Blossom XXXI: Lantana

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“For it is in giving that we receive.”
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Francis of Assisi

Lantana proves a most generous flower.  It’s prolific blooms, full of sweet nectar, nourish butterflies from May until November.

As each flower fades, a small berry forms in its place.  These delight our hungry birds.

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“Generosity does not come from wealth.
Wealth comes from the flowers of kindness and love.”
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Debasish Mridha

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Lantana asks little for itself.  It thrives in poor soil.  It tolerates weeks of drought as its deep, sturdy roots seek out water to fuel its prolific blossoms.

It covers itself in flowers continually, growing ever larger, week by week, until it is touched by frost.

Its sturdy, green leaves soak in every ray of summer sun without wilt or burn.

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“When a person becomes aware of their genius
and they live it and they give generously from it,
they change the world, they affect the world.
And when they depart
everyone knows something is missing.”
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Michael Meade

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Many of the Lantana that we planted five or more years ago have firmly established themselves in our garden.  Their woody bones burst into life in late spring, and they quickly grow back to enormous proportions.  We leave their skeletons in place through the winter, where they offer shelter and food to the birds who hang back in our garden.

Their drying berries provide a long lasting source of food.  Their dense branches and soft, fallen leaves give shelter from wind and snow.  Small birds play in their structure,  flying in an out of openings in the canopy as they search for insects.

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We wait to cut the Lantana back until the Crocus are blooming.  Once we see these signs of spring, we cut them hard, nearly back to the ground.  Their beds are opened once again to the warming sun.

Bulbs bloom, roses bloom, grass greens, spring settles; and finally, the Lantana re-awaken;  their first blossoms opening in time to greet a new generation of visitors to our garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The Universe blesses a generous heart.”
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Eileen Anglin
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Blossom XXV: Elegance
Blossom XXVI: Angel Wing Begonia
Blossom XXVII: Life 
Blossom XXVIII: Fennel 
Blossom XXIV:  Buddleia 
Blossom XXX:  Garlic Chives
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Fabulous Friday: Visitors

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We don’t see everyone, ever.  And those we see, we never see all at once.  Often I don’t see them at all, until I spot them in a photo, later.

It fascinates me to take a photo seemingly of one thing, and spot beautiful creatures lurking in it, well camouflaged, when I study it later.

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Somewhere within the tangled mass of stems and petals, our visitors quietly go about their business.  Some, like the bumblies and hummers we may hear.

The hummers generally dart away before my camera finds its focus.  They have a special sense to know when you’re watching them, I’ve learned.

The bumblies don’t care.  They remain too focused on their serious business of gathering nectar and pollen to let my camera distract them.

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The butterflies and moths drift silently from flower to flower.  If I stand very still and quiet near a mass of flowers, I may catch their movement.  If they notice me, they may take off above the tree tops, waiting for me to move away so they can resume their sipping.

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We are spotting mostly Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies lately.

Yes, the Tiger Swallowtails and Zebra Swallowtails show up, too.  We’ve even spotted a Monarch or two.  But these beautiful black butterflies are hatching now from the caterpillars we fed earlier in the season, I believe.  I think they may be “home grown.”

Do you ever wonder whether butterflies remember their life as a caterpillar? Do they fly past the plants they grazed on earlier this season, and remember crawling there?

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We spent much of the morning out in the garden.  It was cool, and there was a breeze.

We enjoyed a ‘September sky’ today; brilliantly clear and blue, with high, bright white wisps of cloud.  It was the sort of September day which reminded me how blessed I am to be retired, and free to be outside to enjoy it.  The first week of school is still a special time for me; and I count my blessings that others have taken on that work, and I have left it behind.

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There are always things to do in the garden.  But I much prefer ‘not-doing’ in the garden.

‘Not-doing’ means wandering about to see what we can see.  I may notice what should be done later, but the point is to simply observe and enjoy.

Sometimes I leave my camera inside, or in my pocket, and just silently observe the intricate web of life unfolding around us.

But soon enough, I’m wanting to capture it all, frame it all, and share the best bits with you.

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious,

Let’s Infect One Another!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
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Lao Tzu

Home For Some Swallowtails

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We are a lot like little kids when we head out to the garden.  We get such a kick out of watching the butterflies, and their beautiful psychedelic ‘teenaged’ caterpillar families.

The family portrait here shows you a female Black Swallowtail butterfly feeding on fennel flowers.  I believe the caterpillars are also Black Swallowtail larvae.

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While the adult butterflies float around from flower to flower, the caterpillars largely stay put as they slowly move along the branches of our fennel, eating as they go.  Not to worry… the fennel grows back very quickly, shooting out lots of new stems, leaves and flowers.

I was fortunate to find four beautiful pots of bronze fennel on a clearance sale today at The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  I’ll be adding these new fennel plants to the garden in the morning, knowing they will come back even bigger and stronger in the spring.

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These caterpillars may seem a little brazen in their conspicuous gnoshing.  They love fennel, carrots, parsley and parsnips.  Whatever substances they ingest from these leaves, it leaves them tasting foul.  The birds show little interest in them.

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Black eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, attract many different butterflies.  Goldenrod, Solidago, (top right corner) will soon bloom, attracting many hungry pollinators.

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There are plenty of wildly safe places in our garden for them to withdraw when ready to form their chrysalis.  We rarely notice one, anyway.  But oh, the gorgeous butterflies which fill our garden in late summer!

“Feed them, and they will come.”  No need to run to Pet Smart for a big expensive bag of something.  No, just plant nectar rich flowers.  If you fill your garden with the flowers they love, and have a few herbs around to receive their eggs and feed their larvae, then you, too can create a haven and home for the swallowtails.

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Garlic chives and Rudbeckia have both naturalized in our garden. These clumps seeded themselves as neighbors, forming a little  ‘food court’ for pollinators.

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But if you choose to attract and support pollinators, please do so consciously and responsibly.  What do I mean?

Find a way to garden without using herbicides or insecticides which will poison these fragile, and often endangered creatures.  Yes, you will have some leaves chewed by insects.  Yes, you will have to weed by hand.

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Why is the Columbine blooming in August??? We are grateful for the blessing. The nibbled leaves hardly detract from the lovely flowers.

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Yes, you may have some unsightly foliage here and there. 

But it is well worth it to enjoy a garden filled with life.  Not only do we enjoy the spectacle of summer butterflies, but we also have many pairs of nesting birds, sustained by the rich insect life in our garden.

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Basil is a one of my favorite annuals in our garden. Not only is it beautiful and up to our muggy climate, it also attracts many pollinators. Goldfinches love its seeds. It works beautifully in flower arrangements, and can still be harvested for summer cooking.

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Every garden has a purpose.  Every gardener has to have a purpose in mind when building her garden.

Ultimately, we expect the garden to bring us pleasure as it entertains us, gives us purpose each day, helps us stay fit, and gives us another reason to go shopping.

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Echinacea and Basil have proven a stunning combination this summer.  The Echinacea’s seeds will feed lots of happy birds this autumn.

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We decided early on that this garden would do all of those things, but also provide a home for pollinators and birds.

Home means safety and food; a place to rest; a place to lay eggs and raise young; clean water to drink.  A puddle, birdbath, or even a wet dish of sand will suffice.

Little did we know that the birds would help us plant.  We never expected the lizards, turtles and birds to help control the insects.  We have bees to pollinate the fruit, and butterflies to watch on summer afternoons.

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Tiger swallowtail feasting on Aralia spinosa, a tree brought to us by the birds.  This is its first season of bloom in our garden; but oh, what a show!

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And little did we realize how much happiness flows from creating a home for some swallowtails.

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Crape myrtle

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

 

 

WPC: Rare Beauty

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Butterflies visit our gardens for just a few weeks of the year.  These delicate, colorful creatures float from flower to flower on warm summer days.  Their presence brings our garden to life. 

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Certain butterflies grow more rare, each passing year, in the United States.  The chemical assault on butterflies, at all stages of their life cycle, have decimated their numbers.  Herbicides destroy  their habitat and host plants.  Pesticides, often designed to kill other insects, also kill many adult butterflies and their larvae.

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Organic  gardeners can provide an oasis of safety for butterflies to lay their eggs, for their larvae to grow, and for adults to feed along the path of their migration.  We consciously designed a butterfly friendly certified Wildlife Habitat to help support butterflies at all stages of their life cycle.

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We plan for the appearance of the first spring butterflies returning from their migration, and have nectar rich flowers blooming to greet them.

We grow  the favored trees, herbs and perennials needed by growing Monarch and swallowtail caterpillars.  And we fill our garden with nectar plants to fuel the adults for their long flight south each autumn.

Lantana, the flowers they are feeding on today, proves their absolute favorite.  Its blooms attract butterflies like no other!  Lantana blooms prolifically until killed by the first heavy frost in early winter.

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Swallowtail butterfly beauties, which have grown alarmingly rare in recent years, fill our garden on summer days like today.  I counted at least six individual swallowtails feeding as I worked in the garden this morning.

This makes us happy, to see our garden come alive with butterflies; their flight from flower to flower showing us that all of our gardening efforts have a greater purpose.

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As gardeners across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America each create safe havens for butterflies, and other migrating wildlife, on their own properties; we can hope the butterfly population will recover.

My great dream is that populations of these exquisite creatures will rebound.  Their appearance no longer a sighting of rare beauty…..

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Rare

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Weightless

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For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weightless

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Photos by Woodland Gnome

September 2015

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“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly?”

“It is if you first become a part of nature.

You suppress your presence as a human being,

stay very still, and convince yourself

that you are a tree or grass or a flower.

It takes time,

but once the butterfly lets its guard down,

you can become friends quite naturally.”

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Haruki Murakami

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Blooming In November

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The garden still invites birds and pollinators, all sorts of hopping and buzzing insects, and even the occasional snail.

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We had night time temperatures dip into the upper 30’s over the weekend; but still no frost and certainly no deep freezes.  Our garden remains filled with flowers.

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The Salvias and Iris are especially nice this week.

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But so are the ginger lilies.  There is even a Canna blossom or two waving in the cooling breezes.

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We still have new roses opening daily.

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Some of the hardy Begonias remain in bloom.

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One special Clematis vine has bloomed non-stop since late March. It must be getting a bit tired, but it still sports a few dozen blue flowers today.

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Our two Bougainvillea vines have happily covered themselves in rose pink bracts framing their tiny white flowers.

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All of the Lantana continue pumping out prolific flowers, much appreciated by the few moths and butterflies still here.

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Their color just intensifies as temperatures cool.   Pentas and Geraniums also remain, and show their most concentrated color of the season.  Their vivid petals pop.

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Our garden remains a bright and happy place.

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A neighbor visited our garden this afternoon.  She hadn’t seen Iris which re-bloom in the autumn before.

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We wandered around talking about the plants, enjoying the scented herbs, and enjoying one another’s company.  I’m looking forward to her return visit when we can dig and divide a few things for her to transplant to her end of the street.

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It is always fun to share with other gardeners who will help spread the beauty around even further.

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The garden is surprisingly full of flowers for mid-November.  So many summer flowering plants are still going strong, even as our autumn flowers bloom.   And we are planting Violas and bulbs for winter and early spring.

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Novembers weather like this makes us very grateful to live in a spot where we have  long autumns to enjoy our garden before winter blows in.

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I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate what is blooming in our garden this November.  Many of us are fortunate to have something in bloom every day of the year, with a bit of planning.  Finding such a variety of flowers still perfuming the garden this late in the season  brings tremendous joy as we watch it unfold anew each day.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

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Visitors

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Our Salvia leucantha draws many beautiful visitors to its sweet nectar.  Standing near it and just quietly watching the comings and goings of these beautiful insect visitors is both delight and meditation.  The great yogis, like Pantanjali and Naropa, lived high in the Himalayas; far from such delights as this.  How would their teachings have been different , had they lived in a garden instead?

I appreciate this meditation on life in all of its forms, its fragility and strength, and its conscious efforts to survive.

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And I wonder at the invitation inherent in a single plant we consciously include in our garden.  What a great communion of species coming together, to partake of the life-giving powers of  this Salvia.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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A Royal Visitor

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We have been watching for a Monarch butterfly to visit our garden for the last several weeks.

We still have Yellow Sulphurs and Painted Ladies.  But most of the Swallowtails took off before our storms.  We miss them.  The garden has felt quite lonely and empty without them flying around.

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But we started spotting Monarch butterflies on our errands this morning.  We saw them hovering over flowering shrubs at the shopping center.  We saw them flying about near the Colonial Parkway.  When would one turn up at home, we wondered?

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And then at dusk, as I was bringing a pumpkin around to set on the front porch, I spotted our first Monarch butterfly of October, feeding on the Lantana in our front garden.  What a thrill!  After the joy of simply watching it for a while, I quietly retreated back inside to tell my partner about our visitor, and to grab my camera.

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Wondering whether our Monarch would still be around when I returned, I powered up the camera and quietly approached the Lantana again.  And yes, our visitor was enjoying the feast too much to mind my presence.  I was happily snapping photos as my partner approached, watching from a distance.

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Maybe it was the socks….  Today I chose a pair of Monarch butterfly socks my partner had given me in late August.  All stages of a Monarch’s  life from egg to adult are woven into these wonderful socks, which we found in the shop at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester.  I pulled them on this morning hoping to soon finding Monarchs visiting us on their fall migration.

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Now that the storms have passed, and clear cool days have brought a new freshness and vitality to our garden, we observe renewed activity from birds devouring ripening berries and bees enjoying Goldenrod and autumn Salvias.

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Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage

Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage

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And now our garden has finally hosted the long awaited royal visitor:  a lone Monarch butterfly feeding in our garden as it travels to warmer destinations further south.  We hope this is the first Monarch of many who find our garden this month. We hope to find it alive again with the flutter of brilliant wings, as they taste each  blossom filled with sweet autumn nectar.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Silent Sunday

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“Beauty appears

when something is completely and absolutely and openly itself.”

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Deena Metzger

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day; But I’m Away….

A stray Moonflower vine snakes across the Begonias.

A stray Moonflower vine snakes across the Begonias.

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It is Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day, but since I’m away I’ll post tomorrow.  Until then, I’ll leave you with a few quick photos captured this morning.

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Canna, still alive, with Heron's Pirouette hardy Begonia

Calla, still alive, with ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ hardy Begonia

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I’m exceptionally happy to show you this photo of the first leaf of our new hardy Calla, ordered a couple of months ago from Plant Delights Nursery, which died back and completely disappeared in less than two weeks from planting.  A mystery…. 

But I dug the bulb and moved it into a large pot in the nursery with good potting soil.  A new leaf emerged last week, and I planted it up yesterday with the beautiful gift of ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ hardy Begonia we received last Saturday from a generous gardener.  The pot sits here in the shade of the house all day after a little morning sun.  I don’t expect the Calla to bloom  this fall, but it will give its beautiful spotted leaves.  It lives!

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Caladium is another survivor. Last summer's plant hibernated in the garage all winter. Finally a leaf... in August?

Caladium is another survivor. Last summer’s plant hibernated in the garage all winter. Finally a leaf… in August?

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On the subject of gardeners and sharing: next week, I plan on sharing some of the baby Colocasia multiplying in our garden .  I’m also committed to sharing some Iris with friends far and near, and also some of the perennial Blue Mist Flower. 

If you live nearby, please send me a note if you’d like to try some of the Colocasia “China Pink.”

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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