Fabulous Friday: Hurricane Lilies

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August often proves to be awkward and uncomfortable here in coastal Virginia.  If it’s not the heat and humidity chasing us back inside, it’s the torrential rain.  Many mornings, when we first open the kitchen door to step outside, the air is so thick with humidity that we wish we had scuba gear.

Afternoon thunderstorms insure I won’t need to stand out in the mugginess with a hose to water, but they also keep the humidity and ‘ick’ factor high.

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Lycoris radiata, Hurricane lilies, appear after heavy rain some time in mid-to late August.

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The last morning I stood outside to water was Tuesday.  By the time I finished my ‘to do’ list, every stitch I wore, including my hat, was soaked with perspiration.  But I felt quite proud of myself for making the effort, as the forecast called for another hot and sunny day, with no rain until evening.

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Parts of the garden are looking a bit worn by mid-August. But I look past them to the beauties of our visitors.

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Well, by 11:30 that morning the skies opened and torrential rain caught us out on the roads, returning from the grocery store.  And every day since Tuesday we’ve been treated to the passing drama of rolling thunder, bright flashes of lightening, gusty winds and pelting rain.  We count ourselves lucky as the hail has mostly avoided our little bend in the river, but we know others nearby have endured hail and broken trees this week.

Sometimes, the storm passes quickly and allows the sun to burn through the clouds once again.  Curtains of steam rise from every paved surface and temperatures rise after the passing cool of the thunderstorm.

And then, yes, you guessed it:  another storm forms and passes over a few hours later.  We listen to thunder rolling in the distance during the night, and awaken to find the world wet from pre-dawn showers.

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Garlic chives and an emerald green fly.

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August proves a very wet month, most years.  It is a month of transition, preparing us for the first breath of autumn in September.

Along with the transition from summer to fall, we often have a hurricane or two blowing in from the Atlantic or up from the Gulf.  (Knock on wood) we have been very lucky thus far, this year.  May the blowing sands of the Sahara continue to keep things calm off the coast.

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For all of the inconveniences of August, there are also some treats and treasures.  I always look forward to our black-eyed Susans coming into bloom, filling our upper garden with their cheery golden faces.  I love watching the comings and goings of our butterflies and listening for the rare blessing of a visit from one of our hummingbirds.  And I especially love the unexpected surprise of seeing the bright red flowers of our Hurricane lilies, Lycoris radiata, when they suddenly pop into bloom.

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Lycoris burst into bloom after sudden, heavy rains; thus their moniker.  While spring bulbs are pretty predictable, these late summer bulbs time their bloom to the amount of heat and moisture in the soil.

One of those summer bulbs also known as ‘naked ladies,’ the bloom stalks appear suddenly, long before their leaves.  If you want to know more about Lycoris, you might enjoy this post about them from 2014.

I’ve never planted a whole bed of Lycoris, though I’m sure that would be stunning.  Rather, I plant a few here and there, just little accents and exclamation points to delight us and revive our spirits in August.  We only have the red, though they come in white, pink and yellow, too.

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I’m enjoying ours through the front windows, where a zipper spider has spun an enormous web, and on my occasional walks up the driveway.

The rain this week has ended up a blessing, as I’m still recovering from Lyme’s disease and wanting to stay indoors and away from the possibility of any more insect bites.  The rain and humidity have added another reason to stay in and do quiet things this week; and I’m grateful.

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But when I do wander outside, there are always new developments to enjoy.  There’s fresh growth to admire, new flowers blooming, a cutting that has struck roots, or a new spider web to examine.  The wonders unfold all on their own, a satisfying counterpoint to the inconveniences of August.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious- Let’s infect one another.

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Hibiscus Summer

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Hibiscus of many sizes, shapes and colors fill our garden this week to the delight of butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.  Actually, to our delight, as well, as we enjoy their bold colors and beautiful forms.

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Hibiscus flowers call across the garden, inviting closer inspection of their sculptural beauty.

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Our herbaceous Hibiscus are natives or native cultivars.  Native Hibiscus delighted us during our first summer in this garden, and they still thrill as they bloom each year.

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Hibiscus moscheutos

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As natives, they ask little beyond sunlight, moisture and a place to grow.  Long after their flowers fade, they continue giving sustenance to birds and structure to the garden as their woody stems and seed pods ripen and split.  Cut them in early December, sow the seeds and spray them gold for a bit of glitter in holiday decorations.  Or leave them to catch winter’s ice and snow, feeding those birds who remain in the garden into the new year.

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Hibiscus coccineus

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I wrote about our native red Hibiscus coccineus last August, when it normally blooms.  It has already been blooming this year for almost a week; yet another indication of phenological shifts in response to our warming climate.

We love seeing these scarlet flowers nodding above the garden, perched atop their distinctive and beautiful foliage.  I try to collect and spread their seeds as the season wanes, to encourage more plants to emerge each year.

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The tree Hibiscus, Hybiscus syriaca, are widely naturalized, though they originally came from Asia.  Drought and pollution tolerant, they are easy to grow and easily hybridize in an ever expanding selection of cultivars.  Beloved by bees and butterflies, they bloom over many weeks from early summer until autumn.  These fast growing trees reseed themselves in our garden and I often have seedlings to share.

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Hibsicus syriaca

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Hibiscus mark the height of summer in our garden.  They bloom over a long period, and we feel a subtle shift into another, late-summer season when they finally begin to fade.

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Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Sunday Dinner: Celebrating Summer

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“It was only a sunny smile,
and little it cost in the giving,
but like morning light it scattered the night
and made the day worth living.”
.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
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“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state,
an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state-
-it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention
to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.
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Abraham Joshua Heschel
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“And so with the sunshine
and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees,
just as things grow in fast movies,
I had that familiar conviction
that life was beginning over again
with the summer.”
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F. Scott Fitzgerald
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“To live is to be marked.
To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story,
and that is the only celebration
we mortals really know.”
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Barbara Kingsolver
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“Take the time to celebrate stillness and silence
and see the joy that the world can bring,
simply.”
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Tony Curl
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“Shall we walk through the woods;
dance through the meadows;
and celebrate the miracle
of this garden world?”
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Leland Lewis
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“I almost wish we were butterflies
and liv’d but three summer days –
three such days with you
I could fill with more delight
than fifty common years
could ever contain.”
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John Keats
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“Summertime. It was a song.
It was a season.
I wondered if that season
would ever live inside of me.”
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Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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“What life expects of us is that we celebrate.”
.
José Eduardo Agualusa
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019 
from The Williamsburg Botanical Garden and the Colonial Parkway

Six On Saturday: Visitors

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When we arrived back home this afternoon, our garden guests scattered as I climbed out of the car, laden with bags and parcels.  Two or three scolding goldfinches flew up into the lowest branches of a nearby oak.  They had been perched down among the Verbena and basil, feasting on ripening seeds.

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A pair of cardinals glided across the yard very low, taking cover in thick shrubs.  A hummingbird zoomed higher to a tasty blossom well out of my reach, and then zoomed again out of sight.

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The butterflies seemed least concerned about my sudden and unexpected arrival home.  They are calm and congenial, most of the time.  Still, they took wing and glided away, secure that there would still be nectar waiting for them when they returned.

The bees buzzed on, diligently, flower to flower, knowing they would be left undisturbed.

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Thunder rumbled across the garden, and my camera was tucked away in my bag.  My hands were full, and I was still a bit creaky from the long drive.  I could only hope that our visitors would return by the time I could put everything down inside and get back out to the garden.

But as I headed back out, camera and two new little plants in hand, the skies opened.  I was met at the door with the staccato pounding of a summer rain storm.

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It had been that sort of day; rolling thunder, bright white flashes of lightening, and rain squalls  leaving deep puddles on the roads.  But I’d left all of that 100 miles behind me, and was home now, and was a bit surprised the storms had caught up to me so quickly.

No matter, I went on about my business setting the new plants where they could enjoy the shower, staking a toppled elephant ear, and watering the pots on the patio that were out of the reach of the lovely, sweet smelling rain.   Five minutes and it was mostly passed.

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I headed back up to the upper garden with my camera, and was greeted with the determined hum of worker bees.  I could hear the birds calling to one another from their perches in the trees.  A single Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly floated among the Buddleia and Verbena.  It was enough. 

I was home, and back to the garden once again.

Woodland Gnome 2019
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“The master of the garden is the one who waters it,
trims the branches, plants the seeds,
and pulls the weeds.
If you merely stroll through the garden,
you are but an acolyte.”
.
Vera Nazarian

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

Wordless Wednesday: After the Rain

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“They both listened silently to the water,

which to them was not just water,

but the voice of life, the voice of Being,

the voice of perpetual Becoming.”
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Hermann Hesse

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

Six on Saturday: Shimmer and Shine

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When morning brings only a slight lightening of the darkness, sky hung with low, grey clouds; and nighttime’s staccato soundtrack of raindrops on the roof plays on and on; a certain reluctance to greet the new day may be overlooked.

But the new day still dawns and clocks tick on in their steady counting.  And so with determined optimism I stepped out this morning to see what could be seen of the garden without stepping off the stone patio.

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Inches of rain poured from the sky from Friday noon until evening, from evening into the night, and all night through the melting darkness and into this reluctantly dawning Saturday.

Staying in bed, the most logical course of action, wasn’t an option.  I had plans to travel and promises to keep.  But the prospects for the day seemed dim.

And when I’m feeling unenthusiastic, the best antidote is a walk, however short, to survey the garden.

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Raindrops gilded every leafy surface, reflecting morning’s pale grey light.  Puddles collected on the stones and in the leaves.  The air smelled clean and alive.

The front garden, cloaked in cool fog and wet trees, enclosed my timid explorations.  It felt like spring again, even as the blooming Hydrangeas and Hibiscus and extravagant tropical leaves proved it is early summer.

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Water gives life and fuels growth.  The garden trembled with shimmer and shine in the slight breeze, even as misty rain filled the air and seeped into my light clothing.

I could hear our toads singing their approval of this fine wet morning.

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It is on days like this that I most appreciate the beautiful leaves that fill our garden.  Texture takes over when delicate flowers melt in a steady rain.  What might be overlooked on a brighter day reveals its beauty under the glamour of raindrops, in the thin light of a wet morning in June.

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Woodland Gnome 2019
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“But here, the rain was just another part of the landscape.

Like it was the thing that lived here

and we were merely visitors.”
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Megan Miranda

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

Fabulous Friday: Floods of Rain

Native sweetbay Magnolia virginiana, in bloom this week at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, fills the garden entrance with its musky perfume.

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This Friday dawned humid and grey, and I set out as soon as we finished a quick breakfast to meet a friend at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  While I am all about the plants, she is all about the cats and butterflies.  Today, she was hunting for a few special cats to use in her upcoming program  at our local library  about protecting butterflies and providing habitat for their next generations.

We checked all of the usual host plants: Asclepias,, spicebush, Wisteria, fennel, Passiflora vines, and parsley.  We weren’t equipped to check out the canopies of the garden’s host trees, like the paw paw or the oaks, but we were left empty-handed. There were no caterpillars that we could find today.

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A Zebra Swallowtail butterfly enjoys the Verbena bonariensis at the WBG last week.  Its host plant is the native paw paw tree.

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In this peaceful nectar and host plant rich environment, where are the butterflies and their young?  We both happily snapped photos of interesting views and blooms as we searched, took care of a few chores together, and then she was off.

By then the first Master Naturalist gardeners had arrived.  All of us had one eye to the sky and another on our ‘to-do’ lists.

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Native Asclepias tuberosa is one of the Asclepias varieties that Monarch butterflies seek out as a host plant to lay their eggs.

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I have great admiration and affection for the Master Naturalists who work at the WBG, and I appreciate the opportunity to ask questions when they are around.  I hope to join their ranks one year soon.  The course is rigorous and the standards high, and the volunteer work they do throughout our area is invaluable.

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This is our native Carolina wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis, that blooms near the gate at the WBG. 

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One of the Master Naturalists was also working on an inventory of butterflies in the garden today.   He checked out all of the tempting nectar plants from Verbena to Lantana, the Asclepias to his blooming herbs, the pollinator beds of native flowers, the various Salvias and Agastache.  Where were the butterflies today?

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Native spiderwort, Tradescantia ohiensis, also grows near the garden’s gate.

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I had the constant company of bees buzzing around my knees and ankles as I climbed into a border to weed and deadhead.

But no Zebra Swallowtails danced among the Verbena.  Not a single butterfly fed on the Salvias where I was working.  A Monarch showed itself briefly and promptly disappeared.  We observed the heavy, humid air and decided they must be sheltering against the coming rain.

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Native Iris virginica blooming last week at the WBG.

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But as the storm grew closer, there wasn’t much time for sociability today.  We could hear the thunder rumbling off in the distance as we weeded, cut enthusiastic plants back, potted and chatted with garden visitors.

My partner kept an eye on the radar maps at home and phoned in updates.  When he gave the final ‘five minute warning!’ it was nearly noon, and the rain began as I headed back to my car.  It was a good morning’s work and I left with the ‘to do’ list completed.

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Seedpods ripen on the sweetbay Magnolia

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But the rain has been a constant presence this afternoon, falling loudly and insistently all around us.  There are flood warnings, the ground is saturated, and I am wondering how high the water might rise on local roads and along the banks of the James and its feeder creeks.  It has been a wet year for many.

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The James River last week, before this last heavy rain brought it even higher.

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There was a timely message from the James River Association in my inbox.  The river is brown with run-off, and has been for a while now.  They are encouraging folks to address run-off issues on their properties.  The best advice there is, “Plant more plants!”  But of course, the right plants in the right places!  Successful plants help manage stormwater; dying ones, not so much.

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I use both rock and hardwood mulch in our garden at home to help protect the soil during heavy rains. This is a native oakleaf Hydrangea in bloom.

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Rain gardens are encouraged to catch the run-off and allow it to slowly percolate into the earth instead of running off so quickly.  There are programs available that help plan and fund new rain gardens to protect local water  quality.

Where there is no good spot for a rain garden, then terraces help on slopes like ours, and solid plantings of shrubs and perennials help to slow the flow of water downhill towards the creeks.

Most anything that covers the bare soil helps with erosion.  But deeply rooted plants help hold the soil while also soaking up the water and allowing it to evaporate back into the atmosphere through their leaves.

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Groundcover plants, like this golden creeping Jenny, also hold and protect the soil.  Our Crinum lily is ready to bloom.  This hardy Amaryllis relative gets a bit larger each year as its already huge bulb calves off pups.

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We’ve been watching flooding news roll in from all over the region this afternoon.  Streets and sidewalks underwater, cars floating away, and families chased indoors by the weather.  It looks like a wet stretch coming, too.

I’m glad have a new garden book, The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom waiting for me; the prose is as inspiring as the photographs.  I love seeing how other gardeners plant and how they think about their planting.  There is always more to learn.

Once these flooding rains subside and the soil drains a bit, I expect to be back outside and “Planting more plants!”

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious; Let’s infect one another!

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Echinacea, purple coneflower, delights pollinators and goldfinches  in our forest garden.

Six on Saturday: Elegance

Peruvian daffodil, Hymenocallis festalis

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A gift of bulbs this spring from a gardening friend finally unfolded yesterday into unexpected elegance.

A catalog photograph simply doesn’t convey the intricate beauty of these members of the Amaryllis family called ‘Peruvian daffodils.’  Native in South America and hardy only to Zone 8, their large bulbs quickly sent up Amaryllis style robust leaves and an Amaryllis style bloom stalk, topped with multiple tight buds.  I am enjoying the show as bud after bud unfolds to reveal its beauty.

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Dry summer heat has finally given way to cooling rains.  I watched newly planted starts wilting under the unrelenting sun earlier in the week, and I’m relieved to see them reinvigorated and growing again after a series of thunderstorms and a welcome cold front brought us relief from the heat.  We nearly broke the record set in 2018 for hottest May since weather data has been recorded.  We only missed it here by a hair.

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Zantedeschia ‘White Giant’ with buds of Daucus carota and Nepeta

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And so I wasn’t surprise to notice the first white buds opening on crape myrtle trees planted along the road yesterday morning.  I noted that this is the earliest I’ve seen crape myrtles bloom, as they normally wait until at least mid-June to appear.  And then I noticed one of our new hybrid crapes last evening, the first pink fluffy flowers open in its crown.

Crape myrtles are beautiful trees in our region, one of the pleasures of summer that blooms for a hundred days or more until early fall.  They love heat, tolerate drought once established, and grow into tidy, elegant trees with interesting bark and form.  I love our crapes as much in winter for their form as I do in summer for their flowers.

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Butterflies love crape myrtles for their nectar, but not as much as butterflies love Verbena.

We’ve had a strong population of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies this month and they are found most often sipping from the Verbena bonariensis, both in our own forest garden and at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  I’ve photographed them sipping nectar in both gardens this week.

Yes, we’re also seeing Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails and Painted Ladies, along with other smaller butterflies.  We are delighted with how many individuals we are spotting around the area this year.  The efforts of so many area gardeners to provide host as well as nectar plants, and to create safe spaces for them to grow, is showing beautiful results.

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Our garden continues filling up with newly blooming flowers as summer’s heat builds and the days grow longer.  We are only a few weeks away from Summer Soltice now.

Each plant in the garden unfolds and grows with its own unique elegance, filling its niche; offering up its botanical gifts with nature’s boundless generosity.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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

Sunday Dinner: Flow

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Mist to mist, drops to drops.

For water thou art,

and unto water shalt thou return.”

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Kamand Kojouri

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They both listened silently to the water,

which to them was not just water,

but the voice of life,

the voice of Being,

the voice of perpetual Becoming.”

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Hermann Hesse

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“To them, as to Magnus,

time was like rain, glittering as it fell,

changing the world,

but something that could also

be taken for granted.”

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Cassandra Clare

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“…I keep looking for one more teacher,

only to find that fish learn from the water

and birds learn from the sky.”

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Mark Nepo

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“Water is the most perfect traveller

because when it travels

it becomes the path itself!”

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Mehmet Murat ildan

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“Water is the driving force in nature.”

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Leonardo da Vinci

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“Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape,

so in warfare

there are no constant conditions.”

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Sun Tzu

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“Empty your mind,

be formless, shapeless, like water.

Be water, my friend.”

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Bruce Lee

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019
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Six on Saturday: Embracing Spring

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

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

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Columbine prepares to bloom even as the daffodils finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Everything is connected.

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

the way the sand drifts,

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

All is part of totality,

and in this totality man finds his hozro,

his way of walking in harmony,

with beauty all around him.”
.

Tony Hillerman

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

 

 

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