Blossom XXVII: Life

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“You think that it’s not magic that keeps you alive?
Just ‘cause you understand
the mechanics of how something works,
doesn’t make it any less of a miracle.
Which is just another word for magic.
We’re all kept alive by magic, Sookie.
My magic’s just a little different from yours, that’s all.”
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Charlaine Harris
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“To love. To be loved.
To never forget your own insignificance.
To never get used
to the unspeakable violence
and the vulgar disparity of life around you.
To seek joy in the saddest places.
To pursue beauty to its lair.
To never simplify what is complicated
or complicate what is simple.
To respect strength, never power.
Above all, to watch.
To try and understand.
To never look away.
And never, never to forget.”
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Arundhati Roy
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“It means much to have loved,
to have been happy,
to have laid my hand on the living Garden,
even for a day.”
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Jorge Luis Borges
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Asclepias incarnata

Fabulous Friday: What is Beauty?

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We live surrounded by beauty.  But how do you define it?  Everyone has their own idea of what is beautiful, and what is not.

This is a conversation that has been going on for a very, very long time.  We know that people living many thousands of years ago discussed this a lot, and had their own, very definite ideas.

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Anything in any way beautiful
derives its beauty from itself
and asks nothing beyond itself.
Praise is no part of it,
for nothing is made worse or better by praise.
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Marcus Aurelius
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We gardeners generally intend to cultivate beauty through our efforts.  That isn’t to say our gardens are always beautiful, though.   Beauty happens, but there is a lot of cleaning up of the ‘not so beautiful’ too.

And that is the space which interests me: when there might be disagreement as to whether or not something is beautiful.

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Do you find this Eucomis beautiful?  Would you grow it?

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“Everything has beauty,
but not everyone sees it.”
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Confucius
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Most of us find flowers beautiful.

But what about the perfect insects which drink their nectar?  What about the beetles eating their petals?  Can you see their beauty, too?

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Perhaps my perception of beauty is a little skewed, but I find the insects, in their geometric grace and perfection, beautiful.

There is beauty in every leaf, every petal, every stem.  The longer you gaze, the more beauty one absorbs.

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I was so pleased, when I walked through the garden this afternoon, to find these beautiful wasps enjoying our Allium blossoms.  There must have been 20 or more of them, each enjoying the sweet nectar at their feet.  They were peacefully sharing the bounty with bees and other pollinators.

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There are people in my life who would have squealed and backed away at the sight of these busy insects.  But I was too fascinated to fear them, and instead took great joy in making their portraits.  They are interesting visitors, and we rarely see such large, colorful wasps.

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Our garden’s bounty this week includes golden parsley flowers and creamy white carrot flowers, in addition to the Alliums.  There are Echinaceas now, lavender, Coreopsis, Salvias, crepe myrtle, Basil, and more.  All these tiny nectar filled flowers attract plenty of attention from hungry pollinators!

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It’s a feast for our eyes, too.  Sometimes, it is hard to imagine the abundance of our June garden until it returns.

We’re celebrating the solstice this week, and we are surrounded by such beauty here, that it is a true and heartfelt celebration

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I’ve always valued beauty.  To me, beauty can cause happiness, just as food expresses love.  There is beauty in truth, though you can argue that beauty may often be based in illusion.

We could discuss this all evening, couldn’t we? 

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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
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Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Rather than ‘over-think’ it, which may be the antithesis of beauty, let’s just enjoy it.

Let’s simply celebrate this Fabulous Friday, this Beautiful high summer day; and like the bees, drink in as much sweet nectar as our eyes and hearts will hold.

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Caladium ‘Highlighter,’ a new introduction this year. Do you find it beautiful?

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Woodland Gnome 2017

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that will endure
as long as life lasts.”
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Rachel Carson
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Clematis ‘Violet Elizabeth’

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious, Let’s infect one another!

Fabulous Friday: Pollinators

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We love hearing the low hum of bees, feeling their subtle movements, as we move about our garden.  We admire the focused attention they give to each blossom in their relentless search for nectar and honey.

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Butterflies skim above the shrubs, silently landing on one flower, and then another, as they uncurl their straw-like tongues to sip sunwarmed nectar.  They drink intently, their bright wings opening and closing lazily, ready to instantly lift off if startled.

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Our garden hosts hundreds of species.  Some we see, others we never notice.  I’ll always remember the late summer evening we returned home well after dark.  As we pulled into our drive, we were curious about the tiny, glowing animals flying around from flower to flower among our stand of ginger lilies.  They looked like tiny fairies.  We stopped and watched them flit and hover, sip and rest in a beautifully choreographed nocturnal dance.

Finally, I got out of the car and crept closer to see if I could identify these night time pollinators.  They were hummingbirds, enjoying the cool darkness as they gorged on sweet ginger lily nectar.

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Butterfly Ginger Lily

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Gardeners curate their gardens in many ways, for many different purposes.  Depending on where we live, we work within the constraints of our space, our climate, our free time, our environment and maybe even our community’s covenants.  Most of us remain aware of our neighbors, and what they expect to see when they look across the street at our home.

Which may be why so many homeowners maintain large, well kept lawns and neat foundation plantings.  Neighborhoods across the United States strive to ‘keep up appearances’ with neatly clipped front yards.  It seems easiest to plant slow growing evergreen shrubs, a few trees, and then hire a lawn care service to take care of it for us.

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But these neatly maintained lawns and low maintenance shrubs do little to support our pollinators and other wildlife.  They are sterile, and often toxic.  The same chemicals which maintain our lawns pollute the nearby waterways and kill beneficial insects, as well as those we might want to target.  Without insects, birds lose their main source of protein and calcium.

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We curate our garden to attract as many species of birds and pollinators as we can.  We also welcome turtles, lizards, toads, frogs and the occasional snake.  We host rabbits and squirrels, and I know that other mammals, like fox, raccoon and possums roam our community by night.  We listen to owls calling to one another across the ravines.  Sometimes we’ll see a hawk swoop down to catch a vole or mouse.

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We are surrounded by wildlife.  We live in a forest bordering wetlands.  And we make a conscious decision to integrate our lives and our garden into this teeming web of life.  Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies, song birds, and brightly colored wasps bring movement, life and sometimes living poetry to our garden.

We enjoy feeling their presence around us.  We enjoy watching them going about their lives.

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Wherever you live, you can make a decision to do your part to support pollinators and other wildlife, too.  The  more of us engaged in this effort, the more seamless our efforts become.  In other words, our little oasis of safe haven and food for pollinators grows larger as more and more of us wake up, and create habitat in their outdoor spaces, too.

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Here are the main principles to follow.  Each of us will interpret these individually in ways appropriate to our own circumstances:

  1.  Abstain from using toxic chemicals outdoors.  Especially, don’t use any insecticides on individual plants, in the air, or on our lawns.
  2. Allow some area to provide shelter to birds and insects.  This might be a thicket of shrubs, a brush pile, native trees, a bee hive, or even a Mason bee box.
  3. Incorporate native trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses and perennials into your planting to directly provide for the needs of wildlife in your area.  Many birds and insects have symbiotic relationships with native plants of a particular area.  Growing natives attracts and supports more of these species.
  4. Select and allow flowering plants which will produce nectar over the entire season.  If your climate is warm enough, provide nectar year round through your plant selections.  Keep in mind that some of the most beneficial ‘nectar plants,’ like clover and many wildflowers,  might appear as ‘weeds’ to humans.
  5. Provide a dependable source of fresh, clean water.

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Did you notice the repeated use of the word, ‘allow’ in these guidelines?  ‘Allowing’ is an important guiding principle for wildlife gardeners.  We relax a little, and put the needs of the native wildlife ahead of our own preoccupation with neatness and control.

We might allow a few native tree seedlings, self sown, to grow where they appear.  We might allow clover and dandelions to colonize patches of our lawn.  We might allow a stand of native goldenrod to grow in our perennial border among our carefully chosen hybrids.  We might allow vines to sprawl in some part of our landscape, offering food and shelter to many small creatures.

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The more we allow the natural web of life to re-emerge in our curated landscapes, the more diversity we will enjoy.  Insects attract birds.  Birds drop seeds.  Seeds sprout into new plants we hadn’t planned on.  New plants attract more pollinators.  It is a fascinating process to watch unfold.

How to begin?  First, make a commitment to nurture life instead of spreading death.  Stop using poisons and pesticides.

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Once your outdoor space is no longer toxic, plant a few of the most important food source plants for the pollinators you hope to attract. Find suggestions for your region at the Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation.

If  you have the space, begin by planting trees and shrubs.  These will give the most ‘bang for your buck’ because they are long lived and produce many, many flowers on each plant.  Remember, too, that many herbs, even if they aren’t native to your region, provide copious nectar all summer long.

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If you live in an apartment or condo, you might have room for a hanging basket or a few large containers on your porch or balcony.  Include a few nectar rich plants, like Lantana and herbs, in your planting.  Any outdoor space, even roofs, walls and balconies, may be enriched and enlivened with careful plant choices.

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As much as I respect those gardeners who champion native plants, I will never advice another gardener to plant only natives.  I believe a plant’s function, and how well it meets the gardener’s needs, outweighs its provenance.  If we can include some percentage of carefully selected native plants, then we can also choose wisely from the enormous variety of interesting plants on the market today.

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There are many non-native plants available which also provide shelter for birds and insects; nectar rich flowers; and fruit, seeds or berries enjoyed by birds.

Some, like Mahonia aquifolium are native on the West Coast of North America, but not here in Virginia.  They still naturalize here and grow easily, providing winter flowers for pollinators and spring berries for our birds.  Others, like Lantana cultivars, have a species form native in American tropics; but also many interesting hybrids which  grow well  in cooler regions.

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Many Mediterranean herbs provide rich sources of nectar, as do common Asian shrubs, like Pyracantha and Camellia.

And there are wildlife friendly native plants, like poison ivy, that most of us would never allow to naturalize in our own garden.  However environmentally conscious we may want to be, our garden remains our personal space and must bring us comfort and joy.  Gardens are human spaces first; enjoyed, curated and tended by people.

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It adds to our enjoyment of our garden when we invite beauty, in the form of pollinators, into our personal space.  We are like stage managers, tending a safe environment, ready for the music and drama these beautiful creatures always bring to it.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.”

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Thomas Fuller

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Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

Wednesday Vignette: Connected

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“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself,

but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean,

so must I never live my life for itself,

but always in the experience which is going on around me.”

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Albert Schweitzer

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“There is a deep interconnectedness of all life on earth,

from the tiniest organisms,

to the largest ecosystems,

and absolutely between each person.”

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Bryant McGill

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“When we know ourselves to be connected to all others,

acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do. ”

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Rachel Naomi Remen

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“…the Ultimate Truth: nothing exists in the universe

that is separate from anything else.

Everything is intrinsically connected,

irrevocably interdependent,

interactive, interwoven into the fabric of all of life.”

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Neale Donald Walsch

 

 

 

In A Vase on Thursday

October 22, bees 003

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Cutting flowers from the garden is still a very hard thing for me to do.  The bees didn’t help the matter at all as they buzzed around the Mexican Sage I was dropping in a glass of water, as soon as I had cut it.  They were bewildered, and a bit annoyed, that I was taking their favorite flowers.

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October 22, bees 004

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I walked right past the gorgeous Camellias, not wanting to cut their woody stems, which will keep on growing once the flowers drop.

Some will observe that cutting encourages new growth; a moot point in late October.  Others will chime in that frost can take them down at any time, anyway.

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October 22, bees 005

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Whatever the merits of the arguments, I wanted to fill this silver coffee pot with flowers before my guests arrive in a few short hours.  It had grown a bit dusty and tarnished over the summer.

I enjoy the firm deadline an invitation imposes for one to seek out those pesky cobwebs normally ignored; clean out the stacks of catalogs by my chair, and perhaps shine a piece or two of silver.

And to cut flowers….

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October 22, 2015 vase 007~

As usual, I’ve cut things I hope will root in the vase.  There are my two favorite Salvias in bloom this month:  Salvia leucantha and Salvia elegans.  And though only the Pineapple Sage is called elegant in its proper name, I find both to be very elegant in the fall garden.

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October 22, 2015 vase 003

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The Salvia leucantha grow through an Artemisia in the front garden, and so I used a bit as filler.  I like its pale foliage against the silver coffee pot.  There are also a few branches of our African Rose Mallow, Hibiscus acetosella.

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October 22, 2015 vase 004

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Cathy, continues to post her vase each Monday, and I think of her fondly as each Monday comes and goes.  I expect these flowers to still look lovely after the weekend, and perhaps I’ll consider myself a few days early instead of four days late!  Positive thinking is a habit, after all, isn’t it?

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October 22, 2015 vase 001~

Our weather has turned nice again and I’ve been putting a few potted things back outside to enjoy our late October Indian Summer.  We certainly are enjoying these comfortable, sunny days.  And the small creatures in the garden, particularly the bees, celebrate all of the flowers still blooming so beautifully.

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October 22, bees 002

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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October 22, 2015 vase 006

Autumn Lives at Brent and Becky Heath’s Display Gardens

October 15, 2015 Gloucester 016~

We visited Brent and Becky Heath’s gardens at their Bulb Shop in Gloucester, Virginia, today.

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October 15, 2015 Gloucester 020

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Their gardening staff maintain several acres of themed display gardens where one may wander and view thousands of plants growing under various conditions.

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October 15, 2015 Gloucester 047

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Of course the many different bulbs they offer are featured players in these garden designs.  But a rich tapestry of shrubs and trees, annuals and perennials frame the many garden beds.

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And everywhere there is a whimsically light touch to delight the visitor.

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We found an observation hut filled with humming beehives.

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Bees come and go freely at a safe distance from garden visitors.  Worker honeybees collect nectar alongside many other species of bees and small wasps.

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These gardens were composed to support many different pollinators, birds, frogs, toads and fish.  They are vibrantly alive even as autumn pushes summer into memory.

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Vivid Dahlias, Chrysanthemums and Asters dominate many of the beds now.  But the autumn flowering Crinum lilies, Colchicum, and fall blooming Crocus bloom throughout.

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Camellia sasanqua have begun opening as the many Hydrangea cultivars finish for another year.

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Lazily wandering the paths of these gardens, one absorbs a rich education in how plants respond in our climate and in the various microclimates where they’ve been planted.

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One may encounter the same cultivar again and again in different exposures and paired with different companions.

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Many of the catalog offerings are planted up front in long rows, where one may compare them side by side.  This more regimented display is a quick study for gardening newbies selecting one variety or another.

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October 15, 2015 Gloucester 008

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But the quiet display gardens behind the bulb shop draw us ever deeper into their orbit.

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Benches beckon one to sit and watch butterflies lazily drifting from flower to flower.

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The music of flowing water draws one further on to explore elusive paths among the rocks and conifers.  There is always just one more garden to explore, one more mass of blossoms to admire.

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A gardener approached as we were leaving, and named the particular Asters blooming today.

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He told me where to find interesting Salvias next spring.  We discussed the winter coming and shared hopes that tender perennials might survive it.  He knows and loves every inch of these gardens, and is happy to share a bit of what he knows with curious visitors.  We’ve chatted before, and I look forward to learning more from him on future visits.

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Grasses glistened in the afternoon sun.  Bare, berry covered branches stood out vividly against a deeply blue sky.

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Patches of orange and red blazed in the surrounding trees.  Gigantic spiders spin sparkling webs between shrubs.

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The breeze was fresh, and almost cool.

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Winter will have visited before we return.  We plan to come back in early December for Amaryllis just before bulb sales end for another season.

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October 15, 2015 Gloucester 003

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By then the garden will have transformed, yet again.  It may be quieter, in winter, but the woody bones of this special place and the many evergreens will ensure it remains interesting and beautiful.

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We’ll look forward to viewing hardy Cyclamen and perennials which shrug off our cold.

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And there will surely be more gardening lessons to absorb from these special gardens.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Just Hanging On

August 5, 2015 butterflies 034~

The lower garden buzzed with activity this morning as I stood there, camera in hand, taking photos as quickly as the camera would record and refocus.  There were butterflies behind me, all manner of strange looking pollinators moving methodically from flower to flower in front of me, and bees buzzing all around.  I could feel the wind off the wings of a large bumble bee who flew up and around my shoulders inspecting the camera, and me, probably.

Totally aware, the pollinators watch me watch them.  How often has one flown away in the split second between focus and photo?  They can sense when I’m ready to snap the picture.

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Some mind, others don’t mind at all.  Hummingbird moths prove especially patient with my photo shoot, keeping on about their hungry business of visiting each flower.

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In the sun’s mid-day glare it is often impossible to tell where the focus falls, and I snap by instinct.  Only later, working at the computer can I mine the riches and discard the misses!

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But the bees were especially comical today.  They’ve grown fat and heavy by this point in the summer’s feasting; and as they landed on tall, narrow stalks of sage the whole stalk would fall over, with the bee still holding on madly, to sip its fill.

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I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  Many of the photos I snapped had a blur where the bee should be.  Happily, a few are clear enough to share.

I sometimes feel like the bees on these hot, muggy mornings of early August.

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We are just hanging on, waiting now for the cooler wave of autumn weather  to find us.  We are hanging on through the numbing heat, sustained by the sweet nectar of fresh peaches, ripe melons, fat blueberries and crisp cucumbers.

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We are hanging on to the long summer evenings where daylight doesn’t quite fade away until nearly nine, and creatures chirp and sing until past midnight.  We are hanging on to the pleasure of flowers blooming, and the fun of baby lizards flashing their blue tails across the deck in the afternoons.

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August 5, 2015 butterflies 006

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We know to hold on tightly to suck every last drop of pleasure from these last few weeks of summer.

The shelves at Walmart brim with packs of pencils and stacks of clean notebooks.  Back to school supplies now fill the shelves where picnic ware and sunscreen sat just a few weeks ago.

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Change is in the air; but only the first hints of it.  For today, there is still time to stand still in the midst of the butterfly gardens admiring the fine growth of Salvias and mints, Basil and Rudbeckia and all the activity they attract.

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We’re  just hanging on to the pleasure of watching butterflies cruise around from shrub to shrub as a hummingbird dives down into the midst of the bees, hovering just above them for a while and planning his attack.  My partner watched with me this morning, resting in the shade between bouts with the lawnmower.

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He pointed out the hummingbird, and dispatched me after the butterflies he sighted.  The photos then are teamwork today.

They allow us to hang on to the magic of summer mornings in the garden, keeping company with one another, and with the magical and wise creatures who join us there.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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Autumn Flowers

October 15, 2014 garden at dusk 001

 

Our garden remains full of flowers. 

Allysum, planted early in April, has bloomed for seven months now.

Allysum, planted early in April, has bloomed for seven months now.

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Some, like Allysum, have bloomed since we set them out in early April.  Others, like our Camellias, have only just begun their season.

 

These Camellias bloom each autumn, and continue producing buds until early spring.

These Camellias bloom each autumn, and continue producing buds until early spring.  We are at the northern edge of their hardiness zone.

 

I’m grateful to our faithful annuals which have soldiered on, month after month, covering themselves in flowers.  If the weather never shifted, I wonder how long they would go on….

Begonias

Begonias

But we are in that unpredictable  time of transition  from heat to cold.

It was nearly 80 yesterday.  But the nights grow cold.  We’ve already needed to turn the heat on a few times this season.

Our three year old Bouganvillia has waited until this week to begin its season of bloom.

Our three year old Bougainvillea has waited until this week to begin its season of bloom.

 

Frost may come any time now; or it may wait until sometime in December to pay its first call.

Ginger Lily, entering its third month of bloom, will crumple to the ground with the first frost.  This variety is hardy here, and returns each spring.

Ginger Lily, entering its third month of bloom, will crumple to the ground with the first frost. This variety is hardy here, and returns each spring.

 

We’ve prepared the permanent winter shelter for our pots and baskets.  I’ve swept the garage and spread the holding area in plastic tablecloths.

 

Begonia, "Flamingo," grown from a stem stuck in the soil in early summer must come inside by Saturday.  The Caladiums have fallen, and must be lifted if they are to survive.

Begonia, “Flamingo,” grown from a stem stuck in the soil in early summer must come inside by Saturday. The Caladiums have fallen for the season, and must be lifted if they are to survive.

 

New this year is a line of buckets, also sitting on plastic, ready to hold then hanging baskets when I bring them in on Saturday.

The forecast promises night time lows in the 40s by the weekend….

 

Comphrey has bloomed continually now since early spring.  This perennial herb is one of the first to emerge in the spring garden.

Comfrey has bloomed continually now since early April.   This perennial herb is one of the first to emerge in the spring garden.

 

Procrastination stays my hand each time I think to move them all inside.

They grow so beautifully in this Indian summer.

 

Camellia susanqua

Camellia sasanqua

 

I want to wait as long as possible, giving them every sunny day I can.

 

Another of our many potted BEgonias which won't survive the weekend if left outside....

Another of our many potted Begonias which likely won’t survive the weekend if left outside….

 

And now each warm day, each warm night, is acknowledged  as a gift.  Each new blossom savored.  Each bee and butterfly blessed.

 

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Even as the solid green of a Virginia summer gives way to crimson and yellow, brown and orange; we see the daily changes quietly creeping through the garden.

 

Redbud has now turned golden.

Redbud has now turned golden.

 

Autumn rolls into our garden like a great, relentless wave.

 

Pyracantha berries

Pyracantha berries

 

We hear it in the early morning calls of geese and the chatter of flocking starlings.

 

Roots of our Beech

Roots of our Beech

 

We smell it in the wet Earth.

We feel the sharpness of early morning when we first go outside, and see skeletons of trees appearing here and there, leaves blown away in the night.

October 15, 2014 garden at dusk 008

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

Scarlet Mallow

Hibiscus coccineus

Hibiscus coccineus

 

This gorgeous scarlet flower caught my eye today.

It is the first blossom to open on the Scarlet Mallow, Hibiscus coccineus, we purchased at the Williamsburg  Farmer’s Market in May.

The beautiful, deeply cut foliage drew my attention at the market.  Almost lacy, like some Japanese Maple leaves, it appealed to me.

 

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The plant wasn’t even in bud yet, but I knew a native Hibiscus would work in the border. no matter what color the bloom.

So I bought it on impulse and brought it home to the garden.

When the Japanese beetles attacked the Cannas and other Hibiscus, they left this one alone.  It’s quietly grown into its spot without drawing too much attention to itself…. until today!

Wow!  What a huge, elegant flower!

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Native in the deep south, Scarlet Mallow is hardy north to Zone 6b.

It can eventually grow to 8′ high, though it dies back to the ground each winter.  The plant is upright and sturdy.

It prefers wet soil, and will even tolerate flooding.  No chance of flooding where it is planted in our garden, but it is on the downhill portion of a slope and will catch run off in a heavy rain.  Like all Hibiscus, it appreciates full sun.

As a native, this plant will pretty much grow itself.  I’ve given it compost and a little Plant Tone thus far.  The deer have grazed around it, but have left it untouched.

I hope it is self- fertile and the seeds it produces will sprout.  I plan to gather the seeds when they ripen this fall and sow them, hoping for more of these gorgeous plants.

Scarlet Mallow grows near Azalea and Ginger lily.  The Ginger Lily will come into bloom soon with huge white flowers.

Scarlet Mallow grows near Azalea and Ginger lily. The Ginger Lily will come into bloom soon with huge white flowers.

If you’d like to grow Scarlet Mallow in your own garden, it is available at Plant Delights Nursery.

You will likely see more photos of these gorgeous flowers as the season progresses, so I hope you like them.

They inspired me to  look for “red” around the garden, and so here is a bit more of the scarlet found in our garden today.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Hardy HIbiscus

Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

A new butterfly visited the Joe Pye Weed today.  Can anyone identify it for us?

A new butterfly visited the Joe Pye Weed today. Can anyone identify it for us?

 

Texture, like color, presents itself to our eye and fingertips absolutely everywhere we turn in the garden.

Every petal, leaf, trunk and bit of gravel or soil present intriguing textures for us to explore and enjoy.

 

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But so do the creatures who live here with us.

 

A grasshopper "hides out" on Creeping Jenny.

A grasshopper “hides out” on Creeping Jenny.

 

And of all the creatures buzzing and skittering around the garden today, our welcome guest, hummingbird moth,  presented the softest and most inviting texture.

 

Hummingbird Moth feeding on Lantana in the garden this morning.

Hummingbird Moth feeding on Lantana in the garden this morning.

 

Would you love to reach and and stroke its velvety back?

 

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Hummingbird moths are much calmer guests than hummingbirds.

Though their movements from flower to flower are so similiar that many people mistake the moths for the birds; the moths are less skittish around humans with cameras.

 

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This guy allowed me to take perhaps 20 shots over several minutes, asking only the nourishment of Lantana nectar in return.

The hummingbirds who interrupted the photo shoot buzzed in and out before I could focus on them; chasing one another away from these Lantana flowers, and across the roof of our house towards the hummingbird delicacies growing around in the back.

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They are also silky soft; immensely “petable” creatures… but I’ve yet to master the art of hummingbird whispering to draw them to land on a finger.

And so my focus returned to the little hummingbird moth; the insect who masquerades as a bird.

When in doubt, look closely for antennae, compound insect eyes, and clear wings.  This identifies the creature as an insect, not a true bird.

 

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This is the first one we’ve seen this season.

It is unlikely he is alone, so we will keep an eye out for his companions.

This Painted Lady butterfly shared the Lantana with our Hummingbird Moth.

This Painted Lady butterfly shared the Lantana with our Hummingbird Moth.

 

Other visitors sporting interesting textures today included butterflies, dragonflies, a grasshopper, and bees.

 

The first of the lifeless bees we found today rests on a Pelargonium leaf.  Hypertufa stepping stone, made this spring, in the background.

The first of the lifeless bees we found today rests on a Pelargonium leaf.  Glass topped stepping stone, made last winter, in the background.

 

I was especially disturbed to find several lifeless bees, their bodies resting on leaves.

It is most unusual to find a dead bee here in the garden.

It may be another sign of the advancing season.

 

We've been trying for weeks to identify this shrubby "volunteer."  Does anyone know this plant?

We’ve been trying for weeks to identify this shrubby “volunteer.” Does anyone know this plant?  The fruit have been hard and dark purple for weeks.  Now they are swelling and turning red.  What a wonderful pebbly texture to their skin.

 

Just as a few leaves have begun to show gold and red, warning that autumn is coming sooner than we expect; so too the animals begin to respond to the ever turning wheels of time.

 

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon, still in bloom, with a visitor.

 

But our garden was alive for another summer day, animated and  buzzing  with a satisfying array of creatures.

 

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

 

Scaly skinks climbed the walls and window screens of the house.   Shiny blue black wasps played in the grasses.

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Bright red cardinals, and their mates, foraged among the ripening Hickory nuts.

 

Dragonfly has wonderfully intricate texture in his wings.

Dragonfly has wonderfully intricate texture in his wings.

 

And finally, the garden has come alive with several species of butterflies.

 

Painted Lady on Salvia

Painted Lady on Salvia,  with culinary sage with its pebbly texture behind.

 

Noticing the varying textures of all this life is simply another way to appreciate its beauty.

Another way to drink it all in, while August lasts.

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Weekly One Word Photo Challenge: Texture

 

 

Painted Lady on Salvia

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