Sunday Dinner: Exercise of Imagination

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“What I’ve always found interesting in gardens
is looking at what people choose to plant there.
What they put in. What they leave out.
One small choice and then another,
and soon there is a mood,
an atmosphere, a series of limitations,
a world.”

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Helen Humphreys

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“When tended the right way,
beauty multiplies.”
.
Shannon Wiersbitzky,

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“Humility, and the most patient perseverance,
seem almost as necessary in gardening
as rain and sunshine,
and every failure must be used
as a stepping-stone
to something better.”

.
Elizabeth von Arnim

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“It is only our limited time frame
that creates the whole “natives versus exotics” controversy.
Wind, animals, sea currents, and continental drift
have always dispersed species into new environments…
The planet has been awash in surging, swarming species movement
since life began.
The fact that it is not one great homogeneous tangled weed lot
is persuasive testimony to the fact
that intact ecosystems are very difficult to invade.”
.
Toby Hemenway

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“I’d love to see a new form of social security …
everyone taught how to grow their own;
fruit and nut trees planted along every street,
parks planted out to edibles,
every high rise with a roof garden,
every school with at least one fruit tree
for every kid enrolled.”

.
Jackie French

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“Dandelions, like all things in nature,
are beautiful
when you take the time
to pay attention to them.”
.
June Stoyer

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“Gardening is like landscape painting to me.
The garden is the canvas.
Plants, containers and other garden features
are the colors. I paint on the garden of canvas
hoping to create a master piece with my colors.”

.
Ama H.Vanniarachchy

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Half the interest of the garden
is the constant exercise of the imagination.”
.
Mrs. C.W. Earle

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“A visitor to a garden sees the successes, usually.
The gardener remembers mistakes and losses,
some for a long time,
and imagines the garden in a year,
and in an unimaginable future.”
.
W.S. Merwin

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Garden Gold

Fennel flowers allow for easy access to their nectar.

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The hotter it gets, the more gold in the garden glitters and shines.  As the mercury goes up, yellow and gold feel almost cooling.

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An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly feeds on Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow,’ a fairly new perennial Lantana introduction. WBG

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I don’t understand the alchemy of that, but I do understand the clear attraction of gold for all of our nectar seeking pollinators.

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Gold flowers may just taste sweeter.  They certainly draw in the bees, wasps and butterflies who draw sustenance from their sugary depths.

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Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ is also a perennial in Zone 7. WBG

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All the while, these prolific flowers are also ripening seeds to delight goldfinches and other small birds who will feast on their ripe seeds well into the barren months of winter.

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Flocks of goldfinches took wing from the wildflowers where they were feeding, as I walked through the Williamburg Botanical Garden yesterday afternoon.

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Golden and yellow flowers often prove among the easiest for a gardener to grow.  Turn to dill, fennel and parsley for their distinctive round umbel inflorescence, all flat and easy to access;  Rudbeckias and Helianthus for their many petaled sunburst flowers.

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The first black eyed Susans, our native Rudbecki hirta, have begun to open in our garden.

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Coreopsis, Lantana, marigolds and Zinnias all bloom in shades of yellow, orange and gold.

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The season ends on a wild and native note as Solidagos burst into bloom in September and October, towering over the black eyed Susans in our garden like great feathery plumes of living gold.

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Solidago blooms alongside Rudbeckia in our garden, October 2017.

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If the entire garden were nothing but green and gold, animated with swallowtail butterflies and goldfinches, what a beautiful display we would still enjoy.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Any patch of sunlight in a wood

will show you something about the sun

which you could never get

from reading books on astronomy.

These pure and spontaneous pleasures

are ‘patches of Godlight’

in the woods of our experience.”


.

C.S. Lewis

Fabulous Friday: Color!

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I look forward to September when colors take on that specialty intensity of early autumn.  They sky turns brilliantly blue and the roadsides turn golden with wild Solidago and Rudbeckia.

I planted a little extra splash of color to enjoy this month in our front perennial garden.  While the Rudbeckia were still small, last spring, I interplanted several different Salvias, some perennial mistflower and some gifted Physotegia virginiana divisions.  I wanted bright splashes of blue and violet to emerge through their golden flowers.

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We are just beginning to enjoy the show as these late summer flowers come into their own.  The Rudbeckia grew taller this summer than I remember them in years passed.

We’re still waiting to see whether all of those Salvias will muster the strength to shoulder past the Black Eyed Susans and raise their flowers to the autumn sun.  Life and gardening are always an experiment though, aren’t they?

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It is fabulous to see the sea of gold highlighted with other richly colored flowers.  Soon, the bright red pineapple sage and bright blue Mexican bush sage will burst into bloom, filling the entire garden with intense color.  September is a fabulous time of year, full of promise and energy.

May your last weekend of summer be a good one.

Our hearts are heavy from the many troubling events this summer has precipitated.  We remember those struggling with flood water and wind damage; those seeking peace and justice in the wake of this summer’s violence; those who have lost dearly loved ones; and all those who still hold the hope and promise our country offers to the world, as a living flame in their heart.

In these dark and troubling days, may your world be filled with the colors of hope.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
*
“Love was a feeling completely bound up with color,
like thousands of rainbows
superimposed one on top of the other.”
.
Paulo Coelho
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Fabulous Friday! 
Happiness is Contagious; let’s infect one another!
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Caladium ‘Desert Sunset’

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“Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?
Can one really explain this? no.
Just as one can never learn how to paint.”
.
Pablo Picasso

 

August Wonders

Azalea indica ‘Formosa’ in bloom on August 22, 2017.

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A deeply pink blossom shone like a beacon in its sea of dusty August green.  What could that be?

I know that color; a color normally enjoyed in late April: Azalea indica ‘Formosa’.   But the Azaleas in our garden are old ones, planted years before the ‘Encore’ series of fall blooming  Azaleas was ever marketed.

I studied this beautiful flower, a wondrous anachronism, as I drew closer and saw that yes, it was blooming from an Azalea shrub.  In August…

August is filled with wonders. 

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August often melts into a reprieve of sorts.  Relentless heat and drought eventually give way to soaking rains, cooler nights; and a chance for new growth to replace the burnt and fallen leaves of high summer.   Each new leaf whispers a promise of renewal.

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Virginia Creeper

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After the rains begin, one morning we’ll find living fireworks sprung up nearly overnight from long forgotten bulbs.

The spider lily, or hurricane lily, has awakened for another year.  Their exuberance is a milestone along the long downward arc of days from Summer’s Solstice to Autumn’s Equinox.

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Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata

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The cast of characters in our garden shifts through the seasons.  The topography of things changes, too, as Cannas and Ficus and Rudbeckia gain height with each passing week.

The poke weed I cut out so ruthlessly in May finally won, and has grown into a 12′ forest in one corner of our garden.

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Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, proves an invasive native perennial loved by birds.

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Countless clusters of beautiful purple berries hang from its spreading branches, an invitation to the feast.  Small birds flit in and out of its shelter from dawn to dusk, singing their praises of summer’s bounty.

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After so many decades of gardening, one would think that I could have learned the twin disciplines of faith and patience by now.  It is a life long practice; perhaps never perfected. 

Time seems to slip past my muddy fingers each spring as I race to plant and prepare our garden for the season coming.  But nature bides her time, never fully revealing the bits of life she has nurtured through winter’s freezing nights; until she chooses to warm them back to life again.

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Mexican Petunia, Ruellia simplex

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At first I assumed it was a windborne weed, this bit of green growing up through the Oxalis in a humble clay pot by our back door.  I very nearly plucked it one day.  But something about its long narrow leaf was familiar, and echo of a memory of summers past.

And so I left it alone, keeping watch and feeding it, hoping it might be the newest incarnation of the marginally hardy Mexican Petunia.  My patience was rewarded this week with its first purple blossom.

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Hardy only to Zone 8, this Ruellia is one of the plants I search for in garden centers each spring.   And this spring I didn’t find one.  And the pot where I grew it on our deck last summer with Lantana and herbs showed no life by mid-May, and so I threw its contents on the compost.

But this pot by the door sat undisturbed, filled with growing  Oxalis and a bit of geranium.  And obviously, the dormant, but still living, Ruellia’s roots.  How often our plants live just below the surface, waiting for the right moment to show themselves, bursting  into new growth.

We somehow have to wrap our minds and memories around the full scope of our garden’s possibilities.

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Garlic chives spread themselves around the garden, blooming in unexpected places in late summer.

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Autumn is our second spring, here in coastal Virginia.  It is a fresh chance to plant and harvest, plan and prune and putter in the garden.

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Caladium ‘Desert Sunset’ has renewed its growth with vibrant new leaves.

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We have ten or twelve weeks remaining, at least, before cold weather puts an end to it for another year.

As our season cools, we can spend more time outside without minding the heat and humidity of July and early August.

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Hardy Begonias have finally begun to bloom.

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We breathe deeply once again, and share the renewed joy of it all with the small creatures who share this space with us.

Late August is filled with wonders, teasing us out from the air conditioning of our indoor havens, back out into the magic waiting in the garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Sunday Dinner: Ease

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“Peace is not always easy to grasp or keep close.
In the process of attaining and protecting it,
you may find yourself tired, weary,
and uncertain on how to keep your peace safe.
While being uncertain is normal,
continue to commit yourself to peacefulness.
You are worthy of every drop
of sweetness and ease that you encounter.
Being tested is a part of the journey.
Giving up, and letting go, is not.”
.
alex elle
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“Being content is perhaps no less easy
than playing the violin well:
and requires no less practice.”
.
Alain de Botton
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Being under stress
is like being stranded in a body of water.
If you panic, it will cause you to flail around
so that the water rushes into your lungs
and creates further distress.
Yet, by calmly collecting yourself
and using controlled breathing
you remain afloat with ease.”
.
Alaric Hutchinson
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Slipping Into September

August 29, 2016 Parkway 022

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For an area surrounded by rivers, marshes and creeks, you wouldn’t expect us to need rain so badly.  But we’ve not had even a sprinkle since August 9th, and less than 2″ of rain for the entire month of August.  Forgive me if I’m a little giddy that rain finally fills our weekend forecast, beginning sometime this evening!

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August 29, 2016 Parkway 011

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Never mind that it is a huge tropical system, which will soon cross Northern Florida before slipping up the East Coast, bringing with it all that a tropical system brings.  We watch the Weather Channel, wistfully waiting for those blobs of green on their radar to make their way to our garden.

Hermine is coming, and will bring us the gift of rain….

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The bald Cypress trees are already turning brown and will drop their needles soon. It has been unusually hot this summer, with very little relief from cloudy days or rain.

The bald Cypress trees are already turning brown and will drop their needles soon. It has been unusually hot this summer, with very little relief from cloudy days or afternoon rain.  This is the Chickahominy River at the Southwestern edge of James City County

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Waves of deja vu remind me of all the other Septembers which hold memories of approaching tropical systems.  Just as we’re all celebrating the last long weekend of summer and preparing for school to start the day after Labor Day; we’re also watching the storm clouds gather and making our storm preps.

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August 29, 2016 Parkway 006

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Early September finds us feeling a little anxious and expectant, a little off-balance maybe; as we know that our immediate future remains a bit uncertain.

Only survivors of storms past fully understand this feeling of mixed expectation and dread.  We’ve entered the heart of our Atlantic Hurricane season, school is about to start, and its election year to boot.... There’s enough heartburn for everyone!

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August 29, 2016 Parkway 012

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There were hurricanes and threats of hurricanes many years during the first month of school,  when I was still teaching  school in Tidewater.

Isabel hit on September 18, 2003, when we had been in school for less than 2 weeks.  I was still learning my new students’ names when we had an unplanned ‘vacation’ of more than a week while power was restored, flooding subsided, roads were cleared and repaired, and we slowly returned to our normal routines.

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August 29, 2016 Parkway 014

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It was a tough time on us all, but we managed.  And we grew a little savvier about what to expect from these tropical autumn storms.  Once you’ve experienced the storm and its aftermath once, you take care to stock water and batteries, to keep a little extra food on hand, and to watch the ever-changing forecast.  It’s smart to keep a charge on the cell phone and gas in the car, too!

I still flash back to Isabel whenever I eat a bagel.  I bought 2 dozen bagels early in the day when the storm hit, and we ate bagels and fresh oranges over the next several days while the power was out.

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August 29, 2016 Parkway 004

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But September, like April, brings dramatic and positive change to our garden.  Summer’s heat melts away into cool mornings and comfortable days, when one is happy to stay outside working well into the afternoon.

The sky turns a particular intense shade of blue.  Summer’s haze and humidity blow out to sea in the brisk September winds which bring us the first real hint of autumn.

There is rain.  The trees recover a bit of vitality.  Fall perennials and wildflowers blossom.  Huge pots of Chrysanthemums appear on neighbors’ porches.

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Sweet Autumn Clematis has begun to bloom this week, here near the parking area by the river.

Sweet Autumn Clematis has begun to bloom this week, here near the parking area by the river.

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And the best of summer lingers.  The ginger lilies bloom, filling the garden with their perfume.  More and more butterflies arrive.   We settle into a gentler, milder ‘Indian Summer’ which will linger, and ever so slowly transition into our bright, crisp autumn.

September reinvigorates us, too.  We bring fresh energy to the garden as we plant new shrubs, divide perennials, buy Daffodil bulbs and begin to plan ahead for winter.

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Spider lilies, also called "Hurricane lily" by some, reward my faithful watering with their buds this week.

Spider lilies, also called “Hurricane lily” by some, reward my faithful watering with their buds this week.  These Lycoris radiata come back each year from bulbs in late August and early September.

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Yes, it is September first; and we’re watching a potential hurricane, knowing it might start slipping up the coast, headed towards us and our loved ones within the next couple of days.  We trust that everyone will come through OK, once again.

And we’re also looking past the coming storms towards the rest of September stretching before us, full of beauty and promise.  We’re content to leave summer’s heat behind, and  slip into September once again.

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August 26, 2016 spider 009

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Photos 4, 5 and 6 for Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 29, 2016 Spider + Lily 008

Sunday Dinner: Magic

August 28, 2016 spider 006

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“And above all, watch with glittering eyes

the whole world around you

because the greatest secrets

are always hidden in

the most unlikely places.

Those who don’t believe in magic

will never find it.”

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Roald Dahl

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August 28, 2016 spider 008

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“The world is full of magic things,

patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

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W.B. Yeats

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August 28, 2016 spider 011

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“I want to be magic.

I want to touch the heart of the world

and make it smile.

I want to be a friend of elves and live in a tree.

Or under a hill. I want to marry a moonbeam

and hear the stars sing.

I don’t want to pretend at magic anymore.

I want to be magic.”

.

Charles de Lint

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August 28, 2016 spider 003

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 28, 2016 spider 007

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“But you must not change one thing,
one pebble, one grain of sand,
until you know what good and evil will follow on that act.
The world is in balance, in Equilibrium.
A wizard’s power of Changing and Summoning
can shake the balance of the world.
It is dangerous, that power…
It must follow knowledge,
and serve need.”
.
Ursula K. Le Guin
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August 28, 2016 spider 010

For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Frame

WPC: Frame

August 26, 2016 spider 004~

This beautiful yellow garden spider, Agiope aurantia, made her web framed by Black Eyed Susans.

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August 26, 2016 spider 005

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She found a perfect protected spot where lots of insects fly by.  And her delicate ‘zig-zag’  web makes this spot even more beautiful.

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Frame

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August 26, 2016 spider 006

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8: Observe

August 8, 2016 garden in rain 002

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In February and March, every gardening miracle seems possible.  My coffee table holds a thick stack of gardening catalogs, each filled with gorgeous photos of flowers and foliage in every size, color, pattern and form a gardener might wish for.  In winter, I sketch out plans for new planting beds and make long ‘wish lists’ of what I hope to grow in the season coming.

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Hybrid hardy Hibiscus 'Sun King' attracts every Japanese beetle within miles. Our native Hibiscus mucheotos rarely sustain damage, but these ratty leaves always distract from the beauty of its vibrant flowers.

Hybrid hardy Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ attracts every Japanese beetle within miles. Our native Hibiscus moscheutos rarely sustain damage.  But these ratty leaves always distract from the beauty of this plant’s vibrant flowers.

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But as the calendar pages turn, reality sets in with late freezes or early heat; storms and drought; insects chewing the leaves; rabbits and deer ‘pruning;’  and any number of other seasonal stressors to challenge the beauty of our garden.  The pristine beauty of a gardening catalog photo doesn’t always match the reality of how that plant may look in late summer growing in our garden.

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Rudbeckia lacniata came as an unexpected gift along with some Monarda roots. These wildflowers grow to 8'tall and require little care beyond staking.

Rudbeckia laciniata came as an unexpected gift from a gardening friend,  along with some Monarda roots. These wildflowers grow to 8′ tall and require little care beyond staking.  Butterflies love them!  These grow in our ever changing ‘Butterfly Garden.’

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The difference between gardening dreams and gardening reality can prove both disappointing and expensive!  That is why experienced gardeners notice how a plant actually weathers the long months of summer; in what conditions it thrives or disappoints; and what special care it needs; before making an investment.

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In its second season, the Rudbeckia laciniata has climbed up through our Rose of Sharon shrubs this summer. What a display!

In their second season, the Rudbeckia laciniata have climbed up through our Rose of Sharon shrubs this summer. What a display!

Many popular and commonly used plants have a very brief period when they look great.  But as flowers fade and drop and summer heat sets in they turn more brown than bright.

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August 8, 2016 garden in rain 010

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Some, like German Iris, respond to having the bloom stalks pruned back and dying leaves removed.  New growth often shows up as summer wanes.  The leaves offer a green, sculptural presence in the garden long after the flowers fade.

But other commonly used annuals and perennials, like some semperfloren Begonias and many re-blooming daylily hybrids, simply don’t do well in our Virginia mid-summer dry-spells combined with days of heat.  They soon look rather ragged.

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This bed of hybrid roses and daylilies grows along Rt. 60 near Busch Gardens. Planted with good intentions, it looks pretty dismal by early August.

This bed of hybrid roses and daylilies grows along Rt. 60 near Busch Gardens. Planted with good intentions, it looks pretty dismal by early August.

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That is why it pays to really look around and observe what looks good and what doesn’t by the middle of August in your region.  What plants thrive in your local conditions?  What proves ‘high-maintenance’ and needs a lot of attention to make it through the season?

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Canna lilies keep blooming through the worst summer weather, but may also attract insects which eat their leaves. These Canna 'Russian Red' are a new variety we're trying this year.

Canna lilies keep blooming through the worst summer weather, but may also attract insects which eat their leaves. These Canna ‘Russian Red’ are a new variety we’re trying for the first time this year.

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What plants attract Japanese beetles and other pests?  What gets eaten at night by slugs and snails?  What do you admire growing in neighbors’ yards as you drive around town?

Our star performers in August include Crepe Myrtle trees, Canna lily, Colocasia, Lantana, Black Eyed Susans, Caladiums and many herbs.  Relatively pest and disease free, these beauties shrug off the heat and remain attractive and bright through the long months of summer.

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Naturalized Black Eyed Susans in our garden

Naturalized Black Eyed Susans spread themselves further and further each year in our garden.

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What stands up to summer in your garden?  Which plants do you count on to thrive and remain attractive into the autumn months each year?  A wise person once said, ‘Begin with the end in mind.’  This is good advice for gardening and good advice for life.  It helps us focus and make good choices along the way.

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Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop' proves a hardy and beautiful ground cover in pots and planting beds. Evergreen, it blooms each spring. Caladiums love our summer weather!

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’ proves a hardy and beautiful ground cover in pots and planting beds. Evergreen, it blooms blue each spring. Caladiums love our summer weather!

Woodland Gnome’s caveat:  Taking photos helps me observe the garden more closely while providing a record, year to year, of what we grow.  Looking back over the development of a planting through several years of photos shows me things about the garden’s development in a way my memory might not.  Photos also help me remember successful annual plants we might want to use again. 

It is good to study photos taken from various angles, in differing light, and at different points in the season to gain a better understanding of a garden’s rhythms; its strengths and its weaknesses.

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Our 'potted garden' on the back steps evolves each season. Originally, I grew only Basil, which didn't last the entire season. Now we experiment to see which plants thrive in intense heat and full sun from late spring through autumn.

Our ‘potted garden’ on the back steps evolves each season. Originally, we grew only Basil, which didn’t last the entire season. Now we experiment to see which plants thrive in intense heat and full sun from late spring through autumn.

“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:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

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Not the most attractive shrub, we soon observed that Rose of Sharon attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. We allow them to naturalize throughout the garden.

Not the most attractive shrub, we soon observed that Rose of Sharon attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. We allow them to naturalize throughout the garden because they benefit wildlife.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 8, 2016 garden in rain 019

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