Another Chance at ‘Spring’

A male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly enjoys nectar from garlic chives.

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Just in case you didn’t get to everything you had planned this spring, before the heat and humidity set in, we are stepping into a beautiful gardening window that I like to call, ‘second spring.’  This is perhaps the very best time of year for planting in our region.

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As days grow shorter we feel tremendous relief.  Daytime temperatures don’t go quite so high, and nights grow deliciously cooler again.  Our plants are showing signs of relief:  new growth and improved color.  Even trees around town indicate that autumn is near, as a few leaves here and there begin to fade out to yellow, orange and red.

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Now is a good time to plant because we’ll have many weeks of cooler, moist weather for new roots to establish before the first freeze arrives in November or December.  Yes, there will likely be a few hot days ahead.  But they will give way to cool evenings.  Our gardens, and our bodies, will have a break.

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This is a great time to take cuttings from perennials like Tradescantia. Break (or cut) the stem at a node, and set it an inch or two deep in moist soil to root.

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If you still want to take cuttings and grow a few plants on to either add clones to your garden, or start plants for spring 2020, now is the time.  Plants still want to grow and you’ll have time to get a good root system going before frost.  It is humid enough here that softwood cuttings simply stuck into a pot of moist earth will likely root with no special attention.

I’ve been doing a little pruning on woodies this week, and have just stuck some of those trimmed down stems into pots.  If I’m lucky, I’ll have a new plant.  If it doesn’t take, what have I lost?

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New woody growth, like on this rose of Sharon, will strike roots in moist soil. Remove all flowers and flower buds to send the cutting’s energy to root production.  Leave the leaves, as they are still powering the new plant.

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I’m going to dig a few hardy Colocasia later this afternoon to share with a friend.  They can be transplanted most any time from when growth begins until frost.  Even dug in November, they can live on in a pot through the winter in a basement.  Since these Colocasias spread each year, I’m always so appreciative of friends who will accept a few plants, so I can thin the elephant ears!

But this is a really good time to plant any perennials out into the garden.  If there is any question as to hardiness, a few handfuls of mulch over the roots should help those new roots survive the first winter.

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Colocasia, ‘Pink China’ have grow up around these Lycoris bulbs. The flowers continue to bloom despite the crowding.

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Garden centers want to clear out old stock to make way for their fall offerings.  I shopped two this morning, picking up tremendous deals at both.  Lowe’s had some plants marked down to $1.00 or $0.50, just to save them the trouble of throwing them away.  Now, you have to be reasonable, of course.  But a still living perennial, even a raggedy one, has its roots.  Remember, you are really buying the roots, which will shoot up new leaves and live for many years to come.

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Sedums I picked up on clearance today at a local big box store will establish before winter sets in and start growing again in earliest spring.

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I was searching for holly ferns today, to plant in some areas where erosion is still a problem.  Those ferns will strike deep roots and grow into emerald beauties by next summer.  The most I paid for any of them was $3.00.  I also scored a blue Hosta, a Jasmine vine, three blooming Salvias and a beautiful tray of Sedums that I’m donating to a special project.

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This is the time to start seeds for fall veggie crops.  Little plugs have begun to show up in some of our shops.  Planting collards, kale, or other veggies now gives them time to grow good roots.  We have time in Williamsburg to get another crop of any leafy green that will grow in 90 days, or less.

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Black Swallowtail cats enjoy the parsley.  Find end of season parsley on sale now. A biennial, it will return next spring.

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The only thing I won’t plant now is bulbs.  They’ll be turning up in shops soon, but it is too early to plant most bulbs in coastal Virginia.  It is better to wait until at least late October, so they don’t start growing too soon.  Our ground is much to warm still to plant spring blooming bulbs.  In fact, some of our grape hyacinths, planted in previous years, have begun to grow new leaves.

That said, go ahead and buy bulbs as you find them, then store them in a cool, dark place with good air circulation until time to plant.

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Hardy Begonia and fern will overwinter just fine and return next spring.  These have grown in pots since May, but I’ll plant them into the garden one day soon.

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We’ve learned that fall is the perfect time to plant new woodies.  In fact, they tend to grow faster planted in fall than spring, because their roots will grow into the surrounding soil all winter long, giving them a much better foundation for next summer’s weather.  While some nurseries are running sales and trying to clear out remaining trees and shrubs, some of the big box stores are stocking up.  They have figured out that there is a market this time of year for trees and are willing to take the risk that there may be stock left in December.

September and October feel like the best part of the summer to me.  There’s a sense of relief that July is past and August nearly over.  The air feels good again, fresh and encouraging.  Cooler days mean that I’m feeling more ambitious to pick up my shovel again.  I’ve kept a potted Hydrangea alive all summer, and will finally commit to a spot and plant it one day soon.

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The garden is filled with bees, birds and butterflies, with new butterflies emerging all the time from their chrysalides.  New flowers open each day, and flowers we’ve waited for all summer, like pineapple sage, will open their first blossoms any day now.

Spring is filled with optimism and hope.   So is September, our ‘second spring.’

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“That’s what is was to be young —
to be enthusiastic rather than envious
about the good work
other people could do.”
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Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday Dinner: Individuality

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“The most important kind of freedom

is to be what you really are.

You trade in your reality for a role.

You trade in your sense for an act.

You give up your ability to feel,

and in exchange, put on a mask.

There can’t be any large-scale revolution

until there’s a personal revolution,

on an individual level.

It’s got to happen inside first.”

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Jim Morrison

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“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”


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Coco Chanel

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunday Dinner: Patience

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“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing.

It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose,

looking at the night and seeing the day.

Lovers are patient and know that

the moon needs time to become full.”

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Rumi

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“Patience, he thought. So much of this

was patience – waiting, and thinking

and doing things right.

So much of all this, so much of all living

was patience and thinking.”

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Gary Paulsen

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“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”

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Fulton J. Sheen

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“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

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Benjamin Franklin 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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In A Very Special Vase This Monday

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A very special vase, made by our friend, Denis Orton, filled with budding branches and ivy, sits in our dining room this week.  I cut the Ivy, Forsythia, Magnolia, and Elaeagnus while our ground was still covered in snow last week.  It has had five or six days for the buds to swell, and our first Forsythia flowers began to open over the weekend.

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This is our first tribute to spring, although we still have piles of snow here and there in the garden.  I expect the last of the snow to dissolve in tonight’s warm rain.

Warm?  In February?  you might wonder…. Our sunny day today reached the mid-70s by early afternoon.

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But I noticed this lovely Magnolia bud while shoveling snow off of the driveway a week ago, and decided to bring one inside.  These are magnificent as they unfold each spring.  It is the first time I’ve added one to an arrangement of winter branches.

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Our Forsythia began opening an occasional bloom even before Christmas.  They are so sensitive to the littlest bit of warmth, and their buds have swelled throughout all the various shrubs around the garden.   We could cut a few branches of Forsythia every week between now and the end of March, and you’d never notice them missing!

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Whenever we are lucky enough to have a branch root in the vase, I find a place to plant it back in the garden.

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The ivy was poking out of a snow covered planter box when I clipped it last week.  It amazes me how hardy these delicate looking leaves prove themselves to be even when covered with ice and snow.  They keep growing right through our Virginia winter.

Our friend, a retired chemist and professional potter, has been experimenting with crystalline glazes for several years now.

I think this is his most beautiful crystalline glaze yet, filled with soft greens and blues and punctuated with sparkling metallic crystals.  He surprised us with the vase, filled with fresh flowers, a day or two before Christmas.  We were so excited and pleased to receive the vase, as beautiful hand made pottery is a special joy for us.

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These glazes produce pieces which are absolutely unique. 

I’ve been looking forward to using Denis’s gorgeous vase in a Monday post.  It has been sitting on our dining table, empty, through much of January.

But now that we have traveled a month into the new year, I am happy to fill it with flowering branches, and wait for the show to unfold!

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, for sponsoring our Monday vases.   Please visit her post today to see a lovely antique vase filled with beautiful spring flowers.  If your heart needs Hyacinths and Daffodils, you will enjoy gazing at her photos today.  You’ll find a multitude of links to vases arranged by other gardeners around the world.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Blur

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Do you ever feel as though time speeds past in a blur?  Do you ever need to consult your calendar to remind yourself of the day of the week?

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Sometimes we get so busy with the business of the day that we’re surprised to find late afternoon already upon us.  Even with our longer, warmer days; time speeds by like the cardinals whizzing around our awakening garden.

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We’ve had blurs of happy and hungry bumble bees whizzing past us as we’ve worked to clean up in the garden this week.  They flock to whichever flowers are bathed in sunshine.

They especially love these fruit flowers, as you might guess.  Small clouds of nectar loving insects have begun to gather in blurry clouds of activity around each branch as its flowers open.

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I’ll take you on a short tour of the garden, in a follow up post, if you would like to see what else was blooming today.  But we’ll begin with these trees which have finally relaxed into spring, allowing their tight, hard little buds to open into soft, fragrant flowers filled with life-sustaining nectar.

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This is a special season for garden photographers.  We love to capture this unfolding beauty, before it passes into a blur of warmer days to follow …

With appreciation to the Daily Post for sponsoring The Weekly Photo Challenge.

This week’s challenge:  Share a photo that is a ‘blur.’  Please follow the link back to enjoy hundreds of wonderful photos of ‘blurs,’ shared this week.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Japanese Magnolia

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The deep violet buds of our Japanese Magnolias are opening today, greeting the first day of April. 

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These shrubs amazed us when they opened early in our first spring in this garden.  And they continue to amaze us with their concentrated color so early in the season.

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Spring unfolds mostly in pastels.  We have yellows, creams, palest greens; perhaps a bit of orange in the center of a daffodil.

But then this amazing Magnolia’s buds swell so rapidly during the first stretch of warm days each spring, you can almost watch them grow hour to hour.

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So early that the leaf buds have barely even begun to swell, the flowers of these early Magnolias unfold in the opening acts of spring.

Originating in southwest China, Magnolia liliiflora has been in cultivation for centuries in many areas of Asia, including Japan.

It came into cultivation in English speaking countries from Japan, and so we often refer to these small deciduous trees as Japanese Magnolias.

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Also called Tulip Magnolias or Lily Magnolia, they are grown for their flowers.  Of slender and graceful habit, most cultivars remain small.  Some varieties form slightly larger trees, but most remain rather shrub like, growing to only 8-12 feet tall.

Grown in full sun to part shade, in Zones 5-8, these deciduous Magnolias enjoy moist soil.  We feed ours with Espoma Plant Tone or Holly Tone.  Ours grow in slightly acidic conditions among Azaleas, Camellias, and under mature Oaks.  While the deer freely graze the Camellias and Azaleas given the chance, they leave our Magnolias alone.

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We have never pruned these slow growing shrubs, but we have needed to stake one which blew partially over in a storm.  It is recovering well.

It was already growing towards the sun, and probably needs more sun than it routinely gets during the summer when the canopy fills in over our forest garden.

These shrubs are another of the many gifts left to us by previous owners.   The appearance of their flowers assures us that spring is settling into the garden, and always brings us joy.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Choosing a Tree For the Garden

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