A Day for Contentment

The first blossom of Camellia ‘Yuletide’ opened Tuesday, right on schedule.

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“It isn’t what you have or who you are
or where you are or what you are doing
that makes you happy or unhappy.
It is what you think about it.”
.
Dale Carnegie

We are entering the season where everyone we know wishes us happiness, merriment, and good fortune.  Greetings fly as freely as golden leaves showering down from the Ginko trees on DoG Street in Colonial Williamsburg.

We send our own flurry of “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes to everyone we encounter.  It is the catch phrase of the week to the checker at the grocery store, the clerk who sells us coffee, and every neighbor we meet out walking.

But do those wishes for happiness actually penetrate into our heart?  Do we feel that glow of happiness from the inside out?

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The first year in several that this Camellia has bloomed for us, I was startled by its beauty yesterday afternoon. For once, its buds survived to open. This shrub is a favorite for browsing once a deer gets into our lower garden.

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“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have,
you will never, ever have enough”
.
Oprah Winfrey

I know many who are feeling anxious this holiday season, and too many struggling with grief.

We are inundated with images from the California fires.  We are still haunted by the enormous losses neighbors across the country have suffered in recent years from storms, fires, floods and shootings.  We pray for those immigrants caught on our Southern border without shelter this Thanksgiving season right along with those camping in Southern California after losing their homes in the fires.

Five minutes spent scanning headlines or watching the news is enough to drain the happiness right out of anyone.  Our national narrative is like a J.K. Rowling dementor that sucks the warmth and happiness away.

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“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
.
Walt Whitman

We believe that we are living in unusual times; the troubles we face unique in history.  That is not the case.  We are swept up in the currents and eddies of a long river of human history, much of it far worse for everyday folks like us than anything we might experience, now.

Despite the bleak news around us, we are also surrounded by stories of kindness, hope, good fortune and great joy.  President Lincoln was deep in the weeds of his own Civil War between the states, struggling with the great purpose of keeping our states together as one nation, when he declared a day of Thanksgiving in 1863He asked all Americans to come together on one day in gratitude for teh many blessings and resources our country shares.  He asked his neighbors to shift their focus to a higher power, and a higher purpose for our country.

Abraham Lincoln understood the simple truth about mental focus.  We can change our lives by changing the focus of our thoughts, our mental energy.

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“A quiet secluded life in the country,
with the possibility of being useful to people
to whom it is easy to do good,
and who are not accustomed to have it done to them;
then work which one hopes may be of some use;
then rest, nature, books, music,
love for one’s neighbor —
such is my idea of happiness.”
.
Leo Tolstoy
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Oakleaf Hydrangea glows in scarlet, as the flower buds appear on our Edgeworthia behind it.

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Maybe that is why Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It is a celebration of abundance in all its forms.   It is a day for reflection.  It is the quintessential ‘low stress’ holiday.

It is enough to have a quiet day to enjoy with loved ones.  There is a special meal.  One may see friends or relations one hasn’t seen for a while.  There are stories, there is laughter, there is expectation of the holiday season that debuts on this day.

The first holiday lights appear cities, in neighborhoods and along country roads.

There is a feeling of contentment and abundance and connection.  For a few golden hours, we can be content with ourselves, wherever we may find ourselves.

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“I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches;
and he to whom that is given need ask no more.”
.
Henry Fielding

And so I wish you, too, a happy Thanksgiving.  I hope your thoughts linger on the many things that make you happy and enrich your life.

If you are grieving, I hope you remember the good times with your loved ones and feel deep gratitude for those times you shared.  If you are away from loved ones, I hope you can touch with them today.  If your life circumstances have shifted, I hope you find the beauty around you, wherever you might be.

Our happiness comes from within, not from without.  This is the life lesson we discover as the decades roll past.

And this is what we rediscover each autumn, as the leaves fall and the world grows cold.  The most abiding warmth emanates from a loving and grateful heart.

~
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“We are not rich by what we possess
but by what we can do without.”
.
Immanuel
~

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Sunday Dinner: Simple

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“As you simplify your life,
the laws of the universe will be simpler;
solitude will not be solitude,
poverty will not be poverty,
nor weakness weakness.”
.
Henry David Thoreau
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“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease.
Hack away at the inessentials.”
.
Bruce Lee
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“Besides the noble art of getting things done,
there is the noble art of leaving things undone.
The wisdom of life
consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
.
Lin Yutang
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“Every solution to every problem is simple.
It’s the distance between the two
where the mystery lies.”
.
Derek Landy
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“It’s as simple as that.
Simple and complicated,
as most true things are.”
.
David Levithan
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.”
.
Ann Voskamp

Camellia

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“Nothing in the world is permanent,

and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last,

but surely we’re still more foolish

not to take delight in it

while we have it.”

.

W. Somerset Maugham

~

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“There is no “the way things are.”

Every day is different,

and you live it differently.”

.

Marty Rubin

~

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“If a beautiful thing were to remain beautiful for all eternity,
I’d be glad, but all the same I’d look at it with a colder eye.
I’d say to myself: You can look at it any time,
it doesn’t have to be today.”

.
Hermann Hesse

~

For The Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Temporary

Change Is in the Air

This morning dawned balmy, damp and oh, so bright across our garden!

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Brilliant autumn color finally appeared on our trees this past week, and we are loving this annual spectacle when trees appear as blazing torches in shades of yellow, gold, orange and scarlet.   We have been watching and waiting for this pleasure since the first scarlet leaves appeared on Virginia creeper vines and the rare Sumac in early September.  But summer’s living green cloaked our trees longer than ever before in our memories,  this fall.

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I remember a particularly beautiful autumn in the late 1980s, the year my daughter was born.  I went to the hospital in the second week of October to deliver, with the still summery trees barely showing a hint or shadow of their autumn finery.  When we drove back home with her a couple of days later, I was amazed at the transformation in the landscape.  The trees were bright and gorgeous, as if to celebrate her homecoming.

Once upon a time, I believed that first frost brought color to deciduous leaves.  Our first frost date here in zone 7 is October 15.  We haven’t always had a frost by then, but there is definitely a frosty chill in the evening air by late October here.

But not this year, or last….

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Bees remain busy in our garden, gathering nectar and pollen for the winter months ahead.

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The annual Begonias are still covered with blossoms in my parents’ garden, and our Begonia plants still sit outside in their pots, blooming with enthusiasm, waiting for us to decide to bring them back indoors.  Our days are still balmy and soft; our evenings barely drop below the 50s or 60s.  There is no frost in our forecast through Thanksgiving, at least.

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Our geraniums keep getting bigger and brighter in this gentle, fall weather.

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It is lovely, really.  We are taking pleasure in these days where we need neither heat nor air conditioning.  We are happily procrastinating on the fall round-up of tender potted plants, gleefully calculating how long we can let them remain in the garden and on the deck.  I’m still harvesting herbs and admiring flowers in our fall garden.

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Of course, there are two sides to every coin, as well as its rim.  You may be interested in a fascinating description of just how much our weather patterns have changed since 1980, published by the Associated Press just last week.  Its title, “Climate Change is Shrinking Winter in the US, Scientists Say,”  immediately makes me wonder why less winter is a bad thing.  I am not a fan of winter, personally.  Its saving grace is it lets me wear turtleneck sweaters and jeans nearly every day.

Just why is winter important, unless you are a fan of snowy sports?  Well, anyone who has grown apple, pear or peach trees knows that these trees need a certain number of “chilling hours,” below freezing, to set good fruit.

Certain insects also multiply out of control when there aren’t enough freezing days to reduce their population over winter.    Winter gives agricultural fields a chance to rest, knocks down weeds and helps clear the garden for a fresh beginning every spring.

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But there are other, more important benefits of winter, too.  Slowly melting snow and ice replenish our water tables in a way summer rains, which rapidly run off, never can.  Snow and ice reflect solar energy back into space.  Bodies of water tend to absorb the sun’s energy, further warming the climate.

Methane locked into permafrost is released into the warming atmosphere when permafrost thaws.  And too much warmth during the  winter months coaxes shrubs and perennials into growth too early.  Like our poor Hydrangeas last March, those leaves will freeze and die off on the occasional below-freezing night, often killing the entire shrub.

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By March 5, 2017, our Hydrangeas had leaves and our garden had awakened for spring.  Freezes later in the month killed some of the newer shrubs, and killed most of the flower buds on older ones.

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The article states, ” The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

” The average first freeze over the last 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.

“This year, about 40 percent of the Lower 48 states have had a freeze as of Oct. 23, compared to 65 percent in a normal year, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.”

Not only has the first freeze of the season grown later and later with each passing year, but the last freeze of the season comes ever earlier.  According to Meteorologist Ken Kunkel, winter 2016 was a full two months shorter than normal in the Pacific Northwest.

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Coastal Oregon, in mid-October 2017, had seen no frost yet. We enjoyed time playing on the beach and visiting the Connie Hansen garden while I was there.  Very few leaves had begun to turn bright for fall, though many were already falling from the trees.

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I’ve noticed something similar with our daffodils and other spring flowers.  Because I photograph them obsessively each year, I have a good record of what should bloom when.  This past spring, the first daffodils opened around February 8 in our garden.  In 2015, we had a February snow, and the first daffodil didn’t begin to open until February 17.  In 2014, the first daffodils opened in our garden in the second week of March.  Most years, we never saw daffodils opening until early to mid- March.  We ran a little more than two weeks early on all of the spring flowers last spring, with roses in full bloom by mid-April.

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March 8, 2014

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Is this ‘shorter winter phenomena’ something we should care about?  What do you think?  Do you mind a shorter winter, an earlier spring?

As you’ve likely noticed, when we contemplate cause and effects, we rarely perceive all of the causes for something, or all of its effects.  Our planet is an intricate and complex system of interactions, striving to keep itself in balance.  We may simplistically celebrate the personal benefits we reap from a long, balmy fall like this one, without fully realizing its implications for our planet as a whole.

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February 9, 2017

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I’m guessing the folks in Ohio who had a tornado blow through their town this past weekend have an opinion.  Ordinarily, they would already be enjoying winter weather by now.

We are just beginning to feel the unusual weather patterns predicted decades ago to come along with a warming planet.  The seas are rising much faster than they were predicted to rise, and we are already seeing the extreme storms bringing catastrophic rain to communities all across our nation, and the world.  The economic losses are staggering, to say nothing of how peoples’ lives have been effected when they live in the path of these monster storms.

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Magnolia stellata blooming in late February, 2016

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Yes, change is in the air.  I’m not sure that there is anything any of us can do individually to change or ‘fix’ this unusual weather, but we certainly need to remain aware of what is happening, and have a plan for how to live with it.

My immediate plan is simple:  Plant more plants!  I reason that every plant we grow helps filter carbon and other pollutants from the air, trapping them in its leaves and stems.  Every little bit helps, right?  And if not, at least their roots are holding the soil on rainy days, and their beauty brings us joy.

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Newly planted Dianthus blooms in our autumn garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Sunday Dinner: Fire and Ice

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Fire and Ice

 

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate.

To say that for destruction ice,
Is also great

And would suffice.

.

Robert Frost

~

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“Ice contains no future , just the past, sealed away.

As if they’re alive, everything in the world

is sealed up inside, clear and distinct.

Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way-

cleanly, clearly.

That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.”


.

Haruki Murakami

~

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“Keep a little fire burning;

however small, however hidden.”

.

Cormac McCarthy

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“The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time.

Time to think or not think, read or not read,

scribble or not scribble –

– to sleep and cook and walk in the woods,

to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills.

I produce nothing but words;

I consume nothing but food, a little propane,

a little firewood. By being utterly useless

in the calculations of the culture at large

I become useful, at last, to myself.”


.

Philip Connors

~

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“Everybody has a little bit of the sun and moon in them.

Everybody has a little bit of man, woman,

and animal in them.  Darks and lights in them.

Everyone is part of a connected cosmic system.

Part earth and sea, wind and fire,

with some salt and dust swimming in them.

We have a universe within ourselves

that mimics the universe outside.

None of us are just black or white,

or never wrong and always right. No one.

No one exists without polarities.

Everybody has good and bad forces working with them,

against them, and within them.

.

Suzy Kassem

~

january-8-2016-snow-beauty-016

~

“Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.”

.

Seneca

~

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

 

 

 

 

After Christmas

 

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Happy Boxing Day, my friends.  On Boxing Day we celebrate the simple truth that we have survived another Christmas.

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Our Jewish friends might also celebrate that the Christmas season is winding down, but they are quite busy with Hanukkah, which just began on Christmas Eve this year.  They will celebrate their third night tonight.

In Europe, today is also St. Stephen’s Day and the Christmas celebrations of family gatherings and celebratory food and drink continue.

~

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“Boxing Day” has lingered in our culture, though few of us really remember how it began.  It’s more fun than Christmas in the UK, I’m told, and is a day for giving gifts to important people in our lives who aren’t necessarily ‘family.’

In past times, the wealthy gave ‘Christmas Boxes’ of food and gifts to their employees and vendors.

Some of us still remember the postman with a little something this time of year… and ours has certainly earned a little appreciation!  We’ve had packages left at our door before 8:00 AM more than once this month.

~

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Some of us still observe the old “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and will keep our Christmas lights up and plan gatherings with friends and family through the first week of January.

Our Christmas tree is usually still up as January draws to a close.  After all the fuss of putting it up, one may as well enjoy it until it dries out, don’t  you agree?

~

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Others await this special shopping day each year to score the best deals of the season while  retailers try to clear out their remaining holiday merchandise.

Your inbox, like mine, is probably already flooded with special messages from every online retailer with whom you do business and a few more hopefuls….

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But many of us with extended families close by will find themselves traveling to one or another home today for ‘second Christmas.’  We’ll be visiting with those we missed, or who missed us, yesterday.   We won’t find ourselves shopping, but probably will have a completely enjoyable day with loved ones.

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Whatever you do today, please enjoy the day. 

Allow for a bit of relaxation after the rigors of the Christmas shopping/ cooking/ decorating/ card writing/ crafting/ party/ season we’ve just finished.

~

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December always feels like a marathon to me, and I push myself to ‘get it all done’ by Christmas Eve.  Now it’s finally time for a bit of rest and enjoyment.

Maybe you feel that way too, and have put away your rolls of wrapping paper and unused cards with the same sigh of relief which escaped my lips yesterday afternoon.  What’s done is done, and I’m not going to be tempted to lose these last, sweet days of December doing much more.

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My first gardening catalog of the new year arrived on Christmas Eve.  What a sweet gift postman ‘Santa’ left for me on Saturday!  It had a nice selection of ‘New’ 2017 introductions to savor.

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That said, I can feel the joyfulness of ‘Boxing Day’ in this morning’s light.

Another Christmas has come, and now we can sit back and enjoy those things  which matter to us most.  We can gather with loved ones if we want, but we’re also free to head of to our favorite chair with a good book or catalog.

And there’s finally time to take a nap.  And of course, to head back out to the garden to simply enjoy the beauty of it all….

~

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Woodland Gnome 2016

A Forest Garden 2017 Garden Calendar

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Our third annual A Forest Garden calendar is already our favorite.  We’ve kept what we like from past years, and made little improvements to produce a uniquely beautiful and useful calendar you won’t fine from anyone else.

Why is this calendar so special?  It is created by a gardener, for gardeners.

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Find inspiration on every page and tips and reminders to help you nurture your best garden, ever.  This year’s theme is “Magic and Awe in the Garden.”

In addition to gardening tips, you’ll also find the first and last frost dates noted for Zones 5-9, information on the moon’s phases, eclipses, special dates for bird watchers, and notes on national and international  holidays, feast days, and observances.  This calendar is packed with information, while still leaving space for your own notes and reminders.

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I’ve compiled some of my favorite photos for this striking, full color calendar. Nearly all the photos were taken in our own garden, between December of 2015 and November of 2016.  By reducing the total number of photos, we’ve been able to make each month’s page even more beautiful.

Our special emphasis this year features flowering woody plants and several unusual foliage plants we’ve found that deer won’t graze.  And as always, you will  find portraits of some of our most beautiful garden visitors!

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If you would like to own a copy of A Forest Garden 2017, or order copies to give at the holidays, please contact me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com with your order and contact information.

I’ll get back in touch to let you know where to send your check.

The calendars remain $15.00 each, which includes postage within the United States.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Magic

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

Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden….

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Looking Good: Autumn Favorites

The first Camellias of the season bloomed this week.

The first Camellias of the season bloomed this week.

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The garden is looking good again now that the soil is moist, the days are sunny, and the nights are cool.  Our autumn flowers have begun blooming, filling the garden with vivid red Pineapple Sage, soft blue Mexican Bush Sage, pristine white Camellias and vividly rose pink Bougainvillea.

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We even have a stalk of Iris buds ready to open on a rebloomer transplanted this past spring.

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Even as brown leaves litter the lawn, summer weary plants respond to our milder weather with vivid new flowers.

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Some of our most spectacular roses open after October 1st each year and keep coming through early December.  Many of our Pelargoniums have also started pumping out plump new buds.  Late October feels almost like a reprise of spring, but with more intense color.

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Pineapple Sage waits to bloom until October, filling the garden with fragrant red flowers until frost.

Pineapple Sage waits to bloom until October, filling the garden with fragrant red flowers until frost.

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We are busy planting bulbs and perennials.  I’m ready to start filling our pots with Violas for winter color by the end of the month.

October is my favorite time of year for spreading new compost.  I bought the last few bags on offer at our favorite garden center this week.  Their next load won’t deliver until spring.  I’ll use much of it when moving shrubs out of their pots and into the ground over the next week.

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Some has already gone over a new planting of  ‘Thalia’  Daffodil bulbs, now overplanted with Ajuga, Vinca, and some bits of hardy Sedum.  A fresh inch or two of compost over freshly weeded beds keeps them looking good through the winter, and helps nourish the bulbs and perennials which will begin growing again in a few months.

Some plants, like these Colocasia divisions, which got off to a slow start in early summer, have finally come into their prime in these last weeks before frost.

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Colocasia with a scented Geranium have taken their time to grow this summer. The Colocasia divisions really took off after a placed the pot behind them, possibly providing more water and nourishment.

Colocasia with a scented Pelargonium have taken their time to grow this summer. The Colocasia divisions really took off after we placed the potted Pelargonium behind them, possibly providing more water and nourishment.

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Officially, our first frost date is October 15.  It is hard for me to believe that frost can come at any time after the middle of next week.  I’ve not yet given much thought to moving tender plants inside to the garage, basement, and living room to keep them over winter.  But it is time for me to sketch out a plan and begin putting it into action before an early freeze catches us unprepared.

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Bouganvillea begins its season of bloom in early autumn, but must come indoors before frost. It is a tender woody perennial which won't survive our Virginia winters out of doors.

Bougainvillea begins its season of bloom in early autumn, but must come indoors before frost. It is a tender woody perennial which won’t survive our Virginia winters out of doors.

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After a busy few weeks which left me little time or energy for the garden, I’m ready to begin the round of fall projects which close it out for the season.

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There are Ginger Lilies to dig and deliver to friends; tender Colocoasia, Caladiums, ferns, and Begonias to dig and pot for their winter indoors; leaves to shred and  roses to trim back for a final time this year.

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Leaves fall steadily in our garden even as late bloomers, like this Salvia, are in their prime.

Leaves fall steadily in our garden even as late bloomers, like this Salvia, are in their prime.

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Taking time to notice what is Looking Good each week keeps my focus on the positive.  Many thanks to Gillian at Country Gardens UK for hosting this theme each Friday.  Please take a moment to enjoy her beautiful apples this week.  Gillian also offers up an enticing recipe for Apple Cake, which I want to try making this weekend with apples from our favorite farm stand.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

October 8 Parkway 046

 

A Walk About

The Camellia in full bloom along my driveway, setting out for a walk about the nieghborhood.

The Camellia in full bloom along our own driveway, setting out for a walk about the neighborhood.

 

Last evening was the perfect everything for a walk about the neighborhood.

When I set out in late afternoon it was  clear and sunny; not too hot or too cold.

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All in all it was the perfect opportunity to get out and see the wider world beyond our own garden, and I had the time to enjoy it.

The roses beside our driveway have come into bloom again.

The roses beside our driveway have come into bloom again.

 

My first destination was the home of friends.  A friend and I were splitting a bag of daffodil bulbs, and I had a delivery to make.

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From there, I made my way down the quiet streets of our neighborhood towards the pond.  Families were out walking their dogs and spending time with children.

Looking across the pond, the homes are still mostly hidden by trees.

Looking across the pond, the homes are still mostly hidden by trees.

The light faded quickly in this late October sky, and I wanted to make it to the Creek before sunset.

Down another friends’ driveway one finds the dusty pine needle covered path across an earthen dam separating our pond from the creek.

The path is heavily wooded.

The path is heavily wooded.

Trees have grown here on both sides of the path, making it harder to see through to the water.  Birds and squirrels chatter at the intrusion into their private world.  I could hear the voices of children in the distance.  The homes ringing the pond are still mostly hidden behind the trees.

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It is nice to be able to walk back here again.  Many of us avoid this path once the weather warms each spring.  There are ticks and chiggers, mosquitoes and who knows what else in the heavy underbrush.

But by autumn, it isn’t quite so hazardous.  Or perhaps with long pants, hat and a jacket it just feels like a safer path to take!

I can see streaks of pink and purple gathering in the sky over the creek as I emerge through another driveway back to the city street.  I cut across past the playground, across the deck, and down towards the dock.  Darkness gathers, and I wonder whether these photos will turn out at all.

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With no street lights, and no flashlight,  it is best not to linger by the water for long.  There is the long climb ahead on the pathway home. 

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Turning my back to the sunset, I head out across the open field and into the shadows of the tree lined street.  Nothing I’m wearing is light or reflective.  It is way too dark here for photos, so my camera goes back into the relative safety of my jacket pocket.

It is a long steep climb.  The exercise feels good, and it reminds me to make this hike a bit more often.

October 24, 2014 walk 008

And not a single car passes on this leg of the journey.  No children’s voices sing out, no dogs bark, and no other walkers call greetings.

An occasional lighted window gives the only evidence of neighbors at home along the way.  Most are probably out for dinner on this Friday evening.

The glow of lamplight greets me as I near my own driveway once again.  My partner has turned on every outside light to greet me.

But even that pales in comparison to the sky, which has turned a fiery orangey pink in the space of only a few minutes.  I can see it again now, above my neighbor’s roof line as I turn towards home.  What beauty!

In another few weeks, once the leaves have fallen, the sky will open up to us once again at sunset.  For now we peek between the trees and above the neighbors’ roofs, basking in the reflected glow of it in the garden.

And I’m basking in the peace of it all.

I made it back home before dark settled completely across the community, knowing this should become a part of my routine during these gorgeous autumn days.

 

Robin challenged those of us who follow her blog to take a walk and post about it. 

This challenge is called “Walktober.”  Robin will gather up all of these posts, and publish links, so we can go along with one another to the interesting and beautiful places we have all visited. 

I hope you will follow the link back to Robin’s “Breezes at Dawn” blog to join her for her walk on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Shortly, I’ll publish a link back to all of the “Walktober” posts so you can come along, too.

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Walktober  by Eliza Waters

 

Wonderful Walktober Walks by Robin, Breezes at Dawn

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