Blossom XXVIII: Fennel

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Fennel produces beautiful golden flowers.  Many different pollinators feast from these tiny blossoms.  Abundant flowers and fine foliage make this a special plant in our garden over many weeks.

Bronze fennel is particularly beautiful, and may be grown in pots with other herbs and flowers for a spectacular container garden.

Considered an herb, it in an edible hardy perennial in our garden.  Use the leaves fresh as needed, or dry for winter.

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Fennel feeds both pollinators and butterfly larvae.   Finding caterpillars devouring the plant cheers us that the next generation of swallowtail butterflies are on their way.

Plant fennel in full sun for best flowers.   It will grow quite large in good sun and soil, and may need staking after its first year.  These flowers are good enough to cut for arrangements; though we prefer to leave them sparkling in the sun, offering their nectar to whatever hungry mouth might buzz buy.  Their seeds are tasty, and may be gathered to dry for cooking through the season.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry;
conquer the wicked by goodness;
conquer the stingy by generosity,
and the liar by speaking the truth.”
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Gautama Buddha

Wednesday Vignette: Living Geometry

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“The geometry of the things around

us creates coincidences, intersections.”


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Erri De Luca

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“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book

which ever is before our eyes –

– I mean the universe –

– but we cannot understand it

if we do not first learn the language

and grasp the symbols in which it is written.

The book is written in mathematical language,

and the symbols are triangles, circles

and other geometrical figures,

without whose help it is impossible

to comprehend a single word of it;

without which one wanders in vain

through a dark labyrinth.”

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Galileo Galilei

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“You don’t see something

until you have the right metaphor

to let you perceive it”

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James Gleick

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“The harmony of the world is made manifest

in Form and Number,

and the heart and soul

and all the poetry of Natural Philosophy

are embodied in the concept of mathematical beauty.”

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D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson

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“Number rules the universe.”

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Pythagoras

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“Maths is at only one remove from magic.”

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Neel Burton

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“A circle has no end.”

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Isaac Asimov

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“Seed of Life” Mandala designed and stitched in cotton thread by the Woodland Gnome 2016.  Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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More on Geometry:

Sacred Geometry, Flower of Life…. (additional links at the end of the post)

 

Bringing Birds To the Garden

September through December proves the best time of year for planting new trees and shrubs in our area. Woodies planted now have the chance to develop strong root systems through the autumn and winter. They are more likely to survive when planted in fall than in the spring.

My ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks includes moving various shrubs and small trees out of their pots and into the ground. And I am always most interested in those woody plants which also attract and support birds in our garden.

This post contains a revised list of  more than 30 woody plants which attract and support a wide variety of birds.  These are native or naturalized in our region of the United States.  Adding a few of these beautiful trees and shrubs guarantees more birds visiting your garden, too.

Read on for specific tips to increase the number of  wildlife species, especially birds, which visit your garden throughout the year.

-WG

Forest Garden

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Do you feed the birds?  Most of us gardeners do.  Unless you are protecting a crop of blueberries or blackberries, you probably enjoy the energy and joy birds bring to the garden with their antics and songs.  Birds also vacuum up thousands of flying, crawling, and burrowing insects.  Even hummingbirds eat an enormous number of insects as they fly around from blossom to blossom seeking sweet nectar.  Birds are an important part of a balanced garden community.

We have everything from owls and red tailed hawks to hummingbirds visiting our garden, and we enjoy the occasional brood of chicks raised in shrubs near the house. There is an extended family of red “Guard-inals” who keep a vigilant watch on our coming and goings and all of the activities of the garden.  There are tufted titmice who pull apart the coco liners in the hanging baskets to build their…

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‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9: Plan Ahead

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 007~

That title could say, ‘Plan ahead for your garden’s worst day’ and it would be even better advice.  I’ve been thinking about this these last few mornings as I stand outside for hours watering and watching our garden respond to weeks of dry heat.

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We gardeners are curators of a collection of living ever-changing organisms.  In the best conditions, when we get just enough rain and temperatures are mild, we have it easy.  But those days won’t last forever.  And so we must plan ahead for all of the challenges the gardening year brings; including August’s heat and drought.

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I've been sprinkling seeds of these chives around the garden for the past few years. They are tough and pretty and their aroma discourages grazing animals.

I’ve been sprinkling seeds of these chives around the garden for the past few years. They are tough and pretty and their aroma discourages grazing animals.

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As change is the constant in our gardens, we plan ahead for the beauties and challenges of each season.  We make sure our garden has ‘good bones’ to offer structure and interest during winter.  We plan for evergreens, architectural structure, perhaps a few interesting perennials with seed heads left standing and a few herbaceous plants which keep going through the worst weeks of winter.

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Violas bloom for us through most of the winter. They make a nice display from October through May.

Violas bloom for us through most of the winter. They make a nice display from October through May and pair well with potted shrubs and spring bulbs.

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We plant bulbs and flowering woodies to greet the warmth of spring; perennials to carry us through summer; and those special late perennials and trees with colorful foliage to give us beauty lasting through the first wintry frosts.

Good gardeners are always thinking a few  months ahead to take advantage of the season coming.

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But we also think ahead to survive the special hazards of the season coming, too.    And right now, that means having a plan in place to keep the garden hydrated until the rains come again.

It can be so discouraging to watch valued plants wither and droop from too much heat and too little water.  Mulches and drip irrigation certainly help here.  But we don’t all have extensive drip systems in place.  Some of us are carrying hoses and watering cans to the most vulnerable parts of our landscape each day.

In a few short months our weather will shift.  Winter protection for overwintering perennials will be our big concern.  We’ll begin preparing for spring with thoughtful pruning and dividing, and then watch for those late freezes which can catch a gardener unawares.

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Black Eyed Susans may droop in the heat, but they are survivors. Native plants like these are able to manage without a lot of special care. This patch self-seeds and spreads each season.

Black Eyed Susans may droop in the heat, but they are survivors. Native plants like these are able to manage without a lot of special care. This patch self-seeds and spreads each season.

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Changing the plant palette in the garden to include tough, hardy, drought tolerant plants helps, too.  Finding plants with deep roots, thick fleshly leaves and a hardy constitution becomes more important with each passing year.  A too-delicate plant allowed to dry out or freeze for even a day may be a total loss.

I’ve been moving pots around quite a bit over these last few weeks, trying to offer more shelter and shade to plants which need it; moving those that succumbed while I was traveling out of sight….

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Lavender "Goodwin's Creek' and Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' have proven a winning combination in a pot together this summer. They sit in full sun and never show stress from the heat.

Lavender “Goodwin Creek’ and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ have proven a winning combination in a pot together this summer. They sit in full sun and never show stress from the heat.

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A dedicated gardening friend sometimes reminds me, “There is no right place for an ugly plant.”  I tend to be sentimental and try to coax near-gonners back to health.  He is much more practical about it.  Get rid of that ugly plant and choose something better suited to the actual conditions of the spot!

And that brings us full-circle in this conversation.  Planning ahead also means deciding not to buy those plants we know won’t make it through the season.  It doesn’t matter how much we love the plant.  If the real growing conditions of our garden won’t support a plant long term, why waste the money?

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This is one tough Begonia, taking a lot of sun and keeping its color well.

This is one tough Begonia, taking a lot of sun and keeping its color well.  It overwintered in our garage and new plants grew quickly from cuttings.

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As we note which plants grow really well for us, we have to also note those which don’t.  I already know that the Dahlias I planted with such hope look like crap.  Several are already dead or dormant….  Most of the potted Petunias have now fried in the heat.  I cut them back hard, watered, and hope for grace. 

It doesn’t matter whether the problem is the soil, the weather, Japanese beetles, lack of time or lack of skill; let’s be honest with ourselves from the beginning.  Let’s choose more of what works for us and just stop trying to force those plants which won’t.

Let’s plan ahead for success rather than setting ourselves up for disappointment.

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Many plants in our garden, like these Crepe Myrtles, are self-seeded 'volunteers.' These shrubs are never watered yet look fresh and healthy. There is a self-seeded Beautyberry in the lower right corner which soon will have bright purple berries loved by the birds.

Many plants in our garden, like these Crepe Myrtles, are self-seeded ‘volunteers.’ These shrubs are never watered yet look fresh and healthy. There is a self-seeded native Beautyberry on the right, which soon will have bright purple berries loved by the birds.  Native and naturalized plants are dependable through all sorts of weather extremes.

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Woodland Gnome’s Caveat:

Planning ahead also means looking for ways to do things better each season.  We should try a few new plants each year.  Let’s remain open to new possibilities both for our plant choices and for cultural practices.  Just because something doesn’t work the first time we try doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve on what we’re doing, and try again.

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These are the first leaves to open on our new Caladium 'Sweet Carolina' from Classic Caladiums. This is a new 2015 introduction that I am happy to grow out in a gardening trial for this plant in coastal Virginia. So far, I like it! It has gone from dry tuber to leaf in only about 3 weeks.

These are the first leaves to open on our new Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’ from Classic Caladiums. This is a new 2015 introduction, which I am happy to grow out in a gardening trial for new Caladium here in coastal Virginia. So far, I like it! It has gone from dry tuber to leaf in only about 3 weeks.

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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 #8:  Observe!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

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

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Lantana has proven a winner in our garden. I never shows stress from heat or drought because its roots grow deep. It feeds birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. It pumps out flowers non-stop from April until it is hit by frost. It is one of the most dependable and attractive plants we grow.

Lantana has proven a winner in our garden.  It never shows stress from heat or drought because its roots grow deep. It feeds birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. It pumps out flowers non-stop from April until it is hit by frost.  It rarely has any damage from insects and never is touched by deer or rabbits.  It is one of the most dependable and attractive plants we grow.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

In A Vase: Celebrating Lammas

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Our days remain muggy and hot; yet signs of the changing season surround us.  Dried leaves blow out of the trees on the winds heralding summer thunderstorms.  A red cast overshadows leaves on the Dogwood tree and Sumac.  Corn is ripening and local veggie stands overflow with the season’s bounty.

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This is Lammas, a traditional Celtic celebration of summer’s harvest.  It is a holiday, celebrated as July melts into August each year, to feast on the season’s bounty, share meals with loved ones and bake bread with the first of the season’s harvest of grain.

We have a full month of summer stretching ahead of us, hot days washed clean with summer storms.  Crickets, locusts and frogs compete to sing loudest and longest.  Their music fills the air night and day.

Herbs in the garden have covered themselves with flowers, hoping to lure me out into the heat and humidity to cut them back.

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And yet change is in the air.  We can see, smell, hear and feel the approach of autumn as each day grows imperceptibly shorter.

The sun bakes our garden, and many perennials and new shrubs have drooping leaves.  No amount of rain or watering will re-hydrate them for long in the parched Earth where the sun beats down all day.

The first Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, bloom where they’ve seeded themselves around the garden; miniature golden yellow suns shining happily amidst the deeper green of herbs and shrubs.

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I’ve cut herbs and summer flowers for a vase today to honor the festival of Lammas.  There are the bright yellow fireworks flowers of Fennel and tall cool violet spires of Thai Basil exploding from a base of Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ and Pelargonium ‘Gray Lady Plymouth.’

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The remaining fresh stems of Crocosmia sparkle with deep reddish orange hues, colors of this ancient summer holiday.  All colors of the sun and fertile Earth come into play at Lamas, and this arrangement is sprinkled with new golden Black Eyed Susans.  But there are also sprigs of pink blooming Oregano and stems of purple Verbena ‘lollipop’ tucked into the vase today for contrast.

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Our friend, potter Denis Orton, made the porcelain vase and glazed it with one of his unique crystalline glazes.  The metallic crystals form as the piece cools.  We admire his glazes and collect pieces now and again as we can.

This one was found when we visited him at a local arts festival on Mother’s Day this year.

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The loose arrangement in our vase today looks a bit droopy in the day’s heat.  It is an echo of a similar one I gathered on Friday to take as a welcome gift to a new neighbor family.  I felt inspired to gather another for us to enjoy this week.

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The heat index went over 100F here again today.  It has become normal for the temperature to rise several degrees above the forecast before evening storms blow through, cooling things off again as darkness gathers.  Thunder echoes in the distance again this evening…..

Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink today, showcasing some of the stunning Zinnias she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

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“At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh,

it’s time to celebrate the first harvest of the year,

and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end.   

The plants of spring wither and drop seeds to ensure future crops.

Grains are ready to be harvested and the fruits are ripe for picking.  

We can give thanks for the food on our tables.”

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Herne

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Sunday Dinner: Provision

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“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches

is that our relationship to the planet

need not be zero-sum,

and that as long as the sun still shines

and people still can plan and plant,

think and do, we can, if we bother to try,

find ways to provide for ourselves

without diminishing the world. ”

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Michael Pollan

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Nature Challenge Day Four: Flowering Woodies

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

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Blooming shrubs fill our forest garden.  We enjoy their flowers throughout the entire year, beginning with early spring’s first Forsythia, Camellia, Magnolia and Azaleas.  Now, our garden is filled with the sweet aroma of millions of tiny white Ligustrum flowers covering towering evergreen shrubs.  It appears that some of the smaller seedling shrubs along the borders are blooming for the first time this spring.

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Towering evergreen Ligustrum bloom for weeks in early summer, filling our garden with sweet fragrance.

Towering evergreen Ligustrum bloom for several weeks in early summer, filling our garden with sweet fragrance.

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And to our deep delight, we have blossoms on some of our Oakleaf Hydrangeas.  We’ve managed to protect and sustain four, of the many planted over our years here, and they have grown into lovely shrubs this spring.

As May fades into memory, and we prepare to greet another June, we continue to enjoy a garden filled with roses.

Butterfly bush, Rose of Sharon, Lantana, Hibiscus, and many other flowering shrubs will soon open their blossoms, inviting all hummingbirds and pollinators to come share the feast in our garden.

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Blooming shrubs offer so many benefits over other types of flowering plants.  First, most offer evergreen structure throughout the year, or at least a woody silhouette through the winter months.  Our winter flowers, like Edgeworthia, Camellia and Mahonia come from flowering shrubs.  They prove hardier than any herbaceous perennial, shrugging off snow and ice.

These are ‘perma-culture’ flowers, growing larger and more floriferous each year.

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Hydrangea macrophylla have opened their first flowers this week.

Hydrangea macrophylla have opened their first flowers this week.

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Few require any significant care; most don’t even want deadheading when the flowers fade.  Many are deer resistant, although we must faithfully protect Azaleas, Hydrangeas and Roses from grazing Bambies, if they are to survive.

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Spiraea japonica

Spiraea japonica

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Like a horticultural clock, flowering shrubs mark the passing seasons.  They are dependable and predictable.  We plant a few more each year , while also watching seedlings emerge in those places we dare not dig.  Some, like Rose of Sharon and Beautyberry seed so prolifically, I pull and compost the ‘extras.’

The question comes to which seedling shrubs to prune out; which to leave and nurture.  I’m glad we’ve nurtured the Ligustrum.  They are spectacular when in bloom and provide more nectar than our pollinators could possibly forage!There is a constant hum of activity around them now.  Insects feed from the flowers, and grateful birds catch the insects.

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Flowering shrubs fill an important niche in our garden for all sorts of wildlife; including some slightly crazed gardeners!

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Blogging friend, Y. invited me to join the Seven Day Nature Challenge last Saturday from her new site, In the Zone.  I appreciate the invitation and the renewed friendship as we trade comments each day!

For this fourth day of the challenge, I’ll invite you again to join in. 

This challenge has been out there for a while, and many nature photographers have already participated.  If you would like to take up the challenge, please accept in the comments and I’ll link back to you tomorrow.

 If you decide to accept this Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge, too, I’ll look forward to seeing what surprises May has brought to your corner of the world, even as I share the beauty of ours. 

Woodland Gnome 2016

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All green is lovely, too. An autumn fern frond grows against Oakleaf Hydrangea foliage.

All green is lovely, too. An autumn fern frond grows against Oakleaf Hydrangea leaves.

Garden Tapestry: July and August

July 13, 2015 Our native Hibiscus are in their full glory. This seedling pokes up amidst the border of Canna Lily and Colocasia.

July 13, 2015 Our native Hibiscus are in their full glory. This seedling pokes up amidst the border of Canna Lily and Colocasia.

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Cathy, of  Garden Dreaming at Chattilon,’ inspired me through her comment last week, to review my garden photos taken over the last year with an eye to those ‘tapestries’ of plant combinations which worked well, and also to analyze those which didn’t.

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July 1 2015

July 1 2015 A ‘Chocolate Vine,’ Akebia quinata and a wild grapevine grow beyond the trellis and up into a Rose of Sharon tree, with Dogwood foliage providing the backdrop.  The Akebia bloomed in early summer, before the Hibiscus.

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I started with my favorite gardening months, May and June.   I love these months because our roses always come into bloom by Mother’s Day in early May, and our Iris are at their best.  But many other interesting plants are growing, too, as the summer progresses.

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July 11, 2015 and we still have abundant roses blooming in the garden.

July 11, 2015 and we still have abundant roses blooming in the garden.

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Looking back over my photos from this last July and August, I’m struck by how many are close ups of pollinators and single blossoms rather than true ‘tapestry’ shots.  I’m also a little disappointed in myself for neglecting the weeds and wild grasses to the point where there are some shots I’d rather not publish.   They are inspiration to do a better job of keeping up with the weeding and trimming in 2016!

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July 28, 2015 and the Joe Pye Weed is in its glory and covered with bees.

July 28, 2015 and the Joe Pye Weed is in its glory and covered with bees.

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There are also several fairly ‘new beds’ which haven’t filled in quite yet.  They were more a ‘patchwork quilt’ than a tapestry in mid-summer!

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July 16, 2015 the Joe Pye Weed, planted in 2014, towers over this new perennial bed.

July 16, 2015 the Joe Pye Weed, planted in 2014, towers over this new perennial bed.  This bed did extremely well over summer and bulked up nicely by autumn.

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But excuses aside, there were some areas which pleased me.  The part of our garden nearest the street, where I concentrated my attention this season, was cloaked in deep shade until three major trees fell in a storm in June of 2013.  Suddenly, this shady and fairly neglected area was bathed in full sun.

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July 16, 2015 This is the farthest edge of the new border where Cannas end and a variegated Butterfly Bush is growing into its space.

July 16, 2015 This is the farthest edge of the new border where Cannas end and a variegated Butterfly Bush is growing into its space near a stand of native Hibiscus moscheutos.  Foxglove still bloom on the front edge of the border.

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I’ve been planting this area with perennial beds, ornamental trees, bulbs and shrubs since July of that year, beginning with our ‘stump garden.’

A sister gardener made a gift of a grocery bag full of Canna lily divisions dug from her garden that fall, which started our very tropical looking border of Cannas and Colocasia.

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July 16, 2015

July 16, 2015 the leading edge of this new border begins where the Ginger Lily ends, in the shade of a Dogwood tree.  Some of the Colocasia didn’t make it through the past winter and were replaced by hardier varieties this spring.

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We already had native perennial Hibiscus and tree Hibiscus, or Rose of Sharon, growing when we came to the garden in 2009.  But once there was more sun available, more of the seedlings began to grow and bloom in this new area.  We also planted several additional Hibiscus cultivars, a variegated Buddleia, several perennial Salvias and Lantana along this long, sunny border.

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July 16 This is the other side of the border, where Hibiscus and other perennials were left by previous owners of the garden.

July 16 This is the other side of the border, where Hibiscus and other perennials were left by previous owners of the garden.  The deep magenta Crepe Myrtle ( in the center of this photo ) has been growing from a seedling and finally gained some height this year.

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This border grows better each year as the Cannas and Colocasia multiply, the Hibiscus grow, and the existing shrubs grow larger.

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This shady bed, under a Dogwood tree, holds mostly ferns and Hellebores. The Begonias, with their large and colorful leaves, stay in pots as summer visitors.

This shady bed, under a Dogwood tree, holds mostly ferns and Hellebores. The Begonias, with their large and colorful leaves, stay in pots as summer visitors.

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Another perennial bed, still in shade, has done exceptionally well, too.  I raised a circular bed under a Dogwood tree by ringing it with containers, and filling in with bags of compost.  This was home to a good collection of Caladiums the first year, inter-planted with various ferns and seedling Hellebores.  Plants in raised beds definitely perform better than plants put directly into the ground over most of the garden.

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July 10, 2015 Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in a shady bed of ferns.

July 10, 2015 Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in this shady bed of mixed ferns.  It is going into its fourth year now, overwintering in a pot in the garage.

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I add large leaved Begonias when the weather warms in May, taking them back inside in October.  The mix of ferns here makes a pleasing tapestry of foliage.  The Hellebores have finally grown large enough to bloom this winter, and now they take much more of the available space in the bed.

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July 28, 2015 Oxalis and Hardy Begonia share one of the border pots with a division of fern. These plants are all perennial, and should fill the pot nicely this summer coming.

July 28, 2015 Oxalis and Hardy Begonia share one of the border pots with a division of fern. These plants are all perennial, and should fill the pot nicely this summer coming.

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I’ve also planted Sedum along the sunny edge and Saxifraga stolonifera into the pots which ring the bed. This past spring I added divisions of hardy Begonias with their lovely reddish leaves, which will fill in over time.

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August 2, 2015 our Devil's Walkingstick has come into full bloom.

August 2, 2015 our Devil’s Walkingstick has come into full bloom along the border of the back garden.

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July and August give us Crepe Myrtle flowers and a lovely tapestry of flowers and foliage from the many trees around our garden.  A ‘Devil’s Walkingstick,’ Aralia Spinosa, grows into our garden from the woody border between our neighbor’s garden and ours.  It was absolutely spectacular this summer, and I’ve found several seedlings in other parts of the yard.  This native plant grows wild along the roads in James City County, blooming in mid-summer before covering itself with inky purple berries in early autumn.

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August 30, 2015 Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana is a native shrub.

August 30, 2015 Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is a native shrub which ‘volunteered’ in a stand of Ginger Lily this summer.  Considered a weed by most, I chose to let it grow for the beauty of its flowers and berries.  Birds love the berries and pollinators enjoy its long lived flowers.  But, because I let it set seed this summer, we know that seedlings will emerge all over the garden next spring….

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Much of our garden tapestry was either  already here when we began to garden, or has sprouted as a volunteer seedling.  Nature takes a strong hand in what grows where, and what is ‘edited’ out by storms and the passing seasons.  Our best intentions and plans often get thwarted or changed along the way.

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August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 August brings this glorious ‘Butterfly Tree’ into bloom at the bottom of the garden at the edge of the ravine.  It is a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators.

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As gardeners, we can certainly add plants, prune, ‘weed’ and change the landscape with new planting beds.  But at best, we adapt to the ongoing life of the garden with our own human touches.

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A scented Pelargonium growth in a bed cloaked in Vinca and Creeping Jenny.

August 7, 2015  A scented Pelargonium grows in a bed cloaked in Vinca and Creeping Jenny in the ‘stump garden.’  Vinca minor is one of the default groundcovers which encroaches in every part of the garden.  Beautiful, it quickly takes over new planting beds; and so often chokes out other desirable plants.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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July 1, 2015

July 1, 2015

 

 

Autumn Lives at Brent and Becky Heath’s Display Gardens

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We visited Brent and Becky Heath’s gardens at their Bulb Shop in Gloucester, Virginia, today.

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Their gardening staff maintain several acres of themed display gardens where one may wander and view thousands of plants growing under various conditions.

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Of course the many different bulbs they offer are featured players in these garden designs.  But a rich tapestry of shrubs and trees, annuals and perennials frame the many garden beds.

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And everywhere there is a whimsically light touch to delight the visitor.

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We found an observation hut filled with humming beehives.

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Bees come and go freely at a safe distance from garden visitors.  Worker honeybees collect nectar alongside many other species of bees and small wasps.

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These gardens were composed to support many different pollinators, birds, frogs, toads and fish.  They are vibrantly alive even as autumn pushes summer into memory.

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Vivid Dahlias, Chrysanthemums and Asters dominate many of the beds now.  But the autumn flowering Crinum lilies, Colchicum, and fall blooming Crocus bloom throughout.

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Camellia sasanqua have begun opening as the many Hydrangea cultivars finish for another year.

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Lazily wandering the paths of these gardens, one absorbs a rich education in how plants respond in our climate and in the various microclimates where they’ve been planted.

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One may encounter the same cultivar again and again in different exposures and paired with different companions.

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Many of the catalog offerings are planted up front in long rows, where one may compare them side by side.  This more regimented display is a quick study for gardening newbies selecting one variety or another.

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But the quiet display gardens behind the bulb shop draw us ever deeper into their orbit.

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Benches beckon one to sit and watch butterflies lazily drifting from flower to flower.

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The music of flowing water draws one further on to explore elusive paths among the rocks and conifers.  There is always just one more garden to explore, one more mass of blossoms to admire.

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A gardener approached as we were leaving, and named the particular Asters blooming today.

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He told me where to find interesting Salvias next spring.  We discussed the winter coming and shared hopes that tender perennials might survive it.  He knows and loves every inch of these gardens, and is happy to share a bit of what he knows with curious visitors.  We’ve chatted before, and I look forward to learning more from him on future visits.

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Grasses glistened in the afternoon sun.  Bare, berry covered branches stood out vividly against a deeply blue sky.

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Patches of orange and red blazed in the surrounding trees.  Gigantic spiders spin sparkling webs between shrubs.

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The breeze was fresh, and almost cool.

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Winter will have visited before we return.  We plan to come back in early December for Amaryllis just before bulb sales end for another season.

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By then the garden will have transformed, yet again.  It may be quieter, in winter, but the woody bones of this special place and the many evergreens will ensure it remains interesting and beautiful.

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We’ll look forward to viewing hardy Cyclamen and perennials which shrug off our cold.

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And there will surely be more gardening lessons to absorb from these special gardens.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

Canna

Canna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Buddleia, 'Harlequin'

Buddleia, ‘Harlequin’

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

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A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

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

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Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

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

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

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

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

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Hardy Begonia

Hardy Begonia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Basil seeds and Echinacea seeds are a particular favorite.

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

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

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

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Our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz'

Our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oxalis blooms here all summer.

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

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

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Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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September 6, 2015 garden 011

 

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