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!

Sunday Dinner: Rain Kissed

April 29, 2016 Iris 008

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“The only noise now was the rain,

pattering softly with the magnificent

indifference of nature

for the tangled passions of humans.”

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Sherwood Smith

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“If I were rain,
That joins sky and earth that otherwise never touch,
Could I join two hearts as well?”

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Tite Kubo

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“… millions long for immortality

who don’t know what to do with themselves

on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

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Susan Ertz

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“Rainy days should be spent at home

with a cup of tea and a good book.”

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Bill Watterson

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“After every storm, there is a rainbow.

If you have eyes, you will find it.

If you have wisdom, you will create it.

If you have love for yourself and others,

you won’t need it.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“…I don’t just wish you rain, Beloved –

I wish you the beauty of storms…”

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John Geddes

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On A Tray: Beautiful Bouquets

December 28, 2015 Garden Tray 001

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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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December 28, 2015 Garden Tray 019

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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

 

 

Visitors

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Our Salvia leucantha draws many beautiful visitors to its sweet nectar.  Standing near it and just quietly watching the comings and goings of these beautiful insect visitors is both delight and meditation.  The great yogis, like Pantanjali and Naropa, lived high in the Himalayas; far from such delights as this.  How would their teachings have been different , had they lived in a garden instead?

I appreciate this meditation on life in all of its forms, its fragility and strength, and its conscious efforts to survive.

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And I wonder at the invitation inherent in a single plant we consciously include in our garden.  What a great communion of species coming together, to partake of the life-giving powers of  this Salvia.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Still Vibrantly Blooming: October 15

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The flowers of late fall and early spring bring us the most pleasure.  That may be because we can actually enjoy our time outside in the garden with them!  It is ‘Goldilocks’ comfortable now  from dawn until dusk, and our enthusiasm for the garden is re-ignited.

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This area of the front garden gets the most attention these days, as I move shrubs and perennials into these new beds from their pots.

This area of the front garden gets the most attention these days, as I move shrubs and perennials into these new beds from their pots.

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We both spent most of yesterday outside.  Knowing that a frost can come now at any time, and that night time temperatures  in the 40’s may come this weekend; our pleasant days and frost free nights may be counted on our fingers… and possibly toes, if we are fortunate!

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I set out yesterday to fill promises made weeks ago to share our Ginger Lilies.

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Our Butterfly Ginger Lilies fill the air with their sweet perfume.

Our Butterfly Ginger Lilies fill the air with their sweet perfume.

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A gardening friend joined me mid-morning and took all she could use of the freshly dug tubers.  A new neighbor, designing his own wildlife habitat along our shared pond, collected a dozen more Ginger Lily starts that afternoon.  My poor shaded, crowded roses are breathing more freely now, with fresh compost around their roots.

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Another rose, well crowded now by an exuberant Lantana.

Another  crowded rose, this one by an exuberant Lantana.

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I also shared some seedling Beauty Berry shrubs, a few stems of our wonderful hardy Begonia, and some tender ferns.

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Time for this Begonia to come back inside for another winter.

Time for this tender Begonia to come back inside for another winter.

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The time has come for the “Who will survive the winter?” lottery as we decide which of the tender plants will come in before the nights turn truly cold.  My first instinct always is, “All of them!”  But as we survey available space, reality sets in.  And I begin pressing my friends to adopt a plant for the winter.

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These Bougainvillea lives in our garage once nights grow cold.

These Bougainvillea lives in our garage once nights grow cold.

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I learned several valuable lessons about keeping plants over winter last season.  I learned that a number of plants, like Colocasia, will survive just fine in the low light of our basement.

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Ivy leaf Geranium

Ivy leaf Geranium

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I also learned that it is possible to crowd quite a few Geraniums into a plastic tub and keep them all going in the garage.  They kept blooming through Christmas that way.

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October 13 fall flowers 023

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The best lesson, however, required an investment in 5 gal. buckets from Walmart.  Who cares if they are covered in camo and deer designs?  They were only $3 each, and each perfectly held one of our hanging baskets through the winter.  With plastic bags under the buckets to protect the floor, I could water the baskets with confidence, knowing they drained into the buckets.

I also purchased those kitschy ‘watering globes’ for the baskets; which work very well by the way.  I could fill the globes once a week or so to keep the baskets hydrated enough to survive our winter.

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These tender ferns will get moved inside before Sunday evening.

These tender ferns will get moved inside before Sunday evening.

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Yes, it takes a lot of effort to keep plants over winter, but that effort is also rewarded.  Watching overwintered plants come back into bloom the following season brings a special joy.

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October 13 fall flowers 003

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Since I collect so many specialty plants, like Begonias,  I may find a particular cultivar only once in many years.  Losing it means, well, losing it.

There is no guarantee that a freshly rooted version will be waiting on the nursery shelves next spring.

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This is a tender Salvia and most years doesn't survive our winter.

This is a tender Salvia and most years doesn’t survive our winter.  Our bumblebees are already feeling the chill in the air.

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That makes October’s Garden Blogger Bloom Day especially poignant.  My Zone 7 garden has reached its peak for the season.  We will enjoy these beautiful flowers while  they last, knowing that frost will soon transform our garden, once again.

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Many of our Lantana prove hardy. We expect this new cultivar to survive winter in place out of doors.

Many of our Lantana prove hardy. We expect this new cultivar to survive winter in place out of doors.

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But I hope to transform it first, digging and moving tender perennials to pots inside, crowding them into their makeshift ‘garage greenhouse’ and planting hardy Violas and Heucheras in their places.

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These hardy perennials will die back with the frost, but then return in early summer.

These hardy perennials will die back with the frost, but then return in early summer.

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I’ve also started pots of hardy Cyclamen and Arum lily, which will come outside to the garden next week.  We’re off today to pick up more bulbs for spring flowers, and then I’ll put those compost covered gloves back on; and head back outside for another golden afternoon in our October garden.

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Goldenrod volunteers in odd places around the garden, adding its golden glow to the changing leaves.

Goldenrod volunteers in odd places around the garden, adding its golden glow to the changing leaves.

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Woodland Gnome 2014

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Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua

Switching It Up

This planting needs

This planting needs some  ‘switching up’ to renew it for summer.  I went to work last night removing all of the plants and finding new spots for them to grow.

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When the weather finally warms up, late April or early May, those winter and early spring pots we planted so lovingly last autumn just don’t look so good anymore.

Between plants which never quite recovered from winter’s bite, and early season annuals gasping in the heat; there comes a day when you really look at a pot and say to yourself, “Enough! Time for a change.”

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"Enough!"  Monday afternoon this poor planting looked ragged enough I was determined to change it out.

“Enough!” Monday afternoon this poor planting looked so ragged I was determined to switch it out for something fresh.

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That day was yesterday for the large hypertufa tub installed on the ‘pedastal’ in our ‘stump garden’ last spring.

I like the idea of ‘four season’ pots which drift from season to season in the garden with only minor adjustments.  While that is an nice idea, it doesn’t always work out as planned.

The original Dusty Miller planted in this pot last spring lived, but was seriously burned by the cold.  I’ve moved it out of the pot now to a less conspicuous place in the garden where it can continue growing.

The Violas, still blooming, will not last much longer in full sun.  They have been moved to a bed in partial shade.  The snaps could have grown on here for quite a while.  Planted a few months ago in earliest spring, they often make it through our winters.  I’ve moved them to a bed in full sun where they should perform well this summer.

After a full year of watching this pot, I decided to populate it with plants which thrive in hot and often dry conditions.  I want a large and showy display which won’t need regular care of any sort to continue looking great.  Mission impossible?

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May 25, 2013, before the Brugmansia gained much height.

May 25, 2014, before the Brugmansia gained much height.

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The original planting last summer included Coleus, Dusty Miller, a Brugmansia, some golden Sedum and Creeping Jenny.  I expected the Brugmansia to grow several feet and bloom with huge pendulous flowers in late summer.

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July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014

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Although it grew, it never performed as expected.  Everything else in the pot looked great all summer, but required nearly daily watering to avoid the late afternoon wilts.

So I’ve chosen a new group of plants this summer in hopes of an even more vibrant display, even on those days when I don’t have the opportunity to water this trough.

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May 5, 2015 garden 002

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The headliner is a pink Mulla Mulla, Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey,’ which will grow to 15″ in full sun.  This tender perennial (Zone 9) loves neutral to chalky soil with sharp drainage.  Beside the Mulla Mulla grows a very large leaved variety of culinary Sage.  Sage thrives in full sun and well drained, even rocky soil.

There is a very subdued palette of color in the pot this year, moderated by two fresh new Dusty Miller plants.  Only a recent fan of Dusty Miller, I like the lacy texture of their leaves and their ability to withstand drought and sun.  I expect texture and scale to make this planting interesting as the season unfolds.

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This heat tolerant Verbena will fill an area almost two feet in diameter.

This heat tolerant Verbena will fill an area almost two feet in diameter.

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The only concession to soft trailing flowers comes from the Lanai Twister Purple Improved Verbena draping over one end of the pot.  I hope it will spread to soften the entire top of the ‘pedestal.’

Finally, I added several clumps of the golden Sedum back into the pot since it obviously thrives here year round and makes a nice pop of chartreuse against the silvery foliage and lavender flowers.  The entire pot is mulched in fine, light colored pea gravel.

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The newly planted pot on its pedestal, this evening just before sunset.  All of these newly planted varieties will grow quite large over the summer with very little attention.

The newly planted pot on its pedestal, this evening just before sunset. All of these newly planted varieties will grow quite large over the summer with very little attention.

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The Creeping Jenny and remaining Sedum removed from the pot is already earmarked for use in a new bed I’m ready to construct tomorrow.  It will grow alongside Oxalis triangularis in the back garden.

This is my first experience growing Ptilotus exaltatus and the Lanai Twister hybrids of Verbena.  It is good to try new things each year, and the Mulla Mulla is known as a good flower for cutting and for drying.  I am looking forward to growing them on and seeing how these varieties grow together over the coming months.

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I plant to "switch up" this pot tomorrow adding Salvia, Ivy Geraniums, and maybe even some Basil.  The tiny plant on the far right is a "Kent's Beauty" Oregano which survived the winter.

I plant to “switch up” this pot tomorrow adding Salvia, Ivy Geraniums, and maybe even some Basil. The tiny plant on the far right is a “Kent’s Beauty” Oregano, which survived the winter.  The bare stump is from the Brugmansia I tried to over-winter outside.

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There are still lots of pots with actively growing Violas around the garden.  I’ll be moving them to shady spots this week as I continue re-planting containers for summer.  I purposely waited this long both to enjoy them, and to give time for some of the dormant plants in the same pots to awaken.  While patience is a virtue, at some point patience creeps into procrastination.

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I’ve collected several trays of new plants this week, and I’m ready to work with them over the next few days.  There are lots of geraniums this year, a fair lot of Salvias, a good assortment of fragrant Basils, a few more Dusty Miller plants, now a half-dozen large white Marigold plants I’ve been waiting for the Patton family to offer for sale at their Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  They grow the marigolds, and many other annuals, organically in their own greenhouse each spring. If one has patience to wait for them; healthier, more affordable plants simply cannot be found in this area.

Planting pots for the coming season, or switching up established pots, requires the vision, energy and creativity needed for all of the other art forms.  Like painting a canvas, all of the elements have to come together harmoniously.  But as in music, time is the essential element.  Only as plants grow and weave themselves together does the gardener’s vision materialize.

Whether it takes weeks or years, our gardens remain works in progress.

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May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

Mystery Salvia

Salvia with Colocasia "Black Magic"

Salvia with Colocasia “Black Magic”

 

Do you ever buy plants on impulse?  Most of us gardening addicts do.

Something about the shape of a leaf or color of a petal just grabs my attention, and I want to bring it home and grow it.

Some people go to the shelter and adopt dogs.  I adopt plants.

And early this season, I was a sucker for Salvias.  There was this whole new expanse of full sun garden to populate, you see, and I was looking for tough, drought resistant, deer defying Salvias.

Actually, I was looking for a few favorite Salvias from summers past which didn’t make it through winter 2013 in our garden.  And I was looking for several wonderful Salvias spotted in glossy gardening magazines.  I was in full “collector” mode when I spotted this beauty.

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I admired the particular rosy tint of its petals.  Love at first sight, it came home and went directly into the clay beside our new Colocasia and Canna garden.   I dug a generous hole for the little 4″ rootball, dug in some compost and Plant Tone, and tucked it into its new home.

And that was it.  I was tempted to pull up a lawn chair and wait for the hummingbirds to arrive, but somehow that never happened.

This little beauty has grown on the benign neglect of occasional watering and sporadic deadheading for the last six months.

And what a delight she has become!

And her name remains a mystery.  I do hope her roots survive the winter, for with this much growth in a single summer, I can only imagine what next year might bring!

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

WPC: Fray

A white egret wades in a pond along the Colonial Parkway this afternoon.

A white egret wades in a pond along the Colonial Parkway this afternoon.  A frayed fringe of grasses frames the pond.

 

“Frayed” is an excellent word to describe the end of August. 

After a long, hot, eventful summer, we may all feel a bit frayed around the edges.

 

Rose of Sharon flowers are still lovely, though the leaves are a bit frayed.

Rose of Sharon flowers are still lovely, though the leaves are a bit frayed.

 

The garden certainly looks a bit frayed after withstanding many weeks of heat and thunderstorms, hungry insects and hungry deer.

And the grasses blooming now along the roadsides offer a “frayed” fringe to all vistas.

 

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“Fray” itself is an interesting word.

Coming to us from middle English, it means that something is worn down, or worn out, to the point of beginning to come apart.

My jeans are nearly always frayed somewhere.

I was raised when it was fashionable to fray them in spots on purpose, which definitely frayed my mother’s nerves.

The first of the reblooming Iris sends up a bud against the old and frayed Comfrey foliage which has lasted the summer.

The first of the reblooming Iris sends up a bud against the old and frayed Comfrey foliage, which has lasted the summer.

 

But to become “frayed” implies that one has been in the thick of the action.

We might choose to “join the fray” as we add our voice to stand up for a good cause; or a bad one, as the case might be.

 

Losing the fray can mean ending up as someone else's dinner in the garden.

Losing the fray can mean ending up as someone else’s dinner in the garden.

 

In our garden, we are in the midst of an ongoing fray with hungry Bambis who steal in through the fences at night  to eat our “shrubberies.”

 

Frayed Oakleaf Hydrangea, grazed last night by the deer.

Frayed Oakleaf Hydrangea, grazed last night by the deer.

 

I found two “deer resistant” Oakleaf Hydrangeas “frayed” this morning; their beautiful leaves gone overnight into the maws of gourmet deer.

 

The other Hydrangea nibbled last night is also sadly frayed.

The other Hydrangea nibbled last night is also sadly frayed.

 

I’m often reminded that if I continue to plant, they will continue to come; which frays my expectations for a beautiful, lush garden.  But only a little…

 

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As we drove out to Jamestown this afternoon to visit our favorite vegetable stand for some of the last of this summer’s tomatoes, and some of the first of this year’s apple crop; we watched the frayed edges of storm clouds dip ever lower in the sky.

We waited, as for Gadot, for the promised thunderstorm which never came.

 

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But continuing on to the historic island itself, we noticed a creature running across the lawn near the causeway.

We had spotted it a few times before, always from a distance, and were happily surprised to find it out in the open today where we could photograph it.

 

The fox who came out near Jamestown  Island this afternoon.

The fox who came out near Jamestown Island this afternoon.

 

It was a fox.  A somewhat old and painfully thin fox, with a frayed tail and dull looking coat.

 

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And it had found something lying in the grass it  could eat.  It’s hunger must have fed its courage, and it stayed out in the open, despite our company and the passing traffic.

We are sorry to find the fox looking so thin with autumn coming quickly on.

 

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But that is the way of things in the wild.  Things remain a bit frayed around the edges year round, especially here at the last gasp of summer.

 

Osprey Eagle on the James River today.

Osprey Eagle on the James River today.

 

The elements of sun and wind, rain and lightening work their will on forest, field, and garden alike.

But what is frayed today, is often renewed with fresh growth of leaves and flowers soon enough.

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Whether its own new growth, or that of a conquering vine; it matters little.

Nature always wins, in the end.

 

Autumn Clematis scrambles over shrubs and trees on the river bank.  Its sweet fragrance fills the air with perfume.

Autumn Clematis scrambles over shrubs and trees on the river bank. Its sweet fragrance fills the air with perfume.

 

Getting “frayed” is only a stop along the path of re-newal. 

It is the way of things….

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Fray

 

With love, to a favorite aunt who let me know she cares enough to follow my ramblings here…..

 

Sweet Autumn Clematis, awash in sweet perfume.

Sweet Autumn Clematis, awash in sweet perfume.

Lavender Lovers

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

A new butterfly visited the Joe Pye Weed today.  Can anyone identify it for us?

A new butterfly visited the Joe Pye Weed today. Can anyone identify it for us?

 

Texture, like color, presents itself to our eye and fingertips absolutely everywhere we turn in the garden.

Every petal, leaf, trunk and bit of gravel or soil present intriguing textures for us to explore and enjoy.

 

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But so do the creatures who live here with us.

 

A grasshopper "hides out" on Creeping Jenny.

A grasshopper “hides out” on Creeping Jenny.

 

And of all the creatures buzzing and skittering around the garden today, our welcome guest, hummingbird moth,  presented the softest and most inviting texture.

 

Hummingbird Moth feeding on Lantana in the garden this morning.

Hummingbird Moth feeding on Lantana in the garden this morning.

 

Would you love to reach and and stroke its velvety back?

 

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Hummingbird moths are much calmer guests than hummingbirds.

Though their movements from flower to flower are so similiar that many people mistake the moths for the birds; the moths are less skittish around humans with cameras.

 

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This guy allowed me to take perhaps 20 shots over several minutes, asking only the nourishment of Lantana nectar in return.

The hummingbirds who interrupted the photo shoot buzzed in and out before I could focus on them; chasing one another away from these Lantana flowers, and across the roof of our house towards the hummingbird delicacies growing around in the back.

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They are also silky soft; immensely “petable” creatures… but I’ve yet to master the art of hummingbird whispering to draw them to land on a finger.

And so my focus returned to the little hummingbird moth; the insect who masquerades as a bird.

When in doubt, look closely for antennae, compound insect eyes, and clear wings.  This identifies the creature as an insect, not a true bird.

 

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This is the first one we’ve seen this season.

It is unlikely he is alone, so we will keep an eye out for his companions.

This Painted Lady butterfly shared the Lantana with our Hummingbird Moth.

This Painted Lady butterfly shared the Lantana with our Hummingbird Moth.

 

Other visitors sporting interesting textures today included butterflies, dragonflies, a grasshopper, and bees.

 

The first of the lifeless bees we found today rests on a Pelargonium leaf.  Hypertufa stepping stone, made this spring, in the background.

The first of the lifeless bees we found today rests on a Pelargonium leaf.  Glass topped stepping stone, made last winter, in the background.

 

I was especially disturbed to find several lifeless bees, their bodies resting on leaves.

It is most unusual to find a dead bee here in the garden.

It may be another sign of the advancing season.

 

We've been trying for weeks to identify this shrubby "volunteer."  Does anyone know this plant?

We’ve been trying for weeks to identify this shrubby “volunteer.” Does anyone know this plant?  The fruit have been hard and dark purple for weeks.  Now they are swelling and turning red.  What a wonderful pebbly texture to their skin.

 

Just as a few leaves have begun to show gold and red, warning that autumn is coming sooner than we expect; so too the animals begin to respond to the ever turning wheels of time.

 

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon, still in bloom, with a visitor.

 

But our garden was alive for another summer day, animated and  buzzing  with a satisfying array of creatures.

 

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

 

Scaly skinks climbed the walls and window screens of the house.   Shiny blue black wasps played in the grasses.

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Bright red cardinals, and their mates, foraged among the ripening Hickory nuts.

 

Dragonfly has wonderfully intricate texture in his wings.

Dragonfly has wonderfully intricate texture in his wings.

 

And finally, the garden has come alive with several species of butterflies.

 

Painted Lady on Salvia

Painted Lady on Salvia,  with culinary sage with its pebbly texture behind.

 

Noticing the varying textures of all this life is simply another way to appreciate its beauty.

Another way to drink it all in, while August lasts.

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Weekly One Word Photo Challenge: Texture

 

 

Painted Lady on Salvia

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