Nurturing Endangered Pitcher Plants

Sarracenia flava at one time grew wild around Jamestown, Virginia


There are several good reasons to grow our native North American pitcher plants.  Maybe you enjoy chic, sculptural foliage plants, and are curious to try growing something new.  Maybe you want a striking plant that you can grow in a very small, sunny spot on your deck.  Maybe you care about preserving endangered plant species.  Or maybe, you would just enjoy growing something that will help reduce the population of ants and mosquitoes in your garden.



If you think that you need to construct a special boggy bed to grow these beauties, you might be pleased to see that there is a clean and simple way to grow them.   You can create a mini-bog in a bowl, and grow your pitcher of choice for several years with little fuss or effort.

North American pitcher plants, Sarracenia, are endangered because so much of their natural habitat, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, has been drained and developed.  There is precious little land left where they can naturally grow undisturbed.  Enthusiasts all over North America have risen to the challenge of preserving, and further hybridizing these unusual plants in private gardens.



There are a few basic conditions they need for survival, and these are conditions many of us can provide.

First, the soil:  Sarracenia naturally grow in acidic, peaty bogs.  Peat comes from decomposing mosses.  There is little nutrition in this soil, but there is a measure of sand.  Standard potting mixes aren’t a good choice, and pitcher plants won’t do well planted into clay or compost.   However peat is readily available in most places where other specialized potting mixes are sold.  Mix peat and sand together, and you have a good mix for growing your own pitcher plants.

Second, pitcher plants prefer full sun.  They will grow in partial sun, but their colors are better, and growth more vigorous, if you give them six or more hours of sun each day.

Pitcher plants want consistently moist soil.  Don’t let the soil dry out.  It should vary in moisture content, though, from fully hydrated to moist.  In other words, let the pitcher plants’ roots get some air from time to time so they don’t rot from constant standing water.  You also don’t want the water in their soil to sour.

Finally, all Sarracenia need a few months of winter dormancy each year.  In other words, don’t try to grow them as houseplants and keep them growing year round.  Allow them a few months of rest, even if you live in zones 9 or 10.

You can leave your Sarracenia outdoors in the winter, unless you live north of Zone 7.  Then, be guided by the natural zone of the species you are growing.  Some species can survive colder temperatures than others.  But you may be able to keep tender Sarracenia through the winter in a cold frame or cold greenhouse, even if you are living in Zone 5 or colder.



If you can provide moist, peaty soil and full sun, you can grow a pitcher plant.  Just remember that they are carnivorous, and the insects that wander into their tubular leaves provide all the nutrition they need, in addition to the sugars produced during photosynthesis.  Never add fertilizer to your pitcher plants.

You can create your own little container bog in a pot.  Choose a pot that will be large enough to hold your plant when it grows to maturity.  While some pitchers, like Sarracenia purpurea may grow to only a few inches tall, other species, like Sarracenia flava may grow to 40″ or more.   Taller pitchers will need more substantial pots, of course.


I ordered Sarracenia ‘Tarnok’ from Sarracenia Northwest about a month ago. It has been growing on in its nursery pot in my larger bog garden since. But now I’m ready to move it to a miniature bog garden on my deck.


If your pot has a drainage hole, then keep it in a shallow container with an inch or two of standing water.  If your pot doesn’t have a drain hole, then let the soil begin to dry out a little bit in the top few inches between waterings.  Many experts suggest watering with rainwater, spring or distilled water.  I have to admit that I often use tap water.


This is the first  pitcher plant I brought home some years ago. Planted in a mixture of peat and sand, the pot sat in a saucer filled with gravel and water.


Abundant moss often covers the natural bogs where pitcher plants grow in the wild.  Moss is the appropriate ground cover for a container bog, as well.   The pitcher plant you find at a local garden center, or that you order through the mail, may already have moss growing in its pot when you get it.  Just keep the soil moist, and that moss will keep on growing.

If your new pitcher doesn’t come with its own moss, you can transplant moss you collect onto the soil of your container bog.

I prefer to cover the bottom of my closed container with a few inches of sand to serve as a drainage area and reservoir.  Then, I fill the rest of the container with a moist blend of pure peat and coarse sand.  You can make your mix with up to half sand.  My mix is about 1/4 sand by volume.



Pack the peat mixture fairly tightly in the bottom and onto the sides of your pot, leaving a well about the same size as the pitcher’s nursery pot.  Carefully tip the nursery pot over, supporting the soil mass with one hand, leaves through your spread fingers, and tap the bottom and sides to loosen the root ball.

Gently invert the freed roots, original soil, and leaves as you slip the entire mass into the well you’ve created.  Gently pack additional moist peat mix into any open space around your plant’s roots.

Leave an inch or so of head space between the top of the finished soil and the rim of your pot, then gently water until there is a little standing water on top of the soil.

Finish your pot with bits of wild moss, if you choose, or with fine, clean gravel.   I often add a few bits of glass or stones on top of the soil, too.


Pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, native to the Southeastern United States, in its first season in our garden.  I eventually moved this growing plant into a larger pot and added it to our bog garden.


Site your new pitcher plant in any sunny spot outdoors where you can relax and enjoy it.  Even though your newly purchased plant may have tiny leaves when you get it, it will bulk up with time.  Soon, you will see it mature into its potential.

I usually move my potted bog gardens under shelter in heavy rain, since there is nowhere for overflow to drain.  While the plants won’t mind sitting in water for a day or two, let the excess water evaporate so the top few inches of soil are just moist before watering again.  Peat holds a lot of water, and you never want it to dry out entirely.

Just as in nature, let the moisture content of the soil vary.


Pitcher plants are found in abundance  at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, where owner Alan Wubbels propagates several species.


I began with a single pitcher.  I was a little unsure whether I was really interested in pitcher plants, but soon grew fascinated with these strangely beautiful plants.  My collection continues to grow, and my ‘wish list’ for different species and cultivars grows as I learn more about them.

You will find many sources for native pitcher plants once you begin looking for them.  I bought an unnamed Sarracenia at the Great Big Greenhouse in the Richmond area this spring.  They had a fine display of various carnivorous plants, and I bought a Venus flytrap, which is native to coastal North Carolina, at the same time.


The Venus flytrap is another native carnivorous plant that has become endangered in recent years as its natural habitat has been developed. These are hardy and relatively easy to grow, if you provide the growing conditions they require.  The leaves close to digest insects that wander onto the leaf pads. 


I hope you will give these beautiful plants a try.  Maybe you, too, will discover their charm and beauty, and will dedicate a bit of your gardening space to preserving these amazing native carnivorous  plants.

Woodland Gnome 2017

Fabulous Friday: Pitcher Plants

Sarracenia flava


Once upon a time, not so long ago, really, pitcher plants grew wild in the boggy wetlands along the Atlantic coast.  They grew right around here, along the banks of the James River and the many creeks that feed it.

The yellow trumpet pitcher, Sarracenia flava, is native to our part of coastal Virginia.  Most species of pitchers grow from Virginia south to Florida, and west along the Gulf coast.

Only one species, Sarracenia pupurea ssp. purpurea, grows from Virginia north to Canada and west to the wetlands around the Great Lakes.  Most of these species live in bogs and wetlands at sea level, but a few species grow at higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia south into Georgia.



It’s rare now to find a pitcher plant growing wild.  Over 97% of their habitat has been drained and developed.  A few species and natural hybrids are all but extinct.  These beautiful carnivorous plants are sustained these days mostly in private collections.

And the good news, gardening friends, is that these striking plants are easy to grow!  Anyone with a sunny spot can participate in keeping these beautiful and unusual species going.



If you live in Zone 7 or warmer, you can grow most any of the North American pitcher plants outdoors year round.  If you live in colder climes, you probably can grow the species and hybrids of Sarracenia purpurea, Sarracenia oreophila, or Sarracenia montana.  Even if you live a zone or two colder than your plants are rated, you can find ways to insulate them over winter.

These easy to please plants simply want wet, acidic soil and as much sun as you can give them.  Grow them in pots filled with a mix of half peat moss and half sand, or three quarters peat and 1/4 perlite or fine gravel.    Keep the soil moist by growing in a glazed ceramic pot with no drainage hole, or a glazed ceramic pot with a deep, water filled saucer beneath.  Peter d’Amato, owner of California Carnivores and author of The Savage Garden, recommends growing potted Sarracenias in glazed pots kept standing in  2″ of water at all times, so the soil stays evenly moist.



These are definitely tough, outdoor plants and prefer full sun.  If you grow them indoors, keep them near a window with bright light for at least 6 hours a day, or in a greenhouse.

Never use commercial potting mix, compost, or commercial fertilizers with pitcher plants.  Peat is closest to the soil of their natural habitat, and provides the acidic environment they require.

The only pitcher plant that has ever failed for me came from a local grower.   He cut corners, and blended his own compost based soil mix rather than using good peat.  He admitted this to me when I returned the plant to him the following spring after I bought it, because it hadn’t begun new growth.  He replaced the plant, and I immediately re-potted it into the proper mix.  It is thriving still.



There are several distinct features to the different species of pitcher plants.  The pitchers can be as short as 5″-6″ or as tall as 48″ depending on the species.  Each hollow pitcher is actually a leaf.  The most common pitchers, the S. purpureas, are also some of the shortest.  They are usually a beautiful red or purple and have red flowers.

S. flava, S. leucophylla and S. oreophila produce some of the tallest pitchers.  Some pitchers stand up tall, and others form recumbent rosettes of pitchers.  Pitchers may have wide mouths with fancy, frilly openings, or may have wide open mouths that catch the rain.  S. minor and S. psittacina pitchers have hooded openings.



Some pitchers are mostly green, others are red or purple.  S. Leucophylla have white around the openings to their pitchers.  S. flava is also called the yellow pitcher plant, and they are a beautiful  chartreuse yellow.

Sarracenia flowers may be red, purple, white, peach, yellow or some combination of these colors.  There are so many interesting hybrids and cultivars that a pitcher plant enthusiast has many choices of which plants to grow.

I ordered two new pitcher plants from Sarracenia Northwest, in Portland OR, this spring.  I’m now watching S. ‘Bug Bat’ and S. leucophylla ‘Tarnok’ begin to grow.  Both were very carefully packaged and arrived in growth and in perfect condition.



And then earlier today, I found an interesting carnivorous plant terrarium kit at Lowes, with a dormant Sarracenia and a dormant Dionaea, or flytrap; little bags of peat and sphagnum moss.  There were potting instructions and a clear plastic box to hold the plants until they begin to grow.  At under $10.00, this looked like a pretty good value.


Our newest pitcher plant  came in a carnivorous plant terrarium kit found at Lowes.  I’ve planted it, and a dormant flytrap in this bowl given to us by a potter friend.


I potted the little dormant plants in my own mix of peat and sand, in a beautiful bowl our potter friend Denis Orton gave us at the holidays.  The bowl has no drainage and is a perfect first home for both plants.  They may need potting on next year or the next, but that is the way of things, isn’t it?

It will be a surprise to see which species of pitcher plant grows from this start, but I’m guessing it is most likely the most common, S. purpurea.



Pitcher plants have various ways of luring insects into their open mouths.  There are nectar trails that lure insects up the pitchers and into their open mouthed leaf.  Each species has ingenious ways to keep them from escaping again.  These plants catch and digest every sort of insect from crawling ants to mosquitoes and flies.



There is no shortage of insects in our May garden!  We have come to the part of summer haunted by every sort of bug imaginable, and it’s fabulous irony that one of our most beautiful native perennials also helps control the bug problem!

Our little collection of pitcher plant is growing now, and it is fabulous to admire their fresh new pitchers on this very muggy Friday afternoon.  I am looking forward to watching the new ones grow and show their special colors and forms.


Pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, native to the Southeastern United States


If you’ve not yet tried growing pitcher plants, I hope you’ll think about giving them a try.  These endangered species need all the help adventurous gardeners will give to keep them going on into the future.



Woodland Gnome 2017

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!




For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Heritage


Bog Garden: Early Summer


Maybe you don’t have a pond or spring in your yard, and would still like to grow a few special plants who like their roots wet.  We’re not talking a full-fledged water garden here, filled with Lotus and water lilies.  That requires an excavation or above ground water-tight construction. which will hold a foot or two of water; maybe with a stream or a waterfall with a pump and filter worked in.

A ‘bog’ garden tolerates variable amounts of water, from several inches to slightly moist.  These plants enjoy moist soil, but don’t want to remain submerged all the time.  Our bog garden has evolved in a mysterious old rock and cement construction in our back garden.  Maybe, at one time, it was water tight.  But it’s not water tight anymore.  Its uneven bottom of cemented gravel and large rocks allows for water to collect in several little pools before slowly draining away.


I cleaned out the old leaves and accumulated silt a few years ago, and began massing pots of moisture loving plants in this mostly sunny spot to create a potted bog garden.  That is also when I began adding to our collection of a Southeastern North American native carnivorous plant, the Sarracenia, or Pitcher Plant.

Sarracenia produce tubular, brightly colored leaves all summer long, starting about now.   Each leaf holds a pool of digestive solution, just waiting for a curious insect to fall into the brightly colored hollow opening.  Their ‘Dr. Seuss’ flowers emerge early, in bright reds and yellows, looking like the sort of flower a child might draw.   These are very unusual looking plants which naturally grow in the sort of wet, insect filled swamp most of us tend to avoid.


Our first pitcher plant, in late May of 2014


But they prove easy to grow in a pot, so long as you use their preferred potting mix and keep them moist.  Sarracenia want moist soil, but not water-logged soil.  Their roots need some oxygen and don’t like the sour/stagnant soil often found in water gardens.  Dr. Larry Mellichamp, in his book, Native Plants of the Southeast, recommends a 50:50 mix of pure peat moss and clean quartz sand for pitcher plants.

I began collecting pitcher plants four years ago.  My first one spent the summer with its pot set in a ceramic bowl, about 2″ deep, which I filled with the hose when I watered that part of the garden.  It was gorgeous all summer long, and a conversation piece for every visitor.  That first pitcher plant inspired me to set up a bog garden, the following summer, with space for a community of more pitcher plants mixed with other plants that like wet soil.


Pitcher Plants growing in the swamps around Jamestown were collected by John Tradescant the Younger around 1638. It was difficult for English gardeners to keep them alive until they learned to grow them in pots of moss standing in water. These are displayed at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia.


Pitcher plants, like other perennials, grow in clumps and may be divided every few years.  The plants we’ve collected were still growing in modest sized pots.  But I wanted to change the look of our bog garden this year, and so tracked down a huge, shallow pot to hold divisions from several of our Sarracenia cultivars.

Following Dr. Mellichamp’s instructions for potting mix has brought us success.  The one plant I purchased, and didn’t re-pot myself, didn’t make it through the winter of 2015.  It was in a compost based potting mix and failed to thrive.  But the grower made it good, and I’ve relied on the peat/sand mixture for my own re-potting.


Mix and re-hydrate the peat at least a day before you plan to use it.  It is important to have very moist soil when you re-pot pitcher plants.  I knocked three of our Sarracenias out of their pots, pulled out or trimmed back the old, brown leaves, and then gently pulled the clumps apart.  I potted some of the smaller clumps into this new, large pot; and re-potted the largest of each division back into its original pot. Pack the peat mixture into the pot fairly tightly, and then water it in to settle the soil and rinse off the pot.


You never fertilize Sarracenia.  That is one reason it doesn’t work to use compost or a standard potting mix which would work perfectly well with most potted plants.  Sarracenia take their nutrition from the insects that fall into their leaves.  And they thrive in acidic conditions, which the peat provides.

In addition to pitcher plants, I’ve grown Colocasia, Canna, Asclepias, Hibiscus, Coleus and Zantedeschia  in this bog garden.  All of these have at least a few cultivars that enjoy full sun and wet soil.  This year, I’ve added Colocasia ‘Tea Cups’ to the Colocasia ‘Mojito’ we’ve had in years passed.  Colocasia ‘China Pink’ grows around the outside.  This year I’ve potted up a few divisions from our yellow flag Iris to add to the mix.


Colocasia ‘Tea Cups,’ saved from last summer’s garden, spent the winter in our basement. We’re happy to have it growing again. This Colocasia loves damp soil and could even grow submerged in a pond.


A bog garden like this one, where there is usually at least some water, provides important resources for wildlife.  Birds, frogs, turtles and many insects come here to eat, drink and find shelter.  Once the plants grow in, there is cool, moist shade on even the hottest summer days.

Rain provides sufficient wetness for the bog garden during much of the year here in coastal Virginia.  But during dry spells, I try to visit this garden several times a week with the hose, filling it and watering the various pots.  Creeping Jenny, originally planted around the border as a ground cover, has colonized the interior of the garden, too.  I was a little surprised to learn that it, too, tolerates growing in shallow water.


Tadpoles and other tiny creatures can often be found in the bog garden.  This photo is from its first summer, 2015.


If you don’t already have a wet spot in your own garden, you might consider building something similar to this with stone and concrete.  If that is too much trouble, you might follow Dr. Mellichamp’s advice and begin with a child’s wading pool.  You can put a small drainage hole or two, if it doesn’t have a crack or hole already, and either excavate and sink the liner in the ground, or build up some landscaping blocks around it to make it more attractive.

Line the bottom with some gravel and sand, and then fill your new bog garden with the peat/sand mix, or just set ceramic pots into it as I’ve done.  Dr. Mellichamp shows a beautiful bog garden he built, in his chapter on bog plants.  His is filled with peat and sand, with the plants growing as they would in a natural bog.  The peat is overgrown with moss and the effect is stunning.

If you don’t have Sarracenia at a garden center near you, you can order a wide variety of pitcher plants, and other water loving plants, from Plant Delights nursery in North Carolina.  Sarracenia Northwest, a grower based in Oregon, offers a wide selection of pitcher plants, and other interesting carnivorous plants.  Their service is excellent.  The plants I ordered arrived in excellent condition.


Pitcher plants are easy to forget during winter.  Most are hardy in zones 5-9.   They stay outdoors, dormant, and need no special care.  It is only when those psychedelic flowers suddenly appear in late spring, and the first new leaves emerge that you take notice.

That is when I’m moved to clean them up, and begin assembling a beautiful collection of plants for our summer enjoyment in this quiet spot in our back garden.

Woodland Gnome 2017


Foliage Everywhere

July 20, 2015 garden 035


Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day technically falls on the 22nd of each month, and it is only the 21st.

Yet foliage is the hot topic of conversation among my gardening friends this week as we look around in dismay at our overgrown gardens.  That may not be the sort of foliage this meme is intended to highlight, of course; but the unplanted abundance of grasses and other ‘volunteers’ has gotten ahead of many of us in this heat and humidity.


July 20, 2015 garden 004


My timing has not been praiseworthy this past month on very much, and certainly not on keeping up with the round of blogging memes.


Hardy Begonia grows in this mixed pot with Oxalis and creeping Jenny.

Hardy Begonia grows in this mixed pot with Oxalis and creeping Jenny.  Autumn ferns grow nearby on a shady slope in the back garden.


How long since I’ve actually filled a Vase on Monday or observed a proper Wordless Wednesday?  As you might guess, my time and energy are re-focused at the moment on a very non-garden related cause.  So I will grab onto this opportunity to craft a preemptive foliage post, and beg your understanding that it comes a day early.


Coleus with Colocasia

Coleus with Colocasia


The garden is currently on ‘auto-pilot’ and I feel grateful to make a morning or evening walk-about to water a bit and take photos.  Any serious work out of doors is on hold until the weather pattern shifts.


Pineapple mint

Pineapple mint


The lovely lush grass will just have to keep growing for a few more days/weeks/months into and around my once carefully planted beds.  C’est la vie…


The path behind the 'butterfly garden' is a bit overgrown at the moment...

The path behind the ‘butterfly garden’ is a bit overgrown at the moment…


I’m just grateful to live in an air-conditioned home in this age of unprecedented heat.  Between the unusually high humidity, frequent showers, and oppressive heat; it is hard to spend long out of doors.  Many of the plants love it, but the humans find themselves drenched in perspiration just walking out to the air conditioned car!


This has been a good year to begin a 'bog garden.'

This has been a good year to begin a ‘bog garden.’


There is a reason our garden looks tropical this summer!


A native pitcher plant digests whatever creatures explore these unusual leaves.

A native pitcher plant digests whatever creatures explore these unusual leaves.


But there is balance in all things.  As I study the progress and prodigious growth of grasses around the ornamentals, I remember that they are trapping carbon from the air with every passing moment of growth.  It doesn’t really matter whether the growing foliage is something we planted or not; every growing leaf and twig filters the air and gives us fresh oxygen to breathe.

A lovely thought, though it likely won’t make a dent in the planetary forces driving these odd weather patterns.


Begonia 'Gryphon' grows lush this July.

Begonia ‘Gryphon’ grows lushly this July despite competition from grape vines and other Begonias.  Yucca leaves grow behind its pot.


At least the weeds also protect the soil during torrential rains.  Or so my partner reminds me on the rare occasions he sees me pulling them out by their roots.

There is a certain logic there, and I acquiesce to his greater wisdom these days.   Watching video of flooding elsewhere makes us grateful for our blessings and a lot less obsessive about our landscape.


Wild Tradescantia  crops up among the grasses in some of the garden beds.  This more cultivated variety is one I planted this spring.  Here, it grows uphill, reaching for the light.

Wild Tradescantia crops up among the grasses in some of the garden beds. This more cultivated variety is one I planted this spring. Here, it grows uphill, reaching for the light.


Yet tropical growth also harbors tropical style infestations of certain insects.  The fly swatter came out of storage as my partner bravely battles with those tiny black mosquitoes which steal into the house these days!  We grow mindful of them whenever we open a door.

They like him far better than they like me; or maybe its just that they find less exposed skin to attack on me!


Coleus with a sweet potato vine

Coleus with a sweet potato vine


No matter, my latest infestation of chigger bites are still healing, thus the protective clothing.  Disgusting, but I’m even wearing socks while these things heal.


July 20, 2015 garden 028


And the Cannas, Hibiscus and roses have fared no better against the hungry Japanese beetles who have settled in for the foreseeable future.  Their foliage is more riddled with holes than our skin with bites.


July 13, 2015 flowers 017


Trying to practice what I preach, so far I’ve relied on the hungry birds to hunt them.

Twice I’ve pruned the roses with bucket in hand, drowning a few in Borax laced soapy water.   July offers a powerful challenge to the most sincere sentiments of Ahimsa, or harmlessness and universal love.

How much love can I muster for those shiny green beetles munching our roses?  Is it a loving act to release them from their chitin clad bodies back to the universe?


July 20, 2015 garden 031


But looking past the beetles are the bees; squadrons of them!  We are happy to see them methodically moving from flower to flower, gathering what they may.


July 20, 2015 garden 027


There is no shortage of bumble bees here, although spotting a honey bee is a much rarer event.  Bumblebees, wasps of every description, dragon and damselflies entertain us with their swooping flights around the garden.  The occasional butterfly flutters past, a reminder to persevere against all odds.


Joe Pye Weed, a popular stopping place for all pollinators.

Joe Pye Weed, a popular stopping place for all pollinators.


One can’t live this long without learning a thing or two about stubbornness and patience; and flexibility.  As I heard so often growing up, “This too, shall pass.”  Someone in the house had read Ecclesiastes a time or three….


Coleus with Oxalis

Coleus with Oxalis


And perhaps we can read this lesson in our gardens, as well; watching the magical processes of growth and passing away.

For the moment, I am happy that the garden continues to grow in beauty and abundance.  I know what is happening out there, even though much of my foliage gazing these days happens through the windows…


Hazelnuts are ripening on the trees.

Hazelnuts are ripening on the trees.


I appreciate Christina, who gardens in the Hesperides,  for hosting this Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day meme on the 22nd of each month. She challenges us to focus on the foliage in our gardens; not just the flowers.  I feel certain she will understand this early entry, and hope July finds her garden growing as abundantly as ours.





Woodland Gnome 2015


July 20, 2015 garden 033


“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better,

than that a man should rejoice in his own works;

for that is his portion:

for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Ecclesiastes 3:22



The Last Day Before Frost

November 12, 2014 garden 002

We definitely expect a freeze by tomorrow night.

We feel it coming in the wind blowing through the garden.  With our high for today in the low 50s, we know it will drop quickly from here on.

The winter storm which has so much of the country in its icy grip is blowing into Williamsburg this weekend.


Many of the pots have been replanted now with Violas and ornamental kale.

Many of the pots have been replanted now with Violas and ornamental kale.


With so much of the country under snow, and threat of snow, we can hardly complain about a mid-November frost.

But the day is still tinged with a bit of  sadness.  Sadness, and motivation to take care of everything we possibly can before the cold settles in this evening.


The African Blue Basil may be tough,but it isn't cold hardy.  it will die with when it freezes here.

The African Blue Basil may be tough, but it isn’t cold hardy.  It will die with the first heavy frost.  We still see bees and butterflies.  We hope they find shelter or fly south today.


After making the coffee this morning, I set about bringing in those last few pots of tender perennials.

I’ve filled every possible spot now in the house and garage with overwintering plants.  The main body of them in the garage  got re-arranged this morning to make room for a few more pots.


This Begonia has been lifted from its pot by the door and brought inside to the garage for the winter.

This Begonia has been lifted from its pot by the door and brought inside to the garage for the winter.


Even the brave Bougainvillea, which only started blooming in mid- October, finally made the journey from patio to garage this morning.


Our three year old Bouganvillia has waited until this week to begin its season of bloom.

Our three year old Bougainvillea has waited until October to bloom.  It came back into the garage this morning, covered in bright cherry flowers.


And the supposedly hardy “Pewter” Begonia got brought in to the garage, as well.  Its leaves are so pretty, I hate to let it go to the frost.

A pot of tender ferns, a few more pots of tender succulents, and a final mish-mash pot of Begonia cuttings completed the morning’s efforts.


The last pot to come in this morning, these tender ferns have a snug spot by a basement window.

The last pot to come in this morning, these tender ferns now have a snug spot by a basement window.


My ever patient partner assisted (supervised) this final effort until getting called away to assist a neighbor.  And from there to another neighbor’s yard, and then to another.

His work out may have been more strenuous than mine, but we all now have covered outside faucets, covered foundation vents, and we’re as ready as we can be for the prolonged stretch of  cold ahead.


This winter I'm using watering globes to care for the indoor plants.  Neater, they offer a nearly constant supply of moisture.

This winter I’m using watering globes to care for the indoor plants. Neater, they offer a nearly constant supply of moisture.  The fern hasn’t yet adjusted to the drier inside air.


And at noon our local weather guy confided that we may have some “Bay effect snow” by Saturday morning.

That seems to be the way our forecasts evolve around here.  They prepare you for a little change, and then the forecast continues to shift towards the extremes as the system progresses.

We are promised only rain this evening.  And I can feel the falling barometer and approaching storm in all of the usual places….


A final photo of our roses before I cut them.

A final photo of our roses before I cut them.



But we have today to enjoy the garden before Frost’s icy fingers have their way with it.  I’ve moved all those things for which there is simply no spot inside up against a brick wall on the patio.

Petunias survived there two winters ago.

Our sheltered patio provides a microclimate which stays warmer during the winter.  Petunias survived all winter here in 2012, and I hope tender plants will survive here this winter, also.

Our sheltered patio provides a micro-climate which stays warmer during the winter. Petunias survived all winter here in 2012, and I hope tender plants will survive here this winter, also.


They began blooming again in February, and just kept going right on through the following summer.  That gives me hope that the few geraniums and succulents I couldn’t bring in have a chance to survive.

And the little olive trees I’ve been nurturing along in pots should make it there, too.


Although the Colocasias look unhappy, the ginger lilies have managed fine in our cool nights.  They will all crumple when hit with freezing temperatures this weekend.

Although the Colocasias look unhappy, the ginger lilies and Canna lilies have managed fine in our cool nights. They will all crumple when hit with freezing temperatures this weekend.


I’ve read they are growing olives in parts of England, now.  I hope these are hardy enough to survive our winter outside, in this sheltered spot.

They traveled in and out, as the weather shifted, last winter.  It got to be quite a chore, but the olive trees  were in much smaller pots then, too.


November 12, 2014 golden day 194


And the many Violas we’ve planted will be fine.  They will shrug off the cold.

We’ve planted lots of ornamental kale, a pot of Swiss chard, hardy ferns, bulbs, and our beloved Violas.

Our garden will continue through the winter, even though much will go with  the coming  frost.






So, we are bracing ourselves for what we’ll find Saturday morning.

The landscape continue to edit and simplify itself.  As the brilliant leaves  fall from their branches, so will our Ginger lilies and Cannas also crumple to the ground.


Iris "Rosalie Figge" normally blooms into December for us in Williamsburg.  This is our favorite, and most prolific, re-blooming Iris.

Iris “Rosalie Figge” normally blooms into December for us in Williamsburg. This is our favorite, and most prolific, re-blooming Iris.



The bright Salvias will shrivel back to the soil.  The Lantana will lose its leaves, though the berries will remain until cleaned up by the birds.

Basil will freeze beside the stalwart Rosemary, which grows and blooms all winter long.

Mexican Petunia, a consistent bloomer all summer, won't survive a freeze.  But its roots are hardy.  It should return in this pot by early summer.

Mexican Petunia, a consistent bloomer all summer, won’t survive a freeze. But its roots are hardy. It should return in this pot early next summer.


The last of autumn’s roses will soon freeze, but the Camellias will continue to bloom until spring.


I harvested roses and Basil, scented Pelargonium and ivy ahead of the coming rain and cold.  We'll enjoy them a few more days inside.

I harvested roses and Basil, scented Pelargonium and ivy ahead of the coming rain and cold. We’ll enjoy them a few more days inside.


It is the way of things, this annual turning of the seasons. 

Butterfly tree produces wonderful turquoise blue seeds, which are much loved by the birds.  Only a few remain.

Butterfly tree produces wonderful turquoise blue seeds, which are much loved by the birds. Only a few remain.


Something is always coming on, and something is always fading in the garden.    And we are endlessly fascinated as we witness the changes which come each and every day.



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


December 13 2013 poinsettias 003Holiday Wreath Challenge

One Word Photo Challenge: White


All colors of light

Joined together in clear unity.

Yucca in bloom

Yucca in bloom

Reflective, cool, at peace with itself;

Serene white beckons

with a promise of rest and respite.

Oregano, Kent's Beauty

Oregano, Kent’s Beauty


Bleached and clean,

Crisp or crinkled,

White linen putting a good face on

whatever may live  beneath.

June 14, 2014 trees 018

Creamy white ice cream melting on pie,

Creamy white paint on porches,

June 14, 2014 trees 002

Cream swirls in Cappuccino and Gazpatcho;

Creme fraiche on chocolate Creme brulee.

May 20, 2014 Garden 004

White shells ornament the sands of memory

Like bright white stars piercing an indigo sky,

June 18, 2014 turtles 014

Time travelers from other worlds;

Messengers of possibilities unknown.

June 18, 2014 turtles 013

Great white brothers and sisters

Offering Pleaidian promises of

Eventual evolution and peace.

Queen Anne's  Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace



Lacecap Hydrangea

Lacecap Hydrangea


Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With Thanks to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her One World Photo Challenge:  White

Life is Art

Artist at work along the Colonial Parkway

Artist at work along the Colonial Parkway

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Pablo Picasso

I am still intrigued by the metaphor of gardening as the slowest form of  art.

Just as music and dance rely on the fourth dimension of  time for their unfolding and appreciation; so a garden slowly weaves itself together from its daily rations of water and light over weeks, months, and years.

We may wait more than a decade to see our vision grow into itself as saplings grow to trees, perennials slowly expand to fill their places, and vines progress in fits and starts to cover their supports.

Even within a single season, there is waiting for the tubers to sprout and the  roses to bloom.

Patience is a gardener’s most useful attitude; along with the inner vision required of an artist to visualize the work before the paints are mixed.

The Alliums bloom for only a few days out of each year, but they are such a brilliant sight!  They bloom wild along the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown.

The Alliums bloom for only a few days out of each year, but they are such a brilliant sight! They bloom wild along the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown.

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

Henry David Thoreau


Life is art.  If only we can remember to stop and appreciate the beauty which surrounds us each day.

Pitcher Plants growing in the swamps around Jamestown were collected by John Tradescant the Younger around 1638.  It was difficult for English gardeners to keep them alive until they learned to grow them in pots of moss standing in water.

Pitcher Plants growing in the swamps around Jamestown were collected by John Tradescant the Younger around 1638.

When we take time to visit a gallery or attend a concert we make a conscious choice to schedule time out of our daily lives to appreciate the art someone else has created.

When we sit down to sketch or play  or write we make the choice to take time to create something of our own.

And yet we live and breathe our daily lives surrounded by the ultimate creation.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 027

All art simply imitates and interprets what already IS in nature.

All that is required of us is to stop, observe, and appreciate.  We simply  make time to actively see and hear; to stop our constant conversation with ourselves to hear the whisper of beauty.

And perhaps to participate in its unfolding…

Astilbe in bloom at Forest Lane Botanicals nursery.

Astilbe in bloom at Forest Lane Botanicals nursery.

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”

Friedrich Nietzsche


May 31, 2014 new pot 003

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


Where’s Waldo? At Forest Lane Botanicals

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 008

Assorted Sarracenia species available at Forest Lane Botanicals. Can you find the dragonfly in the photo?

Do you remember the Where’s Waldo books?

My daughter and I enjoyed them when she was just learning to read.

We would page through the drawings, competing with one another to find “Waldo” before the other one could.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 007

A friend came with my partner and me to visit at Forest Lane Botanicals today.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 002

We enjoyed the company of a beautiful blue dragonfly as we admired Alan and Wendy’s Pitcher Plant collection.

Have you found the dragonfly in the photos yet ?  (The dragonfly appears in the first, second and fourth photos.  It may be in the third one, and I just haven’t noticed it …)

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 009

We could also hear the frogs, but never spotted them today, sadly.  We found a few tadpoles darting around the partially submerged pots, and heard a tell-tale “splash” as we drew near.



Mostly we enjoyed Alan’s guidance to the garden, and the sheer pleasure of wandering around discovering one beautiful plant after another.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 011

We especially enjoyed the many varieties of Hosta and fern in the garden.  We can grow the ferns, but our attempts at Hosta are usually “grazed short” by our visiting deer.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 020

We are always inspired with new ideas as we explore what Alan and Wendy Wubbels have done with their shade garden.

We left with pots of new treasures to grow and share. 

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 018

I with a Saxifraga stolonifera, Strawberry Begonia or Strawberry Geranium- (both common names are used) and my friend with a pot of beautiful Selaginella, or Spikemoss.

Salginella, Spikemoss


Both will grow in the cool shade in beds beneath mature trees in our gardens.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 015

Readers in Eastern Virginia who have not yet  visited Forest Lane Botanicals nursery will be delighted once you find them.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  I believe this is an unusual cultivar known as "Ocean's Fury" and introduced in 2007.  This is a hardy deciduous fern.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  This is an unusual cultivar known as “Applecourt  Crested” according to Wendy Wubbels. This is a hardy deciduous fern.

A gardening friend told me about Alan and Wendy’s nursery last summer, but it took us nearly a year to make our first visit.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 016

We are so glad we did.  Now we enjoy watching the gardens evolve as spring turns to summer.

There is always something new to notice and enjoy.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 001

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

All photos were take at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia

Woodland Garden By the Pond

A hummingbird keeps watch from the deck of our friends' garden.

A hummingbird keeps watch from the deck of our friends’ forest garden.

Our friends live “across the pond” from us. 

May 27. 2014 Herons 016

We could reach their garden much faster by canoe than by foot or car. 

When I stopped in one morning recently, I was left speechless by the beauty of their Mountain Laurels.

May 27. 2014 Herons 020

It was the first time I had visited during this beautiful time in May when our community lights up with the blooms of Mountain Laurels, Rhododendrons, Ligustrum, and Hydrangeas.

May 27. 2014 Herons 008

Our friends invited me to return this week to take photos of the Mountain Laurel before they fade in our early summer heat.

May 27. 2014 Herons 014

The back garden drops steeply towards the pond in a series of terraces.

May 27. 2014 Herons 004

Mature Dogwoods, Hollies, Mountain Laurels, and Hydrangeas gather under the taller hardwood trees to thickly carpet the bank.

May 27. 2014 Herons 005

Wild grapevines trace patterns across the tops of the shrubs, basking in what sunshine may be had.

May 27. 2014 Herons 024

Ferns grow in dense shade near the house,

May 27. 2014 Herons 018

but a deck, overlooking this beautiful bank, and the pond beyond; holds a variety of beautiful potted plants which thrive in partial sun.

May 27. 2014 Herons 026

When the Mountain Laurel bloom, their white and light pink flowers billow like waves; white water crests rolling down the hillside.

May 27. 2014 Herons 019

Towering over my head, these mature shrubs have grown to become more tree than shrub.

May 27. 2014 Herons 025

Their tops reach towards the sky as their trunks remain cloaked in shady undergrowth.

May 27. 2014 Herons 015

This is a true woodland garden, inhabited by wild things. 

May 27. 2014 Herons 010

The deck feels like the deck of a ship.

May 27. 2014 Herons 027

It offers a secure place  for the human inhabitants to view the constant activity of all the wild things scampering through the garden below.

May 27. 2014 Herons 006

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

May 27. 2014 Herons 011


One Word Photo Challenge: Grey

May 21 2014 Forest Garden Botanicals 039

Wendy and Alan Wubbel’s forest garden at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County is lush with growth in every shade of green, silver, burgundy, pink, orange, and chartreuse.

May 21 2014 Forest Garden Botanicals 053

Magical in its infinite variety of vegetation, it is not at all where one might expect to find grey.

Wendy and Alan's display gardens at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Wendy and Alan’s display gardens at Forest Lane Botanicals.

And yet grey is the foil, the backdrop, which makes the plants pop.

Stone and concrete, weathered wood and leaves traced in silver soothe the eye; offering a spot to rest one’s eyes from the myriad details of their lush landscape.

Fairy garden designed by Wendy Wubbel.

Fairy garden with miniature Hostas,  designed by Wendy Wubbel .


Neutral and grounded, grey speaks to eons of continuity and perseverance.

May 21 2014 Forest Garden Botanicals 040

Its inert solidity provides the perfect contrast to green growing things which leap to life each spring.

May 21 2014 Forest Garden Botanicals 006

Wendy and Alan, welcoming and brimming with talk about their wonderful plants, greeted us this morning and led us around every path of the garden.

Another of Wendy's magical fairy gardens.

Another of Wendy’s magical fairy gardens.

We considered natives and hybrids, Maples and Hostas, Begonias and ferns.

May 21 2014 Forest Garden Botanicals 071

They offered initiation into growing a new genus:  the pitcher plant,  Sarracenia. 

Loving full sun, wet feet and dry ankles, as Wendy explained, we have the perfect spot to grow the pitcher plant we brought home with us:  in the new grey hypertufa  pot I’m already planning to cast for it.

All photos in this post were taken at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia.

All photos in this post were taken at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells 

for hosting the Weekly One Word Photo Challenge











Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

Please visit and follow Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues to see all new posts since January 8, 2021.

A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 783 other subscribers
Follow Forest Garden on

Topics of Interest