Sunday Dinner: Choosing Happiness

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“The most courageous act
is still to think for yourself.
Aloud.”
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Coco Chanel
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“Freedom is not worth having
if it does not include the freedom
to make mistakes.”
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Mahatma Gandhi
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Rudbeckia laciniata, a beautiful native plant, grows to 10′ tall and spreads each year. Here, cozy with pineapple mint.

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“Those who deny freedom to others,
deserve it not for themselves”
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Abraham Lincoln
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“Letting go gives us freedom,
and freedom is the only condition for happiness.
If, in our heart, we still cling to anything –
anger, anxiety, or possessions –
we cannot be free.”
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Thich Nhat Hanh
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.
The obedient must be slaves.”
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Henry David Thoreau
 
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Delicious Attraction

August 23, 2016 pots 020

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There is nothing like Lantana camara to attract butterflies.  And if we didn’t know that already, we would have  noticed it yesterday while we were visiting at the Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  Homestead still has a large stock of Lantana in several sizes.  Owner Joel Patton always carries a wide selection of varieties, but he concentrates on L. ‘Miss Huff’ and the new ‘Chapel Hill’ introductions known to survive our Williamsburg winters.  These new varieties are hardy to at least Zone 7A.

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August 23, 2016 pots 024

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And so Joel was cutting back and potting up Lantana to gallon sized pots yesterday while we visited and watched the many butterflies feeding.  I loaded up  a tray with several L. ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ and L. ‘Evita Orange,’ and a couple of Pentas, also known as butterfly favorites, to fill in some holes in our front garden beds.  I’ve got to tell you, a butterfly flew into the trunk to follow one of those Lantanas and we had to shoo it out before we could leave.

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August 23, 2016 pots 029

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We had another gorgeous, cool morning today, and I determined to get the new plants in the ground before the heat returns towards the weekend.  Well, once settling the tray near the bed, I made a second trip to bring up the bag of compost.  And before I could return, our butterflies had found the new little Lantana plants.  They were that eager!

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Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feed across and 1'-2' high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feet across and 1′-2′ high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

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And they didn’t mind me a bit.  I suppose ‘the gardener’ has special privileges….  But they just kept right on feeding with me just a foot or two away.  We had mostly Tiger Swallowtails this morning.  There were five or six individuals, including an elusive Zebra Swallowtail which kept a safer distance away.  He watched us from afar as he fed from the nearby Black Eyed Susans.

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August 23, 2016 pots 023~

Once the Lantana and Penta were planted, a bit of weeding done and  beds dressed in fresh compost; I returned to watering.  I can’t remember when last it rained for more than a few minutes.  The garden is dry now, and my morning ritual goes straight to watering each day before I even think of making coffee.  Hours later, we come in as the mercury climbs to pull together a little brunch.

That said, the butterflies appreciate the water, too.  A lovely Zebra Swallowtail played in the fine spray yesterday morning.  Today a hummingbird showed up nearly as soon as began watering in the new plantings.

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This Lantana 'Chapel Hill Yellow' was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

This Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

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There is a mid-sized Afghan fig tree growing in the middle of the bed, and the hummingbird came, as soon as its leaves were wet, to drink from the water now gathered in the cup of the leaf.  The little one actually landed and sat in the leaf for a moment or two, before flying into the edge of the spray.  Well, that must have felt just grand.  He flitted back and forth, pausing now and again, until he was completely refreshed.

If your garden is as dry as mine, and you are looking for ways to help the wildlife there, water a few patches of bare ground until they are well soaked.  You may notice butterflies landing on damp earth and around puddles.  They can drink the water right out of the ground if they need moisture badly.  Birds will come to wet earth, too, finding it easier to dig for insects and worms.

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This is the first Lantana 'Evita' I've purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I'm not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I've left the tag so I'll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

This is the first Lantana ‘Evita’ I’ve purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I’m not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I’ve left the tag so I’ll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

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Gardening to support wildlife is all about creating a delicious attraction.  When we provide steady sources of food, water and  shelter in a safe, poison free environment; they will come.  Bees, birds, butterflies, turtles lizards and toads scout out those special places to live.  They can smell when a place is right.  They can see the seeds and flowers waiting for their feasting.

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This Verbena 'Lollipop' is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath's in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

This Verbena ‘Lollipop’ is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath’s in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

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Just plant those special plants, like Lantana, Penta, Salvias, Basil and other herbs, Rudbeckia, Verbena, Echinacea,  Hibiscus, Canna, Pelargonium, Petunia, Zingiger  and Fuchsia.  They will attract any butterfly or hummingbird for a long way around.  And then you, too, can enjoy the beauty of these special creatures fluttering through your garden.

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Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?

Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?  Today I added a few parsley plants with next year’s Swallowtail caterpillars in mind….

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Woodland Gnome 2016
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August 23, 2016 pots 026

 

Wednesday Vignette: Rudbeckia

August 17, 2016 garden 038

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“From a bud of the evening

a flower opens its petal in the dawn.

The world sees the bud of the last night

smiling with nectar on its lips.

No one observed the diligence

that was needed

for the opening of each petal.”

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Pratibha Ray

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August 17, 2016 garden 039

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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August 17, 2016 garden 043

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“Amateurs look for inspiration;

the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

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Chuck Close

Blossom III

July 18, 2016 mugs 023

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“Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.”

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Claude Monet

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“What keeps my heart awake is colorful silence.”

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Claude Monet

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July 18, 2016 mugs 008

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“If you take a flower in your hand

and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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July 18, 2016 mugs 024

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Details
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Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII

A “Post Wild World”?

July 27, 2015 Parkway 029

Jamestown Island, July 2015

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Are we gardening in a ‘Post Wild World’? 

Friends invited me to a gathering of area gardeners today. We enjoyed hearing a presentation by landscape architect and newly published author Thomas Rainer,  who shared his philosophy of garden design while promoting his new bookPlanting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, published by Timber Press this past October.

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This is one of the many Crepe Myrtle trees growing around our garden.

This is one of the many Crepe Myrtle trees growing around our garden, with the native trees of our ‘forest’ all around it.

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Yes, urban and suburban development claims ever more of our planet each passing year, with devastating consequences for the environment.  This has been true through my entire life, and probably yours, too.

I jumped on this bandwagon back in the 1970’s, and read any number of excellent books about designing gardens based on nature and using native plants, published by Rodale Press back in the 1980’s.  I internalized these principles long ago.  And still, it pleased me to hear a young landscape architect presenting these well worn principles with a certain freshness and flair.

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Native Hibiscus fill our garden this week. Deer never touch them, and they bloom for more than a month each summer.

Native Hibiscus fill our garden each summer. Deer never touch them, and they bloom for more than a month.

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Rainer summarized his concept as integrating ornamental horticulture with greater use of native North American plants.  He showed many examples of integrated plantings of grasses, perennials and woody plants contained within formal landscape frameworks, such as hardscape, hedges, lawns and permeable pathways.  So far, so good.

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Volunteer Black Eyed Susans have colonized the sunny edge of this clump of Colocasia.

Volunteer Black Eyed Susans have colonized the sunny edge of this clump of Colocasia.

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With skillful use of photos, Rainer demonstrated to us “The irrepressible spirit of plants.” 

Or, as all true gardeners know, wild plants (including what we label weeds) want to grow, with tenacious enthusiasm, everywhere there is a bare patch of Earth.  We examined diversity of species, layering, inter-cropping, and succession in various wild settings; including his neighbor’s ‘hellstrip’ between his unkempt yard and the street.

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Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densly matted ground cover.

Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densely matted ground cover; here with Sedum angelina.

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With much laughter, we also examined photos of various urban and suburban garden installations dotted with puny plants separated by feet of thick mulch.  The point being, that plants tend to grow better in dense communities, as opposed to widely spaced apart in poorly prepared and deeply mulched beds.

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September 30, 2015 Parkway 079

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Rainer discussed the relative amount of care required by these plantings, and made his point that much of the lushest growth in nature is actually self-sown and grown in what we would agree are stressful conditions.  Crowding, temperature extremes, dry climate and thin soil don’t deter plants growing in the environment to which they are adapted.

It is when we, as gardeners decide to create a generic planting bed, and plant without regard to a plant’s specific requirements, that the results are less than plush.

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Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City Oregon

The Connie Hansen Garden, Lincoln City Oregon, April 2015

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If you’ve been gardening for more than a few years, you’ve likely experienced these truths yourself; the hard way.

Rainer’s book is lovely and filled with inspiring photos.  You might want to add it to your library, particularly if you are a beginning gardener or one trying to break out of the suburban mold of,  “Wall to wall carpet lawn and meatball shrub foundation plantings.”  It is all in one’s aesthetic and level of ecological awareness, of course.

Many of our neighbors at today’s presentation live in communities with strict rules about which plants one may or may not plant in one’s garden.  Several of our more regulated neighborhoods in Williamsburg enforce the well groomed lawn and evergreen shrub scheme to achieve a look of refined uniformity.  I heard these ladies murmuring to one another from time to time…..

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Our front garden in mid-April

Our front garden in mid-April

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And Rainer’s advice on planning ‘layers’ of plants and covering the ground with living ‘green mulch’ to smother weeds was all sound.  He showed numerous examples of working with ground cover plants and colorful native perennials.  I wish he had also mentioned some of the marvelous native shrubs and small trees which add color and  life to the landscape.   These good ‘bones’ give the landscape character while providing food and habitat for the birds and pollinators who animate a native landscape.

Although he showed us a few of his suburban projects, most of Rainer’s work appears to have been designs for public spaces.  He showed us beautiful installations; in city median strips, parks, and around public buildings.  And so when he finished to genuinely enthusiastic applause and invited questions, the trouble began.

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There is no boundary between the Colonial Parkway, here, and our community.

There is no boundary between the Colonial Parkway, here, and our community.

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And the trouble began because he was speaking to an embattled group of Williamsburg gardeners who manage gardens amidst the realities of a ‘wild world’, which comes right up to our doorsteps.  We aren’t gardening in a safe and sanitized city.  We garden in the woods, backed up to National Park lands, marshes, rivers, creeks, and open fields full of real wild life.

And like so many newbie ‘experts,’ Rainer wasn’t prepared with the answers his audience needed to translate his theoretical ideas into practical reality.

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Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia, won't be nibbled by deer.... although they may have eaten some of its flowers last week....

Oregon Grape Holly, Mahonia, won’t be nibbled by deer…. although they may have eaten some of its flowers last week….

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“We have a lot of deer.  Will the plants you’ve described survive deer?” ….. This question, followed by a beat of embarrassed silence, and a generality leaning towards, ‘probably not.’  Rainer sympathized by admitting he had lost a newly planted perennial bed to voles and rabbits colonizing his own Northern Virginia suburban garden.  But he wasn’t prepared to discuss the common plants impervious to deer. 

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May apples with Vinca cover the ground beneath native trees and shrubs.

May apples with ivy and  Vinca minor cover the ground beneath native trees and shrubs.

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“We have a lot of trees.  How do we plant these dense plantings of perennials and ground cover under mature trees?”  Rainer’s answer about purchasing plugs and small potted perennials was spot on.  But when he described boring holes with an auger for said plugs, he lost much of his audience.

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Native Echinacea attracts many pollinators.

Native Echinacea attracts many pollinators in bloom, and birds feast on the seed heads weeks later.

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He also said little about restoring the ecological balance and supporting birds and pollinator species through plant choices.  Perhaps this message was implied;  but not emphasized nearly enough.

There were lots of nice photos of nectar rich Echinacea, Salvia and Liatris throughout his slides; but not enough discussion of habitat creation and planting for a succession of nectar rich bloom.

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Herbs mixed with perennials help keep harmful insects, like chiggers and ticks, away from garden beds.

Herbs, mixed with perennials, help keep harmful insects, like chiggers and ticks, away from garden beds.

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Someone touched on this, but from the ‘dark side.’   Her question was about chiggers, those terrible tiny insects which attack one’s skin beginning here each May.  She wanted to know whether these densely planted, diverse natural plantings would harbor insects.  Well, of course they might.  Chiggers, and ticks, too.

Sadly, Rainer’s best answer was to keep the plantings beds some distance away from the house…..  He never mentioned using herbs to repel insects from our planting beds and from around our homes.  Doesn’t everyone keep a pot of scented Pelargoniums near their porch?

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This variegated geranium is also worth saving. It has bloomed all summer under tough conditions.

This variegated Pelargonium bloomed all summer under tough conditions.

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I left unsatisfied, and without an autographed copy of Rainer’s book under my arm.  I suspect I could find much of his message in those good old Rodale Press books I studied when I was young, and still turn to today.

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October in our garden and the butterflies cover our Lantana.

October in our garden, when the butterflies cover the Lantana.

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My gardening sister and I went for a coffee after the talk, and realized we had much the same impression of Rainer and his presentation.  She reminisced about the gardens her father planted full of strawberries and flowers, fruit trees and tomatoes.  But that was half a century and half a world away now….

Hers is a family of gardeners.  Her sister is currently installing Xeriscapes for clients in California and working with several schools to manage their teaching gardens.

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Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia 'China Pink' grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia ‘China Pink’ grow in front of our Edgeworthia in partial shade.  Black Eyed Susans will bloom later in the summer.  Here, Creeping Jenny grows in to cover the mulch as foliage from spring bulbs dies back to the ground.  All of these plants are either poisonous or so distasteful, the deer ignore them.

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She and I commiserate regularly, sharing plants, problems and solutions as we discover them.  We’ve both come to a sort of peace with our own very wild gardens.   Having learned that squirrels are as greedy in stealing our tomatoes as the deer are in munching flower buds, we have found ways to foil both.

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March 20 2015 fresh 003

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But unlike Rainer, we’ve also learned that wildlife gardening doesn’t have to attract every wild animal in the neighborhood.  We’ve gotten smarter about what we plant and what we don’t.   We have learned to use poisonous plants to good effect, even to repel voles with Daffodils, Hellebores, and other plants with poisonous roots.  We mix all sorts of Alliums into our pots and beds to discourage inquiring rabbits and deer.

We’ve learned to build slightly raised beds over and around tree roots, and to welcome the many ‘native’ plants already encroaching on our gardens.

Through trial, research, flashes of inspiration and a lot of errors, we’ve been gardening and finding satisfaction in our wild forest gardens.  Nothing is ‘post wild’ here, and no augers on electric drills for us, thank you very much….

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April 9, 2015 planting 001

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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October 17, 2014 light 019

Ginger Lily

August 27, 2014 Parkway 004

Our Ginger Lilies began to bloom late yesterday afternoon.  Their perfume fills this area of the garden  with an aroma reminiscent of Easter lily or rich honeysuckle.

We’ve waited all summer for the pleasure of their blooming, and our stand of lilies is filled with buds, ready to burst open in the warmth of late summer.

Ginger Lilies grow from rhizomes.  These were a gift from a neighbor’s garden, and are hardy here in Zone 7.

August 27, 2014 Parkway 001

Many cultivars need warmer winters than Virginia offers, but these lilies  have survived and multiplied every year, creeping beyond their original bed.

These are called “Hardy White Butterfly Ginger Lily”,  Hedychium coronarium,  in the Plant Delights catalog, and grow to between 5′ and 6′ tall.

Aggressive growers, this stand of lily has grown thick and tall.  Like a field of corn, it offers a formidable barrier.  Make up your mind where you would like a permanent display before you plant the first tuber, because they aren’t easy to relocate once established.

The rhizomes are thick and tough.

I tried to dig out a few of these which were growing too far forward this spring, into the roses’ territory.  It was a tough job, and I didn’t get all of the sprouting rhizomes I should have dug.

You can dig enough to spread these around once established, but I would recommend a backhoe if you decide to reclaim the garden bed for other plants.

 

August 27, 2014 Parkway 003

But what a sweet problem to have!  These Ginger Lilies are one of our favorite flowers in the garden.

We are so appreciative to the neighbor who shared them with us.  We will enjoy a constant supply of white fragrant blossoms from now until a heavy frost.  These are one of the sweetest joys of late summer in our garden.

 

August 27, 2014 Parkway 002

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Pass Along Plants:  Ginger Lily (Forest Garden, 2013)

Pass Along Plants, Ginger Lily

Ginger Lily

White Butterfly Ginger Lily, Hedychium coronarium

 

Soon after we moved to this home, we met a wonderful neighbor who had surrounded her home with flowers.  She has giant azaleas grown from cuttings, a sea of bulbs in spring, and near her back porch, a patch of ginger lilies.

 

August 19,2013 roots 008

 

When she decided the time had come to move, she offered me the opportunity to come and dig some of her lilies.  Now, never one to turn away from the opportunity to grow a new type of plant, I happily accepted her invitation, even though I was clueless as to what a “ginger lily” might be.

These "pineapple" shaped buds will begin to open any day.

These “pineapple” shaped buds will begin to open any day.

 

Our friend offered a few bits of information:  the deer leave it alone, it blooms with sweet smelling flowers, and it is a very tough, hardy plant.  Enough said.  I grabbed a trowel, a container, and followed her across the street.

This was in the early spring, before these beautiful monsters had sent up their stalks.  I got the impression it might be similar to a Canna lily from the remains of the previous season’s plants and the large rhizomes as we began to dig.  She was very generous, and gave me quite a few roots.  Her only advice was to plant where they can get sun.

Ginger lilies in the second week of June.

Ginger lilies in the second week of June.

 

What an amazing gift these lilies have proven to be.  Ginger lilies aren’t true lilies at all, which is wonderful, since in my neighborhood true lilies are simply deer candy.  A member of the ginger family, these plants are native to Asia.  The particular variety she gave me, Hedychium coronarium, are also called, “White Butterfly Lily”, as the 2” flowers look a bit like a butterfly.

They are great favorites of butterflies and hummingbirds and smell particularly sweet.  I’ve even had a butterfly land and feed on the very flower I was sniffing!

 

August 19,2013 roots 006

Ginger lilies get a late start in spring, breaking dormancy with new growth in May, here in Zone 7b.  They grow throughout the summer, getting taller and taller every week, until by mid-August they are between 5’and 6’ tall.  Their first flower of the summer opened this week.  The lilies will continue to bloom into October at least, depending on the weather, and will die back to the ground after a few hard frosts.  I generally leave the brown stalks and foliage in place, as mulch, through the winter.  A more fastidious gardener would probably go and cut it all away in December or January, but I leave it as an extra layer of insulation for the roots in case the winter is colder than usual.

After cutting back the remains of last year’s stalks in mid-spring, and clearing away the last of the leaves blown in over the winter, I spread an inch or two of compost over the whole bed.  The ginger lilies are an excellent “back of the border” plant, and I have roses, Lavender, Rudbeckia, Salvia, and some low annuals growing in front of them.

In mid-August, the lilies are between 5'and 6' tall.

In mid-August, the lilies are between 5′ and 6′ tall.

Ginger lilies spread as their underground rhizomes and root system expands each season.  They eventually form huge clumps, and should be spaced, originally, at least 18”-24” apart.  Some varieties grow aggressively, and my beautiful “White Butterfly Lily” is considered invasive in Brazil and Hawaii.  It is the national flower of Cuba, where it is called, “White Moth Flower”.

There are numerous species and cultivars of ginger lily hardy in zones 7-10.   Most have yellow or orange flowers, and many cultivars have a much larger head of flowers atop the stems.  Some begin flowering much earlier in the summer.  For a good list of cultivars and photos, please visit Plant Delights Nursery, based near Raleigh NC.  This is an excellent mail order nursery and offers very personal customer service.  Their website is especially helpful in finding plants to fit into specific situations, like plants that won’t be devoured by your local herd of deer.

August 17 2013 ginger lilies 003

Ginger lilies will grow in a variety of soils, but of course do better in rich, well drained soil.  They prefer moist soil, especially the first year or so as the tubers establish, and should be watered when there isn’t regular rain.  Ginger lilies need full sun, or at the least very light shade, and they need plenty of room to spread.  These are large, bold plants and most cultivars will cover a large area in just a few years.

 

August 17 2013 ginger lilies 004

Our  patch of lilies has grown to the point that I should thin and divide them this spring, especially as they creep into the roses.  Little did I realize, when I was blessed with such a generous gift of rhizomes, how very “dear” these little gems are on the market.  Most retail for around $20 per plant, plus postage.  I hope that friends will remember my intention to divide when spring rolls around again, and will remind me to pass along and share what was so generously shared with me.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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