Sunday Dinner: Seeing What There Is to See


“Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book
which ever is before our eyes –
– I mean the universe –
– but we cannot understand it
if we do not first learn the language
and grasp the symbols in which it is written.
The book is written in mathematical language,
and the symbols are triangles,
circles and other geometrical figures,
without whose help it is impossible to comprehend
a single word of it;
without which one wanders in vain
through a dark labyrinth.”
Galileo Galilei



“In the various arts,
and above all in that of writing,
the shortest distance between two points,
even if close to each other,
has never been and never will be,
nor is it now, what is known as a straight line,
never, never, to put it strongly
and emphatically in response to any doubts,
to silence them once and for all.”
Jose Saramago



“His way had therefore come full circle,
or rather had taken the form of an ellipse or a spiral,
following as ever no straight unbroken line,
for the rectilinear belongs only to Geometry
and not to Nature and Life.”
Hermann Hesse,
“The brain does not own any direct copies
of stuff in the world.
There is no library of forms and ideas
against which to compare the images of perception.
Information is stored in a plastic way,
allowing fantastic juxtapositions and leaps of imagination.
Some chaos exists out there,
and the brain seems to have more flexibility
than classical physics
in finding the order in it.”
James Gleick



“Give me a place to stand,
a lever long enough and a fulcrum.
and I can move the Earth”



“The pits and tangles are more
than blemishes distorting the classic shapes
of Euclidian geometry.
They are often the keys
to the essence of a thing”
James Gleick



“Maths is at only one remove from magic.”
Neel Burton



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019
“That’s the thing about magic;
you’ve got to know it’s still here,
all around us,
or it just stays invisible for you.”
Charles de Lint



Sunday Dinner: Generosity

Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Gold’

“We need to spread more seeds
and fill this Planet with love
to be surrounded by flowers just everywhere!
It starts by simply opening up
our hearts and hands to one another.
It’s in simple things
where true Happiness may flourish.”
Ana Claudia Antunes
“Generosity is the most natural outward expression
of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”
Dalai Lama XIV

Pearl Crescent butterfly on Zinnia

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
Kahlil Gibran

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on butterfly bush

“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures.
The more he gives to others,
the more he has for his own.”
Lao Tzu
“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
Photos by Woodland Gnome
at The Williamsburg Botanical Garden

Enjoy the 4th Annual Butterfly Festival and Plant Sale 

August 4 & 5  free admission
“Silence the angry man with love.
Silence the ill-natured man with kindness.
Silence the miser with generosity.
Silence the liar with truth.”
Gautama Buddha

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana


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August is slowly, steadily, sliding into September.


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Summer sun still bakes the beach,

and the garden ,

at mid-day;



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Nights whisper in

Cool breezes.


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Frog and cricket song

Start a little earlier each evening;


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Birds greet the sunrise a little later each day.


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Dew gilded mornings feel fresh;

Clear blue skies deepening  to sapphire.


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Energy of beginnings :

Renewed interest –


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Reawakened purpose –

Opportunities taken-

Journeys begun.


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Berries swell and ripen.


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A season’s efforts almost complete.


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Greens soften into plum,


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crimson, gold, magenta,

nutty brown.


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Paring down.


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Discarding the extraneous,

The exhausted, the empty husks of yesterday.


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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


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Lavender Lovers

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When Jennifer issued her One Word Photo Challenge: Lavender this morning, I headed out between showers to capture a few photos of our lavender flowers in the garden.

We have been admiring the lavender Rose of Sharon from the living room windows.


Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

In fact the hummingbirds have been hovering near them them all morning between the showers, and we enjoy watching them come and go.

But I suspected there might be other lavender flowers blooming this morning, if only I’d go out and notice them.

Chocolate mint in bloom

Chocolate mint in bloom

How does one draw a firm line between what is lavender and what is blue or pink?

There are so many shades, and all shine differently depending on the light.

Salvia nemerosa with Artemesia

Salvia nemerosa with Artemesia


Soon I was straying off the patio and into the wet grass, following the trail of lavender flowers through the garden.

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And despite the wet, overcast weather, the garden was still buzzing with hungry creatures flying from flower to flower.

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Perhaps moving a bit more slowly today, they seemed not to mind  me closing in with the camera to capture their portraits.

I wonder how these flowers appear to our bees, and to our dragonflies.

Bumblebee on Joe Pye Weed

Bumblebee on Joe Pye Weed


Do their compound eyes see these colors even more intensely than ours?

Can they see flowers in ways we can only dream them?

A butterfly shares the Joe Pye Weed blossoms with the bee.

A moth shares the Joe Pye Weed blossoms with the bee.

What must it be like to spend one’s entire lifetime in pursuit of flowers, and the sweet nectar and pollen they hold?  Might bees, like whales and dolphins, have a level of intelligence in advance of our own?

We have learned much about bees, and their language of dance, in recent years.  

Now scientists have learned they can be trained, even more quickly than dogs, to sniff out certain odors.

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New technologies are in development which use trained bees to sniff out drugs and other substances.  It is all quite amazing to realize that bees can communicate with us in so many ways.

The low hum of their contented buzzing filled our garden this morning, much like the hum of a cat’s purr.

Hearing from friends across the country that bees are scarce in some gardens this summer, we feel special appreciation for the bees who choose to visit ours.


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Another vital link in the web of life which brings food to our own table, we  appreciate the lives of bees;

and all of the other small creatures who spend their lives in pursuit of nectar, moving from flower to flower in the garden.



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

One Word Photo Challenge: Lavender… Forest Garden

More One Word Photo Challenge: Lavender photos


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

A “Dirty Hands” Garden Club

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii"

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii”


I would love to join  a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club;
One whose members know more about fertilizers
Than they do about wines…


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A gift of Glads, from a sister gardener…


I’d want our meetings spent wandering through nurseries,
Learning from  expert gardeners,
Or building community gardens…


Bumblebee on Lantana

Bumblebee on Lantana



Not frittered away in chit chat over hors d’oeuvres .



Bumblebee on Basil

Bumblebee on Basil


And all of us would be at least a little expert in something,
Glad to share what we’ve learned;


Tiger Swallowtail on Echinacea

Tiger Swallowtail on Echinacea


And we all would love putting our hands in the dirt
To help something grow.



Eastern Redbud Tree seedpods

Eastern Redbud Tree seedpods


My club would collect species, not dues;
Re-build ecosystems rather than plant ivy and  box.


Blue dragonfly on Lantana

Blue dragonfly on Lantana


We “dirty hands” gardeners can band together
In spirit, if not in four walls.
We can share plants and insights,
Instigate, propagate, and appreciate;


Rooted Begonia cutting

Rooted Begonia cutting resting on a bowl of Pitcherplants


Perhaps we can even help rehabilitate 
Some sterile lawn somewhere
Into something which nurtures beauty
And feeds souls….


A gift of Siberian Iris, from Barbara, growing in a new section of the garden.

A gift of Siberian Iris, from Barbara, growing in a new section of the garden.


Others can judge flowers,
Decorate homes at Christmas
And organize tours.
These things are needed, too.


Native Hibiscus

Native Hibiscus


(But I would rather be out in the garden;
Where cardinals preside over the morning meeting,
And  hummingbirds are our special guests for the day.
The daily agenda ranges from watering to transplanting;
From pruning to watching for turtles and dragonflies.)


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We  wear our muddy shoes and well worn gloves with pride,
Our spades and pruners always close at hand.


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We converse with Nature,
And re-build the web strand by strand,
Plant by plant.


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If this invitation speaks to you,
Perhaps we can work together,
From wherever we might find ourselves
Around the globe.

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We can each put our hands in the dirt
and create a garden,


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Nurture Beauty,
And restore health and vitality to our Earth, together.


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Does a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club
Appeal to you?


Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


After Arthur

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It was a long night with a Category II hurricane blowing up the coast.

From a tropical depression just a day or so ago, this storm quickly bulked up into a strong hurricane.

It came ashore across some of our favorite areas on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the dark hours of early morning.

We watched the storm’s progress until nearly midnight, and then gave up and went to bed.


This great Blue Heron greeted us as we entered the Colonial Parkway after the storm had passed this morning.

This Great Blue Heron greeted us as we entered the Colonial Parkway, after the storm had passed this morning.


It grazed my beloved Topsail Island, and was headed to our special spots on Ocracoke and Hatteras as we watched the cast of the Weather Channel struggle against the strong wind and rain describing its progress in painful detail.

This “Arthur” was touching friends and family all across the Carolinas.  We hoped its touch would be as gentle as possible.

The Jamestown ferry navigated a very choppy James River on it route across to Surry County this morning.

The Jamestown ferry navigated a very choppy James River on it route across from Surry County this morning.

We knew that Route 12, where we’ve spent many happy hours driving through the wildlife refuge and photographing the shore birds, would be wrecked by morning.


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We love the coast of North Carolina and Virgina. 

A hurricane on this special holiday weekend is the last thing we wanted to watch; and yet we watched the unfolding, hoping it would weaken and turn away from the coast.


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I awakened a little before three AM to the sound of wind in the garden and rain on the roof.

I had to know the progress of the storm and the updated forecast.  So as quietly as possible, I headed back to the TV, pillow in hand.

Our local meteorologists were broadcasting the story all night long.

Their reporters stood in the weather giving updates, alongside crews from The Weather Channel and other networks.


The path to the beach was wet this morning.

The path to the beach was wet this morning.

At three I heard of a possible tornado on the Lynnhaven Inlet at Virginia Beach. 

The warnings were extending northwards.  I watched and worked my counted cross stitch for the next hour, until it was clear the storm had begun to move out to sea.

Then to the couch for a little sleep.


Though the sky is mostly clear, the wind has been with us all day.

Though the sky is mostly clear, the wind has been with us all day.  The sky was full of Eagles over the Colonial Parkway this morning.

I checked in again at five, and saw that somehow Jim Cantore was still standing in Buxton.

We had assumed that his producers were planning a Coast Guard rescue by helicopter, once that part of the island completely over-washed in the waves.

That would make really good TV, and could be re-played by the Weather Channel cast for years to come.

But, alas, he had found a steel and concrete structure and was braced against it, barely able to stand, ankle deep in sea water; but still giving live commentary as the storm rolled past.

An Osprey Eagle greeting the morning, after the storm had passed.

An Osprey Eagle greeting the morning, after the storm had passed.

By a quarter to six, the forecast track clearly showed the storm turning out to sea.

We were getting our much needed rain, and I still could  hear the wind blowing through the trees.  But the tornado warnings were gone.

I decided to get some more sleep.

The Canada geese had come together in large flocks along the banks of the river to ride out the storm.

The Canada geese had come together in large flocks along the banks of the river to ride out the storm.

By the time I awoke again a little after seven, it was light outside. A gorgeous morning here with light rain and cool, moist breezes greeted us.

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We decided to head out to the Parkway to see what the morning held, and what the storm had left behind.

This beautiful Eastern Box Turtle was bravng the quiet morning on Jamestown Island.

This beautiful Eastern Box Turtle was braving the quiet morning on Jamestown Island.

A few branches had blown down, but we were so very fortunate to have no  real damage.

Our power was on, there was no flooding near us, and the trees in our community stood through the night.

And this snake was sunning himself along the road on the island.

And this snake was sunning himself along the road on the island.

We saw the outermost curved band of “Arthur” in the sky as we left our driveway.

The duck blind, in the shelter of Cypress trees, withstood the winds overnight.

The duck blind, in the shelter of Cypress trees, withstood the winds overnight.

It was a thin skim of clouds against the clearing morning sky.

Crabs live in our brackish marshes.  They didn't mind the storm at all.

Crabs live in our brackish marshes. They didn’t mind the storm at all.

The wind is still with us this afternoon. 

The storm continues moving north and east, towards another landfall in New England.

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I hope all touched by the storm can pick up the pieces, clean up the mess, and move on from this.


This golden dragonfly lives in our garden.

This golden dragonfly lives in our garden.  We are glad to see he found shelter from the wind, and was out enjoying the sunshine by the time we returned home.

It is only the first  named storm of the tropical season. 

We’ll be watching our coastal waters from now until the end of November, hoping that all of the systems which form stay well out to sea, and far away from our beautiful coasts and our loved ones.


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast

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Contrast– The art of bringing unlike things together

with an intent to heighten the appreciation of each element.

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Contrast is an essential principle of good design, whether we are cooking a meal, decorating a room, building  a life, or constructing a garden.

We enjoy sweet with salty; creamy with bitter… 


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We bring disparate elements together in fresh ways so the element of surprise wakes us up, invites us to see what might otherwise be overlooked.

Contrast jars us into thinking, sometimes.   It invites us to make choices; to see the relative values of things.


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Our garden is one of sharp contrast:  We move from cool shade to bright sun in  a single step.

We have areas of dense growth and areas of lawn.  Areas carefully curated, and areas sown by nature.


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Skillful contrast helps us frame  the view to tell our story.


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“Happiness ain’t a thing in itself;

it’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.

And so, as soon as the novelty is over

and the force of the contrast dulled,

it ain’t happiness any longer,

and you have to get something fresh.”


Mark Twain


Weekly Photo Challenge:  Contrast


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Where’s Waldo? At Forest Lane Botanicals

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Assorted Sarracenia species available at Forest Lane Botanicals. Can you find the dragonfly in the photo?

Do you remember the Where’s Waldo books?

My daughter and I enjoyed them when she was just learning to read.

We would page through the drawings, competing with one another to find “Waldo” before the other one could.

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A friend came with my partner and me to visit at Forest Lane Botanicals today.

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We enjoyed the company of a beautiful blue dragonfly as we admired Alan and Wendy’s Pitcher Plant collection.

Have you found the dragonfly in the photos yet ?  (The dragonfly appears in the first, second and fourth photos.  It may be in the third one, and I just haven’t noticed it …)

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We could also hear the frogs, but never spotted them today, sadly.  We found a few tadpoles darting around the partially submerged pots, and heard a tell-tale “splash” as we drew near.



Mostly we enjoyed Alan’s guidance to the garden, and the sheer pleasure of wandering around discovering one beautiful plant after another.

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We especially enjoyed the many varieties of Hosta and fern in the garden.  We can grow the ferns, but our attempts at Hosta are usually “grazed short” by our visiting deer.

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We are always inspired with new ideas as we explore what Alan and Wendy Wubbels have done with their shade garden.

We left with pots of new treasures to grow and share. 

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I with a Saxifraga stolonifera, Strawberry Begonia or Strawberry Geranium- (both common names are used) and my friend with a pot of beautiful Selaginella, or Spikemoss.

Salginella, Spikemoss


Both will grow in the cool shade in beds beneath mature trees in our gardens.

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Readers in Eastern Virginia who have not yet  visited Forest Lane Botanicals nursery will be delighted once you find them.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  I believe this is an unusual cultivar known as "Ocean's Fury" and introduced in 2007.  This is a hardy deciduous fern.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  This is an unusual cultivar known as “Applecourt  Crested” according to Wendy Wubbels. This is a hardy deciduous fern.

A gardening friend told me about Alan and Wendy’s nursery last summer, but it took us nearly a year to make our first visit.

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We are so glad we did.  Now we enjoy watching the gardens evolve as spring turns to summer.

There is always something new to notice and enjoy.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

All photos were take at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia

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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Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

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