In A Vase On Monday: Good Enough to Eat….

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August feels like a very ‘green’ month; especially here in coastal Virginia where we are totally surrounded by green trees, vines, lush green lawns, billowing green Crepe Myrtles and other rampant growth.

From Lamas in early August, to Labor Day weekend in early September, our world remains vibrant and green!

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Sunset, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

Early evening, yesterday, from the Colonial Parkway.

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You can watch some plants literally grow hour to hour and day to day, given enough water.   If you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a hot-house or conservatory, welcome to a Virginia August!   This is the time of year when we seek the cool, green shade of large trees and vine covered trellises to help us through the relentless heat.

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Herbs in our August garden.

Herbs in our August garden.  Our swallowtail butterflies love the chive flowers.  This clump remains one of their favorite stops to feed.

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And so it feels appropriate to cut cool green stems from the garden today.  I’ve cut an assortment of herbs for their fragrant leaves.  The burgundy basil flowers and white garlic chives serve only as grace notes to the beautifully shaped, textured and frosted leaves.

Much of this arrangement is edible.

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Except for the ivy vines, a little Artemesia and a stem of Coleus; you could brew some lovely herbal tea or garnish a plate from the rest of our vase today.  There are two different scented Pelargoniums here, including P. ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’,  and African Blue Basil.

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To make this arrangement feel even cooler, it sits in a cobalt blue vase from our local Shelton glass works on a sea-green glass tray.  A moonstone frog rests nearby.

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The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

The vase was made locally by John Shelton of Shelton Glass Works here in Williamsburg.

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Today’s vase is so fragrant that my partner commented as soon as the stems came into the room.  It is a spicy blend of rose scented Geraniums and sharp Basil, with an undertone of garlic from the chive flowers.  It makes puts me in the mood to mix up a little ‘Boursin Cheese’ with fresh herbs from the garden, and serve it garnished with a few chive blossoms!

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Appreciation, always, to Cathy of ‘Rambling In the Garden”  for hosting ‘In A Vase On Monday’ each week.  I admire the dedication of flower gardeners all over the world who faithfully clip, arrange, and photograph their garden’s bounty each Monday.  Cathy is in the pink again today, with some beautiful lilies she has grown this summer.

I hope you will click through to Cathy’s post and follow some of the links to enjoy today’s beautiful arrangements.

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 Woodland Gnome 2016

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Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today's vase....

Near Yorktown on the Parkway, just before sunset last night; the inspiration for today’s vase….

 

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The Last Day Before Frost

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We definitely expect a freeze by tomorrow night.

We feel it coming in the wind blowing through the garden.  With our high for today in the low 50s, we know it will drop quickly from here on.

The winter storm which has so much of the country in its icy grip is blowing into Williamsburg this weekend.

 

Many of the pots have been replanted now with Violas and ornamental kale.

Many of the pots have been replanted now with Violas and ornamental kale.

 

With so much of the country under snow, and threat of snow, we can hardly complain about a mid-November frost.

But the day is still tinged with a bit of  sadness.  Sadness, and motivation to take care of everything we possibly can before the cold settles in this evening.

 

The African Blue Basil may be tough,but it isn't cold hardy.  it will die with when it freezes here.

The African Blue Basil may be tough, but it isn’t cold hardy.  It will die with the first heavy frost.  We still see bees and butterflies.  We hope they find shelter or fly south today.

 

After making the coffee this morning, I set about bringing in those last few pots of tender perennials.

I’ve filled every possible spot now in the house and garage with overwintering plants.  The main body of them in the garage  got re-arranged this morning to make room for a few more pots.

 

This Begonia has been lifted from its pot by the door and brought inside to the garage for the winter.

This Begonia has been lifted from its pot by the door and brought inside to the garage for the winter.

 

Even the brave Bougainvillea, which only started blooming in mid- October, finally made the journey from patio to garage this morning.

 

Our three year old Bouganvillia has waited until this week to begin its season of bloom.

Our three year old Bougainvillea has waited until October to bloom.  It came back into the garage this morning, covered in bright cherry flowers.

 

And the supposedly hardy “Pewter” Begonia got brought in to the garage, as well.  Its leaves are so pretty, I hate to let it go to the frost.

A pot of tender ferns, a few more pots of tender succulents, and a final mish-mash pot of Begonia cuttings completed the morning’s efforts.

 

The last pot to come in this morning, these tender ferns have a snug spot by a basement window.

The last pot to come in this morning, these tender ferns now have a snug spot by a basement window.

 

My ever patient partner assisted (supervised) this final effort until getting called away to assist a neighbor.  And from there to another neighbor’s yard, and then to another.

His work out may have been more strenuous than mine, but we all now have covered outside faucets, covered foundation vents, and we’re as ready as we can be for the prolonged stretch of  cold ahead.

 

This winter I'm using watering globes to care for the indoor plants.  Neater, they offer a nearly constant supply of moisture.

This winter I’m using watering globes to care for the indoor plants. Neater, they offer a nearly constant supply of moisture.  The fern hasn’t yet adjusted to the drier inside air.

 

And at noon our local weather guy confided that we may have some “Bay effect snow” by Saturday morning.

That seems to be the way our forecasts evolve around here.  They prepare you for a little change, and then the forecast continues to shift towards the extremes as the system progresses.

We are promised only rain this evening.  And I can feel the falling barometer and approaching storm in all of the usual places….

 

A final photo of our roses before I cut them.

A final photo of our roses before I cut them.

 

 

But we have today to enjoy the garden before Frost’s icy fingers have their way with it.  I’ve moved all those things for which there is simply no spot inside up against a brick wall on the patio.

Petunias survived there two winters ago.

Our sheltered patio provides a microclimate which stays warmer during the winter.  Petunias survived all winter here in 2012, and I hope tender plants will survive here this winter, also.

Our sheltered patio provides a micro-climate which stays warmer during the winter. Petunias survived all winter here in 2012, and I hope tender plants will survive here this winter, also.

 

They began blooming again in February, and just kept going right on through the following summer.  That gives me hope that the few geraniums and succulents I couldn’t bring in have a chance to survive.

And the little olive trees I’ve been nurturing along in pots should make it there, too.

 

Although the Colocasias look unhappy, the ginger lilies have managed fine in our cool nights.  They will all crumple when hit with freezing temperatures this weekend.

Although the Colocasias look unhappy, the ginger lilies and Canna lilies have managed fine in our cool nights. They will all crumple when hit with freezing temperatures this weekend.

 

I’ve read they are growing olives in parts of England, now.  I hope these are hardy enough to survive our winter outside, in this sheltered spot.

They traveled in and out, as the weather shifted, last winter.  It got to be quite a chore, but the olive trees  were in much smaller pots then, too.

 

November 12, 2014 golden day 194

 

And the many Violas we’ve planted will be fine.  They will shrug off the cold.

We’ve planted lots of ornamental kale, a pot of Swiss chard, hardy ferns, bulbs, and our beloved Violas.

Our garden will continue through the winter, even though much will go with  the coming  frost.

 

Camellia

Camellia

 

 

So, we are bracing ourselves for what we’ll find Saturday morning.

The landscape continue to edit and simplify itself.  As the brilliant leaves  fall from their branches, so will our Ginger lilies and Cannas also crumple to the ground.

 

Iris "Rosalie Figge" normally blooms into December for us in Williamsburg.  This is our favorite, and most prolific, re-blooming Iris.

Iris “Rosalie Figge” normally blooms into December for us in Williamsburg. This is our favorite, and most prolific, re-blooming Iris.

 

 

The bright Salvias will shrivel back to the soil.  The Lantana will lose its leaves, though the berries will remain until cleaned up by the birds.

Basil will freeze beside the stalwart Rosemary, which grows and blooms all winter long.

Mexican Petunia, a consistent bloomer all summer, won't survive a freeze.  But its roots are hardy.  It should return in this pot by early summer.

Mexican Petunia, a consistent bloomer all summer, won’t survive a freeze. But its roots are hardy. It should return in this pot early next summer.

 

The last of autumn’s roses will soon freeze, but the Camellias will continue to bloom until spring.

 

I harvested roses and Basil, scented Pelargonium and ivy ahead of the coming rain and cold.  We'll enjoy them a few more days inside.

I harvested roses and Basil, scented Pelargonium and ivy ahead of the coming rain and cold. We’ll enjoy them a few more days inside.

 

It is the way of things, this annual turning of the seasons. 

Butterfly tree produces wonderful turquoise blue seeds, which are much loved by the birds.  Only a few remain.

Butterfly tree produces wonderful turquoise blue seeds, which are much loved by the birds. Only a few remain.

 

Something is always coming on, and something is always fading in the garden.    And we are endlessly fascinated as we witness the changes which come each and every day.

 

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

December 13 2013 poinsettias 003Holiday Wreath Challenge

“Indian Summer”

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

September is nearly gone.  We will greet October in only three more days.

Yet summer lingers in our garden.

Shorter days and cooler nights have brought color to our Dogwood trees.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime.  Cool nights send them into dormancy.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime. Cool nights send them into dormancy.

 

The Caladiums began to crumple and lose leaves three weeks ago.    But we forgive them.  They are tropicals, after all; and they hate temperatures below 50 F.

We know the cool nights, sometimes dipping into the 50’s lately, have sent a strong signal that it is time for a rest.

It is nearly time to dig them and bring them in for winter.

 

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But most of our herbs and flowers looks as lovely as they did in May, June, and July.

Here, near the coast, we have something like a  “second spring” in September and October.  And I grew up calling it, “Indian Summer.”

Although nights may be cool, we still enjoy sunny days of 70 and 80 degrees.  Last week’s rain signaled an opportunity for new growth through most of the garden.

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The color palette may have shifted towards richer, deeper tones  now that the Black Eyed Susans have opened.

And our Pineapple Sage opened its first scarlet flowers this week.  Perhaps I’ll remember to take some photos of them tomorrow.

I gathered figs today, and pears.  There is pear butter cooking in the crock-pot this evening, filling the house with the rich aroma of cinnamon and cloves, brown sugar and stewing fruit.

 

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But the Basil still blooms, perfuming the garden with its spicy sweetness.

Some of our Lantana now bloom over my head,and I’m rather tall for a Woodland Gnome.

"Miss Huff" Lantana, now in its third summer, blooms at "head height" now.  It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

“Miss Huff” Lantana,  in its third summer, blooms at “head height” now. It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

The Cannas still open their crimson flowers  each day, and the Elephant Ears grow larger than toilet seats.

That may not be an elegant way to describe them, but I bet you know exactly how large they’ve grown!

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii" is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b.  I'mn debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance...

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii” is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b. I’m debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance…  This one spent the winter in the garage.

Geraniums still offer up  fresh fuchsia, cream  and pink blossoms in their pots.  They love these cooler days and nights.  Almost embarrassingly bright now, they soldier on as though summer will last forever.

Those who spent winter in our garage are most determined to keep the blooms coming, savoring each new day out of doors.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a 6 pack in April.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a six pack in April.

 

And of course, our Begonias have covered themselves in tiny pink blossoms; hundreds of them on every stem.

Their new foliage has grown in, replacing the pale winter leaves with which they greeted May.  I”m a little sad now, realizing they have grow so much there isn’t room for them all to come in next month.

All of those little cuttings I stuck into pots with such optimism are now full fledged plants.

These blooming adults need new homes of their own if they are to survive.  I am hoping to find some willing adoptive parents among my gardening friends.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia "Flamingo" remains covered in flowers.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia “Flamingo” remains covered in flowers.

I sent home a little division of a favorite Begonia, tucked into a clam shell as there was not pot at hand, yesterday evening with a beloved friend.  We are sisters at heart, although she grew up half a world away, speaking different languages and eating different foods.  Somehow our paths brought both of us to this community at about the same time.  And now she fosters Begonias for me over the winter in her bright, sunny home.

Colocasia, "Black Magic"

Colocasia, “Black Magic” is supposed to be hardy here, and should survive winter with a little mulch over its crown.

 

And yes, it is time to begin the move back indoors for those tender plants who won’t make it through the  first hard freeze.  Another friend and I were chatting today, as I visited her garden for the first time.

We agree the coming winter will be as cold and harsh as winter 2013.   She is waiting to buy perennials for her newly made border, knowing in her bones they don’t have time to establish before the weather shifts.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

 

This “Indian Summer” may be tantalizingly sweet, but it will be brief.  Gardening friends to the north already feel the change that is coming.

And so I’ll begin to close the garden down next week.  I’ve already been walking around and making plans; assessing what will be hardy and what is not.  My windowsills are full of cuttings.   I’m gathering seeds; pulling up spent annuals.

 

September 27, 2014 garden 003

But it’s not quite time to bring all the pots back inside, yet.  It is still September, and the sun shines bright and golden on the garden this weekend.

Bearded Iris have come back into bloom and there are new buds on the roses.  Bumble bees still hum around the herbs.

 

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New leaves are opening on the figs, and early mornings feel like spring.

I hope summer still lingers in your garden.   

I hope a few vegetables are still ripening on your vines, and flowers are still blooming in your beds.

 

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen.

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen near the street.

 

As the trees turn up the volume of color a little more each day, there is no mistaking the crisp scent of change  in the air.

But let summer linger just a little longer, before it fades back into memory.

 

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

A Red Tailed Hawk, and Its Neighbors

February 18 2014 parkway 006

This beautiful Red Tailed Hawk patiently allowed me to take photo after photo,  slowly making my way around the cedar tree where he was perched.

Finally, as I stood at the base of the tree, in his line of sight,  he decided enough was enough, and off he went.

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The Colonial Parkway was alive with birds today.  Red Tailed Hawk, and his many avian neighbors, were out enjoying the day.

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Although their patience with your photographer was a bit limited….

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Canada Geese, Great Blue Herons, a large black vulture on a low branch, crows, gulls in from the coast, and even a few Bald Eagles could be found along the river. 

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It reached 60 degrees today while we visited with the birds.  It is the first time in several weeks our temperatures have been so warm.  The birds surely have enjoyed the break in the weather as much as we have today.

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The clouds steadily grew thicker as the sun fell lower in the sky. 

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Even though the ground is puddled, soft, and muddy, more rain is on its way.  We watched the clouds gathering from the west.

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A little sun and warmth goes a long way towards brightening the spirit, and drawing us back out to the Parkway.

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And though the landscape is still tight and wintery here along the James River,  we had fine company today from our feathered neighbors.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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“Shopping” The Garden For Flowers

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We all love to spend time in our gardens, but how often do you “shop” your garden for cut flowers?  Most of us have wonderful flowers and foliage every day of the year that can be re-imagined as cut flower arrangement for friends, special events, and of course our own homes.

Lantana, Pineapple mint, and Ageratum

Lantana, Pineapple mint, Rosemary, and Ageratum

We all know that most of the cut flowers offered for sale at the florist or the grocery store are flown in from another continent.  There are far too few growers here in the United States.  So just as grapes from Chile and oranges from Israel come with a “carbon cost”, so too do the pricey stems at our favorite florist.

Besides, when is the last time you smelled a deliciously sweet flower out of the florist’s cold storage?  Most flowers on the market have been hybridized for size, color, and staying power.  So many lost their fragrance along the way.

Basil and Dill

Basil and Dill

Like locally grown tomatoes, there is just something very special about locally grown flowers.  And you don’t need a special “cutting garden” to have a good supply of flowers and branches to cut.  You just need a little planning ahead and creativity.

This arrangement began with a desire to use the Beautyberry which is so intensely beautiful at the moment.  It is beautiful on its own in a vase, or mixed with something tall and airy, like Dill.  After reading the new Country Gardens magazine, I was inspired to use a pumpkin as the base for this little arrangement.

Sept 22 flowers 001To prepare to “shop” your own garden, prepare a clean container with warm water.  The stems take up warm water faster than cold, and so are better hydrated.   This is a gallon jug, rinsed, and cut to make room for lots of stems.   I added a few drops of honey, which not only feeds the blossoms, but also helps control bacteria in the water.  The other important tool is a pair of sharp pruners.  Since I gather woody branches as well as herbaceous stems, the pruners work better than scissors.Sept 22 flowers 017

First walk around to see what might be in bloom.  I was delighted to find that the Pineapple Sage had finally bloomed.  A few hydrangea blossoms sheltered under an other shrub were still fresh enough to cut.

Queen Lime Zinnias growing with Rudbeckia and African Blue Basil.

Queen Lime Zinnias growing with Rudbeckia and African Blue Basil.

I have an abundance of Rudbeckia, Queen Lime Zinnias, Basil, and Ageratum.  I also had lots of white Lantana, flowering dill, mint, and some chrysanthemums about to open.  Herbs are a wonderful choice for foliage and filler, especially if the herbs are also in bloom. One must pick and choose.  The flowers I cut actually ended up as two separate arrangements yesterday morning.

Rudbeckia, Ageratum, and a little red pepper I cut, but couldn't use this time.

Rudbeckia, Ageratum, and a little red pepper I cut, but couldn’t use this time.

Once deciding what to use, cut long stems, and remove all of the lower foliage.  Beauty berry still has all of its leaves, but they should be removed when you cut the branch.  The branch is more striking with just its berries.  Cut as early in the morning as you’re able, and allow the stems to rest in deep, warm water for several hours.  Cut more flowers than you think you’ll need.  I almost always head back out into the garden part way through for more of something.  Extra flowers can be made into something small  and will always be enjoyed  by someone.

Pineapple Sage has just come in to bloom.

Pineapple Sage has just come in to bloom.

To use a pumpkin or gourd as a container, first study it to determine how it sits, and what side is best.  You don’t have to cut it “Jack O’lantern” style.  The hole you carve can be off-center.  You can make a series of small holes around it and place just a few stems in each opening.  The pumpkin can be stacked in a basket, pot, urn, or on a larger pumpkin.  It can be set in the midst of grapevines.  I chose some little white companion pumpkins to go with my larger white pumpkin.

After opening the pumpkin, and removing the seeds, decide whether you want to hollow it out a bit and place a plastic or glass vase inside, or whether you prefer to work in crumpled chicken wire or oasis.    Oasis, like Styrofoam, is controversial since it is a chemical product.  It is what I happened to have on hand, and so I secured a half-round, pre-soaked, into the body of the cleaned pumpkin with wooden skewers.

Take inspiration from how your flowers blend in the garden.

Take inspiration from how your flowers blend in the garden.

I added warm water with honey to the cavity, and began arranging with the hydrangea blossoms first, and then the beauty berry branches.  Begin any arrangement by determining  the outer “edges” in space with your largest elements both vertically and horizontally.   I added lots of African Blue Basil next, which has blooms along with the wonderfully fragrant leaves.  Finally place the major flowers like the Zinnias and Rudbeckia, and finish with the Ageratum “filler”.  This arrangement would be viewed from all sides, so I turned it frequently so it was presentable from all angles.  At some point, “enough is enough”, and

Beautyberry, at its peak, is the inspiration for this arrangement .

Beautyberry, at its peak, is the inspiration for this arrangement .

you know it is complete.

We had a special event in our community this weekend.  Friends from our garden club made many beautiful silk arrangement to decorate our “Boutique Sale,” which were also offered for sale.  They were elegant and beautiful throughout the room.  My little pumpkin arrangement sat in our refreshment area, and went home today with a special friend as a “thank you” for her help this weekend.  It will only last a few days, but the joy in making it lasts a life-time.

The second arrangement with the dill, for home.

The second arrangement with the dill, for home.

Whether you cut a single blossom, or a bouquet, just remember that most plants respond well to “pruning”, and generally give far more flowers over the season when you harvest flowers regularly.   Cultivate a “cut and come again” garden with blooms and branches ready for harvest throughout the season.

Share with friends, family, your community, and of course, bring the beauty of your own garden into your home as often as you’re able.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013Sept 22 flowers 019

Garden Snippings

After a thunderstorm and heavy rain last night, I went looking early this morning for blossoms to snip for an arrangement for a friend. This small arrangement is made from three different varieties of Basil, Pineapple Mint, Lime Queen Zinnias, and a few rose blossoms the deer overlooked in their latest munching.  Since Basil is … Continue reading

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