Happiness This Thanksgiving: Transformation

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“Remember to give thanks

for unknown blessings

already on their way”

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Valentina Giambanco

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“Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit;

we must open our hearts to love more,

we must open our arms to hug more,

we must open our eyes to see more and finally,

we must live our lives to serve more.”

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Farshad Asl

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“Gratitude is the seed of gladness.”

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Lailah Gifty Akita

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“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

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W.J. Cameron

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May the beauty of this day find you,
May joy bubble up in your heart,
May you know everyone near you as family,
May you feel the love  which surrounds you,
and may you enjoy the blessings of peace,
always.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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Our garden is ablaze in color today! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Transformation
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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

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

Love Offering

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The day I began this ‘Forest Garden Blog‘ we were still a bit in shock.  Our front garden was filled with three fallen oak trees.

Chainsaws whined hour after hour, cutting them apart into smaller bits, drowned out only by the grinder pulverizing piece after piece of our beloved trees.  Heavy orange earth movers made trip after trip into the yard, completely obliterating the little sapling Mountain Laurel shrubs we’d planted the year before.  But who could possibly see them under the tons of branches and leaves fallen in an instant during a summer thunderstorm?

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July 8, 2016 sky 009

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It was late afternoon when it happened.  A sudden thunderstorm had blown up off the James River and it was raining hard.  Bright white lightening flashed, thunder clapped and the wind blew sheets of rain across the yard.

I stood at the window, trying to understand the changed landscape before me.  It took some time for me to make sense of the towering walls of wet red clay and mangled roots risen in front of us, blocking our view of the upper garden.

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While we counted ourselves blessed that the trees went down away from our home and cars, we were not quite sure what to do about our trees now filling, and blocking, the street in front of us; lying neatly in the opening of our neighbors’ driveway.

The storm was still thundering around us as we inspected the damage.  Neighbors showed up with chainsaws, rakes and offers of help.  An arborist, checking on a nearby customer, saw our distress and pitched in to help clear the street.  Help was there that evening when we needed it most, and each day following, until the clean up was handled.

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But the garden left behind was shockingly different.  The hot summer sun beat down where once we enjoyed deep shade.  Deer happily explored the new breaches in the fence, discovering full access to the garden we’d worked so hard to cultivate.  In all, five trees were completely gone and many more left severely damaged.  Shrubs were shattered, our light post crushed, the drive caked in mud, and everywhere lay browning leaves, small branches, and pulverized bits of our beloved trees.

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June 16, 2013 tree clearing 014

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This was the second time oaks had fallen in our garden in our four years in this home, leaving some portions forever changed.  I was feeling very edgy the day “Forest Garden” was born; at loose ends to do something constructive inside, away from the mess; away from the crews of strangers wielding chainsaws in my garden.

And so I sat before the computer and began this blog.

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My purpose was mainly to reach out.  I wanted to connect with other gardeners, and hopefully share a little of what I had learned with others who felt as frustrated gardening in a forest, filled with unplanned surprises, as I was feeling.

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I had this list of plants I’d been compiling for a few years already, and I wanted  to publish it for others whose yards are grazed by ever-hungry deer.  Friends and I had been keeping records of what the deer didn’t eat, and I hoped someone else might find that useful.

And I wrote about what it means to me to garden in this historic place near Jamestown Virginia, in woods once belonging to the great chiefs of the Algonquian nation.

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I used this blog as a ladder to help myself climb back up from sadness and self-pity over what we had lost, and were losing, that June of 2013; towards something brighter and stronger and more useful than I was feeling in that moment.  And eventually I used ‘Forest Garden’ to help define my own philosophy and style of gardening.

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And never once did I entertain any thought of trying to turn a profit from it. 

Now please understand, I’m a child of the 60’s, coming into this world along with the early Peace Corps and Beatle Mania. I was born in the era of man’s first flights into outer space.  Maybe if I’d been born in the age of Reagan or the Bushes I’d have a different outlook on things.

But the work I do on this blog I do for myself, primarily.  And I’m happy if what I write is helpful to others; but I do it in a spirit of sharing, not of seeking profit.  You may think I’m hopelessly naive.

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July 8, 2016 sky 010

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‘Real’ artists and writers expect to profit from their work.  Photos sell for hundreds of dollars.  Maybe I need to wise up, and publish an e-book rather than publishing each day, freely, on the world-wide-web.   But I get the greatest feeling of warmth and connection when I see comments left by fellow gardeners and seekers. 

I love to respond to others facing similar challenges and thinking similar thoughts in England or Australia, Brussels or Massachusetts,  Oregon or Florida, Indonesia or on an island in the Mediterranean Sea.  I take great pleasure in watching others’ gardens grow through the photos they publish, and finding new ideas in their experiences.  That is priceless experience to me, and I would never risk alienating my fellow bloggers by suggesting they should donate to support this joyful work I do.

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Do you see this differently?  If you have a blog of your own, have you considered asking for financial support?  How do you feel when you see a ‘donate’ button on someone’s blog?

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Perhaps if I truly needed to ask for financial support I’d see this question through a different lens.  But I am blessed, and have achieved a stage in life more focused on giving to others than on ‘earning my keep.’  And every photo that I take and prepare for publication is an act of love, a meditation on the beauty of the world around us.

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I am deeply grateful for our garden, for the creatures who share it with us, for the changing seasons and the endless opportunities to learn.

I am deeply grateful to the staff of WordPress for this online platform, and for the technology which makes it possible to share thoughts and photos with the world each day.  And I am grateful to have the time, the energy, and the ability to make a little contribution to the online conversation.

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I hope that everyone who visits ‘Forest Garden’ feels enriched in some way by that experience.   I am ‘enriched’ through the process, too.  And that is all I need to keep going with this blogging adventure.

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It has been a little more than three years now since the day our oak trees fell in a summer storm.  In that time, I’ve published well over a thousand posts, returning to the writing that was once such an important part of my life.  I’ve had motivation to read and study, to experiment and observe.

I’ve found great joy through photography, maybe gotten a little better at it; and I’ve discovered scores of ‘expert’ bloggers ready to help me learn about any subject I can think of.  All I need do is search them out and click freely through their many pages of instruction, insight and advice.

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That is the magic of this ‘blogosphere’ we love.  It is inspiring.  It is always fresh and new.  It offers endless opportunities to learn and to explore.  It harnesses human creativity in so many novel and uplifting ways.  And it is free.  It costs nothing but time, once we have the technology to access the world wide web.

I sincerely hope our blogging community remains a non-commercial exchange of ideas and a not-for-profit love offering to humanity.  If it can, then we have found a way to elevate human society; to evolve a more peaceful and interconnected community which benefits us all.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Wednesday Vignettes: Wild

January 10, 2015 leaves 024

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“Plants are also integral to reweaving

the connection between land and people.

A place becomes a home when it sustains you,

when it feeds you in body as well as spirit.

To recreate a home, the plants must also return.”

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Robin Wall Kimmerer

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“In the rain forest, no niche lies unused.

No emptiness goes unfilled.

No gasp of sunlight goes untrapped.

In a million vest pockets, a million life-forms quietly tick.

No other place on earth feels so lush.

Sometimes we picture it as an echo

of the original Garden of Eden—a realm ancient,

serene, and fertile, where pythons slither and jaguars lope.

But it is mainly a world of cunning and savage trees.

Truant plants will not survive.

The meek inherit nothing.

Light is a thick yellow vitamin they would kill for,

and they do. One of the first truths one learns

in the rain forest is that there is nothing

fainthearted or wimpy about plants.”

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Diane Ackerman

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 011

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“As dreams are the healing songs

from the wilderness of our unconscious –

So wild animals, wild plants, wild landscapes

are the healing dreams

from the deep singing mind of the earth.”

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Dale Pendell

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Appreciation, always, to  Anna at Flutter and Hum for hosting the Wednesday Vignette each week. Please visit her for links to other beautiful garden photos from around the planet.

Photos by Woodland Gnome

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There are still a very limited number of A Forest Garden 2016 garden calendars left, if you wanted one and didn’t order it in December.  Please contact me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com to order.

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Wordless Wednesday

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Photo by Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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“The Ancient Law of Life”

November 11, 2015 Parkway 015

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“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers.

I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.

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“In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves.

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“Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.

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“When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

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“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

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“A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life.

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“The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

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“A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me.

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“I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else.

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“I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy.

Out of this trust I live.”

Hermann Hesse

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Bright and Beautiful

Forsythia

Forsythia

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The garden looks bright and beautiful today with golden October sunshine on our colorful leaves.

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Dogwood

Dogwood

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We are still on the early side of the transition here, with many trees still green.  Others have a halo of color along their silhouette, or sport leaves with mottled color.  We enjoy the beautiful transition from green to bold before they brown and blow away.

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We enjoy colorful foliage throughout the season, and select plants for the garden with interesting and colorful leaves.

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Some of these, like purple sage, will remain unchanged as winter approaches.

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This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

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I’ve read several articles this week about winter gardens.  While we don’t have much man made architecture, we enjoy the living sculpture of deciduous trees, hollies, Camellias, and a few conifers.  We have added many shrubs for winter interest in the garden during our short time here, and now many of them have begun to grow into their promise.  Our Hellebores are spreading and we have added many evergreen ferns.

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Camellias growing through Dogwood

Camellias growing through Dogwood

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I catch myself imagining what the garden will look like after the frosts cut back the tender growth in a few weeks.  Some of our new Camellias are now covered with buds.  But they are hidden behind Cannas and other leaves at the moment.  It won’t be long until they come back into view, shining in the winter sunshine.

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Yesterday was Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day.  I’ve been taking photos of our beautiful leaves all week, focusing on the special beauty of our forest garden now, in late October.

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We are blessed with many interesting trees and shrubs in our garden.  Most have been here now for decades, but we have planted several dozen more.  We love their foliage, their bark, their flowers, and the shade they give.  We enjoy the variety of birds who visit to eat their berries, feed on insects living in them, and find shelter in their branches.

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A friend, who understands my love for trees, gave me an article last night written by an English gardener who has experienced the loss of Ash and other trees to various pests and diseases around  in the English countryside.  She wrote poignantly about how trees give us a sense of place.  They define our familiar landscapes.  They create our beautiful spaces which make us feel ‘at home.’

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American Holly

American Holly

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While every tree has a lifespan, most live much longer than do we humans.  We expect the trees of our lives to live on past us.  We know that most mature trees were here long before we were born.  We see them as stalwart and as a fixture of our lives we may depend upon.

It is always a bit shocking when one comes down in a storm or dies of a blight.  It is heartbreaking when wildfires claim them.

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Leyland Cypress

Leyland Cypress

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The author spoke about our rapidly changing landscapes, and how our children and grandchildren may grow accustomed to losing trees and forests; seeing meadows developed into shopping centers; and wooded areas cut for subdivisions in a way earlier generations have not.  When we lose our landscape, we lose something of our sense of place, our feeling of familiarity and ‘home.’

Our community in particular, and the east coast of the United States in general, have lost many beautiful old trees in recent years during storms.  A friend lost more than two dozen of her mature trees during a hurricane a few years back.  You could play softball in her front yard now, which once was like an arboretum.  We’ve lost so many trees to storms that many neighbors call in crews to simply cut those trees near their homes, before they can fall on a car or deck, or worse.

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While I understand their fears, I mourn for the lost trees.   And so we plant, and nurture as many of the volunteers as we can allow to grow.

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Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

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And each autumn, we celebrate our beautiful trees.  If you have lost trees in recent years, I hope you have planted new ones to replace those you lost.

There are many beautiful choices available now.  Many of the newer trees have disease resistance, improved foliage, and other desirable qualities.  And this is the perfect time to plant new trees across much of the United States.  It is a gesture of love; a gesture of faith, and a gesture of hope for a beautiful future.

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Our newly planted Magnolia tree will look beautiful next spring.

Our newly planted Magnolia stellata tree will look beautiful next spring.

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You might enjoy visiting Christina to see her beautiful garden in the Hesperides in its October glory.  She has done quite a bit of renovation this year, and it is lovely now that her new plants have settled in.  You’ll find links to many other beautiful gardens from around the world.  We can draw ideas and inspiration from them all.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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Watershed

The Chickahominy River flows into the James, then on to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chickahominy River flows into the James, then on to the Chesapeake Bay.

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Abundant rainfall continues to fall in our area.  Whether coming as snow, sleet, rain or freezing rain; moisture has filled our sky several times a week for the last few months.

We appreciate the rain.  Our soil is so well hydrated it squishes.

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Water from this ditch runs into a tiny creek which feeds College Creek, less than 200 ft. away.

Water from this ditch runs into a tiny creek which feeds College Creek, less than 200 ft. away.

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Our neighborhood ditches and low spots fill with precious water, and excess water is channeled down our steep sloping yards into the many creeks which run through our ravines.

Living near the coast, on a peninsula between mighty rivers, with ponds, marshes and and creeks dotting the landscape, we see and cross bodies of water each day.

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Channeling water run off in our neighborhood into College Creek

Channeling water run off of streets  in our neighborhood into College Creek

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Our close relationship with our area’s waterways remains immediate and tangible.

There is a clear route from our garden directly to the James River, then the Chesapeake Bay, and within only about 60 miles directly into the Atlantic Ocean.

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This pond behind our home flows directly into College Creek

This pond behind our home flows directly into College Creek

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And every inch of this watery pathway hosts abundant life.  Our thick forests and dense marshlands support thousands of species of birds, fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, and small mammals.  We see and hear many of these beautiful creatures each day, and we appreciate their presence. (Except for the dratted voles, ticks, and mosquitoes, that is.)

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College Creek flows under this Colonial Parkway bridge and into the James River

College Creek flows under this Colonial Parkway bridge and into the James River

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has raised awareness of the Bay’s fragile ecosystem since the late 1960’s.  I grew up admiring this group and its efforts to improve water and air quality in our state, to raise awareness of erosion, and to preserve the unique beauty of our coastal region.

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Erosion continues to be a problem along our waterways.  Here, ducks enjoy feeding in the shallows of College Creek near where it empties into teh river.

Erosion continues to be a problem along our waterways. Here, ducks enjoy feeding in the shallows of College Creek near where it empties into the river.

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As much as the Bay’s health remains dependent on the decisions and actions of corporations, the U.S Navy, and all levels of government; there are still things individuals can do (and not do) to make our own small efforts to preserve the health and beauty of our waterways.

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The Beautiful James River with water flowing into it from College Creek to the left.

The beautiful James River with water flowing into it from College Creek to the left.

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We are often reminded that anything left on the ground will eventually find its way to the Bay, and then the ocean.  This includes not only litter and pet waste, but also lawn chemicals, garden fertilizers, oil or gas leaked from engines, and even eroding soil.

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March 12, 2015 watershed 025

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Much of the river banks in our immediate area are forested.  Forest lands and marshes do a great deal to filter water running off of the land before it reaches the larger waterways.  Even the hated phragmites, bane of boaters, serve an important role in filtering harmful substances out of water flowing through creeks and marshes on its way to the Bay and the Atlantic.

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Phragmites fill much of our marshy areas.

Phragmites fill much of our marshy areas.

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Every bit of vegetation helps absorb run-off and clean the air, filtering out harmful substances, including carbon, trapping them within the tissue of the plant.

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March 12, 2015 watershed 002

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation runs a number of excellent projects both to educate people at all levels about the Bay’s ecosystem, and to take direct action to restore watersheds and clean up solid pollution.  Please take a look at the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Foundations Clean Water Blueprint for more information.

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This ditch along Jamestown Road catches and absorbs run off before it can reach the James River.

This ditch along Jamestown Road catches and absorbs run off before it can reach the James River.

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Even with a nuclear power station as one of our ‘neighbors,’ across the river in Surry, there has been a minimum of impact from that industrial site on the overall health of this section of the James river.

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Surry nuclear power station as seen across the james River from the Colonial Parkway, ,near Jamestown Island.

Surry nuclear power station as seen across the James River from the Colonial Parkway, near Jamestown Island.

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We came home earlier today to find one of the ubiquitous “lawn care” companies spraying mystery liquids on a neighbor’s lawn.  I immediately tensed up and felt angry that the neighbor had actually hired someone to come and spray harmful chemicals so close to the pond behind our homes.  This same neighbor had shrubs and trees ripped out of her yard a few years back so this green lawn could be laid.  Now we have to listen to the crews come with their noisy equipment to care for it and treat it with chemicals on a regular basis.

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Our pond empties directly into this area of College Creek

Our pond empties directly into this area of College Creek

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With every rain, those chemicals wash off of her lawn and into the pond behind our properties, home to frogs, toads, turtles, and more; then on into College Creek.

Planting and preserving trees, shrubs, herbs, and vines helps hold the soil and slow run-off during rainstorms, thus preventing erosion.  Planting primarily native or naturalized species which don’t require herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers for their growth allows us to enjoy a beautiful landscape around our homes without releasing chemicals into the ecosystem.  Naturalized landscapes use far less energy than lawns and return far greater value to the ecosystem.

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Another neighbor whose garden borders our shared pond has filled his garden with native shrubs and trees.  This Mountain Laurel makes a spectacular display in his garden each May.

Another neighbor whose garden borders our shared pond has filled his garden with native shrubs and trees. This Mountain Laurel makes a spectacular display in his garden each May.

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Re-planting native and naturalized species also helps re-store the ecosystem for our wildlife.  As we provide food sources and nesting sites, we provide safe haven for the many creatures which make up the web of life in our region.  This is good stewardship of our ecosystem, and also saves us a great deal of time an money.  Wouldn’t you also prefer listening to birdsong than to the blowers, mowers, saws and grinders of a lawn crew?

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May 27. 2014 Herons 027

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Jane, a blogging friend at “Just Another Nature Enthusiast,” has created a new blogging meme called, “Unless… Earth Friendly Fridays.”  Somehow I missed her start up.  Jane has declared March the month for us to focus on water and waterways.  March 14 is the International Day of Action for Rivers,  and March 22 the UN’s World Water Day.

Jane posted the challenge, “Water- What’s Your Watershed?” on the last Friday of February, and I’m finally responding with this post today.  Better late than never, I believe!

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The Chickahominy River earlier this afterrnoon.

The Chickahominy River earlier this afterrnoon.

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Although Jane lives in the beautiful northwest of the United States, and we live here in coastal Virginia; we have a great deal in common.  Even living on opposite coasts, I feel as though we share a back yard.  Perhaps all of North America is in some way our back yard!  If we all treated it as such, I firmly believe that we could do a great deal to clean and preserve our environment in our generation.

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March 12, 2015 watershed 049

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Working together, helping others become more aware of how their actions affect the greater whole, we might be able to leave a cleaner, more beautiful planet for our granddaughters and grandsons.

Woodland Gnome 2015

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March 12, 2015 watershed 045

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Please join the Earth-friendly Friday Challenge.

UNLESS we care nothing is going to get better… it’s not

Our watershed

Our watershed

Weekly Photo Challenge: NEW

Weekly Photo Challenge:  NEW

 

January 1, 2015 sunrise 013

 

This is one of my first photos of the new year, taken soon after sunrise on New Year’s Day.

I am happy to see the many plump buds on the tips of these Dogwood branches.

Each bud will open into a delicate white flower in early April.  There will be a billowy white profusion of flowers here in a few short weeks.

But on this January morning we see only the fine lacework of the Dogwood’s branches, and a profusion of buds.

And through them, the sky is fresh and new, deeply blue, and giving us good omens for the new year ahead.

 

In response to the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  New

 

January 1, 2015 sunrise 006

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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“We spend January 1st walking through our lives,

room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done,

cracks to be patched.

Maybe this year, to balance the list,

we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives

…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
 

Ellen Goodman

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January 1, 2015 sunrise 012

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