Sunday Dinner: Strength

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“We’re built of contradictions, all of us.
It’s those opposing forces that give us strength,
like an arch, each block pressing the next.
Give me a man whose parts are all aligned in agreement
and I’ll show you madness.
We walk a narrow path, insanity to each side.
A man without contradictions to balance him
will soon veer off.”
.
Mark Lawrence

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Clematis ‘Elizabeth’

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength
that will endure as long as life lasts.”
.
Rachel Carson

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“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance,
and have faith that in this love
there is a strength and a blessing so large
that you can travel as far as you wish
without having to step outside it.”
.
Rainer Maria Rilke

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Peony

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“With the new day
comes new strength and new thoughts.”
.
Eleanor Roosevelt

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Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’

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“It will never rain roses:
when we want to have more roses,
we must plant more roses.”
.
George Eliot

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Yellow flag Iris

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“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance.
The wise grows it under his feet.”
.
James Oppenheim
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Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’

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Happiness to all on this beautiful Mother’s Day. 
May we all find the strength and determination
to nurture beauty, wisdom,
justice and resilience
in all we touch.
*
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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Saxifraga stolonifera, Strawberry Begonia in bloom with ferns.

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“Mastering others is strength.
Mastering oneself makes you fearless.”
.
Lao Tzu

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Foxglove emerges from the shadows, from behind the oakleaf Hydrangea

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Fabulous Friday: It Lived!

Our figs lived through this long and very cold winter.

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We’ve been watching the fig trees daily for signs of life.  Yes, along with the joy and excitement of spring, there is a fair degree of anxiety, for some of us, about what survived the winter and what did not.  As I chat with gardening friends, the topic of what has survived and what is not in leaf comes up again and again, these days.

That anxiety and expectation has been preoccupying me this week as I tour the garden expectantly between attempts at unpacking our basement and garage.  What am I unpacking, you might wonder? 

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Athyrium niponicum ‘Applecourt’ has leafed out this month, and the hardy Begonias have begun to emerge and grow.  It is always a relief to see their small red leaves appear each spring.  Newly planted Caladiums will soon open their first leaves, too.

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In those last warmish weeks of late October and early November, we moved as many of our tender perennials as we could into the basement and the garage.  It has been a horticultural Noah’s Ark these past months as the survivors have huddled together in the relative security of these all too dim spaces, waiting for spring.

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Colacasia ‘Mojito’s’ tubers were stored over winter in the basement, and have come back to the garden today.

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And now that it is clearly spring, we have been bringing them back out into the light, watering and grooming each pot and basket, and allowing them to rest a while in the shade on the way to their summer homes.  There is an urgency about bringing these brave survivor plants back out into the life-giving warmth and light of early summer, and looking for signs of life.

Dormancy, for a plant, can fool you.  The plant may look completely dead; bare branches, bare soil, brown slimy leaves.  The whole ugly mess… may still harbor life in the roots and branches.  Pitch it too soon, and you have lost a beautiful plant.  Wait too long, and the plant’s life force may expire.

Sad to admit, but I have erred a few times on the side of impatience when I should have just waited a bit longer for a plant to awaken into new growth.

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There is the matter of the Colocasias and Alocasias I stuffed into grocery bags last autumn and stowed in the basement.  To be honest with you, I didn’t want to lift and carry their generous pots to the basement.  And so I followed the odd advice I found somewhere on the internet to store their root balls in paper bags.  Given the choice between further hurting my back, losing my beautiful plants, or trusting the anonymous but reasonable advice…. I took the chance with the grocery bags.

Miraculously, there was a vivid green leaf of Colocasia ‘Tea Cups’ bravely waving at me from above the crusty brown rim of the bag in February.  But it was still too cold to repot them, then, and I’ve procrastinated on this task since things warmed up in late April.  When I went to retrieve them this afternoon there was nothing green or promising about the mess waiting for me in the bags.

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But I soldiered on and lugged them up from the basement and out to my work area, where I managed to beat and coax and squeeze their rigid root balls of the two largest plants into 5 gallon plastic pots.  After a thorough watering, I’ve set the pots aside in a warm bright spot to see whether my plants will resurrect themselves from their dormant tubers.

There were a dozen smaller tubers, still attached to the desiccated leaves of other plants rescued last autumn.  I’ve trimmed and planted them into waiting pots and I will hope to see their leaves emerge by June.

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The Afghan fig F. ‘Silver Lyre’ returns from its roots each May.  Rarely, leaves will emerge from buds on last year’s stems.

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And my beautiful reward for all of the effort today came on my last tour of the garden this afternoon:  fig leaves!  Our figs are finally awakening, trusting that the summer weather is settling in at last.  Their buds are opening up and leaves unfurling on the branches even as new sprouts emerge from the soil.

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One by one, our winter dormant plants are springing back to life and growth.  We’re still waiting for a few woodies, like those olive trees that overwintered on the patio because I couldn’t lug their huge pots indoors.  There is still green wood just beneath their thin bark, and so I’ve not yet given up.

Hope fuels us gardeners.  And the smallest green leaf emerging from a brown and wrinkled stem can make all of that patience and effort worthwhile.

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Woodland Gnome  2018

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Iris ‘Strange Rites’

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious! 

Let’s infect one another.

Sunday Dinner: Nostalgia

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“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
.
William Faulkner
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“Remembrance of things past
is not necessarily the remembrance of things
as they were.”
.
Marcel Proust
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“The ‘what should be’ never did exist,
but people keep trying to live up to it.
There is no ‘what should be,’
there is only what is.”
.
Lenny Bruce
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“There comes a time in your life
when you have to choose to turn the page,
write another book
or simply close it.”
.
Shannon L. Alder
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“We are homesick most
for the places we have never known.”
.
Carson McCullers
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“It is strange how we
hold on to the pieces of the past
while we wait for our futures.”
.
Ally Condie
*
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017 
For my friend, Janet, who I miss often, and learn from, always
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“Nostalgia in reverse,
the longing for yet another strange land,
grew especially strong in spring.”
.
Vladimir Nabokov
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“For children, childhood is timeless.  It is always the present.
Everything is in the present tense.
Of course, they have memories.
Of course, time shifts a little for them
and Christmas comes round in the end.
But they don’t feel it.
Today is what they feel,
and when they say ‘When I grow up,’
there is always an edge of disbelief—
how could they ever be other than what they are?”
  .
Ian McEwan
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Sunday Dinner: Small Worlds

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“The world is awash with colours unseen

and abuzz with unheard frequencies.

Undetected and disregarded.

The wise have always known that these inaccessible realms,

these dimensions that cannot be breached

by our beautifully blunt senses,

hold the very codes to our existence,

the invisible, electromagnetic foundations

upon which our gross reality clumsily rests.”

.

Russell Brand

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“Infinity is before and after an infinite plane.”

.

RJ Clawso

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“It is frightfully difficult

to know much about the fairies,

and almost the only thing for certain

is that there are fairies

wherever there are children.”

.

J.M. Barrie

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“It didn’t seem possible to gain so much happiness

from so little.”

.

Peter Lerangis

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Do the little things.

In the future when you look back,

they’d have made the greatest change.”

.

Nike Thaddeus

 

Garden Magic

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“They were full of mysteries and secrets,

like… like poems turned into landscapes.”

.

Jaclyn Dolamore

~

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“Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined.”

.

F.T. McKinstry

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“Entering a garden like Bomarzo

was like succumbing to a dream.

Every detail was intended

to produce a specific effect on the mind and body,

to excite and soothe the senses like a drug.

To awaken the unconscious self.”

.

Linda Lappin

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“Gardens and chocolate

both have mystical qualities.”

.

Edward Flaherty

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“Magic exists. Who can doubt it,

when there are rainbows and wildflowers,

the music of the wind

and the silence of the stars?

Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic.

It is such a simple

and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”

.

Nora Roberts

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The older a wizard grows, the more silent he becomes,

like a woody vine growing over time

to choke a garden path, deep

and full of moss and snakes,

running everywhere, impenetrable.”

.

F.T. McKinstry,

“Why Does It Always Rain On The Iris?” and Other Gardening Conundrums

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Our Iris are in full, glorious bloom, and its raining…

Ironic, that just as soon as these gorgeous blooms open, they are inundated.  Petals turn to mush; stems fall over under their waterlogged weight.

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Same with the roses, if you must know.  The first gorgeous buds began to open on Saturday morning.  The rains started on Saturday, too, with more on the way.

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Now, I am always grateful for rain, please don’t misunderstand.  It is much easier to garden in rain than drought.  But I can’t help but noticing these beautiful flowers, with such a short period of bloom, blooming in the rain.

How many of us gardeners plan with the ‘worst case’ scenario in mind?  Very few, I’d bet.

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Gardeners must be optimists.  Otherwise, we’d be living in rented flats in a tall building somewhere, enjoying the local parks instead of puttering in our own unruly gardens.  We tend to expect the best and overlook the rest.

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Our stump garden has finally taken off from bare mulch, four summers ago.

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But real life is full of quirks and challenge.  We must make long range plans and then hope that we get to enjoy them.  Like the Iris, which take nearly a full year, or more, from when you plant their rhizome until they bloom.  We just plant them with a sprinkling of faith that eventually we’ll enjoy a few days of their delicious flowers.

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I have a packet of ‘Ten Free Flowering Trees’ from Arbor Day which arrived in Friday’s mail.  They arrived late in the day, while I was finishing up other projects, with no energy left to plant them.

They are still lying there in the garage, waiting for me.  We may still get a break in the rain, at least enough to get some of them in the ground today, I hope.  We have room for only a few.  The rest I hope to give to friends.

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Our front garden, yesterday in the rain, filled with blooming Mountain Laurel.

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It takes faith to plant a rooted twig, only a foot high, and envision the tree which will eventually manifest.  If one stops to consider the many things which may happen along the way, one might never even consider planting a tree of one’s own.

Two Live Oaks I planted last spring ended up broken off by something over the winter.  A very hungry deer, maybe?  (I gathered up the broken tops, and thrust them into pots hoping they might root.)

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A new Live Oak ended the summer at around 15″ tall, but was broken over the winter. It has begun growing again this spring.

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But consider our wild Scarlet Buck-Eye, Aesculus pavia.  This lovely tree began life as a volunteer seedling, before it was crushed by fallen oak trees four summers ago.  It was broken to a 4″ stump, and we could only hope it would recover.

I think that its strong roots helped it come back so quickly.  What you see is four years of growth, and its best bloom yet.  A gift of nature, it draws every eye in our garden this week.

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Scarlet Buckeye, also called ‘Firecracker Tree’ grows wild in our garden.

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A gardener learns to suspend judgement after a while.  Calling a happening ‘good’ or ‘bad’ proves one short-sighted, all too often.  Better to keep an open mind, and find ways to work with events as they arise.

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But that still doesn’t explain why this rogue, self-planted ‘Firecracker Tree’ looks stupendous today, even in the pouring rain, while our expensive and carefully tended Iris are melting before our eyes.

Maybe all of those purists who urge us to plant more native plants have a point, when you look at things dispassionately.  Did I mention that hummingbirds love those gorgeous red flowers?  Should any find our garden, their buffet lies waiting for them…..

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A gardener’s life comes filled with conundrums.  So many choices, so little time…. And yet, we get a fresh go at it with each passing season.

I’ve come to look at life in our garden as some sort of ongoing science experiment.  We try this, we try that.  When something succeeds, that is very gratifying.  When something fails, we have learned something new.

I’ll try it differently next time.

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And does that mean I’m going to rip out the Iris and plant something else; something that will stand up to our rainy springs?  Not a chance.

I’ll just grab my jacket and a hat and enjoy our garden in the pouring rain, and perhaps even find spots to add a few more Iris ….

Virginia Historic Garden Week April 22-29

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“When you find your path, you must not be afraid.

You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.

Disappointment, defeat, and despair

are the tools God uses to show us the way.”

.

Paulo Coelho

Sunday Dinner: Water Is Life

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“Brushing the clouds away from my eyes,

I see clarity in the raindrop

and beauty in the first ray of morning sun… 

Life is strange and wondrous…”

.

Virginia Alison

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“On the fifth day, which was a Sunday,

it rained very hard.

I like it when it rains hard.

It sounds like white noise everywhere,

which is like silence but not empty.”

.

Mark Haddon

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“The sky mingled with the Earth infinitely

in the tenderness of rain drops.”

.

Meeta Ahluwalia

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“Sometimes enlightenment descends upon you

when you least expect it…”

.

Dean Koontz

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Mist to mist, drops to drops.

For water thou art,

and unto water shalt thou return.”

.

Kamand Kojouri

Autumn Roses, Safely in a Vase Today

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The wind is cold out of the west.  Even with brilliant sunshine, it was shivery cold as I dug the last tender fern to bring in today.  Frost has been forecast several times over the last week, but thus far its  been only a flirtation with that first autumn frost which decimates what’s left of our summer garden.

Most of our tender plants are either inside already, or snuggled up against the walls of our protected patio.  I trust that area to stay a few degrees warmer than the garden, which will suffice until the weather turns truly frosty next month.

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I cut a half dozen roses early Saturday morning to take to my parents, believing if left growing, they would be frozen that night.  But, as you can see, the roses keep unfolding peacefully.  The colors may be a little off from May.  Yet I believe these are almost more beautiful.

Last night hovered around 33F for a few hours around sunrise.  But tonight, I believe, will be ‘it.’  We’ve had several weeks now to prepare and remember every last thing we can possibly bring indoors.

Except the roses….

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Even yesterday afternoon, I made cuttings from our favorite scented geraniums thinking to stick them in pots around other things in hopes they will root and last through winter in the garage/conservatory.  And this afternoon, I cut a few more beautiful and wonderfully scented sprigs for this vase.

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The roses are the main attraction here.  But they are accented with a few of the very first little starts I set out last April:  A lacy Spanish lavender and a beautiful blue mealy sage.  Both have bloomed non-stop for the last seven months.  They might even come back next spring if our winter is mild.   You might also notice a few stems of Euphorbia, ‘Diamond Frost,’ still blooming in the garden, and a few tiny trumpets of lavender Oxalis.

The vase was made by our potter friend, Denis Orton.  These wonderful crystalline glazes are one of his passions, and we enjoy collecting pieces of his work from time to time.

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The roses are heavily perfumed ones, and have filled the house with their beautiful aroma as they warm up indoors.  If frost does come tonight, we will still have roses to enjoy for the next few days, and the house will still smell of summer.

That was reason enough to venture out this afternoon to cut them for a vase, and touch with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden yet again.  She faithfully cuts and arranges beautiful vases of flowers each week, photographing them and writing each week about what is fresh in her garden.  I admire her dedication to this meme, and appreciate her giving other gardeners the opportunity to join in every Monday.

Please visit her page to see what other gardeners around the world have to arrange this week as we slip ever closer to the holidays.

I am far more likely to plant up a pot of something for the house than to cut flowers and arrange them.  But every now and again, I can’t resist harvesting a bit of beauty and bringing it in for us to enjoy.  And so with theses roses, safely in a vase indoors before the frost.

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Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden....

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is available now

Wednesday Vignettes: Walk in Beauty

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“To be creative means to be in love with life.

You can be creative only if you love life enough

that you want to enhance its beauty,

you want to bring a little more music to it,

a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”

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Osho

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“Here is the world.

Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don’t be afraid.”

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Frederick Buechner

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“Life is full of beauty. Notice it.

Notice the bumble bee, the small child,

and the smiling faces.

Smell the rain, and feel the wind.

Live your life to the fullest potential,

and fight for your dreams.

.

Ashley Smith

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Many eyes go through the meadow,

but few see the flowers in it.”
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Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Changes

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We treasure these fragrant autumn roses, still opening in our garden.   Our ‘Indian Summer’ has begun its inevitable shift towards winter.  The trees here grow more vibrant with each passing day; scarlet, orange, gold and clear yellow leaves dance in the wind and ornament our windshields and drive.  Finally, autumn.

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We’re engaged in the long, slow minuet of change, sped along by storms and cold fronts sweeping across us from elsewhere.  It hit 80 here yesterday as I worked in our garden.  I planted the last of our stash of spring bulbs, and moved an Hydrangea shrub from its pot into good garden soil.  The sun shone brightly as butterflies danced among the Pineapple Sage and flower laden Lantana in the upper garden.

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We had a good, soaking rain over night, waking up to winds from the north and temperatures a good 25 degrees lower than yesterday’s high.  From here on, our nights will dip back into the 40’s again, and I worry about our tender plants.  When  to bring them in?

Last year I carried pots in, and then back out of the garage, for weeks as the temperatures danced up and down.  This year, I”m trying to have a bit more faith and patience, leaving those precious Begonias and ferns in place as long as possible.

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Most of our Caladiums are inside now, but not all.  I’ve left a few out in pots, and am amazed to see new leaves still opening.  Warm sunshine and fresh breezes day after day seem a reward well worth the slight risk of a sudden freeze.

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This is how ‘climate change’ looks in our garden.

We were well into December before our first freeze last year.  It was balmy on Christmas, way too warm to wear holiday sweaters.  One felt more like  having a Margarita  than hot cocoa.  But why complain when the roads are clear and the heat’s not running?

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And I expect more of the same in the weeks ahead.  Our  great ‘pot’ migration from garden to house is delayed a few weeks, with the Begonias and Bougainvillea blooming their hearts out in the garden, still.    The autumn Iris keep throwing up new flower stalks, the Lantana have grown to epic proportions, and the Basil and Rosemary remain covered in flowers.

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But the garden, flower filled as it may be, grows through a growing blanket of fallen leaves.  Heavy dew bejewels each petal and leaf at dawn.  Squirrels gather and chase and chatter as they prepare their nests for the cold coming.

And the roses….

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Their flowers concentrate the last bits of color and fragrance into every precious petal.  They’ve grown sweeter and darker as the nights grow more chilled.

I”m loathe to trim them, this late in the season, and so hips have begun to swell and soon will glow orange, a reminder both of what has passed, and what is yet to come…

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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