‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9: Plan Ahead

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 007~

That title could say, ‘Plan ahead for your garden’s worst day’ and it would be even better advice.  I’ve been thinking about this these last few mornings as I stand outside for hours watering and watching our garden respond to weeks of dry heat.

~

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 016

~

We gardeners are curators of a collection of living ever-changing organisms.  In the best conditions, when we get just enough rain and temperatures are mild, we have it easy.  But those days won’t last forever.  And so we must plan ahead for all of the challenges the gardening year brings; including August’s heat and drought.

~

I've been sprinkling seeds of these chives around the garden for the past few years. They are tough and pretty and their aroma discourages grazing animals.

I’ve been sprinkling seeds of these chives around the garden for the past few years. They are tough and pretty and their aroma discourages grazing animals.

~

As change is the constant in our gardens, we plan ahead for the beauties and challenges of each season.  We make sure our garden has ‘good bones’ to offer structure and interest during winter.  We plan for evergreens, architectural structure, perhaps a few interesting perennials with seed heads left standing and a few herbaceous plants which keep going through the worst weeks of winter.

~

Violas bloom for us through most of the winter. They make a nice display from October through May.

Violas bloom for us through most of the winter. They make a nice display from October through May and pair well with potted shrubs and spring bulbs.

~

We plant bulbs and flowering woodies to greet the warmth of spring; perennials to carry us through summer; and those special late perennials and trees with colorful foliage to give us beauty lasting through the first wintry frosts.

Good gardeners are always thinking a few  months ahead to take advantage of the season coming.

~

March 15, 2015 flowers 019

~

But we also think ahead to survive the special hazards of the season coming, too.    And right now, that means having a plan in place to keep the garden hydrated until the rains come again.

It can be so discouraging to watch valued plants wither and droop from too much heat and too little water.  Mulches and drip irrigation certainly help here.  But we don’t all have extensive drip systems in place.  Some of us are carrying hoses and watering cans to the most vulnerable parts of our landscape each day.

In a few short months our weather will shift.  Winter protection for overwintering perennials will be our big concern.  We’ll begin preparing for spring with thoughtful pruning and dividing, and then watch for those late freezes which can catch a gardener unawares.

~

Black Eyed Susans may droop in the heat, but they are survivors. Native plants like these are able to manage without a lot of special care. This patch self-seeds and spreads each season.

Black Eyed Susans may droop in the heat, but they are survivors. Native plants like these are able to manage without a lot of special care. This patch self-seeds and spreads each season.

~

Changing the plant palette in the garden to include tough, hardy, drought tolerant plants helps, too.  Finding plants with deep roots, thick fleshly leaves and a hardy constitution becomes more important with each passing year.  A too-delicate plant allowed to dry out or freeze for even a day may be a total loss.

I’ve been moving pots around quite a bit over these last few weeks, trying to offer more shelter and shade to plants which need it; moving those that succumbed while I was traveling out of sight….

~

Lavender "Goodwin's Creek' and Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' have proven a winning combination in a pot together this summer. They sit in full sun and never show stress from the heat.

Lavender “Goodwin Creek’ and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ have proven a winning combination in a pot together this summer. They sit in full sun and never show stress from the heat.

~

A dedicated gardening friend sometimes reminds me, “There is no right place for an ugly plant.”  I tend to be sentimental and try to coax near-gonners back to health.  He is much more practical about it.  Get rid of that ugly plant and choose something better suited to the actual conditions of the spot!

And that brings us full-circle in this conversation.  Planning ahead also means deciding not to buy those plants we know won’t make it through the season.  It doesn’t matter how much we love the plant.  If the real growing conditions of our garden won’t support a plant long term, why waste the money?

~

This is one tough Begonia, taking a lot of sun and keeping its color well.

This is one tough Begonia, taking a lot of sun and keeping its color well.  It overwintered in our garage and new plants grew quickly from cuttings.

~

As we note which plants grow really well for us, we have to also note those which don’t.  I already know that the Dahlias I planted with such hope look like crap.  Several are already dead or dormant….  Most of the potted Petunias have now fried in the heat.  I cut them back hard, watered, and hope for grace. 

It doesn’t matter whether the problem is the soil, the weather, Japanese beetles, lack of time or lack of skill; let’s be honest with ourselves from the beginning.  Let’s choose more of what works for us and just stop trying to force those plants which won’t.

Let’s plan ahead for success rather than setting ourselves up for disappointment.

~

Many plants in our garden, like these Crepe Myrtles, are self-seeded 'volunteers.' These shrubs are never watered yet look fresh and healthy. There is a self-seeded Beautyberry in the lower right corner which soon will have bright purple berries loved by the birds.

Many plants in our garden, like these Crepe Myrtles, are self-seeded ‘volunteers.’ These shrubs are never watered yet look fresh and healthy. There is a self-seeded native Beautyberry on the right, which soon will have bright purple berries loved by the birds.  Native and naturalized plants are dependable through all sorts of weather extremes.

~

Woodland Gnome’s Caveat:

Planning ahead also means looking for ways to do things better each season.  We should try a few new plants each year.  Let’s remain open to new possibilities both for our plant choices and for cultural practices.  Just because something doesn’t work the first time we try doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve on what we’re doing, and try again.

~

These are the first leaves to open on our new Caladium 'Sweet Carolina' from Classic Caladiums. This is a new 2015 introduction that I am happy to grow out in a gardening trial for this plant in coastal Virginia. So far, I like it! It has gone from dry tuber to leaf in only about 3 weeks.

These are the first leaves to open on our new Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’ from Classic Caladiums. This is a new 2015 introduction, which I am happy to grow out in a gardening trial for new Caladium here in coastal Virginia. So far, I like it! It has gone from dry tuber to leaf in only about 3 weeks.

~

“Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams.

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3 Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

Green Thumb Tip #8:  Observe!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

~

Lantana has proven a winner in our garden. I never shows stress from heat or drought because its roots grow deep. It feeds birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. It pumps out flowers non-stop from April until it is hit by frost. It is one of the most dependable and attractive plants we grow.

Lantana has proven a winner in our garden.  It never shows stress from heat or drought because its roots grow deep. It feeds birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. It pumps out flowers non-stop from April until it is hit by frost.  It rarely has any damage from insects and never is touched by deer or rabbits.  It is one of the most dependable and attractive plants we grow.

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Delicious Attraction

August 23, 2016 pots 020

~

There is nothing like Lantana camara to attract butterflies.  And if we didn’t know that already, we would have  noticed it yesterday while we were visiting at the Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  Homestead still has a large stock of Lantana in several sizes.  Owner Joel Patton always carries a wide selection of varieties, but he concentrates on L. ‘Miss Huff’ and the new ‘Chapel Hill’ introductions known to survive our Williamsburg winters.  These new varieties are hardy to at least Zone 7A.

~

August 23, 2016 pots 024

~

And so Joel was cutting back and potting up Lantana to gallon sized pots yesterday while we visited and watched the many butterflies feeding.  I loaded up  a tray with several L. ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ and L. ‘Evita Orange,’ and a couple of Pentas, also known as butterfly favorites, to fill in some holes in our front garden beds.  I’ve got to tell you, a butterfly flew into the trunk to follow one of those Lantanas and we had to shoo it out before we could leave.

~

August 23, 2016 pots 029

~

We had another gorgeous, cool morning today, and I determined to get the new plants in the ground before the heat returns towards the weekend.  Well, once settling the tray near the bed, I made a second trip to bring up the bag of compost.  And before I could return, our butterflies had found the new little Lantana plants.  They were that eager!

~

Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feed across and 1'-2' high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feet across and 1′-2′ high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

~

And they didn’t mind me a bit.  I suppose ‘the gardener’ has special privileges….  But they just kept right on feeding with me just a foot or two away.  We had mostly Tiger Swallowtails this morning.  There were five or six individuals, including an elusive Zebra Swallowtail which kept a safer distance away.  He watched us from afar as he fed from the nearby Black Eyed Susans.

~

August 23, 2016 pots 023~

Once the Lantana and Penta were planted, a bit of weeding done and  beds dressed in fresh compost; I returned to watering.  I can’t remember when last it rained for more than a few minutes.  The garden is dry now, and my morning ritual goes straight to watering each day before I even think of making coffee.  Hours later, we come in as the mercury climbs to pull together a little brunch.

That said, the butterflies appreciate the water, too.  A lovely Zebra Swallowtail played in the fine spray yesterday morning.  Today a hummingbird showed up nearly as soon as began watering in the new plantings.

~

This Lantana 'Chapel Hill Yellow' was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

This Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

~

There is a mid-sized Afghan fig tree growing in the middle of the bed, and the hummingbird came, as soon as its leaves were wet, to drink from the water now gathered in the cup of the leaf.  The little one actually landed and sat in the leaf for a moment or two, before flying into the edge of the spray.  Well, that must have felt just grand.  He flitted back and forth, pausing now and again, until he was completely refreshed.

If your garden is as dry as mine, and you are looking for ways to help the wildlife there, water a few patches of bare ground until they are well soaked.  You may notice butterflies landing on damp earth and around puddles.  They can drink the water right out of the ground if they need moisture badly.  Birds will come to wet earth, too, finding it easier to dig for insects and worms.

~

This is the first Lantana 'Evita' I've purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I'm not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I've left the tag so I'll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

This is the first Lantana ‘Evita’ I’ve purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I’m not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I’ve left the tag so I’ll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

~

Gardening to support wildlife is all about creating a delicious attraction.  When we provide steady sources of food, water and  shelter in a safe, poison free environment; they will come.  Bees, birds, butterflies, turtles lizards and toads scout out those special places to live.  They can smell when a place is right.  They can see the seeds and flowers waiting for their feasting.

~

This Verbena 'Lollipop' is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath's in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

This Verbena ‘Lollipop’ is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath’s in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

~

Just plant those special plants, like Lantana, Penta, Salvias, Basil and other herbs, Rudbeckia, Verbena, Echinacea,  Hibiscus, Canna, Pelargonium, Petunia, Zingiger  and Fuchsia.  They will attract any butterfly or hummingbird for a long way around.  And then you, too, can enjoy the beauty of these special creatures fluttering through your garden.

~

Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?

Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?  Today I added a few parsley plants with next year’s Swallowtail caterpillars in mind….

~

Woodland Gnome 2016
~

August 23, 2016 pots 026

 

Sunday Dinner: Gratitude

Eastern Swallowtail on Verbena 'Lollipop' at the Heath family's garden in Gloucester.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Verbena ‘Lollipop’ at the Heath family’s garden in Gloucester.

~

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;

they are the charming gardeners

who make our souls blossom.”

.

Marcel Proust

~

June 18, 2016 Gloucester 019

~

“Beauty is not who you are on the outside,

it is the wisdom and time you gave away

to save another struggling soul, like you.”

.

Shannon L. Alder

~

Alliums with Iris, Gloucester, VA

Alliums with Iris, Gloucester, VA

~

“I believe that what we become

depends on what our fathers teach us

at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.

We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

.

Umberto Eco

~

Allium in our Forest Garden

Allium in our Forest Garden

~

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up

trying to pay back the people in this world

who sustain our lives.

In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender

before the miraculous scope of human generosity

and to just keep saying thank you,

forever and sincerely,

for as long as we have voices.”

.

Elizabeth Gilbert

~

June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 012


The rare daylily left ungrazed to bloom in our garden; for which we are most grateful!

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

With love and appreciation to all of those Fathers
who give of themselves so generously
to make this a more beautiful and more loving world for all.

~

June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 017


Zantedeschia aethiopica in our Forest Garden

~

“You pray in your distress and in your need;

would that you might pray also

in the fullness of your joy

and in your days of abundance.”

.

Kahlil Gibran

~

June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 039

 

Sunday Dinner: Growth

March 25, 2016 sunset 003

~

“Your hand opens and closes,

opens and closes.

If it were always a fist

or always stretched open,

you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence

is in every small contracting and expanding,

the two as beautifully balanced

and coordinated as birds’ wings.”

.

Rumi

~

~

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow.

The only way that we can grow is if we change.

The only way that we can change is if we learn.

The only way we can learn is if we are exposed.

And the only way that we can become exposed

is if we throw ourselves out into the open.

Do it. Throw yourself.”

.

C. JoyBell

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 065

~

“An authentic and genuine life grows like a sturdy tree.

And like a tree, it grows slowly.

Every time you make a different and better decision,

it grows a little.

Every time you choose to do the right thing,

even when nobody would find out otherwise,

it grows a little.

Every time you act with compassion,

relinquish your right to strike back,

take a courageous stand,

admit fault or accept responsibility,

it grows a little.”

.

Steve Goodier

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 062

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

~

February 29, 2016 early flowers 078

~

“Whenever you should doubt your self-worth,

remember the lotus flower.

Even though it plunges to life

from beneath the mud,

it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it

to affect its growth or beauty.”

.

Suzy Kassem

WPC: Half-Light

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 014

~

Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing,
Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 025

~

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass.

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 033 ~

Mine is the sunlight,
Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning,
God’s recreation of the new day.

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 043

~

Morning has broken…

.

lyrics by Chris Hazell and  Eleanor Farjeon

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 066

~

 

This beautiful song, performed by Cat Stevens, has been a life-long favorite.  It speaks not only to morning, but also to the morning of the year:  spring.  It is the perfect lyric to accompany these photos taken in our garden today.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

~

Sunset

Sunset

~

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half-Light

“Share a photograph inspired by a favorite poem, verse, story, or song lyric.  See if you can capture the beauty of morning or evening half-light in your corner of the globe.”

~

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 016

 

Wednesday Vignette: Defiant Compassion

College Creek

College Creek

~

“Your Garden is Defiant Compassion

Your garden is a protest. It is a place of defiant compassion.

That space is one to help sustain wildlife and ecosystem function while providing an aesthetic response that moves you.

For you, beauty isn’t petal deep, but goes down into the soil, further down into the aquifer, and back up into the air and for miles around on the backs and legs of insects.

You don’t have to see soil microbes in action, birds eating seeds, butterflies laying eggs, ants farming aphids –

– just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you,

it’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically.

Your garden is a protest

for all the ways in which we deny our life

by denying other lives.

Go plant some natives. Be defiantly compassionate.    “

 

Benjamin Vogt:    The Deep Middle

~

The cardinals feast on Wax Myrtle berries in our 'biohedge' all winter long.

The cardinals feast on Wax Myrtle berries in our ‘biohedge’ all winter long.

~

Benjamin Vogt visited Forest Garden this morning, and left a link to his “Defiant Compassion” post in a comment on my review of Ken Druse’s The Natural Habitat Garden.  Benjamin writes, speaks, designs native plant gardens, and maintains his own 2000 square foot prairie style garden in Nebraska.  I’m honored that he visited Forest Garden and left a comment and link to share his site.

His words move me, as I hope they move you.  He has cut through all of the chatter and spoken truth:

“- just knowing it’s possible in your garden thrills you,

it’s like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically.”

Just knowing that it is possible to help sustain the food chain, the ecosystem, and the planet through our own small efforts on our own bit of land speaks to a powerful realization.  Each of us, through our own consistent choices and efforts may contribute to the great work.  We don’t need 100 acres and conservancy status to make a difference.  We can make a difference even in our small suburban yards.

And even better, when we can enlist the participation of a friend or two, together we have a far greater impact.  This awareness spreads from person to person, heart to heart, and garden to garden.

~

February 16,2016 sunset 022

~

This morning, I finally made the time to visit the National Wildlife Foundation’s website to register our garden as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  This is something I’ve intended to do for months now.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a time consuming project.  It was really very simple, and took less than 10 minutes to complete.

To certify, you need to provide sources of food and water for wildlife, cover, safe areas to raise their young, and a healthy environment.  The website asks specific questions in all of these areas.  When you can certify that your garden provides the resources wildlife need to live, you qualify as an official habitat.

A minimal donation of $20.00  also brings membership in the National Wildlife Federation, its newsletters and magazines.

It is a symbolic step, you realize, but we are very happy to have become a part of this growing movement to support habitat and wildlife.

I intend to encourage my gardening friends, and maybe you, too, to certify your own garden as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.

It shows our commitment.  But it also shows our intent to work together with others to preserve native plants, native habitat, and the myriad creatures who share our gardens with us.  It is too great a task for any  of us to accomplish alone.  But in fellowship with others of like mind, we can make a significant impact.

~ September 4, 2015 garden 018

~

When I finished registering, the National Wildlife Federation kindly sent me a press release which we could forward on to our local newspaper.  Here is part of what it says:

“We are so excited to have another passionate wildlife gardener join us and create a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Over the last 40 years, nearly 200,000 wildlife gardeners have joined NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and helped restore wildlife habitat right in their own yards and neighborhoods,” said David Mizejewski, naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “Whether you garden in a suburban yard, an apartment balcony or a 10-acre farm, a schoolyard or a business park, or anything in between, everyone can create a home for local wildlife.  Turning your space into a Certified Wildlife Habitat is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife,” he added.

NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive. It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discouraging chemical pesticide use. With nearly 200,000 locations and growing, NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitats and Community Wildlife Habitats recognize individuals, schools, groups and whole communities committed to providing habitat for wildlife, including pollinators.

Each of the nearly 200,000 certified locations provides food, water, cover and places to raise young. This makes yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms and other community-based landscapes into wildlife sanctuaries. For more information on gardening for wildlife and details on how an entire community can become certified, visit www.nwf.org/habitat or call 1-800-822-9919.  For more National Wildlife Federation news, visit: www.nwf.org/news.

~

September 30, 2015 Parkway 016

~

Don’t you want to be a part of this, too?  Please leave a comment if you already have a certified Wildlife Habitat.  And please also leave a comment if you decide to certify your yard as a habitat.  The process is structured to be feasible for gardeners in all sorts of living situations.  The Federation’s website offers many helpful resources to get started.

~

July 20, 2015 garden 005

~

Here are some resources from Forest Garden which might prove helpful, too:

Bringing Birds to the Garden

Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens

Native Plants

~

August 29, 2015 turtle 004

~

“Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

.

Henry David Thoreau

~

July 1, 2015

~

“The Holy Land is everywhere”

.

Black Elk

 

~

 

February 16,2016 sunset 055~

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

A “Post Wild World”?

July 27, 2015 Parkway 029

Jamestown Island, July 2015

~

Are we gardening in a ‘Post Wild World’? 

Friends invited me to a gathering of area gardeners today. We enjoyed hearing a presentation by landscape architect and newly published author Thomas Rainer,  who shared his philosophy of garden design while promoting his new bookPlanting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, published by Timber Press this past October.

~

This is one of the many Crepe Myrtle trees growing around our garden.

This is one of the many Crepe Myrtle trees growing around our garden, with the native trees of our ‘forest’ all around it.

~

Yes, urban and suburban development claims ever more of our planet each passing year, with devastating consequences for the environment.  This has been true through my entire life, and probably yours, too.

I jumped on this bandwagon back in the 1970’s, and read any number of excellent books about designing gardens based on nature and using native plants, published by Rodale Press back in the 1980’s.  I internalized these principles long ago.  And still, it pleased me to hear a young landscape architect presenting these well worn principles with a certain freshness and flair.

~

Native Hibiscus fill our garden this week. Deer never touch them, and they bloom for more than a month each summer.

Native Hibiscus fill our garden each summer. Deer never touch them, and they bloom for more than a month.

~

Rainer summarized his concept as integrating ornamental horticulture with greater use of native North American plants.  He showed many examples of integrated plantings of grasses, perennials and woody plants contained within formal landscape frameworks, such as hardscape, hedges, lawns and permeable pathways.  So far, so good.

~

Volunteer Black Eyed Susans have colonized the sunny edge of this clump of Colocasia.

Volunteer Black Eyed Susans have colonized the sunny edge of this clump of Colocasia.

~

With skillful use of photos, Rainer demonstrated to us “The irrepressible spirit of plants.” 

Or, as all true gardeners know, wild plants (including what we label weeds) want to grow, with tenacious enthusiasm, everywhere there is a bare patch of Earth.  We examined diversity of species, layering, inter-cropping, and succession in various wild settings; including his neighbor’s ‘hellstrip’ between his unkempt yard and the street.

~

Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densly matted ground cover.

Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densely matted ground cover; here with Sedum angelina.

~

With much laughter, we also examined photos of various urban and suburban garden installations dotted with puny plants separated by feet of thick mulch.  The point being, that plants tend to grow better in dense communities, as opposed to widely spaced apart in poorly prepared and deeply mulched beds.

~

September 30, 2015 Parkway 079

~

Rainer discussed the relative amount of care required by these plantings, and made his point that much of the lushest growth in nature is actually self-sown and grown in what we would agree are stressful conditions.  Crowding, temperature extremes, dry climate and thin soil don’t deter plants growing in the environment to which they are adapted.

It is when we, as gardeners decide to create a generic planting bed, and plant without regard to a plant’s specific requirements, that the results are less than plush.

~

Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City Oregon

The Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City Oregon, April 2015

~

If you’ve been gardening for more than a few years, you’ve likely experienced these truths yourself; the hard way.

Rainer’s book is lovely and filled with inspiring photos.  You might want to add it to your library, particularly if you are a beginning gardener or one trying to break out of the suburban mold of,  “Wall to wall carpet lawn and meatball shrub foundation plantings.”  It is all in one’s aesthetic and level of ecological awareness, of course.

Many of our neighbors at today’s presentation live in communities with strict rules about which plants one may or may not plant in one’s garden.  Several of our more regulated neighborhoods in Williamsburg enforce the well groomed lawn and evergreen shrub scheme to achieve a look of refined uniformity.  I heard these ladies murmuring to one another from time to time…..

~

Our front garden in mid-April

Our front garden in mid-April

~

And Rainer’s advice on planning ‘layers’ of plants and covering the ground with living ‘green mulch’ to smother weeds was all sound.  He showed numerous examples of working with ground cover plants and colorful native perennials.  I wish he had also mentioned some of the marvelous native shrubs and small trees which add color and  life to the landscape.   These good ‘bones’ give the landscape character while providing food and habitat for the birds and pollinators who animate a native landscape.

Although he showed us a few of his suburban projects, most of Rainer’s work appears to have been designs for public spaces.  He showed us beautiful installations; in city median strips, parks, and around public buildings.  And so when he finished to genuinely enthusiastic applause and invited questions, the trouble began.

~

There is no boundary between the Colonial Parkway, here, and our community.

There is no boundary between the Colonial Parkway, here, and our community.

~

And the trouble began because he was speaking to an embattled group of Williamsburg gardeners who manage gardens amidst the realities of a ‘wild world’, which comes right up to our doorsteps.  We aren’t gardening in a safe and sanitized city.  We garden in the woods, backed up to National Park lands, marshes, rivers, creeks, and open fields full of real wild life.

And like so many newbie ‘experts,’ Rainer wasn’t prepared with the answers his audience needed to translate his theoretical ideas into practical reality.

~

Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia, won't be nibbled by deer.... although they may have eaten some of its flowers last week....

Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia, won’t be nibbled by deer…. although they may have eaten some of its flowers last week….

~

“We have a lot of deer.  Will the plants you’ve described survive deer?” ….. This question, followed by a beat of embarrassed silence, and a generality leaning towards, ‘probably not.’  Rainer sympathized by admitting he had lost a newly planted perennial bed to voles and rabbits colonizing his own Northern Virginia suburban garden.  But he wasn’t prepared to discuss the common plants impervious to deer. 

~

May apples with Vinca cover the ground beneath native trees and shrubs.

May apples with ivy and  Vinca minor cover the ground beneath native trees and shrubs.

~

“We have a lot of trees.  How do we plant these dense plantings of perennials and ground cover under mature trees?”  Rainer’s answer about purchasing plugs and small potted perennials was spot on.  But when he described boring holes with an auger for said plugs, he lost much of his audience.

~

Native Echinacea attracts many pollinators.

Native Echinacea attracts many pollinators in bloom, and birds feast on the seed heads weeks later.

~

He also said little about restoring the ecological balance and supporting birds and pollinator species through plant choices.  Perhaps this message was implied;  but not emphasized nearly enough.

There were lots of nice photos of nectar rich Echinacea, Salvia and Liatris throughout his slides; but not enough discussion of habitat creation and planting for a succession of nectar rich bloom.

~

Herbs mixed with perennials help keep harmful insects, like chiggers and ticks, away from garden beds.

Herbs, mixed with perennials, help keep harmful insects, like chiggers and ticks, away from garden beds.

~

Someone touched on this, but from the ‘dark side.’   Her question was about chiggers, those terrible tiny insects which attack one’s skin beginning here each May.  She wanted to know whether these densely planted, diverse natural plantings would harbor insects.  Well, of course they might.  Chiggers, and ticks, too.

Sadly, Rainer’s best answer was to keep the plantings beds some distance away from the house…..  He never mentioned using herbs to repel insects from our planting beds and from around our homes.  Doesn’t everyone keep a pot of scented Pelargoniums near their porch?

~

This variegated geranium is also worth saving. It has bloomed all summer under tough conditions.

This variegated Pelargonium bloomed all summer under tough conditions.

~

I left unsatisfied, and without an autographed copy of Rainer’s book under my arm.  I suspect I could find much of his message in those good old Rodale Press books I studied when I was young, and still turn to today.

~

October in our garden and the butterflies cover our Lantana.

October in our garden, when the butterflies cover the Lantana.

~

My gardening sister and I went for a coffee after the talk, and realized we had much the same impression of Rainer and his presentation.  She reminisced about the gardens her father planted full of strawberries and flowers, fruit trees and tomatoes.  But that was half a century and half a world away now….

Hers is a family of gardeners.  Her sister is currently installing Xeriscapes for clients in California and working with several schools to manage their teaching gardens.

~

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia 'China Pink' grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia ‘China Pink’ grow in front of our Edgeworthia in partial shade.  Black Eyed Susans will bloom later in the summer.  Here, Creeping Jenny grows in to cover the mulch as foliage from spring bulbs dies back to the ground.  All of these plants are either poisonous or so distasteful, the deer ignore them.

~

She and I commiserate regularly, sharing plants, problems and solutions as we discover them.  We’ve both come to a sort of peace with our own very wild gardens.   Having learned that squirrels are as greedy in stealing our tomatoes as the deer are in munching flower buds, we have found ways to foil both.

~

March 20 2015 fresh 003

~

But unlike Rainer, we’ve also learned that wildlife gardening doesn’t have to attract every wild animal in the neighborhood.  We’ve gotten smarter about what we plant and what we don’t.   We have learned to use poisonous plants to good effect, even to repel voles with Daffodils, Hellebores, and other plants with poisonous roots.  We mix all sorts of Alliums into our pots and beds to discourage inquiring rabbits and deer.

We’ve learned to build slightly raised beds over and around tree roots, and to welcome the many ‘native’ plants already encroaching on our gardens.

Through trial, research, flashes of inspiration and a lot of errors, we’ve been gardening and finding satisfaction in our wild forest gardens.  Nothing is ‘post wild’ here, and no augers on electric drills for us, thank you very much….

~

April 9, 2015 planting 001

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

~

October 17, 2014 light 019

WPC: Weightless

September 6, 2015 garden 016

~

For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weightless

~

September 4, 2015 garden 018

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome

September 2015

~

September 4, 2015 garden 020

~

“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly?”

“It is if you first become a part of nature.

You suppress your presence as a human being,

stay very still, and convince yourself

that you are a tree or grass or a flower.

It takes time,

but once the butterfly lets its guard down,

you can become friends quite naturally.”

.

Haruki Murakami

~

August 15, 2015 Gardens 024

 

 

 

Visitors

October 23, 2015 trees 043

~

Our Salvia leucantha draws many beautiful visitors to its sweet nectar.  Standing near it and just quietly watching the comings and goings of these beautiful insect visitors is both delight and meditation.  The great yogis, like Pantanjali and Naropa, lived high in the Himalayas; far from such delights as this.  How would their teachings have been different , had they lived in a garden instead?

I appreciate this meditation on life in all of its forms, its fragility and strength, and its conscious efforts to survive.

~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~

And I wonder at the invitation inherent in a single plant we consciously include in our garden.  What a great communion of species coming together, to partake of the life-giving powers of  this Salvia.

~

October 22, bees 003

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

~

October 22, bees 002

Bright and Beautiful

Forsythia

Forsythia

~

The garden looks bright and beautiful today with golden October sunshine on our colorful leaves.

~

Dogwood

Dogwood

~

We are still on the early side of the transition here, with many trees still green.  Others have a halo of color along their silhouette, or sport leaves with mottled color.  We enjoy the beautiful transition from green to bold before they brown and blow away.

~October 23, 2015 trees 024

~

We enjoy colorful foliage throughout the season, and select plants for the garden with interesting and colorful leaves.

~

October 23, 2015 trees 031

~

Some of these, like purple sage, will remain unchanged as winter approaches.

~

This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

~

I’ve read several articles this week about winter gardens.  While we don’t have much man made architecture, we enjoy the living sculpture of deciduous trees, hollies, Camellias, and a few conifers.  We have added many shrubs for winter interest in the garden during our short time here, and now many of them have begun to grow into their promise.  Our Hellebores are spreading and we have added many evergreen ferns.

~

Camellias growing through Dogwood

Camellias growing through Dogwood

~

I catch myself imagining what the garden will look like after the frosts cut back the tender growth in a few weeks.  Some of our new Camellias are now covered with buds.  But they are hidden behind Cannas and other leaves at the moment.  It won’t be long until they come back into view, shining in the winter sunshine.

~

October 23, 2015 trees 028

~

Yesterday was Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day.  I’ve been taking photos of our beautiful leaves all week, focusing on the special beauty of our forest garden now, in late October.

~

October 18k, 2015 extraordinary 019

~

We are blessed with many interesting trees and shrubs in our garden.  Most have been here now for decades, but we have planted several dozen more.  We love their foliage, their bark, their flowers, and the shade they give.  We enjoy the variety of birds who visit to eat their berries, feed on insects living in them, and find shelter in their branches.

~

October 18k, 2015 extraordinary 015

~

A friend, who understands my love for trees, gave me an article last night written by an English gardener who has experienced the loss of Ash and other trees to various pests and diseases around  in the English countryside.  She wrote poignantly about how trees give us a sense of place.  They define our familiar landscapes.  They create our beautiful spaces which make us feel ‘at home.’

~

American Holly

American Holly

~

While every tree has a lifespan, most live much longer than do we humans.  We expect the trees of our lives to live on past us.  We know that most mature trees were here long before we were born.  We see them as stalwart and as a fixture of our lives we may depend upon.

It is always a bit shocking when one comes down in a storm or dies of a blight.  It is heartbreaking when wildfires claim them.

~

Leyland Cypress

Leyland Cypress

~

The author spoke about our rapidly changing landscapes, and how our children and grandchildren may grow accustomed to losing trees and forests; seeing meadows developed into shopping centers; and wooded areas cut for subdivisions in a way earlier generations have not.  When we lose our landscape, we lose something of our sense of place, our feeling of familiarity and ‘home.’

Our community in particular, and the east coast of the United States in general, have lost many beautiful old trees in recent years during storms.  A friend lost more than two dozen of her mature trees during a hurricane a few years back.  You could play softball in her front yard now, which once was like an arboretum.  We’ve lost so many trees to storms that many neighbors call in crews to simply cut those trees near their homes, before they can fall on a car or deck, or worse.

~

October 14, 2015 Camellias 026

~

While I understand their fears, I mourn for the lost trees.   And so we plant, and nurture as many of the volunteers as we can allow to grow.

~

Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

~

And each autumn, we celebrate our beautiful trees.  If you have lost trees in recent years, I hope you have planted new ones to replace those you lost.

There are many beautiful choices available now.  Many of the newer trees have disease resistance, improved foliage, and other desirable qualities.  And this is the perfect time to plant new trees across much of the United States.  It is a gesture of love; a gesture of faith, and a gesture of hope for a beautiful future.

~

Our newly planted Magnolia tree will look beautiful next spring.

Our newly planted Magnolia stellata tree will look beautiful next spring.

~

You might enjoy visiting Christina to see her beautiful garden in the Hesperides in its October glory.  She has done quite a bit of renovation this year, and it is lovely now that her new plants have settled in.  You’ll find links to many other beautiful gardens from around the world.  We can draw ideas and inspiration from them all.

~

October 23, 2015 trees 040~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

October 23, 2015 trees 036

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 507 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest