WPC: Twisted Wisteria

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If you have ever wondered whether plants are aware and know what they are doing, just study a Wisteria vine for a while.  Plants are wiser than you may want to believe.

This formidable vine grows across an arbor at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in Freedom Park.  Believe it or not, this vine hasn’t been growing here more than a dozen years.  It already looks quite venerable and sage, doesn’t it?

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It has enthusiastically taken over the arbor, like a toddler with a new play set!

Never mind the climbing Hydrangea petiolaris desperately trying to grow up the opposite side, or the always feisty Virginia creeper that has snuck its way through the dense network of twining branches.

These three neighbors fight it out, now, for the best real estate on the arbor to catch the summer rays.

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This is our native North American Wisteria frutescens, which grows from Virginia west to Texas, and south into Florida.  A deciduous woody vine, W. frutescens will grow to only about 15 meters long, which is only two thirds of the mature height of Asian Wisterias.

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Wisteria grows best is moist soil with full, or at least partial sun.  It normally uses a strong  nearby tree for support, but also grows on fences, trellises, or pergolas.  It makes a lovely ‘ceiling’ for a pergola over a  porch or deck.

Our native Wisteria may also be trained into a standard tree form, but requires a lot of tending along the way and regular trims to keep it in bounds.

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A member of the pea family, Wisteria captures nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil along its roots, helping to ‘fertilize’ other plants growing nearby.  But please don’t taste its pea-like pods!  Wisteria is a poisonous plant if eaten, which helps protect it from hungry rabbits and deer.

Wisteria also absorbs carbon from the air, cleaning and purifying the air around it while fixing excess carbon in its woody stems and roots.

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Our native Wisteria’s flowers are smaller than its Asian cousins’, too; and so it is often favored by gardeners who want a more contained Wisteria for a small garden.

Our native Wisteria is also a larval host for several types of butterflies and moths, including skippers.

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This particular vine has embraced its arbor in a crushing grip.  It is as though the vine itself has become a living, twisted, arbor that will stand the test of time even if the man-made frame eventually comes apart.

Let this be a caution to you if you ever choose to plant one near your home.  I did that once, and realized that wood and nails and staples are no match for this prodigious vine, no matter how sturdy the construction may appear!

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Wisteria twists clockwise around its support, weaving itself into a living sculpture.

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While other vines may have tendrils that twine or sticky pads that stick to surfaces like masonry, Wisteria is the twisting, twirling boa constrictor vine of the plant kingdom.

It gives shade to us weary gardeners, and it generously shelters birds and bugs, lizards and toads.  It is teeming with life, reaching wildly with its newest branches in search of something to support its restless sprawl.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Twisted
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WPC: As It Was Raining

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“Rain is grace;
rain is the sky condescending to the earth;
without rain, there would be no life.”   
   
John Updike

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“Rain is not only drops of water.
Its the love of sky for earth.
They never meet each other,
but send love this way.”
unknown

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“Some people walk in the rain,
others just get wet.”
Roger Miller

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Liquid

Where In the World?

Virginia native Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia

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Lesley Buck, in her beautiful new book, Cutting Back, describes her apprenticeship as a gardener in the gardens of Kyoto.  After studying the art of pruning and Bonsai for more than 7 years near her home in California, she took a leap of faith and moved to Japan in hopes of finding an apprenticeship.  Her memoir not only reflects on her experiences, but also shares some of her understanding of gardening with native plants.

Early in the book, Buck observes that Japanese gardens are composed almost entirely of native plants, many of them centuries old within the garden.  The gardener’s goal is to make the garden’s landscape look and feel as natural as possible.

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Her advice to gardeners in America interested in creating a Japanese garden?  Use plants native to the natural environment where you live, and use Japanese design principles in composing and caring for this garden of your own particular native plants.

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North American native Wisteria frutescens, growing at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

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I was surprised, and yet not surprised, to read this advice.  The ‘Japanese’ gardens I grew up visiting featured Japanese plants:  Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Iris, Japanese pines and of course, Japanese Maple trees.  Many of us favor Japanese or Chinese flowering woody plants for our gardens whether we style our gardens after Japanese principles, or not.  These are beautiful plants and we enjoy them.

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Acer palmatum

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And yet, how often have you noticed, when traveling from city to city, the same relatively small palette of plants used time and again in public and residential landscapes?  The nursery trade in our country traditionally has focused on certain popular and easy to grow and transport plants.

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English shrub roses, hybridized and cultivated over several centuries, make me feel at home. I plant them in every garden I make.

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Walk into any garden center in the eastern half of the United States right now, and you will find flat after flat of neon bright petunias and geraniums, won’t you?  There will be Knock-Out roses, a nice selection of box and at least a few pots of mophead Hydrangea.

And of course we’ll find the ubiquitous azaleas, Rhododendrons and Japanese maple trees.  We like what we like, don’t we?

When we rely on nursery stock to landscape our private and public spaces, we may create a familiar sense of beauty; or perhaps even a boring predictability from one area to another.   Do we want to encounter the same plants again and again as we travel, or do we want to find something unique to our destination?

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In this section of our fern garden an interesting mix of native ferns, hybrids and imported Hellebores grow elbow to elbow.

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Only recently have more and more nurseries chosen to propagate and sell a larger percentage of native plants.  And in recent years, a growing cohort of us have taken an interest in learning about, and  appreciating our native plants in our own home gardens.  It is these natives which give us our sense of place, which help us identify ‘home.’  Our native plants attract and support the birds, butterflies and small mammals of our native environment, too.

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Broad beech fern, Phegopteris hexagonoptera, is native in woodsy areas of coastal Virginia.  It grows here at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.

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We enjoy a wide choice of very beautiful native plants in coastal Virginia.  Our landscapes are filled with majestic trees , vigorous vines, wild fruits and interesting flowers.  Surrounding ourselves with familiar plants helps us feel more ‘at home,’ and gives us a sense of place that feels very personal.

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A native muscadine grape vine grows near our home. We expect to be picking grapes by mid-summer.

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Yet,  because we have over 400 years of history here, there are many other plants, brought to Virginia by the early colonists, which may feel like natives, because they have become a part of our culture and our historic heritage:  boxwood, tulips, peonies, roses, azaleas and bearded Iris come to mind.

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Peonies, much loved in our Virginia gardens, came to our country with the early colonists.

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Wandering the historic gardens in our area, one realizes that the colonists created beautiful formal, European style gardens in this new land of Virginia to make it feel like home to them.  Even as they send seeds and cuttings of Virginia’s trees back to Europe, they imported the herbs, flowers and shrubs they were accustomed to finding in their gardens ‘back home’.

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The fronds of native ferns emerge through the leaves of a daffodil.  Daffodils were highly valued in Colonial times and were among the beautiful European plants colonists brought with them to Virginia.

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The annual rhythm of growth and bloom, fruiting, seed and leaf fall bring us a sense of comfort and familiarity.  The familiar colors of the landscape help set the mood in daily life.

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Native dogwood is our state flower, and the Virginia Native Wildflower of the Year for 2018.

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These beautiful plants are like the well worn and much loved kitchen table in our childhood home.  They help create our sense of our own place in the world.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Native Hydrangea quercifolia

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  A Place In the World

Fabulous Friday: In Bloom

Foxglove

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This time of year we linger along the drive, admiring the garden in bloom.  Stately Iris stand tall, their long bloom stalks clothed in fragrant blues and golds and purples and whites.

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The Siberian Iris bloomed yesterday… literally.  In the early morning there was a single bud unfolding.  By mid-day, there was a bouquet of intense blue.  The garden is unfolding so quickly this week that if you stand still for more than a few breaths, it has changed before your wondering eyes.

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Siberian Iris, a gift from a gardening friend.

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Imagine my surprise to notice the plump, unmistakable buds of an Amaryllis emerging from the Earth on Monday.

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Amaryllis, Hippeastrum SA ‘Graffiti’

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We enjoy Amaryllis in winter, when little else will bloom.  They comfort us through the dull wet days of February from their pot on the dining table.

And then, I like to plant the bulbs out into the perennial beds in March, and hope to see them again sometime, if they survive.  So it was that I planted out a half dozen bulbs the spring before last.  And I never remembered to dig them and bring them in last fall… a seasonal casualty of letting myself become distracted, perhaps…

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And the Amaryllis “Graffitti’ survived our very long, cold winter, rewarding our neglect with these beautiful blooms, this first week of May.  Sometimes unlikely pleasures feel the most satisfying.

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Azalea, some of the few buds left to us by the hungry deer, this spring.

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When you come to think of it, flowers erupting from plants frozen and dormant just a few weeks ago is a rather unlikely prospect.  After all they’ve been through, they’d be forgiven for sulking a bit and basking in this new-found warmth before performing.

But no, they are eager to get on with it!  Our garden woodies and perennials live to bloom, and then perhaps to set seeds.  We are all interested in the next generation, now, aren’t we?

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Mountain Laurel, one of our native shrubs

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Or is it just the pleasure of hosting bees and hummingbirds that motivates these outrageous blooms?  There is nothing particularly shy about an Amaryllis, or an Iris.   And for this, we are grateful as we celebrate their season of bloom.

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Iris, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (reblooming)

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And so we linger as we come and go on our daily errands.  And we find reason to wander in the garden, watering, trimming, planting; and dreaming of the many weeks of beauty still ahead as spring relaxes into summer.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Unlikely

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious… Let’s infect one another!

WPC: Living Lines

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Much of our garden’s personality can be defined by the lines.  There are the lines we create and the lines we allow.

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Do we cultivate the formality of lines straight and orderly, or do we invite ever changing curves and organic softness?

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Our plants grow in lines.  Our beds are bordered by lines… or not.  We organize our garden spaces within the confines of a line.

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Lines give us structure.  Woody trunks and branches frame and fixate; divide, fill, support and explode with soft flowers and leaves.

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We recognize our garden’s denizens by the outline of their leaf; the pattern of the life giving veins networking through them.

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At times, the lines of vines overtake and blur the others.  They extend of their own accord, to their own rhythm, geometry and design.

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There is a primal intelligence in these living, breathing, ever exuberant lines as they stretch towards the light, defying gravity and the gardener’s imagination.

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As the season progresses, all of the lines evolve and change.  New lines criss-cross the old.  Lines swell into curves, then shrivel into zig-zagged shrunken shells of  themselves before falling away.

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Our gardens’ lines inspire us even as they define us, ever unfolding, ever new.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For The Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Lines

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A Profusion of Flowers: Dogwood

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There is nothing quite like a flowering tree to fill the garden with a profusion of flowers.  Our native dogwood, Corunus florida, which explodes with flowers each April, remains my favorite.

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Chosen by the Virginia Native Plant Society as their Wildflower of the Year for 2018, flowering dogwood is an easy to grow understory tree which adapts to sun or partial shade.

Native across most of the Eastern half of the United States, from Florida to New Hampshire and west to Texas in zones 5-9, dogwood adapts to many soils and climates.  They prefer neutral to slightly acidic, moist soil and afternoon shade.

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Dogwoods are found growing along the edges of deciduous forests, but are also popular trees for parks and neighborhoods.  Their clouds of white or pink flowers, when in bloom, show up through shady woods or down winding neighborhood streets.  They grow to only about 30′, which makes dogwood a good landscape choice close to one’s home.

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Dogwoods are one of our most wildlife friendly native trees.  They offer nectar to pollinators early in the season, and their canopy supports over 100 species of butterfly and moth larvae in summer.  Many other insects find shelter in their branches, which makes them a prime feeding spot for song birds all summer long.  Birds find shelter and nesting spots in their branches, and in autumn  their plump scarlet fruits ripen; a feast for dozens of species of birds and small mammals.

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The beautiful white ‘petals’ which surround a dogwood’s flowers are actually bracts.  The flowers are small, almost unnoticeable and yellow green, in the center of four bracts.  A cluster of drupes emerges by September, rosy red and beautiful against a dogwood’s scarlet autumn leaves.

Birds distribute dogwood seeds over a wide area, and they grow easily from seed in the garden or the wild.  Young trees grow relatively quickly and are seldom grazed by deer.

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I am always happy to notice a dogwood seedling crop up in our garden and astounded at how quickly they develop.  A seedling dogwood will most likely bloom by its fourth or fifth spring.

Dogwood trees may also be started from cuttings, especially if more trees of a particular form or color are needed.  Their seeds may be gathered and planted outside in a prepared bed in autumn.  They need cold stratification to germinate, and so an outdoor seedbed is a reliable method to grow new trees from gathered seeds.

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There are many dogwood cultivars and trees found with white, pink or red bracts.  There are also several other native and Asian species in the Cornus genus, some with beautiful variegated foliage or colorful stems.

All are relatively pest free and graceful plants.  The Anthracnose virus is a problem for dogwood trees in some areas.  Good hygiene, removing and destroying any affected plant tissue, is important in controlling this fungal disease.  Keeping the tree in good health, especially irrigating during drought, helps to prevent disease problems.

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The last time I counted, we had at least 15 native dogwood trees around our garden, filling it, this month, with billowing clouds of flowers.  It nearly takes my breath away when the sun is shining and we see them against a colorful backdrop of budding trees and clear blue sky.

There is such prolific beauty in April, how can one person take it all in?

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Woodland Gnome 2018
For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Prolific

WPC: Awakening

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“The world is exploding in emerald, sage,
and lusty chartreuse – neon green with so much yellow in it.
It is an explosive green that,
if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day,
would grow in every dimension.”
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Amy Seidl

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“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone.
The shell cracks, its insides come out
and everything changes.
To someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.”
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Cynthia Occelli

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Meaning is only found
when you go beyond meaning.
Life only makes sense
when you perceive it as mystery
and it makes no sense
to the conceptualizing mind.”
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Anthony de Mello

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“Waking up from a deep sleep,
I always seem to be discovering life
for the first time.”
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Marty Rubin

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“A single event
can awaken within us
a stranger totally unknown to us.
To live is to be slowly born.”
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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Awakening

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“My speaking is meant to shake you awake,
not to tell you how to dream better.”
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Adyashanti

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Rise/Set

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With my back to the sunset, I watch the moon rise.

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The nearly full moon, a blue moon in March; Easter moon rises into the twilit sky. 

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Buds swell on still bare trees; skeletons waiting to rejuvenate themselves in springtime’s warmth.

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We loop again through our dance around the sun:  Equinox, solstice, equinox, solstice. 

Turning, turning, always returning….

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 Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Rise/Set

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“The deep roots
never doubt spring will come.”
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Marty Rubin

WPC: Favorite Place

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My favorite place is one of magic and mystery, comfort, peace and ever expanding potential.

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It changes minute to minute, day to day.  Yet it always remains constant in its beauty.

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There are infinite layers to this place.  What the eye can see, and what the camera perceives, are sometimes different.

The air is filled with song from creatures seen and unseen.

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And the light infuses all. 

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Photos By Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Favorite Place
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Within the mystery of life
there is the infinite darkness of the night sky
lit by distant orbs of fire,
the cobbled skin of an orange that releases its fragrance to our touch,
the unfathomable depths of the eyes of our lover.
No creation story, no religious system
can fully describe or explain this richness and depth.
Mystery is so every-present
that no one can know for certain
what will happen one hour from now. 
It does not matter whether you have religion
or are an agnostic believe in nothing,
You can only appreciate
(without knowing or understanding)
the mysteries of life.

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Jack Kornfield
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“Those loving and most loved lights do not leave this world.  They remain among us, the stuff of sunbeams and whispers; always as close as thought, as real as dream.  Light and love bind us one to another, beyond the bounds of space and time. ” WG

WPC: Find Me In The Garden

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What would I rather be doing?  That’s easy!

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Find me in the garden, watching something grow!

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It is that magical time when the garden wakes again for the new season.  We are shown the infinite possibility and abundance of this universe we live within.

The rainbow ends here today, in the golden gift of daffodils growing happily under the spring time sun!

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“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”

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Claude Monet

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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Under snow on Monday, the daffodils shook it off and still look beautiful. They are tough and resilient! And more keep opening each day.

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  I’d Rather Be…

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“They say a person needs just three things
to be truly happy in this world:
someone to love, something to do,
and something to hope for.”
.
Tom Bodett

 

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