Six on Saturday: Endless Summer


It’s never a good thing when odd weather makes the news.  The news here this week has noted both our high, mid-summer like temperatures and the deepening drought.  It has felt like July or early August instead of our usual gentle cooling slide into October.  I read this morning that parts of the Southeastern United States not only broke every record for daily high temperatures this past week, but some broke their record high for the entire year, over the past three days.

Clear skies and relentless heat through most of September has left our gardens, fields and roadsides crisp and thirsty.  Even some trees and shrubs look a bit limp, with leaves turning brown and falling early.  Rich autumn colors have been parched out of much of our foliage; an anti-climatic ending to this remarkable year.

But every day I still study the forecast, expecting our slim chance for rain to materialize into a sweet, moist, life-giving inundation.


A Painted Lady butterfly feeds on Lantana in our front garden.


Until that happens, the only life-giving water comes from a watering can or hose, and I’ve spent many hours this week delivering water to hard, parched dirt in hopes of sustaining thirsty plants through another searing day of heat.

It chased me back indoors on Wednesday.  After a relatively cool morning, where I was able to enjoy making my watering rounds at the Botanical Garden, the morning blazed into mid-day heat.  I could feel the sun burning through my hat and shirt like a cosmic broiler, as I dutifully watered the last few pots on the patio here at home.  I’ve never felt the sun so strongly in October, or felt chased back indoors so urgently to cool off and re-hydrate myself.  I sat under the ceiling fan, water in hand, and considered how this new weather reality will demand changes in how I plant in years to come.

But even as the leaves crisp and our black-eyed Susans bloom on blackened stems, bright purple berries shine on beautyberry branches, buds swell and bloom on our Camellias, pineapple sage opens its first flowers of the season and butterflies float around the garden


The first Camellias bloomed in our garden last week.


Our masses of Lantana support countless small butterflies, all feeding and hovering about their bulk.  I get a rush of pleasure from walking near and seeing the cloud of butterflies rise and resettle at my approach.  A Monarch fed placidly yesterday until I had it in focus.  An instant before I clicked the shutter it rose, looped around a time or two and disappeared across the crest of our roof.

Judith brought over her hamper of chrysalides on Tuesday afternoon.  About 20 butterflies were still growing inside, awaiting their day to break free, stretch their wings, and fly away.  Some of these were the same ones she rescued a few weeks ago from our fennel plants.  After handfeeding them organic parsley as they grow, she protects their chrysalides in mesh cages while they pupate.  Finally, they break out of their protective sheaths to stretch and harden their wings.


The first Black Swallowtail to emerge from the hamper Judith loaned us was a female.  Here, she allows her wings to stretch and harden before her first flight.  She is resting directly above her now empty chrysalis.


As we release each adult butterfly from the hamper, I wonder, ‘How do they learn to fly?’

A female flew out of the cage and rested lightly on the Lantana yesterday morning, and then floated up onto a low branch of a nearby dogwood, considering her new world.  Do butterflies remember their caterpillar lives?  Do they recognize the garden from such a different viewpoint?

Butterflies emerge from the chrysalis totally prepared for the next stage of their lives, and float off, effortlessly, to get on with the important business of sucking nectar and finding a mate.  Maybe we aren’t so different, when you really think about it.


This long tailed skipper, Urbanus proteus, is more commonly found in South and Central America, but it has been sighted as far north as New York. It feeds on bean, Wisteria and pea leaves, so its larvae is often considered a pest.  As an adult, it is very unusual land beautiful.  Here, it feeds on Buddleia and Verbena.


And this generation emerging from their chrysalis this week will likely mate and lay their eggs in the garden before we see frost.  Winter seems far away this week and summer, endless.

The gardening ‘to-do’ list seems longer now than it did in August, since it’s nearly time to put the garden to bed, plant a few daffodil bulbs, pull out the annuals and fill our pots with pansies.

But that will have to wait a bit while I play with the butterflies, water, and take time to appreciate the beauty of our late summer garden.



Woodland Gnome 2019

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator


At Work or at Play? Hummingbird Moth


“This is the real secret of life –
– to be completely engaged
with what you are doing in the here and now.
And instead of calling it work,
realize it is play.”
Alan Watts



“The best way to not feel hopeless
is to get up and do something.
Don’t wait for good things to happen to you.
If you go out and make some good things happen,
you will fill the world with hope,
you will fill yourself with hope.”
Barack Obama



“Without ambition one starts nothing.
Without work one finishes nothing.
The prize will not be sent to you.
You have to win it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson



“Your purpose in life
is to find your purpose
and give your whole heart and soul to it”



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019



“Pleasure in the job
puts perfection in the work.”

Photos are of a hummingbird moth, Hemaris thysbe, feeding on Lantana camara ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden September 2, 2019.

Fabulous Friday: Our Garden Is Full

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta


It was just a little goldfinch.  Yet I was so delighted to notice it gracefully balanced on a yellow black-eyed Susan flower near the drive, when we returned from our morning errands.  He concentrated his full attention on pecking at the flower’s center.  Though the seeds aren’t yet ripe, he was clearly hoping for a morsel to eat.

Once I took a step too close, he lifted into the air on outstretched wings, disappearing behind a stand of goldenrod.


‘Green Envy’ Echinacea mixes with basil and more Rudbeckia, a feast for goldfinches and butterflies.


Goldfinches and cardinals catch our eye with their bright feathers, but there are all of the other grey and brown and occasionally blue birds flitting from grass to shrub and flowering mass from before dawn until their final songs long past dusk.  And then we listen for the owls’ conversations through the night.



I heard a wonderful speaker yesterday morning, who pulled back the curtain a bit on the world of insects in our gardens.  He is a former student of Dr. Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home , and is now an assistant professor of Biology at nearby Hampton University.  Dr. Shawn Dash is a gifted teacher, keeping us all laughing and learning as he shared his insights into the importance of the insects of the planet in maintaining the web of life.


Joe Pye Weed attracts more insects than any other flower in the garden this month.


I am a total novice in this mysterious world of insects.  But I will say that I am learning to look at them with admiration and respect… so long as they remain out of doors in the garden!

Joe Pye Weed is the best wildlife attractor blooming in our garden at the moment.  It is simply covered with every sort of wasp and bee and butterfly and moth and sci-fi ready insect you can imagine.  The ‘buzz’ around it mesmerizes.



Our garden hums and buzzes and clicks with life as July finally melts into August.  Dr. Dash talked about the musical chorus of insects as one of the wonderful benefits of a full garden; a diverse garden that includes some percentage of native plants to support them.

Creating a layered garden with an abundance of plant life from the hardwood canopy all the way down through smaller trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, vines and ground cover offers many niches to harbor a huge array of insects.  All of those juicy insects attract song birds and small mammals, turtles, frogs, lizards and yes, maybe also a snake or two.



A fairly sterile suburban lawn may be transformed into a wild life oasis, a rich ecosystem filled with color, movement and song.  And the whole process begins with planting more native trees and shrubs to offer food and shelter to scores of species.



But even more fundamentally, the process begins when we value the entire web of life in our particular ecosystem and allow it to unfold.


Hardy blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, grows wild in our garden.  I stopped weeding it out after a few plants survived deep enough into the summer to bloom with these gorgeous blue flowers.


I quickly learned that I don’t really need to go out and buy a lot of native plants.  I only have to allow them to grow when they sprout from the seeds already in our soil.  I have to allow the seeds that wildlife drop in our garden to have a bit of real-estate to take hold.  And nature magically fills the space.

We guide, nurture, and yes edit.  But as soon as we allow it and offer the least encouragement, nature becomes our partner and our guide.


The goldenrod want to claim this entire area as their own… time to give some to friends!


If you’ve already read Bringing Nature Home, let me invite you to also read, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, co-authored by Dr. Tallamy and landscape designer and photographer, Rick Darke.

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden by [Darke, Rick, Tallamy, Douglas W.]

This translates the science into the practical planning of an ecologically balanced home landscape, and is richly illustrated and laced with wonderful stories.  It inspires one to go plant something and make one’s garden even more diverse.


Our little Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar is growing fast, happily munching on the Daucus carota.


Our garden is filled to overflowing, this Fabulous Friday.  It is filled with flowers and foliage, birds, squirrels, butterflies and scampering lizards.  Our garden is filled with tweets and twitters of the natural kind, the sounds of wind blowing through the trees and rain dripping on the pavement.




Our world is wet this week, as storm after storm trains up the East Coast.  I’m grateful for the rain even as I’m swatting at the mosquitoes biting any exposed bit of skin, while I focus my camera on the butterflies.

I hope that your summer is unfolding rich in happiness and beautiful experiences.  I hope you are getting enough rain, but not too much; that your garden is doing well and that you are, too.



Fabulous Friday: 

Happiness is Contagious; Let’s Infect One Another!



Woodland Gnome 2018



Sunday Dinner: Juxtaposed


“Because you don’t notice the light without a bit of shadow.
Everything has both dark and light.
You have to play with it
till you get it exactly right.”
Libba Bray



“You couldn’t have strength without weakness,
you couldn’t have light without dark,
you couldn’t have love
without loss”
Jodi Picoult



“Red was ruby, green was fluorescent,
yellow was simply incandescent.
Color was life.
Color was everything.
Color, you see,
was the universal sign of magic.”
Tahereh Mafi



“Hygge is our awareness of the scale of our existence
in contrast to the immensity of life.
It is our sense of intimacy
and encounter with each other
and with the creaturely world around us.
It is the presence of nature
calling us back to the present moment,
calling us home.”
Louisa Thomsen Brits



“Yes, contrast teaches us a great many things
and there is purpose for it.
Yet it is time to transcend your everyday dramas
that are but drops in an ocean.
Cease focusing on your droplets of water and look around you.
Everything you say and touch and do
sets into motion ripples
that either heal and create
or curse and destroy.
Let me repeat: Everything.”
Alaric Hutchinson



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
“…the basic stuff of the universe, at its core,
is looking like a kind of pure energy
that is malleable to human intention and expectation
in a way that defies our old mechanistic model of the universe-
-as though our expectation itself
causes our energy to flow out into the world
and affect other energy systems.”
James Redfield



“A warrior has to believe,
otherwise he cannot activate his intent positively.”
Théun Mares

Sunday Dinner: From A Different Angle

August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 046


“The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view.

Since life is growth and motion,

a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.”


Brooks Atkinson


August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 043


“We begin to learn wisely when we’re willing
to see world from other people’s perspective.”


Toba Beta


August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 042


“The truth is, I can choose to view

tough times as growing times,

I can choose to see aging as seasoning

and I can choose to focus on whatever good

there is to be found in living.

I choose.  After all, it’s my point of view.”


Steve Goodier


August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 044


“Its all about perspective,

that is how you look at things.

Your own thoughts and outlook defines

whether an experience, event, situation

whatever is good or bad.

And your definition determines your response.”


Stella Payton


August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 035~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Every Angle


August 29, 2015 garden at dusk 045


Late Hydrangeas In a Vase on Monday

July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 008~

A ‘cooler’ summer day never fails to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for the garden.  Our breezes are from the northwest, and yesterday was as perfect a day as one might hope for in late July.  We had a dry week, and so I went out yesterday morning just to water the pots and baskets, and to add some water to our bog garden.


July 27, 2015 caterpillars 007~

Well, I’m sure you can guess that it was hours later when I finally wandered back indoors.   Such growth everywhere!

I cut the cat mint back very hard, hoping it will soon grow out again with fresh flowers.  There were lots of spent roses and Cannas to deadhead, creeping grasses to pull, and flowers to admire.


July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 011~

And while watering the front border, these soft Hydrangeas caught my eye.  Although the clear blue Hydrangea blossoms of late spring always delight, I truly love these green and purply pink blossoms which come in summer.

These grow in a very protected, shady area below some tall Rose of Sharon shrubs.  I had to crawl back under low woody branches to even reach these Hydrangeas, which were peeking out shyly from the foliage, and nearly invisible.

Although they could fill a vase by themselves, the blooming Coleus in a large pot by the front door beckoned.  I cut a few stems to tuck into the vase for height and contrast.


July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 004~

It was only back inside, while trimming up the stems for the vase, that I noticed a pale green grasshopper climbing over the Hydrangea blossoms.  You might spot him in a few of the photos.

Today’s vase is an old green glass container which usually holds cuttings to root.  It was old when it came to me, more than thirty years ago now.


July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 014~

A fluorite dragon guards the vase.  Fluorite is a wonderfully cooling stone for summer.  Its clear, watery blues, greens and purples exude peace and calm, much like a staying in a house at the lake or on the beach.


July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 015~

Cathy, ever faithful in her Monday posts, shares with us a colorful vase composed by her Mum this week.  This is the vase which greeted her in the guestroom, when she arrived for a holiday at her Mum’s home on an island off the coast of Scotland.

I hope you’ll pop over to Rambling In The Garden to enjoy her Mum’s flowers, too.  Cathy encourages us to cut a few blossoms from our garden to enjoy in a vase indoors each week.  This simple ritual gives such enjoyment, and the opportunity to observe the passing seasons.

We enjoyed another cool morning and early showers here in Williamsburg today.  The trees around town are that special intense green only a damp summer will allow.  The air almost vibrates with their intensity today.  Our farmer’s market still offers potted Hydrangeas for sale, at an almost unbeatable price.  I was sorely tempted to adopt another.  But, reality set in and we left with only melons and peaches.


July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 012


Some might say the best of summer still stretches before us.   The best summer produce can be had locally now, the Crepe Myrtle trees are all covered in blossoms, and the garden is at full power.  We are sighting more butterflies each day.

Speaking of butterflies, we found these baby caterpillars today in the midst of a Coleus arrangement while I was refreshing it.


July 27, 2015 caterpillars 002~

Something looked strange about the parsley flowers, and on closer inspection we found these tiny caterpillars earnestly eating on the stems.  They must have come indoors more than a week ago as eggs, and hatched on the parsley indoors.


Cut on July 15, these Coleus stems have mostly rooted now and are ready for pots.  I love how the colors reflect the mandala needlework, just finished a few days ago and waiting for a frame.

Cut on July 15, these Coleus stems have mostly rooted now and are ready for pots. I love how the colors reflect the mandala needlework, just finished a few days ago and waiting for a frame.


The caterpillars are back out in the pot now with the mother plant, set to continue munching and growing.  The vase has fresh water, and most of the Coleus stems sport tiny white roots.  They will grow on through the remaining weeks of summer.


July 27, 2015 caterpillars 006


Woodland Gnome 2015


July 27, 2015 hydrangea vase 005


“And so with the sunshine

and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees,

just as things grow in fast movies,

I had that familiar conviction

that life was beginning over again with the summer.”


F. Scott Fitzgerald


Wordless Wednesday

July 1, 2015 garden at dusk 010~

“To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.”

Paul Valéry


July 1, 2015 garden at dusk 008~

Woodland Gnome 2015


July 1, 2015 garden at dusk 012


November 10, 2014 garden 049


Our garden is flooded with warm sunshine today. 

We have spent much of the day outside, enjoying it, and making preparations for the freeze which should overtake us by next weekend.


November 10, 2014 garden 004

Although we expect to remain on the milder, southern edges of the storm already bringing snow to so many; we know it is finally time to bring in the hoses and the last of the tender plants we don’t want to freeze.


November 10, 2014 garden 038


The forecast continues to shift, with night time temperatures falling ever lower.

I don’t trust it, and so we continue to prepare for the approaching Arctic blast.


November 10, 2014 garden 043


But even so, we enjoyed the company of butterflies and bees today as we moved about the garden.

Like us, they are soaking in every possible moment of golden sunlight.


November 10, 2014 garden 020

Illumined by the waning November sun, surrounded by brilliant autumn leaves, and encouraged by birds feasting on our ripening berries; we filled more pots with bright pansies where Basil grew all summer long.

Our perfectly clear blue sky slowly filled with cloudy haze as the day progressed.


November 10, 2014 garden 048

Falling leaves filled the air, leaving bare branches in their wake.

November  undeniably has touched the garden already, and will leave it’s frosty fingerprints on even more of it  by week’s end.


November 10, 2014 garden 010

And yet we’ve enjoyed warmth and sunshine today; a gift of another bright and beautiful day well into November.


“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself

and to the life illumined by it.”


  Eberhard Arnold



November 10, 2014 garden 005



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


December 13 2013 poinsettias 003

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014


The Butterfly Effect

October 19, 2014 fall color 015

After a summer spent watching for butterflies, we celebrate each one which crosses our path this October.

I say, “Crossing our path” intentionally.  We  cringed each time a Monarch came fluttering towards the windshield as we drove along  the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

We believe they all survived, carried in the wind over the roof of our car and safely on their journey.

October 19, 2014 fall color 012

Often, as I stopped to take photos, familiar orange and black wings lit somewhere nearby.

Monarchs and Painted Ladies  delight us as they flutter around our garden on these warm, late October afternoons.

October 8, 2014 garden 001

A Painted Lady enjoys nectar from Lantana in our garden.


Paging through the new “Winter” issue of Arts and Crafts Homes,  I was a little surprised to see a photo of Monarch butterflies crowded on an evergreen branch.  Since the butterfly is a common motif in “Arts and Crafts” decor, the decline in our butterfly population rated an article even here.

Artist Amy Miller is raising Monarch butterflies in her kitchen!

The article explains how Amy set up a “mating tent” made of mosquito netting in her home,  stocked with nectar flowers and fresh milkweed.  Amy brings pairs of butterflies to the tent, releasing the males back into the wild after mating.  Females are kept until they lay their eggs on the milkweed.

Amy carefully raises the caterpillars until mature butterflies emerge.  Thus far, Amy has released more than 500 adult monarchs back into the wild.  Her 27 acre property along Wisconsin’s Trimbelle  River, is a natural habitat for Monarchs.


October 19, 2014 fall color 046

Also mentioned was fellow blogger Kim Smith, who initiated the Cape Ann Milkweed Project  in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Kim distributes milkweed seeds and  encourages homeowners to create more habitat for Monarch butterflies.

Kim often blogs about Monarchs and her efforts to support gardeners around the country willing to grow their host plant.  Milkweed is the only plant on which Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs. Monarch larvae eat only milkweed as they grow.  Often considered a weed, few homeowners include it in their landscape.

Monarcch on Staghorns umac along the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

Monarcch on Staghorn Sumac along the Colonial Parkway this weekend.

As natural areas, and the native plants they support, disappear; and roads, neighborhoods and shopping centers proliferate across the landscape; we see the direct consequences in our dwindling butterfly populations.

Many of us in the blogging community have written about our search for Monarchs and other native butterflies this season.

Many of us share the concern that they haven’t visited our gardens in their usual numbers this summer.

This male Monarch has made himself at home in our garden, enjoying the Lantana buffet these last few weeks. Do you see the spots, near the body, on his rear wings? These spots indicate a male butterfly.

This male Monarch has made himself at home in our garden, enjoying the Lantana buffet these last few weeks. Do you see the spots, near the body, on his rear wings? These spots indicate a male butterfly.


Eliza Waters, another Massachusetts based blogging friend,  also documents her efforts to support the Monarch population in her gardens.

Much like Rachel Carson raised the alarm about our native birds in her 1962 Silent Spring, so our generation documents our concerns for the butterflies.  Carson’s book launched the environmental movement in the United States, bringing about sweeping changes in our laws; eventually  banning DDT and other harmful insecticides and pesticides.

And now, more than 50 years later, we witness a resurgence of the  environmental movement inspired, in part, by the loss of our beloved butterflies.

October 7, 2014 garden 008

We know that herbicides used in commercial farming, along with over development, play in a major role in the loss of both milkweeds and the nectar flowers Monarchs, and other butterflies, depend upon for their life cycle.

And although this problem appears very large, each of us can do our own small part to make a positive difference.

We can each have our own tiny “Butterfly Effect.”  Do you know the term? 

Edward Lorenz coined the term in 1961 to describe how one tiny change in the initial conditions of a system may dramatically effect the outcome.  It is an axiom of Chaos  Theory.


Monarch spotted feeding in our garden this morning.

And while we might feel helpless to have much effect against multinational corporations spraying herbicides on their GMO crops, or the energy giants building thousands of miles of new gas pipelines across our communities; we can create a safe and supportive habitat on our own properties for butterflies, frogs, songbirds, and the other beautiful little creatures whose presence indicates a rich web of life in our garden.


October 19, 2014 fall color 107

Tiny insects on Rose of Sharon seedpods

We can plant milkweed for the Monarchs. And we can plant  fennel, parsley, dill, black cherry trees, and other native trees to host  the other butterflies we love.

Even those of us gardening on a condo balcony or patio can grow these simple host and nectar plants in pots.

Every tiny effort makes a positive difference.


Joe Pye weed, new in our garden this season, has fed many creatures over the season.

Joe Pye Weed, new in our garden this spring, has fed many creatures over the season.


We can stop using pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers in our gardens, thus keeping them out of the water supply and out of the food chain.


Unknown larvae feed on Virginia Creeper vines growing on this Eastern Red Cedar.

Unknown larvae feed on Virginia Creeper vines growing on this Eastern Red Cedar.


We can include berry and seed producing shrubs and trees in our garden, and leave some untended “wild” places for creatures to nest and shelter.

October 19, 2014  autumn 003

And we can support our neighbors in their efforts to create wildlife habitat in their own gardens.


MIlkweed pods bursting to release their downy seeds is a sure sign of October in Virginia.

MIlkweed pods bursting to release their downy seeds is a sure sign of October in Virginia.  These grow beside  College Creek in our community.


Let us all keep “The Butterfly Effect” in mind. In our seemingly chaotic world, every small act of kindness and goodwill has the potential to make an enormous difference as our story unfolds here on Earth.

Every milkweed seed we nurture may host hundreds of Monarch butterflies.

Every bit of garden we cultivate may feed thousands of creatures.

October 17, 2014 light 019


Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


The Daily Post Writing Challenge:  The Butterfly Effect


The Butterfly Garden- plant lists



Wildflowers and Autumn Leaves

September 7, 2014 garden 028

I took a quiet walk down to the Creek this morning, and enjoyed the wildflowers emerging now, late in the season, in the neglected places along the way.


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They all bloom in their own season.

And like another spring, many wait until the cooler, shorter days of early autumn to open to the world.


September 7, 2014 garden 033

Wildflowers and brilliantly changing leaves offered splashes of color on this cool and overcast day; this nearly silent Sunday morning.


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

September 7, 2014 garden 036

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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

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