Wild Life Wednesday: All Calm Before the Storm

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It was gently raining when we awakened this morning, but the sun was breaking through along the horizon by the time we made it outside into the new day.

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An early morning bumbly enjoys the sweetness of Rudbeckia laciniata.

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We are all very conscious of the weather here in coastal Virginia this week as we watch the updates on the progress of Hurricane Florence.  We are on high ground and so flooding isn’t a concern.  But we live in a forest, and any amount of wind can change the landscape here; especially when the ground is saturated.

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The Solidago, goldenrod, has just begun to bloom.

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It looks as though the storm will make landfall far to our south, and the track no longer suggests it might travel northwards into Central Virginia.  Yet Florence remains a dangerous storm, and is absolutely huge.  We may start feeling its outer bands of rain and wind sometime tomorrow or Friday.

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Rose of Sharon

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Which made today all the sweeter.  Do you know the Japanese term, Wabi-Sabi?  The Japanese find beauty in the transience and ultimate imperfection of all phenomena.  The impermanence and changeability of the world around us heightens our appreciation of its beauty.  We can appreciate things while feeling a deep tenderness for their inherent imperfection.

I was pondering these things this morning as I wandered through our upper garden, wondering how it might appear in a day or so after wind and heavy rain have their way with it.  Already, our tall goldenrod and black-eyed Susans lean over into the paths, making them almost disappear in the abundance of growth.

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It is my first time wandering through the garden like this since I got a nasty insect bite last Friday afternoon.  It is still a mystery what bit me, as I was fully armored to work outdoors.  It was a small bite at first, but quickly blistered and swelled up to a massive angry red blotch that stretched several inches away from the original bite on my knee.  It has been a slow process of tending it, and I stayed indoors until yesterday, hoping to avoid another until this one was resolved.

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Ginger lily with orbs

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But today I was out in the early morning wetness, capturing the beauty of it, and trying to ignore the mosquitoes greeting me along the way.  I wanted to see everything and admire everything on the chance that the coming storm will shatter its early September magnificence.  It was the beautiful calm before the storm, and we have taken today to celebrate it.

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The rain was past and the day gilded with golden September sunshine when we set out along the Colonial Parkway to see the sky and watch the rising waters along the James and York Rivers.  If you’ve never seen the sky filled with enormous, rain shadowed clouds in the day or two before a hurricane approaches, you’ve missed one of the most beautiful spectacles of atmospheric art.

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Yorktown Beach, looking northwards towards Gloucester Point and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

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The clouds are arrayed in regular, rhythmic patterns, punctuated here and there with towering, monstrous storm clouds.  The sky is blue and clear beyond them.  They float rapidly across the sky, these outer bands of the approaching storm.  These days of waiting are moody, morphing quickly from dull to golden and clear blue to stormy grey.

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One keeps an eye on the sky while pacing through the rituals of preparing.   There is an edge to the mood as highways fill with strangers moving northwards, inland, away from home and into an uncertain future.  We encountered one today at the next gas pump who needed to tell us he was traveling, just passing through, on his journey to somewhere safer than here.

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We found a nearby parking lot filled this morning with state police, huge generators, Klieg lights, and emergency response trailers.  The lot was filled at eight, but emptying out just a few hours later.  We’re still wondering where the equipment will ultimately end up.  We hope not here…

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Jones Mill Pond, near Yorktown on the Colonial Parkway

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I wondered whether the butterflies would move out ahead of the storm.  But we counted more than a dozen as we drove along the Parkway from Jamestown to Yorktown.   We saw mostly small ones, Sulphurs, but we were glad for their happy fluttering along the roadside.  We noticed the tide is already high along the way.  Jamestown Island is closed as preparations there continue.

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The rivers lap high up into the reeds, mostly covering the narrow, sandy river beaches.  The York River is already climbing the rip rap hardened banks constructed a few summers ago to protect the shoreline.  Small Coast Guard craft patrolled the river near Yorktown, but that didn’t deter a few families here and there, determined to enjoy this bright and sultry day at the beach.

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The York River, looking eastwards towards the Bay.

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The lizards were scampering around the drive and back steps when we returned home.  They’d been basking in the mid-day sun; our return disturbed their peace.

The squirrels had been at the grapes again, and we saw a pair of hummingbirds light in a Rose of Sharon tree nearby, watching us arrive.

It was too silent, though.  We didn’t hear the usual chatter of songbirds in the trees.  It was still, too.  Though the wind was blowing off the rivers, here the air hung heavy and still.

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Our Muscadine grapes are ripening over a long season.

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I believe in luck and omens, and perhaps that is why I planted a few little pots of Baptisia seeds this morning.  I’d knicked the seed pods from a plant I’ve watched growing all summer at the Botanical garden, and carried them in my pocket for weeks.

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With the seeds tucked into little pots out on the deck, I’m already thinking of the sprouts that will soon emerge.  Life goes on.  I believe that is the wisdom of wabi-sabi.

No matter the current circumstance, change is constant.  We can’t outrun it, or stop it.  Wisdom invites us to embrace it, observe its power, and find the ever-present beauty, come what may.

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This beautiful cluster of lichens was waiting for me beneath a shrub this morning.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
*  *  *
“To Taoism that which is absolutely still or absolutely perfect
is absolutely dead,
for without the possibility of growth and change there can be no Tao.
In reality there is nothing in the universe
which is completely perfect or completely still;
it is only in the minds of men that such concepts exist.”
.
Alan Watts

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“But when does something’s destiny finally come to fruition?
Is the plant complete when it flowers?
When it goes to seed? When the seeds sprout?
When everything turns into compost?”
.
Leonard Koren

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Begonia

 

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Summer Solstice Wishes

Butterfly bush prepares to welcome a hungry bee.

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Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.  It is a good day to celebrate our wishes, especially those wishes that have finally manifested for us. 

I first wrote and published ‘A Dirty Hands Garden Club’ in the summer of 2014, and would like to share it with you, again.  I hope that you have found your own community of gardeners, naturalists, conservationists, teachers, artists, and plant nerds, as I have so happily found mine.

WG June 2018

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Asclepias incarnata

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I would love to join  a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club;
One whose members know more about fertilizers
Than they do about wines…

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I’d want our meetings spent wandering through nurseries,
Learning from  expert gardeners,
Or building community gardens…

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Echinacea and Monarda prove beautiful native perennials in our area.

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Not frittered away in chit chat over drinks and hors d’oeuvres .

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Hibiscus syriacus and bumbly

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And all of us would be at least a little expert in something, and
Glad to share what we’ve learned;

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Native ebony spleenwort transplanted successfully into this old stump.

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And we all would love putting our hands in the dirt
To help something grow.

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Lavender is still recovering from the winter.

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My club would collect species, not dues;
Re-build ecosystems rather than plant ivy and  box.

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Caladium ‘Fannie Munson’ with Bergenia and ferns.

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We “dirty hands” gardeners can band together
In spirit, if not in four walls.

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We can share plants and insights,
Instigate, propagate, and appreciate;

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Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

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Perhaps we can even help rehabilitate 
Some sterile lawn somewhere
Into something which nurtures beauty
And feeds souls….

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Magnolia liliiflora is giving us a second flush of bloom in early summer.

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Others can judge flowers,
Decorate homes at Christmas
And organize tours.
These things are needed, too.

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Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, opens its first blooms of the year.

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(But I would rather be out in the garden;
Where cardinals preside over the morning meeting,
And  hummingbirds are our special guests for the day.
The daily agenda ranges from watering to transplanting;
From pruning to watching for turtles and dragonflies.)

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We  wear our muddy shoes and well worn gloves with pride,
Our spades and pruners always close at hand.

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We converse with Nature,
And re-build the web strand by strand,
Plant by plant.

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Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ with Basil

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If this invitation speaks to you,
Perhaps we can work together
From wherever we might find ourselves
Around the globe.
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Colocasia ‘Mojito’ in front with C. ‘Pink China’ behind

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We can each put our hands in the dirt
and create a garden,

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Nurture Beauty,
And restore health and vitality to our Earth,
our communities, and ourselves, together.

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Native Oakleaf Hydrangea glows in the morning Solstice sun.

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Poem by Woodland Gnome 2014
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“The Holy Land is everywhere”
.
Black Elk

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

August Wonders

Azalea indica ‘Formosa’ in bloom on August 22, 2017.

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A deeply pink blossom shone like a beacon in its sea of dusty August green.  What could that be?

I know that color; a color normally enjoyed in late April: Azalea indica ‘Formosa’.   But the Azaleas in our garden are old ones, planted years before the ‘Encore’ series of fall blooming  Azaleas was ever marketed.

I studied this beautiful flower, a wondrous anachronism, as I drew closer and saw that yes, it was blooming from an Azalea shrub.  In August…

August is filled with wonders. 

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August often melts into a reprieve of sorts.  Relentless heat and drought eventually give way to soaking rains, cooler nights; and a chance for new growth to replace the burnt and fallen leaves of high summer.   Each new leaf whispers a promise of renewal.

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Virginia Creeper

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After the rains begin, one morning we’ll find living fireworks sprung up nearly overnight from long forgotten bulbs.

The spider lily, or hurricane lily, has awakened for another year.  Their exuberance is a milestone along the long downward arc of days from Summer’s Solstice to Autumn’s Equinox.

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Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata

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The cast of characters in our garden shifts through the seasons.  The topography of things changes, too, as Cannas and Ficus and Rudbeckia gain height with each passing week.

The poke weed I cut out so ruthlessly in May finally won, and has grown into a 12′ forest in one corner of our garden.

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Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, proves an invasive native perennial loved by birds.

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Countless clusters of beautiful purple berries hang from its spreading branches, an invitation to the feast.  Small birds flit in and out of its shelter from dawn to dusk, singing their praises of summer’s bounty.

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After so many decades of gardening, one would think that I could have learned the twin disciplines of faith and patience by now.  It is a life long practice; perhaps never perfected. 

Time seems to slip past my muddy fingers each spring as I race to plant and prepare our garden for the season coming.  But nature bides her time, never fully revealing the bits of life she has nurtured through winter’s freezing nights; until she chooses to warm them back to life again.

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Mexican Petunia, Ruellia simplex

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At first I assumed it was a windborne weed, this bit of green growing up through the Oxalis in a humble clay pot by our back door.  I very nearly plucked it one day.  But something about its long narrow leaf was familiar, and echo of a memory of summers past.

And so I left it alone, keeping watch and feeding it, hoping it might be the newest incarnation of the marginally hardy Mexican Petunia.  My patience was rewarded this week with its first purple blossom.

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Hardy only to Zone 8, this Ruellia is one of the plants I search for in garden centers each spring.   And this spring I didn’t find one.  And the pot where I grew it on our deck last summer with Lantana and herbs showed no life by mid-May, and so I threw its contents on the compost.

But this pot by the door sat undisturbed, filled with growing  Oxalis and a bit of geranium.  And obviously, the dormant, but still living, Ruellia’s roots.  How often our plants live just below the surface, waiting for the right moment to show themselves, bursting  into new growth.

We somehow have to wrap our minds and memories around the full scope of our garden’s possibilities.

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Garlic chives spread themselves around the garden, blooming in unexpected places in late summer.

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Autumn is our second spring, here in coastal Virginia.  It is a fresh chance to plant and harvest, plan and prune and putter in the garden.

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Caladium ‘Desert Sunset’ has renewed its growth with vibrant new leaves.

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We have ten or twelve weeks remaining, at least, before cold weather puts an end to it for another year.

As our season cools, we can spend more time outside without minding the heat and humidity of July and early August.

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Hardy Begonias have finally begun to bloom.

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We breathe deeply once again, and share the renewed joy of it all with the small creatures who share this space with us.

Late August is filled with wonders, teasing us out from the air conditioning of our indoor havens, back out into the magic waiting in the garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

WPC: Order

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“Deep in the human unconscious

is a pervasive need for a logical universe

that makes sense.

But the real universe

is always one step beyond logic.”

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Frank Herbert

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“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos,

including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic,

and abstract beauty.”

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Deepak Chopra

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“The order that our mind imagines

is like a net, or like a ladder,

built to attain something.

But afterward you must throw the ladder away,

because you discover that, even if it was useful,

it was meaningless.”

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Umberto Eco

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“Chaos is merely order

waiting to be deciphered.”

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José Saramago

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“The world is not to be put in order.

The world is order.

It is for us to put ourselves in unison

with this order.”

.

Henry Miller

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“Chaos was the law of nature;

Order was the dream of man.”

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Henry Adams

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

.  .  .

For the Daily Post’s 

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Order

In A Vase On Monday: Good Enough to Eat….

August 29, 2016 vase 005

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August feels like a very ‘green’ month; especially here in coastal Virginia where we are totally surrounded by green trees, vines, lush green lawns, billowing green Crepe Myrtles and other rampant growth.

From Lamas in early August, to Labor Day weekend in early September, our world remains vibrant and green!

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Sunset, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

Early evening, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

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You can watch some plants literally grow hour to hour and day to day, given enough water.   If you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a hot-house or conservatory, welcome to a Virginia August!   This is the time of year when we seek the cool, green shade of large trees and vine covered trellises to help us through the relentless heat.

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Herbs in our August garden.

Herbs in our August garden.  Our swallowtail butterflies love the chive flowers.  This clump remains one of their favorite stops to feed.

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And so it feels appropriate to cut cool green stems from the garden today.  I’ve cut an assortment of herbs for their fragrant leaves.  The burgundy basil flowers and white garlic chives serve only as grace notes to the beautifully shaped, textured and frosted leaves.

Much of this arrangement is edible.

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August 29, 2016 vase 002

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Except for the ivy vines, a little Artemesia and a stem of Coleus; you could brew some lovely herbal tea or garnish a plate from the rest of our vase today.  There are two different scented Pelargoniums here, including P. ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’,  and African Blue Basil.

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August 29, 2016 Vase2 010

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To make this arrangement feel even cooler, it sits in a cobalt blue vase from our local Shelton glass works on a sea-green glass tray.  A moonstone frog rests nearby.

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The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

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Today’s vase is so fragrant that my partner commented as soon as the stems came into the room.  It is a spicy blend of rose scented Geraniums and sharp Basil, with an undertone of garlic from the chive flowers.  It makes puts me in the mood to mix up a little ‘Boursin Cheese’ with fresh herbs from the garden, and serve it garnished with a few chive blossoms!

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August 29, 2016 Vase2 005

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Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink again today, with some beautiful lilies she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

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August 29, 2016 Vase2 014

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 Woodland Gnome 2016

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Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today's vase....

Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today’s vase….

 

Wordless Wednesday

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 005
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“It is good to love many things,
for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much,
and what is done in love is well done.”
.
Vincent van Gogh

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August 24, 2016 Caladiums 014

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Our Golden Companion

June 20, 2016 garden 008

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Celebrate the sun,

The source of all heat, light and life

on Earth;

Our Golden Companion

through all the days of our lives;

The fiery center of our solar system;

Sol Invictus.

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 028

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Apollo’s bright chariot;

Atum-Ra in his bark, traversing the sky,

Vanquishing Apopis so the sun might rise again.

Lord Shamash at the gates of the East,

Belenos, whose fires are lit to celebrate

his healing powers,

Helios.

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June 20, 2016 garden 015

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Earth grows green and verdant at your touch,

But burns and withers if you come too close.

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June 20, 2016 garden 010

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Solstice, midsummer; longest day;

The tipping point.

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June 20, 2016 garden 005

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With summer’s sun now in retreat;

Cooling darkness returns

to quench the heat.

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June 20, 2016 garden 011

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Photos taken Summer Solstice 2016, after 8 PM

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June 20, 2016 garden 009

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“Limitless undying love

which shines around me

like a million suns

it calls me on and on across the universe.”
.

John Lennon

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June 25, 2015 orbs 007

Rainbow orb in our garden June 2015

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“We all shine on…

like the moon and the stars and the sun…

we all shine on…come on and on and on…”

.

John Lennon

Sunday Dinner: Gratitude

Eastern Swallowtail on Verbena 'Lollipop' at the Heath family's garden in Gloucester.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Verbena ‘Lollipop’ at the Heath family’s garden in Gloucester.

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“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;

they are the charming gardeners

who make our souls blossom.”

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Marcel Proust

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June 18, 2016 Gloucester 019

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“Beauty is not who you are on the outside,

it is the wisdom and time you gave away

to save another struggling soul, like you.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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Alliums with Iris, Gloucester, VA

Alliums with Iris, Gloucester, VA

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“I believe that what we become

depends on what our fathers teach us

at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.

We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

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Umberto Eco

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Allium in our Forest Garden

Allium in our Forest Garden

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“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up

trying to pay back the people in this world

who sustain our lives.

In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender

before the miraculous scope of human generosity

and to just keep saying thank you,

forever and sincerely,

for as long as we have voices.”

.

Elizabeth Gilbert

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 012


The rare daylily left ungrazed to bloom in our garden; for which we are most grateful!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

With love and appreciation to all of those Fathers
who give of themselves so generously
to make this a more beautiful and more loving world for all.

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 017


Zantedeschia aethiopica in our Forest Garden

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“You pray in your distress and in your need;

would that you might pray also

in the fullness of your joy

and in your days of abundance.”

.

Kahlil Gibran

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 039

 

“Green Thumb” Tip #1: Pinch!

Coleus, with new branches beginning to emerge several days after pinching.

Coleus, with new growth beginning to emerge several days after pinching.

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Pinch out the growing tips of each stem to make a plant grow more branches.  Some gardeners do this after a stem produces three sets of leaves.  Each new branch helps a plant grow ‘bushier’ and can produce more leaves and flowers.  Use this method to grow larger, more productive plants. 

Use this tip on flowering annuals and perennials, herbs, shrubs and even some vegetables with a structure of leafy stems.

Why it works:  This is an ‘hormonal thing.’  When you pinch out the growing tip of a leaf covered stem, an hormonal message is relayed to every leaf node below that point to produce a new stem.  This is how a single stem can become the framework for multiple stems growing from its sides.  Pinch each lateral stem after at least three sets of leaves form, and more lateral stems will grow from each of its leaf nodes.  Although flowering may be slightly delayed, you will be rewarded with many times more leaves and flowers from a larger plant.

Woodland Gnome’s caveat:  I try to pinch the terminal leaf from a growing stem when it is tiny and not yet fully formed.  Often, this can be done without sacrificing the tiny flowers emerging beside the new leaf.  Use small scissors to prune away emerging leaves without damage to the plant.

“Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams. 

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

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Lantana, with new stems growing from the leaf nodes.

Lantana, with new stems growing from the leaf nodes.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot Bound Roots!  by J. Peggy Taylor

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3:  Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

 

Welcome, Summer

June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 015

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“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”

.

Charles Bowden

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 010

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“Rest is not idleness,

and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees

on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur

of the water, or watching the clouds float

across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

.

John Lubbock

~

June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 007

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It is June, and we are enjoying those magical longest days of the year.  On Saturday, the sun will rise here at 5:46 AM, as it has been doing since Tuesday, June 7.  But we will have that extra minute of golden sunshine as it waits to finally set below the horizon at 8:30.  Both Saturday and Sunday will be our longest days this year, at 14 hours and 44 minutes.  Official Summer Soltice is scheduled for Monday June 20, but the sun will wait until 5:47 to rise that day, making it a minute shorter than Sunday.

Interesting, isn’t it, that our American observance of Father’s Day falls, this year, on our longest day of the year, the day when the sun takes longest to traverse the sky?

But then, on Tuesday, the sun will still rise at 5:47, but will set at 8:31 PM.  And these times of sunrise and sunset will continue through next Friday, June 24.  So we will actually enjoy a full week of Summer Solstice; days nearly 15 hours long, at our latitude.

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 002

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What are you doing to celebrate the Summer Solstice?  Are you traveling, or enjoying the pleasures of home?  Are you on vacation now from school or work?

We are enjoying these long summer days in our garden.  There are daily changes as plants grow and bloom.  Hummingbirds, song birds, and every sort of insect buzz about outside. Our yard now sports five different turtle nests, where mother turtles have left a clutch of eggs on rainy days. 

This is the time of year when we search out farm stands for peaches and home grown tomatoes, new potatoes, squash and blueberries.  The menu changes to what may be sliced quickly and eaten fresh and cold.

Our first Hibiscus buds opened yesterday.  Sweet Gardenia flowers near the door greeted me for the first time this morning.  The Buddleia have covered them selves in nectar rich blooms.   It is finally summer, and we welcome the magic summer always brings.

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 009~

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses.

The sunshine was like powdered gold

over the grassy hillside.”

.

Maud Hart Lovelace

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 001

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 004

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