Plants Want to Live

Native redbud, Cercis canadensis

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The snow fell so fast and wet, that it was already bending the branches of our large dogwood tree so low they nearly touched the deck.   By the time I realized what was happening, I could hear cracks and crashes where trees all around us were having branches ripped off under the weight of such a heavy snow, in mid-December, before the trees had a chance to harden up for winter.

I grabbed a coat, hat and broom and went to work, knocking globs of snow off the dogwood’s branches, allowing them to spring back to a more normal posture.  After knocking off all the snow I could reach from the deck, I headed out into the yard to do the same on trees and shrubs all around the garden.

I could hear sirens in the distance that afternoon, and took a call from a neighbor telling me our neighborhood entrance was blocked by fallen trees. We listened to the groans and snaps of trees into the night, and the following day, under the weight of that unusual snow.

We lost three trees that day and our tall bamboo was bent to the ground, where it froze in place and remained for more than a week.  Bamboo stalks fell across our fig tree and across the fern garden, like an icy roof.  It took a few weeks, after the thaw, to clean up enough to truly assess the damage.

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December 10, 2018, a few days after a heavy snow toppled both of our remaining peach trees. We couldn’t even get to them for several days because everything was frozen solid.

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Our great old redbud tree was bent even further by the weight of the snow-laden bamboo.  Already  leaning towards the sun, the tree leaned at a precipitous angle up hill, its roots nearly in the ravine at the bottom of the yard, and its major branches now resting in the fern garden.  Many branches broke, others needed drastic pruning.  But the roots held, and we cleaned up the tree as well as we could and determined to wait for spring to see how it responded.

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New growth emerges from our broken redbud tree.

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Well, plants want to live.  And this tree is determined to make the best of an awkward situation.  We have been amazed to see how much new growth the tree has produced since March.

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There is a rhythm to tending a garden.  We plant, we tend, we prune, and we stand in awe as our plants become established and take off to grow according to their own patterns.  Like watching a young adult child find their way in the world, our woodies and perennials often have a mind of their own as they claim their space in the garden, reproduce, and grow into their potential.

Sometimes that is a wonderful thing and we admire the maturing plant’s beauty.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea

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Sometimes that is a terrifying thing as we see a plant rapidly claim the garden’s real estate, shading and crowding out the many other (more?) desirable plants we want to grow.

Kindness can turn against us, sometimes, when we welcome a little gift plant from a well meaning friend, finding a spot for it in our garden and tending it through its first year or two.

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Rudbeckia laciniata, a native that feeds wildlife, and an unapologetic thug that has taken over our ‘butterfly garden.’  This came as an uninvited guest with a gift of Monarda from a gardening friend.

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Sometimes the plant gifts itself to us as a windblown or bird-sown seed.  It grows, and we give it a chance to show us what it can become.  And then, Wham!  Suddenly, it has become an outsized monster and we do battle with it to keep it in bounds, or sometimes eradicate it entirely.

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Mid-September 2018, and the Solidago, goldenrod, had just begun to bloom.

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I am way too kind when it comes to such plants.  My curiosity gets the better of my good sense.  I let that little plant grow out just to watch it, and then it has seeded all over the place and I’m spending time trying to get it back under control, and rescue plants about to be completely strangled and starved by this newcomer.

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The Devil’s Walking Stick, , Aralia spinosa, in full bloom and covered by bees in late summer.  This native tree will grow tall, with it trunk covered in sharp thorns.

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The first of the Solidago showed up two summers ago.  It was a novelty.  I had just joined the Virginia Native Plant Society and I was trying to reform my natural preference for pretty imported hybrids and welcome more natives to the garden.  I let it grow.

Then last summer, I was amazed at how many very tall goldenrods grew up.  But I was busy.  I didn’t have much time in my own garden, and I let them grow.

My partner grumbled as they topped 6′ high, but I felt smugly virtuous for giving space to these native plants and supporting the pollinators.  We enjoyed the butterflies and they were pretty once they bloomed golden and lush.  I cut them down in December, but not soon enough.  By then there were seeds, everywhere.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea, Edgeworthia, Camellia, Rudbeckia, Solidago and the surrounding trees create layers of texture in early September 2018.

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And just in the last two weeks, those little goldenrods have grown inches a day, it seems.  My partner came to me on Monday with that look of determination I know so well.  They were growing out into our ever narrowing paths.  A deer had gotten into the front garden, and we couldn’t even see where it was hiding for the lush growth.  I had to do something….

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The new stand of Solidago, cut back to allow black eyed Susans and other perennials space to grow….

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And that is how it came to be that I was taking the string trimmer to my perennial beds Monday evening, under observation, cutting down as many of those Solidago plants as I could until the battery gave out.  Our neighbors paused on the street, wondering if I’d lost my mind, cutting down every plant in sight.

We were back at it early Tuesday morning, and the day I’d planned to spend planting pots went to cutting, pulling, pruning, and generally editing our front garden to remove not only the Solidago, but also the small forest of devil’s walking stick trees growing up from a frighteningly wide network of roots.

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Another little Aralia, looking for space to grow…

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That was another volunteer that I let grow ‘to see what it would do.’  The summer flowers attract clouds of butterflies and bees.  The lovely purple berries are favorites of our song birds.  The huge, palm frond like leaves grow quickly as the tree shoots up, several feet per year.  Its trunk is covered in long, sharp spines.

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Aralia spinosa, a native volunteer in our garden, looked rather tropical as its first leaves emerged in April of 2017.

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This Virginia native is a great tree for wildlife.  But our neighbor warned me, when I offered him one, about its roots.  He told of having to hack it back each summer at his family home when he was a teen.  I listened politely, and let our Aralia spinosa grow on, a novelty in the front garden.

But it fell in our October hurricane and my partner took that opportunity, which I was away, to cut away the main tree entirely.  And I’ve been cutting out a dozen or more sprouts every week since mid-March.

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Yet another goldenrod or obedient plant, growing up under one of our Hydrangea shrubs.  It takes a sharp eye to spot them all, and a bit of balance and agility to reach them all!

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Some were hiding in the goldenrod forest, nestled between other shrubs and cozying up to our emerging Cannas.  What the weed eater couldn’t reach, I managed to cut with my secateurs.  Like a weird game of twister, I found footing among the Cannas and goldenrod stubble and cut those thorny stalks back as close to the ground as I could reach.

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A part of our fern garden, where ferns are filling in as a complete ground cover on a steep bank. 

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Plants just want to live.  Their business is to reproduce, grow, and make as many seeds as possible.  This is a basic principle that every gardener has to face.

The wilder the plant, usually the more determined it will be.  Like the Japanese stilt grass I pull out by the handfuls every year from April to December.  Like the bamboo that tries to march up the hill from the ravine every spring, and that we find growing feet in a day sometimes, until we discover it and break it back to the ground.  We’ve learned the squirrels love gnoshing on fresh bamboo shoots.

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The march of the bamboo up the hill back in early May of 2014.  We have to control the growth up towards the garden each spring.

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To make a garden is to offer a weird sort of universal hospitality.  Whatever you think you might want to grow, nature has its own ideas.   Weeds happen. 

I chuckle to myself at native plant sales to see plants I pulled as ‘weeds’ the first few years we lived here, sold as desirable ‘native plants’ at a respectable price.  There is wild Ageratum, and Indian strawberry, wax myrtle and golden ragwort.  Our front yard hosts a growing patch of fleabane, Erigeron annus, each spring.  It crowds out the ‘grass’ and blooms for a solid month, around the time the daffodils are fading.

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Native fleabane, probably Erigeron pulchellus, grow in our front lawn. A short lived perennial, this patch grows a bit larger each year. After it finishes flowering, we mow this part of the ‘lawn’ once again.

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Each of us has to make our own peace with the native plants our area supports.  Last year, I decided the pokeweed had to go.  I pulled and cut for months, but I prevented that from going to seed.  I’ve found one huge plant so far this year and a few small seedlings.  They will soon be eradicated, too.

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Pokeweed has overgrown the Salvia, Colocasia and Hibiscus that have grown here for the last several summers. They are just holding on beneath its shade in August 2017.  We lost the Salvia that year, but the Colocasias remain.

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I walk among the growing oaks that I ‘allowed’ to grow when they were only inches tall.  Every seedling demands a decision from the gardener.  Can it grow here?  How will this change the rest of the garden?

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Obedient plant and black eyed Susans are also native perennials, that quickly fill any open area with roots and the seeds they drop.  They are great for pollinators, last many weeks, and make nice cut flowers.  By cutting back the Solidago this week, I hope these will fill in this part of the garden once again.

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Those are the sorts of questions one must ask every month of every year, to keep a garden in balance.  Those are the questions to keep in mind when shopping at the nursery, or the plant sale, too.

Curiosity is a good thing.  But wisdom and a bit of self-discipline are even better.

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The ferns I planted in the hollow stump of this peach tree, lost to the December storm, are growing well.  And, the stump itself is sending up new growth. from its living roots.  Plants just want to live

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Woodland Gnome 2019
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Seedling redbud trees continue to grow at the base of the stump.

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Six on Saturday: Embracing Spring

Dwarf German bearded Iris ‘Sailboat Bay’ surprised me on Wednesday with the first bearded Iris bloom of spring.

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Embracing spring invites us to embrace change.  Mid-April finds the landscape stuck on ‘fast-forward’ as changes unfold around us every hour of every day.  There is always something new emerging to delight, even as flowers finish and petals drop in the wind and rain.

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Columbine prepares to bloom even as the daffodils finish.

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There are seasons within seasons, and springtime certainly embraces many stages of phenological change.  From the earliest snowdrops and Crocus we have progressed now to dogwoods, Iris, columbine, and the swelling buds on peonies. We saw Wisteria explode this week in cascades of lilac and white flowers in trees, on homes and fences and growing wild in the woods.  It is one of the most beautiful sights of spring here, and promises only warmer days to come.

Nearly all the trees have tender expanding leaves now, and every box store and nursery offers bright flowers and little veggie starts.  Temptation waits everywhere for a gardener like me!

I bought our first basil on Thursday, with full confidence that it will thrive from here on through summer, after a Master Gardener friend gave me one of her plants that morning.  I trust her judgement that the season is now ripe for growing basil and other summer herbs.

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Iris cristata, one of our native Iris species in this area, expands to bloom more abundantly each spring. This is a miniature Iris with crests on each fall instead of beards.

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Looking ahead, our forecast promises warming nights and abundant rain.  I’ve been blowing leaves away and mulching beds all week, adding compost and planting out the plants I’ve been squirreling away for this moment.  We picked up our new Dahlias and Cannas, Alocasias and other bulbs from the bulb shop in Gloucester last week.  I’ve even been telling gardening friends that our Caladium plants can come out soon.  I believe the tubers will be safe now, unless late April holds an unforeseen surprise!

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Ajuga blooms among emerging ferns.  This is Athyrium niponicum ‘Applecourt,’ a deciduous Japanese painted fern.

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Embracing spring means celebrating the changes to our warming Earth.  Life returns to woody branches and the ground erupts in wildflowers and green.  Perennials reappear like children playing ‘hide and seek.’

We see nature starring in her annual mystery play, a script written millennia ago; and re-enacted each year.

Every blooming Iris and diligent bee reassures us that the players all know their parts and will follow their cues.   And we are each a part of this never-ending story.  Whether we simply sit back and observe, or take an active part with secateurs, shovel and rake; we are each embraced by the rich beauties and sweetness of spring.

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A young dogwood blooms against our fallen redbud tree, still leaning after our December snowstorm. I am sure the trees will figure out how to coexist.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Everything is connected.

The wing of the corn beetle affects the direction of the wind,

the way the sand drifts,

the way the light reflects into the eye of man beholding his reality.

All is part of totality,

and in this totality man finds his hozro,

his way of walking in harmony,

with beauty all around him.”
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Tony Hillerman

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

 

 

Fabulous Friday: Awakening

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On our days off, when there’s no appointment to make or task to complete, it’s a pleasure to awaken slowly and gently.  With no urgency to stay on schedule, no insistent alarm, no pet or child in need of immediate attention, we can relax a bit more and gather our thoughts before starting the day’s routines.

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Cercis chinensis, Chinese redbud, blooming this week at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.

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This springtime feels like it is awakening slowly, without haste or urgency.  Cool temperatures have slowed down the natural progression of spring’s business this year.  Each blossom and bud is relaxing and taking its time to open, and once open, lasting a few more days than more warmth would allow.

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College Creek

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We’ve had yet another day of cool, soaking rain in our region.  Its rained steadily enough to keep me indoors and it has remained cool enough to slow down the buds on our dogwood trees.  They are still just uncurling, tentatively, and remain more green than white.

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A day like today encourages the fine art of procrastination.  There are a half dozen good reasons to delay most of the tasks on my ‘to-do’ list, especially those tasks that involve waking up more seeds, or tubers, or waking up more beds and borders by removing their blankets of leafy mulch.

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I’ve already delayed many spring time tasks, out of respect for cold nights, cool days and abundant rain.  It’s unwise to work in the soil when it remains so wet.  It’s even unwise to walk around too much on soggy ground, knowing that every step compacts it.

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Dogwood

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But there is balance, over the long view, and I suspect that warmer days are upon us soon.  I saw one of our lizards skitter under a pot when I opened the kitchen door unexpectedly yesterday, and the yard has filled with song birds.  We hear frogs singing now on warm evenings and bees come out whenever it warms in the afternoon sunlight.

They know its time to awaken for another year, and are doing their best to get on with life despite the weather.

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N. ‘Tahiti’

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It is good to rest when one can, storing up energy to spring into action when the time is ripe.  The garage is filled with plants needing to get back outside into the light, to cover themselves with fresh leaves and get on with their growth.  And I need their space for sprouting Caladiums and the small plants and tubers I plan to pick up in Gloucester next week from the Heaths.

There are Zantedeschias in the basement bravely reaching out their fresh leaves towards the windows, and I’m ready to divide and pot up our stored Colocasias and let them get a jump on summer.

And then there is the small matter of packs of seed whose time has come to awaken and grow…

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N. ‘Katie Heath’

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All these plants are waiting for their wake-up call.  I hope the relaxed and gentle start of their new season means they will bring renewed energy and enthusiasm to their growth when the weather is finally settled and warm.

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Japanese painted ferns re-appeared this week, and I have been weeding out early spring weeds wanting to compete with them.

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Until then, I’m enjoying watching the slow progress of spring.

There is time to savor the opening buds, emerging perennials, and slowly expanding vines as they stake their claims for the season.  There is time to relax and gather our thoughts.

There is time to listen to the chattering birds, and to appreciate the sweet gift of unscheduled time.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Alice’ wakes up for its first season in our garden.

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“Why had he assumed time was some sort of infinite resource?

Now the hourglass had busted open,

and what he’d always assumed was just a bunch of sand

turned out to be a million tiny diamonds.”
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Tommy Wallach

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“There is no Space or Time
Only intensity,
And tame things
Have no immensity”
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Mina Loy

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious; 

Let’s Infect One Another!

Aged Beauty

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Most trees don’t have an easy time growing older in our area.  There is snow and wind, summer hurricanes, torrential rain, January ice storms and mid-summer drought.  Trees rooted near the water, like the old native redbud tree growing along the bank of the James River, are   marked by the storms they have  weathered.

Few survive long decades without scars to mark their resilient survival; yet there is beauty in the aged.

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“Wisdom comes with winters”
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Oscar Wilde

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Redbud trees prove hardy and strong in our area, and many still bloom this week despite being broken and aging.

December’s heavy snow pushed over the largest redbud in our garden; yet its roots held strong.  It leans now up the slope of our ravine, as though reaching out to us as we come into the back garden.  And yes, it has covered itself in buds.

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“How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.”
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William Butler Yeats

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“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old,

you grow old when you stop laughing.”
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George Bernard Shaw

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Aging always invites new growth. Pruning away the old stimulates new wood to grow from a latent bud.  So long as the roots hold firm and the trunk can transport water from roots to branches, and sugars from leaves to roots, life goes on.

The frame may age, but fresh branches continue to grow with vigor, reaching for the sunlight.  And the aging trunk generously harbors vines and moss.  Grasses grow above the roots, and many insects find homes in the thickened bark.  Birds nest and shelter in the branches even as pollinators come to drink the tree’s sweet nectar.

All these boarders share in the tree’s generous largess.  Its continued presence acts as a magnet, drawing life, even as it fills its niche in the web of life.  Some boarders sap the tree’s strength, each in its own way.  But somehow, the tree manages to keep going season after season, year after year.

The tree’s generosity, and its beauty, only increases with time.

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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.”
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Sophia Loren

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Cercis canadensis grow along the Colonial Parkway near Jamestown Island.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Sunday Dinner: Grateful

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“I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual.
It is surprising how contented one can be
with nothing definite –
only a sense of existence.
… I am ready to try this 
for the next ten thousand years,
and exhaust it …
 My breath is sweet to me.
O how I laugh when I think
of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it,
for my wealth is not possession
but enjoyment.”
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Henry David Thoreau
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“Be thankful for your allotment in an imperfect world.  
Though better circumstances can be imagined,
far worse are nearer misses
than you probably care to realize.”
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Richelle E. Goodrich
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“You have to be able to slow down enough
to switch your focus away from
all the ways things could be better,
to know how good they already are.”
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Katherine Ellison
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“One single gift acknowledged in gratefulness
has the power to dissolve the ties of our alienation.”

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David Steindl-Rast
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“It’s a funny thing about life,
once you begin to take note
of the things you are grateful for,
you begin to lose sight
of the things that you lack.”
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Germany Kent
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“Behind every creative act is a statement of love.
Every artistic creation is a statement of gratitude.”
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Kilroy J. Oldster
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“The single greatest cause of happiness is gratitude.”
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Auliq-Ice
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Photos By Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Don’t ever stop believing in your own transformation.
It is still happening
even on days you may not realize it
or feel like it.”
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Lalah Delia

WPC: Atop

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“Indeed, I find that distance lends perspective

and I often write better of a place

when I am some distance from it.

One can be so overwhelmed by the forest

as to miss seeing the trees.”

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Louis L’Amour

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“Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye.”

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Samuel Johnson

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“The greatest risk to man

is not that he aims too high and misses,

but that he aims too low and hits.”

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Michaelangelo

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“A mountain still in the distance

can appear as a molehill.”

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Howard Fast

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“Utopia is a collective shift of perception away.

Abundance is all around us.

Only our efforts at tower-building blind us to it,

our gaze forever skyward,

forever seeking to escape this Earth,

this feeling, this moment.”

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Charles Eisenstein

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016-2017

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“My father says that there is only one perfect view —

the view of the sky straight over our heads,

and that all these views on earth

are but bungled copies of it.”

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E.M. Forster

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Atop

WPC: Half-Light

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 014

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Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing,
Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 025

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Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass.

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 033 ~

Mine is the sunlight,
Mine is the morning,
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning,
God’s recreation of the new day.

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 043

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Morning has broken…

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lyrics by Chris Hazell and  Eleanor Farjeon

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 066

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This beautiful song, performed by Cat Stevens, has been a life-long favorite.  It speaks not only to morning, but also to the morning of the year:  spring.  It is the perfect lyric to accompany these photos taken in our garden today.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunset

Sunset

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half-Light

“Share a photograph inspired by a favorite poem, verse, story, or song lyric.  See if you can capture the beauty of morning or evening half-light in your corner of the globe.”

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 016

 

Wordless Wednesday

March 23, 2016 moon and trees 011

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“Most things, even the greatest moments on earth,

have their beginnings in something small.”

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Lauren Oliver

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March 23, 2016 moon and trees 006

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

How Plants Work: A Fascinating Resource

Acer Palmatum 'volunteer' growing in our border. I've been working with this little tree over the past several years, ever since I recognized it as a useful seedling and not a week in 2011.

An Acer Palmatum ‘volunteer’ growing in our border. I’ve been working with this little tree ever since I recognized it as a useful seedling, and not a weed, a few summers ago.

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Have you ever wished that you knew more about why plants do the often strange and mysterious things they do?  Ever wondered about why a newly planted tree isn’t growing as you expected?  Or how some plants can live in salty soils?

Have you wondered whether you should pay a premium price for some artisinal compost tea?  Or wondered why some vines twist themselves around any available support while others can not?

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April 12, 2015 flowers 075

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I am currently reading Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott’s newly released book, How Plants Work: The Science Behind the  Amazing Things Plants Do. index

Published this year by Timber Press, this is one of the most engrossing and useful books on gardening I’ve found in a very long time.

Linda not only teaches classes in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Washington, she is also an ISA-certified arborist and an extension urban horticulturist for Washington State University.

Linda specializes in helping ordinary gardeners, like us, enjoy more success by understanding the plants we want to grow.  You might have visited The Garden Professors blog which she and several colleagues host.

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Mayapples appeared through the leaf mulch this week in our garden.

Mayapples appeared through the leaf mulch this week in our garden.

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Linda begins with her own garden, and some of her own gardening mistakes, to help us solve our own gardening conundrums. After a quick refresher course in plant biology, enough for us to understand the explanations she offers in the remainder of the book; Linda moves on to an additional eight chapters which cover everything from soil management and pruning to how plants move, why their leaves turn various colors, plant associations, and seed production.  I’m finding new and useful information in each and every chapter.

She also offers ‘myth busting’ sidebars throughout, which explain why some traditional practices, such as staking trees, actually cause problems in the garden.  Do you dig a large hole and ammend the soil when planting a new shrub?  Linda explains why this might actually stunt the development of your shrub over several seasons.

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Overwintered planters with an ivy Geranium popped in. My color combinations this spring are a little shocking, perhaps....

Overwintered planters with an ivy Geranium popped in. My color combinations this spring are a little shocking, perhaps….

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How Plants Work extends the principles of botany to better inform our practices as gardeners.  It explains how plants use the common components of fertilizers and other substances and why they respond as they do to the care we give them.  So much ‘common knowledge’ about gardening practices just doesn’t hold up when examined in terms of a plant’s real needs.

Linda offers her advice and guidance in a very friendly, anecdotal style clearly written to help us enjoy more success with the plants we grow in our gardens.  I learned why potting soil with moisture retaining crystals can easily kill the plant it is supposed to support.  I learned how to bring light sensitive holiday plants, like Poinsettia and Christmas Cactus, into bloom.

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This red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia has come back strong after an oak tree fell on it in 2013.

This red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, has come back strong after an oak tree fell on it in 2013.  This part of the garden is mulched with wood chips made from the oak’s branches.

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And I learned why it is always better to mulch with chipped wood than with landscaping fabric or paper products.  Did you know that roots must have oxygen? Every chapter thus far has been packed with new understandings about plant growth and  the sort of helpful tips one can  put to use immediately.

Linda’s discussion of whether or not native plants are a good choice for suburban gardens offered a fresh perspective on this contentious issue.  And I agree with her. 

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New growth on an Oregon Grape Holly in our front garden. Notice the scarlet leaves? Linda explains why these leaves may turn scarlet to survive a particularly cold winter.

New growth on an Oregon Grape Holly in our front garden. Notice the scarlet leaves? Linda explains why these leaves may turn scarlet to survive a particularly cold winter.

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I’ve been waiting for this book for more than a year, and was delighted to find it in the mail this week.  Timber Press contacted me last April to request the rights to use one of my photos from Forest Garden in the book.  I was happy to agree, and asked for a copy of the completed book as partial payment for the photo.  The anticipation of reading Linda’s completed book has percolated in the back of my mind ever since.

And this book is in every way beautiful.  Filled with interesting, sound and helpful information, it is also beautifully illustrated with color photographs throughout.  These photos illustrate some of the most interesting phenomena of the plant world. The photo I contributed was of an Oregon Grape Holly whose leaves had turned scarlet in our extreme cold last winter.

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Azaleas, dogwoods, and redbud in bloom together. Who could hope for more in a forest garden?

Azaleas, dogwoods, and redbud in bloom together. Who could hope for more in a forest garden?

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If you are a serious gardener, if you love working with the amazing beings of the Plant Kingdom; then you will enjoy reading How Plants Work.  It will become one of your ‘go to’ reference books when you need to solve a problem in the garden.   And when you get your copy, check out page 124… you just might remember that photo from one of my posts last winter.

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April 17, 2015 spring garden 016~

Woodland Gnome 2015

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April 17, 2015 spring garden 021

 

In A Vase On Monday

April 13, 2015 spring flowers 007

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The vase today reflects what is happening in the garden:  an abundance of fresh, colorful flowers set against the somewhat ragged remainders of last year’s garden.  Winter’s remnants form the backdrop to all of our blooming trees, budding shrubs, vibrant daffodils and Hellebores, and the emerging perennials.

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April 13, 2015 spring flowers 009

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The Hellebore in today’s vase is a special favorite of mine with its dark and dusty double flowers.  It lives at the very bottom of the garden, in deep shade.  Its abundant blooms don’t show very well where it grows, and so I was happy to cut two stems for today’s vase.

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April 13, 2015 spring flowers 003

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More white daffodils, larger ones from a different patch, offer the stark contrast found in the changing seasons.

Spent, spore covered fronds of D. ‘Brilliance’ autumn fern, rescued from where they were lying around the crown of emerging fronds, form the backdrop and help support the soaring branches of blooming redbud, Cercis canadensis.

Also supporting today’s arrangement is a bare, lichen covered branch from an Azalea and two branches of lacy Artemisia.  The Artemisia overwintered, and has just begun to send out fresh leaves.

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April 13, 2015 spring flowers 010

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This post comes late in the day.  I’ve spent the entire day working out in the garden, stopping only when the sun grew low in the sky and my energy was spent.  Many more pots came out of storage in the garage today, and most of the hanging baskets have moved out of the shade and into their permanent locations.

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See the little guy who hitchhiked indoors on the flowers?

See the little guy who hitchhiked indoors on the flowers?

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I’ve been watching for unfurling fern fronds and photographing them, planting new perennial plugs, cutting back winter damage on the Rosemary, and doing an awful lot of sweeping and raking.

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Leaves have just begun to appear on the redbud trees.  This little branch looked so elegant with its tiny leaves, I had to include it.

Leaves have just begun to appear on the redbud trees. This little branch looked so elegant with its tiny  heart shaped leaves, I had to include it.

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There was lots of company outside today.  Bumblebees, doves, our cardinals, and our cat were all nearby.  My partner appeared from time to time to offer encouragement, open the doors, and lend a hand.

There is just a lot of heavy lifting involved in opening the season in the garden.  I know you know, and are probably in the midst of your own spring chores.

And what happy work to clear the way for a new season of beauty and wonder.  The first bud has appeared on a Fuchsia we’ve carried into its fourth spring.  Japanese painted fern fronds uncurl from another basket beside the tiny maroon leaves of an awakening Oxalis triangularis.

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Trimmings from the Artimesia look so nice against the dusky purple Hellebores.  Do you think they might root in the vase?

Trimmings from the Artemisia look so nice against the dusky purple Hellebores. Do you think they might root in the vase?

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I took a short break after lunch to pull together this little arrangement today, and photograph it, before returning to the work at hand.  The vase was an antique when I bought it thirty odd years ago.  It held Begonia cuttings all winter long.  Now they are planted out in pots, and the vase is free again for flowers.

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April 13, 2015 spring flowers 018

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The first series of photographs, outside, are in front of our Hydrangea border.  We’ve left the grass to grow as it is full of bulbs and wildflowers.  It will likely get its first trim while I’m away next week.

I added an amethyst cluster and a blown glass plate when the vase came inside.  The amethyst matches the Hellebores so nicely.

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who generously sponsors A Vase on Monday.  You’ll find links to many wonderful arrangements of spring flowers in her comments.   I find it fascinating to see what is in bloom in other gardener’s gardens across the country and across the sea.

I hope you will find joy in the beauty of your own garden this week, and perhaps clip a few stems to enjoy inside, with a cool drink and your feet up!

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April 13, 2015 spring flowers 005~

Woodland Gnome 2015

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