Six on Saturday: Always Another Surprise

This old redbud tree fell over in a storm last year, yet is covered in new growth this spring. Its roots are strongly planted in the earth even as its trunk lies nearly horizontal along the slope of the garden.

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We weren’t expecting to get between 3 and 5 inches of rain yesterday afternoon.  Sure, we knew it might rain; there might even be a little thunder.  It’s nearly June, the start of Hurricane Season.  Storms come and go in coastal Virginia, and we’ve had a lot of that wet traffic lately.

But the storms seemed to be going around us for much of the day.  And even when the wispy little edge of a system brushed over us on radar, we expected only a passing shower.  But no.  It lingered, grew, intensified, roiled around a while.  It filled the ditch by our street and turned the creek in the ravine into a rushing river of run-off as a flash-flood warning pinged on my phone.  We began to hear about local roads flooding as heavy rain pounded on the roof and patio, our trees bending and swaying under such an unexpected watery attack.

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Some parts of the garden love the rain.

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Does it make sense to say that you’re surprised, while not being really surprised at all?  We’ve had so many fast, unexpected storms roll over our area in recent years that nothing from the sky should surprise us anymore.  And yet when they sneak up in mid-afternoon, without proper warning from the weather-guessers, and then leave a changed landscape behind, it does leave a scuff-mark on one’s psyche.

Of course we are in these already surreal and surprising months of 2020, so nothing should surprise us too much at this point.  Weather seems the least of it, honestly.

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Athyrium ‘Ghost’

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But when I went out early this morning, camera in hand, to spy on the rabbits munching the front ‘lawn’ and to see what I could see in the garden, I was greeted with more little surprises in the garden.

Maybe what I really love most about gardening is the novelty of tending a living system and all of the surprises, both pleasant and not, which greet one each day.  What’s changed?  What’s in bloom?  What’s grown?  What’s been eaten overnight by the deer?  What young tree has just fallen over after the voles ate its roots?  You get my drift….

The very back of our garden is sheltered by a small ‘bamboo forest’ which shields it from the ravine.  Now, you likely know that bamboo, even when it’s 40′ tall and as big around as a large grapefruit, is a grass.  And grass grows from underground rhizomes, which spread as far as they possibly can.  We love the bamboo and the cool privacy it gives us.

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That said, every May we must police its new shoots daily to keep it in bounds.  You see, it really, really would like to claim more of the garden and so marches right up the hill towards our home every spring.  It sends up new shoots hourly over several weeks, and then it gives up until next year.  Sometimes the shoots are chopstick thin and actually look like a respectable grass.  They’re rather artistic and I’d be tempted to leave them, emerging in the midst of a flower border or my fernery, if I didn’t know their intent.

Other shoots come up thick and strong, like fast growing baseball bats claiming their right to seek the sun above the garden.  It’s a good thing that the squirrels love fresh bamboo shoots so much, because they quickly clean up the stray shoots we must knock over each day.

Well, when I wandered into the back garden this morning, I was greeted with unexpectedly prodigious new bamboo shoots thrusting up through shrubs, ferns, perennials and grass.  How can they grow that fast?  I wasn’t in my boots yet, so I made their portraits and left them to grow another few hours until my partner could deal with them.

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The ground was soft and squishy, still completely saturated from another early morning rain.  Fig branches were bent and touching the ground.  The lamb’s ears flower stalks I’d been allowing to grow for the bees lay flat in the mulch.  Only the ferns looked truly happy this morning.  The ferns, pushing out abundant new fronds, and a lone Japanese Iris that just bloomed for the first time in our garden.

A fresh Iris blossom always elicits a smile from me.  Like a deep breath of fresh spring air, it fills me with unreasonable happiness.  What is this magic some flowers work in our gnarly, jaded hearts?  I can turn away from two score bamboo shoots invading the garden to admire a single Iris blossom, and let that beautiful surprise buoy me back inside to pour my morning coffee.

Yes, we garden as much for the surprises as for the known rhythms of our gardening year.  There’s always something new to enjoy and always some new chore to do.  What more could one hope for?

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Iris ensata, ‘Temple Bells,’ blooming for the first time in our garden this morning.  It was a gift from a friend last summer.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Please visit my new website, Illuminations, for a daily photo from our garden.

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

Sunday Dinner: Bathed in Light

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“It is not we who seek the Way,

but the Way which seeks us.

That is why you are faithful to it,

even while you stand waiting,

so long as you are prepared,

and act the moment you are confronted

by its demands.”

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Dag Hammarskjöld

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“True morality consists not in following the beaten track,

but in finding the true path for ourselves,

and fearlessly following it.”

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Mahatma Gandhi

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“Does the walker choose the path,

or the path the walker?”

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Garth Nix

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“Water is the most perfect traveler

because when it travels

it becomes the path itself!”

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Mehmet Murat ildan

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“Don’t keep forever on the public road,

going only where others have gone.”

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Alexander Graham Bell

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“As one gets older

one sees many more paths that could be taken.

Artists sense within their own work

that kind of swelling of possibilities,

which may seem a confusion, or a freedom.”

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Jasper Johns

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“Who said it was a path?

It could have just been artfully strewn cookies.

You made it a path by following it,

and assuming it had any intention.”

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Roshani Chokshi

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“Let the path that you follow

be bathed in light.”

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Anthony T. Hincks

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“They aren’t roadblocks.

They’re signposts.”
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Richie Norton

Please visit my new website, Illuminations, for a daily photo from our garden.

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Walking Through My Garden, Forever

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“If I had a flower

for every time I thought of you…

I could walk through my garden forever.”

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Alfred Tennyson

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“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

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William Shakespeare

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“We love the things

we love for what they are.”

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Robert Frost

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“The world is indeed full of peril,

and in it there are many dark places;

but still there is much that is fair,

and though in all lands

love is now mingled with grief,

it grows perhaps the greater.”

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J.R.R. Tolkien

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“When I despair,

I remember that all through history

the way of truth and love have always won.

There have been tyrants and murderers,

and for a time, they can seem invincible,

but in the end, they always fall.

Think of it–always.”

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Mahatma Gandhi

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“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone,

it has to be made, like bread;

remade all the time,

made new.”

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Ursula K. Le Guin

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“There is always some madness in love.

But there is also always some reason in madness.”

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Friedrich Nietzsche

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“And, in the end
The love you take
is equal to the love you make.”
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Sir Paul McCartney,

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Sunday Dinner: Finding the Energy

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“…The human perception of this energy

first begins

with a heightened sensitivity to beauty.”

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James Redfield

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“If you wish to make anything grow,

you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense.

‘Green fingers’ are a fact,

and a mystery only to the unpracticed.

But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.”

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Russell Page

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“It takes as much energy to wish

as it does to plan.”

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Eleanor Roosevelt

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“We grow the aspects of our lives that we feed –

with energy and engagement –

and choke off those we deprive of fuel.

Your life is what you agree to attend to.”

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Jim Loehr

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“Energy is liberated matter,

matter is energy waiting to happen.”

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Bill Bryson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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I now see my life, not as a slow shaping

of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes,

but as the gradual discovery of a purpose

which I did not know.”

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Joanna Field

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“I love the smell of rain and growing things.”
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Serina Hernandez

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Visit my new website, Illuminations, for a photo of something beautiful and a thought provoking quotation each day.  -WG

Six On Saturday: Meeting the Challenge

Cuttings taken this spring from a saucer Magnolia branch, and from my potted Ginko tree root on our deck.

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As much as I love to shop for plants, and as much as I love the family who runs our local garden center,  I’m staying at home this spring.

Oh, it is so tempting to run out for a few trays of springtime happiness in the form of little geraniums and herbs, a few pots of perennials and a bag of fresh potting soil, or two.  In Virginia, garden centers and hardware stores are considered essential, and so they are open every day welcoming customers.

But every time I’m tempted to pick up those car keys and go, I think about all of the people I love and the very good reasons to stay at home and stay well , making sure that I don’t become a link in that chain of virus transmission.

But it’s April, and my fingers are itching to play in the dirt and grow something beautiful.  I’m sure you understand.

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An oak seedling emerges from an acorn I picked up in December.

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And so I’m challenging myself to work with what I have and keep purchases to a minimum.  And as I wander around our garden, I am filled with gratitude for each emerging perennial and fern, every seedling and living, growing cutting.

My neighbor shared a bag of Lycoris bulbs she had dug from her own garden.  I planted those today.  Another neighbor brought me packs of vegetable seeds, and I shared several tree seedlings I’d dug from ours.

I’ve been taking cuttings from some tender perennials we overwintered in the garage.  I’m rooting slips of scented geranium, Begonias and some coleus.  Last year’s plants may look a little tired, but the rooted cuttings will perform like new ones from the garden center.

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This hanging basket springs back to life as last year’s herbs and ‘annuals’ re-emerge for another season.

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We had a mild winter, and so I’ve been finding little plants emerging in pots and baskets on the porch and patio.  Thus far we have Verbena, Lantana, geraniums, scented Pelargoniums, some pineapple mint, Dichondra and lots of ferns!  I plan to divide some, and to take more cuttings from these, too.  I’m challenging myself to have a garden just as full and beautiful as ever, without needing to buy so much this spring.

I did succumb to plant lust and ordered some lotus seeds, Nelumbo nucifera, the sacred tropical lotus grown throughout Asia, to grow in pots on my patio this summer.  I’ve been reading a bit about how to grow these beautiful plants and studying the posts of lotus in pots and water gardens in Pinterest.

When my seeds arrived, they were already prepared to germinate.  They came with their shells already pierced so the warm water I soaked them in could penetrate.  I kept them in a jelly jar on the stove, changing their water a few times a day, as they began to grow.

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Lotus seeds begin to grow as first stems emerge and stretch for the light.  Keep the seeds and plants in several inches of warm water as they grow.

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Caring for baby emerging lotus plants is a lot like looking after little tadpoles, if you did that as a kid.  They grow so quickly!

After the first week, as their stems elongated, I moved them up into a deeper clear dish and let them grow on near a window.  Finally, I ‘potted’ up most of them into 24 oz clear plastic tumblers to give each lengthening stem more room to stretch and grow.  Most of them have a second stem emerging now, and soon they will put down roots into the soil and gravel at the bottom of each tumbler.  I expect to grow the lotus on in the tumblers for a few more weeks, at least until it warms up here enough to put them outside!

I actually ordered seed from two different vendors, hedging my bets, and every seed but one germinated.  So now I have quite a few lotus plants to tend…   another challenge.

Some of my gardening friends are finding a casual offer to share a lotus embedded in my email messages of late.  I am hoping to find adoptive homes for most of these lotus, and I hope they will prove as entertaining and happiness inspiring for friends as they’ve been for me.

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Our tall Iris began blooming this week.  This is a species Iris pallida brought to Virginia from Europe during Colonial times .

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We are enjoying a beautiful spring here in Virginia.  The dogwoods and Azaleas are blooming and the Wisteria drapes from tree to tree like lavender swag draperies.  Our first tall Iris of the season are opening and buds swell on the roses.  Late Narcissus stand tall and bright in the upper garden as trees clothe themselves in ever expanding leaves.

We are finding plenty to do here at home.  I expect that it will be our best garden yet, as we focus on gratitude for what we have.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Visit my new website, Illuminations, for a photo of something beautiful and a thought provoking quotation each day.

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

Sunday Dinner: What’s New?

New growth emerges from D. ‘Autumn Brilliance’

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“Life is a concept, like the “universe,”

that expands as soon as we reach

what we think is its edge.”

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Kamand Kojouri

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“In new surroundings, one grows new eyes.”

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Marty Rubin

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“Change is like the skin peeling off of a snake.

It is slow. It is sticky.

And sometimes you have to rub against a hard place

to pull yourself through it.

But in the end, you realize

that it was worth it all

to get the the new place

and new person you have become.”

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Stella Payton

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“Nature is not about preserving old things,

but about creating new ones.

New life. New ideas.”

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Gemma Malley

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“Accept that you are not finished,

and a new and better life

is just beginning.”

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Bryant McGill

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“And in the evening
After the fire and the light
One thing is certain: Nothing can hold back the light
Time is relentless
And as the past disappears
We’re on the verge of all things new”

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Billy Joel

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“When we love,

we always strive to become better than we are.

When we strive to become better than we are,

everything around us

becomes better too.”

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Paulo Coelho

Please visit my new website, Illuminations: Walking In Beauty Every Day

Sunday Dinner: Never Assume….

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“Advances are made by answering questions.
Discoveries are made by questioning answers.
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Bernard Haisch

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“Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in a while,
or the light won’t come in.”
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Isaac Asimov

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“It is useless to attempt
to reason a man out of a thing
he was never reasoned into.”
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Jonathan Swift

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“Assumptions are maintained by the hug of history.
Yet, history does not guarantee their validity,
nor does it ever reassess their validity.”
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Michael Michalko

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“You think you know this story.
You do not.”
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Jane Yolen

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“Don’t build roadblocks out of assumptions.”
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Lorii Myers

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“The surface of the earth is soft
and impressible by the feet of men;
and so with the paths which the mind travels.
How worn and dusty, then,
must be the highways of the world,
how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!
I did not wish to take a cabin passage,
but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world,
for there I could best see the moonlight
amid the mountains.”
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Henry David Thoreau

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“There was no Jedi so wise
that he could not be undone
by his own assumptions.”
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Claudia Gray

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“Assumptions close doors.
Intrigue opens them.”
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Sam Owen

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“You find the magic of the world in the margin for error.”
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Heart of Dixie

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Sunday Dinner: Symmetrical

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“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birds’ wings.”
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Jelaluddin Rumi

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“There are moments when i wish i could roll back the clock
and take all the sadness away,
but i have a feeling that if i did,
the joy would be gone as well.
So i take the memories as they come,
accepting them all,
letting them guide me whenever i can.”
.
Nicholas Sparks

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“He felt that there is a loose balance of good and evil,
and that the art of living
consists in getting the greatest good
out of the greatest evil.”
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Machado de Assis

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“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
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Ursula K. Le Guin

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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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“what is joy without sorrow?
what is success without failure?
what is a win without a loss?
what is health without illness?
you have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other.
there is always going to be suffering.
it’s how you look at your suffering,
how you deal with it, that will define you.”
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mark twain

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Photos by Woodand Gnome 2020

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“You must let what happens happen.
Everything must be equal in your eyes,
good and evil, beautiful and ugly,
foolish and wise.”
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Michael Ende

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In memory of Robert Nowak 1941-2020

and for those he’s left behind

Sunday Dinner: Allies

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“Trees in fog stand without leaves,
dark stems in a maze of inexhaustible intricacy.
Patterns laid upon patterns in a seeming randomness
that gives way to a single beautiful scene.” 
Akiva Silver

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“We all have a lot to learn about living on this Earth. 
It is a strange and wild place
with endless nuance and variation. 
As soon as we learn something, we find more questions.”
Akiva Silver

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“When I look at the sky, what I see there is not simply blue. 
There’s a radiance, an energy, a power. 
It is from this power that trees feed. 
Literally building their bodies out of the radiant sky,
trees of power are strong beings to ally ourselves with.”
Akiva Silver

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“Trees speak to our souls because they offer life to our bodies,
a timeless proposition that predates and outlasts us. 
Trees connect us to forever.”
Samuel Thayer from the foreword to
Trees of Power- Ten Essential Arboreal Allies by Akiva Silver

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“Trees beckon us to sit at their feet, humbly, and listen. 
They speak of the supposedly distant past,
reminding us that it was scarcely more than yesterday. 
They link us to a future that becomes, through them,
imaginable, almost palpable. 
Perhaps we cannot guess what the future holds,
but we can plant it.”
Samuel Thayer

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Trees are the answer to many of our ills,
and the ladder to many of our dreams. 
They are the arms and hands of the Earth,
reaching up to the heavens on our behalf,
grasping the slippery currency of sunlight and rendering it,
through their wondrous alchemy,
in to the stuff of life –
our life and theirs.”
Samuel Thayer

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“We breathe these trees through our lungs,
shelter ourselves with their wood,
and fill our bodies with the energy of their fruit.
Akiva Silver

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“We live at a time where there is widespread disturbance all around us. 
The ground is open and waiting for seeds. 
We can bemoan the tragedies that nature has endured
or we can cast seeds and plant a future.” 
Akiva Silver

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Every seed, cutting or small tree that you ever hold in your hands
wants to live.  It wants the same thing you do. 
You are its ally, as much as it, yours. 
You are able to see and do things that are not possible for the plant. 
Humans can be amazing helpers to the plants we choose to work with. 
Alliances work both ways.”
Akiva Silver

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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“Partnering with trees is as natural as breathing. 
We inhale their exhalations and they inhale ours. 
We are designed to work with each other.”
Akiva Silver

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The Trees of Power cover

Six on Saturday: Evergreen

Helleborus

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By January autumn’s leaves have mostly fallen and anything evergreen dazzles in the fleeting winter sun.  I anticipate this quiet time of the year when one can see deeply into the roadside woods, admiring the stands of pines, hollies, Magnolias and myrtles normally hidden from view by the leafy, growing forest.

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American Holly surrounded by pines.

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After the year’s many colorful extravagances, the restful simplicity of bared bark, buff leaf litter and glowing evergreens stands in elegant contrast to the other seasons’ beauties.

At home, too, evergreen perennials peek through the fallen leaves, a deep emerald green.  Pointy ivy leaves scramble across the ground and spill from pots on the patio.  Fresh, wrinkled Helleborus leaves emerge from the chilled earth embracing stems of unfolding flowers.

What a delight to see these winter treasures braving the worst weather of the year, unflinching under a frosty glaze.

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Mahonia aquifolium

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Our Mahohias stand crowned with golden flowers this week.  Filled with nectar, they feed native bees and other pollinators who venture out on warmish days.  As we admired a particularly lush stand of Mahonia this morning, a brilliant red cardinal dropped out of the sky to land on its uppermost branch.  Perhaps it was looking for its breakfast, too.

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Camellia sasanqua

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Yucca and German Iris, rosemary, parsley, thyme, Arum and tiny Cyclamen leaves soak up the sun and stand resolute in the face of winter.  A well planned garden needs these touches of evergreen to carry us through until spring.

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Thyme

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No blazing summer Dahlia will ever touch me in the same way as richly green Arum, melting the snow around itself, its leaves unmarred by ice.

These loyalest of garden plants remain with us through the difficulties of winter, inspiring us with their fortitude and blessing us with their beauty.

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Arum italicum shines from late autumn into May, when it quietly fades away. This European native produces enough heat to attract insects and protect itself in freezing weather.  Here, with emerging daffodil leaves, Vinca minor and Saxifraga stolonifera.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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

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