Fabulous Friday: Hibiscus in Bloom

Hibiscus moscheutos opens its first blooms of the season today.

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We always celebrate when the Hibiscus moscheutos bloom.  These easy native perennials largely care for themselves.  Although they die back to the ground each autumn, they grow quickly once their stems finally appear again in late spring.

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Native Hibiscus prove very accommodating and will grow in a variety of conditions.   Seen most commonly in the wild near water, they appreciate a little irrigation when the weather turns hot and dry.  They grow in a variety of soils from partial shade to full sun.  Happy, well irrigated plants grow to between four and five feet tall.

We let them seed themselves around and grow where they will, always delighted when their colorful blooms quite suddenly appear in mid-summer.  Each stem may produce a half dozen or more buds.  Once the flowers fade, interesting seed capsules ripen and persist into winter.  Many of our songbirds enjoy pecking ripe seeds from the open capsules until we finally cut their dried stems down.

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Hybrid Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ is much showier than our native Hibiscus with somewhat larger flowers. Its foliage is also more attractive… until the Japanese beetles have their way with the leaves.  This cultivar was introduced by the Fleming Brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska, who have produced several Hibiscus hybrids based on crosses of H. moscheutos and H. coccineus.

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While many cultivars of H. moscheutos are available on the market, I believe that most of ours are the species.  We planted H. ‘Kopper King’ about four years ago and it has grown into a large and vigorous plant. Various Hibiscus volunteers in our garden bloom deep pink, light pink or white.  We see them, too, in the marshes along the James River and creeks that feed it.

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Hardy Hibiscus coccineus will start blooming by early August.

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Native Hibiscus prove a reliable, hardy and very beautiful perennial in our garden.  We have more native Hibiscus species yet to bloom; and the Asian Hibiscus syriacus, or woody Rose of Sharon, is in the midst of its much longer season of bloom.

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Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon

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The woody shrub form of Asian Hibiscus also seeds itself around the garden, growing quickly from seedling to blooming tree in just a few years.  Although new cultivars are introduced each year, we have four or five different flower colors and forms which keep us quite happy.  A non-native, it also feeds many creatures with its nectar, pollen, leaves and seeds.

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Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus

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It is fabulous to enjoy a plethora of gorgeous showy flowers with very little effort on our part during this muggiest part of summer.  It is also fabulous to watch the beautiful and varied bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that visit to enjoy their abundant pollen and sweet nectar each day.

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Rose of Sharon in our shrub border bloom prolifically from mid-June until early September.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious;

let’s infect one another!

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“Seize the moments of happiness,

love and be loved!

That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

It is the one thing we are interested in here.”

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Leo Tolstoy

 

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8: Observe

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In February and March, every gardening miracle seems possible.  My coffee table holds a thick stack of gardening catalogs, each filled with gorgeous photos of flowers and foliage in every size, color, pattern and form a gardener might wish for.  In winter, I sketch out plans for new planting beds and make long ‘wish lists’ of what I hope to grow in the season coming.

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Hybrid hardy Hibiscus 'Sun King' attracts every Japanese beetle within miles. Our native Hibiscus mucheotos rarely sustain damage, but these ratty leaves always distract from the beauty of its vibrant flowers.

Hybrid hardy Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ attracts every Japanese beetle within miles. Our native Hibiscus moscheutos rarely sustain damage.  But these ratty leaves always distract from the beauty of this plant’s vibrant flowers.

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But as the calendar pages turn, reality sets in with late freezes or early heat; storms and drought; insects chewing the leaves; rabbits and deer ‘pruning;’  and any number of other seasonal stressors to challenge the beauty of our garden.  The pristine beauty of a gardening catalog photo doesn’t always match the reality of how that plant may look in late summer growing in our garden.

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Rudbeckia lacniata came as an unexpected gift along with some Monarda roots. These wildflowers grow to 8'tall and require little care beyond staking.

Rudbeckia laciniata came as an unexpected gift from a gardening friend,  along with some Monarda roots. These wildflowers grow to 8′ tall and require little care beyond staking.  Butterflies love them!  These grow in our ever changing ‘Butterfly Garden.’

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The difference between gardening dreams and gardening reality can prove both disappointing and expensive!  That is why experienced gardeners notice how a plant actually weathers the long months of summer; in what conditions it thrives or disappoints; and what special care it needs; before making an investment.

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In its second season, the Rudbeckia laciniata has climbed up through our Rose of Sharon shrubs this summer. What a display!

In their second season, the Rudbeckia laciniata have climbed up through our Rose of Sharon shrubs this summer. What a display!

Many popular and commonly used plants have a very brief period when they look great.  But as flowers fade and drop and summer heat sets in they turn more brown than bright.

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Some, like German Iris, respond to having the bloom stalks pruned back and dying leaves removed.  New growth often shows up as summer wanes.  The leaves offer a green, sculptural presence in the garden long after the flowers fade.

But other commonly used annuals and perennials, like some semperfloren Begonias and many re-blooming daylily hybrids, simply don’t do well in our Virginia mid-summer dry-spells combined with days of heat.  They soon look rather ragged.

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This bed of hybrid roses and daylilies grows along Rt. 60 near Busch Gardens. Planted with good intentions, it looks pretty dismal by early August.

This bed of hybrid roses and daylilies grows along Rt. 60 near Busch Gardens. Planted with good intentions, it looks pretty dismal by early August.

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That is why it pays to really look around and observe what looks good and what doesn’t by the middle of August in your region.  What plants thrive in your local conditions?  What proves ‘high-maintenance’ and needs a lot of attention to make it through the season?

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Canna lilies keep blooming through the worst summer weather, but may also attract insects which eat their leaves. These Canna 'Russian Red' are a new variety we're trying this year.

Canna lilies keep blooming through the worst summer weather, but may also attract insects which eat their leaves. These Canna ‘Russian Red’ are a new variety we’re trying for the first time this year.

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What plants attract Japanese beetles and other pests?  What gets eaten at night by slugs and snails?  What do you admire growing in neighbors’ yards as you drive around town?

Our star performers in August include Crepe Myrtle trees, Canna lily, Colocasia, Lantana, Black Eyed Susans, Caladiums and many herbs.  Relatively pest and disease free, these beauties shrug off the heat and remain attractive and bright through the long months of summer.

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Naturalized Black Eyed Susans in our garden

Naturalized Black Eyed Susans spread themselves further and further each year in our garden.

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What stands up to summer in your garden?  Which plants do you count on to thrive and remain attractive into the autumn months each year?  A wise person once said, ‘Begin with the end in mind.’  This is good advice for gardening and good advice for life.  It helps us focus and make good choices along the way.

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Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop' proves a hardy and beautiful ground cover in pots and planting beds. Evergreen, it blooms each spring. Caladiums love our summer weather!

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ proves a hardy and beautiful ground cover in pots and planting beds. Evergreen, it blooms blue each spring. Caladiums love our summer weather!

Woodland Gnome’s caveat:  Taking photos helps me observe the garden more closely while providing a record, year to year, of what we grow.  Looking back over the development of a planting through several years of photos shows me things about the garden’s development in a way my memory might not.  Photos also help me remember successful annual plants we might want to use again. 

It is good to study photos taken from various angles, in differing light, and at different points in the season to gain a better understanding of a garden’s rhythms; its strengths and its weaknesses.

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Our 'potted garden' on the back steps evolves each season. Originally, I grew only Basil, which didn't last the entire season. Now we experiment to see which plants thrive in intense heat and full sun from late spring through autumn.

Our ‘potted garden’ on the back steps evolves each season. Originally, we grew only Basil, which didn’t last the entire season. Now we experiment to see which plants thrive in intense heat and full sun from late spring through autumn.

“Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams.

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3 Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

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Not the most attractive shrub, we soon observed that Rose of Sharon attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. We allow them to naturalize throughout the garden.

Not the most attractive shrub, we soon observed that Rose of Sharon attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. We allow them to naturalize throughout the garden because they benefit wildlife.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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Remembering Summer

Purple sage with onion.  This experiment in repelling deer from this bed was a total success.

Purple sage with geranium and  onion. This experiment in repelling deer from this bed was a total success.

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The last day of January came clear, bright, windy and cold in our garden today.  The sun rose earlier than it has in months, heralded by birds calling to each other before its first rays poured in through the windows.

Today was the sort of day when I found myself standing near the sunniest of the windows looking out into the garden with longing, and pondering the tiniest bits of vibrant new growth on our many potted plants indoors.

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Rose of SHaron in its first blush of blooms last summer.

Rose of Sharon in its first blush of blooms last summer.

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Spring is definitely on its way.  I found two sprouted flower bulbs in a small sack on the kitchen counter.  They’ve been there for at least two months, waiting for action to break through procrastination to get them into a bit of soil.  Today was the day as I tucked them both into a 6″ pot and left it nestled among the hanging baskets growing through this very cold winter in the garage.

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Canna

Canna

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The stack of gardening catalogs grows on the living room table.  Our first order of seeds arrived in yesterday’s mail; a dozen packets of promise and hope.

I ventured out into the garden today, for the first time since gathering flowers on Monday, to walk the site where I’m dreaming of building a new raised bed.  This has been a bizarre cough syrup fueled week of recovery from a nasty bug picked up in early January.  Our efforts to stay warm, hydrated and medicated may or may not be paying off.

So I distract myself in those rare bursts of energy with reading gardening books and catalogs.  Today I sketched a first draft of a raised bed featuring herbs, flowers and a few perennial vegetables for our table.

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I was a little put-off by Amazon’s only listing for Egyptian Walking Onions.  Their one offering was listed at over $3000.00.  A misprint, I hope?  Let’s Not find out…. I found another site offering about eight varieties of Alium X Proliferum, the formal name for these self-replicating beauties, and a much better price.  Too bad all but one variety have already sold out for the season.  To order, or not?  That is tonight’s question.

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Calla

Calla

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And that is all given as a weak excuse for tonight’s post.  The best I’ve been able to muster today is a retrospective of photos taken in the garden at the end of last June, six months ago, today.  I hope you take as much pleasure in this brief remembrance of early summer as I have.

It reminds me that January is always balanced by June, and that our garden is already bursting with beauty whether that new dreamed of bed finds its way into back garden reality this spring, or not.

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Hibiscus

Hibiscus

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And the intense sunshine bathing our home in light today made us both a bit more energetic and optimistic.  It reminds us that although we still have a few months of winter ahead, we have definitely turned the corner towards spring and the promise of renewal and growth.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Birthday Portraits: Snapping Turtles

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We were in the midst of watering the garden yesterday morning when my partner spotted it, barely visible against the blacktopped street.

But my partner has a special knack for spotting anomalies,  and the tiny turtle, craning his neck around this way and that for a  complete view of his newly found world, caught his attention.

He called me over, and together we decided to lift the little one out of the street, back into the garden.

Barely more than an inch from one end of its sculpted grey shell to the other, this one had just arrived to the world of sunlight.

Once set down under the shrubs, he quickly disappeared into the dried leaves.

 

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We both returned to our tasks, murmuring our appreciation for this little turtle and our good wishes for his survival.

But then tiny turtle reappeared, running across the mulch from one bed to the next.

Or was it another one?  This one was moving so fast it was hard to tell.

 

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But when we spotted a third, and then a fourth; we realized that a nest of turtle eggs must have opened somewhere in the garden.  The search was on.

And it didn’t take long to spot a fifth turtle, just appeared near a small hole under our Hibiscus.

 

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The hole wasn’t two inches across, nestled near the stems and well hidden in the mulch.

But careful observation soon revealed a tiny head, and two tiny eyes adjusting to sunlight for the first time.

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Watering now on hold, I settled in near the hole, camera focused, hoping to photograph the moment when this little guy crawled out into the world.

But these creatures are smarter than you might expect. 

And he was very aware of the great human giants too near beside  his sipapu.  And cautiously, he waited. 

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Too long, because soon another head popped up behind him.  There was obviously a que of turtles waiting below.

So Mr. Cautious dropped back into the hole, and Ms. Adventurous took his place at the opening; weighing her options.

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I kept the camera focused and ready, taking birthday portraits from time to time, but waiting for the moment of emergence.

My partner suggested that I needed to back off.  My body suggested I not stay bent in position  too long.

And Ms. Adventurous suggested she had all day long to begin her journey.

We chatted.  We both encouraged her, and gave her lots of parental advice about staying in the garden, and hiding well, and how she would find plenty to eat here.

Listening attentively, she still waited.  And yet another head appeared.  My partner wandered away, and I moved back a ways further  from the hole, and slightly out of their line of sight.

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A birth must not be rushed, and patience finally was rewarded as Ms. Courageous climbed the rest of the way up onto the soft mulch.

Her grey eyes took in her new, bright surroundings, and her gigantic human companion, before she took off running across the mulch.

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Each turtle headed in a different direction, but all must have had some sense of the pond at the bottom of the hill, waiting for them.

 

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I left the rest of the turtles in peace to emerge in their own time.

We kept encountering our tiny turtles throughout the day.  When we spotted them on the driveway later, we moved them to safer spots in the garden.

Found later on the driveway, my partner moved this turtle to the safety of a pot so I could take another photo.

Found later on the driveway, my partner moved this turtle to the safety of a pot so I could take another photo.

These are snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentina, common throughout Virginia.

We spot them from time to time in the garden and throughout the community.

Although their reputation is fierce, we must have uncommonly gentle ones here.

We’ve never encountered an aggressive one.

 

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The baby turtles disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared.

We hope they found their way down to the ravine and pond, where they can hunt and find shelter.  There are plenty of wild spaces for them to live and grow in safety.  As omnivores, there will be plenty for them to eat year round.

It will be at least a dozen years before these turtles reach maturity, and they may still inhabit the garden a century from now.  Turtles are extremely long lived, if they reach maturity, with very few predators.

We’ll have our eye out for them, now.

This Box Turtle was waiting for me in the lower garden when I arrived, later, to water.

This Box Turtle was waiting for me in the lower garden when I arrived, later, to water.

 

They can join the box turtles and the blue tailed skinks; the toads and tree frogs, as welcome denizens of our Forest Garden.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Toad, found laying her eggs in the garden yesterday morning.

Toad, found laying her eggs in the garden yesterday morning.

One Word Photo Challenge: Maroon

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Maroon:  Somewhere between brown and red, or perhaps chocolate and rose; with a little purple hue thrown in for good measure.

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When I think of “maroon,” I think of team colors, 1950’s cars, and lipstick.

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From the French and Italian words for  “chestnut,”  maroon reminds me of cinnamon and dried chilies; good red wine and mole’ sauce.

It looks delicious, smells of old roses, and feels like satin.

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But here it is in the garden! 

Have you ever seen a flower advertised as “maroon” in a nursery catalog?  Who would order a “maroon” plant or  flower?

 

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But un-named, it is a deep and intriguing color, a good foil for cream and pink. 

It plays well against all shades of green, and gives an illusion of coolness and shadow.

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And now I’m seeing it everywhere…

Maroon.

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With appreciation  to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her One Word Photo Challenge:  Maroon

One World Photo Challenge: Gold

One World Photo Challenge: Gold   Golden Turtle

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The Butterfly Ballet

Zebra Swallowtail on Lantana

Zebra Swallowtail on Lantana

The stage is set.  A symphony of birds and frogs fills the garden with song.

Now we watch for the flying ballet of butterflies and hummingbirds to begin their annual performance.

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This lone Zebra Swallowtail visited the Lantana yesterday morning as I watered the garden.

We’ve spotted her a few times over the last few days, and I was happy to find her close enough to share photos with you.

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Our butterflies frequently visit Lantana, Hibiscus,  and the Butterfly Tree ready to bloom near the ravine.

Tree Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon

Tree Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, a favorite of our swallowtails.

 

Our Joe Pye Weed opened its first blossom yesterday, and we have several patches of Salvia in bloom.

 

Hibiscus, "Kopper King" opening its first bloom this season.

Hibiscus, “Kopper King” opening its first bloom this season.

July and August find our garden full of butterflies.

We hope these luscious Canna blossoms will entice the hummingbirds.

We hope these luscious Canna blossoms will entice the hummingbirds.

Let the show begin!  The audience is filled with anticipation. . .

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Garden At Dusk

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We love the garden at dusk, as the sun is dropping below the trees and the evening breezes begin to blow through the forest.

 

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The light is soft and the air is cool.

 

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Dusk is when our bats begin to fly.  They come up from the ravine to feed; zig-zagging across the garden, across the rooftop, inhaling insects as they fly.

 

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They come in twos and threes at first, and then little by little more fly up from the ravine  as stars appear and the sky darkens.

The frogs begin to sing to one another around the pond.

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It sounds like a cello and bass playing a slightly out of tune duet.

The cardinals’ staccato calls to one another provide the melody as they settle into the bamboo before nightfall.

 

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Lightning bugs appear in the shrubs and tree lines first, then gradually venture out onto the lawn as night deepens.

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They twinkle through the gathering darkness, a ballet of golden lights filling the air as trees recede into shadow.

 

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We inhale the evening sweetness as gardenias and roses release their perfume.

The garden comes to life as darkness falls. 

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Bats replace birds; moths replace butterflies; toads replace the sleeping lizards, and dragonflies give way to lightning bugs.

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The day’s work finished, we can simply walk through the garden one last time and enjoy the magic and beauty of it all.

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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WPC: Split Second Story

The, crouching into my photo of lovely Hibiscus, "Kopper King."

Theo, crouching into my photo of lovely Hibiscus, “Kopper King.”

This is Theo.

Theo spotted me photographing his plants at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market this morning.

Knotts Creek Nursery's display is acroos the street.  They area the ones flocked with customers....

Knotts Creek Nursery’s display is across DoG street at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market this morning.  They are the ones flocked with customers….

He ended up selling me the plant I wanted to photograph, and a lot more!

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Knotts Creek Nursery, in Suffolk, normally a wholesaler; brought a selection of their beautifully grown perennials, herbs, and shrubs to temp the citizenry of Williamsburg this morning.

And the plants were just flying out of  the display so fast that you couldn’t hesitate.

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A beautiful Euphorbia was there and gone in an instant.  Other customers were browsing “my pile,” already paid for, before my partner could get round with the car to load up.

So the lovely Hibiscus “Kopper King” came home with us, as did some perennial Salvias, perennial Foxglove, and a Hibiscus Coccineus ‘Texas Star’.

This Foxglove came home to Forest Garden today.

This Foxglove came home to Forest Garden today.

Theo is a great salesman!  I liked him right away, as soon as he crouched into the frame of my first photo.

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We chatted, and I found out why.  It seems Theo is just finishing up his first year of teaching high school science in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  I’m sure his students and colleagues love him.

He is a bright spirit, and knows his plants.

When I asked him for not just “deer resistant” varieties, but poisonous ones;  he sent me to the Foxglove right away.

This lovely Echinacea did not make the cut.... "deer candy."

This lovely Echinacea did not make the cut…. “deer candy.”

Yes, with a raised eyebrow, but give the customer what they want,   Right?

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Achillea

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Split Second Story

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