Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the roses….

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

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

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wordless Wednesday

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 005
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“It is good to love many things,
for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much,
and what is done in love is well done.”
.
Vincent van Gogh

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August 24, 2016 Caladiums 014

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Portraits: May Flowers

R. 'Crown Princess Margareta'

R. ‘Crown Princess Margareta’

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“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in-

-what more could he ask?

A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”

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Victor Hugo

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The first of summer's perennial Geraniums bloom alongside the last of winter's Hellebores.

The first of summer’s perennial Geraniums bloom alongside the last of winter’s Hellebores.

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Photographing flowers in the garden, for me, is like taking photos of much loved children, favorite pets, and well loved vistas from one’s own front porch.  It is a gesture of love and appreciation; a desire to capture the magic of a  moment in time. 

These portraits transform a fleeting moment into something tangible to keep, to share, and to return to in the depths of winter.

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Are they fairies dancing at dusk? No, the strawberry begonias, Saxifraga stolonifera, have finally bloomed.

Are they fairies dancing at dusk? No, the strawberry begonias, Saxifraga stolonifera, finally have bloomed.  Their evergreen leaves persisted through every kind of weather this winter to cover themselves in flowers in May.

 

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“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!

I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”

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Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Peony

Peony

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Edna expresses perfectly how I feel about our flowers.  Lovely as they are in the garden, I’m always sad to cut them and bring them indoors.  I still do it occasionally, and have posted photos of flower filled vases from time to time. 

As much as I admire flowers arranged and elevated as objects d’arte, I love them best still growing in the garden; pulsing with life, feeding the pollinators, and moving with the wind and sun.  I would rather photograph our flowers than cut them….

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Comphrey

Comphrey

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“People from a planet without flowers

would think we must be mad with joy the whole time

to have such things about us.”

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Iris Murdoch

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Iris 'Immortality' with Comphrey.

Iris ‘Immortality’ with Comphrey.

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“A weed is but an unloved flower.”

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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Perennial Geranium is a North American native plant and oh so useful and reliable in the garden. What a perfect shade of blue!

Perennial Geranium is a North American native plant and oh so useful and reliable in the garden. What a perfect shade of blue!

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What is the difference between a flower and a weed?  Only how much it is valued, and whether it is welcomed by the gardener.  Some of Europe’s most admired landscape architects are showing us how native plants may be incorporated into our gardens as treasured ornamentals.  I’m thinking of Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, whose book Planting:  A New Perspective I’ve been reading this month.  I’ll devote a post to this book one day soon, but now I’m still digesting it. 

Their book challenges all of us to take a fresh look at those shrubs, flowers and grasses we’ve mentally discarded as not being up to our horticultural standard for beauty.  Perhaps there is something there of value after all; something which allows us to create a new sort of garden which manages itself, remains beautiful through all the seasons, and requires less water, fertilizer, time and investment from the gardener…..

Something hardy, simple and beautiful to bring us joy….

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This Iris, 'Secret Rites,' is new to the garden this season. Certainly not a native plant, it is a tough and reliable perennial. Oudolph and Kingsbury rely on these tough German bearded Iris in many of their designs.

This Iris, ‘Secret Rites,’ is new to the garden this season. Certainly not a native plant, it is a tough and reliable perennial. Oudolph and Kingsbury rely on tough German bearded Iris in many of their designs.

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“Nobody sees a flower – really –

it is so small it takes time –

we haven’t time –

and to see takes time,

like to have a friend takes time.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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These yellow Iris grow wild along marshes and creeks in our area, as well as in our garden. They go on year after year with minimal care and maximum beauty.

These yellow  flag Iris grow wild along marshes and creeks in our area, as well as in our garden. They go on year after year with minimal care and maximum beauty. 

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Photography, like other art forms, is practiced as a joyful expression and as a discipline.  There is no harsh connotation to ‘discipline’ here; only that one takes photos intentionally, thoughtfully, and regularly.  Making photos on an almost daily basis allows me to slow down and see our garden in a particular way that I wouldn’t, if not through the camera’s lens. 

Working with the photos later at the computer:  cropping, adjusting the contrast and light, meditating on the captured forms; allows me to see each flower, leaf and horizon with a different focus that I do in daily passing.  I see more deeply perhaps.  Certainly with more concentration than when I’m distracted by a buzzing insect or by the tasks remaining on my daily list. 

Framing the subject, cropping out the extraneous, taking time to appreciate those small details builds appreciation and familiarity.  Like inviting a friend for tea, one takes the time to concentrate, appreciate, listen, and love.  The relationship transforms from acquaintance to co-conspirator in this mystery of life.

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Tea roses

Tea roses

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.”

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Claude Monet

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R., 'Lichfield Angel'

R., ‘Lichfield Angel’

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Perhaps Monet and I could have been friends, since I share his passion for beauty, flowers, and evolving gardens.  As passionate about gardening as about painting, Monet found happiness with both. 

Without his talent for painting, I content myself with making portraits of our garden with my little camera.  But like Monet, “I must have flowers, always, always…. “

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R. 'Lady of Shallott'

R. ‘Lady of Shallott’

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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May 13, 2016 Begonias 007

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“God will reward you,’ he said.

‘You must be an angel since you care for flowers.”

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Victor Hugo

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First Rose

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Our first rose of the season opened this morning.   This is the earliest we’ve seen a rose bloom in our garden.  Normally they open around Mother’s Day.  But the early warmth brought our roses out early.  Freezing temperatures earlier this week left our roses untouched, we are happy to say.  And this beauty opened despite the wind and chill these last few days.

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In addition to this early rose, we also have Azaleas blooming.  They’ve been slowly opening over the last two weeks.  Mid to late April is their usual time, along with Dogwoods, Wisteria, Tulips and the late Daffodils.

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Our garden has filled with beautiful flowers and unfolding ferns.   Like friends returning after a long time away, we gladly greet each as it appears.

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This post is dedicated to all those friends whose gardens remain asleep while winter lingers.  I hope these photos bring you joy, and remind you of the beauty waiting to unfold for you, too, one day very soon…..

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Above Our Heads

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The roses have grown into a topic of some conflict, believe it or not.  Perhaps because they’re now ten to twelve feet high, reaching ever higher, in the round bed in the middle of our front lawn…

I want to let them grow until each cane bursts into a spray of flowers.  Partner, who likes things neat, has urged me to prune these tall canes.  A rosarian likely would agree with him.

I’ve offered a compromise:  To trim the canes back once each buds, blooms, and drops its petals.  But of course, as the buds open, each tall cane lets gravity slowly guide it back towards the Earth.

Some combination of rain, heat, compost, and love has our garden growing at a prodigious rate this month.

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One of us tends this Moonflower vine, tucking the tendrils back into the trellis, only to find wild growth reaching out towards the house again hours later.  If the leaves are this huge, what will the flowers be?  And this from a rogue seed self-planted during clean up last autumn!

The algorithm behind this growth remains above our heads.  But we trust that those who choreograph it enjoy it at least as much as we  delight in its unfolding.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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In A Vase on Monday: Harvest of Roses

R. "Crown Princess Margareta"

R. “Crown Princess Margareta”

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Roses.  Sweetly fragrant, full-petaled, vividly colored roses.

What more is there to say?

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R. "Golden Celebration" to the left, and R. "Lady of Shallott" to the right.  Perennial Geranium in the center

R. “Golden Celebration” to the left, and R. “Lady of Shallott” to the right

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Ten months of the year, you might hear me nattering on about the importance of interesting foliage in a garden.  I’ll tell you that flowers are short lived and that unusually colorful leaves and interesting structure carry us through the gardening year.  I’ll go on about Caladiums and Begonias, Hosta and Coleus.

But then the Iris, roses, peonies and geraniums open in May; their perfume carried on the warm morning breezes; and I know the truth of it.  

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I love these fragrant beauties, and savor our early summer days when they fill the garden with beautiful abundance.  These roses are all English shrub roses,  bred and marketed by Englishman David Austin and his family.

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R. "Lady of Shallott" yesterday afternoon

R. “Lady of Shallott” yesterday afternoon

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When adding a rose to the garden I nearly always choose one of David Austin’s introductions because they outperform other roses in every way.  The shrubs resist disease and need virtually no spraying; they grow prolifically; bloom generously; and retain strong, delicious old-world rose fragrances.  Many can be purchased growing on their own roots.   And the forms of the fully opened roses are gorgeous.  These plump buds full of petals open into intricate patterns and last for many days.

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Today’s vase holds R. “Golden Celebration,”   R. “Crown Princess Margareta”  and R. “Lady of Shallott.”

Last May Barbara, of Silver in the Barn, brought me a clump of Siberian Iris from her garden, and now they are covered in blooms.

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I cut three for today’s vase. Barbara is one of my true gardening sisters.  And like a good sister, she knows what I need without me even speaking of it.

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Siberian Iris given to us by Barbara and her husband last May; now blooming abundantly.

Siberian Iris given to us by Barbara and her husband last May; now blooming abundantly.

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She brought me these beautiful Iris  which perfectly replace some favorite Siberian Iris left behind in a former garden.

I’ve missed them sorely, and am thrilled to have these transplanted from her garden to mine.

A few stems of perennial Geranium found their way into the vase today, because I loved their violet pink flowers against today’s roses.  There is also Artemesia and some lovely anise scented fennel leaves tucked in around the other stems.

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Today’s vase is an heirloom family piece which normally sits empty on top of the china cabinet.  It was dusted off and pressed into service to hold the roses today. Today’s mineral is an unusual cluster  of Amethyst spirit quartz.

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Another gardening sister visited yesterday, and after coffee we went together out into the garden to cut roses for her for Mother’s Day.   We were celebrating the healthy birth of her newest grandson, only a day old yesterday.  This morning, she sent me photos of the lovely arrangement she made with the roses, which you will enjoy, too.

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Many thanks to Cathy for hosting In A Vase On Monday each week.  She has returned from her travels, and I hope you will visit her to see what is blooming in her garden this week and to follow the links in her comments to many other beautiful May arrangements.

Cathy has gone all “raspberry” on us today, and the results are truly spectacular!

We’ve had off and on rain for nearly two days now, thanks to Ana off the  East Coast.  It is working its way northwards and then out to sea.

It was raining as I cut these stems today, and the skies opened once I was finished and back inside.  Drops of rain still lingered as I took photos of today’s vase.

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We’ve such an abundance of flowers now that I may be inspired to cut and arrange more than once a week for a while.

One day the technology will progress enough that I can record the wonderful fragrance of this vase as easily as I can attach a clip of background music today.

Until then, I hope your imagination will supply the fragrance… or better yet, that you are enjoying roses in your own garden today, too.

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May 10, 2015 Roses 005

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Roses For Mother’s Day

May 10, 2015 Roses 003

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“It is easier to tell a person what life is not,

rather than to tell them what it is.

A child understands weeds

that grow from lack of attention, in a garden.

However, it is hard to explain the wild flowers

that one gardener calls weeds,

and another considers beautiful ground cover.”

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Shannon L. Alder

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May 10, 2015 Roses 001

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“We gardeners are healthy, joyous, natural creatures.

We are practical, patient, optimistic.

We declare our optimism every year, every season,

with every act of planting.”

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Carol Deppe

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“No one plants rosebushes for the thorns.”

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Marty Rubin

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“When tended the right way, beauty multiplies.”

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Shannon Wiersbitzky

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When my daughter was still very young, I decided I would rather be given a potted rose bush for Mother’s Day than a dozen cut roses. 

That simple wish was a defining moment for me.  It meant that no matter how life’s circumstances may shift from year to year, I am surrounded by soft, fragrant roses every May. 

Now I cut from my abundance to share with those I love.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

For the Love of May

Indica hybrid Azalea "Formosa"

Indica hybrid Azalea “Formosa”

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May brings perfume to the garden and joy to the soul. 

It is the happiest month of the whole year to me.  Spring’s warmth has settled comfortably over the garden so the last of the shrubs and perennials finally stir from their winter slumber to send out their first green leaves, which let you know they have survived winter.

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Mayapples

Mayapples

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Taxes are completed and forgotten for another year.  The first fresh local strawberries ripen, tomatoes may be planted, songbirds are nesting, and school is nearly out.

May is for proms, graduations, Mother’s Day, births and weddings.  It is a month for successfully completing long lived goals.   Happiness is almost a tangible fragrance in the air.

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May 7, 2015 garden 021

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Our roses always bloom by Mother’s Day, but our first bud opened in all of its warm beauty yesterday!

Our shrubs are absolutely covered in buds this year, by the way.  The air is soft and filled with the fragrance of sweet iris and freshly cut grass.  The mint has grown tall enough to harvest, and I’m finally planting this summer’s crop of Basil.

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May 7, 2015 garden 002

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I spotted a hummingbird for the first time today flitting from one Columbine blossom to another.  A snapping turtle chose a quiet area to dig a nest and lay her eggs this morning.

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The closing weeks of May serve as a “soft opening” for summer. 

May is for switching over to the summer wardrobe and buying new sandals.  We greet May with Cinco de Mayo and bid it farewell with Memorial Day and the opening of community pools.

May is for the first beach trips of the season, enjoying long twilit evenings on the deck, and catching up with the farmers who run the local farm stand.  We re-arrange the deck for a new season, re-plant the pots, and remember our summer routines.

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May 7, 2015 garden 009

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My summer routine finds me in the garden most mornings watering, observing, trimming, and taking photos.  Listening to the chatter of birds and the whirr of hummingbird wings, I take note of what needs attention that day.  And we celebrate each new wonder as it unfolds.

Yesterday brought the Mountain Laurel opening the first of its flowers.

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Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

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Today brought more roses opening and more Iris.  And today I finally installed that new planting bed that I’ve been contemplating since February.

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May 7, 2015 garden 017

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Of course May also brings Mayflies and sunburn, summer heat and higher gas prices.  Every month has its stresses, its true.

Yet May holds more happiness than most.  And I’m partial to any month which brings me iris and  roses…

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May 5, 2015 garden 009

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

November Roses

Rose, "Crown Princess Margareta" by David Austen.

Rose, “Crown Princess Margareta” by David Austen.  Photo taken November 1, 2014

 

The roses which make it through to November have to be tough.

This one has been a special joy.

Rose, "Crown Princess Margareta" by David Austen.

Rosa, “Crown Princess Margareta,” side view this morning.

 

We stop and enjoy its fragrance every time we walk up our driveway.

The rose bush is in a bed directly beside the drive; the first bed I dug, specifically for roses, once we came to this garden.

Our November rose in bud on October 19, 2014

Our November rose in bud on October 19, 2014

 

These very tough David Austin roses have survived annual grazing from the deer, root damage from the voles, sun, drought, wind and snow.

And they still bloom this beautifully.

The same blossom of "Crown Princess Margareta" taken on October 25.

The same blossom of “Crown Princess Margareta” taken on October 25.

 

This particular rose began as a bud in mid-October.  We had already enjoyed it for several days when I first photographed it on October 19.

It was so stunning, my partner suggested that we photograph it.

The same rose again on October 28.

The same rose again on October 28.

Each day it has gotten  more beautiful.

And through wind and rain, cold nights and sunny warm days it has lingered.

An unknown rose planted by the previous gardeners here.  It is covered with fragrant buds and flowers today.

An unknown rose planted by the previous gardeners here. It is covered with fragrant buds and flowers today.

 

Last night we dropped into the mid-40’s here in our garden.

Today dawned overcast, cool and wet;  bone shivering wet and windy.

Another bud of the same rose in bloom

Another bud of the same rose in bloom

 

So much so, that I was inspired to spend the morning bringing in a hanging geranium we’ve left outside in the crepe myrtle tree, the first of the succulent pots, and a even the large variegated geranium which has lived by our kitchen door since May.

 

Rosa, "Lady of Shallott," another rose bred by David Austen.  This shrub rose is extremely vigorous with tall,arching canes.  It has bloomed non-stop since May.

Rosa, “Lady of Shalott,” another rose bred by David Austen. This shrub rose is extremely vigorous with tall,arching canes. It has bloomed non-stop since May.

 

But my first thought was for the roses.  We love them so much this time of year as they give their final flowers of the season.

 

R. "Lady of Shalott" in bud

R. “Lady of Shalott” in bud

 

And our stalwart rose by the driveway continues to bloom, every petal intact, and offer up its fragrance each time we stop to visit.

We have made great effort to grow roses in this garden.  It is the reason we work constantly  to keep deer out of the garden, as rose buds are the sweetest of “deer candy.”

 

R. "The Generous Gardener,"  a fairly new introduction from David Austen.

R. “The Generous Gardener,” a fairly new introduction from David Austen.

 

Given good soil, sun, and moisture; roses are relatively easy to grow.

But like pets and children, they require supervision and timely intervention. 

R. The Generous Gardener

R. The Generous Gardener

 

While tea roses thrive on pruning, shrub roses may be allowed to grow without such drastic pruning.

They respond well to having dead flowers cut off, spring shaping and general maintenance; but they require far less maintenance than the hybrid teas.

 

The last flower of the season on this floribunda rose from Jackson and Perkins.

The last flower of the season on this floribunda rose from Jackson and Perkins.

 

David Austen’s hybrids are my favorites for fragrance, form, and color. 

He has reached back over the centuries to the older full and fragrant varieties as the parents of his modern disease-resistant hybrids.

His hybrids offer  the best of the old romantic roses on hardy, easy to care for shrubs.

 

Hybrid tea roses, like this one, generally have fewer than 40 petals per bloom.  Austen's hybrids frequently have more than 80 per bloom, offering rich fragrance.

Hybrid tea roses, like this one, generally have fewer than 40 petals per bloom. Austen’s hybrids frequently have more than 80 per bloom, offering rich fragrance.

 

We  don’t ever “spray” here with chemicals.  These roses are all grown organically.  Once established, the shrubs remain healthy and give flowers all season long.

Even in November.

What more may any temperate climate gardener hope for than a garden full of roses on the first of November?

 

R. "Lady of Shalott, blooming in our garden this morning.

R. “Lady of Shalott, blooming in our garden this morning.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

R. "Golden Celebration," another of our favorite David Austen roses, at the end of May.

R. “Golden Celebration,” another of our favorite David Austen roses, at the end of May.

 

 

After the Rain

May 29 2014 after the rain 045

I can remember a time when the weather was just the weather.

We didn’t check in with The Weather Channel several times each day.

We didn’t need to.

May 29 2014 after the rain 046

Rose, “Easy Does It”

Summer thunderstorms weren’t agents of mass destruction.

Our winter storms weren’t named, and we rarely broke a temperature record, summer or winter.

Tricolor annual geranium

Tricolor annual geranium

The weather was just…. the weather.

We had something each day, but rarely did it make the news.

Coleus with Columbine and a newly sprouted morning glory vine.

Coleus with Columbine and a newly sprouted morning glory vine.

Oh, I remember going to watch the  badly flooded James River rip through Richmond after Hurricane Camille caused severe flooding.

It was only a tropical storm as it crossed Virginia, but our family still went down to the Nickle Bridge to watch white water on the James.

Lamb's Ears are just beginning to flower.

Lamb’s Ears are just beginning to flower.

But it was such a rare event…. we didn’t worry about our cities flooding multiple times each year.

Sinkholes didn’t swallow homes and roads, and we didn’t see fresh footage of terrible tornadoes each day for weeks at a time.

Our weather is so extreme these days.

The rose scented geraniums have just begun to bloom this week.

The rose scented geraniums have just begun to bloom this week.

This week Alaska endured wildfires while families living around the Great Lakes had their Memorial Day picnics next to icy beaches.

Children taking a dip in the lake were actually taking a “polar plunge” into water cold enough to still be filled with chunks of ice.

Caladium

Caladium “Postman Joyner”

Landslides from too much rain have become commonplace in many states, while other areas are grappling with crippling droughts.

There is too much suffering and loss attributed to the weather these days.

All of us in coastal areas are now paying attention to news about how quickly sea levels are rising.

And we’re watching stories on our local news about  neighbors caught in urban flooding,  just driving from home to work.

The stump garden is filling in.

The stump garden is filling in.

As a gardener, (and a human being,)  I just want a nice balance. 

Let there be enough rain to support our gardens.

Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern

Let the summer be mild enough that we can stand to go outside to mow the grass and pull the weeds.

Let the winters be cold, but not too cold for too long.

And please, no destructive storms. 

The fern garden

The fern garden

Yes, I’m nostalgic for the days before extreme weather became the norm.

We never talked about climate change, or geo-engineering, global warming or weaponized weather when I was young.

It felt like a far simpler world back then.

"Golden Celebration," a David Austin English shrub rose.

“Golden Celebration,” a David Austin English shrub rose.

I love the rain soaked garden after a summer shower; when the plants are glowing and basking in the cool, moist air.

I love raindrops clinging to leaves and petals, the freshness of the breeze, and the feeling that all is right with the world for another day.

Dusty Miller growing against Lantana, which survived our winter.

Dusty Miller growing against Lantana, which survived our winter.

A simple pleasure, to walk in the garden, after the rain.

Caladium, "Candidum"

Caladium, “Candidum”

May you enjoy these simple pleasures, too.

Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

 

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