‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

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Philosophers speak of ‘The Music of the Spheres.”  Since ancient times, we have understood the musicality of nature.

Not only is the physical world based in pure mathematics, as is music; the sounds created by Earth, sea and sky flow together as a symphony.  Everywhere there is sound:  pitch, rhythm, harmony and the melodies found in the voices of whale, wind, bird, cricket and human.

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Morning Glory vines are annuals in our climate, but drop their seeds each summer. These prolific seeds germinate in early summer and the vines bloom from mid-summer until frost.

Morning Glory vines are annuals in our climate, but drop their seeds each summer. These prolific seeds germinate in early summer and the vines bloom from mid-summer until frost.

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Our gardens grow to their own rhythms, too.  And the wise gardener comes to know these rhythms as closely as their own heartbeats.

Understanding the growth rhythms of the seasons in your own region, and the rhythms of the various plants you grow, allows a gardener to work confidently with nature.

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These Morning Glory vines scamper over roses and Lantana.

These Morning Glory vines scamper over roses and Lantana.

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Not understanding these basic rhythms can set you at  cross purposes to the unfolding happening around you.  And worse, ignorance of a plant’s natural rhythms can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress for the plant and the gardener!

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These hardy Begonias share the pot with the perennial Heuchera. There are a few spring bulbs, too, which will begin growing in the months ahead. The Caladium 'Florida Moonlight' will need to come out before frost. But these plants can all share the same space and take center stage at different seasons of the year.

These hardy Begonias share the pot with the perennial Hellebore. There are a few spring bulbs, too, which will begin growing in the months ahead. The Caladium ‘Florida Moonlight’ will need to come out before frost and will be replaced with Violas. But these plants can all share the same space and take center stage at different seasons of the year.

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What rhythms does an effective gardener understand?  Well, first, we must feel the rhythms of the seasons.  This is different for each place, as one season melts into the next.

The official dates of solstice and equinox, new moons and full, frost dates and summer heat help us begin to feel this rhythm.   But the fine details are learned through years of observation.

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For example, there is a great deal of ‘see-sawing’ between hot days and frosts here each autumn and each spring.  We might have roses blooming until mid-December after a brief November snowstorm.

But we might also have days over 80F in March followed by snow in April.  Temperature changes prove gradual and unpredictable here, and we have to pay attention to the daily forecast.

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Autumn roses are the best. Our shrub is recovering from summer drought and beginning to produce roses again.

Autumn roses are the best. Our shrubs are recovering from summer drought and beginning to produce roses again.

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Beyond climate, there is the rhythm of each plant we grow.  So many prove ephemeral, appearing and disappearing quite suddenly with the seasons, like our Hurricane Lilies.

It helps to know what plants are annuals in our region and are ‘gone forever’ once they die back, and which will return.  What plants grow from ever multiplying bulbs and tubers?  Which plants have perennial roots?

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Our 'Hurricane Lily,' Lycoris radiata, just suddenly appears when its time is right. We often forget where the bulbs are planted year to year so they are always a delightful surprise.

Our ‘Hurricane Lily,’ Lycoris radiata, just suddenly appears when its time is right. We often forget where the bulbs are planted year to year so they are always a delightful late summer surprise.  The vinca Minor vines growing as ground cover remain evergreen, but bloom with the Daffodils each spring.

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When rain was abundant this spring, I started a new nearly full-shade garden bed  filled with ferns,  Caladiums, and a few low perennials.

It was coming along beautifully, until our hot spell in late July and August came while I was spending a great deal of time out of town.  My watering fell behind here, and by the last week of August many of the plants appeared to be dead or dying.

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The new garden on July 18, when there still was abundant rain. All of the new plants were growing well.

The new shade garden on July 18, when there still was abundant rain. All of the Caladiums and ferns were growing well.

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I was so disappointed in myself to have allowed all of these beautiful new ferns to ‘die.’

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I started watering intensively here, and then Hermine brought us a good day and a half of cool, cloudy wet weather.

And, ‘Voila!’ Even though the fronds of my potted Athyrium niponicum may have all shriveled in the drought,  their roots survived.  And today I discovered new growth in the pots.   What relief!

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These hardy ferns aren’t evergreen and so die back each autumn.  They won’t be seen again until early spring, when their new leaves emerge.

But now I’ve learned they can survive a drought in the same way they survive freezing temperatures; they pull their life back into their roots.

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Spring bulbs have begun to grow in ths container, also recovering from August's drought.

Spring bulbs have begun to grow in this container, also recovering now from August’s drought.  The Sedum can root from any part of the stem and remains evergreen through our winters.  The Creeping Jenny is also a perennial here.

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So many plants will survive in one small part of the plant; whether seed, bulb, root, rhizome or tuber.  Knowing this lets us move from season to season with confidence, knowing how to help our favorite plants not only return, but also multiply.

When will each appear, grow and bloom?  When will they disappear again in the cycle of the year?  Which seeds can we scatter with confidence that they will germinate and grow?

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This perennial butterfly Ginger Lily will die back to the ground after frost, but its rhizomes spread each year. These will bloom from the end of August until killed by frost in November.

This perennial butterfly Ginger Lily will die back to the ground after frost, but its rhizomes spread each year.  The plants return in May and grow all summer, topping out at 7′-8′ tall.  These will bloom from the end of August until killed by frost in November.

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Plants come and go with the seasons.   The appearance of our garden may change radically from one month to another.

Learn these rhythms and time your ‘doings’ and ‘not-doings’ to work in harmony with them.  This is one of the hallmarks of a true gardener.

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“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 #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

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

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And suddenly, it is beginning to look like autumn here. Jones Mill Pond, as it looked last evening.

And suddenly, it is beginning to look like autumn here. Jones Mill Pond, as it looked last evening.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Moving On

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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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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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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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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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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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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

Seeds to Share

This blue morning glory vine reseeds itself each season.  I have seeds to share.

This blue morning glory vine reseeds itself each season. I have seeds to share.

 

Sharing plants is one of the nicest things about gardening friendships. 

Several of us regularly share cuttings, seeds, and divisions within our own community.

These lovely Cannas were given by a friend last fall.

These lovely Cannas were given by a friend last fall.

If it grows for one of us, chances are very good that it will grow in our friends’ gardens, too!

Our visits nearly always end up with a gift of something which will grow.

A friend pulled this division of Sedum from her own pots one day over tea.  Now I must share it with the deer....

A friend pulled this division of Sedum from her own pots one day over tea. Now I must share it with the deer….

 

And our gardens grow as constant reminders of our friendships.

 

Blogging friend Michael, of Michael's Woodcraft, send these divisions of Lemon Lime Hosta earlier this summer.  All of his divisions are growing well!

Blogging friend Michael, of Michael’s Woodcraft, send these divisions of Lemon Lime Hosta earlier this summer. All of his divisions are growing well!

 

I’ve exchanged seeds, cuttings, and divisions with a few blogging friends this summer, too.

 

Barbara, from Silver In the Barn brought this lovely clump of Iris.  I am so looking forward to seeing them bloom next May!

Barbara, from Silver In the Barn brought this lovely clump of Iris when she came to visit.   I am so looking forward to seeing them bloom next May!

 

What a joy to share our gardens and love of plants with one another!

 

Rose of Sharon seeds are ripening now, and may be collected for anyone who wants them.  These small trees bloom after three or four years of growth.

Rose of Sharon seeds are ripening now, and may be collected for anyone who wants them. These small trees bloom after three or four years of growth.

 

I have gathered seeds this autumn from our beautiful blue morning glory vine and from our native Hibiscus moscheutos, and will be happy to share.

 

Native Hibiscus moschuetos.  I have seeds of red, pink, and this lovely white variety.

Native Hibiscus moscheutos. I have seeds of red, pink, and this lovely white variety to share.

 

I sent a packet off to a blogging friend in today’s mail, and have plenty left to share with others who may be interested.

The morning glory is an annual and reseeds itself each year.

 

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It should grow anywhere the growing season is at least two to three months long.

The Hibiscus is a perennial in Zones 5-10.

 

Native Hibiscus blooming in our garden this morning.

Native Hibiscus blooming in our garden this summer.

 

It will take a few years for the plant to bloom, but it is stunning and gives more than a month of blooms once it does.

Please leave me a comment if you would like seeds from either of these beautiful plants.

 

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

This is my favorite Begonia to share.  I've given cuttings to many friends.  They root very easily.

This is my favorite Begonia to share. I’ve given cuttings to many friends. They root very easily.

“Blue Star” Morning Glories

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There is something magical about these lovely “blue star” morning glories, which greet us each morning.

Blooming at night, these little flowers close shortly after the sun warms them each day.

 

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More of our “volunteers,” I gave them a little more license this year than I have some years.

 

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Remembering their beauty last summer, I didn’t start pulling their vines as soon as they cropped up this spring.

 

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Trimmed back several times now to prevent their choking the roses and Lantana, I still give them room to scamper through this bed.  I love their ethereal blue and pure white throats.

 

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And I love the Pentagrams clearly outlined with their shading.

So clearly marked as flowers belonging to all of the female energies who love and tend the planet,  I honor them as members of the garden community.

Sprouting no where else, they return to this bed each summer.

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I hope you enjoy their beauty, also.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Pentagonal Flowers

 

Just A “Split Second”

One Word Photo Challenge: Chartreuse

Gloriosa Lilies

Gloriosa Lilies

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Whether golden tinged green,

Or green faded towards yellow;

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Chartreuse glows like chlorophyll infused sunlight.

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Dill in bloom

Dill in bloom

 

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Named for a French mountain monastery where monks make herbal infused liqueur;

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Perennial Begonia, planted last autumn as cuttings, fills this bowl.

Perennial Begonia, planted last autumn as cuttings, fills this bowl with Creeping Jenny.

 

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even this botanical liqueur comes in a greener variety (more potent)

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Autumn "Brilliance" Fern

Autumn “Brilliance” Fern

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and a milder, sweeter yellow golden variety.

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Coleus

Coleus

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“Chartreuse” is the given name of a family of colors, more than any one particular shade.

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Coleus

Coleus

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Sometimes fashionable, sometimes not;

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An acquired taste, perhaps,

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Rose scented Pelargonium with Colocasia

Rose scented Pelargonium with Colocasia

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Which can light up the garden, on even grey and cloudy days,

 

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Chartreuse.

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Geranium

Geranium

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

And her One Word Photo Challenge:   Chartreuse

A “Dirty Hands” Garden Club

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii"

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii”

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I would love to join  a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club;
One whose members know more about fertilizers
Than they do about wines…

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A gift of Glads, from a sister gardener…

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I’d want our meetings spent wandering through nurseries,
Learning from  expert gardeners,
Or building community gardens…

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Bumblebee on Lantana

Bumblebee on Lantana

 

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Not frittered away in chit chat over hors d’oeuvres .

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Bumblebee on Basil

Bumblebee on Basil

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And all of us would be at least a little expert in something,
Glad to share what we’ve learned;

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Tiger Swallowtail on Echinacea

Tiger Swallowtail on Echinacea

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And we all would love putting our hands in the dirt
To help something grow.

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Eastern Redbud Tree seedpods

Eastern Redbud Tree seedpods

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My club would collect species, not dues;
Re-build ecosystems rather than plant ivy and  box.

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Blue dragonfly on Lantana

Blue dragonfly on Lantana

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We “dirty hands” gardeners can band together
In spirit, if not in four walls.
We can share plants and insights,
Instigate, propagate, and appreciate;

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Rooted Begonia cutting

Rooted Begonia cutting resting on a bowl of Pitcherplants

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Perhaps we can even help rehabilitate 
Some sterile lawn somewhere
Into something which nurtures beauty
And feeds souls….

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A gift of Siberian Iris, from Barbara, growing in a new section of the garden.

A gift of Siberian Iris, from Barbara, growing in a new section of the garden.

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Others can judge flowers,
Decorate homes at Christmas
And organize tours.
These things are needed, too.

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Native Hibiscus

Native Hibiscus

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(But I would rather be out in the garden;
Where cardinals preside over the morning meeting,
And  hummingbirds are our special guests for the day.
The daily agenda ranges from watering to transplanting;
From pruning to watching for turtles and dragonflies.)

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We  wear our muddy shoes and well worn gloves with pride,
Our spades and pruners always close at hand.

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We converse with Nature,
And re-build the web strand by strand,
Plant by plant.

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If this invitation speaks to you,
Perhaps we can work together,
From wherever we might find ourselves
Around the globe.
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We can each put our hands in the dirt
and create a garden,

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Nurture Beauty,
And restore health and vitality to our Earth, together.

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Does a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club
Appeal to you?

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014
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Canna

Canna

The Red, White, and Blue

Bee Balm, Monarda, blooming in our garden today.

Bee Balm, Monarda, blooming in our garden today.

Red for valor, hardiness, and sacrifice.

It reminds us our freedoms were won, and are maintained, through blood shed for our ideals.

Magnolia

Magnolia

White for purity of intent and a fresh beginning.

Eagles flying in the clearing sky this morning.

Eagles flying in the clearing sky this morning.

 

White is also the color of radiant light from heaven; the brilliant stars shining in the night sky.

 

Morning Glory on a pruned rose cane.

Morning Glory on a pruned rose cane.

 

Blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

 

Ripening blackberries grow all along the Colonial Parkway in early July.

Ripening blackberries grow all along the Colonial Parkway in early July.

 

It is interesting to consider that the colors chosen for the Colonial flags during the American Revolution,  and for the flags of our new country; are the same red, white and blue of Great Britain’s Union Jack.

 

Wildflowers in a marsh on Jamestown Island.

Wildflowers in a marsh on Jamestown Island.

 

The  French also chose red, white and blue as the colors for their flag at the time of the French Revolution in 1790.

 

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Blue is for liberty, White for equality, and Red for fraternity.   There are many other meanings to these colors in French society, which do not necessarily have meaning in the United States.

 

Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus.

Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus.

 

We find these same symbolic colors again and again around us every day.

Ageratum and Lavender with Dusty Miller.

Ageratum and Lavender with Dusty Miller.

In the United States, many of us regularly wear blue denim clothing.

Blue Salvia growing with Comphrey

Blue Salvia growing with Comphrey

Denim, originally a sturdy fabric for work clothing; has become a symbol of our relaxed, egalitarian, and informal way of life here.

It has been adopted by people around the world since the social revolutions of the 1960s.

Canna

Canna and scarlet sage

White, the color of purity and cleanliness, is also a part of our daily lives.  

Many of us prefer white shirts, white china, white walls, white painted wood in our gardens, white cars, and white linens.  We  grow white flowers in our gardens because they glow in the moonlight.

 

Cedar with berries

Cedar with berries

Red is the color of boldness and energy. 

We admire red sports cars.

Red product logos and red street signs demand our attention.  We wear shiny red shoes, bright red lipstick, and give red roses as symbols of our passion for life and living.

Caladium and Begonias

Caladium and Begonias  Can you spot the bumblebee?

 

Color speaks a language of its own. 

Every layer of meaning we uncover teaches us more about this world we’ve inherited, and what it means to participate in the stream of history.

Happy Independence Day!

May the Red, White, and Blue have meaning for you today, and every day.

 

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Rosa, “John Paul II”

Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

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Among the hundreds of plants in the garden, this beautiful morning glory is an “extra.”  A volunteer, actually.

Morning glories were growing in this bed when we arrived.  Some years I pull the vines, also known as “bindweed,” so they won’t overtake the things I’ve planted.

But this year they got ahead of me, and I’ve so far left them alone.  This lovely blue flower is accepted as a “thank you” note from the vines.

 

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Another bonus, in this same bed, is the lone white lily.  Although it tries to come up year after year, most summers the deer graze the bud before it has a chance to open.

Another legacy plant left by an earlier gardener, we admire this lone white blossom with appreciation.

Here is the “technicolor” version of this photo, taken yesterday morning in the rain.

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 Weekly Photo Challenge:  Extra, Extra

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

After the Rain

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I can remember a time when the weather was just the weather.

We didn’t check in with The Weather Channel several times each day.

We didn’t need to.

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Rose, “Easy Does It”

Summer thunderstorms weren’t agents of mass destruction.

Our winter storms weren’t named, and we rarely broke a temperature record, summer or winter.

Tricolor annual geranium

Tricolor annual geranium

The weather was just…. the weather.

We had something each day, but rarely did it make the news.

Coleus with Columbine and a newly sprouted morning glory vine.

Coleus with Columbine and a newly sprouted morning glory vine.

Oh, I remember going to watch the  badly flooded James River rip through Richmond after Hurricane Camille caused severe flooding.

It was only a tropical storm as it crossed Virginia, but our family still went down to the Nickle Bridge to watch white water on the James.

Lamb's Ears are just beginning to flower.

Lamb’s Ears are just beginning to flower.

But it was such a rare event…. we didn’t worry about our cities flooding multiple times each year.

Sinkholes didn’t swallow homes and roads, and we didn’t see fresh footage of terrible tornadoes each day for weeks at a time.

Our weather is so extreme these days.

The rose scented geraniums have just begun to bloom this week.

The rose scented geraniums have just begun to bloom this week.

This week Alaska endured wildfires while families living around the Great Lakes had their Memorial Day picnics next to icy beaches.

Children taking a dip in the lake were actually taking a “polar plunge” into water cold enough to still be filled with chunks of ice.

Caladium

Caladium “Postman Joyner”

Landslides from too much rain have become commonplace in many states, while other areas are grappling with crippling droughts.

There is too much suffering and loss attributed to the weather these days.

All of us in coastal areas are now paying attention to news about how quickly sea levels are rising.

And we’re watching stories on our local news about  neighbors caught in urban flooding,  just driving from home to work.

The stump garden is filling in.

The stump garden is filling in.

As a gardener, (and a human being,)  I just want a nice balance. 

Let there be enough rain to support our gardens.

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern

Let the summer be mild enough that we can stand to go outside to mow the grass and pull the weeds.

Let the winters be cold, but not too cold for too long.

And please, no destructive storms. 

The fern garden

The fern garden

Yes, I’m nostalgic for the days before extreme weather became the norm.

We never talked about climate change, or geo-engineering, global warming or weaponized weather when I was young.

It felt like a far simpler world back then.

"Golden Celebration," a David Austin English shrub rose.

“Golden Celebration,” a David Austin English shrub rose.

I love the rain soaked garden after a summer shower; when the plants are glowing and basking in the cool, moist air.

I love raindrops clinging to leaves and petals, the freshness of the breeze, and the feeling that all is right with the world for another day.

Dusty Miller growing against Lantana, which survived our winter.

Dusty Miller growing against Lantana, which survived our winter.

A simple pleasure, to walk in the garden, after the rain.

Caladium, "Candidum"

Caladium, “Candidum”

May you enjoy these simple pleasures, too.

Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

 

What’s There to Eat?

The morning dawned bright and frosty.  Our temperatures had plummeted into the 20s by sunset on Christmas Day.

The morning dawned bright and frosty. Our temperatures had plummeted into the 20s by sunset on Christmas Day.

The morning’s sunrise revealed a frost covered garden.  Our cardinals’ clicking and chirping drew me to the window.  The fat, scarlet, Papa cardinal was searching through a pot on the patio for something to eat.  His mate rooted through the leaves down on the slates looking for a morsel of breakfast.  Our birds came out with the sun, scouring the warmer sheltered patio for their morning meal.  I took pity on them, and braved the morning chill in pajamas to carry a scoop of bird feed round and sprinkle it on the patio where I could watch them feast.

I offered the birds a little birdseed on the patio early this morning.

I offered the birds a little seed on the patio early this morning.

We rarely put seed out for the birds.  Instead, we make sure there is abundant wild food in the garden to carry them through the winter.  We wait until a hard freeze and then feed the finches and cardinals from a sack of Niger seed.  But I haven’t hung one yet this year, and the cardinals chose to discuss the matter with me this morning.

A few Nandina berries remain in the front border.

A few Nandina berries remain in the front border.

As we’ve watched various families of birds come and go from the patio all day, it set me wondering what food is still available for them in the garden.  It was nearly 80 here only a few days ago, and we saw little flying gnats now and again.  Surely other insects come out on warmer days as a special winter treat for the birds.

When the temperature plummets, and the ground is frozen hard, it is harder for the wild birds to find their meal.  But the meal is still there, waiting for their exploration!

The round bed of Lantana, though frozen, is still the most popular daytime hang out for the birds.

Seed pods from summer's morning glories remain to feed winter's birds.

Seed pods from summer’s morning glories remain to feed winter’s birds.

Its dense thicket of branches provides plenty of cover for them as they hop about in search of seeds.  Today I found an abundance of seed pods left behind by the morning glory vines along with dried berries left from the summer’s Lantana.  Many different species fly in and out of this fast food establishment each day.

Hibiscus seed pods are open, and seeds ripe for the munching.

Hibiscus seed pods are open, and seeds ripe for the munching.

Hibiscus and Rose of Sharon seedpods, now dried and fully opened, still harbor many delicious seeds.  There is enough to feed our birds for many weeks to come on the many shrubs around the garden.

Nandina and holly berries glow brightly red in the borders.  For a while I thought the squirrels might steal all of these, but berries remain.

Holly berries

Holly berries

All of the red Dogwood berries went weeks ago, leaving only the buds for spring flowers on the naked branches.  The holly is evergreen, however, and the prickly leaves are a little harder for the squirrels to negotiate.  Plenty are left for winter’s hungry birds.

The Cedars have not put out as many blue berries as I’ve found other years.  I noticed when cutting greens for wreathes that just as the oaks have taken a break from producing their usually abundant acorns, so the cedar and juniper berries are more scarce this year.

Staghorn Sumac berries are a favorite for many species of wildlife.

Staghorn Sumac berries are a favorite for many species of wildlife.

Wild vines and grasses are still full of seed.  We found beautiful airy seed heads on the Autumn Clematis, ready for birds tiny enough to perch and feast on them.  The clematis on the patio still has its ripened puffy seed heads as well.  Perhaps this is what the cardinals found this morning?

Clematis seed heads, growing in the pots on our patio.

Clematis seed heads, growing in the pots on our patio.

Staghorn Sumac is rich with seeds as well.  Still colorful, their mahogany colored seeds cluster tightly at the tip of each branch, swaying in the winter wind.

Looking up, there are cones of all sizes and descriptions.  Our beautiful native white pines bear cones loaded with small, tasty seeds. Gumballs, open now, cling like tiny Christmas ornaments to every twig of the gum trees.

Trees, like this white pine, remain full of cones and pods, rich with seeds.

Trees, like this white pine, remain full of cones and pods, rich with seeds.

Food is literally everywhere!  And the garden is alive with the flutter of winged comings and goings from before dawn until after dusk.  They are all welcome here, and have plenty of spots to find shelter and build their nests.

Acorns on the beach near the Scotland Ferry dock.

Acorns on the beach near the Scotland Ferry dock.

Perhaps this winter I’ll start a bird list.  Not just a mental, conversational list; but a bona fide official list as hard core birders keep one.  Already today I’ve seen cardinals and tufted titmice; wrens, nuthatches, Canadian geese, a cormorant, a Bald Eagle, and a Great Blue Heron.  Others remained anonymous, just out of focus in the shrubs shadowing me as I walked around the garden.

Trumpet Vine produces large seed pods, full of seeds once its orange flowers fade in autumn.

Trumpet vine produces large seed pods, full of seeds once its orange flowers fade in autumn.

Food is even more important than usual in winter.  Having just feasted with family yesterday, and completed a solid month of baking for special occasions, I’m feeling rather food obsessed at the moment.  Cakes sit wrapped and ready for drop in guests during the week ahead.  Beautiful cheeses wait on the shelves of the fridge; beside a whole tub of Cinnamon and cardamon laced dough, waiting to be formed into loaves or sweet rolls and baked this week.

As soon as my mother unwrapped a wreath made entirely of  bird feed yesterday, she sent my sister out to hang it from a hook on the shed where she could watch the birds enjoy it from her kitchen window.  Our gifts of food, whether to man or bird, are welcome ones; especially in winter.  The wreath was literally covered with colorful little finches, wrens, titmice, and nuthatches all afternoon.

Black Eyed Susans, left standing in the border have gone to seed.  I'll cut them back in late winter.

Black Eyed Susans, left standing in the border have gone to seed. I’ll cut them back in late winter.

They are fun to watch, and I love drawing songbirds close to the windows in winter where we can appreciate their beauty.  I never want them to depend upon such charity for survival, however; and so limit when and how much these little gifts of seed are offered. 

Much better, I believe, to fill the garden with trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials whose seed will provide a steady supply of food all season long, and which will also attract and support the insects birds need in their diets throughout the year. 

And there are plenty here, in our forest garden.

December 26 2013 Christmas 062

I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.

Joseph Addison, The Spectator, 1712

Feathers in the high tide line on the beach at Jamestown.

Feathers in the high tide line on the beach at Jamestown.

All Photos By Woodland Gnome 2013

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