Six on Saturday: In Transition

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Some days, the most interesting topic of conversation turns out to be the weather.  Today we noted the pros and cons of what it wasn’t: it wasn’t the least bit warm, wasn’t ever sunny, and it wasn’t at all spring-like.  But we also noted our gratitude that at least it wasn’t snowy or stormy in our little corner of Virginia.  It was a day for shivering in the wind while searching the landscape for any and every sign of spring.

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A few bulbs have appeared beside my mother’s driveway.

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I ventured a hundred odd miles northwest today, and a week or more back in meteorological time.

Open faces on daffodils were scarce, though we spotted buds here and there.   Japanese quince shone a muted red through the misty gloom.

But I was cheered to see potted Camellia shrubs and the first of the early perennials have arrived at my favorite Richmond greenhouse and nursery.  They were stocking the seed packet racks and unpacking Aroid tubers, while a cheerful group of Master Gardeners conferred with customers and handed out  fact sheets to those ready to start the season better prepared with good advice.

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The daffodils are much further along in my Williamsburg garden, than any I saw around Richmond today.

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Today we could feel the gears clicking together a little roughly in this reluctant transition from winter to spring.   Winter still has a very firm grip on the situation, and we’re feeling a bit rebellious.  We’re ready to relax a little into a sunny day, sow some seeds, and maybe plant out a pot or two.  Why fight the inevitable, especially now that we can see the trees are preparing to cooperate as their buds swell and color?

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Magnolia stellata

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My self-control was weak; and you couldn’t blame me.  The jazzy blooming lilies and flamingo pink Hydrangeas nearly pushed me over the edge, and that was before we circled the orchid display at least three times.

Spring was in the air, if only inside the glass house packed with blooms.   And of course I filled a little basket with fresh flower pots and a blooming Begonia, a few cute little ferns and a bag of summer bulbs.  It was a small extravagance and did more to lift my mood than I care to admit.

The girls at the register were all smiles and happy talk as people streamed through with carts piled high.  We all needed to take a piece of spring home with us, some little bright something to distract us from the day’s winter gloom, a living promise of brighter days just ahead.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

That myth is more potent than history.

That dreams are more powerful than facts.

That hope always triumphs over experience.

That laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love

is stronger than death.”
.

Robert Fulghum

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

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Native Virginia Trees

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Early spring, as the buds swell and glow red or orange or softest green around the crown of every tree on the horizon; directs our attention back towards our majestic, elegant hardwood trees which fill the landscape here in coastal Virginia.  We’ve largely ignored them since autumn, when their bright leaves blew away in November’s storms. 

The many native trees discovered by our early colonists still grow wild here.  They form the backdrop to our everyday lives.  Some of us love them and choose to live in forested communities.  Others fear them.  Perhaps for good reason, after seeing these gentle giants toppled by the storms which blow through our area several times a year. 

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Yet, the great North American trees define our landscape and our lifestyle.  They shade us and offer relief from our summer heat and humidity.  Their flowers announce spring and make early summer sweetly fragrant. 

The ready supply of good strong trees for lumber allowed early settlers to build homes and churches and businesses in the wilderness.  Although it is unusual to find a fully grown, mature hardwood tree anymore, we still can find them in parks and on preserved estates.

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Cypress Trees grow large here along the Colonial Parkway at the mouth of Powhatan Creek.

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I love trees.  And I love to plant trees. I count and visit the Dogwoods, Oaks, Redbuds, Crepe Myrtles and Poplars on our property pretty regularly to monitor their growth.  In fact, I spent an hour today with a shipment of bare root trees we just received from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I get angry when neighbors cut healthy trees, changing the landscape for our entire community.  And I really hate to see stands of trees cut for new development ,  mourning the ever increasing loss of the naturally forested acres left in our area. 

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We often fail to consider how much oxygen each tree produces each year, or how many pollutants each can filter from the air we breathe.  Trees absorb greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide in their respiration, locking that carbon into their woody flesh. 

They help moderate the temperature through all of our seasons, and fertilize the Earth and build new soil with their fallen leaves.  Each tree supports and houses countless animals, feeding and sheltering birds, small insects, butterflies and their larvae, and  small mammals.

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Native Redbud, Cercis canadensis, blooms in April.

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Since trees are on my mind today, I am republishing an essay I wrote in August, 2013, about how prized our American trees became to the Europeans who financed and supported colonization in North America.  I hope you find some useful bit here you didn’t know before.   And I also hope that perhaps this essay invites you to pay a bit more attention to the trees in your landscape and your life.

-Woodland Gnome

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View towards Jamestown Island from the Colonial Parkway.

View towards Jamestown Island from the Colonial Parkway.

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Did you know there was a time, not too long ago, when the most prized plants growing on regal British estates were trees imported from, “The Colonies”?  I had no idea how much 17th and 18th Century British gardeners coveted North American plants- particularly our trees.

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American Sycamore growing along the Colonial Parkway on the bank of the James River.

American Sycamore growing along the Colonial Parkway on the bank of the James River.

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Isn’t it interesting how things are forgotten over the years, and we assume that how things are in our own experience is how things have always been?

I grew up on the East coast of North America, making annual trips to view the colorful forests cloaking the Blue Ridge Mountains each autumn.  I’ve always had brilliant autumn foliage to enjoy in my own yard, and lining the streets of whatever town I happened to visit.

We in Virginia accept these things as part of the normal progression of the seasons.  We savor them, but don’t take notice of what a rare treat we enjoy.

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An oak tree growing beside the James River near Jamestown.

An oak tree growing beside the James River near Jamestown.

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It was the book, Brother Gardeners:  Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession, by Andrea Wulf, which opened my eyes and my mind to the treasures growing here, as weeds in the woods.

Prior to the 17th century, European, and specifically British gardens, had a limited palette of plants.  The formal geometric schemes of lawn, hedge, topiary evergreen shrubs, roses, and very few summer flowers were the norm.  Green and brown were the main colors found in the garden for most of the year.  Hardscape paths, stairs, fountains, arbors, and structures were the relief from all of this green lawn and green hedge.  Gardeners overcame and reshaped nature when creating a garden.

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Dogwood tree in early November

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The notion of working with nature was born in the colonies, and exported back to England in some measure toward the second half of the 18th century.

As European ships sailed abroad to explore and claim the world, they took as treasure not only gold and silver, but also botanical treasures from all of the lands explored.

Very little of the plant material collected actually made it back alive to a gardener in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, or the Netherlands.  When a voyage lasts many months, things happen.  Things like hungry mice and storms; gnawing insects, pirates, salt spray; and unmitigated heat and cold on the deck of a sailing ship.

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But whatever seeds, bulbs, cuttings, roots, and even live plants did miraculously make it home and into the hands of a skilled gardener, were loving tended and coaxed into growing in specially built hot houses and garden plots.

Plants were grown out for seed, sold, traded, and propagated in great botanical gardens across Europe.  Botanists befriended ships’ captains and crews in hopes of bribing them to bring home new specimens.  And, as colonies were established, relationships sprang up between the colonists and avid collectors “back home” in Europe.

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Red Cedar growing in Colonial Williamsburg.

Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana growing in Colonial Williamsburg.

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The fledgling scientists of the Enlightenment realized that every new species of plant contains tremendous gifts.  Aside from their beauty and use in an ornamental garden, plants contain useful chemical compounds to heal, create new products, nourish, and enlighten.  Some of this research continues today in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil and other inaccessible and remote corners of the world

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Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.  Enlarge the photo and you’ll see the long seed pods growing in early August.

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The colonial era was an exciting time for discovering countless new species of plants. The gardens of Great Britain and Europe reflected the explosion of diversity by welcoming previously unknown flowers, trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables into their evolving and increasingly naturalistic garden schemes.

Remember, the great forests of Britain were decimated long before this era.  When Maple, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Sycamore, Cedar, Dogwood, Sassafras, Magnolia and other colorful tress and shrubs from America grew in the first garden plots of importers, they were a novelty.  The aristocracy quickly fell in love with these new plants, and clamored for a seed or a cutting to grow on their home estates.

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Oak and pine grow in abundance on Jamestown Island.

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Benjamin Franklin helped build the relationships that enabled this trade between his amateur botanist friends in the American colonies and his contacts in Britain.  The story told in Andrea Wulf’s book unfolds with the drama and personality of a good novel, and I recommend it to every like minded gardener, no matter which side of the pond you call your present home.

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Native holly

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For the purposes of this post, I will  mention a few of the trees growing wild right here around Jamestown, which were collected in the Colonial era and sent back to England.  These trees, common to us, opened up a whole new way to design and enjoy gardens for those still in Europe.  They were grown for their beautiful form, fall color, interesting bark, and some for their flowers.

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An old oak tree’s exposed roots. This tree holds the bank of the James River along the Parkway.

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Eventually, gardening became a passionate pursuit not only of the aristocracy, but for many Britons.  As we admire their beautifully tended gardens of trees, shrubs, and flowers today, so they admired the wild and beautiful plants we sent back to them from, “The Colonies”.

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Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

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Here is a partial list of trees and shrubs introduced to Britain from the American colonies:

Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple, 1725

Aesculus pavia, Red Buckeye, 1711

Colorful fall leaves were almost unknown in Britain before American species of trees were introduced n the 17th and 18th centuries.

Betula nigra, River Birch, 1736

Callicarpa americana, Beauty Berry, 1724

Catalpa bignonioides, Southern Catalpa, 1722

Chamaecyparis thyoides, White Cedar, 1736

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree, 1736

Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood, 1722

Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon, 1629

Euonymus atropurpurea, Burning Bush, 1744-6

Fraxinus americana, White Ash, 1724

Hydrangea arborescens, Wild Hydrangea, 1736

Juglans nigra, Black Walnut, 1629

Juniperus virginiana, Red Cedar, 1664

Kalmia latifolia, Mountain Laurel, 1734

Liriodendron tulipifera, Tulip Poplar, 1638

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern Magnolia, 1734

Dogwood, our Virginia state tree, blooms in April.

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet Bay, 1688

Pinus strobus, White Pine, 1705

Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore, 1638

Sassafras albidum, Sassafrass, 1630

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Dogwood, Cornus florida

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2017

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

Brother Gardeners at Barnes and Nobles

Brother Gardeners at Amazon

Blossom XXI: Magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata

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“Don’t be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.”

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Jalaluddin Rumi

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“Others have seen what is and asked why.

I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

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Pablo Picasso

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“To be creative means to be in love with life.

You can be creative only if you love life enough

that you want to enhance its beauty,

you want to bring a little more music to it,

a little more poetry to it,

a little more dance to it.”


.

Osho

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“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy,

a quickening that is translated through you

into action, and because there is only one of you

in all time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist

through any other medium and will be lost.”

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Martha Graham

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“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
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Sylvia Plath

***

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

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Pablo Picasso

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“Vulnerability is the birthplace

of innovation, creativity and change.”


.

Brené Brown

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“Thank you!” to everyone who visits Forest Garden, everyone who has followed this site over the years, and especially to everyone who leaves a comment and opens a conversation. 

Because of your kindness and interest, today is a special day for us.   Today we have surpassed 200,000 views on Forest Garden. 

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Magnolia lili

Magnolia liliiflora

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This journey  began in the summer of 2013, while a crew of arborists cleaned up the three oak trees which fell across our front garden, unexpectedly, in a June thunderstorm. 
I was alone in the house trying to make peace with the devastation in our garden while my partner was out there with the crew, making sure it was all handled to suit him. 
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June 13 storm damaged trees 001
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It was the second time in three years that we had old growth oaks fall across our yard, and heavy equipment driving through the garden to clean up the mess!  We were determined to rebuild our garden, and to make it better than it had been before. 
This Forest Garden Blog took root in our spirit of determination to create a garden in this unpredictable forest community; and to help others who might be struggling with the same challenges that we face here.
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The nearly finished bed. More compost will be added to cover the remaining wood on the border, and eventually I'll install some edging material to hold it all together.

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I appreciate every single individual who visits us. 
We hope you always find a spot of beauty here, an idea to inspire you, the information you may be seeking, and warm encouragement to grow a garden of your own!

Happy Spring!

The Woodland Gnome 2017

Woodland Gnome

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Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
Blossom XI
Blossom XII
Blossom XIII
Blossom XIV
Blossom XV
Blossom XVI
Blossom XVII
Blossom XVIII
Blossom XVIX
Blossom XX

 

Sunday Dinner: Time

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“How did it get so late so soon?”

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Theodor Seuss Geisel

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Hyacinth

Hyacinth

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“You can’t stop time.

You can’t capture light.

You can only turn your face up

and let it rain down.”


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Kim Edwards

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“They say I’m old-fashioned,

and live in the past,

but sometimes I think progress

progresses too fast!”


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Theodor Seuss Geisel

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Clematis

Clematis

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“You may delay, but time will not.”


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Benjamin Franklin

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“It’s being here now that’s important.

There’s no past and there’s no future.

Time is a very misleading thing.

All there is ever, is the now.

We can gain experience from the past,

but we can’t relive it;

and we can hope for the future,

but we don’t know if there is one.”


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George Harrison

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Narcissus

Narcissus

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“I’m wishing he could see that music lives.

Forever. That it’s stronger than death.

Stronger than time.

And that its strength holds you together

when nothing else can.”

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Jennifer Donnelly

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Magnolia liliflora

Magnolia liliflora

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“The years teach much the days never know.”


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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangea macrophylla

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“Don’t waste your time with explanations:

people only hear what they want to hear.”


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Paulo Coelho

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Photos by Woodland Gnome Today in 2017

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Bringing Birds To the Garden

September through December proves the best time of year for planting new trees and shrubs in our area. Woodies planted now have the chance to develop strong root systems through the autumn and winter. They are more likely to survive when planted in fall than in the spring.

My ‘to do’ list for the next few weeks includes moving various shrubs and small trees out of their pots and into the ground. And I am always most interested in those woody plants which also attract and support birds in our garden.

This post contains a revised list of  more than 30 woody plants which attract and support a wide variety of birds.  These are native or naturalized in our region of the United States.  Adding a few of these beautiful trees and shrubs guarantees more birds visiting your garden, too.

Read on for specific tips to increase the number of  wildlife species, especially birds, which visit your garden throughout the year.

-WG

Forest Garden

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Do you feed the birds?  Most of us gardeners do.  Unless you are protecting a crop of blueberries or blackberries, you probably enjoy the energy and joy birds bring to the garden with their antics and songs.  Birds also vacuum up thousands of flying, crawling, and burrowing insects.  Even hummingbirds eat an enormous number of insects as they fly around from blossom to blossom seeking sweet nectar.  Birds are an important part of a balanced garden community.

We have everything from owls and red tailed hawks to hummingbirds visiting our garden, and we enjoy the occasional brood of chicks raised in shrubs near the house. There is an extended family of red “Guard-inals” who keep a vigilant watch on our coming and goings and all of the activities of the garden.  There are tufted titmice who pull apart the coco liners in the hanging baskets to build their…

View original post 3,029 more words

Sunday Dinner: Individuality

June 23, 2016 dusk 013

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“The most important kind of freedom

is to be what you really are.

You trade in your reality for a role.

You trade in your sense for an act.

You give up your ability to feel,

and in exchange, put on a mask.

There can’t be any large-scale revolution

until there’s a personal revolution,

on an individual level.

It’s got to happen inside first.”

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Jim Morrison

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“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”


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Coco Chanel

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Sunday Dinner

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“Today expect something good to happen to you

no matter what occurred yesterday.

Realize the past no longer holds you captive.

It can only continue to hurt you

if you hold on to it.

Let the past go.

A simply abundant world awaits.”


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Sarah Ban Breathnach

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“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”


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Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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“Excellence is the Result of Caring

more than others think is Wise,

Risking more than others think is Safe,

Dreaming more than others think

is Practical, and Expecting more

than others think is Possible.”


.

Ronnie Oldham

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Our brightest blazes of gladness

are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”

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Samuel Johnson

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Opening

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Once again the miracle: soft, bright buds open into the warmth of spring.  What was closed and hard breaks open, allowing new life to emerge.

I never tire of the beauty of it all.

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Tender green sprouts push up through barren soil.  Vines sprout tiny green buds along their length.  And everywhere, flowers unfold in every color you might imagine.

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This opening of each new gardening season reminds me of the inherent goodness of our lives.  There is always hope. 

There can always remain the expectation that something beautiful and joy-filled will emerge right as we need it most.

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You may notice the many scars on the Edgeworthia branches below these golden flowers.  How sweetly these flowers fill our garden with perfume as they open!  Their fragrance is like honey; the first fragrant flowers to perfume the garden each year.  The scars mark where leaves have grown and fallen.  And yet they add to the beauty of the shrub.  They give a certain character, even as the branches age and the scars begin to fade.  By early April new leaves will cloak the shrub in bright green, and the golden flowers will have fallen away.

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These cycles instruct us if we pause to reflect.

All life is beautiful.  All is re-newed in its time.

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These past few weeks have found us out working happily in the garden once again after winter’s long break.  Early spring tasks may not be glamorous, but accomplishing each in its time prepares the way for what is to come.  There is compost to spread, leaves to rake and shred, weeding, pruning, planting and the daily journey of discovery in search of new developments.

We listen to the excited calls of many birds returning to the garden.  We admire awakening perennials and emerging buds.

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We have begun moving hanging baskets outside for deep watering, fresh air, and brighter light, grateful for every one which survived its winter vacation indoors.  I’m planting cuttings, re-potting geraniums and watching for new leaves.

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So much to do!  And so much more light each day to accomplish each task still waiting for attention!

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This spring feels stuck in ‘fast forward.’  Early warmth speeds the unfolding.  With an eye ever on the forecast, we press on with delight, hoping to elude a late frost.

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With appreciation to Carol for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the fifteenth of each month.  Please visit her for more beautiful spring flowers.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Colonial Winter Garden

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Those fierce souls who founded our nation knew the importance of taking care of business.  And their business always included raising food for their own family’s table.

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Our country was founded by serious gardeners.  Even  luminaries such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington maintained gardens, tended orchards, had fields of crops to use and sell, and raised those animals needed to keep meat on the table.  Although they, and others of their class kept slaves in those days; they still took a very active hands-on interest in their garden.

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Colonial Williamsburg maintains many gardens, but this remains my favorite.  It is a very well maintained colonial vegetable garden tended in the 18th Century style.

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It looks even more lush this December than usual.  But that is likely due to our fair weather these last few months.  It is a pleasing mix of herbs, flowers and vegetables.

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Fruit trees may be found around the edges.  There are vegetables growing from tiny seedling up to ready to harvest cabbages and collards.

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These vegetables are used in the CW kitchens.  They are lovingly tended up to the moment they are authentically prepared and gratefully consumed.

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We strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street on Sunday to enjoy the ingenious Christmas wreathes.  But as you might guess, I was distracted for quite a while by the garden.

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It was  a grey day, completely overcast and damp.  A few drops spritzled as we were leaving.  But it was warm and comfortable; a great day to enjoy the wreathes and seasonal decorations on every building.

I’ll share a few with you each day for the next few days.

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I’ve not yet made any wreathes myself,  this year. 

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But there is still time before Christmas Eve, and a dear friend gifted me with a bucket of Magnolia branches later Sunday afternoon.  We used some of the Magnolia while decorating for a community luncheon we’re hosting tomorrow.

And yes, there is a vase.  I just haven’t photographed it, yet!

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Evergreen Magnolia is one of my favorite native plants.  They grow wild here in Virginia, and my friend has a wild seedling grown large in her garden.

You’ll see lots of Magnolia used at Colonial Williamsburg in their holiday decorations.  It has wonderful color and holds up for the several weeks of our festivities.  One can’t eat it, but it decorates many holiday dinner tables and sideboards.  We spread it liberally around our buffet table and the beverage tables for tomorrow’s gathering.

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Which in a round about way brings us back to my neglect of wreathes this season.  Our  front doors are graced with old ones from ‘the wreath collection’ which hangs in our garage at the moment.  They are fine from a distance, with red silk roses and moss on a grapevine base.

And I just may recycle the Magnolia leaves off the buffet table into a stunning garland to hang round the front doors this year.  Southern Living Magazine has any number of fine projects featuring Magnolia leaves this December.

If you are a Virginia neighbor, you might have been admiring the December issue right along with me.

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It still all comes down to ‘taking care of business’ for our family and our community.

As modern as our lives might feel at times, our foundation remains in hearth and home;  friendship and family; good food and hands-on self sufficiency.    It is part of our heritage not just as Virginians or Americans;  it is part of our human heritage and a fundamental value around the world.

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May you take time for those things which bring you real joy this holiday season.  And may you take care of business such that you assure yourself and your loved ones of a very Happy New Year, too.

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December 13, 2015 CW 048~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Photos from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar is now available, featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Wordless Wednesday: Trees Growing

Acer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream'

Acer palmatum ‘Peaches and Cream’

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“You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars.

In the noisy confusion of life,

keep peace in your soul.”

.

Max Ehrmann

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“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”
.

Kahlil Gibran

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“Planting trees, I myself thought for a long time,

was a feel-good thing, a nice but feeble response

to our litany of modern-day environmental problems.

In the last few years, though, as I have read

many dozens of articles and books

and interviewed scientists here and abroad,

my thinking on the issue has changed.

Planting trees may be the single most important ecotechnology

that we have to put the broken pieces of our planet back together.”

.

Jim Robbins

 

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April 8, 2015 spring garden 011

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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