Dichotomy, or, Courageous Gardening

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“Success is not final,
failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.”
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Winston S. Churchill

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November isn’t for the faint of heart.

As chill winds blow and birds flock up to travel to gentler places, a season’s growth shrivels before our eyes, and blows away.  Much of what  we have nurtured and admired for the past several months perishes in the short span of a couple of weeks.

The changes come almost imperceptibly at first, and then overwhelming in their inevitability.

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The trees in our garden transform themselves from green to scarlet to brown or bare.  More and more branches stand naked in the morning chill each day, and we know from our years of watching this that soon enough our garden will fall away to its barest bones.

Our lush landscape will soon be made mostly of brown and grey sticks, beige grass, bare beds.

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November is when you feel deep gratitude for every vibrant green Camellia shrub you’ve planted, and wonder why you haven’t planted more.

You study the framework of evergreens; box and myrtle, Osmanthus, juniper, holly, Magnolia and hemlock.  These are the stalwart companions that sparkle in the winter sunshine, assuring us of the continuity of life through the gardens’ time of rest.

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“Have enough courage to trust love one more time
and always one more time.”
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Maya Angelou
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We dig into the cooling Earth, placing our faith in dormant bulbs and tubers; trusting that they will eventually awaken and strike new roots and greet us with fresh growth and soft flowers and bright color when the days have grown longer and warmer once again.

We know those days will come, despite the wintery months ahead.

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November shows its two faces in our garden.  Leaves fall as flowers bloom.  Birds gather and fill the air with music.  Buds swell on the Magnolias‘ newly bared branches, and berries redden among the prickly holly leaves.   One day the sky is low and white, the next it’s deepest blue.

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“You do not need to know precisely what is happening,
or exactly where it is all going.
What you need
is to recognize the possibilities and challenges
offered by the present moment,
and to embrace them
with courage, faith and hope.”
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Thomas Merton

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Yet summer lives in all the seasons of a gardener’s heart.  We watch nature’s machinations in autumn, knowing that it is only a preparation for what is to come.  We take courage in the sure knowledge of vibrant life in every root and limb.  We look past the illusions of disillusion,  putting our faith in ripening seeds and and expanding rhizomes, hungry earthworms, mycelium, and moss.

We take courage from our own determination to cultivate beauty in every circumstance.  We trust November as surely as we trust May, and so breathe deeply; knowing that all is well.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Rescuing Our Caladiums

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As the season changes, our Caladiums have grown a little droopy and woebegone.

Tropical, heat loving Caladiums don’t care much for cold winds and autumn’s chill at night.  It is time to rescue them from their pots, and help them grow dormant for the coming winter.

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Caladium ‘White Delight’ still looked pretty good on October 3.   I rescued this one on Friday, and its tuber is in the garage preparing for winter storage.

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Many gardeners treat their Caladiums like annuals, letting them freeze alongside the petunias and impatiens.    There is no harm in that, so long as you have deep pockets to buy all the Caladiums you want come spring.  But if you are a thrifty gardener, or have just grown attached to your Caladiums and would like to enjoy them for another year, saving them takes very little effort.

As Caladiums prepare to go dormant, their leaves first droop, and then just sort of fade away.  I was disappointed to discover that process well underway with some of my potted Caladiums, making it nearly impossible to find their buried tubers without vigorous digging through the entire pot.

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I’ll bring this basket of Begonia, tender lady fern and Caladium into the garage before our first freeze.

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If you have Caladiums planted alongside ferns or other plants you want to save, that vigorous digging might not be possible without doing a lot of damage.  In that case, you can simply bring the pot indoors for the winter, with the Caladium tubers left in the soil.  Water sparingly, and try to keep the pot at 50F or above and the Caladiums will survive and begin sending out new leaves next spring.

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These Caladium tubers can be dug up for storage. I’ll fill their space in this basket with some Violas.

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My brilliant gardening friend has even overwintered her Caladiums (accidentally she says) under several inches of fallen leaves left on their bed as mulch.  Some of the newer varieties have been bred to be more cold tolerant, and how do you argue with success?

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A flat filled with Caladiums I have already rescued for storage

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The most reliable way to save your favorite Caladium tubers for next season is to simply dig them, dry them, and store them indoors.   Dig several inches to the side of where the remaining leaves emerge from the soil, and work your way around to loosen the tuber.

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Most Caladiums have extensive roots by now, and you will need to work gently to avoid cutting or breaking the tubers, which may have grown much larger than what you planted last spring.   Sometimes, the tubers calve over summer, and you may be digging up a clump of little tubers growing together.

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Once you lift the Caladium and shake off as much dirt as possible, simply lay the whole plant, leaves and roots and all, into a flat or box where it can dry in a sheltered place.  Remember to gently dig or comb through the soil with your fingers in search of any little stray bits of  tuber. Even bits as small as a dime may be saved, and will grow next spring.

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I’ve been planting a tuber of Arum itallicum in many of the spots where I’m lifting Caladiums this month.   The evergreen Arum will look great growing over winter, keeping pots and beds green through the cold season.  Pair Arum with spring flowering bulbs, Violas, Heucheras, Hellebores, hardy ferns, ivy, snapdragons, Saxifraga, or even just with a mulch of living moss  to fill pots or beds with winter interest.

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These Arum italicum, already a few years old, are emerging now for the cold months ahead.  They are similar enough to Caladiums to make a good winter substitute, and grow near where I lifted some Caladiums from the bed last week.

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Once you’ve dug all of your Caladiums, spread the plants out in a single layer in an empty flat or box, in a protected shady area where they may dry over the next few weeks.  During this time the leaves and roots will wither, the remaining soil around the root will dry, and any nicks to the tubers from digging should heal.  I allow ours to dry in our garage where they are out of the weather, and protected from freezing as nights grow colder.

After several weeks, you should be able to shake away any remaining soil and easily pull of the withered stems and roots.  Any damaged tubers may be dusted or dipped into a fungicide for extra protection.  Otherwise, simply pack them loosely into mesh bags with some wood shavings, rice hulls, sawdust, or dry peat moss.

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We can begin to move newly sprouted Caladiums outside by late May.

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I normally save the rice hulls my Caladiums arrive in from the grower each spring, and reuse them for storage over winter.  Individual bags of Caladiums may be kept together in a larger box or paper grocery bag until time to plant next spring.  Store them in a closet or other out of the way spot in a heated room.

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Caladium tubers, ready for spring planting

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I start our stored Caladium in late March each year, usually several weeks earlier than the grower will ship new Caladium tubers to Virginia.  We have fresh Caladiums ready to plant out in pots and beds again as soon as it grows warm enough for them to take off for the new season ahead. Since the tubers grow a little bit each year, saved tubers may be larger and more lush than the new ones you buy.

All in all, a good deal for those of us who truly love our Caladiums.

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This is the Caladium I rooted from a leaf over the summer. It finally produced a second leaf, seen here, before the rooted leaf faded away. I plan to bring this pot indoors before frost, and hope the tiny new tuber will keep over winter to continue growing next year.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Fabulous Friday: Autumn Re-Blooming Iris

Iris ‘Immortality’

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Something white caught my eye as I was watering the other evening.   As if by magic, an Iris scape stood there tall and proud, its white buds glowing in the fading light.  The second bloom of our re-blooming Iris catch me by surprise each autumn.  It is hard to predict when they will appear.

Our favorite I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ sent up a scape with four buds last week.

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Iris ‘Rosalie Figgee’ blooming last week.  It is past time for me to clear up the spent Iris foliage to prepare for fall blooms.

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It re-blooms reliably through the fall, sometimes blooming into December.  But I. ‘Immortality’ is a little more rare, and we always accept her fall blooms with deep appreciation.

Just as many perennials wind down for the season, Iris will often begin to grow fresh leaves.  Their spring-time leaves are often yellowed or burned at the tip.  This is a good time to clean up the old spent foliage, if you haven’t already, and cut back their weathered leaves.

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The Iris grow well with culinary sage.  Seed heads from our garlic chives add texture. I like them very much, though I know I’d be wise to follow Eliza’s advice and deadhead more of these before the garden is overrun with chives next summer,  grown from these lovely seeds.

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A little water, and maybe a top-dressing of compost or a sprinkle of Espoma will revive their vitality.  If your Iris are a re-blooming type, this may increase your fall blossoms.  If not, you have prepared your plants for a beautiful show next spring.

This is also on my ‘to-do’ list, and so these beautiful blossoms have emerged today from less than beautiful foliage.   With cooler weather in our forecast, I will hope to accomplish this, too, before I take off for the West Coast in mid-October.

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Pineapple Sage, in its fall glory, still sends out new buds.

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Our garden is filled with light today, and alive with many pollinators feasting on the goldenrod.  They focus with such concentration as they work flower to flower, gathering nectar and pollen to feed their colonies through the long winter ahead.

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There are plenty of flowers left for our enjoyment, as well as for those nectar loving creatures who visit us.

I will head back out there shortly to make up for our lack of rain this week, with another good soaking from the hose.  It takes a lot of water to satisfy our thirsty garden, and watering allows me to see things I might otherwise miss.  It also keeps the flowers coming, and with any luck, we’ll have more Iris emerging soon.

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

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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I’m learning to make wire sculpture trees, and this is my second attempt: ‘Oak in autumn.’  I’ll learn so much about the structure of trees through sculpting them in wire.

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Autumn Roses, Safely in a Vase Today

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The wind is cold out of the west.  Even with brilliant sunshine, it was shivery cold as I dug the last tender fern to bring in today.  Frost has been forecast several times over the last week, but thus far its  been only a flirtation with that first autumn frost which decimates what’s left of our summer garden.

Most of our tender plants are either inside already, or snuggled up against the walls of our protected patio.  I trust that area to stay a few degrees warmer than the garden, which will suffice until the weather turns truly frosty next month.

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I cut a half dozen roses early Saturday morning to take to my parents, believing if left growing, they would be frozen that night.  But, as you can see, the roses keep unfolding peacefully.  The colors may be a little off from May.  Yet I believe these are almost more beautiful.

Last night hovered around 33F for a few hours around sunrise.  But tonight, I believe, will be ‘it.’  We’ve had several weeks now to prepare and remember every last thing we can possibly bring indoors.

Except the roses….

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Even yesterday afternoon, I made cuttings from our favorite scented geraniums thinking to stick them in pots around other things in hopes they will root and last through winter in the garage/conservatory.  And this afternoon, I cut a few more beautiful and wonderfully scented sprigs for this vase.

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The roses are the main attraction here.  But they are accented with a few of the very first little starts I set out last April:  A lacy Spanish lavender and a beautiful blue mealy sage.  Both have bloomed non-stop for the last seven months.  They might even come back next spring if our winter is mild.   You might also notice a few stems of Euphorbia, ‘Diamond Frost,’ still blooming in the garden, and a few tiny trumpets of lavender Oxalis.

The vase was made by our potter friend, Denis Orton.  These wonderful crystalline glazes are one of his passions, and we enjoy collecting pieces of his work from time to time.

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The roses are heavily perfumed ones, and have filled the house with their beautiful aroma as they warm up indoors.  If frost does come tonight, we will still have roses to enjoy for the next few days, and the house will still smell of summer.

That was reason enough to venture out this afternoon to cut them for a vase, and touch with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden yet again.  She faithfully cuts and arranges beautiful vases of flowers each week, photographing them and writing each week about what is fresh in her garden.  I admire her dedication to this meme, and appreciate her giving other gardeners the opportunity to join in every Monday.

Please visit her page to see what other gardeners around the world have to arrange this week as we slip ever closer to the holidays.

I am far more likely to plant up a pot of something for the house than to cut flowers and arrange them.  But every now and again, I can’t resist harvesting a bit of beauty and bringing it in for us to enjoy.  And so with theses roses, safely in a vase indoors before the frost.

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Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden....

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is available now

Packing It In… Before the Frost

A new leaf of Alocasia 'stingray' is opening, even as we bring our tender plants in for autumn.

A new leaf of Alocasia ‘Stingray’ is opening, even as we bring our tender plants in for autumn.

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It’s hard to know these days whether we live in Zone 7b or 8a.  Technically, by the map, James City County is rated in hardiness Zone 7b, which means we might have winter temperatures as low as 5-10F.  I can’t remember the last time it grew that cold here.  But I’ll accept it’s possible.

Beyond the lowest winter temperature, climate zone also informs us when to expect the first freezing temperatures of autumn and the last freeze in spring.  The first frost date for Zone 7b falls on October 15; the first frost in Zone 8a falls a month later on November 15.  That said, we’ve not  yet had a night colder than 40F.

But, the cold is definitely coming.  Which is why we’ve devoted the last several days to moving as many tender potted plants as possible back indoors for the winter.

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This Caladium, 'Sweet Carolina,' came indoors in its pot, with its companion Begonias.

This Caladium, ‘Sweet Carolina,’ came indoors this week  in its pot, with its companion Begonias.

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I like to prioritize and organize, especially when the forecast fluctuates and one can’t be certain when that first freeze will come.  (It’s a game of chance, calculating how long to wait before beginning the annual migration. While it must be finished before frost, the plants benefit from every sunny warmish autumn day they can remain out in the garden.)  

I began with the Caladiums,  perhaps the most tender of our tropical plants.  I’ve dried most of the tubers, packed them carefully, and brought them inside for warm storage during the winter.  But, hedging my bets, lots are still left growing in pots indoors.  I’ve had good success overwintering Caladium tubers in pots with other plants.  While they like heat and prefer a spot in the living room, they will survive in pots kept in the garage.  While they never freeze there, the temperatures may dip into the 40s some nights.  Even potted Caladiums will soon go dormant, but may delight us with new growth in January or February.

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This mixed basket of Begonias, all started fresh from cuttings in May, has moved into the living room for the winter. I set baskets like this into deep clear plastic containers so they can be watered without making a huge mess.

This mixed basket of Begonias, all started fresh from cuttings in May, has moved into the living room for the winter. I set baskets like this into deep clear plastic containers so they can be watered without making a huge mess.

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The fall migration always calls for some repotting, and more this year than some.  The Norfolk Island Pine dislikes night time temperatures below 50F.  Giving ours a new pot, and a new, lower stand indoors, was high on the list.  While ours touched the ceiling on its old stand last year, it has grown several inches over summer on the patio.  It sits on a much lower table now in the corner of our hall, draped in white lights, and awaiting its holiday  dressing with blown glass balls.

Our Begonias and ferns grew more this summer than I’d realized.  Some are positively huge!  I look at photos taken in early summer and marvel at how much growth they’ve given us this year.  Finding space for each pot and basket remains a challenge.  I’ve coped this year by cutting some of the cane Begonias back hard before moving them.    I’ve gathered the cut stems into vases, hoping most will root.  When there isn’t space for all of the pots, at least one can keep a favorite plant going over winter as a cutting.

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Alocasia 'Stingray' has an interesting leaf. Can you see the narrow 'tail' formed by the tip of the leaf? Our largest leaf has grown to nearly 2' wide.

Alocasia ‘Stingray’ has an interesting leaf. Can you see the narrow ‘tail’ formed by the tip of the leaf? Our largest leaf has grown to nearly 2′ wide.

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We use empty buckets, arranged on large plastic bags, to hold those hanging baskets we plan to keep over winter.  The baskets sit all in a long row along one wall of the garage, under the bank of windows.  They are messy to water, especially those more than a year old.  The potting soil is dense with roots, and poured water tends to run off.  We use blown glass globes to keep them hydrated.  I fill the globes with water a few times each week, through the winter, to keep the soil moist enough for the plants to survive.

Plastic picnic tablecloths cover the garage floor where I mass our pots.  Although each pot has its own saucer or plate, the plastic catches spills, overfills, and fallen leaves.  This isn’t a neat project, but one well worth the trouble to keep plants from season to season.

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Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

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The Bougainvillea vines have been covered in blooms, loving the autumn sunshine on the patio.  I wish we could leave them in place year round, but they are too tender to survive a freeze.  Old plants now, their long stems are 8′-12′ long, branched and thorny.  Their pots don’t require much space, but their stems make them hard to place in the garage.  Some years they keep blooming right through January!

It is quite a production to bring them in, and so we did it today while we had sunshine and a little warmth.

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Today we also finally repotted the largest and oldest of our cane Begonias.  It had been in its current plastic pot for nearly a decade.  The plant, itself, was nearly 6′ tall and its long canes reached out in every direction.  I had to prune it hard, first; clean out fallen leaves and old wood; and then free the root ball from its sadly disintegrating pot.  Its new, larger 20″ square pot accepted the roots with room to spare (whew!) and looks so much better!  We found space for the pot in the garage, where this venerable old Begonia will get lots of winter sun.  But I’m even more excited that there will soon be lots of rooted cuttings to share.

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This Begonia has spent the last 4 winters indoors, and comes back each summer better than ever begfore.

This Begonia has spent the last four winters indoors, and comes back each summer better than ever before.

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And finally, it was time to work with our huge new Alocasias.    Although these tubers are sometimes sold dry and dormant, I decided to try to keep the plants in leaf through winter, in the garage.   Some  may be marginally hardy here, but I don’t really want to take that chance.  We  lifted A. Sarian from its pot on Monday, and replanted it into a much smaller pot for winter.  Its long petioles reach high, to let each leaf capture as much sun as possible.

A. Plumbea, hardy only to Zone 9, was lifted from the ground into a new pot last week, but left out on the patio to adjust.  Our huge and beautiful A. ‘Stingray,’  which have greeted us beside the drive all summer, came in today, too.  One pot stands in the garage, the other is nestled into the sunniest part of our front patio, sheltered by a brick wall.     A. ‘Stingray,’ hardy to Zone 8, might make it through winter in its huge pot, sheltered in this sunny spot on the patio.

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Colocasia 'Tea cups' is hardy to Zone 7. I've left it outside in its pot, hoping it will make it through the winter. I brought a little division indoors in a pot.

Colocasia ‘Tea cups’ is hardy to Zone 7. I’ve left it outside in its pot, hoping it will make it through the winter.  I brought a little division indoors in a pot.

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The front patio also shelters several tender trees, like pomegranate, olive, and grapefruit.  I usually wait until bitter cold sets in, 20s at least, to move these indoors.  They appreciate the sun, and can survive a light freeze.

Over the years I’ve learned to think strategically about holding plants through the winter.  A huge pot of Colocasia ‘Mojito,’ kept in the basement last year, didn’t come in today.  It was late afternoon when I came to it, and I was already running on fumes.

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Colacasia 'Mojito'

Colocasia ‘Mojito’

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Instead, I divided the Colocasia and repotted just a few tubers of it into a much smaller pot, setting the remaining tubers out into the soil.  I’ve had some luck with Colocasia cultivars rated to Zone 8 overwintering in the ground in this garden, and I decided to give it a try.  We brought the smaller pot in to keep overwinter in the basement as ‘insurance.’   I ended up doing the same thing with our Colocasia ‘tea cups.’    Another massive plant, I left the main tuber in its large pot in the garden, but potted up one of its little offspring tubers to bring indoors.  It is supposed to be hardy in Zone  7, and so I’m hopeful  it will survive our winters in its pot.

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Alocasia 'Sarian,' hardy only to zone 9, came to us in a 4" pot in late May. It didn't reach its 6' potential this year, but mayben ext yera?

Alocasia ‘Sarian,’ hardy only to zone 9, came to us in a 4″ pot in late May. It didn’t reach its 6′ potential this year, but maybe next year?  The Coleus surrounding it, grown from cuttings, will be replaced next year.

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Smaller plants get dug up and tucked into largish pots of other plants.  I’ve brought in a few tiny Begonias today in the palm of my hand, transplanting them in with something else.    I’ve done the same with tender ferns and vines, planting them into a pot of Caladium ‘Moonlight’ tubers.

All of our beautiful geraniums still sit out in the cold.  I’ve not had energy or space for a single one so far.  Our first night down into the 30s is forecast for Friday or Saturday night.  Although tender, geraniums can be found in abundance each spring.  And they don’t much like overwintering in our garage.  If I save any, it will be some of the scented Pelargoniums.

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Some Lantana prove hardy for us, others don't make it through the winter. This has been an especially nice Coleus and I'll likely take cutttings before frost.

Some Lantana prove hardy for us, others don’t make it through the winter. This has been an especially nice Coleus and I’ll likely take cuttings before frost.  The colors of both plants grow more intense in late autumn as night time temperatures cool.

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It is hard to watch favorite plants wither after the first frost.  I gave some potted Begonias and some cuttings  to a neighbor today.  I’ve run out of space to keep them.  There are other pots of coleus and Euphorbia, geraniums and impatiens which won’t make it indoors before the coming freeze.  It makes me sad to see them freeze, but I’ve learned that these plants, kept over winter, won’t grow as well or as vibrantly next season.  Sometimes it is better to begin again with new plants and new soil in spring.

Each turn of the seasons offers an opportunity begin again; a fresh start.  We get to apply what we’ve learned, but to do it differently.  Empty pots now, perhaps; but in  a few months they will stand ready to replant.  We’ll have the fun of choosing new plants and creating new combinations with them.

Surely, we’ll learn something new, too.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Begonia 'Richmondensis' will bloom indoors through the winter months.

Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ will bloom indoors through the winter.

 

Changes

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We treasure these fragrant autumn roses, still opening in our garden.   Our ‘Indian Summer’ has begun its inevitable shift towards winter.  The trees here grow more vibrant with each passing day; scarlet, orange, gold and clear yellow leaves dance in the wind and ornament our windshields and drive.  Finally, autumn.

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We’re engaged in the long, slow minuet of change, sped along by storms and cold fronts sweeping across us from elsewhere.  It hit 80 here yesterday as I worked in our garden.  I planted the last of our stash of spring bulbs, and moved an Hydrangea shrub from its pot into good garden soil.  The sun shone brightly as butterflies danced among the Pineapple Sage and flower laden Lantana in the upper garden.

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We had a good, soaking rain over night, waking up to winds from the north and temperatures a good 25 degrees lower than yesterday’s high.  From here on, our nights will dip back into the 40’s again, and I worry about our tender plants.  When  to bring them in?

Last year I carried pots in, and then back out of the garage, for weeks as the temperatures danced up and down.  This year, I”m trying to have a bit more faith and patience, leaving those precious Begonias and ferns in place as long as possible.

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Most of our Caladiums are inside now, but not all.  I’ve left a few out in pots, and am amazed to see new leaves still opening.  Warm sunshine and fresh breezes day after day seem a reward well worth the slight risk of a sudden freeze.

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This is how ‘climate change’ looks in our garden.

We were well into December before our first freeze last year.  It was balmy on Christmas, way too warm to wear holiday sweaters.  One felt more like  having a Margarita  than hot cocoa.  But why complain when the roads are clear and the heat’s not running?

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And I expect more of the same in the weeks ahead.  Our  great ‘pot’ migration from garden to house is delayed a few weeks, with the Begonias and Bougainvillea blooming their hearts out in the garden, still.    The autumn Iris keep throwing up new flower stalks, the Lantana have grown to epic proportions, and the Basil and Rosemary remain covered in flowers.

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But the garden, flower filled as it may be, grows through a growing blanket of fallen leaves.  Heavy dew bejewels each petal and leaf at dawn.  Squirrels gather and chase and chatter as they prepare their nests for the cold coming.

And the roses….

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Their flowers concentrate the last bits of color and fragrance into every precious petal.  They’ve grown sweeter and darker as the nights grow more chilled.

I”m loathe to trim them, this late in the season, and so hips have begun to swell and soon will glow orange, a reminder both of what has passed, and what is yet to come…

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Transmogrify

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“Transmogrify: to change in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely; transform.”

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Ferns in the Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR

Ferns in the Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City, OR

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Isn’t this a great word for October?  Especially as we prepare for that most transformative of holidays, Halloween or Samhain; when we focus on our fear of change.

This isn’t the sweet and uplifting change of bare branches breaking into springtime blossoms and emerging daffodils.  We now find ourselves at the other side of the wheel of the year:  Autumn, where our garden begins to disintegrate as we head towards winter.

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Rudbeckia fading in our garden as the Salvia keeps getting better

Rudbeckia fading in our garden as the Salvia keeps getting better.

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Flowers transform into dry seedheads;  leaves lose their green and blow down from our trees onto the lawn.  Frost kills our tender annuals, and much of our garden withers.

What was so lovely a few weeks ago has grown grotesque.  Green stems turn brown, then grey.  Plump and healthy plants twist and shrivel.  We’re left with frost blasted perennials and the  naked skeletons of trees.  And we find ourselves left with this mess to tidy up sometime between now and the coming spring.

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Once mighty tree turned into driftwood on an Oregon beach near Pacific City.

A once mighty tree turned into driftwood, on an Oregon beach near Pacific City.

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But since both spring and fall are simply two sides of the same annual cycle, we also find closure and balance in autumn’s path.

There are ripe seeds to gather and sow, perennials to divide, and fruits to harvest.   There is beauty in the garden, still.

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Basil and Salvia in our garden

Basil and Salvia in our garden this week, where ripe seeds stand alonside new flowers, much to the goldfinches’ delight!

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Autumn’s lesson reflects the wisdom of the Hindu god, Shiva:  Destruction of the old precedes  creation of the new.  It is the lesson of compost; the truth of a seed splitting itself open so that a tender new shoot may emerge;  the dark wisdom of all fertility.

Gardening is about transformation.  Our only constant remains constant change.

And transmogrification, our garden in autumn, prepares the way for a new springtime beginning.

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Transmogrify

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Re-blooming Iris open alongside Allium seeds and fading perennials.

Re-blooming Iris ‘Rosalie Figee’ opens alongside Allium seeds and Rudbeckia in our garden.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Orange

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Orange does liven things up a bit.  Its warmth and energy feel like the perfect foil for the icy garden outside our windows.

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Just as orange juice brightens up a wintery morning, so a collection of orange photos might make us all feel a bit warmer as we close out this first full week of March.

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When I think of orange, I think of October.

Today’s collection of photos, all from October of 2014, take us back to butterflies and roses; leaves changing color on the trees and warm autumn sunsets.

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I hope you will soak up a little of their warmth as you enjoy this photographic retrospective.

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Inspired by the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Orange

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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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

Samhain

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The end of October also means the end of our Indian Summer.

Another sunny and warmish day here, a friend and I drove out to our favorite Homestead Garden Center this afternoon for pansies, panolas and soil.

With clearance in progress, ahead of the coming Christmas trees and wreathes, we also picked up some end of season ferns and perennials.

 

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We drove home contented, with the back of my auto filled to the brim with trays of plants and bags of good rich compost.

 

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Our conversation was interspersed with,”Look at that!” and ” Oh, how pretty!” our whole way out into the country, and back, as we enjoyed the beautiful trees along the way.

My partner has had an eye to the weather all day. 

 

October 28, 2014 fall color 104

It seems we have a n’oreaster in store this weekend.

We don’t expect to see snow, but we’ll have wind and our first truly cool days and nights.  So often these windstorms strip the trees of their leaves just as the color hits its peak.

 

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So gentle October will blow away as two storms converge tomorrow over the East Coast, bringing  the first blast of winter to the eastern United States.

It snowed this morning in Chicago.  Snow on Halloween?  Really?

 

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This is the season of changes; endings and beginnings.

This is a good time to remember that the seeds of the new are always contained in the husk of the old.  Don’t you find that to be true in your own life?

 

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Samhain  is a transition time;  a time of remembrance.

I spent much of the day catching up with friends and meeting new neighbors.

A good way to mark this special day, I think.

 

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And this afternoon I finally dug up the last Begonia “Gryphon” from its spot on the deck, and brought it into the garage for winter.

I’ve been procrastinating, as you have probably guessed; but  finally have almost all of our Begonias indoors.

Those that remain outside are sheltered, and one especially huge pot just isn’t going to come in this year.  (Unless I can figure out a way to wrestle it from the deck into the garage before that first true freeze, that is.)

 

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Finally, I made chocolate spiders for the neighborhood Halloween party this evening.

It is a little late to be giving you the recipe now, I know;  but I’ll write it out so you have the idea for next year.

 

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We have been corralling real spiders in the house for the last few weeks.  It amazes me how they find their way inside.

But we keep a glass jar and an old greeting card handy to catch them and carry them back outside.

The chocolate variety (of spiders)  are big and delicious looking.  They might look especially frighteningly delicious  perched on a huge scoop of pumpkin ice cream.

Whether you celebrate Samhain, Halloween, The Day of the Dead, or even good old Guy Fawkes Day, I hope you have enjoyed it with those you love!

 

October 28, 2014 fall color 102

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Chocolate Spiders

1.  Pour a bag of milk or semi-sweet chocolate bits into a glass bowl, and microwave on high for thirty seconds.  Stir.  Microwave and stir in fifteen second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir the chocolate briskly with a rubber spatula for about two minutes to temper the chocolate.

2.  Line a baking pan with waxed or parchment paper.

3.  Stir about two cups of Asian Chow Mein noodles into the chocolate and stir to coat.  Add more noodles, as needed, until all of the chocolate is used.

4.  Lift small lumps of coated noodles using two forks, and place them on the parchment.  Each “spider” should be about a tablespoon of noodles and chocolate.  Flatten the pile slightly, and arrange the noodles so it looks like a spider with many legs.

5.  Use two M&Ms or other small round candies to make the eyes. 

6.  Place the tray of chocolate spiders in the freezer for ten minutes, or the refrigerator for thirty while the chocolate hardens. 

7.  Serve on a platter, bag the spiders individually in candy bags, or serve as a garnish on ice cream.

All that is left... the end of the batch.  These don't have quite as much chocolate as the ones we took to the neighborhood gathering.

All that is left… the end of the batch. These don’t have quite as much chocolate as the ones we took to the neighborhood gathering.  But you get the idea….

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