clippings of overwintered Dusty Miller and Lavender stems give a bit of structure, and hold two tiny white Muscari alba stems.  A few tiny stems of our white flowering Vinca minor peek out around the edges.

This antique silver sugar bowl holding this week’s flowers was passed on from my mother’s mother many years ago.  We believe it was already an antique when she acquired it as a young woman.

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Here are a few photos of other daffodils spared the clippers today.  They remain growing in the garden….

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden  for hosting this floral challenge each Monday.  Maybe you will even feel moved to join Cathy’s Monday Vase meme with photos of a vase filled with what may be growing in your own garden this week.  When you visit her, you will find links to beautiful floral arrangements from all over the planet in her comments.

Here are a few other Monday Vases you might enjoy this first Monday in April:

John, at A Walk in the Garden

Cathy at Words and Herbs

And here is the full calendar of garden memes, for other gardeners who might want to follow this and other garden blogging events.  Thanks to Tina and her partner, at My Gardener Says... for organizing the calendar for all of us to use and enjoy!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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Candlemas Monday Vase

Purple sage has survived winter, still growing in the garden.

Purple sage has survived winter, still growing in the garden.

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February demands patience.  Still locked in a battle for survival, the garden remains in defensive posture; waiting out the onslaught of wind, ice, rain, and grinding cold.

And so do we.  Perhaps already feeling the approach of spring, our bones tell us that winter will linger a while yet.  Perhaps a frustratingly long while yet.  Who can say?

Interludes of brilliant sun always fade as the clouds blow back in, bringing who knows how much more pounding rain or snow.  A morning in the 50s will likely fade into the 20s overnight.  Such is February, perhaps the hardest month of the year.

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Today’s Monday vase reflects this sense of ‘survival mode’ in our garden.  Buds remain tightly closed. ‘Evergreen’ leaves are dulled and discolored from the cold.

Yet ‘survival’ is the operative word here, and the garden remains very much alive.  Hazel twigs sport their male pollen filled ‘flowers.”

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February 2, 2015 Monday Vase 013

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Lavender, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme remain fresh and growing, if only very slowly.  Our Camellias are covered in buds.

Sprigs of ivy, found growing under a mat of wet leaves, show new growth.

Like a tightly coiled spring, the entire garden waits for the sun’s signal to begin its annual vernal unfolding.

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The moonstone frog heralds spring, as the discarded antler reminds us of what was left behind last autumn.

The moonstone frog heralds spring, as the discarded antler reminds us of what was left behind last autumn.

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Candlemas, February 2 of each year, brings its own message of purification, hope and renewal.

Bright color may presently be lacking in this vase and in the garden; but for those with patience, the potential for spring’s explosion of new life and color can be felt everywhere.

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The vase is hand blown glass made by Blenko, an historic glass company in West Virgina.  Filled with a sandy bottom, it suggests the eternal sea, from which all new life comes.  The plate is by friend and potter Denis Orton.

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With appreciation to Cathy at Rambling In the Garden for her Monday Vase challenge. 

Please visit her page for links to more beautiful vases of flowers prepared today.

Woodland Gnome 2015

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Words and Herbs, “In A Vase On Monday:  Snow White”

In A Vase on Monday- Gray or Silver?

A Walk In the Garden, In A Vase on Monday: Buds

Bejeweled

January 14, 2015 ice storm 025

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Bejeweled, bedazzled,

Cased in glittering ice;

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January 14, 2015 ice storm 038

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Every leaf and stem ornamented

With shimmering bagatelles.

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Buds magnified

Through clear coats of cold;

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April’s promises preserved,

Protected,

Perfectly presented.

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Icy prisms deflect the light;

Reflecting, not refracting;

A frigid glow on wintery  fog.

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Crystal clear coating coagulates

Out of misty air.

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Like dipping a candle, icicles grow

Thicker, longer, bumpier with each passing hour.

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January 14, 2015 ice storm 008

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Tinkling bells echo from garden to garden

As branches sway in the biting breeze,

And great ripping groans answer from the ravine.

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Symphony of sirens in the distance tell of travelers

Who have lost their way on glassy streets.

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January 14, 2015 ice storm 009

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A wicked wonderland, this ice coated world.

Weird and wonderful at once,

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Dazzlingly devious,

Dangerously delightful.

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Bejeweled and bedazzled,

Winter has dressed to thrill-

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.”

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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

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The Red, White, and Blue

Bee Balm, Monarda, blooming in our garden today.

Bee Balm, Monarda, blooming in our garden today.

Red for valor, hardiness, and sacrifice.

It reminds us our freedoms were won, and are maintained, through blood shed for our ideals.

Magnolia

Magnolia

White for purity of intent and a fresh beginning.

Eagles flying in the clearing sky this morning.

Eagles flying in the clearing sky this morning.

 

White is also the color of radiant light from heaven; the brilliant stars shining in the night sky.

 

Morning Glory on a pruned rose cane.

Morning Glory on a pruned rose cane.

 

Blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

 

Ripening blackberries grow all along the Colonial Parkway in early July.

Ripening blackberries grow all along the Colonial Parkway in early July.

 

It is interesting to consider that the colors chosen for the Colonial flags during the American Revolution,  and for the flags of our new country; are the same red, white and blue of Great Britain’s Union Jack.

 

Wildflowers in a marsh on Jamestown Island.

Wildflowers in a marsh on Jamestown Island.

 

The  French also chose red, white and blue as the colors for their flag at the time of the French Revolution in 1790.

 

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Blue is for liberty, White for equality, and Red for fraternity.   There are many other meanings to these colors in French society, which do not necessarily have meaning in the United States.

 

Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus.

Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus.

 

We find these same symbolic colors again and again around us every day.

Ageratum and Lavender with Dusty Miller.

Ageratum and Lavender with Dusty Miller.

In the United States, many of us regularly wear blue denim clothing.

Blue Salvia growing with Comphrey

Blue Salvia growing with Comphrey

Denim, originally a sturdy fabric for work clothing; has become a symbol of our relaxed, egalitarian, and informal way of life here.

It has been adopted by people around the world since the social revolutions of the 1960s.

Canna

Canna and scarlet sage

White, the color of purity and cleanliness, is also a part of our daily lives.  

Many of us prefer white shirts, white china, white walls, white painted wood in our gardens, white cars, and white linens.  We  grow white flowers in our gardens because they glow in the moonlight.

 

Cedar with berries

Cedar with berries

Red is the color of boldness and energy. 

We admire red sports cars.

Red product logos and red street signs demand our attention.  We wear shiny red shoes, bright red lipstick, and give red roses as symbols of our passion for life and living.

Caladium and Begonias

Caladium and Begonias  Can you spot the bumblebee?

 

Color speaks a language of its own. 

Every layer of meaning we uncover teaches us more about this world we’ve inherited, and what it means to participate in the stream of history.

Happy Independence Day!

May the Red, White, and Blue have meaning for you today, and every day.

 

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Rosa, “John Paul II”

Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

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