WPC: Rare Beauty

August 20, 2016 Butterflies 010

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Butterflies visit our gardens for just a few weeks of the year.  These delicate, colorful creatures float from flower to flower on warm summer days.  Their presence brings our garden to life. 

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Certain butterflies grow more rare, each passing year, in the United States.  The chemical assault on butterflies, at all stages of their life cycle, have decimated their numbers.  Herbicides destroy  their habitat and host plants.  Pesticides, often designed to kill other insects, also kill many adult butterflies and their larvae.

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 020

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Organic  gardeners can provide an oasis of safety for butterflies to lay their eggs, for their larvae to grow, and for adults to feed along the path of their migration.  We consciously designed a butterfly friendly certified Wildlife Habitat to help support butterflies at all stages of their life cycle.

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 016

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We plan for the appearance of the first spring butterflies returning from their migration, and have nectar rich flowers blooming to greet them.

We grow  the favored trees, herbs and perennials needed by growing Monarch and swallowtail caterpillars.  And we fill our garden with nectar plants to fuel the adults for their long flight south each autumn.

Lantana, the flowers they are feeding on today, proves their absolute favorite.  Its blooms attract butterflies like no other!  Lantana blooms prolifically until killed by the first heavy frost in early winter.

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Swallowtail butterfly beauties, which have grown alarmingly rare in recent years, fill our garden on summer days like today.  I counted at least six individual swallowtails feeding as I worked in the garden this morning.

This makes us happy, to see our garden come alive with butterflies; their flight from flower to flower showing us that all of our gardening efforts have a greater purpose.

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As gardeners across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America each create safe havens for butterflies, and other migrating wildlife, on their own properties; we can hope the butterfly population will recover.

My great dream is that populations of these exquisite creatures will rebound.  Their appearance no longer a sighting of rare beauty…..

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 014

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Rare

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 018

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 20, 2016 Butterflies 022

Blossom XI

August 10, 2016 morning garden 003

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for the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Morning

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August 1, 2016 blossoms 004
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“Each morning offers lessons in light.
For the morning light teaches the most basic of truths:
Light chases away darkness.”
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Anasazi Foundation
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August 10, 2016 morning garden 007~
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
BlossomXII

“Green Thumb” Tip #1: Pinch!

Coleus, with new branches beginning to emerge several days after pinching.

Coleus, with new growth beginning to emerge several days after pinching.

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Pinch out the growing tips of each stem to make a plant grow more branches.  Some gardeners do this after a stem produces three sets of leaves.  Each new branch helps a plant grow ‘bushier’ and can produce more leaves and flowers.  Use this method to grow larger, more productive plants. 

Use this tip on flowering annuals and perennials, herbs, shrubs and even some vegetables with a structure of leafy stems.

Why it works:  This is an ‘hormonal thing.’  When you pinch out the growing tip of a leaf covered stem, an hormonal message is relayed to every leaf node below that point to produce a new stem.  This is how a single stem can become the framework for multiple stems growing from its sides.  Pinch each lateral stem after at least three sets of leaves form, and more lateral stems will grow from each of its leaf nodes.  Although flowering may be slightly delayed, you will be rewarded with many times more leaves and flowers from a larger plant.

Woodland Gnome’s caveat:  I try to pinch the terminal leaf from a growing stem when it is tiny and not yet fully formed.  Often, this can be done without sacrificing the tiny flowers emerging beside the new leaf.  Use small scissors to prune away emerging leaves without damage to the plant.

“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.

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Lantana, with new stems growing from the leaf nodes.

Lantana, with new stems growing from the leaf nodes.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot Bound Roots!  by J. Peggy Taylor

‘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 #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

 

Sunday Dinner: Focus

June 12, 2016 pots 015

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“Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.”

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Ann Voskamp

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“Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish,

focus on how much you can

absolutely love what you’re doing.”

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Leo Babauta

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June 12, 2016 pots 018~

“When you connect to the silence within you,

that is when you can make sense

of the disturbance going on around you.”

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Stephen Richards

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“The battle you are going through

is not fueled by the words or actions of others;

it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.”

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Shannon L. Alder 

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June 12, 2016 pots 012

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Whatever your passion is, keep doing it.

Don’t waste time chasing after success

or comparing yourself to others.

Every flower blooms at a different pace.

Excel at doing what your passion is

and only focus on perfecting it.”

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Suzy Kassem

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June 12, 2016 pots 001

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“Focusing is the great secret of power.

If you want to use your full amount of focus,
you must close down all other thought
and direct your power of generating mental steam
toward one outcome.”

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Stephen Richards
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June 12, 2016 pots 004

 

WPC: Weightless

September 6, 2015 garden 016

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For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weightless

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September 4, 2015 garden 018

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Photos by Woodland Gnome

September 2015

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September 4, 2015 garden 020

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“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly?”

“It is if you first become a part of nature.

You suppress your presence as a human being,

stay very still, and convince yourself

that you are a tree or grass or a flower.

It takes time,

but once the butterfly lets its guard down,

you can become friends quite naturally.”

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Haruki Murakami

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August 15, 2015 Gardens 024

 

 

 

A Royal Visitor

October 8 Parkway 052

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We have been watching for a Monarch butterfly to visit our garden for the last several weeks.

We still have Yellow Sulphurs and Painted Ladies.  But most of the Swallowtails took off before our storms.  We miss them.  The garden has felt quite lonely and empty without them flying around.

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October 8 Parkway 051

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But we started spotting Monarch butterflies on our errands this morning.  We saw them hovering over flowering shrubs at the shopping center.  We saw them flying about near the Colonial Parkway.  When would one turn up at home, we wondered?

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October 8 Parkway 049

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And then at dusk, as I was bringing a pumpkin around to set on the front porch, I spotted our first Monarch butterfly of October, feeding on the Lantana in our front garden.  What a thrill!  After the joy of simply watching it for a while, I quietly retreated back inside to tell my partner about our visitor, and to grab my camera.

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October 8 Parkway 050

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Wondering whether our Monarch would still be around when I returned, I powered up the camera and quietly approached the Lantana again.  And yes, our visitor was enjoying the feast too much to mind my presence.  I was happily snapping photos as my partner approached, watching from a distance.

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October 8 Parkway 041

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Maybe it was the socks….  Today I chose a pair of Monarch butterfly socks my partner had given me in late August.  All stages of a Monarch’s  life from egg to adult are woven into these wonderful socks, which we found in the shop at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester.  I pulled them on this morning hoping to soon finding Monarchs visiting us on their fall migration.

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October 8 Parkway 042

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Now that the storms have passed, and clear cool days have brought a new freshness and vitality to our garden, we observe renewed activity from birds devouring ripening berries and bees enjoying Goldenrod and autumn Salvias.

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Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage

Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage

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And now our garden has finally hosted the long awaited royal visitor:  a lone Monarch butterfly feeding in our garden as it travels to warmer destinations further south.  We hope this is the first Monarch of many who find our garden this month. We hope to find it alive again with the flutter of brilliant wings, as they taste each  blossom filled with sweet autumn nectar.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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October 8 Parkway 005

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

Canna

Canna

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I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate what is blooming in our garden this September.  Many of us are fortunate to have something in bloom every day of the year, with a bit of planning.

September is one of our best months of the year for a wide variety of blossoms.

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The white Sage has bloomed since mid-spring when it was planted, but looks lovely set off by our fall blooming blue mist flowers.

The white Sage has bloomed since mid-spring when it was planted, and now looks even better set off by our fall blooming blue mist flowers.

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Not only have some of the spring annuals come back into bloom, but we also have those autumn perennials we wait all summer to enjoy.  Our garden is intensely fragrant this month as we enjoy both Butterfly Ginger lily and lovely white Moonflowers.

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Both offer an intensely sweet fragrance which floats across the garden, drawing one ever closer to enjoy these special flowers up close.

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Blue Mexican Sage just coming into bloom. It will bloom until frost cuts it down.

Blue Mexican Sage just coming into bloom. It will bloom until frost cuts it down.

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Our blue Mexican Sage has begun to uncurl its very first flowers of the season.  It has grown quickly from its nursery pot to give a respectable showing this year.  Assuming it can survive winter, it will be much larger next year.  Some years it returns, other years are too harsh for this marginal perennial in Zone 7.

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September 15, 2015 Begonias blooming 012

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We continue to enjoy our Black Eyed Susans, although they are beginning to look a little spent.  Once I trim them back they will continue on through October.

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Buddleia, 'Harlequin'

Buddleia, ‘Harlequin’

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We also have drifts of our blue mist flower weaving through many areas of the garden.  Our Buddliea, ‘Harlequin’ continues to pump out flowers, as it has all summer.  It offers a small but intense purple bloom.  I enjoy it as much for its beautiful leaves as for its flowers, which attract butterflies and hummingbirds through the season.

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A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

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The few surviving Coleus plants continue to produce tall stalks of flowers attractive to many butterlies and hummingbird.  Many of our plants have by now been shredded by squirrels.  Has this happened to you?  Systematically, one by one, squirrels have taken each plant apart.  We’ve wondered if they are drawn to the water in the plant’s stems?  They leave most of the leaves lying where they fall.

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Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

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Our established Cannas are nearly finished for the season.  But a newly planted one, which is probably in more shade than it likes. has given its first flowers of the season this week.  It is a striking golden yellow.  I will remember to move pieces of it to a sunnier location next spring.

Also coming into bloom this month are our hardy perennial Begonias.

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I enjoy Begonias of many different types.  Most of ours come inside and bloom throughout the winter.

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But I have a special fondness for these very tough, if fragile looking hardy Begonias.  They are easy to divide and spread around, rooting easily and also producing tiny bulbs at their leaf joints.

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Hardy Begonia

Hardy Begonia

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Each little bulb can send roots into the soil and expand into a tiny plant.   I’ve learned that these survive winter much better in the ground than left in a pot.  They are late to emerge and late to bloom.  But they are very lovely in both bloom and leaf once they come into their own.

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September 15, 2015 Begonias blooming 002

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Although each flower is a simple affair, their color is very satisfying.  Almost as lovely as the pink flowers are the pink stems of this plant.

We choose our plants with both birds and nectar loving insects in mind because we enjoy watching the many creatures drawn to our garden for food and safe haven.

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Seeds of our Butterfly tree are even more colorful than the flowers of a few weeks ago.

The seeds of our Butterfly tree are even more colorful than the flowers of a few weeks ago.

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And it is in late summer and early fall when many of summer’s flowers have faded that their seeds appear.  I often leave the flowers to go to seed, looking forward to the goldfinches and other small birds who will visit to eat from the drying flower stalks.

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Basil seeds and Echinacea seeds are a particular favorite.

And berries have also begun to form in the garden as well.  Often the berries are much showier than the original flowers, which often were quite small and plain.

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We enjoy the bright color and interesting texture the berries offer until the birds finish them.

It is nearly time to shop for autumn Violas and Snaps.  We will plant both by late September, planning to enjoy them through the winter months and into mid-spring.

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Our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz'

Our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz’

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Autumn is an excellent month to plant winter annuals and vegetables as well as many shrubs, trees, and perennials here in Zone 7.  I’ve already been planting new Iris and several new perennials.  I will be planting a few hundred Daffodil bulbs over the coming weeks, and we planted a new Crepe Myrtle tree a few weeks ago.  It continues to bloom even as its roots settle into their new home.

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Rose of Sharon began its season of bloom in late May. It makes abundant seeds which feed our birds all winter long.

Rose of Sharon began its season of bloom in late May. It makes abundant seeds which feed our birds all winter long.

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Although winter has already visited some parts of the United States, we will enjoy warm weather for another six weeks, at least.

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Bougainvillea normally blooms in the winter in more southern climates. Ours was just beginning to bloom as we had to bring it inside for autumn last year. We are glad to have these blooms early enough to enjoy outside.

Bougainvillea normally blooms in the winter in more southern climates. Ours was just beginning to bloom as we had to bring it inside for autumn last year. We are glad to have these blooms early enough to enjoy outside.

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We normally enjoy a last blast of warm weather in early October, even after a few fall like days and cool nights in September have enticed us to anticipate the cooler days and lower humidity of autumn.  September and October are every bit as busy for us in the garden as April and May.

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Oxalis blooms here all summer.

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

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As much as we enjoy the varied foliage of our garden, our fall flowers bring great pleasure, too.  Especially as we enjoy the seeds and fruits they leave behind for the birds migrating through Virginia on their way further south.

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Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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September 6, 2015 garden 011

 

Debut

September 4, 2015 garden 019

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It was at the end of a long, steamy watering and weeding session when I first spotted her.  There she was, vividly bright and different from the other black swallowtail butterflies we’re accustomed to hosting in the garden.

She was feeding on the Lantana, behind me, as I crashed through the shrub border pulling the hose back towards its spot by the house.

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September 4, 2015 garden 018

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At first, I just stopped to watch her; afraid any further movement might startle her away.  But she and her companions kept right on feeding, flower to flower, choosing to ignore my sudden presence.

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September 4, 2015 garden 024

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So I slipped the camera from my pocket, powered it on, and zoomed in for a capture.  She startled, but soon returned, warily continuing her progress from flower to flower in pursuit of warm, sweet nectar.

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This is a different species of swallowtail butterfly spotted for the first time today in our garden.  She is the first swallowtail I’ve noticed whose wings carry such vibrant yellow markings and whose body is covered in white polka dots.

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I kept following her around the Lantana, trying to capture the perfect photo before she took off again.  My partner thinks there may have been more than one individual of this type after studying the photos.  He may be right.

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September 4, 2015 garden 020

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We’ll continue to try to identify her.  So far the closest I’ve gotten is possibly a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly.  Many of the photos posted online of the Spicebush Swallowtail show more blue markings, and lack the bright yellow on the wings.  Do you recognize her?  Can you help us identify her?

It is hot here today, and it was time for me to retreat back in to the cool shade of the house.  We’re hoping for rain this afternoon, as the soil is still very dry and many plants look wilted.  Leaves are turning brown and dropping, some ferns disappearing.

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As the season marches on towards autumn, we expect to see more butterfly species stop for a while in the garden to feed and rest along their path of migration.  We are watching for the first of the Monarchs to appear one day soon.

But today we enjoyed this beauty, and hope she will perhaps lay a few eggs while she is here.

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September 4, 2015 garden 026~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’

August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 004~

I was given a pot of Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ last week to trial in our garden by friend and horticulturalist Joel Patton, who owns our local Homestead Garden Center.  Joel knows that I love trying new plants.  Joel also knows that I especially love Lantana for its butterfly magnet blooms. We have steered several friends his way to find Lantana plants for their own gardens.

Joel told me this plant is a new introduction in the series of hardy, perennial Lantana developed by plantsman Mike Dirr of Plant Introductions, Inc.  Mike found the Lantana cultivar now known as ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ growing in his daughter’s garden in Chapel Hill, NC in 2005, and took notice when it returned, covered in golden yellow blooms in 2006.  After finding L. ‘Chapel Hill Yellow,’ he has been working with hybrid crosses using the cold hardy L. ‘Miss Huff,’ maternal parent of ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’, to develop even more cold hardy Lantana hybrids.  It is a good story, especially for those of us interested in how new plants come to the trade.

Mike’s story is a good story, too.  You can read about his work to develop better ornamental plants at an abandoned hog farm, now converted to a nursery, in Watkinsville, Georgia.  His company  now offers seven new Lantana cultivars, all of which prove drought tolerant, cold hardy, and offer a superior number of blooms with attractive foliage.

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Newly planted Lantana, 'Sunny Side Up' near our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz.' It has been a busy weekend in the garden.

Newly planted Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ near our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz.’ It has been a busy weekend in the garden.

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I am excited to grow out this gift of L. ‘Sunny Side Up’ to see how it performs in our garden.  This is considered a ground cover Lantana, growing to only  about 18″ but forming a wide, 3′ clump each year.  After debating for a day whether to plant it in a large pot or in the ground, I opted to plant it in a new bed I constructed yesterday for some Iris starts.  As pretty as I know it would look in a pot, I wanted to give the Lantana the best possible chance to establish and survive our coming winter.

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We began this area in the spring with the additional of a new Magnolia shrub, surrounded with perennials. I've just extended the bed another 15' or so to accept some new Iris, perennials picked up at the Heath's nursery in Gloucester two weeks ago, and now the beautiful Lantana. The shrub in the middle is an Afghan fig transplanted a month ago for failure to thrive in its original spot. It likes the soil here better is now growing well.

We began this area in the spring with the addition of a new Magnolia shrub, surrounded with perennials. I’ve just extended the bed another 15′ or so to accept some new Iris, perennials picked up at the Heath’s nursery in Gloucester two weeks ago, and now the beautiful Lantana. The shrub in the middle is an Afghan fig transplanted a month ago for failure to thrive in its original spot. It likes the soil here better, and  now is growing well.

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We have had such great performance from most of the Lantana plants we’ve planted in this garden.  Although they don’t all return, those planted in the warmer, sunnier front garden have come back faithfully now over several growing seasons.

Deciduous, the leaves and flowers soon shrivel and drop after a hard frost.  We leave the woody plants in place over winter, waiting until early spring to prune back the old wood to less than a foot.  It may be that we could just leave last year’s structure to leaf out anew.  I may experiment with that this coming season.  The woody skeleton provides shelter for the birds all winter long as they play among the branches and search for those few remaining seeds.

The plants leaf out a little late; it is sometimes late April or early May before you can see the life still in the branches beginning to push out new leaves.  We have flowers by June and the plants grow prolifically on through frost.

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August 30, 2015 garden 022

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I stood by a single Lantana shrub earlier today which has already topped 6′ with another month or so left to grow.  It was covered in butterflies, with more coming and flying off continually as I took photos.  I don’t remember this one’s cultivar name, but I know it has returned faithfully each year since at least 2011.

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L. 'Sunny Side Up'

L. ‘Sunny Side Up’ has very deeply green leaves to set off it cream and yellow flowers.

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L. ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ and L. ‘Sunny Side Up’ are only rated to Zone 7.  If you want to grow these beautiful plants as perennials further north give them a favorable micro-climate.  Plant them on the southern side of a wall or near slates, stones, or concrete paths; which will trap and reflect heat during the winter.

We appreciate that our Lantana have never been grazed by deer or affected by any insect pests or fungal disease.  In fact, we’ve planted a line of L. ‘Miss Huff’ at the front edge of our garden along the street.  They have survived several winters now, and are shoulder high this year.  We love watching the butterflies hovering around them as we come and go.

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'Miss Huff' Lantana growing along the street at the front of our garden in mid-August. 'Miss Huff' was one of the parents of 'Chapel Hill Yellow' and passsed on her cold hardiness to this new line of plants.

Miss Huff’ Lantana growing along the street at the front of our garden in mid-August. ‘Miss Huff’ was one of the parents of ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ and passed on her cold hardiness to this new Lantana series.

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This plant addresses several needs of gardeners in our area, while also attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and feeding birds from late summer through early spring with its abundant seeds.  It prefers full sun, though it will grow and flower with some partial shade.

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August 30, 2015 garden 026

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So please keep an eye out for Lantana as you shop your local garden center.

This is a very good plant to pot up now as you revive your planters for fall.  The rich reds, oranges, yellows and golds of its flowers combine well with fall color schemes.  It will flower non-stop until a hard frost, then continue to give your planter structure through the winter months.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Our Lantana and rose bed last January after an ice storm.

Our Lantana and rose bed last January after an ice storm.  Even after a long harsh winter, nearly all of the Lantana plants survived to bloom this summer.

Moving On

August 20, 2015 butterflies 006

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Summer is moving on towards its climax in our garden.  I found the garden filled with butterflies this morning when I came out to water.

The butterflies we’ve watched for since April are in residence now, and flutter constantly from flower to flower, shrub to shrub; as they drink their fill of warm, sweet nectar.

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August 20, 2015 butterflies 003

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I counted five individuals on a single Lantana this morning.  When I turned around, more fluttered behind me in another flower bed.  They surrounded me as I moved around the garden, watering.

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August 20, 2015 butterflies 011~

No longer timid, they continued feeding as I approached.  They no longer fly away when my camera beeps.

I can watch them from the window above my kitchen sink.  In fact, I would say that every window opens out onto views of butterflies moving on from one flower to another.  One may get lost in simply watching them; a voyeur of sorts, hypnotized by butterfly wings.

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August 20, 2015 butterflies 005~

Perhaps they are the ones entranced.  There is a rich buffet of flowers beckoning them to feed:  Lantana and Butterfly Bush, Rose of Sharon, mints and Sage, Echinacea, Zinnia, Monarda, Rudbeckia, Hibiscus.

The litany of sweet flowers goes on and on in the August garden.  Butterflies float from flower to flower almost like devotees fingering prayer beads.

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Lycoris radiata

Lycoris radiata

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Two new flowers have come into bloom this week, which signal our shift towards autumn. The Lycoris radiata never appear before mid-August; timed with the onset of our hurricane season.

The ginger lilies also begin their bloom towards the end of August, just as Labor Day draws close each year.

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White Butterfly Ginger Lily coming into bloom

White Butterfly Ginger Lily coming into bloom

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We have a crescendo of growth now, in this third week of August.  Cannas and ginger lily tower over our heads.  Colocasia leaves reach gigantic proportions in the shade.  Ferns grow tall and Begonia flowers emerge thick and vivid from their canes.

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August 18, 2015 vase 002~

This is the season where wishes materialize, beautifully fulfilled.  The garden crawls with life, never silent and never still.

Newborn blue tailed lizards skitter up the wall above the hose.  Cicadas whir and bump in the border.  Birds call to one another as wind rustles through the tall stems of lily and Canna.

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August 15, 2015 Gardens 011

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And butterflies float by silently, above it all, moving on in search of the next nectar filled flower in their never ending quest for summer’s sweetness.

Woodland Gnome 2015

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Morning Glory

Morning Glory

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