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
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“Love was a feeling completely bound up with color,
like thousands of rainbows
superimposed one on top of the other.”
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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

 

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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

Slipping Into September

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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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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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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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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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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

Wednesday Vignette: Beginnings

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap

but by the seeds that you plant.”

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Robert Louis Stevenson

 

These aren’t the sort of photos you’ll often see on my pages, but it is a current view of the large pots on our deck.

The ornamental pepper lasted far longer into the early winter than we had any expectation it could last.  And I still am enjoying its bright red seed pods.

And right after taking the photo, I picked a few of the pods and crumbled their seeds into other pots nearby.  We enjoyed a beautiful crop of volunteer pepper plants grown from nature sown seeds last summer.  And so I expect we will again this summer.

You might recognize the baby strawberry plants growing with the pepper in this pot, and there is just the stem of a lemon verbena emerging from a clump of parsley.  Here the remains of one season mingle with the beginnings of next summer’s beauty.

It doesn’t matter to us that it looks a little ragged at the moment.  We choose to see the inherent potential in the soil, the seeds, and those hardy plants prepared to freeze and thaw dozens of times between now and spring.

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Purple Sage and Fennel share this pot.

Purple Sage and Fennel share this pot with strawberry, Sedum, and who knows what else?

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Appreciation, always, to  Anna at Flutter and Hum for hosting the Wednesday Vignette each week.  Please visit her to see a beautiful photo taken after the ice storm which hit Portland, OR.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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Golden Marjoram covers the soil around baby strawberries and a Viola.

Golden Marjoram covers the soil around baby strawberries and a Viola.

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“Only those who sow seeds of change

can hope to grow and reap a harvest.”

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Andrea Goeglein

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December 31, 2016 004

 

On A Tray: Beautiful Bouquets

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Inspiration waits everywhere; especially in a good gardening magazine.

Particularly inspiring is the article ‘Beautiful Bouquets’ in the current special edition Plant Issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine.  Plantswoman Anne Townley suggests delicious combinations of plants one might grow together, expecting to later cut them for beautiful and unusual bouquets.

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Clockwise from top left: Violas, Edgeworthia, Artemesia

Clockwise from top left: Ivy, Violas, Edgeworthia, Lavender, Artemesia, Iris, Mahonia, Fennel, Black Eyed Susan.

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Her plant choices are quite idiosyncratic, at least to this Virginian gardener.

The photography for this article was my inspiration, however.  Photographer Andrew Montgomery created a stunning tableau with each combination of plants Ms. Townley selected.  Please follow the link to see these artful vignettes of petal and leaf composed to illustrate this lively article about cutting gardens.

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Clockwise from top left: Viola, Camellia, Cyclamen

Clockwise from top left: Camellia, Viola, Pineapple Sage, Camellia, Cyclamen, Viola, Edgeworthia, Ivy, Rose, Salvia, Hellebore,  Pineapple Mint, scented Pelargonium.

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Emulation remains the highest form of flattery, and so I couldn’t resist assembling a little tableau of my own this morning from what looks fresh in our garden today.

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Part scavenger hunt, part journey of discovery; what a surprisingly diverse collection of leaf and flower waited for me in the garden!

Wandering, cutting and arranging, I quickly realized that most of these bits of horticultural beauty would have grown unnoticed save for this challenge.

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Clockwise from top left: Rosa, 'The Generous Gardener,' Ivy, Viola, Black Eyed Susuans,

Clockwise from top left: Rosa, ‘The Generous Gardener,’ Ivy, Viola, Black Eyed Susan, Rose hips, Mahonia, Fennel, Iris.

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Each newly snipped blossom and leaf delighted me.  Though cut from many different areas of the garden, from pots, beds and shrubs; they harmonize.  What a helpful way to get a ‘read’ on how well the plants in one’s garden go together.

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Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: Purple Sage, Viola, Rosemary, Pineapple Sage, Lavendar, Dianthus, Vinca minor,  Cyclamen, Viola, Ivy, Salvia, Hellebores, Pineapple Mint, Pelargonium, Camellia

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I could have just sat and admired this tray full of cuttings over a steamy cup of coffee.

But, other projects called, like the bin filled with Brent and Becky’s bulbs, gleaned from their end of season clearance sale, just before the holiday.   We had been granted another good day for planting, and so I didn’t tarry over the tray too long.

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Rather, I recut the stems and tucked them into a vase, floated the blossoms in a bowl, slipped the ivy into a jar of rooting cuttings, and headed back out to the garden.

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Because there were  just one or two stems of each plant on the tray, this is a somewhat unusual vase.  It needed photographing from all sides as each of its ‘faces’ is different.

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I am happy to join Cathy at Rambling In the Garden for her “In A Vase On Monday’ meme this week.  She has created a ‘Moondance’ by the sea; more inspiration, as always!

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Although we are enjoying our little vase this afternoon, my partner and I remain intrigued by the possibilities of simply arranging stems  on a tray.  I plan to tour the garden, tray in hand, at some regular interval from here on just to see what there is to see.

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And, inspired by several excellent articles on garden color  in Gardens Illustrated, I also took my bin of bulbs back out to the garden for a few happy hours of planting today.  Bulbs planted a few weeks ago have already broken ground with their first, tentative leaves.

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Winter blooming Iris have started into growth in this pot with Violas and Moss.

Winter blooming Iris have started into growth in this pot with Violas and Moss.

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I dug new areas and planted Daffodils, Muscari, Leucojum, Cyclamen and more, before covering everything with a fresh coat of compost.

Although imagination is a wonderful thing,  I can’t wait to actually see these new additions grow into the tapestry of our garden in the months ahead.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

Plant Now For Spring Living Flower Arrangements

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Who wants to look at empty pots for the next four months?  I am as interested in planting attractive pots for the winter season as I am interested in replanting those pots for summer.  And each fall, I keep an eye and and ear open for new ideas.

Brent Heath offered a workshop last month at his Bulb Shop in Gloucester that I sorely wanted to attend.  He even offered to bring his workshop across the river if I could pull a group together in our community.  And how I wish my time and energy had stretched far enough to invite him!

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Miniature daffodils grow to only 6"-8" tall and work well in spring pots. Plant the entire bulb and foliage out into a permanent spot in the garden when switching out plantings for summer.

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Brent, a master horticulturalist, teaches the finer points of loading containers with bulbs.  Now even though he and his wife Becky are known internationally for their prodigious offering of Daffodils; they sell hundreds of different bulbs and perennials.  Brent’s workshop teaches how to layer several different species of bulbs into a single pot to create a “Living Flower Arrangement” which changes over time as different bulbs appear, bloom, and fade.

I wanted to attend Brent’s workshop to learn a new trick or two.  I’ve used various bulbs in containers for many years now, but there is always a better way, when one is open to learn from someone more experienced.  But the stars haven’t aligned this season, and so I’ve been experimenting on my own with the bulbs we’ve been collecting.

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Violas with white Dianthus, and Muscari. Miniature Daffodils bloomed later in the season.

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The idea is elegantly simple:  since one plants bulbs at different depths depending on the size of the bulb, and since new growth from most bulbs is very narrow before it reaches the light,  one can plant one ‘layer’ of bulbs on top of another, allowing the emerging stems to sort out the spacing as they grow upwards towards the light.  In fact, three or four ‘layers’ of different types of bulbs may be planted into a single large pot.   This very crowded planting works for a single season, but must be unpacked by early summer.  The bulbs may be transplanted ‘in the green’ into garden beds, to allow the leaves to fully recharge the bulb for the next season of flowers.

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 Containers for sale at the Heath's Bulb Shop last April

Containers on display at the Heath’s Bulb Shop last April

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I modify this idea to include annuals, perennials, woodies and moss so the planting has immediate interest while we wait for the bulbs to emerge in the spring.

Begin with a clean pot.  I use coffee filters or a paper towel over the drainage holes to hold the soil while the roots are growing.  The filters will soon decompose.  Choose a good quality, light, commercial potting soil with nutrition already mixed in.  The annuals and perennials are heavy feeders, and the bulbs will perform better in rich soil.  Many of the ‘organic’ potting soils now come pre-loaded with worm castings!

Now one must  ‘do the math.’  Having chosen 2-5 species of bulbs, depending on the size and depth of the pot, first study the proper planting depth of each.  If you are using Daffodils, for instance, which are planted at a depth of 6″, then fill the pot with soil to within about 7″ of the rim.    Set the first ‘layer’ of Daffodil bulbs on the soil by pushing the root end slightly into the soil so that the tip points upwards.  Space these Daffodils 3″-4″ apart from one another and at least an inch or two inwards from the sides of the pot.  Carefully fill in around these bulbs with more potting soil so they are barely covered, and firm the soil with your palm.

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Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted Redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and Daffodils early last spring.

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Choose your next bulb, adding just enough soil so it is planted at its correct depth, and arrange these bulbs by lightly pushing them into the soil.  Try to avoid setting a new bulb directly over top of a deeper one.  Lightly top with soil to hold this layer in place, and add an additional layer or two of bulbs.  I like to select a few bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, or Galanthus nivalis, which will emerge in late winter.  These will often be the ones planted most shallow.

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Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I've tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I’ve tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

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If your living flower arrangement will contain only bulbs, then simply top off the soil with a layer of living moss, water in, place the pot, and wait.  You can certainly add a few branches, pods, stones or cones to the pot to catch the eye while you wait for spring.

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Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with Creeping Jenny and a hardy Sedum ‘Angelina’ last April.

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But I want a living flower arrangement which goes to work right away.  I always add some annuals or perennials to the mix, which complicates the bulb planting a bit, as you don’t want bulbs directly under the huge root ball of a perennial or shrub.   I tend to place  a shrub or perennial in the pot first, then plant the bulbs around it.  This is a good use for those clearance shrubs with tiny root balls so easy to find in late October or November.  Or, for the many evergreen shrubs showing up now in tiny quart or 1 gallon pots.

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March 20 2014 spring 006

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Many vines and some perennials root easily from cuttings.  Simply tuck bits of Creeping Jenny, hardy Sedum, or divisions of Ivy or Ajuga into the soil of your finished pot.  These will grow in place.  Consider sprinkling seeds for perennials like Columbine, which like to overwinter out of doors.  They will begin to sprout next spring as the bulbs emerge.

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Creeping Jenny last March

Creeping Jenny last March

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You might complete your design with some winter annuals.  You can pot up the deeper layers of bulbs, and then plant a few Violas, Pansies or snaps in the top three inches of the pot.  Layer in your Crocus and Muscari bulbs around them.

~ April 7,2014 spring flowers 002

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I still finish the pot with moss or pebbles.   This topdressing not only looks more attractive than plain dirt; it helps hold moisture, insulates the roots as temperatures dive, and it offers some protection from digging squirrels.  If I were using Tulips in the pot, I would be tempted to lay some chicken wire, with large openings, over that layer of bulbs for further protection from marauding rodents.  Tuck in a few cloves of garlic or onion sets to protect your Violas from grazing deer and rabbits.

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March 20 2015 fresh 027~

Now, the ultimate ‘multi-tasking’ for this sort of planting:  hardwood cuttings.  Many of our woodies will root over winter if stuck into moist soil and left alone for several months.  If you have some shrubs you would like to propagate, take your cuttings and push them artistically into the finished pot.  If they root, fine.  If they don’t, you have still enjoyed the extra sculptural elements they lend over winter while the bulbs are sleeping.

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I've added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

I’ve added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

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This sort of winter ‘living flower arrangement’ takes a bit of planning.  There are lots of choices to make about timing and color schemes, size and scale, costs and placement.  You have to imagine how the bulbs will look when they emerge, so the tall ones are more to the center and the shorter ones nearer the edges; unless the shorter ones will finish before the tall ones emerge.  And the container must be large enough to contain all of those robust roots without cracking; and of material which will hold up to your winter weather.

~March 6, 2015 garden 002

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This is an excellent way to showcase miniature Daffodils and other delicate, small flowering bulbs.  You might combine several types of daffies to include those which flower early, mid- and late season.  Daffodils with blue Muscari always look great together.

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Ornamental cabbage with Heuchera in a newly planted pot.

Ornamental cabbage with Hellebore in a newly planted pot.

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You might also compose an arrangement of various Iris.  Include some combination of Iris unguicularis, Iris bucharica, Iris histrioides, Iris reticulata, Dutch Iris, and perhaps even a root of German Bearded Iris for a long season of beautiful Iris blooms.

If your winter is especially harsh, plant your container now, water it in, but leave it in an unheated garage or shed until February.  Bring it out into the spring sunshine and enjoy the bulbs when the worst of winter has passed.

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Newly planted Violas with Heuchera

Newly planted Violas with Hellebores.  Bulbs are tucked into the soil, waiting for spring.

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We enjoy the luxury of  Zone 7b, which allows us to grow winter annuals which would die a few states to the north, and also bulbs which wouldn’t survive in the warmer winters to our south.  We also have many winter or early spring  flowering shrubs to plant in our container gardens.

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Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.

Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.  Foliage will fill this pot all winter, with flowers appearing in the spring.

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Here are some of the plants I choose most often for these dynamic pots:

Perennials:  Hellebores, Heucheras, Cyclamen hederifolium, Arum, Iris unguicularis, evergreen ferns, culinary Sage, Rosemary, Ivy, Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny), Sedum rupestre, ‘Angelina’ and other hardy Sedums, Ajuga, Vinca Minor (Periwinkle), hardy Oxalis, Columbine, Dianthus

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Pansies will soon respond to wramer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

Pansies will soon respond to warmer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

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Annuals:  Violas, Panolas, Pansies, Snapdragons, Allysum, ornamental kale or cabbage

Whatever combination of plants you choose, think of these living flower arrangements as narratives which unfold over time.

Time truly is the magical ingredient for baking bread, raising children, and creating beautiful gardens.

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March 25-28 013

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Looking Good: Autumn Favorites

The first Camellias of the season bloomed this week.

The first Camellias of the season bloomed this week.

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The garden is looking good again now that the soil is moist, the days are sunny, and the nights are cool.  Our autumn flowers have begun blooming, filling the garden with vivid red Pineapple Sage, soft blue Mexican Bush Sage, pristine white Camellias and vividly rose pink Bougainvillea.

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October 9, 2015 First Camellias 004

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We even have a stalk of Iris buds ready to open on a rebloomer transplanted this past spring.

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October 8 Parkway 055

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Even as brown leaves litter the lawn, summer weary plants respond to our milder weather with vivid new flowers.

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Some of our most spectacular roses open after October 1st each year and keep coming through early December.  Many of our Pelargoniums have also started pumping out plump new buds.  Late October feels almost like a reprise of spring, but with more intense color.

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Pineapple Sage waits to bloom until October, filling the garden with fragrant red flowers until frost.

Pineapple Sage waits to bloom until October, filling the garden with fragrant red flowers until frost.

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We are busy planting bulbs and perennials.  I’m ready to start filling our pots with Violas for winter color by the end of the month.

October is my favorite time of year for spreading new compost.  I bought the last few bags on offer at our favorite garden center this week.  Their next load won’t deliver until spring.  I’ll use much of it when moving shrubs out of their pots and into the ground over the next week.

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October 8 Parkway 058

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Some has already gone over a new planting of  ‘Thalia’  Daffodil bulbs, now overplanted with Ajuga, Vinca, and some bits of hardy Sedum.  A fresh inch or two of compost over freshly weeded beds keeps them looking good through the winter, and helps nourish the bulbs and perennials which will begin growing again in a few months.

Some plants, like these Colocasia divisions, which got off to a slow start in early summer, have finally come into their prime in these last weeks before frost.

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Colocasia with a scented Geranium have taken their time to grow this summer. The Colocasia divisions really took off after a placed the pot behind them, possibly providing more water and nourishment.

Colocasia with a scented Pelargonium have taken their time to grow this summer. The Colocasia divisions really took off after we placed the potted Pelargonium behind them, possibly providing more water and nourishment.

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Officially, our first frost date is October 15.  It is hard for me to believe that frost can come at any time after the middle of next week.  I’ve not yet given much thought to moving tender plants inside to the garage, basement, and living room to keep them over winter.  But it is time for me to sketch out a plan and begin putting it into action before an early freeze catches us unprepared.

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Bouganvillea begins its season of bloom in early autumn, but must come indoors before frost. It is a tender woody perennial which won't survive our Virginia winters out of doors.

Bougainvillea begins its season of bloom in early autumn, but must come indoors before frost. It is a tender woody perennial which won’t survive our Virginia winters out of doors.

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After a busy few weeks which left me little time or energy for the garden, I’m ready to begin the round of fall projects which close it out for the season.

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October 9, 2015 First Camellias 023

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There are Ginger Lilies to dig and deliver to friends; tender Colocoasia, Caladiums, ferns, and Begonias to dig and pot for their winter indoors; leaves to shred and  roses to trim back for a final time this year.

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Leaves fall steadily in our garden even as late bloomers, like this Salvia, are in their prime.

Leaves fall steadily in our garden even as late bloomers, like this Salvia, are in their prime.

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Taking time to notice what is Looking Good each week keeps my focus on the positive.  Many thanks to Gillian at Country Gardens UK for hosting this theme each Friday.  Please take a moment to enjoy her beautiful apples this week.  Gillian also offers up an enticing recipe for Apple Cake, which I want to try making this weekend with apples from our favorite farm stand.

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October 9, 2015 First Camellias 033

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

October 8 Parkway 046

 

In A Vase: Finally, Zinnias

Septembr 8, 2015 vase 009

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We are past Labor Day, that great holiday marking the end of summer in the United States; and finally I’ve cut some Zinnias for our vase.

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September 8, 2015 Vase2 001

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These are lovely Zinnias.  I love their soft but vibrant pink petals.  I’ve admired them every day for weeks now, but have refrained from cutting any to bring indoors.  I’ve only cut off spent blossoms in order to inspire the plants to push out more.

These Zinnias are a tender spot for me.  No, not a warm and fuzzy tender spot.  They are a guilty tender spot.  You see, I bought them.

When the several dozen Zinnia seeds I had carefully ordered and later sowed out in the beds failed to produce; I bought a few potted Zinnia plants from our friends at the local farm stand.  They were so far along that I planted them, pots and all, in a few prominent spots mid-summer.

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September 8, 2015 Vase2 002~

Now how much gardening skill does it take to grow Zinnias from seeds??? 

I’ve done it often in the past.  And, in retrospect there are now a few of my home sown Zinnias blooming in the butterfly garden.  But my grand winter plans for rows of Zinnias, ripe for cutting, failed to materialize in the vagueries of spring.

I first sowed the little seeds in wet paper toweling, as I often do with bean seeds, and then planted each little packet into the beds.  Needless to say, it didn’t work well this time….  Next year, back to the trays or little pots for sowing those precious seeds.

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Septembr 8, 2015 vase 003~

But enough of gardening angst.  We’ll celebrate these lovely Zinnias blooming so vibrantly with the Blue Mist Flowers, Salvia, purple Basil, Pineapple Mint, Catmint and Garlic Chives.  One thing I enjoy about these vases is how I can capture the essence of things blooming all over the garden into one tiny vase.

The Blue Mist flower self seeds, and is also a spreading perennial.  It is popping up in nearly every part of the garden this summer.  I’ve been spreading the Garlic chives around for several years now.  Another self-seeding perennial, they are also blooming in surprisingly random places in the garden at present.

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Septembr 8, 2015 vase 001~

The “Jade” Buddha was given to us by a friend at Chinese New Year.  I included it today after learning, just this week, the story of the “Emerald” Buddha of Thailand.  This “Emerald” Buddha statue has a long and mysterious history which likely began in southern India in the years before the Common Era, and continues today in modern Bangkok.  The stones were picked up while walking along an Oregon beach.

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Septembr 8, 2015 vase 002

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The season is turning yet again, and it feels like as good a time as any to ponder our successes and shortcomings of the last few months.  It is a good time to process gardening, and life lessons, learned; while at the same time entertaining plans for the seasons coming.

Another gardening blogger wrote of sketching her cuttings beds for next season, now.  Plans made now will likely be more realistic than those we plot over the winter catalogs in February, don’t you think? 

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September 6, 2015 garden 010~

I’m building some new beds in the sunny front garden.  I’ve already planted some new Iris roots, and am ready to plant bulbs as soon as some rain comes to soften the soil a bit.

Once the weather turns more towards autumn in a few weeks, I’ll also move some shrubs from their pots to the Earth.  The trick at the moment is to spend enough time watering and weeding to keep things alive until it rains again.

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August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 011

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But despite my failed Zinnias and a half dozen other misadventures this year, we celebrate those gardening efforts which have worked out well.   Gardening offers a series of second (third and fourth…) chances to ‘get it right.’

Though brutal at times, nature also offers us the opportunity to try, try, again each season; in the continual pursuit of our green and growing dreams.

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August 29, 2015 turtle 020~

Please take a moment to visit Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to enjoy more beautiful gardening successes, captured for a moment in time In A Vase this week.

 

Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase Today: Wildflowers

August 18, 2015 vase 006

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Some might say that I cut a bouquet of weeds for today’s vase.  Others, kinder perhaps, would admire these as wildflowers.  I passed by the roses and Zinnias today to cut these deep golden orange Black Eyed Susans, some wild Ageratum, Poke Weed, a few stems of Basil and Sage, and some Muscadine grape vines grown from seeds.

We found the Black Eyed Susans growing in the edge of the lawn during our first full summer in the garden.  I dug up clumps the following spring and began spreading them around.  We transplant a few clumps each spring now because we love how they shine from mid-August through until frost.

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August 18, 2015 vase 005

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That first summer I noticed the distinctive periwinkle blue fluffy flowers of Ageratum appearing on what I had thought were unchecked weeds in some of our beds.  We were delighted to discover these perennial flowers blooming, unplanned and unplanted, around the garden.  Soon, we discovered these are perennial Conoclinium coelestinum, related to, but different from the annual Ageratum we find as bedding plants each spring.  Also known as ‘Blue Mist Flower,’ this is a native American wildflower.  It self-seeds and can become invasive.  Once you recognize its foliage each spring, it is easy to move, pull, or allow it to grow on through the summer to bloom in the autumn.

Poke Weed, Phytolacca americana, is another native plant which magically appears in the garden.  I first noticed it growing up through the ginger lilies last summer.  Although highly poisonous, its prolific purple black berries, which appear later in the season, attract many songbirds.

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Poke Weed flowering above the ginger lilies, and in front of a Magnolia blooming out of season. So pretty....

Poke Weed flowering above the ginger lilies, and in front of a Magnolia blooming out of season. So pretty….

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We’ve pulled more than we’ve left this year, but we rather like the effect of the flowers and berries poking out above the ginger lily foliage.  This plant commonly appears along the edges of woods, fields, and roads. The birds spread the seeds far and wide, and it can become invasive.  Somehow it called out to me today as I was cutting the golden Susans. And so I added a few stems to the vase.

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August 18, 2015 vase 004

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What is the difference between a flower and a weed?  I believe that is an entirely subjective judgement of the gardener.  It has a lot to do with where a plant happens to be growing, and whether or not you like it there.

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August 11, 2015 storm approach 008

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I just finished a wonderful article in the current issue of Horticulture magazine about lawn gardens, which explores this very topic.  If you haven’t read Horticulture this month, I recommend it.  There is also a very instructive article on native American fruits like Muscadine grapes, Paw Paws and American Persimmons alongside an excellent article on fig culture.  Needless to say, I was hungry by the end of this issue and just had to bake a little treat with some Muscadine grapes we found today at our local farm stand.

The vines in today’s vase grew from the seeds of grapes we ate two summers ago.  I made jam that year, and planted a handful of the seeds in various pots and beds.  The seeds came up and we are enjoying the beautiful grape foliage this summer.  I suspect fruit may still be another year or two away.

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August 18, 2015 vase 007

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You may recognize today’s vase as one of our treasures from local Shelton Glass Works.  We have a long tradition of glass around Jamestown.  You can easily recognize John Shelton’s stunning cobalt blue glass in shops and at art shows around the Williamsburg area.  I’ve paired this little pitcher with a cluster of Aqua Aura quartz and a small statue of Kuan Yin, Buddha of Compassion.  I found both on the West coast this spring.  This dark Kuan Yin reminds me of the black Madonna statues well known in France and Egypt.

I appreciate Cathy’s weekly challenge to fill a vase with beautiful flowers and foliage cut from the garden.  It always interests me to explore what may be available each week and then pull an arrangement together.  It has been a busy stretch here with travel, gardening, and friends.  I was away yesterday and so found time this afternoon. to construct a vase.  I hope you will visit her at Rambling In the Garden to see her gloriously bright vases today.  There is a collection, all in a vintage mood.

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August 5, 2015 butterflies 048

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And what of your garden?  Have you explored, clippers in hand, lately?  Surely there is something beautiful out there ready to come inside to delight you with its fragrance and beauty.

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August 18, 2015 vase 003

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Woodland Gnome 2015  

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These Black Eyed Susans were  growing in the garden when we came here, but we spread the plants around when they emerge each spring.  The clumps spread and also self-seed.

A Bed for Salvias

June 1, 2015 perennial bed 021

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I wanted a bed dedicated primarily to perennial Salvia, and other sun-loving, heat tolerant perennials which appreciate good drainage.

And I didn’t want to dig.

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The bed is located in full sun on sloping land near the bottom of our garden.  Our bamboo forest grows out of the ravine to the left in this photo.  The leaves littering the ground have fallen from the bamboo in our recent hot weather.

The bed is located in full sun on sloping land near the bottom of our garden. Our bamboo forest grows out of the ravine to the left in this photo. The leaves littering the ground have fallen from the bamboo in our recent hot weather.

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I’ve been fantasizing about a bed here for more than a year, but the 12’x12′ enclosed raised bed I drew back in February remains on the legal pad.  I didn’t marshal the necessary resources; beginning with my own energy, to build it.

But I have made a start. 

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May 28, 2015 garden 023

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That is the secret, you know, to all worthwhile accomplishments:  Begin!  Once you begin, things fall into place in delightfully surprising ways.

So I led my partner to the spot, one afternoon a few weeks ago, and explained what I wanted to grow here.  And we agreed on the boundaries (the lawn is his, remember) before heading out to visit our friends at Homestead Garden Center to buy compost and gravel.

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Bamboo tried to poke up into the new bed here.  We break the new growth off at the surface.  Eventually, I'll bring compost down to topdress this entire bed, covering the intruder.

Bamboo tried to poke up into the new bed here. We break the new growth off at the surface. Eventually, I’ll bring more compost down to top dress this entire bed, covering the intruder.

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Now, it is simply not practical to dig on this sharply graded hillside.  Not only do we constantly fight erosion, but this area is laced with hefty bamboo shoots and runners just below the surface.  I realized that the area is too steeply graded to simply lay blocks or timbers to “build” a raised bed.  No hugelkultur here, either, unfortunately.

But there is  an easy and inexpensive way to establish a new planting bed which requires little more than paper and soil…. and time….

After agreeing on the dimension and boundaries of the new perennial bed, my partner marked its edges.  I used the string trimmer to cut back the existing ‘grasses’ to the ground.   We cut open brown paper grocery bags, and laid them within those boundaries to completely cover the existing soil, anchoring them with handfuls of compost as we worked.  There is some overlap, but not a great deal.  I covered the paper grocery bags with several inches of compost, mounding it a little deeper where the first plants were to go.

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May 20, 2015 garden 016~

After the entire bed was covered in compost, and the outer edges of the bed marked with handfuls of pea gravel, I began planting the Salvias and Lavenders I had collected for this bed directly into the compost, on top of the paper.

When using this method, it is especially important to loosen the outer roots on the rootball before planting, to encourage them to grow into the surrounding soil more quickly.

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Two weeks of growth in this bed, taken from the same spot as the previous photo.

Two weeks of growth in this bed, shown  from the same spot as the previous photo.

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The Iris have had the most trouble with this planting method, since they are division, and didn’t have large root systems when they were moved.

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June 1, 2015 perennial bed 011~

Now, you might think this is “extreme gardening.”  Extremely lazy, you’re thinking? 

Don’t worry, I’ve done my time “double digging” beds and borders in previous gardens.  And since then, I’ve learned that it is much smarter to be kind to the soil, and its complex web of life, by disturbing it as little as possible.  Like cats and children, soil will find its own way if we just remember to feed it regularly….

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This  large creamy Marigold is one of my favorite varieties.  The Patton family grow these from seed each year to offer at their Homestead Garden Center near Toano.

This large creamy Marigold is one of my favorite varieties. The Patton family grow these from seed each year to offer at their Homestead Garden Center near Toano.

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The soil is actually pretty good here.  While there is solid clay at the top of the property, there is pretty good loam on this slope.  It is more than sufficient to feed the flowering perennials I intend to grow here.

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June 1, 2015 perennial bed 019

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As the paper decomposes, and earthworms gather beneath it, the paper and compost will be carried deeper into the Earth, mixing  into the existing soil along with the earthworm castings through their life processes.  It is an elegant system, designed by nature millions of years ago.  All I need to do is understand it and work with it.

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June 1, 2015 perennial bed 015

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The toughest time for this scheme is the first month, as the plants begin to grow.  You see, we’ve had a heatwave these last few weeks.  The perennials didn’t really get a chance to sink their roots through the paper and into the Earth below before the weather shifted from gentle spring to full-on summer.   But with a little  watering, and a good rain or two, they are all showing growth.

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May 28, 2015 garden 025

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The bed now holds four varieties of Salvia, including a golden culinary sage; two varieties of Basil; two Lavender plants;  Asclepias incarnata; Rosemary; Coreopsis; Santalina; German re-blooming Iris dug and transplanted from other parts of the garden; and some beautiful cream marigolds.  I selected these plants to attract and feed butterflies and hummingbirds.  All of these varieties remain unattractive to deer, and should not entice them into the garden from the nearby ravine.

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May 20, 2015 garden 017

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This is an extension of the  ‘butterfly and hummingbird garden’ growing further up the slope.

I expect all of these plants to show a lot of growth in June, and this bed should bloom from now until frost in various shades of blues, purples, creams, and gold.

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June 1, 2015 perennial bed 016

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I will re-evaluate its progress this fall to decide whether or not we will move any closer to those grand plans I drew back in the winter.

I have some mail order Gooseberry shrubs growing in pots, which were ordered for the original plan.  They may find a home here, yet.  And the Okra?  There is still time to plant some seeds…. maybe when it rains….

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May 20, the morning after this bed was planted.  The plants have shown good growth in the two weeks they have been adjusting to this new bed.

May 20, the morning after this bed was planted. The plants have shown good growth in the two weeks they have been adjusting to this new bed.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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