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

 

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WPC: Transient

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“The only way to make sense out of change

is to plunge into it, move with it,

and join the dance.”

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Alan W. Watts

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“Nothing endures but change.”

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Heraclitus

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“If a beautiful thing were to remain

beautiful for all eternity, I’d be glad,

but all the same I’d look

at it with a colder eye.

I’d say to myself: You can look

at it any time, it doesn’t have to be today.”

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Hermann Hesse

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“It is in changing that we find purpose.”

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Heraclitus

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Clematis ‘Violet Elizabeth’

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For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Transient

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What to Grow For A Rainy Day?

Colocasia ‘Pink China’

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Have you ever found a list of plants to grow for a rainy day?  Surely there must be such a catalog, somewhere.  There are lists of plants for sun and shade, lists for arid gardens, for rock gardens and for water gardens.  There are lists of plants for attracting butterflies and for repelling deer.  Why not a list of rainy day plants, too?

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Colocasia ‘Tea Cups’

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Their leaves must be thick and waxy; their stems strong enough to take a pounding.  And, of course, they should hold raindrops and show them off like fine jewels.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea

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Rainy day plants need a bit of glow about them.  They should sparkle and shine on the dullest of days.

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Colocasia ‘Tea Cups’

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And they can’t ever turn to a soggy mush when rainy days stretch into rainy weeks.  We are blessed with our share of rainy days in coastal Virginia.

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Caladium

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Some predict that climate change will bring us ever more rain, as warmer air absorbs and carries more moisture from the sea.   That has proven true these past few years, as coastal storms have brought us inches at a time.

Our soil holds it, too, like a soggy sponge.  And we need plants whose roots can luxuriate in this wet abundance.

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Muscadine grapes

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And mostly, we gardeners need some beautiful thing to admire on wet days.  Don’t you agree?

It’s good to walk out into one’s soggy garden and find it all looking fine.   To discover new layers of beauty when a plant is raindrop-clad brings us a little extra happiness.

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Daucus carota, a carrot flower

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Let’s make our own list of Rainy Day Plants.  Let’s consider what stands up well in our extreme summer weather, whatever that might be in our own garden.

For us it’s heat, humidity and rain.  Perhaps your own conditions are a bit different.  Do you have wind?  Drought?  Hail storms?  Floods?

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Crepe Myrtle

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Let’s be open to change.  Let’s plant our gardens to succeed in our current circumstance, whatever that might be.

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We can move beyond that tired old list of what we’ve always done before, and make new choices.

Let’s fill our gardens with beauty and abundance, no matter which way the wind blows, and no matter how many rainy days come our way.

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rose scented geranium, Pelargonium

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Live in moments that consume your heart and mind,

but be distracted by the music from the leaves,

birds, wind, rain, sun and people”

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Val Uchendu

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StrawberryBegonia

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Exploration

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“We need the tonic of wildness…

At the same time that we are earnest to explore

and learn all things, we require

that all things be mysterious and unexplorable,

that land and sea be indefinitely wild,

unsurveyed and unfathomed by us

because unfathomable.

We can never have enough of nature.”

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Henry David Thoreau

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“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life,

but my life was never ordinary.

I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.

Likewise, I never imagined that home

might be something I would miss.”

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Ransom Riggs

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“Nothing is so dangerous

to the progress of the human mind

than to assume that our views of science are ultimate,

that there are no mysteries in nature,

that our triumphs are complete

and that there are no new worlds to conquer.”

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Humphry Davy

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Ordinary exploration begins in the juiciest sort of indecision,

in deliberate, then routine fits of absence of mind…

Exploring requires the cloak of invisibility

bicyclists and walkers take for granted.”

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John R. Stilgoe

 

Fabulous Friday: Lushness

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It is simply fabulous to notice winter’s bare vines and stems suddenly cloaked in soft new leaves.  Emerging leaves look soft and moist; their colors nearly translucent.

These grapevines cover the rails of our porch, and a Clematis grows entwined with them.   Soft and pliable now, these new green vines will harden by summer’s end.

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Even as much of the country still measures their snow in feet, spring melts into summer here in coastal Virginia.  It is fabulously lush and lovely here on this last Friday of April. 

If spring has not yet found your garden, I trust its lush beauty will soon touch you, too.

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Peony with emerging Monarda and rose leaves

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

 

Fabulous Friday: Wisteria

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We pulled into the parking area below VIMS at the Gloucester Point Beach the other evening, just as the sun was setting.  We wanted to see whether that beautiful Heron might still be around, and so I hopped out with my camera to explore the nearby wetland.

I was delighted to discover a huge Wisteria vine in full bloom along the opposite bank.

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The air was fresh and salty.  We could smell the river and hear the bridge singing as vehicles drove across above us.

Otherwise, it was peaceful and silent in this beautiful place, near the beach.

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The bridge which brings us from Yorktown to Gloucester Point

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When we visited last time, leaves were just beginning to emerge.  Thin green blades were emerging among the reeds.  We never even noticed the Wisteria vines in the tangle of vegetation.  What a difference a week makes in April!  Quite suddenly, the cove was ablaze in beautiful flowers.

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We have been enjoying the Wisteria this week.  Wisteria grows wild here.  You’ll find it weaving its way through the trees in neighborhoods, along roadsides, and here beside the York River.   It just grows bigger and better each year, covering vast areas with its tenacious stems and lush green leaves.  The flowers last for a few weeks, and then they are gone until the following year.

Wisteria in bloom is one of the most fabulous sights of spring, and worth sharing with you this Friday.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Evolution Of A Container Garden

April 2, 2017

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It is a rare gardener who doesn’t enjoy designing container gardens.  Whether filling a barrel or a basket, a simple clay pot or a beautiful glazed pot from Asia; we can try out ideas for plant combinations in a perfectly controlled environment.  Whether you are simply filling the pots by your front door, or creating an object of art for the season coming, container gardens give us months of enjoyment.

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November 27, 2016 soon after planting H. ‘Snow Fever’ along with some Viola starts and Creeping Jenny Vine.

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Container gardens made in autumn, for enjoyment during winter and early spring, present special challenges and special opportunities.  Finding plants which will grow and look good from December into March can be a challenge.  Ice, snow, and frigid, drying wind present challenges for most plants.

But the ability to spice up a potted arrangement with spring bulbs presents a challenging opportunity for the gardener to plan in four dimensions. We can look forward in time to how the bulbs will grow into their potential, interacting with the other plants in our arrangement, months into the future.

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November 30, 2016

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Autumn planted container gardens give me particular pleasure.  Planted in late October or November, once summer’s annuals have grown shabby, these arrangements will grow and enliven our comings and goings for the next six months.

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Our beautiful geranium in June, which lasted well into fall and past the first few frosts.

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It was already well into November of 2016 when I finally emptied this large white pot of its geranium.  We enjoyed this particular geranium all summer for its vivid, generous flowers.  After it survived the first frost or two, I moved it to a nursery pot in the garage to hold it over for spring, and re-did this pot which stands permanently on our driveway near the back door.

And I refilled the pot with a beautiful Helleborus cultivar that I spotted for the first time this fall, at a local garden center.  I was intrigued by its variegated leaves, and wanted to watch it grow and bloom close up, in this pot we pass daily.

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Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’ shows intriguing new growth by January 4, 2017.  The Muscari have grown leaves through the moss mulch.

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It was quite small when we purchased it, but its few leaves promised a beautiful display coming.  This cultivar is a Corsican Hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, which is a bit more tender than the Helleborus orientalis we more commonly grow.  Corsican Hellebores generally have white, or green tinged flowers.  These were advertised as creamy white, outlined in rosy pink.

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By late January, we could  see the beginnings of flowers and tender new leaves.

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When I re-worked this pot in November, I removed most of the Creeping Jenny vine, leaving only a little to grow on through the winter.  Creeping Jenny can take a pot with its extensive root system.  I planted some of the little Viola starts I had on hand to provide a little additional interest while waiting for the Hellebore to bloom.

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February 15, 2017

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I had not yet purchased any Grape Hyacinth bulbs, but knew I wanted them in this arrangement, too.  It took me several weeks to finally buy the white Muscari, plant them, and finish the soil surface with moss.

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February 23, 2017, on a rainy day, the flowers have begun to bloom.  Holly berries fall into the pot and need picking out from time to time.

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It was already mid-December by the time the potted arrangement was completed.  The Hellebore, ‘Snow Fever,’ was beginning to show some growth.  In a partially sunny spot, warmed by the drive and the nearby garage, this potted arrangement has shelter from the wind on three sides.  Even so, it has weathered inches of snow, night time temperatures into single digits, ice, and wind.

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By late March, a month later, the Creeping Jenny has grown in and the Muscari have emerged. Grass, embedded in the moss, has grown in, too.

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I am very happy with how the whole arrangement has come together.  I’ve not only come to love this cultivar of Hellebore, but I’ve also learned that this combination of plants looks great together. ( In retrospect, I almost wish I had planted a white Viola rather than the red.  But the red certainly ‘pops!’ against the other colors!)

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April 2, 2017

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I will plan to plant more white  Muscari this fall  around Hellebores out  in the garden.  Moss makes a beautiful ground cover around Hellebores.  And for all of its vigor, Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, works well in winter container gardens.

It began growing quite early and has filled out nicely this spring, in time to compliment the flowers.  Its chartreuse leaves work well with the pale Helleborus’s colors and with the Muscari.  Creeping Jenny remains evergreen when planted out in the garden, and forms an attractive ground cover around perennials and shrubs.

When planning your own container gardens, especially ones to enjoy through the winter, remember that foliage is as important, or maybe even more important, than flowers.

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This H. ‘Snow Fever’ grows elsewhere in the garden, sheltered under tall shrubs. Its new leaves begin almost white, and green up as they grow.

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The foliage in your arrangement will fill your pot for many weeks longer than the more transient flowers.  So try to include a  plant or two with showy, interesting leaves.  Besides Hellebores; Arum italicum, Ajuga, Lysimachia, Heuchera and evergreen ferns do well in our climate.

It is only early April.  This container garden will continue to grow and change until I reclaim the pot for another geranium.  When I do, everything growing here now will be planted out into the garden.  All are perennials, save the Viola, and will grow for years to come.

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When constructing your own container gardens, follow a few simple tips to get the most from the plants you choose:

  1.  Choose a large enough container for all of the roots to grow.  Bulbs produce large root systems.  If you plant a lot of bulbs, the pot will get very congested unless you begin with a large pot.
  2. Choose plants with similar needs for light, moisture and soil PH. Plan for your plants to grow to different heights for an efficient use of space.  Soften the pot’s edges with a vine or other plant which will spill over the side.  Plan for a succession of interest falling on different plants as the season progresses.
  3. Don’t overstuff the pot.  Magazines and books on container gardens often feature mature plants packed in tightly.  If the pot looks ‘finished’ from day one, your plants aren’t left with much room to grow.  The strong will crowd out the weak, and none will grow to their full potential.  Leave room for growth in your designs.
  4. Begin with a good quality potting mix, and stir in additional fertilizer at planting time.  I often re-use at least some of the potting mix from the previous season.  But I stir in Espoma Plant Tone before adding new plants, finish with fresh potting soil, and generally top dress the finished container with a slow release product like Osmocote.
  5. Mulch the top of your finished planting with gravel, moss, or some other mulch.  It keeps the foliage cleaner in heavy rains and helps conserve moisture.
  6. Boost the plants from time to time with an organic liquid feed from a product like Neptune’s Harvest.  Fish and seaweed based products add important trace minerals and help the soil remain biologically active.
  7. Groom plants regularly to remove spent flowers, brown leaves, and any trash which has blown or fallen into the pot from other nearby plants.  Pull small weeds or grass as they sprout from a moss mulch.  If a plant is struggling or dying, don’t hesitate to pull it out.
  8. Place your pots where you will see them daily.  Enjoy their ever changing beauty as they brighten your days.

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    Woodland Gnome 2017

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Sunday Dinner: Foresight

Akebia quinata, Chocolate vine

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“You are here to make a difference,

to either improve the world or worsen it.

And whether or not you consciously choose to,

you will accomplish one or the other.”

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Richelle E. Goodrich

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“No effect occurs without cause,

and no cause occurs without effect.

No unjust action goes without penalty,

and no action or thought flows unnoticed

throughout the universe.”

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Suzy Kassem

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“We cannot live for ourselves alone.

Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads,

and along these sympathetic fibers,

our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”

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Henry Melvill

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“No matter what your spiritual condition is,

no matter where you find yourself in the universe,

your choice is always the same:

to expand your awareness or contract it.”

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Thaddeus Golas

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“…everything has a past. Everything –

a person, an object, a word, everything.

If you don’t know the past,

you can’t understand the present

and plan properly for the future.”

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Chaim Potok

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Signs Of Spring

Iris histrioides

Iris histrioides

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Signs of spring draw us outside, and lead us step by step, path by path, through the garden today.

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Daffodils

Daffodils

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There is a newness to the greens emerging now from the warming, moist soil.  Can you smell the smell of green on the breeze? 

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Vinca minor

Vinca minor

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We won’t bother with labels like leaf or weed, grass, shoot, stem or bud.  It is all welcome on a day such as this.

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Another warm day, that is; with bright sunshine and blue sky and soft breezes setting the Daffodils dancing to some unheard ( by us) spring jig.  But the birds flitting from shrub to shrub surely hear it.  Their chirps and bits of tune harmonize with the wind song in the still bare branches high above the garden.

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We went out to admire the bits of clearing and pruning we’ve completed already, and take stock of what is still needed to welcome spring.

The Vinca has already given soft lavender flowers; new leaves emerge still tightly wound in their buds.  This is the one time of year when I actually like the Vinca vines which threaten to take over every bed we start.

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The one Iris we discovered Saturday afternoon has multiplied, and now stands in company with its sisters.  Their petals almost startling blue, gauche perhaps against winter’s neutrals, but so welcome.

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Blue Iris and soft purple Crocus stand low against the soil, timid almost, to have shown their faces so early in the season.

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Crocus

Crocus

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But cheeky Daffodils open bravely, budding and unfolding  with such speed that we delight in finding new ones each day.  The first of the miniatures appeared yesterday.

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And today I noticed a divided Daffodil bulb exposed to the afternoon sun.  It lay on a steep bank below a shrub, a few of its roots determinedly reaching down into the soil even as leaves and a flower bud emerged from each bulb’s tip.

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How did it get here?  Did it wash out of its bed in heavy rain, or can we thank some curious squirrel for its plight?

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Rep-planted, and ready to grow!

Re-planted, and ready to grow!

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I was simply glad to notice it, and moved it to a more accommodating spot where it can ‘live long and prosper…”… I hope.

We can never have too many Daffodils brightening a February day!

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february-21-2017-bulbs-017

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The seedling  Hellebores I transplanted last spring are blooming now, too.  They hybridize themselves promiscuously, and I’m endlessly fascinated to see the first of their flowers open.

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No named beauty in a catalog is quite as lovely as these debutantes, bred in our own garden.

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I find it deeply satisfying to see their  leaves and buds stretching for the sun, appearing in places I had forgotten I’d planted them.   And today I made mental notes of where to plant a few more seedlings later this week.

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Forsythia flowers are opening, and even the Hydrangea buds have begun to burst and show a hint of green.  Tender new leaves have emerged now on the roses and from woody vines on the trellis.

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What do you think?  Do we trust this early spring?

We moved our Olive and Pomegranate trees back outside this weekend to let them enjoy a bit of fresh air and real sunshine.  I hope, for my back’s sake, that they can stay!

All of the hanging baskets had a holiday on Sunday, out of the garage, and a good deep drink with a bit of  Neptune’s Harvest mixed in.  We opened the garage door to let air and light in to the pot-bound Begonias and Bougainvillea sheltering there.

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A Virginia spring is never a settled thing.  It teases and promises, but never can be trusted until early May, at least.  I’ve spent too many Easter Sunday mornings huddled in a winter coat and shivered through too many April snows, to fully trust an 80 degree February day.

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Creeping Jenny

Creeping Jenny

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We happily use these sweet warm days, opening windows and doors and starting new projects.  But the furnace kicks in again by dusk.  There is no long-term contract signed, yet. 

Still, we will marvel at each emerging bud and fiddlehead, and keep our fingers crossed that March will be gentle with our garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is.

And when you’ve got it, you want—

oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want,

but it just fairly makes your heart ache,

you want it so!”

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Mark Twain

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Woodland Tableau

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Cathy, at  Rambling in the Garden, urges us to bring cut flowers indoors for a vase each Monday.  But instead of filling a vase, I’ve made my foliage arrangement today in small pots.

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My inspiration came from an intriguing photo in the fall 2016 Country Gardens magazine.  In the article, ‘The Splendor of Seedpods;” there is a log centerpiece, covered in moss, small ferns, Rex Begonias and various seedpods.  It is simply stunning. 

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But, copying this arrangement meant finding a partially hollowed out log of the right size for one’s table.  The more I thought about putting a real decaying log in my dining room, and the little bugs which might come with it, the more I searched for another way to accomplish a similar effect.

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Center pot from Mossy Creek pottery in Lincoln City, OR.

Begonia Rex in a hand thrown pot  from Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, OR.

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My version uses a handmade pottery tray as the base.  The  ferns, ivy, and Rex Begonias are all potted, then their pots arranged with small animals, bits of glass and stones.  Moss pulled from the garden finishes each little pot.

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The three main pots are cast clay, shaped to look like stones.  I’ve grown succulents in them most years, but they’ve been empty for the past several months.  They recycled nicely into this arrangement.

The two glazed pots came from Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, Oregon.   The tray was found at a tag sale a few years ago.  But it is a signed original, and I enjoy it very much.

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The classic terra cotta pot has languished in my potting area for several years, awaiting inspiration to find it a new use.  It, and the other pots with drainage holes were lined with a sheet of burlap before I filled them with good potting soil.  Lay a layer of aggregate, like pebbles, in any pots without drainage holes, before adding the plant and its soil.

I’ve chosen two tender ‘Tabletop’ ferns (Pteris species) and a division of a tender Lady fern from one of my hanging baskets.  These little ‘tropicals’ are easy to find at big box stores which sell little houseplants, and the needlepoint ivy and Begonia came from our local Lowes.

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This is a nice, relaxed, woodsy arrangement to carry us through the autumn months.  I can add a few little pumpkins or gourds in the weeks ahead.  All of these plants should grow fine in the low light of our dining room.

If you want to copy this design, be creative with re-purposing things you already have lying around.  I’ve been thinking about this for nearly a week,  collecting the materials and plants before assembling it all this afternoon.  It can be great fun to find new ways to use containers already in ‘the collection.’

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I hope that Cathy will accept this humble aberration from her floral meme.  Eventually, those Begonias will sport blossoms, after all.

But I find great beauty in foliage, too, and appreciate its longevity.  This little arrangement should be alive and growing for many weeks on our dining table.

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Tabletop or brake fern is tender in our climate, but often sold as a 'houseplant..'  These from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, Virginia.

Tabletop or brake fern is tender in our climate, but often sold as a ‘houseplant.’ These from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, Virginia.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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