Living With Reality

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The Real World we each live in daily, sometimes feels like a living tutorial in ‘Chaos Theory.’  As much as we might admire integrity, neatness, organization and beauty; it proves elusive.

It takes enormous vigilance to maintain, especially without staff.  It requires action and attention to pick up every discarded newspaper, wash every empty cup, dead head every spent blossom, discard every outdated idea, and eliminate every errant weed.

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Have you ever watched a cooking show, and wondered how the host’s kitchen remains so spotless?  Have you ever watched a gardening show, and wondered how every path and plant remains so pristine?

I grew up watching movies and sit-coms , wondering why our home wasn’t as neat and elegant as the ones inhabited by TV families.  Was something wrong with us?

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We still consume the day’s media messages, peering through electronic windows into some else’s seemingly perfect world, wondering why we can’t live that way, too.

Or, maybe we watch the day’s news, and know that things aren’t unfolding in the world as they should.  We feel a visceral disconnect between how we know things should be, and how they currently are. 

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The hard truth remains that we all live in the midst of some measure of chaos and disorder.  We live surrounded by that which we can’t control, which constantly surprises us and throws new challenges our way.   And there is an art in knowing how to stage things for the photograph.

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“Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable.
It teaches us to expect the unexpected.”  
The Fractal Foundation

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We somehow figure out how to take control of those things that we reasonably can.  We plan ahead. We do our due diligence. We have high expectations for ourselves.  But despite our best efforts, perfection remains elusive.

And that is where we somehow learn to shift our focus.  None of us lives in a photograph or a bit of video.  We don’t have producers, set designers and make-up artists on hand to stage some imagined image of how things should be.  We can’t freeze time to capture that fleeting perfect moment.

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… unless we also happen to be photographers….

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Rather, we live in a dynamic and chaotic system.  Our lives play out and our gardens grow in the midst of many competing forces that we simply can’t control.

We eventually learn to expect the unexpected and flow with the living dynamic of our moment.

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But we each still hold great power.  When we add our energy to any system, we change it, for better or for worse.  Our personal influence and expectation might prove the tipping point of change.

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The choices we make in every moment, shape our future.  A small decision can forever change our lives, in ways we don’t even anticipate.

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“Chaos is not simply disorder.
Chaos explores the transitions between order and disorder,
which often occur in surprising ways.”
The Fractal Foundation

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Reality will always challenge our own ideas of how things should be.

The question remains, have we the courage to explore and understand the reality of what is? And once we begin to understand, to work within the flow?

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Can we find a way to ride the waves of our lives so that we live with joy, find the beauty in everything, and abide in love?

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Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world
can give us new insight, power, and wisdom.
The Fractal Foundation

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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Sunday Dinner: Small Worlds

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“The world is awash with colours unseen

and abuzz with unheard frequencies.

Undetected and disregarded.

The wise have always known that these inaccessible realms,

these dimensions that cannot be breached

by our beautifully blunt senses,

hold the very codes to our existence,

the invisible, electromagnetic foundations

upon which our gross reality clumsily rests.”

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Russell Brand

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“Infinity is before and after an infinite plane.”

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RJ Clawso

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“It is frightfully difficult

to know much about the fairies,

and almost the only thing for certain

is that there are fairies

wherever there are children.”

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J.M. Barrie

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“It didn’t seem possible to gain so much happiness

from so little.”

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Peter Lerangis

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Do the little things.

In the future when you look back,

they’d have made the greatest change.”

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Nike Thaddeus

 

A Garden Mystery: The Case of the Vanished Helleborus

Helleborus argutifolius 'Snow Fever' blooming a week ago.

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’  opening its first blooms a week ago, on February 9.

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Pretty, wasn’t it?  Now it’s vanished…. poof!

This beautiful Helleborus ‘Snow Fever’ grew in a very large pot in our front garden, surrounded with Violas, Ajuga, and some Creeping Jenny.  I planted it there in late autumn to keep the pot interesting through the winter months.  There is a dormant fern, and a few spring bulbs tucked in around its roots.

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I’ve been photographing the Hellebore’s progress every week or so as its beautiful new leaves and flowers emerged.  Its first flowers opened last week.  It is the sort of interesting plant that I like to visit whenever I’m out in the garden, just to see its progress.

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January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017

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That said, a friend and I were touring the front garden on Sunday afternoon, and we wandered over to the pot so she could see this unusual Helleborus up close.  She is just getting started gardening at her new home in our community, and  had come over to receive a gift of Hellebore seedlings to begin her own collection.  I wanted to show her the beauty of this special cultivar with its pale new foliage and creamy flowers.

And what I saw in the pot didn’t register at first.  There were the Violas, the vines, the Ajuga and….  nothing in the center of the pot.  The large speckled centerpiece of the planting has simply vanished.

No soil was disturbed, no tell-tale clawing at the soil spoke of visiting squirrels.  There wasn’t a single dropped leaf or flower petal anywhere around.  We searched the area for some clue and found nothing.

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Helleborus argutifolius just home and still in its Nursery pot in late November.

Helleborus ‘Snow Fever’  just home and still in its nursery pot in late November.

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You probably know that Hellebores are poisonous.  Nothing eats them.

In our seven years of growing Hellebores in this garden, I’ve not once seen so much as a leaf munched by a rabbit or deer.  Hellebores are so poisonous that I always wear gloves to handle them.

And yet all that is left of this particularly charming H. ‘Snow Fever’ is its roots, and two tiny bits of red, level with the soil, where its stems were cut at their base.  The whole plant was there on Friday afternoon, and by Sunday morning, it had vanished.

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Violas left growing undisturbed in the pot where our Helleborus vanished.

Violas left growing undisturbed in the pot where our Helleborus vanished.  A sharp eye might notice fresh compost spread to cover the spot where our missing plant once grew.

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And so I’m turning to you, my friends and fellow gardeners, for your thoughts on this most annoying mystery.

Have you seen something like this before?  Any ideas on what might have happened to the Hellebore? 

I have high hopes to see new growth emerge from the roots one day soon.  Maybe this Hellebore will prove stubborn and hardy and will amaze us with its prolific growth, to make up for what it has lost.

I’ll keep you posted….

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This H. 'Snow Fever' grows elsewhere in the garden, sheltered under tall shrubs.

This H. ‘Snow Fever’ grows elsewhere in the garden, sheltered under tall shrubs.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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February 9, 2017

February 9, 2017

Summer Love: Caladiums

'Florida Sweetheart' Caladium growing in a basket with Begonia 'Richmondensis' offers the perfect summer Valentine.

‘Florida Sweetheart’ Caladium growing in a basket with Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ offers the perfect summer Valentine.

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I love the bright, bold Caladium leaves of summer.  These huge tropical beauties, often called ‘elephant ears’ for both their size and their shape, remind me of living Valentines.   Their form, their red and pink coloring, and their wild patterns remind me of February’s little expressions of love, grown huge summer’s muggy heat.

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C. 'Gypsy Rose' was among the first Caladiums we planted out in early May.

C. ‘Gypsy Rose’ was among the first Caladiums we planted out in May.

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Ours got a late start this year.  It was too cold to put them outside until well into May.  Caladiums love heat!

Plant them out too early and they will sulk along, and maybe even rot before rooting and sending up their beautiful leaves.  Growers counsel us to wait until it is 65F outside at night, consistently, before planting them in the ground.

That is why I start them indoors, in potting soil, and have them ready to go outside when the weather has warmed enough to grow them.

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These 'Florida' series Caladiums, developed at the University of Florida, can take more sun than many other varieties will tolerate.

These ‘Florida’ series Caladiums, developed at the University of Florida, can take more sun than many other varieties will tolerate.

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I planted out the last of our sprouted tubers just last week, believe it or not!  These last were some of the tiniest tubers which came with our order, and they were planted in a plastic box, waiting in the garage for me to decide where they were to go.  (Sometimes small pieces break off of larger tubers during shipping.  Though they are small, they will still root and grow!)

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These are the last stragglers of this season, planted out about a week ago. Their tubers are the size of grapes, but I expect them to fill out in the coming weeks.

These are the last stragglers of this season, planted out about a week ago. Their tubers are only the size of grapes, but I expect them to fill out in the coming weeks.  The largest is C. ‘Florida Red Ruffle.’

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These were the last to finally grow leaves.  I planted them in the shade of some shrubs, where we’ve not had Caladiums in years past.  They are near the top of our drive, planted in a shallow layer of compost, where we can see and enjoy them every time we come and go.  With this new bed started, I’ll begin adding companions after the Caladiums establish, to fill it out.

The Caladiums I ordered last February, from a grower in Florida, arrived huge and healthy.  I was amazed to unpack them and discover a few  Caladium tubers the size of baking potatoes!

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C. 'Florida Fantasy' remains one of my all-time favorite Caladiums. They are surprisingly sun tolerant to have such a delicate, white leaf. This one grows in full shade.

C. ‘Florida Fantasy’ remains one of my all-time favorite Caladiums. They are surprisingly sun tolerant to have such a delicate, white leaf. This one grows in full shade.

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But some from a ‘starter pack’ we also ordered from the grower, weren’t that large at all; maybe the size of a large grape.  Not to worry.  The tuber size doesn’t affect the leaf size or height.  This is a genetic thing.  The tuber size determines how many leaves will grow from the one plant.  And of course, the tuber expands over the course of the season.

I also picked up a pack of C. ‘Florida Moonlight’ tubers at the ‘end of season’ sale from a local nursery.

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C. 'Florida Moonlight' grows here with hardy Begonia.

C. ‘Florida Moonlight’ grows here with hardy Begonia grandis.

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These were about the size of a half dollar, and it was warm enough to plant them directly outside.  After nearly a month in the ground, they are just beginning to send up leaves now.  I have high hopes that they will fill out and look stunning by August.

The earliest tubers to go out, in May, all survived, despite our cool nights lasting well into early summer. After a slow start,  they are responding to our heat and making lots of new leaves.  Watching each huge new leaf unroll brings its own pleasure!  Our hot, humid summers offer the tropical climate these lovely beauties crave.

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This is a single plant from one of those 'baked potato' sized tubers. The photo was taken after 6 this evening, and you can see how bright the sun remained even late in the afternoon.

This Caladium  is a single plant from one of those ‘baked potato’ sized tubers. The photo was taken after 6 this evening, and you can see how bright the sun remained even late in the day.

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Grown in dappled shade, Caladiums never scorch or wilt.  Deer and rabbits rarely touch them, as their leaves are mildly poisonous to eat.  Their color is as bright as any flower, and far more long lasting and reliable.  They beautifully fill a pot or bed.

They are neat and require very little care, beyond keeping them watered when there is a break in the summer rain.  Caladiums are raised on sandy soils in Florida, but they appreciate compost in their soil, and a little feeding to keep them going strong.

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Here is the same plant, photographed a few hours later.

Here is the same plant, photographed a few hours later.  I love these wildly patterned leaves of C. ‘Lance Wharton’!

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New Caladium varieties are introduced each year.  Some of the newer ones are the “Florida” series, bred at the University of Florida after 1988, to give better leaf production, larger tubers and to tolerate more direct sun.  Look for those Caladiums with ‘Florida’ in their name, such as C. Florida Red Ruffles and C. Florida Fantasy if you want an improved, relatively sun tolerant Caladium plant.

Dr. Robert Hartman, CEO of Classic Caladiums in Zolfo Springs and Avon Park, FL; is introducing several exciting new, improved Caladium varieties each year.  Most of these new varieties can tolerate full sun with proper hydration.  I am looking forward to growing a few of these varieties in the coming months, and will post photos as they grow.  One in particular, a 2016 introduction called C. ‘Desert Sunset’ has piqued my interest for its beautiful salmon and copper coloring and ruffled form.

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July 7, 2016 Evening garden 013

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I like to mix Caladiums with ferns and Begonias.  I tend to use them as an accent plant in a pot or bed.  Others may prefer to grow a solid bed of Caladiums for a massed effect.  Use low ferns, Ajuga, Oxalis, Vinca, or other low ground cover plants to fill in the bed.  You can select Caladium varieties by size, with heights between just a few inches and several feet.  As with most plants, they tend to grow taller in the shade, and more compact in the sun.

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July 7, 2016 Evening garden 014

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Two other plants, often confused with Caladiums, are also called ‘elephant ears.’  Also tropical, Colocasia and Alocasia have similar leaf shapes, but different coloration and texture. All three of these bloom, but those blooms are insignificant.  Many gardeners simply cut them away.  ‘Elephant ears’ are all grown for their beautiful leaves.

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Alocosia have a thicker, waxier leaf than Caladium. Often, their leaf tips point up towards the sky.

Alocosia have a thicker, waxier leaf than Caladium. Often, their leaf tips point up towards the sky.

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All ‘elephant ears’ love warmth, and nearly all must be brought inside before frost.  They may be dug up and the tubers stored, or they may be kept in pots indoors through the winter.  But only a few cultivars of Colocasia are hardy in our Zone 7.

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Colocasia generally have the largest of the 'elephant ear' leaves. This is C. 'Pink China,' and has proven hardy in our Zone 7 garden. This prolific plant spreads each season and may be easily transplanted.

Colocasia generally have the largest of the ‘elephant ear’ leaves. This is C. ‘Pink China,’ and has proven hardy in our Zone 7 garden.  C. ‘Mojito,’ behind, is supposed to be hardy here, but overwintered in our basement.  These prolific plants spread each season and may be easily transplanted.

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These gorgeous tropical plants, with their heart shaped leaves, are one of my true loves of summer.

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C. 'White Queen'

C. ‘White Queen’

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Big, bold, surprisingly beautiful; elephant ears fill the garden with mass, texture, and movement as they swish and sway in the breeze.  Carefree and attractive, rely on them to look great during the heat of summer.

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July 7, 2016 Caladiums 011

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Woodland Gnome 2016
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July 7, 2016 Evening garden 011

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

July 3, 2016 wet garden 043

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Giving each plant the right amount of light, without burning it or starving it, determines how well that plant performs.  Because plants ‘eat’ light, they must have enough to power photosynthesis and to accomplish all of their life processes.

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Many flowering perennials, like Iris, Lavender, and Cannas, want full sunlight for at least 6-8 hours each day.

Many flowering perennials, like Iris, Lavender, and Cannas, want full sunlight for at least 6-8 hours each day.

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Give a plant too little light and it grows leggy and pale.  The stems between its leaves s t r e t c h, reaching for the light.  Flower production slows and it looks a bit ‘sickly.’ It grows more susceptible to pests and to disease, fungal infections and general rot.

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This Calla, grown in partial shade last summer, grows better in full sun. The elongated petioles of the leaves are reaching up for the light.

This Calla, grown in partial shade last summer, grows better in full sun. The elongated petioles of the leaves are reaching up for the light.  It was also crowded after several years growing in the pot.  I divided the tubers, after this photo, and had five separate plants to grow on in better light.

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But too much light can fry fragile leaves and delicate flowers; especially hot summer sun.  Even ‘full sun’ plants appreciate some shade during summer afternoons in the southern United States.  It is harder to keep plants hydrated in full sun and hot weather.

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White and light colored leaves often want more shade than dark green ones. Here, Caladium, fern and perennail Begonia grow in shade cast by a Dogwood tree.

White and light colored leaves often want more shade than dark green ones. Here, Caladium, fern and perennial Begonia grow in shade cast by a Dogwood tree.

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How do we navigate both the weather, and the needs of our many different plants?

The MOST important question to ask when acquiring a new plant is, ‘How much light does it need?

Most nursery grown plants and seeds now come with little informational tags which indicate: full sun, partial sun, partial shade or shade.    That bit of information provides a start, but most of us need the experience of trial and error to master getting the light right!

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Though most Canna lilies prefer full sun, this variegated C. 'Stuttgart' wants partial shade and lots of moisture. The more sun it gets, the more moisture it wants. Notice the burned leaves? It probably wants more shade than this spot offers.

Though most Canna lilies prefer full sun, this variegated C. ‘Stuttgart’ wants partial shade and lots of moisture. The more sun it gets, the more moisture it wants. Notice the burned leaves? It probably wants more shade than this spot offers.  The nursery sent a note of warning about its needs when I purchased it this spring.

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Like everything else about gardening, the light is ever changing from morning to evening and spring thorough winter.  And of course, these conditions change in our garden as trees and shrubs grow, perennials expand, and of course when plants are lost.  Good gardeners learn through observation, and remain flexible.

When trying a plant for the first time, especially an expensive one, I think it is wise to start it off in a pot.  Why?  Pots are portable.  Unless you are absolutely sure you know where to plant something for it to get proper light, like planting Daffodil bulbs in the sun, starting off with a pot allows for easy experimentation.

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Our 'bog garden' got more sun last year than it does this year. The plants all started in pots, though I moved a few into the soil as the summer progressed.

Our ‘bog garden’ got a little more sun last year than it does this year. The plants all started in pots, though I moved a few into the soil as the summer progressed.  Colocasia will grow in sun or shade, but want more moisture in full sun.

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Although gardening books can be helpful guides to knowing how much light or shade a particular plant requires, the latitude and altitude of one’s garden determines the ferocity of the sun.  Climate also plays an important part in knowing how much ‘full sun’ a plant needs and can endure.  If most days are cloudy and rain falls frequently, less shade from buildings and trees will be required.  But if it rarely rains and day after day passes hot and clear, anything but a cactus will likely need a little afternoon shade!

Providing more moisture can help a plant survive a spot that is a bit too sunny and hot for its liking.

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Foxtail ferns growing in an open area beside the path to Beverly Beach, OR.

Foxtail ferns growing in an open area beside the path to Beverly Beach, OR.  They grow in full sun in this cool, moist climate.

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A fern growing in ‘full sun’ in coastal Oregon might burn up in a day or two in my Virginia garden, if not given some afternoon shade.

That is one reason why many experienced gardeners give themselves at least a year to come to understand a new garden before starting renovations.  It takes a full year of observation to understand how light moves through the garden during the course of a day and from month to month.

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Older varieties of Coleus prefer partial shade, but these newer hybrids can take several hours of full sun each day.

Older varieties of Coleus prefer partial shade, but these newer hybrids can take several hours of full sun each day.

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Even a single year isn’t enough to understand the subtleties of microclimates and exposures relative to structures; the prevailing winds; where water flows during a rainstorm; and where heat  lingers during the winter.  That is why patient observation is a gardener’s best ally when placing plants.

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This first bloom on Canna 'Stuttgart' is an unusual color for a Canna. Still growing in a pot, I will look for a permanent spot with more shade since the leaves have scorched in this location.

This first bloom on Canna ‘Stuttgart’ is an unusual color for a Canna. Still growing in a pot, I will look for a permanent spot with more shade since the leaves have scorched in this location.  This variety enjoys moist soil.

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Here is an experiment for you:  If there is a new plant you want to introduce to your garden, begin with several.  Plant them in different spots in your garden, give each the best care you can, and observe how they grow.  Within just a few weeks you may notice some doing better than others.  Why?

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Echinacea grow well with a little afternoon shade in our garden. The Calla has much better color here than it did last year in its pot. All of these sun-loving perennials will have to be moved as the Star Magnolia grows into a tree over the next few years.

Echinacea grow well with a little afternoon shade in our garden.  It is planted in several different beds with varying degrees of sun.  The Calla has much better color here than it did last year in its pot. All of these sun-loving perennials will need to be moved as the Star Magnolia (right) grows into a tree over the next few years.

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I quickly noticed that two identical pots, one on either side of our front porch, grew differently.  Why?

One side of the porch has more sunshine each day than the other, more shady side.  I can trade out pots every few weeks to keep them even, or experiment to find plants indifferent to the subtle difference in light.

After learning about each plant’s needs and preferences, and understanding what resources each zone of a gardener can offer, it becomes clearer how to design successful plantings.  It takes time; maybe years; to earn this knowledge.  We all make mistakes along the way, and hopefully count them as part of our education.

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This tuberous Begonia grows in a pot 10 feet away from identical Begonias purchased the same day from the same nursery. They grow in a little more shade and have not yet bloomed. Although tuberous Begonias prefer partial shade, they need a filtered or morning sun to bloom well.

This tuberous Begonia grows in a pot 10 feet away from identical Begonias purchased the same day from the same nursery, and potted up with the same fertilizers. But the other plants grow in a little more shade, and have not yet bloomed. Although tuberous Begonias need partial shade, they still want plenty of  filtered light or morning sun to bloom well.  Moving the pot a little into more light might help the other Begonias bloom, too.

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And this is why observation and flexibility make the difference between great ‘green thumb’ gardeners and mediocre ones.

When we realize that a plant isn’t happy where it is growing, we must either move the plant, or somehow change the conditions.  Knowing a plant’s needs and preferences up front helps us make educated guesses about how to grow it well.  When it shows stress, we can give it more favorable conditions, or discard it.

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These Echinacea plants need a little bit more sun than they are getting. Their bed has grown shadier over the years. Though blooming, they look a bit 'ratty,' don't you think? I should move them.....

These Echinacea plants need a little bit more sun than they are getting. Their bed has grown shadier over the years. Though blooming, they look a bit ‘ratty,’ don’t you think? I should move them….. and plant something else which appreciates the shade…..

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Likewise, if we realize that we have very little sun in our garden, or very little shade; we choose only plants that can thrive in our conditions.  Why watch a tomato plant languish in a shady, tree filled garden?  Tomatoes like all the sun you can give them, and require 6-8 hours of full sun each day to produce good fruit.  If you garden in a forest, as we do, it pays to make friends with the local farmers and frequent their farm stands!

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These white Monarda are performing well in partial sun. A friend gave me several clumps last year, and I spread them around in different parts of the garden to see where they would do well. These in partial sun, near mature Lilac shrubs, have done the best.

These white Monarda are performing well in partial sun. A friend gave me several clumps last year, and I spread them around in different parts of the garden to see where they would do well. These in partial sun, near mature Lilac shrubs, have done the best.

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Shade gardeners learn to take pleasure in ferns and Hostas, Azaleas, Caladiums and Begonias.  Those with sunnier gardens have better experiences with most herbs and vegetables, flowers for cutting, conifers and fruit trees.  Sometimes we have to adapt our expectations and desires to the growing conditions our present garden can provide!

We were startled, a few years ago, to lose several mature oak trees in a summer thunderstorm.  In the blink of an eye, much of our shady garden was transformed to an open, sunny, mulch covered field.  What to do? 

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Bits of branch and bark form a foundation for the new raised bed.

Bits of branch and bark form a foundation for the new raised bed which became our ‘stump garden’ after losing our oaks.  Nearly full shade was transformed to ‘full sun’ in a moment, with the loss of three mature oak trees.

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Challenges grow into opportunities, don’t they?  But the available light in a garden determines everything else about plant selection and vigor.  Moving a plant just a foot or so one way or another may change the amount of sun it receives each day.

That is why it is crucial to ‘get the light right!’  when designing our garden, and protecting our investment in the plants we grow.

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Herbs hold the power to heal us. Our own garden in July-

Herbs hold the power to heal us. The ‘stump garden,’  two years later, planted with sun loving herbs and perennials.

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

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

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

Many thanks to Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios, who posted her first tip:  ‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots!  Please visit her post for beautiful instructions on how to prepare roots for re-potting.

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3 Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015-2016

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“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches

is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum,

and that as long as the sun still shines

and people still can plan and plant, think and do,

we can, if we bother to try, find ways

to provide for ourselves

without diminishing the world. ”

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Michael Pollan

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Hydrangea In Motion

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“I believe in the power of the imagination

to remake the world, to release the truth within us,

to hold back the night, to transcend death,

to charm motorways,

to ingratiate ourselves with birds,

to enlist the confidences of madmen.”

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J.G. Ballard

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“Imagination is everything.

It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

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Albert Einstein

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wordless Wednesday: Hydrangea

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“Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
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Pablo Neruda

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Mother Earth

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“She is the creature of life, the giver of life,

and the giver of abundant love, care and protection.

Such are the great qualities of a mother.

The bond between a mother and her child

is the only real and purest bond in the world,

the only true love we can ever find in our lifetime.”

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Ama H. Vanniarachchy

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“Love is active, not passive.

It is our love for one another,

for Mother Earth, for our fellow creatures

that compels us to act on their behalf.”


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Laurence Overmire

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“But behind all your stories

is always your mother’s story,

because hers is where yours begins.”


.

Mitch Albom

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Earth

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Oregon Trip 2016 062

“Life is a walking, a journey.

So, if life upon Mother Earth is a journey, there are two ways to walk. We can choose to walk forward or we can choose to walk backward.

Forward Walking choices are rewarded with consequences that light the way to peace, happiness, joy, comfort, knowledge, and wisdom.

Backward Walking choices bring to the Two-Legged beings consequences of misery despair, and darkness.”

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Anasazi Foundation

The Road Home

The Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR

The Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR

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I found the way home, a few days ago, after spending a week in one of my favorite places on Earth, enjoying the company of my daughter and her family.

My heart always sings when the jet drops through the clouds low enough to catch my first glimpse of emerald green Oregon.  It is a place like no other; and I treasure every hour spent wrapped in its beauty.

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The Connie Hansen Garden

The Connie Hansen Garden

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Evergreen trees, grassy fields, budding moss cloaked hardwoods, ferns and countless Rhododendrons create a tapestry of every shade and hue of green.  The air is moist and cool. 

We dropped low over the green Columbia River on a final approach to Portland’s airport, finding the safe pavement of the runway just before our wheels touched the water.

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The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery

The garden at the Mossy Creek Pottery

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My family was waiting, little one doubled in size since last I saw her.  Our drive home to the coast wound through towns and countryside, through the Willamette Valley, across mountains and beside rocky creeks.

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It was raining before we made it back, and cold.  Instant return to wintery weather.   The ocean below the condo roared and crashed, white caps breaking all along the beach at high tide.

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How much can one pack in to a few short days?  How many trips up and down Route 101?  How many walks on the beach?  How many wanderings through the gardens? How many cups of Starbucks?   How much shopping, and how much listening? 

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A wild cucumber vine growing at Cape Foulweather.

A wild cucumber vine growing at Cape Foulweather.

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There is never enough time for me to soak in my fill of Oregon.  There is always more I want to see and want to do.   And I was at a disadvantage this time, with allergies and a cold.

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The view from Cape Foulweather, 500 feet above the Pacific.

The view from Cape Foulweather, 500 feet above the Pacific.

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But the days passed, and all too soon we made the drive back north to Portland; back to the airport.  Roses were blooming around the parking lot of the shopping mall where we stopped, by the time we returned.  We had gone from 40’s to 90’s and back down again while I was there.  We all were suffering from the pollen laden air, even at the coast.

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The path down to Beverly Beach.

The path down to Beverly Beach.

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I enjoyed a small slice of Oregon’s spring; a few beautiful days while the landscape was still waking from it’s winter slumber.  Clumps of Zantedeschia bloomed in nearly every yard.

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The Connie Hansen Garden

The Connie Hansen Garden

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Rhododendrons as tall as trees were bursting with huge bright flowers.   Primroses carpeted the ground, and  ferns stretched their fronds from tiny fiddle heads to tall scapes.

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Azaleas bloomed in Crayola colors; Skunk Cabbages glowed golden yellow; and blue Lobelia grew lush and large, many times bigger than they possibly could at home.

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The Connie Hansen Garden

The Connie Hansen Garden

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One day I’ll return deeper into summer to enjoy a different view of the landscape.  But for now, I’ve tried to memorize every detail of April in Oregon.

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And still my own garden called across the miles.  An order of trees arrived earlier than expected.  The rhizomes and tubers planted weeks ago broke ground in the garage, reaching for the light.  Weeds took hold amongst the moss.  Our first Iris bloomed, Dogwoods lost their petals, and our ferns, too, are unfolding.

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The Mossy Creek Pottery Garden

The Mossy Creek Pottery Garden

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I got daily updates from my partner, who stayed behind at home to feed the cat and tend the garden in my absence.

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One of the earliest Irises in bloom at the Connie Hansen garden, perfectly matched to the Azalea behind it.

One of the earliest Irises in bloom at the Connie Hansen garden, perfectly matched to the Azalea behind it.

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And the day finally came for the long journey home to Virginia.  Begun before dawn, we finally pulled back into our own driveway in the wee early hours of the following morning.

Weather along the way delayed my final flight, making us last plane to land well after midnight, and just before Richmond’s airport shut down for the night.

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Beverly Beach, my last full day in Oregon.

Beverly Beach, my last full day in Oregon.

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The night air was sweet and moist.  Deer and raccoons congregated along the highway.  We sped through the early morning hours sharing stories and enjoying the empty road.

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Travelers always return with fresh eyes, and new appreciation for the comforts of home.   I have made this journey enough times now to have a sense of  ‘home’ on both ends of the trip, which is a tremendous blessing.  Loved ones wait for me on both coasts these days.  Both places hold their own special beauty.

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I’ve gathered a few fresh ideas to try in the garden,  and perhaps a few fresh perspectives from time spent with my daughter, too.  She is always teaching me, in her own wise and loving way.

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The Maidenhair fern native to Oregon isn't so very different from the Maidenhair fern we can grow in our garden. I will experiment with growing this beautiful fern.

The Maidenhair fern native to Oregon isn’t so very different from the Maidenhair fern we can grow in our garden.   I will experiment with growing this tough and beautiful fern, which looks so fragile.  This one grows in the Connie Hansen Garden.

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And Virginia ‘s greens are lovely, too.  I’ve spent a lot of time, since returning, lingering at the windows, reacquainting myself with our own familiar landscape.

There is much waiting for me to do, now that I’m home again.  After all, it is still only April…..

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Garden Tapestry: July and August

July 13, 2015 Our native Hibiscus are in their full glory. This seedling pokes up amidst the border of Canna Lily and Colocasia.

July 13, 2015 Our native Hibiscus are in their full glory. This seedling pokes up amidst the border of Canna Lily and Colocasia.

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Cathy, of  Garden Dreaming at Chattilon,’ inspired me through her comment last week, to review my garden photos taken over the last year with an eye to those ‘tapestries’ of plant combinations which worked well, and also to analyze those which didn’t.

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July 1 2015

July 1 2015 A ‘Chocolate Vine,’ Akebia quinata and a wild grapevine grow beyond the trellis and up into a Rose of Sharon tree, with Dogwood foliage providing the backdrop.  The Akebia bloomed in early summer, before the Hibiscus.

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I started with my favorite gardening months, May and June.   I love these months because our roses always come into bloom by Mother’s Day in early May, and our Iris are at their best.  But many other interesting plants are growing, too, as the summer progresses.

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July 11, 2015 and we still have abundant roses blooming in the garden.

July 11, 2015 and we still have abundant roses blooming in the garden.

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Looking back over my photos from this last July and August, I’m struck by how many are close ups of pollinators and single blossoms rather than true ‘tapestry’ shots.  I’m also a little disappointed in myself for neglecting the weeds and wild grasses to the point where there are some shots I’d rather not publish.   They are inspiration to do a better job of keeping up with the weeding and trimming in 2016!

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July 28, 2015 and the Joe Pye Weed is in its glory and covered with bees.

July 28, 2015 and the Joe Pye Weed is in its glory and covered with bees.

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There are also several fairly ‘new beds’ which haven’t filled in quite yet.  They were more a ‘patchwork quilt’ than a tapestry in mid-summer!

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July 16, 2015 the Joe Pye Weed, planted in 2014, towers over this new perennial bed.

July 16, 2015 the Joe Pye Weed, planted in 2014, towers over this new perennial bed.  This bed did extremely well over summer and bulked up nicely by autumn.

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But excuses aside, there were some areas which pleased me.  The part of our garden nearest the street, where I concentrated my attention this season, was cloaked in deep shade until three major trees fell in a storm in June of 2013.  Suddenly, this shady and fairly neglected area was bathed in full sun.

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July 16, 2015 This is the farthest edge of the new border where Cannas end and a variegated Butterfly Bush is growing into its space.

July 16, 2015 This is the farthest edge of the new border where Cannas end and a variegated Butterfly Bush is growing into its space near a stand of native Hibiscus moscheutos.  Foxglove still bloom on the front edge of the border.

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I’ve been planting this area with perennial beds, ornamental trees, bulbs and shrubs since July of that year, beginning with our ‘stump garden.’

A sister gardener made a gift of a grocery bag full of Canna lily divisions dug from her garden that fall, which started our very tropical looking border of Cannas and Colocasia.

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July 16, 2015

July 16, 2015 the leading edge of this new border begins where the Ginger Lily ends, in the shade of a Dogwood tree.  Some of the Colocasia didn’t make it through the past winter and were replaced by hardier varieties this spring.

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We already had native perennial Hibiscus and tree Hibiscus, or Rose of Sharon, growing when we came to the garden in 2009.  But once there was more sun available, more of the seedlings began to grow and bloom in this new area.  We also planted several additional Hibiscus cultivars, a variegated Buddleia, several perennial Salvias and Lantana along this long, sunny border.

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July 16 This is the other side of the border, where Hibiscus and other perennials were left by previous owners of the garden.

July 16 This is the other side of the border, where Hibiscus and other perennials were left by previous owners of the garden.  The deep magenta Crepe Myrtle ( in the center of this photo ) has been growing from a seedling and finally gained some height this year.

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This border grows better each year as the Cannas and Colocasia multiply, the Hibiscus grow, and the existing shrubs grow larger.

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This shady bed, under a Dogwood tree, holds mostly ferns and Hellebores. The Begonias, with their large and colorful leaves, stay in pots as summer visitors.

This shady bed, under a Dogwood tree, holds mostly ferns and Hellebores. The Begonias, with their large and colorful leaves, stay in pots as summer visitors.

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Another perennial bed, still in shade, has done exceptionally well, too.  I raised a circular bed under a Dogwood tree by ringing it with containers, and filling in with bags of compost.  This was home to a good collection of Caladiums the first year, inter-planted with various ferns and seedling Hellebores.  Plants in raised beds definitely perform better than plants put directly into the ground over most of the garden.

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July 10, 2015 Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in a shady bed of ferns.

July 10, 2015 Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in this shady bed of mixed ferns.  It is going into its fourth year now, overwintering in a pot in the garage.

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I add large leaved Begonias when the weather warms in May, taking them back inside in October.  The mix of ferns here makes a pleasing tapestry of foliage.  The Hellebores have finally grown large enough to bloom this winter, and now they take much more of the available space in the bed.

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July 28, 2015 Oxalis and Hardy Begonia share one of the border pots with a division of fern. These plants are all perennial, and should fill the pot nicely this summer coming.

July 28, 2015 Oxalis and Hardy Begonia share one of the border pots with a division of fern. These plants are all perennial, and should fill the pot nicely this summer coming.

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I’ve also planted Sedum along the sunny edge and Saxifraga stolonifera into the pots which ring the bed. This past spring I added divisions of hardy Begonias with their lovely reddish leaves, which will fill in over time.

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August 2, 2015 our Devil's Walkingstick has come into full bloom.

August 2, 2015 our Devil’s Walkingstick has come into full bloom along the border of the back garden.

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July and August give us Crepe Myrtle flowers and a lovely tapestry of flowers and foliage from the many trees around our garden.  A ‘Devil’s Walkingstick,’ Aralia Spinosa, grows into our garden from the woody border between our neighbor’s garden and ours.  It was absolutely spectacular this summer, and I’ve found several seedlings in other parts of the yard.  This native plant grows wild along the roads in James City County, blooming in mid-summer before covering itself with inky purple berries in early autumn.

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August 30, 2015 Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana is a native shrub.

August 30, 2015 Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is a native shrub which ‘volunteered’ in a stand of Ginger Lily this summer.  Considered a weed by most, I chose to let it grow for the beauty of its flowers and berries.  Birds love the berries and pollinators enjoy its long lived flowers.  But, because I let it set seed this summer, we know that seedlings will emerge all over the garden next spring….

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Much of our garden tapestry was either  already here when we began to garden, or has sprouted as a volunteer seedling.  Nature takes a strong hand in what grows where, and what is ‘edited’ out by storms and the passing seasons.  Our best intentions and plans often get thwarted or changed along the way.

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August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 August brings this glorious ‘Butterfly Tree’ into bloom at the bottom of the garden at the edge of the ravine.  It is a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators.

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As gardeners, we can certainly add plants, prune, ‘weed’ and change the landscape with new planting beds.  But at best, we adapt to the ongoing life of the garden with our own human touches.

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A scented Pelargonium growth in a bed cloaked in Vinca and Creeping Jenny.

August 7, 2015  A scented Pelargonium grows in a bed cloaked in Vinca and Creeping Jenny in the ‘stump garden.’  Vinca minor is one of the default groundcovers which encroaches in every part of the garden.  Beautiful, it quickly takes over new planting beds; and so often chokes out other desirable plants.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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July 1, 2015

July 1, 2015

 

 

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