Fabulous Friday: Changes in the Air

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Do you remember stories from your childhood about ‘Jack Frost’ turning the leaves bright colors ?  I remember stories and poems about Jack Frost, and making Crayola drawings with a wild assortment of brightly colored leaves on my brown stick trees.  It seems a ‘given’ that leaves change their colors when the nights begin to turn cool.

But neither our nights nor our days have cooled substantially, and yet the community is definitely taking on autumn’s hues.

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We noticed it as we drove across College Creek today, admiring the first hints of yellow and gold in the trees along the opposite bank.  But we also see it in our own garden, as scarlet creeps across some dogwood leaves and the crape myrtle leaves begin to turn, even as the trees still bloom.

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The Williamsburg Botanical Garden shows its autumn colors.

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We are running 12 to 13 degrees above our ‘normal’ temperatures most days lately, and it is a rare night that has dropped even into the 60s.  And yet the plants are responding to the change of season.   Perhaps they sense the days growing shorter; perhaps they are just getting tired.

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I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ has just come back into bloom in our garden.

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Our ‘re-blooming’ Iris have sent up their first autumn stalks.  We’ve been blessed with plenty of rain, recently, and so the Iris will have a good second season.  Some of our neighbors have Encore Azaleas covered in flowers

I was dumbfounded to see how gigantic some of the Colocasias, Alocasias and Caladiums grew in the catalog garden at the Bulb Shop in Gloucester.  I can’t remember ever seeing these plants grow so huge in Virginia.

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The catalog garden at Brent and Becky’s Bulb Shop is filled with some of the largest Colocasias I’ve ever seen. Do you recognize C. ‘Tea Cups’?

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But with good soil and near constant moisture, these amazing tropicals have shown us their potential for growth when they get all the warmth and moisture and nutrition they could possibly want.  I spoke with some of the staff there about how popular tropical ‘elephant ears’ have become in recent years, as coastal Virginia becomes ever more hospitable to them.

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We ventured up to Gloucester this week to pick up our order of fall bulbs.  It is admittedly too warm, still, to plant most spring bulbs.  But I retrieved our order, shared with friends, and now will simply hold most of the bulbs for another few weeks until the nights finally cool.

There are a few bulbs that need to get in the ground right away, like dog tooth violets and our Italian Arum.  Both are actually tubers, and shouldn’t be allowed to dry out.  Our Muscari, left in pots over the summer, are already in leaf.

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I’ve planted the first of my autumn four season pots filled with bulbs and mulched with moss.  This one will begin with autumn Crocus and Cyclamen in a few weeks, and then begin the early spring with snowdrops, Crocus, Muscari and dog tooth violet.  Finally, it will finish the season with late daffodils. The pot is anchored with an oak leaf Hydrangea and a deciduous lady fern. 

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If the daffodils and tulips get planted too early, they might grow too much before the really cold weather finds us.  We can continue planting spring bulbs here into late December, maybe even early January.  I’d much rather do it in October though, wouldn’t you?

As the weather cools down a bit, I’m wanting to get back out in the garden to do a bit of tidying up before the fall planting begins.

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Pineapple Sage is already blooming in our garden. I have several still in 4″ pots I need to plant one day soon.

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I’ve got a backlog of plants sheltering in pots, just waiting for their chance to grow.  I visited a friend today who was weeding and digging her Caladiums to store for next summer.   Some of our Caladiums are beginning to die back a little, so she was probably wise to dig them while she can see a few leaves and find their roots.

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This is one of our favorite Alocasias, often called African Mask. It spends winter in the living room, and summer in a shady part of the garden.

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Bright orange wreathes are showing up on neighbor’s doors, and by Monday, the calendar will say ‘October.’  I suppose it is time to get on with it and embrace the changing seasons.

While I believe we will have another month, or two, of ‘Indian Summer’ before our first frost; I suppose we all just assume it is time for pumpkin lattes and chrysanthemums.  Some of my friends are already setting out huge mums and pulling their annuals.

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Hardy Begonias are at their peak, blooming and so beautiful this week.

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I’m not there, yet.  I’m still admiring our many ‘elephant ears’ and Begonias and watching for butterflies.  In fact, I came home from Gloucester with a sweet little Alocasia ‘Zebrina,‘ that  I’ve had my eye on all season.  They had just two left, and then they had one….

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Alocasia grown huge at the catalog garden

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The display plant, growing out in the catalog garden, was a bit taller than me.  Its leaves were absolutely huge!

I don’t know that my pot grown aroids will ever get quite that impressive, especially when they are forced to nap all winter in the basement.  But we enjoy them in their season, and their season will soon close.

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We found both Monarchs and a few chrysalis at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden this week.

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I have been admiring our garden today, and celebrating the successes we’ve enjoyed this year.  I am intentionally procrastinating on any chores that hasten our passage into autumn.

That said, the pumpkin bagels that showed up at Trader Joes this week are truly delicious.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
Fabulous Friday:
Happiness is Contagious; Let’s Infect One Another!
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‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 5: Keep Planting!

July 12, 2016 garden layers 013

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You’ve heard, “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

And gardeners know that any bare spot of earth, whether in a pot or in the ground, will soon sprout a weed.  That is why it is important to keep planting desirable plants in any space which comes vacant in the garden.

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Crabgrass seems to appear overnight this time of year, even through a layer of mulch.

Crabgrass seems to appear overnight this time of year, even through a layer of mulch.  Weeds grow quickly to fill any bare earth during the hot, moist Virginia summer.

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Gardening is a dynamic art.  Things rarely stay the same for two days running.  There is always growth and there is always decline.

Whether a plant simply finishes its season, like spring bulbs; is harvested; grows diseased; desiccates in the heat; or is eaten by pests; these plants need to be replaced as they disappear.  Experienced gardeners understand this rhythm and plan for it.

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As Arum itallicum nears the end of its season, its berries redden and its leaves wilt away. It will sprout new leaves in the autumn, growing strong and green all winter and spring. Calladiums will fill its place for the summer.


As Arum italicum nears the end of its season, its berries redden and its leaves wilt away. It will sprout new leaves in the autumn, growing strong and green all winter and spring. Caladiums  and ferns will fill its place during summer.

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Brent Heath, owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, demonstrated this principle to me as we toured his gardens last month.  He showed me the packets of Larkspur and other seeds he routinely carries in his pocket.

When weeding, he sows what he wants to grow in any newly vacant spot.  If he harvests, he immediately plants.  Fading leaves in his Daffodil fields were first mown, and then overplanted with a summer cover crop to build the soil.  Prevent weeds from growing in the first place by sowing what you want the land to support.

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Spring bulbs will have faded and melted away by late May. What will fill their spot for the rest of the season?

Spring bulbs will have faded and melted away by late May. What will fill their spot for the rest of the season?

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If you observe a meadow, you’ll find a variety of plants all growing together, covering every bit of Earth.    They form a community.  This is nature’s way.  Keeping the ground covered slows evaporation, inhibits germination of weed seeds, makes the garden more productive, and simply looks nice!

Rather than allow for gaps in the garden as plants fade, have a plan to fill the space with a new plant.

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This Begonia, grown from a rooted cutting, will fill this pot until frost. Evergreen ivy and Dianthus carry it through the other seasons.

This Begonia, grown from a rooted cutting, will fill its pot until frost. Evergreen ivy and Dianthus carry it through the other seasons.

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There are several ways to accomplish this:

  1.  Grow bulbs and perennials which will always grow in a particular season, even if they disappear for the rest of the year.  Planted once, they fill their niche indefinitely. Plant something else over them as they fade.
  2. Root cuttings from plants as you prune, so there is a supply of rooted cuttings ready to go out to fill spaces when needed.  I keep Begonia, Impatiens and Coleus cuttings rooting through much of the year.  There are many annual and perennial plants which will root easily, some, like Pelargonium, can often be cut and then planted directly where you want them to grow.

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    A Coleus cutting will soon fill a gap left by faded Daffodils, and never filled by the Zantedeschia bulbs which failed to sprout this spring. Creeping Jenny and Dichondra are covering the bare soil.

    A Coleus cutting will soon fill a gap left by faded Daffodils, and never filled by the Zantedeschia bulbs which failed to sprout this spring. Creeping Jenny and Dichondra are growing over the bare soil in this pot.

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  3. Purchase seedlings seasonally to refresh pots, baskets, and garden beds.  Replacing spent summer annuals with Violas and ornamental Kale would be an example of this principle.  Likewise, winter annuals are pulled and replaced each spring.  Good garden centers will have small starter plants for sale year round.
  4. Sow seeds for annuals, herbs and vegetables as needed to quickly fill empty spaces.  This includes succession planting of edible crops such as lettuce, cilantro, carrots, spinach and radishes.  Herbs and fast vegetables like radishes can be sown in pots, window boxes, and baskets along with ornamental plants.

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    Iris is an easy perennial to divide to fill in spots. Although it only blooms once each year, the leaves fill the space year round, and continue to expand.

    Iris is an easy perennial to divide to fill in spots. Although it only blooms once each year, the leaves fill the space year round, and continue to expand.

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  5. Divide perennials as needed and re-plant divisions to fill gaps and holes.  Many perennials will not mind having a division dug from the edge of the clump, and that division will grow on as a new plant.  This works better in the spring and fall, and during wet cloudy weather than during summer’s heat.  Divisions need to stay hydrated until their roots take hold.
  6. Plant ‘grocery store’ finds such as ginger roots, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic cloves, cactus pads, onion sets and even hydroponic lettuce sold still on its roots.  The grocery store is also a source for small pots of herbs and edible seeds.  Take a fresh look at the produce department to see what you can find that will grow on in your garden.

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    Plant in layers so that if a plant is lost, others are already there to grow and fill the space.

    Plant in layers.  The tall plant in the pot is Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups.’  Daffodils filled this pot in April; their foliage just turning brown and melting away now in July.

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  7. Plant in layers, including a ground cover as well as mid-sized and larger plants.  If a mid-sized plant finishes or fails, the ground cover remains.  Other plants can grow to fill in gaps left by plants which fail or finish.
  8. Allow plants to spread and to self-seed.  Some plants will spread by rhizome, covering a bit more real estate as time passes.  They form clumps and colonies.  Other plants will spread their seeds around, appearing some time later in surprising places.  Allowing plants you admire to spread helps fill your garden at no additional expense.

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    Coleus rooting in a jar makes a nice arrangement, and keeps a supply of rooted cuttings ready to plant where needed.

    Coleus rooting in a jar makes a nice arrangement, and keeps a supply of rooted cuttings ready to plant where needed.

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    “Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams.

    I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

    Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

    Many thanks to Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios, who posted her first tip:  ‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots!  Please visit her post for beautiful instructions on how to prepare roots for re-potting.

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3 Deadhead!

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right

  1. ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

    ‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

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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.  Colocasia spread with runners and can be divided very easily.

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    Woodland Gnome 2016

The Way of Things

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 002

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Things are always changing.  This is the touchstone for all of us past a certain age, I’ve learned.  Gardening brings one intimately close to an understanding of our lives in this material world.  Sometimes changes bring happiness.  Other times we feels frustration as we lose something we enjoy, something we expected to last.

Understanding the nature of change is a lifetime’s work.  Accepting, even embracing it, hones our spirits.

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 003

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Our beautiful evergreen Star Jasmine vine covered the railings to our porch long before we ever came to this garden.  An ancient thing, with a large trunk, we enjoyed its greenness all winter and waited for its lovely fragrant flowers to open each spring.  Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds all came to sip from its flowers.  It was one of the most beautiful gifts of the garden.

But harsh cold in winter 2013 weakened it.  Some of its stems never sprouted fresh leaves and flowers that next summer, and flowers came late.  We worked with it all summer and hoped for the best.  But a second harsh winter in 2014, followed by the cold and late spring last year, finished it off.  Its leaves dropped for months.  We were saddened to loose this beautiful vine.  And we didn’t want to lose its bulk and intricate stems which had protected our porch for decades.  What to do?

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 005~

Although we did some cleaning up and trimming back, we left the vine in place;  and decided to use it as a framework for growing other vines.  The handful of Muscadine grape seeds I’d casually planted below the Jasmine in 2013 were growing happily, undamaged by the cold.  So we spent last summer training those new vines up and over the framework left by the Jasmine.  I planted a Clematis in a pot at the base of the old trunk, and began training it up into the Jasmine as well.

And now, our bare framework of vines is greening.  The grapevines sprouted tiny green leaves this week, which grow larger each day.  The Clematis has sprouted new leaves as well, with new growth stretching further each day.  We’ll help anchor it along the front face of the old vines above the trunk.

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 009

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Change is happening to our framework of vines.  It will glow green and fruitful once again this summer in its fresh clothing of grape leaves and Clematis flowers.

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 001

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Change remains the dynamic force of creation.  We can harness its principles to create great beauty around us.  We can work with it when it comes unbidden.  But we cannot arrest its eternal power. 

The tale of change is written all around us in the incredible transformations which have swept over our beautiful planet.  The story unfolds within each of us, and in the faces of our loved ones.

It is the way of things. 

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 004~

Woodland Gnome 2016

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March 25, 2016 Daffodils 022

Sunday Dinner: Changes

November 1, 2015, fall drive 019

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“In every change, in every falling leaf

there is some pain, some beauty.

And that’s the way new leaves grow.”

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Amit Ray

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 031

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“When we resist change, it’s called suffering.

But when we can completely let go

and not struggle against it,

when we can embrace

the groundlessness of our situation and relax

into it’s dynamic quality,

that’s called enlightenment”

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Pema Chödrön

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 015

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“Fret not where the road will take you.

Instead concentrate on the first step.

That’s the hardest part and that’s

what you are responsible for.

Once you take that step

let everything do what it naturally does

and the rest will follow.

Do not go with the flow.

Be the flow.”

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Elif Shafak,

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 013

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“Consciousness is only possible

through change; change is only possible

through movement.”

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Aldous Huxley

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 008

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“Man cannot remake himself

without suffering, for he is both the marble

and the sculptor”

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Alexis Carrel

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 005

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“Anyone who knows me, should learn to know me again;
For I am like the Moon,
you will see me with new face everyday.”

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Rumi

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 002

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“Nothing endures but change.”

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Heraclitus

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 017

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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November 1, 2015, fall drive 018

National Blog Posting Month

NaBloPoMo_1115_298x255_badges

Inspired by The Daily Post’s     

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treat

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day: June

Our overwintered geranium basket has finally come into beautiful bloom.

Our overwintered geranium basket has finally come into beautiful bloom.

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Carol Michel, an horticulturalist and Indiana garden writer, sponsors a wonderful meme called “Garden Bloggers Bloom Day” on the 15th of each month from her blog, “May Dreams Gardens.”

I dipped in for a visit last evening. What a wonderful way to share our gardens with one another!

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I enjoyed hopping around from garden blogger to garden blogger seeing what is in bloom.  Here is another opportunity to visit gardens and gardeners not only around the country, but around the planet, from the comfort of one’s armchair.

After a long hot day of deadheading and weeding, what a treat to enjoy what is blooming in others’ gardens!   Sadly, I wasn’t doing either again today; too hot again.  But that is beside the point, isn’t it?

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Our Allium flowers remain popular with the insects.  These from onion sets planted last year to protect other things growing in our stump garden.

Our Allium flowers remain popular with the insects. These from onion sets planted last year to protect other things growing in our stump garden.

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I finally suited up and ducked outside  this evening, once the sun committed to setting, admiring the flowers filling our garden tonight.  I’ve been looking forward to doing this all day.

Actually, my mind is spinning with gardening “to-do’s” which have gone undone.  Maybe tomorrow, when it’s cooler?

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The Foxglove has given us several weeks of bloom, and is winding down.  It is still lovely.

The Foxglove has given us several weeks of bloom, and is finally winding down. Considering how frozen it looked in March, I’ve been delighted with its performance.

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April, May and June bring rapid change in our garden as spring perennials burst into bloom and fade.  As much as I try to plan color to last the entire season, mid-April to early June remain a high point for us.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 007~

Finally, at this point in June, we begin to see the flowering perennials, annuals and shrubs with staying power.  These same plants will bloom nearly continuously for the next three to four months; many until frost.

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This has been a week of firsts.  Our first Canna lilies bloomed; our first day lily and  our first Echinacea flowers opened; and our first Rose of Sharon shrubs broke into bloom today.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 035~

I love this time of year when the planning and labor of the last many months come to fruition!

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 012

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Long time gardeners understand that a different garden grows in each passing season.  Last year’s lovely shrub might have died over winter.  Last year’s small new perennial has its roots and takes over the bed this year.  Things grow bigger and spread.  Beds fill in, or fill with unanticipated weeds.  The process of growing a garden remains perennially dynamic.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 002

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We are celebrating our daylilies this year.  We celebrate them, because they have actually bloomed.  Although many grow in our garden, most years the deer have grazed them before a single blossom opened.  Last year our Echinacea were grazed early on and our only flowers came late, on stunted plants.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 023

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The Canna roots we planted in 2013 are vigorously spreading now.  They look naturalized.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 017~

The few small Colocasia starts from last season also multiplied over winter, or died.  We lost a few varieties, but C. “Pink China” has thrived and still needs more dividing.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 022~

We’ve started several  new garden areas this summer, and our collection of pitcher plants has grown. We purchased a pot of our native yellow pitcher plant, Sarracenia flava, from Alan Wubbels at Forest Lane Botanicals several weeks ago for our new bog garden.  They offer an interesting variety of pitcher plants, Iris, and other marginal plants at their center in York County.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 039

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It is hard to tell the bloom from the bright pitchers, which actually are leaves.  These flowers remind me a child’s drawing of a fantasy flower.

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We also choose to change things up from year to year.  Ivy geraniums grow this year in a series of pots where Basil has grown in the past.  Last year’s crop disappointed me, so I chose color over flavor this season.

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This Lantana returned for its fourth season in our garden.

This Lantana returned for its fourth season in our garden.

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Many of our lovely Lantana didn’t make it this past winter.  I’ve replaced some of  them with new plants, and planted other things where some Lantana once grew.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 015~

We finally planted a few Penta plants last week, raised by the Patton family at Homestead Garden Center. We plant a few of these each summer for the hummingbirds.  The Pattons raise these lovely annuals from seed each spring in several different colors.

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Both this ornamental pepper, and the Petunia growing with it, came up as volunteers from seeds dropped by last year's annuals in pots.

Both this ornamental pepper, and the Petunia growing with it, came up as volunteers from seeds dropped by last year’s annuals in pots.

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The Zinnias I planted from seed in early May have not come in as expected.  Re-planting is on that long “to-do” list.  I would love to have Zinnias to cut for vases in August.

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June 14, 2015 garden 014~

There are other flowers coming in down in the lower garden, and on the patio and deck.  Perhaps we’ll visit other areas to see what is blooming in July.  Walking around the garden, morning and evening, always brings surprises.

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One of the perennial geraniums I planted in spring, growing with dusty miller, which survives winter here.

One of the perennial Geraniums I planted in spring, growing with dusty miller, which survives winter here.

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We watch for new flowers opening, and for the shy appearance of our wild companions.  One of our beautiful golden box turtles allowed me to take his portrait this evening as he strolled across the lawn.  We are glad the turtles enjoy living in the garden, and always thank them for allowing us to see them.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 029

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I appreciate Carol’s encouragement to document what is blooming in the garden each month, and to share those photos with others.  I enjoy learning from other gardeners’ experiences, and always enjoy seeing how plants are used by others.

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 034

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I hope you will enjoy this quick look at some of what is in bloom in our forest garden today. 

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Parsley is ready to bloom with the geraniums near our back steps.

Parsley is ready to bloom with the geraniums near our back steps.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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June 16, 2015 blooming in June 020

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