WPC: Silence

~

Snow muffles our noisy world.  Falling snowflakes seem to absorb all sound and the world is hushed.

~

~

The normal routine is put on hold. 

School buses and garbage trucks don’t churn through the neighborhood streets today.  Leaf blowers and lawn mowers remain silent.

Traffic has come to rest at home in snowy driveways.

~

~

We all took a snow day today.  Schools were closed everywhere from Roanoke to the Eastern Shore.

Many businesses closed or reduced their hours today, and I believe most of us were content to stay at home and keep warm against the January chill.

~

~

I kept vigil, much of the day, watching out of our windows as fine snow filled the air and accumulated, ever so slowly, on leaf and ground, rail and table, car and walkway.

It was late afternoon before our wet patio was finally cloaked in whiteness.

~

~

It was a quiet day for reading, for finally getting to that long put off project, and for wandering the snowy garden, camera in hand, in search of that quintessential image of Silence.

~

~

And what I noticed today, is that silence is visual as well as auditory.

A snowy day transforms the most casual image into sepia tones blanketed in white.  Our garden’s colors are silenced by the cold and muffled under snow.

~

~

There is a reason we yearn so for ‘peace and quiet.’

Today has brought the blessings of silence and the rare gift of peace, wrapped in a snow-globe world of white.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

.

“We can make our minds so like still water
that beings gather about us
that they may see, it may be, their own images,
and so live for a moment with a clearer,
perhaps even with a fiercer life
because of our quiet.”
.
W.B. Yeats

~

~

For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Silence
Advertisements

Sky Sketchers

~

Sky sketches:

Living lines

Tracing history through thin air.

~

~

Reaching ever higher

Every further;

Naked ambition.

~

~

Networking:

Reaching out,

Branching, stretching,

Multiplying opportunities and

Filling empty space with

Proliferating life.

~

~

Ever strong

Dancing in the wind,

Hiding behind fog,

Bending under snow,

Shivering beneath silvery coats of ice;

 yet lithe and limber.

~

~

Timber dream catcher, Sun catcher;

Reflecting first golden rays of sun

and last, warming the winter sky.

~

~

Living web,

Growing thicker with each passing season;

Gnarly, twisted, infested with life:

Sky sketchers.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

~

Native Trees: American Sycamore

~

North America’s trees were considered one of its greatest treasures both by European colonists like John Bartram and his son William, and by European gardeners eagerly awaiting shipments of seed from ‘the colonies.’

Our many varieties of conifers and hardwood are as beautiful as they are useful.  North American trees were planted extensively in European gardens soon after Jamestown was settled.  The early colonists were always on the lookout for ‘useful plants’ to send back home.

These same prized trees still grow wild here in Virginia, today.

~

The American Sycamore grows on the bank of Jones Millpond in York County, Virginia

~

One of my favorite native American trees is the American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis.   Also called ‘bottonwood tree,’ named for its round fruits which persist through winter, the sycamore may also be called an American plane tree.

I particularly like this tree’s mottled, light colored bark, and its beautiful branching form.

~

~

The sycamore prefers moist soil and can often be found in the wild in lowlands and near bodies of water. Yet it will grow in many different environments in Zones 4-9.  It’s native range extends from Florida, north into Canada, and westwards into Texas and Oklahoma.  It is also considered a native tree in Oregon.

The sycamore will quickly grow into a massive shade tree, with a thick trunk (to more than 6 feet in diameter), a broad canopy, and a mature height of over 130 feet.  Its extensive roots can damage nearby walls or sidewalks, yet it is a common street tree in cities.  A sycamore can handle the heat and polluted air of urban areas, where it is enjoyed for its beauty and its shade.  Its dense canopy helps filter the air.

~

This Sycamore grows on the banks of the James River near Jamestown Island.

~

I enjoy visiting this lovely sycamore growing on the bank of Jones Millpond, alone the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown throughout the year.  It is pleasing in all seasons.

~

~

There are several notable sycamore trees in our area.  Their interesting branches and bright bark make them easy to recognize.  In winter, the seedpods hanging from their branches playfully sway in the wind.

~

~

A sycamore tree’s wood is useful for making things, but it isn’t a preferred wood for furniture making.  It doesn’t produce edible nuts or leaves.

It is valued more as a beautiful landscape tree and for the shade it gives in summer.

~

The distinctive leaves and bark help identify this tree as a Platanus

~

The sycamore ranks high among my favorite native American trees.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018
~
~

Even when pruned hard in a style called pollarding, the Platanus is easily recognized by its light colored bark. This tree grows in Colonial Williamsburg.

Weathered: A Forest Garden

~

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

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

What a mess it all made! 

~

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

~

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

~

~

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

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

~

~

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

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

~

~

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

~

~

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

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

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

~

~

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

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

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

~

~

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

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

~

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

~

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

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

~

~

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

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

~

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

~

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

~

~

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

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

~

~

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

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

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

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

.

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

~

~

For the Daily Post’s:

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Weathered

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

WPC: Weathered Flowers

~

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.

~

~

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

~

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

~

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

~

~

For the Daily Post’s:

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Weathered

More Growth: Past, Present, Future

~

“Patience is to wait for the ice to melt

instead of breaking it.”

.

Munia Khan

~

~

“…ice contains no future ,

just the past, sealed away.

As if they’re alive, everything in the world

is sealed up inside, clear and distinct.

Ice can preserve all kinds of things

that way- cleanly, clearly.

That’s the essence of ice,

the role it plays.”

.

Haruki Murakami

~

~

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s

most fragile things,

but just look what they can do

when they stick together.”

.

Vesta M. Kelly

~

~

“Thank goodness for the first snow,

it was a reminder-

-no matter how old you became

and how much you’d seen,

things could still be new

if you were willing to believe

they still mattered.”

.

Candace Bushnell

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

 

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Growth

~

WPC: Growth

~

“We are not trapped or locked up in these bones.
No, no. We are free to change.
And love changes us.
And if we can love one another,
we can break open the sky.”
.
Walter Mosley
.

“In this first week of the year, many people anticipate beginnings, changes, and opportunities for growth.

Share with us an image that evokes this spirit of change and newness …”  The Daily Post

~

~

“Growth” is a wonderful topic for a garden blogger.  Except it is January, and we had a half a foot of snow fall on our garden overnight.

In fact, it was still snowing here into the early afternoon.  Without taking a deep dive back into my photo archives, I’ve been thinking about how to share good photos of “growth.”

Maybe I could respond to the challenge with growing piles of snow, or even icicles growing ever longer from the eaves?

~

~

Yet, as I ventured out into the newly shoveled paths my partner made for us, I realized that even during this ‘dormant’ time of year, our garden is still very much in growth.

Buds are swelling.  Ivy keeps creeping along with new leaves, and the catkins on our hazelnut trees grow visibly longer each week.

~

~

Mistletoe grows bold and green in the tree tops, and so do the leaves of our Italian Arum, still appearing through the soil.

Our new holly shrubs grow bravely on in their pots, and the tender new leaves of bulbs poke up through the soil, announcing their promises for a beautiful spring.

~

~

Growth isn’t so much about what is ‘new’ as it is about continuation.  Just as we keep growing and changing year to year and decade to decade, so too does our garden.

Growth may slow now and again, but its dynamic demand for expansion and change pays heed only to its own design.

~

~

“Change may not always bring growth,
but there is no growth without change.”
.
Roy T. Bennett

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

~

Mahonia is ready to bloom one day soon.

~

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Growth

Knowing Winter

~

“One can follow the sun, of course,
but I have always thought that it is best
to know some winter, too,
so that the summer, when it arrives,
is the more gratefully received.”
Beatriz Williams

~

~

Much of North America lies frozen this week beneath a layer of icy whiteness.  Weather maps on TV are clothed in shades of blue, purple and white.  It is a respite from this year’s heat, perhaps, and a novelty for those who enjoy winter.

Here in Williamsburg, in coastal Virginia, we see temperatures drop below the mid-twenties only occasionally, and not every year.  But we are also in the midst of this Arctic cold snap at the moment.  There is a chance for snow tomorrow evening.

~

~

The garden, and the larger world are frozen tight and hard this week.  Those winter faring plants I potted up so carefully last month sit brittle, a bit limp and desiccated in their pots today despite the brilliant sun shining on them.  I gave each pot a bit of tap water yesterday afternoon, hoping to thaw the soil long enough for roots to draw a bit of moisture in to the thirsty plants.

~

~

We’ve wrapped our olive trees in clear plastic bags and set them in the warmest corner of our front patio, where they capture the mid-day sun.  They’ve grown too large now to bring indoors each winter.  We hope they make it through to warmer days ahead.

~

~

But there is only so much anyone can do when such bitter cold blows in to one’s neighborhood.  The lowest temperature we’ve seen here since Christmas was 12F.  It feels a bit odd to cheer on the mercury to climb through the 20s, hoping it might actually make it up to 32F before the evening chill returns.

~

~

But such is our life at the moment, and so we have decided to enjoy the novelty of it.  It is the season to trot out one’s heavy sweaters and gloves, and possibly even a jacket.  I had forgotten which drawer our gloves got put away in last spring, and needed a reminder.  A pair now live in my bag, ready to pull on whenever I step outside into this frosty world.

But clad in hat and gloves, wool and pashmina and jeans, I set off to capture photos of ice today.  My partner kept the car warm and idling while I scampered about on the banks of Mill Creek and the James River in search of ice sculptures.

~

~

The wind was almost quiet, and the sun blazing bright and glinting off the frozen marshes.  It was nearly 24F as I captured these photos today.

~

~

We were delighted to find eagles flying in lazy circles above us and large congregations of geese gathered along the roadsides.  I could hear waterfowl splashing into the creek in search of lunch as I picked my way down the frozen trail to the water’s edge.

~

~

A heron clung to a branch along the bank, watching as gulls dove into the creek and ducks cavorted along its glassy surface.

~

~

Halves of minnows, cut up by some intrepid fisher-person for bait, lay scattered about on the sandy beach.  Frozen hard, they held no appeal for the foraging birds around us.

I marvel at the sight of spray cloaked grasses and ice glazed stones.  The river and creeks here are tidal, and the rising and falling water and windblown spray make for ever-changing textures along their banks.

~

~

Sheets of ice get pushed up in the marshes on the incoming tide, and slushy brackish water takes on odd hues in the wintery light.

~

~

Our oddly frozen world dreams this week in weirdly grotesque forms.  Frozen soil pushes up in the garden, heaving fragile root balls not properly mulched and insulated against the cold.  Ice crystals sprout from stems and leaves in the first light of morning.

~

~

Only the birds appear impervious to the cold.  Small flocks of blackbirds gather on the frozen grass.  Songbirds hop about in the trees as we pass.  I wonder at the mysteries of nature which allow them to survive such frigid weather.

Whether sitting on the ground, swimming in the frozen creeks or gliding on a current of air, they appear almost comfortable.  This is a great gift they enjoy, and that we do not.

~

~

We are mostly watching through the window panes to see how the rest of this month unfolds.  Our cat spends long hours dozing, curled up in a blanket on the couch.  He shows no interest in exploration beyond his food bowl at the moment.

Surely the world will soon be slick and white if the forecast is to be believed, and our garden will slumber on under a bit more insulation as we dream of spring.

Yet, in this moment, we know winter; and see its beauties all around us.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

~

~

“There is an instinctive withdrawal for the sake of preservation,
a closure that assumes the order of completion.
Winter is a season unto itself.”
.
Haruki Murakami

~

New

~

“If you want something new,
you have to stop doing something old”
.
Peter F. Drucker
~
~
“The secret to so many artists living so long
is that every painting is a new adventure.
So, you see, they’re always looking ahead
to something new and exciting.
The secret is not to look back.”
.
Norman Rockwell

~

~

“Change is the end of something you know
and the beginning of something else
that you don’t know.
Something new that holds opportunities.”
.
Kholoud Yasser

~

~

“It is only when we are ready
to give up on some things in our lives
that we could receive new things.”
.
Sunday Adelaja

~

~

“So may the New Year be a happy one to you,
happy to many more
whose happiness depends on you!”
.
Charles Dickens
~
~
Photos by Woodland Gnome
January 1, 2018
~

What I am reading this week:  Garden Revolution by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher

Weaner and Christopher captivated my interest on the first page.  Theirs is a practical philosophy of gardening, which guides our doings and our not-doings.  They garden to guide a thriving eco-system in the proud tradition of  Doug Tallamy and Rachel Carson.

Many thanks to my dear friend who gifted me with a fresh copy of Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home last week, inspiring me to remind myself of its important guidance.

I am reading these books now to focus on the bigger picture of why I garden,  ahead of beginning my Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener training class next week.

These authors remind us that often less is more; that cooperation with nature always adds value to our efforts, and sparks hope for our ecosystem and the continued viability of life on our planet.

January is my favorite time of year to study gardening books and catalogs.  If you use these frosty days and long winter nights for study, too; I invite you to take a look at these inspiring volumes.

Sunday Dinner: Retrospective

January 2017, Jones Millpond

~
“That’s what pictures are for, after all:
to stand in place of the things that weren’t left behind,
to bear witness to people and places and things
that might otherwise go unnoticed.”
.
John Darnielle
~

February 2017 Powhatan Creek

~
“In retrospect,
we can only be thankful
to all the mistakes that we made
and to all the lessons
that we learned from them!”
.
Avijeet Das
~

March 2017 James River at Black Point

~
“The Naga laughed softly, ‘There’s a thin line
that separates courage
from stupidity.  And that line
is only visible in retrospect, my friend.
If I’m successful,  people will call me brave.
If I fail, I will be called foolish.
Let me do what I think is right.
I’ll leave the verdict to the future.”
.
Amish Tripathi
~

April 2017 York River

~
“It is a simple
but sometimes forgotten truth
that the greatest enemy
to present joy and high hopes
is the cultivation
of retrospective bitterness.”
.
Robert Menzies
~

May 2017 Jones Millpond

~
“Remembrance of things past
is not necessarily
the remembrance of things as they were.”
.
Marcel Proust
~

June 2017

~
“Memory believes before knowing remembers.
Believes longer than recollects,
longer than knowing even wonders.”
.
William Faulkner
~

August 2017 Powhatan Creek

~
“Remember your connection with the cosmos.
Remember your connection with the infinity
and that remembrance
will give you the freedom.”
.
Amit Ray
~

September 2017, a waterway on Jamestown Island

~
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

Wishing you happiness, prosperity, good health and good gardening in 2018!

~

October 2017 The ‘D’ River empties into the Pacific Ocean

~
“Photography is never real,
it’s merely one of many ways
of telling the truth.”
.
John Thai
~

November 2017

~
“Ever poised on that cusp
between past and future,
we tie memories to souvenirs
like string to trees along life’s path,
marking the trail
in case we lose ourselves
around a bend of tomorrow’s road.”
.
Susan Lendroth
~

December 2017

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 561 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest