Pot Shots: A Pop of Color

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A grouping of simple hypertufa troughs have rested here, forming the edges of a raised bed, since 2014.  I made the troughs for this purpose, and planted them that first year almost entirely in Caladiums.  A dogwood tree grows from the center of this very shady bed planted mostly with ferns and Hellebores.

Wanting year round interest with a minimum of effort, I’ve added hardy Begonia grandis, evergreen Saxifraga stolonifera, additional seedling Hellebores and various ferns in and around the pots over the seasons since.  Vinca minor and ivy volunteered themselves as groundcovers.  I have tried establishing moss around the pots, but haven’t met as much success with that as I would like.

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There isn’t much space left to add summer Caladiums anymore, especially as the ferns have filled out and the Saxifraga and Begonias continue to spread themselves around.  But I still tuck in a Caladium tuber or two each spring.  This is easiest to do as the Caladium just begins to grow, before its roots grow too large for the hole I can dig in these shallow pots.

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This is one of my favorite spots in the garden year round, now, and we will enjoy the intense pop of color the Caladium ‘Burning Heart’ offers with its intense red leaves.  I like how it plays off of the new Begonia leaves and the stipes of these ferns.

When growing over a period of years in shallow pots, it is important to feed the soil and keep it hydrated for best plant performance.  I top off these pots with some compost with the changing seasons, sprinkle in some Osmocote ever few months, and water occasionally with fish and seaweed emulsion in the mix.

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These pots on May 3, before I groomed and topped them off for the season, and before it was warm enough to plant out any Caladiums.  Dogwood petals fell like snow after several days of wind and rain.

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This composition of leafy plants holds my interest without a lot of bright flowers.  That said, we enjoy the Hellebores from January through May.

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Saxifraga stolonifera blooms this week in another shady fern bed. These perennials send out runners, and a new plant grows at the tip of each runner. The plants root when they touch moist earth. They can fill in a large area fairly quickly and bloom by their second year.

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The Saxifraga is blooming this month, and tiny pink Begonia flowers will emerge by midsummer.

The flowers here may be subtle, but the foliage in this bed really pops!

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Weathered: A Forest Garden

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You may wonder why we leave this old, weathered, decaying stump as a centerpiece in our garden.

It was a living tree as recently as June 2013, when it was broken a dozen feet above the ground in a thunderstorm.   A double oak tree, growing nearby, was hit with a gust of wind and blew over completely, taking this tree and a companion dogwood tree with it on its way down.

What a mess it all made! 

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A freak June thunderstorm spawned waterspouts from the creek, which felled three great oak trees from our forest.

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Many more trees and established shrubs were also broken and crushed by the sheer weight of the trees.  This was such a sudden blow to our woodland garden, that it took us a while to get over the shock of it all.

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As we cleaned up over the next week, we decided to keep a portion of the stump of this beloved old oak as a reminder of the tree.  We asked our tree guys to cut what was left of the tree several feet above the ground, leaving a taller than usual stump.

I covered the exposed cut in hypertufa and tried to transform it into a bit of folk art as well as a useful pedestal for potted plants.

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A forest garden must continually recycle itself.  The trees’ leaves and branches were mulched and left in place on the newly exposed forest floor.  The roots and trunk of the double oak were buried in place.  We kept as much of the trees as we reasonably could to nurture the garden.

We collected all of the odd bits of branch and bark left behind by our tree guys, and used them to build a Hugelkulture bed around this stump.  We called it ‘the stump garden’ and began all of our gardening efforts to re-plant this entire area from this one bed.

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That was nearly five years ago, now.  While our vision of this remaining stump might have been as a bit of garden art, the creatures here saw it differently.  It didn’t take long for the stump to become a wildlife condo.

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We’ve seen skinks skittering around beneath the remaining bark in summer’s heat.  Squirrels explore it, pushing back on the loose bark, and beetles and other insects find shelter here.  Birds visit this spot to search for insects, and there is cool shade for toads.

At first, most of the bark was left intact.  There was a scar on the side that I patched with hypertufa.  With each passing year the remaining bark pulls away a little more and falls to the bed below.  Virginia Creeper climbs the stump each summer, though I prune it back from the pot.

Finally, this autumn, I’ve planted our large blue pot atop the stump with a vigorous English ivy.  I’ll let it grow on and eventually re-clothe the stump.

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Yes, it is weathered now, and ragged.  You might glance askance and think to yourself, ‘What an eyesore…’ 

I”m sure you wouldn’t say such a thing, but you might wonder why we leave the stump in its disheveled state.

There is beauty of form, and their is beauty of function.  Sometimes, the two can be as one.  We see the stump as useful and as beneficial to the web of life in our forest garden.  It may not please the eye anymore, but it is still a thing of beauty.

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Woodland gardeners are wise to leave fallen trees and branches, fallen cones and pine tags, and all of the other accumulated detrius of a forest in place, as much as possible.  These by products of trees form an important component of woodland soil.

As they slowly decay, they feed billions of microorganisms which keep the soil fertile.  They shelter insects, which feed birds, which keep the woodland animated and fill it with song.  They prevent erosion, cool the roots of growing plants and balance the PH of the soil.

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An ancient mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, renews itself  in our garden.  I dump our chopped up leaves around these shrubs during spring clean up to feed the soil and keep their roots cool.

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Mosses and fungi grow on decaying wood.  Small animals find shelter around stumps and branches.

Now, we don’t leave every fallen branch where it lands.  We gather them and use them elsewhere on the property.  We didn’t leave the fallen oaks where they landed, either.  But we re-used what we could of their canopy, ground up and spread as thick mulch.

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We have been rewarded for this effort with a lush re-growth on the forest floor.  The raw wood chips created an environment where seeds for new trees could sprout.  We have at least 15 new native holly trees growing now that are more than a foot high, with many more seedlings coming along.

Can we let them all grow?  Maybe, maybe not.  We have to decide for each seedling, as these little hollies can eventually grow into prodigious, full sized trees.

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Native holly, dogwood, magnolia, cedar, buckeye and blueberry have sprung up from seeds lying dormant on the forest floor.

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We also have newly sprouted dogwoods to replace those lost, and some self-sown Magnolia seedlings coming along.  There is Eastern red cedar, and a huge crop of volunteer native blueberry shrubs that have grown in as a wildlife friendly ground cover.  I didn’t purchase or plant any of these.  There are always little oak seedlings coming along, and choices must be made whether to let them grow or to prune them out.

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Our land wants to be a forest.  When our trees fell, allowing the sunshine back in, it hastened new growth of seeds which may have lain dormant in the soil for many years.  Now, all of those little plants are racing with one another, and with those we’ve planted, to see who gets the sun.

We can prune and pull and plant and try to sort it all out somehow, but that is only a temporary aberration from the garden’s eventual course.

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We found many stumps, when we first came to the garden, from where a previous gardener cut some of the greatest trees.  He wanted light for his fruit trees, and safety for the house.  Some of those stumps are decaying now back into the earth, but a few re-sprouted with new limbs.

He is long gone, as one day we will be, too. Other gardeners will come here and will either disturb the land for their own schemes, or will let the forest continue to fill the garden.

A forest weathers over time, but that time is long; longer than the awareness of any one human.  And we are wise to find the beauty and the wisdom of its ways, and to work in harmony with the land.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Sentinels of trees
breathe life into bodies of earthly flesh
As their mighty arms reach to the stars
we join in their quest for Helios’s mighty power
Like sentinels, we seek our place
in the forest of nature’s gentle breath”
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Ramon Ravenswood

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For the Daily Post’s:

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Weathered

For more about allowing  forests to regenerate and managing a woodland garden, please read:

Shade Haven

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As June fades towards July, we appreciate every speck of shade our garden offers.  Summer days in Virginia routinely heat up to over 90F.  And it’s a moist heat, here near the coast.  Some days we have nearly 100% humidity.

When I was growing up in Virginia, we somehow survived it, often without any air conditioning.  The first few schools where I taught didn’t have air conditioning, either.  Maybe that is why I love the shade and know the value of a cool breeze on a summer day.

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Japanese painted fern’s silvery fronds make it especially cooling on a sultry summer day.

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The lowest slope at the back of our garden enjoys a lot of shade.  It is steep, and erosion remains a concern.  This is one of the first areas where we began planting ferns in our first year of tending this garden.  A dense stand of bamboo grows just beyond, where our garden falls off into the ravine.

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Ferns emerging on our sloped fern garden in early April

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I add a few more ferns and shade-loving plants to this area each year.  I began a new planting bed around the stump of a newly fallen tree, at the base of the slope, several years ago.  It began with a transplanted Hellebore seedling and some  little autumn ferns, planted into a mound of compost poured in and around the stump.  Well, they  survived into the next year, and so I made the circle of compost a little wider and added a few more plants.

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Autumn Brilliance ferns planted are  in Leaf Grow Soil conditioner packed around a small stump, for the beginnings of a new garden in the shade.   June 2013

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I’ve added a few more plants each year, including some Sauromatum venosum, or  Voodoo Lily tubers, in 2015.

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I thought I might have ruined this ‘Voodoo Lily’ tuber when my spade hit it early this spring. Rather, it is better. Instead of one or two stems, it has sent up many, producing a much better plant.  July 2016

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We finally decided this spring to extend this whole area and give it a proper border.  This was very early on when I was studying rain gardens, and thinking about places on our property where we needed to do more to catch and use run-off from storms.

This shady slope has fairly good soil, but is ridden with roots.  So I simply outlined the new dimensions of the bed, laid an outline of landscaping bricks, and set to work eliminating the existing  weedy growth.

Some of the weeds, near existing perennials, needed pulling.  Some areas where moss was well established, I wanted to simply leave alone.  But much of the new garden could be covered with brown paper grocery bags, and topped off with a few inches of compost.  This is the best method I’ve found for creating new planting beds in this garden.

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I chose a selection of ferns and shade loving perennials to harmonize with the ferns, Hellebores, and voodoo lily already growing here.  Although I’ve planted mostly hardy ferns, there are a few more tender ferns that I potted up last fall, and returned to this bed after danger of frost.  Others are planted into containers and  displayed in this area.

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Bamboo leaves drift down on every breeze.  I clear them, occasionally, off of the larger plants in this bed.  One day, when I’ve nothing else to do, I plan to grab our leaf blower and blow all of the bamboo leaves away from the garden and back towards the ravine.  I’m sure the moss establishing here would be better for it, and so would my character.  How I admire fastidious gardeners!  Perhaps one day I’ll join their ranks….

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Ken Druse has written a delightful book entirely about gardening in shade.

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His The New Shade Garden is one of those beautiful books I lusted after for more than a year, before I finally ordered it this past winter.  The luscious photos and useful information and encouragement on every page left me wondering why I waited so long to read it.  This book is a treasure, and I highly recommend it to you if you share my affinity for finding cool haven in the shade.  You’ll find whole chapters devoted to shade loving trees, shrubs, perennials and ferns; along with useful lists and recommendations for plants for particular situations.

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All we need now, to complete this beautiful shade haven in our back garden, is a little patio and a place to sit.  That may still be a few years off, though.  Somehow I’m always more interested in plants than hardscape, and rarely find time to just sit in the garden.

There is always more to do…. something waiting for me to plant….

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Iris

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“Hope is a rainbow of thought.”

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Harley King

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“To find the rainbow and life’s incredible beauties,

learn to play with adversity.”

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Debasish Mridha

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“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

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Maya Angelou

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“If it rains during sunshine,

don’t worry; you’ll see your rainbow.”

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Vikrmn

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“Pointing to another world

will never stop vice among us;

shedding light over this world can alone help us.”

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Walt Whitman

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“Love, I’m pretty sure, is light.”

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Jan Zwicky

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Iris was the personification of the rainbow in Greek mythology, as well as messenger of the gods along with Hermes. She was also known as the goddess of the sea and the sky.  It was said that she traveled on the rainbow while carrying divine messages to the mortals.”

from Greekmythology.com

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Love Offering

July 3, 2016 wet garden 026

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The day I began this ‘Forest Garden Blog‘ we were still a bit in shock.  Our front garden was filled with three fallen oak trees.

Chainsaws whined hour after hour, cutting them apart into smaller bits, drowned out only by the grinder pulverizing piece after piece of our beloved trees.  Heavy orange earth movers made trip after trip into the yard, completely obliterating the little sapling Mountain Laurel shrubs we’d planted the year before.  But who could possibly see them under the tons of branches and leaves fallen in an instant during a summer thunderstorm?

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July 8, 2016 sky 009

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It was late afternoon when it happened.  A sudden thunderstorm had blown up off the James River and it was raining hard.  Bright white lightening flashed, thunder clapped and the wind blew sheets of rain across the yard.

I stood at the window, trying to understand the changed landscape before me.  It took some time for me to make sense of the towering walls of wet red clay and mangled roots risen in front of us, blocking our view of the upper garden.

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June 13 storm damaged trees 001

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While we counted ourselves blessed that the trees went down away from our home and cars, we were not quite sure what to do about our trees now filling, and blocking, the street in front of us; lying neatly in the opening of our neighbors’ driveway.

The storm was still thundering around us as we inspected the damage.  Neighbors showed up with chainsaws, rakes and offers of help.  An arborist, checking on a nearby customer, saw our distress and pitched in to help clear the street.  Help was there that evening when we needed it most, and each day following, until the clean up was handled.

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June 13 storm damaged trees 004

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But the garden left behind was shockingly different.  The hot summer sun beat down where once we enjoyed deep shade.  Deer happily explored the new breaches in the fence, discovering full access to the garden we’d worked so hard to cultivate.  In all, five trees were completely gone and many more left severely damaged.  Shrubs were shattered, our light post crushed, the drive caked in mud, and everywhere lay browning leaves, small branches, and pulverized bits of our beloved trees.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 014

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This was the second time oaks had fallen in our garden in our four years in this home, leaving some portions forever changed.  I was feeling very edgy the day “Forest Garden” was born; at loose ends to do something constructive inside, away from the mess; away from the crews of strangers wielding chainsaws in my garden.

And so I sat before the computer and began this blog.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 018

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My purpose was mainly to reach out.  I wanted to connect with other gardeners, and hopefully share a little of what I had learned with others who felt as frustrated gardening in a forest, filled with unplanned surprises, as I was feeling.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 017

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I had this list of plants I’d been compiling for a few years already, and I wanted  to publish it for others whose yards are grazed by ever-hungry deer.  Friends and I had been keeping records of what the deer didn’t eat, and I hoped someone else might find that useful.

And I wrote about what it means to me to garden in this historic place near Jamestown Virginia, in woods once belonging to the great chiefs of the Algonquian nation.

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July 20, 2016 sky 005

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I used this blog as a ladder to help myself climb back up from sadness and self-pity over what we had lost, and were losing, that June of 2013; towards something brighter and stronger and more useful than I was feeling in that moment.  And eventually I used ‘Forest Garden’ to help define my own philosophy and style of gardening.

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July 20, 2014 hummingbird 006

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And never once did I entertain any thought of trying to turn a profit from it. 

Now please understand, I’m a child of the 60’s, coming into this world along with the early Peace Corps and Beatle Mania. I was born in the era of man’s first flights into outer space.  Maybe if I’d been born in the age of Reagan or the Bushes I’d have a different outlook on things.

But the work I do on this blog I do for myself, primarily.  And I’m happy if what I write is helpful to others; but I do it in a spirit of sharing, not of seeking profit.  You may think I’m hopelessly naive.

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July 8, 2016 sky 010

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‘Real’ artists and writers expect to profit from their work.  Photos sell for hundreds of dollars.  Maybe I need to wise up, and publish an e-book rather than publishing each day, freely, on the world-wide-web.   But I get the greatest feeling of warmth and connection when I see comments left by fellow gardeners and seekers. 

I love to respond to others facing similar challenges and thinking similar thoughts in England or Australia, Brussels or Massachusetts,  Oregon or Florida, Indonesia or on an island in the Mediterranean Sea.  I take great pleasure in watching others’ gardens grow through the photos they publish, and finding new ideas in their experiences.  That is priceless experience to me, and I would never risk alienating my fellow bloggers by suggesting they should donate to support this joyful work I do.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 070

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Do you see this differently?  If you have a blog of your own, have you considered asking for financial support?  How do you feel when you see a ‘donate’ button on someone’s blog?

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 071

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Perhaps if I truly needed to ask for financial support I’d see this question through a different lens.  But I am blessed, and have achieved a stage in life more focused on giving to others than on ‘earning my keep.’  And every photo that I take and prepare for publication is an act of love, a meditation on the beauty of the world around us.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 076

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I am deeply grateful for our garden, for the creatures who share it with us, for the changing seasons and the endless opportunities to learn.

I am deeply grateful to the staff of WordPress for this online platform, and for the technology which makes it possible to share thoughts and photos with the world each day.  And I am grateful to have the time, the energy, and the ability to make a little contribution to the online conversation.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 027

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I hope that everyone who visits ‘Forest Garden’ feels enriched in some way by that experience.   I am ‘enriched’ through the process, too.  And that is all I need to keep going with this blogging adventure.

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August 13, 2016 morning garden 050

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It has been a little more than three years now since the day our oak trees fell in a summer storm.  In that time, I’ve published well over a thousand posts, returning to the writing that was once such an important part of my life.  I’ve had motivation to read and study, to experiment and observe.

I’ve found great joy through photography, maybe gotten a little better at it; and I’ve discovered scores of ‘expert’ bloggers ready to help me learn about any subject I can think of.  All I need do is search them out and click freely through their many pages of instruction, insight and advice.

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July 27, 2016 morning garden 006

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That is the magic of this ‘blogosphere’ we love.  It is inspiring.  It is always fresh and new.  It offers endless opportunities to learn and to explore.  It harnesses human creativity in so many novel and uplifting ways.  And it is free.  It costs nothing but time, once we have the technology to access the world wide web.

I sincerely hope our blogging community remains a non-commercial exchange of ideas and a not-for-profit love offering to humanity.  If it can, then we have found a way to elevate human society; to evolve a more peaceful and interconnected community which benefits us all.

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August 10, 2016 River at dusk 013

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Sunday Dinner

March 20, 2016 spring flowers 013

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“Today expect something good to happen to you

no matter what occurred yesterday.

Realize the past no longer holds you captive.

It can only continue to hurt you

if you hold on to it.

Let the past go.

A simply abundant world awaits.”


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Sarah Ban Breathnach

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March 20, 2016 spring flowers 017

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“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”


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Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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March 20, 2016 spring flowers 005

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“Excellence is the Result of Caring

more than others think is Wise,

Risking more than others think is Safe,

Dreaming more than others think

is Practical, and Expecting more

than others think is Possible.”


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Ronnie Oldham

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March 20, 2016 spring flowers 020

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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March 20, 2016 spring flowers 031

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“Our brightest blazes of gladness

are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”

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Samuel Johnson

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March 20, 2016 spring flowers 004

 

Mix It Up

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

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Yesterday evening I eavesdropped on a conversation in another garden blogger’s comments about the use of annuals and hanging baskets.

I was interested to hear the reasons why some gardeners don’t want to grow flowery annuals.  Most cited the time consuming commitment to water, deadhead, fertilize and prune the plants.

The term ‘color bombs’ was used by one observant gardener.

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Petunias

Petunias

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Another cited the resources wasted to cultivate annuals, and the expense of replacing them each season.

Everything they observed is true. 

And yes, many commercially available annual hanging baskets are sometimes constructed with little attention to color scheme.  They are mass produced for a particular market.

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June 24, 2015 garden 022

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But I still like many annuals.  Several springs ago, I was given one of these ‘color bomb’ annual combinations as a birthday gift.

Keeping my nose in check, I accepted it with the love with which it was given, and transferred the plants out of their plastic nursery pot and into a 12″ hanging basket.  I hung it out on our  deck among our other baskets and waited to see what would happen.

Well, from a meager beginning, those plants took off and bloomed their hearts out all summer.  They got lots of traffic from our bees, too.  I was actually a little sad when frost crushed most of the flowers.  A Verbena like vining plant, with lovely lavender flowers, actually survived nearly until winter.

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Ajuga and Sedum, perennials, with tender perennial scented Pelargonium.

Ajuga and Sedum, perennials, with tender perennial scented Pelargonium.

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I never begrudge a little sprinkle of Osmocote or sip of fish emulsion during the growing season.  A small price to pay for lovely flowers.  We’re blessed to live in an area without water shortages and abundant summer rains.  Summer flowers remain an affordable luxury.

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Rose scented Pelargonium.

Rose scented Pelargonium.

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Beyond the economics and the aesthetics, though, I sense a more subtle issue.

At some point many of us gardeners want something different.  We want to branch out beyond the commonplace/easy to find and grow plants, to something a bit more unusual and, maybe, a bit more esoteric.

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June 25, 2015 orbs 025

Native pitcher plants

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I find myself walking past rows of flats, nose somewhat elevated maybe, searching for that one particular genus or cultivar.

A quick, dismissive glance at the orange and brown Marigolds or the red Vinca and I’m moving on, in search of something else.  I ignore perfectly pretty pots of yellow daylily plants in pursuit of that special Coleus or particular fern.

But it’s not that Marigolds themselves are a problem.  When creamy white ones finally showed up at the garden center, I bought half a dozen.   I’ve added a few soft lavender Vinca plants amongst some herbs.

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Coleus

Coleus

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I’ll buy purple Basil or Thai Basil, but rarely the standard green cultivars.  I search out unusual leaves, odd flowers, and glorious texture, when collecting plants for our garden.  I enjoy variegated foliage and sumptuously scented flowers.

We can weave beautiful living tapestries of color and form in our gardens.  But this often means seeking out a broader palette of plants than the common summer annuals offered each spring.

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June 20, 2015 garden 081

Purple Opal Basil

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The individual plants may not even be that spectacular.  It is the effect they create as they grow together with their companions in the pot or bed.

It is the wonderful effect perennials create as they establish and spread; eating up garden space in their exuberance.  One mass against another, with subtle contrasts of color and shape create the garden magic.  I believe this was the point of this “Wednesday Vignettes” post, and I heartily agree.

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June 24, 2015 garden 008~

Beauty is where we choose to notice it.  Each of us has a unique aesthetic.  Our ideal of what is beautiful may contrast sharply with another’s, and that is just fine.  We plant our gardens for our own purposes and for our own pleasure.

While some of my friends enjoy their lawn and shrubs in shades of green, I plant outrageously bright Cannas and Hibiscus.  Some may walk past my garden and shudder to themselves at the exuberance.

Clouds of cat mint billow from my beds this week, punctuated with bright Gladiolius blossoms, a living gift from a dear friend.

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July 1, 2015 garden at dusk 023

Colocasia with Cannas

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And, on the back deck, visible only to those friends invited inside; grow my hanging baskets of annual Petunia and Geraniums.  There are Fuschias, too; and a vivid red flowered Begonia I was given at Mother’s Day.

Color bombs all, we stand and admire them every single day. 

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My Mother's Day Begonia

My Mother’s Day Begonia

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Our little hummers dart from one to the next sipping their warm nectar.  Butterflies stop by the potted Basil, we listen for the tell-tale hum of visiting bees.

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July 2, 2015 garden 002

Catmint in the stump garden attracts these beautiful bees.

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I still mix it up, when planting for the season.  I’m in pursuit of that magical combination of beauty and form, fragrance, utility and magnetic attraction to every butterfly and hummingbird in the county.

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July 2, 2015 garden 007~

Woodland Gnome 2015

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Autumn 'Brilliance' fern with Hellebores

Autumn ‘Brilliance’ fern with Hellebores

 

 

 

 

Another Weird, Wonderful and Poisonous Plant

Sauromatum venosum, just planted last night.

Sauromatum venosum, just planted last night.

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Yes, we’ve brought home another weird, wonderful and poisonous plant.

Its name says it all:  Sauromatum venosum.  Get it?  Venosum?

It is also called “Voodoo Lily” because it begins to grow, as if by some strange magic, without water or soil.

That is how we found it, actually.  It wasn’t on my shopping list per se…

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A second of the several tubers we purchased, planted about 18" away from the first.

A second of the several tubers we purchased, planted about 18″ away from the first.

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But as we were browsing the summer flowering bulbs offered in Brent and Becky Heath’s bulb shop yesterday, there they were:  the already growing flowers of Voodoo Lily reaching out of their bin for our ankles.

They put me in mind of cats reaching through the bars of their little cages at the animal shelter, vying for attention and maybe a new home….

How could I ignore them?  Some of these flowers were already more than 18″ long, poking out of the holes in their little red mesh bags.  Phototropic, they were reaching for the light.  They were ALIVE!

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This was the only barely growing tuber of the lot... which is how I missed planting it last night.  It went into the lower fern garden this morning.

This was the only barely growing tuber of the lot… which is how I missed planting it last night.   It went into the lower fern garden this morning.

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Actually, some weird plantophiles (much like yours truly) will buy these Voodoo Lily tubers and simply set them, dry, on a shelf to watch them grow.  They will grow happily for weeks on the energy stored in their tuber.  Eventually, one must plant them up, of course.  Which is what I did with these poor little guys last night.

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See?  Not a hint of a root...

See? Not a hint of a root…  Like a Caladium, this is a tuber, not a true bulb.

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Keep in mind they’ve been growing in a bin of bulbs on the floor.  One mustn’t expect too much yet in terms in statuesque form.  The flowers will grow several feet high, open, release a putrescently musky scent for a few days, and then die back.  The scent is to attract the right insects for pollination, of course.

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April 9, 2015 planting 018

This flower stalk is only just getting started. It will grow to several feet high before dying back to the ground. Leaves will follow in early summer.

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Once the flowers have died back, one or more leaf stalks emerge and add a lovely tropical note to the garden for the remainder of the season.  Native to Africa, Sauromatum venosum remain hardy from Zone 7 south.  They will spread by tuber and by seed indefinitely.  Phototropic, they will reach for the light if grown in too much shade.

I hope that as these little guys get established and sink some roots into our garden soil, the flower stalks will lift themselves and continue growing towards the sun.  Plants will do amazing things, given the opportunity.

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Plant the tuber 2" to 3" in good, moist soil in bright partial shade.  Keep moist.  I've heard these guys stay hungry, and grow better with occasional meals of compost.

Plant the tuber 2″ to 3″ in good, moist soil in bright partial shade. Keep moist. I’ve heard these guys stay hungry, and grow better with occasional meals of compost.

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Whether the flowers right themselves or not, the leaves will still emerge properly by early summer and offer some interesting foliage in the garden for several months.  They will die back with the fall frost, but the tuber can remain in the garden, mulched, over winter.

So we’ve covered ‘weird’ and we’ve covered ‘wonderful.’  Why poisonous?

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Yes, another stump garden.  I've been planting around the stump of a peach tree we lost in 2010.  That is a Hellebore to the right, also poisonous.  A deciduous fern will emerge soon, and the 'Voodoo Lily' will complete the set.  I'll add compost and extend this garden outwards bit by bit as the plants fill in.

Yes, another stump garden. I’ve been planting around the stump of a peach tree we lost in 2010. That is a Hellebore to the right, also poisonous. A deciduous fern will emerge soon, and the ‘Voodoo Lily’ will complete the set. I’ll add compost and extend this garden outwards bit by bit as the plants fill in.  The decaying stump retains moisture and feeds the plants as it and the tree’s roots decompose.

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Poisonous plants don’t get eaten by miscreant deer who sneak into our garden for dinner. 

I’m becoming something of an aficionado on poisonous plants.  For more on this, you might enjoy an earlier post titled, Pick Your Poison.

After losing our early investments in Phlox and lilies, roses, impatiens, holly shrubs, tomatoes and Camellias; we realized that tasty plants disappear in the night.  Poisonous plants manage to grow all season.

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These N. "Katie Heath,' growing in our garden, were hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother.  These have been growing in our garden for several years.

These N. “Katie Heath’  were hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother. These have been growing in our garden for several years now.  We continue to plant lots of new daffodils each year to protect other plants, as every part of a daffodil is poisonous.

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So now it is a bonus when I find beautiful plants for the garden which also happen to be poisonous.  Like Hellebores and daffodils, all parts of the Voodoo lily are very poisonous.  Not only will they not get eaten to a nub; their roots offer protection from tunneling voles to nearby plants.

So there you have my take on the very weird, wonderful and poisonous Voodoo Lilies we brought home yesterday from our shopping excursion in Brent and Becky’s Bulb Shop at their farm in Gloucester.

I’ll show you follow up photos of these lilies as they grow.

A pair are planted at the top of the garden, visible from the street.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you can keep a watch on them as they come along.  And if you smell something like rotting meat when you pass our garden, you’ll know they have come into full bloom.

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It's Alive!

It’s Alive!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Awakening

Columbine begins its annual growth in our garden.

Columbine begins its annual growth in our garden.

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Warmer days this week drew us outside to begin cutting back the dead branches of perennials, pull mouldering leaves out of planting beds, and look for the many tiny signs of spring.  Autumn leaves have found lodging everywhere, it seems.  Too wet to shred, we will leave them to mulch the soil a bit longer.

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Catmint has reappeared in the stump garden.

Catmint has reappeared in the stump garden.

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I was a little surprised to see abundant growth of new leaves on the catmint once last summer’s stems were cleared away.  Tiny green shoots of Comphrey poke a few inches above the moist soil.  New daffodil leaves emerge each day.

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Tete-a-Tete daffodils bloom in a pot with a budding Clematis vine.

Tete-a-Tete daffodils bloom in a pot with a budding Clematis vine.

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A single bright yellow daffodil blossom magically appeared over night on Tuesday in a pot near the drive, and a spray of tiny Tete-a-Tete daffodils opened the following day in the pot where a Clematis vine has already budded out.  Their cheerful golden trumpets brighten up this soggy Saturday.  Mid-March is muddy here in Williamsburg.

We are happy for the mud, however, as it shows us the ground has thawed.  Our last snow-pile finally melted by Thursday morning.

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March 14, 2015 spring flowers 011

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Now little bits of fresh growth have begun to emerge in the oddest places.  Bright moss shines along the front walk.  Deep rosy red buds appeared this week on the roses, beckoning me to finally trust that the worst of winter has passed and cut them back.

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March 14, 2015 spring flowers 006

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We’re walking around, taking stock; cleaning up what winter left behind.

Somehow a box of bare root Siberian Iris came home with us from Sam’s Club, and I scooped out moist holes for their roots yesterday.  I love their deep purple flowers waving in the warm May breeze.  They spread and multiply rapidly, making thick stands of saturated color as the Azaleas fade each year.  A bare root white Clematis from the same package now grows along a fence.

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March 14, 2015 spring flowers 004

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A fitting surprise waited for me in the old bag of potting soil which has lingered beneath the wheelbarrow these last frozen months.  I opened it to fill a pot for the second Clematis yesterday, and found little shoots of green already growing in the mix.  Apparently, this was soil I had scooped out of a pot at the end of the season to save, forgetting there were tiny bulbs mixed in from another spring.  The bulbs sprouted anyway, and their leaves were poking out of the moist soil.  I rescued them from the bag and tucked them into pots where they can prosper in the sun.

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Crocus emerge beneath a woody web of Lantana stems.  We want to wait until the weather settles a bit more before cutting the Lantana back for spring.

Crocus emerge beneath a woody web of Lantana stems. We want to wait until the weather settles a bit more before cutting the Lantana back for spring.

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Always filled with interesting surprises, spring cheers me like no other season.  As each perennial emerges from its winter rest, as each bulb breaks the Earth with its brilliant green leaves and each fruit tree bursts into flowers; I am reminded again that life is full of beautiful surprises.

Our gardens, like our own lives, remain perennially capable of new growth.  Although we don’t find it in every season, the potential remains.

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March 14, 2015 spring flowers 019

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When the soil is warm  and moist, things always grow.  Whether that growth is what we planned or whether it ends up a straggler which blew in from elsewhere; the soil covers itself with interesting leaves, spreading stems, and sometimes a delicate flower.

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I've transplanted Hellebores seedlings to grow beneath this Camellia shrub.  They will make a lovely ground cover in a few years.

I’ve transplanted Hellebores seedlings to grow beneath this Camellia shrub. They will make a lovely ground cover in a few years.

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The sun beckons, even as rain clouds mute its life giving rays.

March: the month when our garden awakens to spring.  May all of its verdant possibilities inspire you.

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March 12, 2015 watershed 004

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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March 14, 2015 creek 041

Winter Annuals

January 15, 2015 ice garden 028

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Ice and light snow covered our “stump garden” Thursday morning when we were wandering about admiring winter’s artistry.

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January 15, 2015 ice garden 029~

Our stump, left from an oak blown over in a summer storm, has been transformed into a “pedestal” with a little hypertufa and some glass.

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January 15, 2015 ice garden 032

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Topped with a hypertufa trough planted with winter hardy annuals and perennials, our stump garden still looks interesting even though most of the plants around it have died back for the season.  Winter’s cold had barely touched the dusty miller, ornamental kale, and Violas  until our ice storm.  The ice coating actually protects them during the coldest weather.  Cold winds can’t strip their moisture.

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January 15, 2015 ice garden 035

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The ice is only a memory now.  We’ve had two days of bright sunshine, with a “spring-like” heat wave up to the low 40’s.

That is all that was needed for the Violas, dusty miller, ornamental kale, and Sedum to perk up again.

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January 15, 2015 ice garden 039

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We are so happy that our climate allows winter annuals to thrive right through until spring.  We can enjoy their beauty during our coldest months.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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With special appreciation to Patricia for all of your love and efforts today. 

You are an angel, and we love you very much. 

Thank you especially for bringing the amazing croissants…

 

What remains of summer's African Blue Basil.  There are still seeds, and our songbirds find shelter in the branches.

What remains of summer’s African Blue Basil. There are still seeds, and our songbirds find shelter in the branches.

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