In A Vase On Monday

February 16, 2015 Monday Vase 002

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Today’s vase of flowers reflects what is growing and blooming in our garden indoors.

We were thrilled to see the Impatiens, tucked into a pot of Caladium tubers back in November, in bloom this weekend.  These are the first Impatiens flowers we’ve seen since autumn.   We expect these cuttings will root and grow on through the coming summer.

The Caladiums have also decided to offer some fresh winter leaves.  I selected two tiny ones for this vase.  A few Cyclamen flowers and a Jewel Orchid stem complete the arrangement.

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February 16, 2015 Monday Vase 003

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We are happy to enjoy a vase of these bright summer flowers, knowing that at least a few of these stems will grow roots and live on. Our indoor garden offers enough flowers to get us through until the garden outside wakes up to spring.

Today’s vase was purchased from the potter at a show a few years ago.  It is very ‘handmade,’ and eccentric, but we admired its free form exuberance and bright glaze.  Sadly, it is signed only with an initial, and I don’t recall the artist’s name.

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February 16, 2015 Monday Vase 005~

The glass ball off to the side is by Portland, Oregon glass artist Paris Birdwell.   I met her at a show  in Oregon last September, and had to bring this unusual piece home.

You can see our stark winter garden through the window.  The hazel tree is absolutely covered with little catkins dancing around in the breeze.

It just looks cold, doesn’t it? 

Our garden is frozen rock solid now, after a winter storm front swept through Saturday evening, leaving Arctic air in its wake.  Our high today was around 20 F, and all of the waterways around us are freezing.  The Violas I had hoped to cut for the vase today have collapsed in the cold, and snow will cover them by nightfall.  They are hardy, though, and can perhaps  be cut next week, instead.

Today we are content to stay inside, where it’s warm enough for flowers, cats and people to grow on happily, and in comfort.

Please visit Cathy, at Rambling In the Garden, to see the beautiful vase of early spring flowers she brought in from her garden today.  Cathy hosts this Monday Vase challenge each week, and you’ll find links in her comments to vases arranged by many other enthusiastic gardeners.

This is an international challenge, and I always find it interesting to see how the seasons are progressing, elsewhere.  If you’re feeling even a little inspired, please pull together a little vase of your own with whatever you can scavenge locally.  Wonderful surprises wait for you to notice them…..

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February 16, 2015 snow 002

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Jewel Orchid In Bloom

January 22,2014 004

The world outside is covered in snow, but the Jewel Orchid has come into bloom inside on the window sill.    Once again, it has covered itself with sprays of delicate white flowers.

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This beautiful orchid, Ludisia discolor, first came home as a casual impulse purchase  soon after we had moved to this home.  The long window sill in the living room was not yet home to a colony of plants, and I thought the little orchid, with such beautiful burgundy leaves, would brighten this window.

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The foliage of Jewel Orchid holds this beautiful color year round.

I had not yet seen Jewel Orchid in bloom, but fell in love with the foliage.  If memory serves, the little 4″ pot was  among the display of flowers  right inside the door at Trader Joes.  I chose it, tucked it into the shopping cart, and headed off to the banana display.

And this plant would be a welcome member of the houseplant family if it never bloomed. 

Much like a Coleus or a Rex Begonia, it is colorful enough when not in bloom to hold interest.  Large striped leaves and burgundy stems grow luxuriantly all year round.

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Rose of Sharon shrubs and a hazel tree growing just past the window offer some afternoon shade during the summer. Jewel Orchid prefers medium to low light, and should never be subjected to strong direct sunshine.

 

The flower scapes begin growing in late November or December, promising bloom in the weeks ahead.  It takes a long time for them to grow, and then for the individual flowers to finally begin to open.

There is a long season of bloom, with new scapes forming along the way, before the flowers dry and wither in early summer.    Even dried, the flowers hold their form.  It is a sad day when we must begin to cut the faded flower scapes away.

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For at least the first year, I simply allowed this little orchid to grow in the nursery pot in which it came.  It gives the impression, as do many orchids, of enjoying a snug fit in the pot.  The following Thanksgiving weekend, we had an unusually warm day.  We had opened the window behind this window sill a crack before heading out for the day. Later, in closing the window that evening, our beautiful Jewel Orchid somehow jumped from the sill and landed in the floor- hopelessly broken to bits.

I was upset, but bit my tongue and headed to the garage for a fresh nursery pot and fresh potting soil.  I gathered up all of the broken bits, dipped them in a bit of rooting hormone, and gently buried them in fresh soil.  After watering both pots, and expressing our deep apologies, we left both pots in the windowsill, side by side, and hoped for the best.  Within a day or so we brought home the larger, oval pot you see in the photos, and plunked both 4″ nursery pots into this larger one to improve appearances.January 22,2014 006

This orchid appreciates a humid environment. I believe it was actually happiest while growing in the nursery pots on a layer of gravel in this larger pot.  It lasted that way for another two years, without skipping a beat.

The “cuttings” rooted, and both pots of Jewel orchid bloomed that winter, effectively doubling our display from the previous year.  I’ve learned this orchid roots easily and is far more hardy than one might expect.

Although traditional culture directions indicate that it likes warmth and doesn’t respond well to drafts, it has managed just fine on this northwest facing window sill for a little more than 4 years now.

Finally, both little nursery pots were bursting with roots when I finally turned the orchids out and repotted both plants into the larger oval planter in early summer.  At the same time, I trimmed back some of the longer stems and stuck them into the soil as cuttings.  All rooted, and the plant continues to grow.  I almost expect to find cracks in the pot now that the orchid has grown so large, and know it is time to pot up once again.

This caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids.  We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

This Caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids. We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

I’m reluctant because the orchid loves this spot, and the windowsill won’t support a larger pot.  I will have to find another good spot for the parent orchid,and start a new plant in the old pot from cuttings, to continue on in this corner of the window.

A terrestrial orchid, Ludisia, grows on the forest floor in its native Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia.  Although they prefer high humidity, Ludisia are  not particularly thirsty.  There is no drainage hole in this pot, so I water infrequently and lightly.  I begin giving a dilute feeding or orchid fertilizer in early autumn, and continue giving that once or twice a month until the bloom is past its peak.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Since I have a grouping of orchids in this area of the room humidity is perhaps a little higher than it might be.

This has turned out to be an excellent impulse purchase, and has allowed me to learn to love a new genus of plant.  Rooted cuttings can be found from time to time wherever orchids and houseplants are sold.  The cuttings are unassuming, and might be overlooked, except for the beautiful leaf.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers.  This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers. This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Should you see one, I would encourage you to take a chance and purchase a Jewel Orchid. For a very small investment, this very tough and easy to grow orchid will fill your home with winter flowers for many years to come.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Jewel Orchid Care

Appreciation For Windows  (Forest Garden)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciation for Windows

January 14 orchid 003

Jewel orchid lives in this spot on the windowsill year round, and blooms for several months each winter.

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Jewel orchid thrives in the the medium to low light received from this window. It gets the sunset light each day, filtered through shrubs growing on the other side of the glass.

Windows are especially appreciated in January.  Tightly sealed against wet and cold, light still pours through, feeble and cool as it is many days, giving life to the plants clustered nearby.

Although this window faces northwest, it captures enough light to bring the orchids back into bloom.  The wind can blow, the ground can freeze; so long as sunlight reaches our windows, we carry on inside as though it were springtime already.

The plants wintering inside accept each photon that reaches their leaves with gratitude.  The windows stand bare and open to the winter sun, a blessing to each of us.

Orchid at night

Orchid at night

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Weekly Photo Challenge

Planning That Happy New (Gardening) Year

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Spring gardening catalogs started showing up in my mailbox this week.  In fact, I believe the first arrived on Christmas Eve.  The new Burpee catalog features a huge; I mean pumpkin sized, beefsteak tomato lovingly cradled in the gardener’s hands.

Our Lantana bed remains full of hungry birds much of the day.

Our Lantana bed remains full of hungry birds much of the day.

It is Saturday, and I’m itching to work on my garden, even if the temperature is still hovering in the low 40s out there.  Actually, my partner just changed to mucking shoes and headed out the door.

Here we sit firmly between Christmas and the New Year.  The tree is still up, but I’m definitely feeling the fresh breeze of welcoming in a new year, and a new gardening season.

The cane Begonias, and even some Caladiums, are quite happy with their spot inside.

The cane Begonias, and even some Caladiums, are quite happy with their spot inside.

Even as I gather the last of the wrappings and packaging for the recycling bin my eye is on that little stack of catalogs.  My mind is turning to what will soon fill the pots emptied by our frosts and freezes.

This morning we took time to water all of the plants living inside and gather up the fallen leaves.  We’re happy to see the Bouganvillea, which first dropped its rose pink flowers, and then dropped most of its leaves on the living room floor, breaking out with a new crop of leaves to carry it into the spring.  As they grow out its sharp spines look extra dangerous, and it commands tremendous respect.

Jewel orchid ready to burst into bloom

Jewel orchid ready to burst into bloom

There are at least three orchids throwing out flower buds.  The Jewel Orchid, with its burgundy, silver, and striped leaves will soon cover itself in long spikes covered in creamy white flowers.

Several of moth orchids have buds swelling and will give us many weeks of their delicate lavender and pink flowers in late winter.

Moth orchid

Moth orchid

Many of our cane Begonias are in full bloom.  We are fortunate to get light from many directions, and so keep the plants happy most of the time.  Caladiums are in leaf, ferns throwing out new fronds, and the Philodendrons all have new leaves emerging.  So far so good on keeping everyone alive through the winter!

But, winter it is.  And will be, here, for many weeks to come.  Our local garden centers are enjoying a long break now, and have only the barest bit of leftover stock.  We can look forward to freezing nights for at least another 15 weeks.

Our very happy Christmas cactus, and an olive tree surviving its first winter.

Our very happy Christmas cactus, and an olive tree surviving its first winter.

So, what is a gardener to do while waiting for spring?

Here is a bit of a beginning of a list.  It isn’t all inclusive.  My mind is still in recovery from the holidays.  But here are a few reminders to carry us through January, at the least.

1.  Keep the houseplants groomed and watered.  Wipe off leaves when they get dusty and remove those old ragged looking leaves.  New ones will soon follow to replace them. Deadhead faithfully after flowering to encourage new blooms.  Give those which will bloom all winter a drink of dilute fertilizer every other week, and turn the pots from time to time to encourage even growth.

This poor geranium won't come back after our hard freezes.  It is time to cut it back, along with all other frost damaged foliage.

This poor geranium won’t come back after our hard freezes. It is time to cut it back, along with all other frost damaged foliage.

2.  Cut back and remove the remains of any frozen herbs and annuals.  It’s time now to tidy up.  Perennials destroyed by frost can be left a few more weeks to give food and shelter to the garden birds and to protect the plants’ roots.

3.  Take a good look around and plan changes to the garden.  Now that you can really see the bones, plan any new spring projects.  Will there be new raised beds?  Any changes in the lines of existing beds?  Will there be new pathways, arbors, walls, ponds, or patios to build?  January is a good time to take photos, make sketches, read gardening books, read articles online, and plan out purchases for the necessary materials.

This cane Begonia lives happily inside, just a few feet from where it summered on the deck.

This cane Begonia lives happily inside, just a few feet from where it summered on the deck.

4.  At the same time, plan what you want to grow in the year ahead.  Will you focus on vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs, or shrubs?  Do you want to add any trees to the garden?  Will you repeat your 2013 garden, or try some new crops?  Are you growing enough of your own food?  Do you want to attract more wild life?  Do you need more areas of shrubs and perennials which look after themselves?

Now  we get to enjoy the catalogs.  There is a lot to learn about new introductions, cultivars of old favorites, and cultural requirements of unusual plants in the nursery catalogs.  I always learn useful things by reading them carefully.  I’m also inspired to try new combinations of plants, and perhaps shift to new colors in the new season.

5.  Develop shopping lists for new purchases.  This is where self-discipline is required.  I have spent dozens of winters reading gardening catalogs, making lists of what I want to grow.  This can be a very expensive hobby, and I’ve learned to let those lists sit for days, if not weeks, before ever making an order.

I waited months between wanting an Edgeworthia and finally planting this one.  After several trees fell in summer storms, I had the right spot to plant it.

I waited months between wanting an Edgeworthia and finally planting this one. After several trees fell in summer storms, we  finally had the right spot to plant it.

Truth is, there just isn’t the right spot for a lot of the plants on my “want” list.  Especially after working with a garden for a few years, there isn’t room for many new plants.  One also learns what not to plant in a particular garden because the conditions aren’t suitable.

So the wish list made in January needs serious editing before purchases are made closer to spring.  Another reason to love January, when everything seems possible.

6.  Build and improve the soil.

Although Camellias grow well in our garden, it is a constant struggle to protect new plantings from the deer.  Daffodils have begun to peak out of the soil at the base of this little shrub, and it is ready for a topdressing of fresh compost..

Although Camellias grow well in our garden, it is a constant struggle to protect new plantings from the deer. Daffodils have begun to peak out of the soil at the base of this little shrub, and it is ready for a topdressing of fresh compost.

If you’ve been gardening more than a season you know good soil makes the difference in the vitality of your plants.  Plant in poor or compacted soil and your plant will struggle and eventually die.  Plant in a well prepared bed, and the same plant will grow huge and productive.

Good gardeners feed their soil.  Spread all of those coffee grounds and tea leaves on your garden beds.  Dilute left over brewed coffee or tea and use it to water, or pour over frozen beds.  Rinse and crush egg shells to use as mulch where slugs are a problem, or where more calcium is needed.  Continue to chop up fallen leaves and spread them under shrubs or on perennial beds.  Save cardboard and newspaper to spread on the ground where you plan to create new beds this spring.  Not only will they kill the grass underneath, but they will attract earthworms, and enrich the soil as they decompose.

This crepe myrtle, which sent out lots of new growth after getting flattened by our fallen oaks, needs pruning now.  We will remove most of these new branches, sending the plant's energy into a few strong leaders which will form the new structure of the tree.

This crepe myrtle, which sent out lots of new growth after getting flattened by our fallen oaks, needs pruning now. We will remove most of these new branches, sending the plant’s energy into a few strong leaders which will form the new structure of the tree.

7.  Prune hardwood shrubs and trees.  Now that you can see the plant’s structure, remove extra branches.  Limb the plant up to reveal its trunk.  Head back laterals to encourage branching, especially on fruit bearing trees.  Remove any crossed limbs, and prune deciduous shrubs to control their size.  I’ll be working on my Rose of Sharon and Crepe Myrtle shrubs soon.  It is still a little early to work the roses, as they will try to send out new growth during warm spells; but I’ll tackle them by early February.

A final word of caution: If you are a gardening addict, as am I; the growing pile of glossy garden catalogs is heady temptation.  The photos are just exquisite, the plants so healthy and alluring.  I want to grow them all.

A favorite Begonia, which bloomed all summer, continues on into the winter indoors.  Fertilize to keep winter blooms coming.

A favorite Begonia, which bloomed all summer, continues on into the winter indoors. Fertilize to keep winter blooms coming.

But, I’ve learned, that what comes in the mail once you’ve ordered bears little resemblance to the photo.   Although some companies now send living starts, plugs as they’re called, many others still send “bare root” plants, bulbs, seeds, or tubers.

If you are patient, and skilled, you can eventually grow this pitiful beginning into a lovely plant.

Ajuga, commonly offered in winter plant catalogs, is always sold at garden centers in spring.  By waiting, you'll get a healthy clump of living plants ready to grow and bloom, at a similiar, or lower, price.

Ajuga, commonly offered in winter plant catalogs, is always sold at garden centers in spring. By waiting, you’ll get a healthy clump of living plants ready to grow and bloom, at a similiar, or lower, price.

Please notice the “if.”  I’ve done it, you may have done it.  But why go through the effort if you can buy a healthy, similarly priced plant at your local garden center later into the spring?

In fact, I’ve found better, bigger plants of the same variety, at a lower price, at the correct time for planting; by waiting to shop my garden center.

Which brings us to my last suggestion for winter gardening:

Violas are a specialty of the Homestead Garden Center here in Williamsburg.  They grow thousands of plants each autumn.

Violas are a specialty of the Homestead Garden Center here in Williamsburg. They grow thousands of plants each autumn.

8.  Shop your local garden center.  I’m not talking “big box store” here.  The locally owned, family run garden centers aren’t getting much business between Christmas and Easter.  It is a slim time for them, and your business means a lot.  Even if you just stock up on some fertilizer, a few new tools, maybe some fresh pots or baskets; buy something.

It is also a great time to shop for deals and establish a relationship.  If you take the time to chat with the folks who run your local garden center you will learn a great deal.  They are experts at gardening in your area.  Then, later, when you want to ask whether or not they will carry that particular variety you’re shopping for, you will know who to ask.  And chances are good that they know you, and will do their best to order it.

Ivy shines on winter days.  Remember to walk around and enjoy the winter garden.

Ivy shines on winter days. Remember to walk around and enjoy the winter garden.

So please pour another glass of Eggnog, if you enjoy it; or a more inspiring beverage if you don’t.  Settle into that warm and cozy chair with a stack of gardening books and catalogs as the sun sets in late afternoon for a few more frozen weeks.

It’s time to dream that New Year’s garden into reality.

December 28, 2013 garden 029My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.  H. Fred Dale

In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.  Robert Brault

Gardens are a form of autobiography.  Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

December 28, 2013 garden 021

Winter Solstice

Grape Mahonia

Grape Mahonia

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Today is the winter solstice,the shortest day of the year.

We will enjoy just over nine hours of daylight today in Williamsburg, which is still five hours more than those in Iceland will see.

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Orchid in bud

Jewel Orchid in bud

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The sun hugs the horizon on these short, winter days, ascending to its lowest point in the sky all year, before falling back towards the sunset.

Instead of rising in the east, as it does at the Spring Equinox, the sun rises in the southeast at the furthest point along its seasonal journey.

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A walk in the garden finds evidence of buds and new life everywhere.

A walk in the garden finds evidence of buds and new life everywhere.

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Here, it rises 30 degree further south than it will in March.  Likewise, the sun sets in the southwest at Winter solstice, at its furthest point from due west.

The further north one observes from, the more the points of sunrise and sunset converge in the southern sky, and the lower above the horizon the sun appears at noon, if at all.

In the far north, the Winter Solstice is a time of darkness as though the sun has withdrawn from the world.

And yet today is the turning.  It is the beginning of a new solar year as the sun begins its return.

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Cane Begonias are blooming now indoors.

Cane Begonias are blooming now indoors.

 

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We are fortunate that at Winter solstice we are actually closer to the sun than we are in winter.  Even though the Northern Hemisphere is turned away, we are over 3 million miles closer to the sun than we will be in June, due to our elliptical orbit.  We are getting less solar radiation than we do in summer, but our close approach to the sun almost compensates for our shorter days, keeping our middle latitudes energized.

 

Christmas Cactus is blooming right on schedule.

Christmas Cactus is blooming right on schedule.

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And, we are surrounded with the promise of new life, a fresh beginning, a new year to live, and a new opportunity to nourish abundance and joy in our lives.

A simple walk around the garden offers abundant evidence of the seeds, buds, cones, and fruits which hold the promise of new life.  Even in winter, the trees are alive with birds and squirrels.  The deer graze in the ravine, and geese fly overhead calling to one another.

 Happy Winter Solstice.

We offer you our best wishes for good times, good health, good fortune, and abundant love

at this time as we celebrate the return of the sun, the turning of the year, and the festivals of light.

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December 17, 2014 wreath 007

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

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