Nature Challenge Day 7: In Motion

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Everything we know, everything we dream, remains in motion. 

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Never a second of stillness or rest; every particle of our lives from the most distant star to the tiniest electron in our heart, remains dizzily spinning its dance of life.

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And so it is with every bird and fish, every drop of water, and everything green and growing. 

Our only response remains to dance along with life. 

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Some may wish to grasp the moment and hold it still; to stop time, if only for a little while. 

But if we ever succeed, we find that moment opening into a doorway to the deeper layers of life.  We pass through to some wider knowing, some greater vision.  But we remain in motion along the winding path of our being.

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And so we become ‘Lords and Ladies of the Dance,’ flowing along with the worlds we shape. 

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We hear the humming of insects, the crashing of waves, the crack of thunder, the whistling of wind, the call of geese, and a newborn’s cry as echoes of our own voice; the sound of life in motion.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Blogging friend, Y., invited me to join the Seven Day Nature Challenge last Saturday from her new site, In the Zone.  I appreciate the invitation, as it has challenged me to find something to post each day over the last week.  I have enjoyed sharing some of the beauty of a Virginia May with everyone who visits Forest Garden.  And I’ve definitely enjoyed the daily exchange in comments with Y., and everyone else who has left a comment this week.

For this seventh day and last day of the challenge, I’ll invite you again to join in. This challenge has been out there for a while, and many nature photographers have already participated.  If you would like to take up the challenge, please accept in the comments and I’ll link back to you in a follow up post.

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Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Bumblebees

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Eliza Waters is a wonderful advocate for wild creatures of all sorts, but she has a special interest in Monarch butterflies.

We have been corresponding this spring about the plight of the Monarch.  She has been involved in creating habitat for them.  And she responded to the post with photos of a Monarch  we found near Yorktown, Virginia, in late May.

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We found this Monarch on May 23, 2014. There was no sign of Monarchs today, sadly.

Eliza asked, earlier today, whether we had found any eggs or signs of Monarch larvae on the Milkweed by the pond where we have been watching for butterflies.

So my partner and I returned this evening, to see what we might see.

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We found the Milkweed plants just covered in bumblebees, feasting on their tiny flowers just as the flowers were opening.  And the bumblebees were so blissed out on the wonderful nectar, they were totally oblivious to my presence.

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Just inches away, they continued to feed while I took photos.

But in the entire time we explored, there was only one small butterfly or moth.  I don’t know its name, but suspect it is a moth.

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Not a single Monarch to be found.  And at Eliza’s suggestion, I searched for signs of eggs or larvae on the Milkweed plants.

I”m so sorry to say that I couldn’t locate either.  The Milkweed leaves look pristine- no larval munching.  I checked the closest Milkweed plants and found no eggs, either.

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Perhaps the Monarch did lay her eggs on one of these plants closer to the pond; one I didn’t climb down the bank to inspect.  Let us hope that is the case.

And we’ll continue to check back from time to time to see what evidence we may find as the summer unfolds.

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Today we were happy to find a brilliant blue dragonfly.

He was quite happy to sit still while I snapped off several portraits of him.

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He was watching me, but didn’t even flinch until I moved away.  He was a great sport, and I appreciate his patience.

The swans have moved on, too.  But we found Egrets wading further down the road.

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Early summer brings such a pageant of life to our community.

We enjoy the staccato music of the frogs and the basso continuo buzzing of bees under the melody of birds calling to one another.

So much life, and such beauty.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Orange

Alliums grow wild along the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown.

Alliums  and native grasses grow wild along the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown.

Challenge is the operative word this week.

“Jennifer’s Weekly Photo Challenge”  inspires all sorts of weird and wonderful photos.  Everyone who participates may interpret it in their own way, and Jennifer is unfailing gracious to all of us who participate.

I was particularly touched by the lengths to which Jennifer herself went last week to create an interesting photo for Glow In The Dark.

Just a wonderful bit of photo-wizardry.  And I realized that she is putting tremendous effort into the little worlds she creates as her own entries.

Asclepias incarnata just coming into bloom.  Do you think the yellow orange on the bee might count as orange?

Asclepias syriaca just coming into bloom. Do you think the yellow orange on the bee might count as orange?

But I play by my own set of rules for this challenge. 

Since “Forest Garden” is about things green and growing, I prefer to meet Jennifer’s challenge with garden-themed photos.

Dandelions somehow seem a little to yellow to count for orange....

Dandelions somehow seem a little to yellow to count for orange….

And, I prefer to use fresh photos, taken within the last few days.  No stale photos here, thank you very much!

But  June is not a very good time of year for taking photos of  “orange” in the garden.

Had Jennifer offered up her “orange” challenge in October, it would have been simpler.

But here is “orange” in the first week of June, before we even have decent day lilies to photograph!

These wild daisies have "almost orange" centers....

These wild daisies have “almost orange” centers….

So my partner and I went in search of  “orange” this evening.

And we found such wildflowers as one dreams of in January- only in shades of plum and cream, yellow and pink.

White Achillea just coming into bloom among the daisies and purple milk vetch.

White Achillea just coming into bloom among the daisies and purple milk vetch.

I had hoped the Milkweed plants I had seen growing by the pond would be open in beautiful orange blossoms this evening.

But when we arrived, I realized the Asclepias was A. syriaca, not A. tuberosa as I had hoped.

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That means these lovely flowers were pink, not orange.

The Monarchs are happy with either plant.

And so the search continued up and down the Colonial Parkway, and finally into the village at Yorktown.

These lovely lilies grow in someone's yard in the historic area of Yorktown.  I hope they don't mind that I took photos with out first explaining our quest for orange....

These lovely lilies grow in someone’s yard in the historic area of Yorktown. I hope they don’t mind that I took photos with out first explaining our quest for orange….

He spotted the orange Oriental lilies growing in someone’s yard.  I realized that was the closest we would get, and quickly snapped the photo.

Still, it felt a bit like cheating…

On the way back we stopped by Indian Field Creek, where there is a safe place to park beside the York River.

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We had noticed Egrets there on the drive to Yorktown. 

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The Egrets have returned to Williamsburg, and we were delighted to spot several this evening, both flying and wading.

As I turned to leave, finally driven away from the beach by biting flies, there it was.

The perfect photo for Jennifer’s “Orange”  challenge.

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We had been spotting orange highway signs all evening.  And I had refused to photograph them because they aren’t anything to do with gardens or wildlife.

But somehow, this one seemed OK, rising majestically from a sea of lovely Alliums and native grasses, here beside the York River.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Nature’s Way

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Nature’s way brings elements of the natural world together into relationship.

Rarely will you find just one of anything-

Prickly pear cactus growing in a field beside the Colonial Parkway with assorted grasses and Aliums.

Prickly pear cactus growing in a field beside the Colonial Parkway with assorted grasses and Aliums.

It is our human sensibility which wants to bring order from the “chaos” of nature by sorting, classifying, isolating, and perhaps eliminating elements of our environment.

Pickerel weed growing from the mud in a waterway on Jamestown Island.

Pickerel weed, cattails, and grasses  growing from the mud in a waterway on Jamestown Island.

Nature teaches the wisdom of strength through  unity and relationship.

Gardens in medieval Europe were often composed primarily of lawns, shrubs, and trees.

A similiar group of plants growing along the edge of College Creek in James City County, Virginia.

A similiar group of plants growing along the edge of College Creek in James City County, Virginia.

This is still fashionable in American gardens today.  But it is a high maintenance and sterile way to garden.

I won’t bore you with a re-hash of the arguments for and against lawns… but will only say that wildflowers of all sorts find a home in ours.

White clover growing with purple milk vetch and other wild flowers on the bank of a pond along the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown, Virginia.

White clover growing with purple milk vetch and other wild flowers and grasses on the bank of a pond along the Colonial Parkway near Yorktown, Virginia.

And I’m not an advocate of allowing every wild plant to grow where it sprouts, either.  There are some plants which definitely are not welcome in our garden, or are welcome in only certain zones of it.

Wild grapes grow on this Eastern Red Cedar beside College Creek.  Do you see the tiny cluster of grapes which are already growing?  Grapes grow wild in our area, but many pull the vines, considering them weeds.

Wild grapes grow on this Eastern Red Cedar beside College Creek.   Do you see the tiny cluster of grapes which are already growing? Grapes grow wild in our area, but many pull the vines, considering them weeds.

But in general, I prefer allowing plants to grow together in communities, weaving together above and below the soil, and over the expanse of time throughout a gardening year.

Perennial geranium and Vinca cover the ground of this bed of roses.

Perennial geranium and Vinca cover the ground of this bed of roses.  Young ginger lily, white sage, dusty miller, Ageratum, and a Lavender, “Goodwin Creek” share the bed.

A simple example would be interplanting peonies with daffodils.  As the daffodils fade, the peonies are taking center stage.

Another example is allowing Clematis vines to grow through roses; or to plant ivy beneath ferns.

Japanese painted fern

Japanese Painted Fern emerges around spend daffodils.  Columbine, Vinca, apple mint and German Iris complete the bed beneath some large shrubs.

Like little children hugging one another as they play, plants enjoy having company close by.

When you observe nature you will see related plants growing together in some sort of balance.

Honeysuckle and wild blackberries are both important food sources for wildlife.

Honeysuckle and wild blackberries are both important food sources for wildlife.

And you’ll find wild life of all descriptions interacting with the plants as part of the mix.

The blackberries and honeysuckle are scampering over and through a collection of small trees and flowering shrubs on the edge of a wooded area.  All provide shelter to birds.  The aroma of this stand of wildflowers is indescribably sweet.

The blackberries and honeysuckle are scampering over and through a collection of small trees and flowering shrubs on the edge of a wooded area. All provide shelter to birds. The aroma of this stand of wildflowers is indescribably sweet.

When planning your plantings, why not increase the diversity and the complexity of your pot or bed and see what beautiful associations develop?

Herbs filling in our new "stump garden."

Herbs filling in our new “stump garden.”  Alyssum is the lowest growing flower.  Tricolor Sage, Rose Scented Geranium, Violas, White Sage, Iris, and Catmint all blend in this densely planted garden.

Now please don’t think that Woodland Gnome is suggesting that you leave the poison ivy growing in your shrub border.

Although poison ivy is a beautiful vine and valuable to wildlife, our gardens are created for our own health and pleasure.  So we will continue to snip these poisonous vines at the base whenever we find them.

Another view of the "stump garden" planting.  Here African Blue Basil has begun to fill its summer spot.

Another view of the “stump garden” planting. Here African Blue Basil has begun to fill its summer spot in front of Iris and Dusty Miller.

But what about honeysuckle?  Is there a “wild” area where you can allow it to grow through some shrubs?  Can you tolerate wild violets in the lawn?

Honeysuckle blooming on Ligustrum shrubs, now as tall of trees, on one border of our garden.

Honeysuckle blooming on Ligustrum shrubs, now as tall of trees, on one border of our garden.

The fairly well known planting scheme for pots of “thriller, filler, spiller” is based in the idea that plants growing together form a beautiful composition, a community which becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Three varieties of Geranium fill this pot in an area of full sun.  Sedum spills across the front lip of the pot.  A bright Coleus grows along the back edge, and Moonflower vines climb the trellis.

Three varieties of Geranium fill this pot in an area of full sun. Sedum spills across the front lip of the pot. A bright Coleus grows along the back edge, and Moonflower vines climb the trellis.

I like planting several plants in a relatively big pot; allowing room for all to grow, but for them to grow together.

Geraniums, Coleus, Caladium, and Lamium fill this new hypertufa pot.  This photo was taken the same evening the pot was planted.  It will look much better and fuller in a few weeks.

Geraniums, Coleus, Caladium, and Lamium fill this new hypertufa pot. This photo was taken the same evening the pot was planted. It will look much better and fuller in a few weeks.

This is a better way to keep the plants hydrated and the temperature of the soil moderated from extremes of hot and cold, anyway.

But this also works in beds.

Two different Sages, Coreopsis, and Lamb's Ears currently star in this bed, which also holds daffodils, Echinacea, St. John's Wort, and a badly nibbled Camellia shrub.

Two different Sages, Coreopsis, and Lamb’s Ears currently star in this bed, which also holds daffodils, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, and a badly nibbled Camellia shrub.  The Vinca is ubiquitous in our garden, and serves an important function as a ground cover which also blooms from time to time.  The grasses growing along the edge get pulled every few weeks to keep them in control.  

Choose a palette of plants, and then work out a scheme for combining a repetitive pattern of these six or ten plants over and again as you plant the bed.  Include plants of different heights, growth habits, seasons of bloom, colors and textures.

So long as you choose plants with similiar needs for light, moisture, and food this can work in countless variations.

A wild area between a parking lot and College Creek.  Notice the grape vines growing across a young oak tree.  Trees are nature's trellis.  Bamboo has emerged and will fill this area if left alone.  Beautiful yellow Iris and pink Hibiscus and Joe Pye Weed grow in this same area.

A wild area between a parking lot and College Creek. Notice the grape vines growing across a young oak tree. Trees are nature’s trellis. Bamboo has emerged and will fill this area if left alone. Beautiful yellow Iris, Staghorn Sumac,  pink Hibiscus and Joe Pye Weed grow in this same area.

This is Nature’s way, and it can add a new depth of beauty to your garden.

It can also make your gardening easier and more productive.

It is important to observe as the plants grow. 

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If one is getting too aggressive and its neighbors are suffering, then you must separate, prune, or sacrifice one or another of them.

Planting flowers near vegetables brings more pollinating insects, increasing yields.

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Planting garlic or onions among flowers has proven effective in keeping deer and rabbits away from my tasty flowering plants.

Planting deep rooted herbs such as Comfrey, Angelica, and Parsley near other plants brings minerals from deep in the soil to the surface for use by other plants.

Perennial geranium growing here among some Comfrey.

Perennial geranium growing here among some Comfrey.

Use the leaves from these plants in mulch or compost to get the full benefit.

Planting peas and members of the pea family in flower or vegetable beds increases the nitrogen content of the soil where they grow, because their roots fix nitrogen from the air into the soil.

Purple milk vetch is one of the hundreds of members of the pea family.

Purple milk vetch is one of the hundreds of members of the pea family.

Planting Clematis vines among perennials or roses helps the Clematis grow by shading and cooling their roots.

The Clematis will bloom and add interest when the roses or perennials are “taking a rest” later in the season.

Japanese Maple shades a Hosta, "Empress Wu" in the Wubbel's garden at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Japanese Maple shades a Hosta, “Empress Wu” in the Wubbel’s garden at Forest Lane Botanicals.

Just as our human relationships are often based in helping one another, so plants form these relationships, too.

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The more you understand how plants interact with one another, the more productive your garden can become.

It is Nature’s way…

A "volunteer" Japanese Maple grows in a mixed shrub and perennial border in our garden near perennial Hibiscus.

A “volunteer” Japanese Maple grows in a mixed shrub and perennial border in our garden near perennial Hibiscus.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Forest Lane Botanicals

Forest Lane Botanicals display garden.

For A Friend

This tree in Colonial Williamsburg always captures my interest.  A beautiful tree, I haven't yet been able to identify it.  Do you know this tree?

This tree in Colonial Williamsburg always captures my interest. A beautiful tree,  with an unusual branch structure; and I haven’t yet been able to identify it.   Do you know this tree?

This post is for a special friend who moved away from Williamsburg a few years ago, to return, in retirement, to a Zone 10A garden near where she grew up.

She was kind enough to write to me today, and share some memories of times we shared together here in Virginia.

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She followed a link I sent her to Forest Garden, and has been enjoying a window into our Virginia spring through the photos she has found here.

Sheep living in a field at Colonial Williamsburg

Sheep living in a field at Colonial Williamsburg

And so these photos today are especially for Janet, although you are certainly welcome to enjoy them, also.  I am hoping to possibly lure her back for a visit….

Janet is a dedicated gardener, like most of my friends, and she  also holds the gardens of  Colonial Williamsburg in a special place in her heart.

Colonial Williamsburg allows horses to graze in fields near the historic area.

Colonial Williamsburg allows horses to graze in fields near the historic area.

My partner and I enjoyed a brief visit to Colonial Williamsburg earlier this week.

 

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You may enjoy seeing some of the sights we enjoyed.  Perhaps you will visit Williamsburg this summer, too.  If you enjoy natural beauty, history, and wonderful food, you’ll enjoy a visit here.

The flowering shrubs on the opposite shore are Mountain Laurel.

The flowering shrubs on the opposite shore are Mountain Laurel.

Our world here in Virginia looks and feels like summer now. 

A marsh on Jamestown Island.

A marsh on Jamestown Island.

We hit 90 degrees this afternoon, and some little starts still in their nursery pots wilted in the heat.  I came home from a picnic to find them sadly wilted, and gave them a little emergency watering.

Honeysuckle perfumes the air with sweetness.  It grows wild wherever it can get a foothold.  I've been pulling honeysuckle vines out of the fern garden this week.

Honeysuckle perfumes the air with sweetness. It grows wild wherever it can get a foothold. I’ve been pulling honeysuckle vines out of the fern garden this week.

I felt heartless to have been off having fun with friends with these poor little plants neglected and dry.  If tomorrow morning is cool, they will go into the ground first thing.

Wild bloackberries growing with honeysuckle.  In a few weeks, the berries will be ripe and delicious.

Wild blackberries growing with honeysuckle. In a few weeks, the berries will be ripe and delicious.

We are almost at the end of planting season now.  Our heat has arrived, and it is enough to keep everything watered and deadheaded.

Ligustrum shrubs, blooming now in our garden, add to the sweetness of the summer breezes.

Ligustrum shrubs, blooming now in our garden, add to the sweetness of the summer breezes.

Pools are open now,  school is almost over, and we’re in the lull between college commencements and high school graduations.

The air is thick with sweet scents from honeysuckle, Ligustrum, and box.  Oh, what bliss is this for all of us whose blood flows green…

These shrubs grow "like weeds" in our garden; yet their flowers are beautiful.  Our birds love these shrubs where they find food and shelter.

These shrubs grow “like weeds” in our garden; yet their flowers are beautiful. Our birds love these shrubs where they find food and shelter.

The fragrance of early summer always leaves me nostalgic.

It reminds of friends and good times we shared.  And it entices me out of the air conditioning, into the garden, to enjoy the wonder of it all.

Can you spot the bee visiting the purple milk vetch?

Can you spot the bee visiting the purple milk vetch?

Photos by  Woodland Gnome 2014

This summer's grapes have begun to form on the wild grapevines.

This summer’s grapes have begun to form on the wild grapevines.

A Monarch For Memorial Day

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This lovely Monarch was feeding along the Colonial Parkway, near Yorktown, at mid-day today.

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The entire bank of a pond was covered with purple milk vetch, Astragalus; butterfly weed , Asclepias; daisies, and grasses.

A perfect habitat for a Monarch to feed and to lay its eggs welcomed this little one on a perfect, sunny late May day.

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I didn’t see the Monarch at first.  My lens was focused on Mountain Laurels growing on the opposite bank.

And as we were pulling into the parking area, we spotted a family of swans.  You’ll see the swans in another post.

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While I was following them around, my partner, always the keen observer, spotted the Monarch.

He pointed it out as I returned to the car; both of us thrilled to spot a Monarch in an area where it can lay its eggs and expect them to survive to the next generation.

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This pond lies on Federal land.  The sunny bank of wildflowers is part of the narrow National Park, maintained by our National Park Service,  which skirts both sides of the Colonial Parkway.

These gorgeous wildflowers and all of the creatures who live here are protected.

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At one time Virginia, like much of the United States, was covered in wildflowers each spring.  Our rich soil and abundant rain support luxuriant growth.

Where land is regularly mown, many are destroyed before they can flower and set seed.  One of the joys of drives along the Parkway are the many species left alone to grow each year.

The purple flowered Milk Vetch is a member of the pea family.  If you’ve ever grow peas, or sweet pea flowers, you see the resemblance immediately.

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These plant improve the soil by fixing nitrogen, taken in through the stomata on the leaves, in little growths on the roots.  When the plant dies back or is cut, the roots remain to fertilize the soil with extra  nitrogen.

This stand of milkweed ensures the survival of the Monarchs as it is their preferred host plant.

All of these plants feed insects now, and later birds will eat their seeds.

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Wildflowers hold the soil against erosion, cleanse the air of pollution, and add to the beauty of this spot along the Parkway.

How much richer we all would be if more government and private land were allowed to bloom in wildflowers each year.  How much better for species like the Monarch, who rely on spots like this for their very survival.

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Although the adults will enjoy nectar from many flowers, the larval caterpillars eat milkweed leaves.

These will bloom in a few more days, adding to the beauty here and providing food for butterflies and other nectar loving insects.

 

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”

Native American Saying

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”
Native American Proverb – See more at: http://www.famousquotesabout.com/on/Wildflower#sthash.jLEHvugU.dpuf
“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”
Native American Proverb – See more at: http://www.famousquotesabout.com/on/Wildflower#sthash.jLEHvugU.dpuf

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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