Sunday Dinner: Never Assume….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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

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

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Sunday Dinner: Symmetrical

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

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

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

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

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“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos,
including orderliness, balance, harmony,
logic, and abstract beauty.”
.
Deepak Chopra

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

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Photos by Woodand Gnome 2020

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

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In memory of Robert Nowak 1941-2020

and for those he’s left behind

Sunday Dinner: Allies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

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

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The Trees of Power cover

Six on Saturday: Evergreen

Helleborus

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

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American Holly surrounded by pines.

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

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

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

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Mahonia aquifolium

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

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Camellia sasanqua

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

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Thyme

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

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

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

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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

Sunday Dinner: Pass It On

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“What are you planting today
to harvest tomorrow?”
.
Lailah Gifty Akita

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“Life always bursts the boundaries of formulas.
Defeat may prove to have been the only path to resurrection,
despite its ugliness.
I take it for granted that to create a tree
I condemn a seed to rot.
If the first act of resistance comes too late
it is doomed to defeat. But it is, nevertheless,
the awakening of resistance.
Life may grow from it as from a seed.”
.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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“Seeds have the power to preserve species,
to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity,
to counter economic monopoly
and to check the advance of conformity
on all its many fronts.”
.
Michael Pollan

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“Plants do not speak,
but their silence is alive with change.”
.
May Sarton

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“It always amazes me to look at the little, wrinkled brown seeds
and think of the rainbows in ’em,” said Captain Jim.
“When I ponder on them seeds I don’t find it nowise hard to believe
that we’ve got souls that’ll live in other worlds.
You couldn’t hardly believe there was life in them tiny things,
some no bigger than grains of dust,
let alone colour and scent, if you hadn’t seen the miracle, could you?”
.
L.M. Montgomery

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“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution.
If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.”
.
Norman Vincent Peale

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“Remember to be conscious of what seeds you plant,
as the garden of your mind is like the world.
The longer seeds grow, the more likely they are to become trees.
Trees often block the sun’s rays from reaching other seeds,
allowing only plants that are acclimated
to the shadow of the tree to grow—
keeping you stuck with that one reality.”
.
Natasha Potter

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“Take the time to plant seeds
even if you’re unsure if they’ll grow; who knows,
maybe all it takes is for someone else
to come along and water it.”
.
Kai Mann

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“Every gift from a friend
is a wish for your happiness.”
.
Richard Bach

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap
but by the seeds that you plant.”
.
Robert Louis Stevenson
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Six on Saturday: Unexpected Pleasures

Scarlet oakleaf Hydrangea leaves brighten up a foggy, January garden. Edgeworthia flowers hang like tiny snowballs, opening very slowly over winter. Our Camellias remain in full bloom.

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January presents as a quiet month on all fronts.  After a good six weeks of holiday indulgences, most of us are ready to go home and rest a while.  Especially for a gardener, expectations are low.  So low that a new seed catalog in the mail presents a thrill of color and possibility.

Which is why I’m feeling exceptionally appreciative for the unexpected pleasures in our garden this week.  It is wet and almost warm out there, since Christmas.  We had some freezing weather early on, but not enough to kill the geraniums on the front porch or slow down the Verbena and Allysum blooming on the patio.

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Allysum blooms on the patio, enticing the occasional bee. Germander leaves remain deeply green all winter, finally blooming by late April.

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And the Iris!  Ohh la la!  Blooming since New Year’s Eve, we are into our fifth day now of a beautiful blue and white scented Iris.  This is why I love the re-bloomers so very much.

Our rosemary is in bloom, and some daffodils have already broken ground with the first green tips of leaves.  It can’t be spring, in the first week of the new year, and we know there will be cold days and nights ahead.  But this interlude of curious cardinals, an occasional bee, mild afternoons and fragrant flowers charms us with its promise of spring now on the horizon.

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Iris and Verbena bloom together this week on our patio.  The Verbena has remained in bloom since I bought it last April.

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In our climate, one can easily plan for year-round flowers and plenty of interest in the garden on every day of the year.  There is no true ‘down time’ anymore.  I’ve finished my first round of clearing and cleaning in the perennial beds, but am not yet ready to cut down the beautiful seedheads of our native perennials.  Besides, the birds aren’t yet finished with them.

There is still that crate of daffodil bulbs in the garage, too, waiting for me to dedicate an afternoon to finally committing them to the Earth.

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I was delighted to discover, while cutting down the Cannas and ginger lilies and generally surveying the garden,  several dozen seedling Ilex opaca shining through the fallen leaves.  I had wished for some native holly to transplant for a project a few years back.  And the multiverse clearly heard my wish and granted it in abundance.  Were I to allow them all to grow, our garden would soon become a holly forest.

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Rosemary blooms during winter here in Williamsburg. I sometimes cut it to use in Christmas wreathes or winter arrangements.

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So the task at hand is to dig and pot most of those little holly trees in the week ahead.  I’ll likely throw a daffodil bulb in each hole before I fill it with compost or bark mulch, and call it job well done.  The seemingly random daffies will remind me of this beautiful gift of native trees, sown by the birds, and filling our garden this month with vibrant green poking through the wet fallen leaves.

As the final bulbs go into the ground, the first snowdrops and Hellebores have bloomed.  There is always an unexpected pleasure waiting if one will only take a moment to see what is already there.

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Hellebores bloom in our garden from late December through early May, giving flowers during the greyest days of the year.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Mahonia prepares to bloom, to the delight of our native bees still foraging on warm days. The Egeworthia, covered in silvery flowers, grows more spectacular each year.  We’re so grateful to our friend who introduced it to me years ago.

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

 

Sunday Dinner: Here and Now

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“Here we are,
trapped in the amber of the moment.
There is no why.”
.
Kurt Vonnegut

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“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees,
you see all these different trees.
And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight,
and some of them are evergreens,
and some of them are whatever.
And you look at the tree and you allow it.
You see why it is the way it is.
You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light,
and so it turned that way.
And you don’t get all emotional about it.
You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that.

And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’
That judgment mind comes in.
And so I practice turning people into trees.
Which means appreciating them
just the way they are.”
.
Ram Dass

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“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion.
What you perceive as precious is not time
but the one point that is out of time: the Now.
That is precious indeed.
The more you are focused on time—past and future—
the more you miss the Now,
the most precious thing there is.”
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Eckhart Tolle

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“You and I are the force for transformation in the world.
We are the consciousness
that will define the nature of the reality we are moving into.”
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Ram Dass

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“It’s being here now that’s important.
There’s no past and there’s no future.
Time is a very misleading thing.
All there is ever, is the now.
We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it;
and we can hope for the future,
but we don’t know if there is one.”
.
George Harrison

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“Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment,
whether we mean to or not.
Our actions and states of mind matter,
because we’re so deeply interconnected with one another.
Working on our own consciousness
is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment,
and being love is the supreme creative act.”
.
Ram Dass

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“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
.
Tennessee Williams

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019 

In appreciation for the life of Richard Alpert:

Teacher, writer, explorer, visionary

April 6, 1931- December 22, 2019

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“Prolong not the past
Invite not the future
Do not alter your innate wakefulness
Fear not appearances
There is nothing more than this”
.
Ram Dass

Pot Shots: Early Spring Bulbs

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Planting up pots with spring blooming bulbs has become an autumn ritual for me.   I consider how the bloom will unfold around the perennials, ferns and woodies included in the design.   I plant with a sense of anticipation and caution.  I am excited by the potential while also mindful of the many pitfalls that can damage bulbs between autumn and spring.

I’ve lost bulbs in recent years to hungry squirrels, bacterial infection on some of the bulbs planted, extreme cold and dry soil.

Some variables we can anticipate and plant to avoid. 

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Newly planted on September 25, 2018

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I’ve learned to order and pick my bulbs up as early as possible, before they can get old or contaminated in the the shop.  This year, I learned to spray the bulbs with a repellent, like Repels All, just before I plant them to discourage rodents.  I use the largest pots possible and try to shelter them against the worst weather.

Now, I make a point to water bulb filled pots throughout the winter when the ground isn’t frozen, and to mulch each pot with rocks or moss to minimize damage and bulb loss.

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November 6, 2018 Autumn blooming Colchicum was the first bulb to bloom in this fall planted pot. Cyclamen leaves have already emerged, and moss has begun to establish. 

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This four season pot’s main occupant is a native Oakleaf Hydrangea, which doesn’t look like much at the moment in its dormancy.  The pot is filled with an assortment of bulbs, roots, corms and tubers to unfold gradually over the long months between late autumn and early summer.

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We are currently enjoying Tommies, better known as Crocus Tommasinianus, known to rarely attract rodents.  This Crocus species simply smells differently from most species and cultivars, which can actually attract squirrels and mice because they smell nut-like.  Tommies are some of the earliest Crocus to bloom each spring, multiply well and can thrive in partial shade.

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We also have another snowdrop blooming and the first bloom of our Cyclamen coum, which will open in another day.  I planted a mix of fall blooming Cyclamen hederifolium and C. coum for a longer season of delicate blooms.

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It isn’t cheating to begin adding plants in early spring.  Pots are stages, and the players come and go to keep the show lively.  I added the panola last week, to fill a small hole left by a curious squirrel.

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I love bulbs in pots precisely because I’m curious, too.  I want to watch spring unfold in miniature, up close; in a choreographed microcosm of what is writ large around us.

Moss mulch elevates the entire experience for me because it provides that splash of vivid, living green on even the coldest, dullest winter days.  It protects and insulates the bulbs while also protecting whatever is in growth from splashing soil during rains.  And, quite honestly, I’m curious to watch every tiny plant that sprouts from the moss.

Left untended, the grass would grow in little clumps through the moss until unplanned plants (read: weeds) overwhelmed the planting.  But no:  We have little snips to keep everything tidied up.  That is a lesson learned from hard experience, too.

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You never got around to planting bulbs this year?  No worries. 

You can still create a beautiful pot of blooming bulbs now.  I’ve found bulbs in growth at nurseries and the grocery store for the past few weeks.

Grab a pot or basket and fresh potting mix, plan your arrangement, and just take those bulbs already in growth and slip them out of their nursery pot as you tuck them into your arrangement.  Add a pansy or primrose, if it makes you happy.  There is no shortage of moss after all the rain these past few weeks.

All sorts of interesting things have begun to turn up at local nurseries, and your creative ideas will lead you to just the right components for your own spring pot.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.

Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”
.

Hal Borland

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February 15, 2019

 

 

Six on Saturday: The Greening of the World

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“I can breathe where there is green.

Green grows hope.

It keeps my heart beating

and helps me remember

who I am.”
.

Courtney M. Privett

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The first daffodils of spring opened in our forest garden yesterday.

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Watching the greening of the world each spring never fails to fill me with appreciation to live in such a beautiful place.  How many people live in cities or arid lands that remain clothed in shades of grey and brown throughout the year?

Without winter, I’m not sure that I would appreciate the living greens of February so much.  At the moment, every emerging leaf and stem excites me.

I want to photograph them and watch their daily progress as new growth emerges from woody stems and muddy earth.

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Green is the color of life, of growth, of change.  The simple chemistry of transforming sunlight into living bio-energy happens only in the green.  The alchemy of transforming polluted air into pure; the creation of oxygen to fill our every breath requires green leaves to filter every inhalation of breath we take.  Green sustains our lives even as it soothes our spirit.

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This is the season when the first tentative bits of green re-appear from the warming Earth.  Perennials re-awaken and stretch folded leaves and lengthening stems, reaching for sunlight and warmth.  Moss plumps and spreads,  tiny weeds and blades of grass sprout from patient seeds.

I am glad to find them all, encouraged at the stubbornness and determination of greening life to prevail over the forces of darkness.  The old and rotting will be swept away to return to the compost pile of history, releasing its remaining energy to fuel what is vital and new.

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“Pursue some path,

however narrow and crooked,

in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
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Henry David Thoreau

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Green is the soul of Spring.

Summer may be dappled with yellow,

Autumn with orange and Winter with white

but Spring is drenched with the colour green.”
.

Paul Kortepeter

Six (or more?) Surprises on Saturday

Scilla

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This past week has been filled with surprises.  We swept right out of the fringe and frigid edges of the so-called ‘Polar Vortex’ into a few days of balmy spring weather.  The last three days have been as near to perfect weather as one could possibly hope for in February in Virginia.

Its been warm, dry, and sometimes a little sunny these past few days.  Signs of spring are literally bursting out of ground, buds on trees are swelling and those of us already itching to get busy for spring have heeded the call to come out of the cozy house and outdoors to make use of these unexpected days.

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The first of our red Camellia japonica bloomed this week.

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I’ve spent many happy hours outside these past several days flitting like some crazed butterfly from one part of the garden to the next, looking for growth even as I got on with the business of pruning and clearing beds.   We actually spotted a butterfly on Wednesday afternoon.

We don’t know whether it awoke from its chrysalis too soon, or migrated too far north too early.  Its orange and brown wings caught our eye as it fluttered around some old cedar trees, an unusual color to find in the garden in February.  It may have been a Fritillary; we didn’t get close enough to do more than determine it wasn’t an early Monarch.  We were both very surprised to see it, and wish it well and safe shelter as we return to more seasonable temperatures this weekend.

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Our first Iris reticulata of the season. This cultivar is ‘Pauline.’ Squirrels have been digging around this patch of bulbs and I’ve repaired their damage several times. I’m happily surprised to discover these blooming.

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The butterfly turned up a day after we found a honeybee feeding on the Mahonia, and the same day we found a colony of ground bees awake and foraging near the ravine.  I was glad to notice the ground bees buzzing around as I headed their way with a cart full of pruned branches…. before they noticed me!  I didn’t stumble into them and they didn’t feel a need to warn me off.

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The first leaves of daffodils remind us where we’ve planted in years gone by, and entice us with the promise of flowers on their way.

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We saw our first blooming daffodils of the year, blooming beside the fence at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  We discovered the first blooming Iris histrioides of the year, the first dandelion of the season shining golden in our ‘lawn,’ and the first ruby red Camellia japonica flowers on the shrubs near the street.

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Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ planted out several years ago, after devastating damage from caterpillars one summer.  It has been very slow to recover and slow to grow.  Its beautiful leaves make it worth the effort.

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The most interesting surprise came yesterday afternoon when I placed a cutting of our Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’, that has been growing in our garden for the last several years, into a one of the little shrubs I believed to be a variegated English holly.

We bought these shrubs as English holly in November of 2017 at a chain home improvement store and sporting a big name plant tag.  I never questioned the label and have written about them as English holly over the past few years.

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Can you spot the cutting taken from our Osmanthus growing in the upper garden?

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But them California horticulturalist Tony Tomeo called me out.  He commented on the post about taking stem cuttings, saw the little holly cuttings with the eyes of experience, and told me that what I was calling variegated English holly was, in fact, variegated false holly, Osmanthus ‘Goshiki.’

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Now you see it… an exact match …

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It took me a day to process what was so plain to him.  I photographed my shrubs, took a cutting from an older Osmanthus and set it seamlessly into the holly in a pot by our kitchen door.  Their leaves were identical.  Tony was correct and I had missed it in my own garden.

This is actually very good news.  At maturity, the Osmanthus will grow to only half the size of an English holly.  It has softer leaves and tolerates full shade.  An English holly wants full sun, which is hard to find in our garden.  Correctly identifying the shrub has proven a happy surprise for us.

Today we settle back into winter clothes and winter routines, but my heart is awake to the energy of spring.  I’m motivated to continue the clean-up and pruning; polishing the garden stage for the next act waiting in the wings: spring.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Many thanks to The Propagator for hosting Six on Saturday each week.

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