Fabulous Friday: Signs of Spring

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Jack, or Jacqueline Frost, visited our garden last night.  The temperature dropped quickly after the sun went down, and there was no wind.

Long, intricate ice crystals formed on every moist surface.

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I went out early enough this morning to discover them.  The sun’s first rays were just stroking them, and releasing each ice crystal back into the sky as mist.

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“In the process of  falling to the earth,
seeping into the ground, and then emerging,
water obtains information from various minerals
and becomes wise.”
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Masaru Emoto
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As I wandered around, admiring the rim of frost on grass and leaves, buds and glass, I also noticed many signs of spring.

The ground in our garden may be frozen hard, but determined green shoots still emerge.

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Perennials still push up a few tentative leaves.  Woody buds swell.

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And the desiccated chaff remaining from summer’s growth blankets the ground.  It, too, prepares for spring as it decomposes and enriches the soil for all that will follow.

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Maybe it is in our nature to watch and wait for signs of events still beyond the horizon of our lives.   Perhaps it is a lack of discipline when we shift our focus from ‘what is’ to ‘what will come.’

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Even as we appreciate winter’s gifts of fiery sunsets, quiet snow, long evenings and intricate crystalline artworks shining in the morning sunshine;  spring already stirs in our hearts.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“What is the relationship between love and gratitude?
For an answer to this question, we can use water as a model.
A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom,
represented by H2O.
If love and gratitude , like oxygen and hydrogen,
were linked together in a ratio of 1 to 2,
gratitude would be twice as large as love.”
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Masaru Emoto, Hidden Messages in Water

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another.

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In Bud

Edgeworthia chrysantha, Chinese Paperbush

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January promises limitless potential.  At the time of year when so little appears to be growing in the garden, a closer look shows us evidence of coming attractions.

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Mahonia aquifolium will soon bloom, feeding hungry pollinators through the winter months.

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Another gardening season stretches ahead of us; everything we hope for feels absolutely possible.  The first green tips of daffodil foliage poke up from the muddy soil, reminding us where clumps and drifts will soon begin the year’s progression of flowers.

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And every woody tree, shrub and vine is covering itself with plump, swelling buds.  Like colorful eggs, their protective shells shield the tiny leaves and petals within from winter’s harshness.

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Aesculus pavia, red buckeye buds contain both flowers and new leaves.

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A quick walk about reminds us how incredibly varied something even as simple as a woody bud can be.  Their colors, texture, placement on the stem, shape and form prove as varied as the flowers and leaves which will burst into growth in the months to come.

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Dogwood, Cornus florida sports round onion shaped flower buds from fall through until spring.  Leaf buds grow long and narrow.

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Even in these spare wintery months, the garden holds such a variety of interesting things to see.  Without spring’s fragrant distraction, these beautiful buds, and the stems and twigs which hold,  them claim my attention.

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Last year’s seed heads mix with next summer’s buds on crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia species.

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Next spring’s garden lives in these shivering buds today.  They are more fragile than any other exposed part of the plant when our temperatures dive and winter’s winds blow.   At times they may hold small mounds of snow, or rest encased in an icy skin.

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Magnolia stellata will be one of our first trees to burst into bloom next month.  The large bud at the end of the branch holds the developing flower, while the smaller buds along the stem will unfold as leaves.

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With luck, they will survive the elements to finally unfold into new life, at the perfect moment for their growth to accelerate.  Rapid growth at the buds will elaborate on what is already here, creating new woody growth as the weeks go by.

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Magnolia liliiflora  will bloom a few weeks later, with deep purple flowers.

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Even if a swelling bud is lost, those further down the stem will respond with accelerated growth of their own.  There is always a plan, even if an entire stem succumbs to the cold.  We will watch for shoots and buds to emerge from the roots.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia  is a native shrub hardy to Zone 5.  New growth from late opening autumn buds was frozen in our recent cold snap.  New growth will emerge next spring, and new shoots will also grow from the roots.

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Even as we celebrate our successes when the garden is fully clothed in vegetative growth; in January, we celebrate our garden’s potential.

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These are the days when we feel appreciation for every woody branch and twig, for every evergreen leaf, and especially for all of the healthy, swelling buds which sparkle in the winter sunshine.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Forsythia buds show color early, often blooming by mid-February.  In an especially cold winter, they may not open until early March.

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Variations on a Theme

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WPC: Weathered Flowers

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Flowers have survived on our Hydrangea quercifolia shrubs longer this season than ever before.  From buds to these weathered remnants, we have enjoyed them daily over their season.

This is the longest they’ve ever lasted, as some years the flowers  are eaten off of our oakleaf Hydrangeas by hungry deer before the flowers fully mature.

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I see these winter wilted leaves and weathered flowers as a small sign of victory in our ongoing struggles with this garden.  Like an elderly person, a story of survival is told in every detail of their countenance.

Winter teaches us to find beauty in all stages of life.  It shows us the dignity of strength and tenacity, and serves as

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Allium flowers, gone to seed, and now with the seeds mostly blown away.  Their structure and grace remains.

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“…a reminder that there’s beauty to be found in the ephemeral and impermanent.”

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For the Daily Post’s:

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Weathered

Leaf: Illumination

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Illumined leaves glow like Tiffany sculptures in the morning light.  How different they look when lit in this way, with a strong June sun shining through them.
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Colocasia ‘Mojito,’ center, has unusual purple patterns on the leaves and burgundy stems. C. ‘Tea Cups,’ behind, shows its elegant veins as its leaves tip upwards towards the sky. C. ‘Pink China’ also has reddish stems and sports a pink spot on its leaf to mark where the stem begins.  The red leaf at lower right is a Caladium.  Pitcher plants grow in the foreground and to the left.

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Sculptural tropical leaves, like these Colocasia, grow quickly to fill a space and make a statement.  Always interesting, their very size and subtle colors feel like living artworks at any time of day.  Catching the light at just the right angle, shining through them, creates even more excitement in this bit of our garden.
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Here, C. ‘Pink China’ is also backlit, showing its elegant veins and slightly wavy margins .  These are very hardy in Zone 7 and spread wonderfully.

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Beautiful leaves can stand alone; no flowers needed. 
In this new series, “Leaf,” I will share some of our favorite foliage plants.  Summer is prime time for big, bold, dramatic leaves.  I hope you enjoy seeing our favorites.  
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“The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea.
The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea.
It is the richest part.   We are the same;
our essence has gone into our children, our friends,
and the entire universe.
We have to find ourselves in those directions
and not in the spent tea leaves.”
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Thich Nhat Hanh
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Alocasia ‘Sarian’ returns in the green pot, after its winter in the basement. Caladium tubers idly poked into the potting soil last fall, return also. “What is that bright red?” my partner called from his resting place. He saw the garden from a different angle, and was intrigued by such bright color. Caladiums should always make us take notice.

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“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize
so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge
or floating lazily on a pond,
I could be doing the work of the world
while standing silent in the sun.”
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Robin Wall Kimmerer
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Woodland Gnome 2017
 

WPC: Transient

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“The only way to make sense out of change

is to plunge into it, move with it,

and join the dance.”

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Alan W. Watts

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“Nothing endures but change.”

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Heraclitus

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“If a beautiful thing were to remain

beautiful for all eternity, I’d be glad,

but all the same I’d look

at it with a colder eye.

I’d say to myself: You can look

at it any time, it doesn’t have to be today.”

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Hermann Hesse

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“It is in changing that we find purpose.”

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Heraclitus

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Clematis ‘Violet Elizabeth’

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For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Transient

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Sunday Dinner: Discovery

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“From so high above it,

the world seems ordered and deliberate.

But I know it’s more than that.

And less.

It is structured and chaotic.

Beautiful and strange.”

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Nicola Yoon

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“Our real discoveries come from chaos,

from going to the place that looks wrong

and stupid and foolish.”

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Chuck Palahniuk

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

(parsley flowers and fennel leaves, after the rain)

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For the Daily Post’s 

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Order

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Sunday Dinner: Observers

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

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Paul Valéry

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“Chaos is peaceful

when you stand quietly & watch –

we are eternal observers,

reflecting both tiny & vast,

singing infinitely within.”

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Jay Woodman

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“Observation is, at its core, an expression of love

which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.”

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Takashi Hiraide

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“Keep your eyes open

and you’ll see more than you ever dreamed of.”

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Marty Rubin

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“Learn to see what you are looking at.”

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Christopher Paolini

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“The world was beautiful

when looked at in this way—

without any seeking, so simple, so childlike.”

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Hermann Hesse

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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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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WPC: Surprise

Athyrium niponicum ‘Joy Ride’

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The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge this week invites us to explore the often overlooked details in form.  A ‘macro-lens view’ opens up new worlds of beauty.

Often, in the hurry of our daily lives, we glance around us and take the world into consciousness in chunks of meaning.  We register the traffic moving around us, the child moving towards us, the inventory of our fridge. Even in the garden, we register our landscape in chunks of form and color.

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It takes undistracted time to focus the lens of our mind on the tiniest of details, like the uncurling fronds opening on our ferns this week.  This annual springtime show might otherwise be overlooked as the garden explodes in color and fragrance.

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Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’

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Who can pass a fragrant Iris to contemplate a tiny fern?  Only the child or the gardener!  Our eyes train on those tiniest of details as we pace the paths of our garden each day, documenting what changes have unfolded since our last visit.

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Fiddlehead of Brilliance autumn fern

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I had a few minutes to wander this morning, camera in hand, as I waited for a friend’s arrival.  And although I couldn’t pass the Iris without capturing another shot or two, I also spent time with several of our ferns.

Jen kindly crafted a challenge this week especially for us craven gardeners, who must photograph our flowers in minute detail.  But because that was the model she set, I decided to leave flowers to others this time, (well, almost….) and instead focus on the elegant and fascinating details found only in the leaves of ferns.

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The Japanese Painted ferns, Athyrium niponicum, have just emerged from their winter dormancy.  Their fragile fronds disappear after a heavy frost each autumn, to reappear quite suddenly and surprisingly some warm spring day.

They are one of the most beautiful surprises our garden offers us each spring.  I realized today, in sharing our garden with friends, that we have something of a collection now of Athyrium niponicum cultivars.

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Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’

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Not that I intended to make a collection of them, I simply like them and wanted to watch some of the different varieties grow out.  I have ordered a few, like A. ‘Joy Ride’, A. ‘Branford Beauty,’ and A. ‘Burgundy Lace’ from Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh, NC, in years past.  They carry a staggering and surprisingly wonderful variety of ferns and other unusual perennials which do well in our Zone 7 climate.

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I am still lusting after A. ‘Lemon Cream,’ A. ‘Godzilla’ and A. ‘Thrill Seeker.’  And that lust will go unrequited for the foreseeable future, it seems, as their shipping charges just keep climbing each year.  Now that the minimum shipping charge is nearly $30, I am seeking out these wonderful cultivars locally, and asking our nearby nurseries to consider stocking these beautiful new varieties.

I was absolutely thrilled to find a beautiful pot of A. ‘Ghost’ at Green Planters, Inc., in Gloucester earlier this week.  I will be returning, as they carry a satisfying selection of native ferns in addition to their various Japanese Painted ferns and other cultivars.

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The best ferns in our garden, year round, are our Autumn Brilliance, Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’.  Their tough, but graceful fronds weather sun, rain, drought wind and winter.  Who could ask for more?

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These sturdy clumps expand a bit each year, and each new year’s fronds seem a few inches taller than the last.  We’re not talking tree ferns, of course, but the older ferns make a substantial presence.  What I admire in these ferns is their wonderful bronze color as  new fronds emerge each spring.

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As each frond unfolds, the hairy brown fiddleheads relax into soft, shiny fresh rose-gold leaves.  It is quite a show and goes on for several weeks.  By mid-summer, each leaf will have relaxed further into a soft medium green.  It’s not until winter that the same fiddlehead brown begins to frost the edges of the mature fronds once again.

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It is the surprising beauty of leaves which carries our garden through the seasons.  Flowers come and go all too quickly.  They may delight with a bold color or enticing scent.  But flowers prove ephemeral by nature.

They are only there long enough to lure a bee, butterfly or hummingbird to pollinate them. so they can get down to their real business of seed production.  Even the hybrids seem confused on this point, and fade far too quickly despite their sterility.  Like kids gone off to college, what is left behind is none too pleasant to look at, oftentimes….

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But leaves prove their worth and loyalty; offering sum and substance, color, drama and incredible detail.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Surprise!

 

Wednesday Vignette: Meditations

Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris

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“The soul becomes dyed

with the colour of its thoughts.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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“Accept the things to which fate binds you,

and love the people with whom fate

brings you together,

but do so with all your heart.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority,

but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit.

The second is to look things in the face

and know them for what they are.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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“Very little is needed to make a happy life;

it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Do not act

as if you were going to live ten thousand years.

Death hangs over you.

While you live, while it is in your power,

be good.”

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Marcus Aurelius

quotations from The Meditations

 

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