Color Your World: Perseverance

The Star Magnolia wants to break into bloom in the depths of our Virginia winter. February 11 Grey

The Star Magnolia wants to break into bloom in the depths of our Virginia winter. February 11 Grey

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“Begin doing what you want to do now.

We are not living in eternity.

We have only this moment,

sparkling like a star in our hand-

-and melting like a snowflake…”

.

Francis Bacon

We woke this morning to the unexpected beauty of our garden covered in snow.  An inch fell sometime between midnight and morning.  The clouds were long gone by the time I wandered to the window to look out on this new day; a day bathed in warm golden sunshine, reflecting off that brilliant and sparkling snow.

We are in those depths of a Virginia winter when one must expect the unexpected.  We’ve more snow on the way, and we are preparing for night time temperatures to grow ridiculously cold by Saturday night.  These are the days and nights a gardener dreads, when those tiny bits of life one tries to nurture through till spring finally might succumb to winter’s frigid touch.

Knowing this, we moved the olive trees into the garage at sunset yesterday.  Now nearly 4 feet tall, they have made it through three winters in their very portable pots.  Hardy to Zone 8, I have left them out longer this winter than ever before.  But now they are situated in the garage to survive these next few frosty nights.

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Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' shrugs off the cold without a single leaf withering. They may turn a bit rosy in the cold, but always recover. February 13 'Yellow Green' and February 7 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown.'

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ shrugs off the cold without a single leaf withering. They may turn a bit rosy in the cold, but always recover. February 13 ‘Green Yellow’ and February 7 ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown.’

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“You never know what’s around the corner.

It could be everything.

Or it could be nothing.

You keep putting one foot in front of the other,

and then one day you look back

and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

.

Tom Hiddleston

I’m always a bit restless in February.  I want to keep on gardening, but most of the garden has gone dormant.  I wander around looking for signs of change and growth.  Perhaps I’m looking for reassurance that things are still alive.

While it is fine to have a rest from weeding and watering, I miss the dynamic change of watching plants grow and develop into the fullness of their beauty.

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Selaginella with a new Amaryllis

Selaginella and Strawberry Begonia with a new Amaryllis bulb. February 10 ‘Granny Smith Apple Green.’

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This time of year challenges our spirit of perseverance.  

We plan, we order, we clean, we prune, and we wait.   I fiddle endlessly with those plants wintering indoors, too; taking cuttings, watering, and admiring those in bloom.

I planted up the last of our autumn Amaryllis bulbs today with some beautiful Selaginella adopted from The Great Big Greenhouse last week.   Understanding how February affects us all, they compassionately have a full month of special events to promote tropical houseplants.  I made it for the last day of their sale on ferns, but  will miss the Orchid presentation next Saturday….

The little Strawberry Begonia has been growing outside in a pot since last summer.  Today I finally rescued it,  and brought it inside for this arrangement.  Maybe it will respond to the warmth by sending out runners and ‘baby’ plants some week soon.

There are rarely immediate results from those tasks we tackle in winter.  We have to bide out time and wait for our efforts to bear fruit sometime further along in the season.   We wait and watch for those first tiny signs of spring’s awakening, ready to celebrate each unfolding.

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The first tiny green tips of awakening bulbs break ground in this pot by the back door. February 8, 'Gold.'

The first tiny green tips of awakening bulbs break ground in this pot by the back door. February 8, ‘Gold.’

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I am happy, this February, to participate in Jennifer Nichole Wells’s new “Color My World: One Hundred Days of Crayola” photo challenge.  Jenny is working from the Crayola Crayon chart of colors, and offers a new color challenge each day for 120 days, beginning January 1.   I’ll aim for one post each week, sharing photos of as many of that week’s colors as I’m able.

This week’s colors include:  Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown, Gold, Goldenrod, Granny Smith Green, Grey, Green, and Green Yellow.  These colors were easy to find in the garden today, even in a February garden.  There are abundant signs of life in our Forest Garden, and we appreciate finding each and every one.

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Goldenrod yellow shines in the face of this tiny Viola. February 9, "Goldenrod."

Autumn’s ‘Goldenrod’ yellow shines in the face of this tiny Viola. February 9, “Goldenrod.”

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“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one.

Of course, we are all familiar with the first book

he wrote, namely Scripture.

But he has written a second book

called creation.”

.

Francis Bacon 

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Our Forsythia continues slowly breaking bud in the garden. We didn't enjoy Forsythia until mid-March in 2015. Here it blooms by the drive.

Our Forsythia continues slowly breaking bud in the garden. We didn’t enjoy Forsythia until mid-March in 2015. Here it blooms by the drive.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Our pond at sunset last Saturday. February 12, 'Green"

Our pond at sunset last Saturday. February 12, ‘Green”

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“Even in the mud and scum of things,

something always, always sings.”

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Color Your World: Mandala

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“Whoever uses the spirit

that is in him creatively is an artist.

To make living itself an art,

that is the goal.”

.

Henry Miller

It has been many years since I first heard of a bit of sacred geometry called, “The Flower of Life.” It is demonstrated and explained in detail in books by philosopher Drunvalo Melchizedek. This design is based on simple, but profound geometry and has been in use for millennia.  I believe it appeals to me because it is a floral design.  It reminds me of our Clematis flowers which bloom each summer.

But there are many levels of understanding in this design, which shows the interconnectedness of life.  It illustrates patterns of growth and change.

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Clematis

Clematis

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I’ve wanted to work with this design for a very long time, and finally began,  back last summer, experimenting with translating it onto a grid to make a counted cross stitch pattern.  My design is not a strict interpretation of The Flower of Life.  I’ve taken some liberties with the geometry to make the design more ‘floral.’

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February 2 and 6: Eggplant and Fuschia

February 1, 2 and 6: Desert sand, Eggplant and Fuchsia

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This is one of the first stitched mandalas I’ve designed without drawing out the whole pattern, first.   I drew just the center flower, and three petals of an adjacent flower, before selecting colors and beginning to stitch.  The rest of this piece grew organically from that small beginning as I’ve worked.

It has taken a little more than six months to bring it to completion.  I was so happy to make the last stitches in the frame on Sunday evening.

We love the vibrant colors of these stitched mandalas.  I’m showing you this one today in part because it reflects many of the colors of Jennifer Nichole Wells’s “Color My World” challenge this week.

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This week’s colors include Denim, Desert Sand, Eggplant, Electric Lime, Fern, Forest Green and Fuschia.

I was quite happy, last week, discover Jenny’s new “Color My World: One Hundred Days of Crayola” photo challenge.  She is working from the Crayola Crayon chart of colors, and offers a new color challenge each day for 120 days, beginning January 1.   I am happy to tag along once again, and will aim for one post each week, sharing photos of as many of that week’s colors as I’m able.

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Jan. 1: Denim This pot lives on the front porch, except during the coldest winter months.

Jan. 1: Denim This pot lives on the front porch, except during the coldest winter months.

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Please visit Jenny and explore links to other photographers participating in this Color Your World challenge.

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Feb. 1: A Hellebore flower nearly the color of Desert Sand

Feb. 1: A Hellebore flower nearly the color of Desert Sand

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Today dawned clear and brilliantly sunny.  The sun was so strong, pouring in through our southern windows, that it felt like May or early June rather than February 2.

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Feb. 3: Electric lime describes the fresh green at the heart of this Amaryllis blossom

Feb. 3: Electric lime describes the fresh green at the heart of this Amaryllis blossom

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I captured photos of some of our plants overwintering in the house before heading out to the garden for more pruning.  Some of our photos today are of our indoor garden, others from the garden outside.

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Feb. 4 Fern green on the buds just opening today on our Autumn Olive shrubs.

Feb. 4 Fern green on the buds just opening today on our Autumn Olive shrubs.

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Most years, I would consider this first week of February too early to prune back our woody shrubs.  But the warmth is already waking up many plants which should still be dormant.

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Feb 5 So many greens in this wonderful pot near the street, surely Forest Green is among them?

Feb 5 So many greens in this wonderful pot near the street, surely Forest Green is among them?

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I’m taking my chances and beginning with the latest budding trees and shrubs, like our Crepe Myrtles and Rose of Sharon first.  I don’t dare touch the roses for at least another two weeks, just in case we get another winter storm.

They are already throwing out new leaves, ready to begin another cycle of growth.

We find growth and budding everywhere in our February garden.

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Here is a cutting of my favorite Begonia of the moment. Stems root quickly in these tiny bottles.

Here is a cutting of my favorite Begonia of the moment. Stems root quickly in these tiny bottles.  There will be plenty of rooted cuttings for hanging baskets by April.

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“There is a fountain of youth:

it is your mind, your talents,

the creativity you bring to your life

and the lives of people you love.

When you learn to tap this source,

you will truly have defeated age.”

.

Sophia Loren

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Another view of this wonderful Begonia.

Another view of this wonderful Begonia.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Another favorite Begonia enjoying our living room windowsill this winter.

Another favorite Begonia enjoying our living room windowsill this winter.  Aren’t the colors in its leaves wonderful?

Solstice in Blossoms

Daffodils blooming here on December 20....

Daffodils blooming here on December 20….

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Happy Winter Solstice to you!

Our morning was filled with bright sunshine and blue skies.  It has been unusually warm here today.   The clouds moved in this afternoon, but the nearly full moon rose early, and is shining brightly in a huge corona through the misty, drifting haze.

It was still in the mid-50s at 7 PM  here; a little above the usual mid-day high for us in December.  But the garden is loving it!

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Yesterday morning, my partner told me about an odd flower he had spotted.  He had picked it up where the rain had beaten it down into the lawn.  He said it looked a little like a Daffodil.  But isn’t it much too early for Daffodils in December?

And he was right; on both counts.  When I finally went out to look in the afternoon, the setting sun illuminated those yellow blossoms so sweetly.

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We had gone out to chase a few rogue deer who somehow snuck into the garden.  And rounding the corner, there were golden roses proudly blooming on a climber which normally blooms only in the spring.  It had re-awakened to share a few special winter blossoms with us.

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Even after a cold snap this weekend and frost on Saturday morning, the flowers keep coming all over the garden.  We have Camellias and Violas, Snaps and roses.  And now this golden Daffodil, too….

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This Camellia normally blooms each spring. Do you see the open Forsythia blossom in the photo? If it is 80 here on Christmas Eve, as is forecast, I expect this shrub to begin leafing out by New Year's Day....

This Camellia normally blooms each spring.  Do you see the open Forsythia blossom in the photo? If it is 80 here on Christmas Eve, as is forecast, I expect this shrub to begin leafing out by New Year’s Day….

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Indoors, our Amaryllis has bloomed in record time.  And such blossoms! 

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December 21, 2015 flowers 007

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This is the special, huge, bulb I brought home form The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  What flowers!  Only the first stem has bloomed so far, so we have at least four more blossoms to open this week.

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It was fine, until I moved it for better photographs.  That upset the balance, and the stem and leaves were flopping over by early evening.  Hindsight, right…?

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But now I’ve staked it with a coil of copper wire and a green stake from a peony cage.   The flowers are standing up proudly again, so pretty in the morning sun.

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These final ‘blossoms’ are not flowers at all; they are our ornamental cabbages, with their outrageously ornate leaves.  They appear quite happy with our mild December weather.  They will hold up to snow, but too many bitterly cold nights will show up on the leaves.

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December 21, 2015 flowers 021

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This afternoon, we  finally brought  our Christmas tree indoors, and its fresh aroma has begun to fill our home with that special fragrance of Christmas.  I hope to get lights on it later this evening.

But these last days before Christmas are full ones. 

The beauty of our Solstice blossoms invites us to slow down; to appreciate the beauty, and not get completely lost in the flurry of  endless tasks and errands.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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December 21, 2015 flowers 009

Silent Sunday

February 8, 2015 Amaryllis 004

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February 8, 2015 Amaryllis 002

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“We do not enjoy a story fully at first reading.

Not till curiosity, the sheer narrative lust,

has been given its sop and laid asleep,

are we at leisure to savor the real beauties.”

 

C.S. Lewis

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February 6, 2015 Amaryllis 002

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

One Word Photo Challenge: Strawberry

February 3, 2015 strawberry 008

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Real strawberries may be months away from ripening in our pots on the deck, yet I’ve found touches of pink and red growing now in our indoor winter garden.

Thank you for coming to enjoy these photos today, inspired by Jennifer Nichole Well’s One Word Photo Challenge:  Strawberry.

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This challenge helps us focus on the many beautiful and unusual colors which surround us each day.

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This Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, is so happy in its cool spot near a window that it continues to set buds.

This Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, is so happy in its cool spot near a window that it continues to set buds.

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I found touches of “strawberry” in new growth on our houseplants today, and also in a single Viola blossom in a sheltered area on our still-frozen deck.  I thought you might enjoy it in the same vase photographed last Monday for Cathy’s Vase Challenge.

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February 3, 2015 strawberry 016

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Although last week’s Violas and snowdrops didn’t stay fresh for the entire week, the two white Hellebore blossoms continue to swell and will open later this week.  Forsythia branches have responded to the warmth indoors and have begun to show color.  The blueberry buds remain tightly closed, which isn’t surprising since they open much later in the spring than the Forsythia in the garden.

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February 3, 2015 strawberry 015

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While you’re here, I need to share something with you that we learned earlier today.  It seems a neighbor of ours suffered a robbery while he was sleeping last week.  But there were no signs of forced entry.  It was as though the robber somehow had a key…. and the crime remains a mystery so far as has been told to the community.

We heard a related story on our local news this afternoon about a website which allows one to order duplicate keys from a photograph.  Would-be robbers can simply take a photo of your house key with their phone, upload it to a particular website, and order a duplicate key for less than $10.00.

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This newly opened Philodendron leaf is nearly 'strawberry'....

This newly opened Philodendron leaf is nearly ‘strawberry’….

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As much as we love the conveniences technology offers, now we must all be vigilant and careful with yet another bit of our daily routine.  The days of leaving our keys in plain sight, whether on our desk, clipped to our belt or purse, or even loaned out to a valet or mechanic’s shop, have passed.  Any unscrupulous person may quickly snap a photo and help themselves to duplicates of our keys.

Even a workman coming into our home could quickly snap a photo of our keys left lying on a counter, and then sell our house key and our address.  Please don’t think I’m overly paranoid in sharing this with you.  We just all need to be very smart and mindful in these interesting times in which we live.  We weren’t aware of this  online “service” until we heard the story today; and you may not have heard of it yet, either.

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New spring growth on a cane Begonia

New spring growth on a cane Begonia

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Here is the story from our local news, and another from New York.  Keysduplicated.com, which provides this service, offers these safety tips to help you protect yourself from an invasion of your privacy:

  • Keep keys in a pocket, purse, or anything else worthy of guarding your credit cards.
  • Don’t leave your keys unattended, even on your desk at work.
  • Be careful who you let borrow your keys, whether it’s a friend, mechanic or valet. Only hand over the necessary keys, not your whole key-ring.
  • Buy (or have your landlord buy) high security locks
  • Don’t post pictures of your keys on Twitter, Facebook, or other online services.

We have ventured a bit far afield from a photo challenge post today, and I appreciate your patience.  If you were hoping for a bit of poetry, I’m sorry to disappoint.

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Our Amaryllis is coming along nicely.

Our Amaryllis is coming along nicely.

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Assuming I’m finally able to get out of the house tomorrow, it will be to pick up a quart of strawberries.

And once we have some fresh strawberries in the house, I’ll hope to show you something delicious made with them.  When it’s too wet and cold to dig in the garden, there is always the kitchen to play in…

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Ah, June....

Remembering June….

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

 

February 1, 2015 moss garden 007

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“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in-

-what more could he ask?

A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”

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Victor Hugo

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“Our duty is wakefulness,

the fundamental condition of life itself.

The unseen, the unheard, the untouchable

is what weaves the fabric of our see-able universe together.”

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Robin Craig Clark

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“It is good to love many things,

for therein lies the true strength,

and whosoever loves much performs much,

and can accomplish much,

and what is done in love is well done.”

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Vincent van Gogh

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February 1, 2015 moss garden 009

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“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;

what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

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January 16, 2015 signs 030

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Growth

January 11, 2015 terrarium 021

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The Amaryllis bulb planted last week has begun to grow, and its pale bud has deepened to green.

The building of this little garden was documented in “The Gift.”    There was a kind request in the comments to show you its progress.  It has been growing since last Sunday.

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In addition to the slight growth of the Amaryllis buds, I’ve also noticed the spike moss beginning to fill out with newly opening buds.

That is beyond exciting to a gardening addict like me!

Imagine, here we are deeply into a solidly frozen January, and I’m watching buds swell  and green in this little inside garden.

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January 11, 2015 terrarium 008

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Just for comparison, another photo taken today of a solidly frozen moss garden living outside on our deck.

If the weather forecast proves true, you may see this one covered in ice one day very soon!

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This bottle has now been transformed into a tiny terrarium.  Here, before construction began.

This bottle has now been transformed into a tiny terrarium. Here, before construction began.  Tomorrow I’ll show you the progress of that garden when typing becomes a bit easier.  My left hand remains bandaged today after an unfortunate accident in the kitchen yesterday….  And yes, all is well….

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Woodland Gnome 2015

The Gift

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Friends gave us an Amaryllis bulb for the holidays.  A perfect gift (for me at least) as I love them, and never purchased one this fall.

Amaryllis bulbs often come in neat kits, with instructions, pot and peat included.

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The perfect gift for the holidays, from much loved friends and neighbors.

The perfect gift for the holidays  from much loved friends and neighbors.

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If you buy your own kit, take a look at the bulb to make sure it is alive.  Do you see how some of the roots are hydrated, and a bud pokes up from the bulb’s neck?  This is a good bulb.

You’ll find the “soil” at the bottom of the pot.  Every bit of moisture has been dried out of this peat, compressed into a thin disc.

After soaking in warm water for several hours the peat expands and will fill the pot.   But I’ll leave that bit of fun for another day….

 

This healthy bulb shows the critical signs of growth:  a few plump roots and tips of new growth.  This bud will open into many gorgeous flowers in a few weeks.

This healthy bulb shows the critical signs of growth: a few plump roots and tips of new growth. This bud will open into many gorgeous flowers in a few weeks.

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I love Amaryllis mixed into larger plantings.     When in bloom, Amaryllis can be breathtakingly beautiful.

They make a huge floral splash for a few weeks as the buds open.  The flowers are long-lived, but like every other flower, eventually they fade.

And then what do you do? 

Their leaves, often two feet long or more, live on for quite a while re-fueling the bulb to bloom again next year.

Some folks probably chuck the bulb once the bloom is finished… but you know I’m not going to do that!

And so I like to grow the bulb as an element of an arrangement rather than as a single bulb in a pot.

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There is something interesting to look at as the bulb begins to grow, and there is something interesting to look at as the bulb’s foliage finishes.

I incorporated this lovely bulb into another riff on my mossy garden theme.

The container has been sitting in the basement since I purchased it off a clearance shelf for a dollar or two several years ago.  It is pretty shallow for a large bulb, but that is OK because Amaryllis don’t need to be planted deeply.

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This bowl has no drainage.  I'm using dried spaghum moss to absorb  and then release moisture as needed.  A small bed of pebbles will hold the bulb.

This bowl has no drainage. I’m using dried sphagnum moss to absorb and then release moisture as needed. A small bed of pebbles will hold the bulb.

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A bed of dried sphagnum moss in the bottom will wick up water, releasing it back slowly as needed.  A small bed of stones lifts the base of the bulb a little above the bottom of the container to give the roots a head start.  They will grow horizontally into the potting soil as they develop.

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The fern's pot is also deeper than this bowl.  I gently pulled the roots of the fern out to the side to make it fit.  This fern spreads with underground rhizomes.  Pulling it apart  in this way encourages it to spread more quickly.

The fern’s pot is also deeper than this bowl. I gently pulled the roots of the fern out to the side to make it fit. This fern spreads with underground rhizomes. Pulling it apart in this way encourages it to spread more quickly.

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A lady fern ( adopted yesterday from  Home Depot)  gives some mass, presently towering over the bulb.  The Amaryllis will quickly catch up, towering over the fern before it blooms.

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Offsets are already forming from rhizomes off of the main fern clump.

Offsets are already forming from rhizomes off of the main fern clump.  This potting soil has slow release fertilizer and perlite mixed in for drainage.  It will support all of the plants better than the pure peat which came with the kit.

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I hope the fern will fill in quickly to balance the height of the bloom scape.

And finally, I went digging in a pot out in the garden where some strawberry begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera,  and spikemoss, Selaginella, still survive.

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I dug up more little divisions to bring inside.

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Spikemoss spills over the side of the container.  Moss and lichens cover the potting soil.

Spikemoss spills over the side of the container. Moss and lichens cover the potting soil.  Tiny pebbles fill in cracks and seems.

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These are both hardy to Zone 7, but  the deep freeze coming this week  won’t make them happy.   I was glad to rescue them for a garden inside where it’s warm.

The ground cover is all mosses and lichens dug from the garden.  These add such interesting texture and color to the design.  There are endless combinations of mosses and lichens growing together, and all are wonderful viewed close up.

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An Amaryllis becomes very top heavy as it grows.  Many people stake them once they reach 12″-14″ tall.  I plan to try a different approach.

I’ve brought up a tall, clear glass hurricane globe, which I’ll place into this little garden as the bulb begins to grow.  It will make its own little “terrarium” like environment and will also support the Amaryllis, corralling both leaves and bloom scape.

The globe is so tall that it looked a little strange when I fitted it in earlier today.  But once the Amaryllis starts its stretch, I think it will work just fine.

The dish garden sits on a mirrored buffet in the dining room.  It gets bright light from several directions for most of the day.  We will enjoy watching this little garden grow.

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A dynamic mix, it will change every few days. 

When the weather settles enough to move the Amaryllis outside later in the spring, I’ll move all of the other plants back out into the garden to enjoy another growing season in the sun, wind and rain.  But until then, we’ll enjoy a close up view of their progress.

Any garden of moss needs high humidity and frequent misting and watering.

Please remember that moss plants are so primitive they have no roots or vascular system.  Each cell must absorb the water it needs from its environment.  That is why moss thrives in  rain! 

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The mossy groundcover is a patchwork of small pieces.  Pebbles placed along their edges not only hides the seams and fills spaces, they also help conserve moisture so the moss stays moist, longer.

The mossy groundcover is a patchwork of small pieces. Pebbles placed along their edges not only hide the seams and fills spaces, they also help conserve moisture so the moss stays moist, longer.

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Ferns are thirsty, too, as is the Amaryllis.  This little planting will need water every couple of days.

Moss thrive in acidic conditions.  Diluted brewed tea (no sugar or cream, please) feeds the plants and keeps their environment acidic.  I dilute whatever tea is left in the pot before washing it, and share this cold brew among different plants each day.  Any planting with ferns or moss will appreciate “a cuppa” from time to time.

Amaryllis kits remain popular gifts.  Maybe you received one, too.  These beautiful flowers charm us year after year with their bright winter blooms.

And like all bulbs, they grow as if by magic.  Just anchor them in medium, add water, and prepare to be amazed with their beauty!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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