Sunday Dinner: “A Discipline With a Deadline”

~

“Butterflies used to reproduce

on the native plants that grew in our yards

before the plants were bulldozed and replaced with lawn.

To have butterflies in our future,

we need to replace those lost host plants,

no if’s, and’s or but’s.

If we do not, butterfly populations

will continue to decline

with every new house that is built.”

.

Douglas Tallamy

~

~

“We were the product and beneficiary

of a vibrant natural world,

rather than its master.”

.

  Douglas W. Tallamy

~

~

“Knowledge generates interest,

and interest generates compassion.”

.

  Douglas W. Tallamy

~

~

“We can no longer afford

to consider air and water common property,

free to be abused by anyone

without regard to the consequences.

Instead, we should begin now

to treat them as scarce resources,

which we are no more free to contaminate

than we are free to throw garbage

into our neighbor’s yard.”

.

  Douglas W. Tallamy

~

~

“Our privately owned land

and the ecosystems upon it are essential

to everyone’s well-being, not just our own.

Abusing land anywhere has negative ramifications

for people everywhere.”

.

  Douglas W. Tallamy

~

~

“My point is this:

each of the acres we have developed for specific human goals

is an opportunity to add to Homegrown National Park.

We already are actively managing

nearly all of our privately owned lands

and much of the public spaces in the United States.

We simply need to include ecological function

in our management plans

to keep the sixth mass extinction at bay.”

.

  Douglas W. Tallamy

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

.

“Conservation biology . . .

[is] a discipline with a deadline.”

.

E. O. Wilson

~

~

To Learn More (These books should top the reading list of every serious naturalist and gardener…. Woodland Gnome)

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy

 

 

Six on Saturday: Our Forest Garden

~

Most times when you hear someone talk about creating a ‘forest garden,’ they are designing a complex environment to generate fresh, healthy food for as many weeks of the year as their growing season permits.  Forest gardens are built around trees, of course, and the food producing plants come in many different layers from tree-tops to ground covers.

I began working with this idea in the 1990’s on another, suburban property where I grew a great deal of food.  In fact, most summer evenings I’d wander around our yard, basket and clippers in hand, and gather a basketful of produce to cook for our evening meal.  There were beans and squash, tomatoes, okra, various leafy greens, potatoes, apples, peaches, berries, various herbs and more.  I experimented a great deal with mixing edibles with flowering plants so the garden was both productive and beautiful.

~

Vitis vulpina, a native grape, cascades through the tree tops on the sunny edges of our garden.  Can you see the ripening grapes?

~

I wanted to take that to the next level on this property, where I had more space and had several species of fruit trees established when we arrived.  We all have dreams, don’t we? 

It took only a few years to understand that my best attempts would yield more frustration than success…. or dinner.  My old neighborhood had major roads all around and not a single deer for miles.  We had squirrels and the occasional raccoon.  This community is home to herds of roaming deer, a warren of rabbits lives and breeds nearby, and there are squirrels everywhere.  I’ve come to love the wildlife, especially the many species of birds who live with us, but have mostly given up my plans of growing produce at home.

Actually, I pivoted somewhere  along the way from trying every edible plant I could to cultivating as many poisonous plants as I can.  They last longer….

~

~

You see squirrels eat peaches, pears and apples before they ripen.  Deer eat tomato plants and snack on squash and beans.  Even the container garden I tried on the deck fed our acrobatic squirrels before we could harvest the tomatoes.  We never harvest a single nut, even though there is a huge hazelnut patch right beside our deck.  Now we have a few hickory trees maturing, and I’ll be curious to see whether any nuts are left for us.

A forest garden is built around a few carefully selected fruit or nut bearing trees.   Vegetable plants are planted between and under the trees, depending on how much sun each plant requires.  Fruiting shrubs, like blueberries and brambles grow along the perimeter, and one finds room for a few elderberries, gooseberries, figs, currants, and grapes.  This is a sustainable garden, and so one tries to plant perennial crops like asparagus, sun chokes, perennial herbs and the woodies.  It is very elegant and productive when it is well planned on a fertile site.

~

Figs are growing on this fig tree that I planted from a cutting of another tree in our garden.  When a branch broke off in a storm, I cut it into pieces and ‘planted’ them where I wanted new trees to grow.  Figs are great ‘forest garden’ plants.

~

We’ve had some small successes.  I can grow herbs here and expect to harvest them myself.  The critters don’t bother our rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, or mints.  In fact, fragrant herbs also help deter herbivores from other delicious plants. We’ve grown rhubarb, which has poisonous leaves that the deer won’t graze.  Rhubarb prefers a cooler climate, and isn’t long-lived in our garden.

We have an Italian fig variety that doesn’t darken as it ripens.  They remain light green, and swell until they burst.  We’ve enjoyed some fine fig harvests over the years.  And grapes love our garden.  I grow a delicious Muscadine that bears well, if ‘we’ don’t prune it too hard while it is in flower.

I started our Muscadines from seed after a particularly good purchase at the farmer’s market.  But we have wild grapes, too.   Not that we ever taste them, but large clusters of other native grapes hang down from the canopy through the summer months, until birds decide they are ready to harvest.

We have Vitis aestivalis, the summer grape or pigeon grape with its beautiful trident shaped leaf; and Vitis vulpina, the wild grape or fox grape.   V. vulpina is bitter until very late into the season, and by then the wild things have claimed them.  These vines crop up as volunteers, as they do throughout most of Virginia.  They scamper up and over trees and shrubs and every gardener must decide whether to allow them or to ignore them.  By the time I decided that our forest garden is at heart a wildlife garden, I welcomed the grape vines.

~

Fennel may be used fresh, the flowers are edible, and the seeds may be harvested for cooking.

~

There is actually quite a lot here one could eat if one were hungry.  We could harvest the bamboo shoots in spring, but we throw them to the squirrels.  We could use many of our native flowers and other herbs for teas.  We have the full cast of edible herbs, beech nuts, acorns, figs and fiddleheads.

I could try harder.  If Trader Joe’s weren’t so conveniently close, I surely could grow potatoes, at least.  Maybe one year I’ll plant some of the seed potatoes I always save.

But quite honestly, foraging for one’s food in the garden takes planning and commitment.   It is a wonderfully interesting undertaking, and very good for both the wallet and the planet.  But it also takes really good fences and barriers.  After all, the wild things have nothing else to do all day except find their food.  Who am I to stop them?

~

Monarda provides excellent forage for pollinators. Its leaves may be dried and used to flavor tea.  Its flowers are edible.  This is the distinctive flavor in Earl Gray tea.

~

Woodland Gnome 2020

Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

 

Six on Saturday: Return of the Caladiums

Caladium ‘Pink Beauty’

~

Some things are worth the wait.  The stars have to align and summer has to heat up to its steamy, sultry best before that familiar, happy satisfaction fills my heart as I walk around our garden admiring the Caladiums.

I love Caladiums.  I love their pure colors, their intricate patterns, their tough beauty, their easy way of popping out leaf after gorgeous leaf from early summer until deep into fall.  I love them enough to care for them through the coldest months of winter and early spring, all to watch them live to grow another year.

~

Caladium ‘Carolyn Wharton’

~

When I dug and dried our Caladiums late last year, as nights grew chilly and days grew short,  I was a little overwhelmed with our harvest.  I had crate after crate of plants drying out in the basement.  By the time they were dried and I was ready to pack them up for the winter, it was time to prepare for the holidays.

But no, I was more interested in putting the Caladiums properly to bed.  Each bulb needs its own TLC to clean it up and pack it gently away.  I pack mesh bags with bulbs graded by size and cushioned with packing material, stack them together in a paper grocery bag, and then store that bag in a warm dry spot in the house to rest for the next several moths.

~

Caladium ‘Peppermint’

~

By early March, I’m dreaming about our Caladiums again, itching to bring them out of storage and plant them in flats to sprout.  And we had so many bulbs packed away that I didn’t order any new ones, for the first year in several.

I waited, this year, about two weeks later than usual to start our Caladiums, and they were eager to grow.  We knew we had a cool, late spring coming, and so I waited until late March.  Most already had little sprouts when I brought them out of storage.

I planted the tubers in large plastic boxes, watered them in, put the lids back on, and then stacked the boxes indoors until the Caldiums rooted and began to grow..  This year I had 8 big storage boxes planted densely with Caladiums.

~

Caladium ‘Berries ‘N Burgundy’

~

It was so cool in April, that I tried to keep them indoors in their boxes even later than usual.  One day I glanced at my stack of plastic boxes and saw some leaves reaching out, lifting the lids, in their bid to escape and find the light.  What strong leaves!  I almost waited too long.

It was time to open up the boxes to give them space to grow, ready or not.  Our nights were still in the 40s, which is much too cool for Caladiums.  So I began moving the boxes out to our sunny garage in hopes I could keep them growing, but protected for a few more weeks, out there.

It was Mother’s Day before it was warm enough to move our Caladiums outside, and I moved the boxes out into some sheltered shade.  By then many of the first leaves had stretched tall and lanky.  But after a day or two outside, their colors developed and I happily greeted many favorite varieties from years gone by.  They were growing too large for their boxes, and so I spent several days lifting them and potting them individually to grow on.

~

This Caladium ‘Burning Heart’ has grown some of the largest leaves I’ve ever seen on a Caladium!

~

I’ve spent June potting and planting Caladiums throughout the yard in all of our shady or partly shady beds.  I’ve sorted them more by color than by variety, sometimes guessing from a first little leaf or two what the plant might be.  Often the first leaf or two to open isn’t true to the mature coloration of a variety.  It takes a bit of time, and heat, and light for the leaves to grow into the fullness of their potential.

Older Caladium bicolor varieties were strictly shade plants.  Many of the newer hybrids can stand full or partial sun.  Finding the right spot for each variety is a little like working a very complicated puzzle.  This year, I’ve planted mostly in pots to make the autumn operation a little easier.  I lost track of some last fall that lost their leaves before I got around to digging them up.  These tropical beauties can’t take our winters out of doors.

But bringing the whole pot in has its advantages, too.  I was surprised and delighted to find Caladiums sprouting in several of the pots that I overwintered in our garage, with other tender plants, like ferns and Begonias.  When I bring potted Caladiums into the living areas of our house, they will often begin to grow again by January or February, and we enjoy them indoors as houseplants.  Those left undisturbed are growing lush, and full again now.

Finally, this first week of July, our Caladiums are all growing vigorously and filling in with their spectacular leaves.  The hours invested in their care have given a rich return in beauty.

You might think that I’d be growing tired of the Caladiums by now, and my attention would turn to other things.  But no… an email from Classic Caladiums broke my resolve to grow only our saved tubers this year.

There was this newly introduced variety that caught my eye, and they are all marked down for the end of season clearance.  I just had to try something new, and so ordered a bag.  When the tubers arrived just a few days later, I eagerly planted them into pots wherever I thought they would grow.  We’ll soon see what new beauty they bring.

Caladiums will brighten our garden through the hottest, most humid days of summer, until the seasons turn yet again. Each leaf is a bit different, endlessly fascinating and lovely.

~

Caladium ‘Moonlight’ grows best in deep shade, lighting it like a beacon well into a long, summer evening.

~

Woodland Gnome 2020

~

~

Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

Sunday Dinner: Bloom Where You Are Planted

~

“To accomplish great things we must not only act,
but also dream;
not only plan, but also believe.
.
Anatole France

~

~

“Only those who attempt the absurd
can achieve the impossible.”
,
Albert Einstein

~

~

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion,
which is life,
by artificial means and hold it fixed
so that a hundred years later,
when a stranger looks at it,
it moves again since it is life.”
.
William Faulkner

~

~

“People pretend not to like grapes
when the vines are too high
for them to reach.”
.
Marguerite de Navarre

~

~

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing
unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…
I have never in my life envied a human being
who led an easy life.
I have envied a great many people
who led difficult lives and led them well.”
.
Theodore Roosevelt

~

~

“Not much happens without a dream.
And for something great to happen,
there must be a great dream.
Behind every great achievement
is a dreamer of great dreams.
Much more than a dreamer is required
to bring it to reality;
but the dream must be there first.”
.
Robert K. Greenleaf

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

~

“One bulb at a time.
There was no other way to do it.
No shortcuts–simply loving the slow process of planting.
Loving the work as it unfolded.
Loving an achievement that grew slowly
and bloomed for only three weeks each year.”
.
Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

~

~

Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Sunday Dinner: Ever Widening Circles

Monarda fistulosa

~

“I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

~

Daucus carota with Cyrtomium falcatum

~

“I beg you, to have patience with everything

unresolved in your heart

and to try to love the questions themselves

as if they were locked rooms

or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers,

which could not be given to you now,

because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps then, someday far in the future,

you will gradually, without even noticing it,

live your way into the answer.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

~

~

“To love is good, too: love being difficult.

For one human being to love another:

that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks,

the ultimate, the last test and proof,

the work for which all other work

is but preparation.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

~

~

“We need, in love, to practice only this:

letting each other go.

For holding on comes easily;

we do not need to learn it.”

.

Rainer Maria Rilke

~

Zantedeschia albomaculata

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

~

Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’

~

“Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now,

lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words

that sometimes do you good.

His life may also have much sadness and difficulty,

that remains far beyond yours.

Were it otherwise,

he would never have been able to find these words.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

~

Clematis

~

“It is spring again.

The earth is like a child

that knows poems by heart.”
.

Rainer Maria Rilke

~

Sunday Dinner: Living With Purpose

~

“The mystery of human existence

lies not in just staying alive,

but in finding something to live for.”

.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

~

~

“Your purpose in life

is to find your purpose

and give your whole heart and soul to it”

.

Guatama Buddha

~

~

“A small change can make a big difference.

You are the only one who can make

our world a better place to inhabit.

So, don’t be afraid to take a stand .”

.

Ankita Singhal

~

~

“The purpose of life is to live it,

to taste experience to the utmost,

to reach out eagerly and without fear

for newer and richer experience.”

.

Eleanor Roosevelt

~

~

 

“True glory consists

in doing what deserves to be written,

in writing what deserves to be read,

and in so living

as to make the world happier and better

for our living in it.”

.

Pliny the Elder

~

~

“Awareness is the power

that is concealed within the present moment. …

The ultimate purpose of human existence,

which is to say, your purpose,

is to bring that power into this world.”

.

Eckhart Tolle

~

~

“Following your inner guidance

has a unique power all its own.

Even when others can’t understand it,

you can feel your soul being pulled

to the place it truly belongs.”

.

Kianu Starr

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

~

~

Things don’t have purposes,

as if the universe were a machine,

where every part has a useful function.

What’s the function of a galaxy?

I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters.

What does matter is that we’re a part.

Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field.

It is and we are.

What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.”
.

Ursula K. Le Guin

.

 

Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

 

Sunday Dinner: Back to Work

~

“Your purpose in life

is to find your purpose

and give your whole heart and soul to it”

.

Gautama Buddha

~

~

“Out of clutter,

find simplicity.”

.

Albert Einstein

~

~

“Without ambition one starts nothing.

Without work one finishes nothing.

The prize will not be sent to you.

You have to win it.”

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

~

~

“A man is not idle

because he is absorbed in thought.

There is visible labor

and there is invisible labor.”

.

Victor Hugo

~

~

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made,
What’s a sundial in the shade?”

.

Benjamin Franklin

~

~

“This is the real secret of life –

– to be completely engaged

with what you are doing in the here and now.

And instead of calling it work,

realize it is play.”

.

Alan Watts

~

~

“There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony.

There is time for work.

And time for love.

That leaves no other time.”

 

Coco Chanel

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

~

~

“The artist is nothing without the gift,

but the gift is nothing without work.”


.

Émile Zola

 

Sunday Dinner: Acceptance

 

~

“For after all, the best thing one can do

when it is raining

is let it rain.”

 

.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

~

~

“No person is your friend

who demands your silence,

or denies your right to grow.”

.

Alice Walker

~

~

“Sometimes people let the same problem

make them miserable for years

when they could just say, So what.

That’s one of my favorite things to say.

So what.

.

Andy Warhol

~

~

“The ache for home lives in all of us.

The safe place where we can go as we are

and not be questioned.”

.

Maya Angelou

~

~

“IT happened.

There is no avoiding it, no forgetting.

No running away, or flying,

or burying, or hiding.”

.

Laurie Halse Anderson

~

~

“Nothing brings down walls

as surely as acceptance.”

.

Deepak Chopra

~

~

“The moment that judgement stops

through acceptance of what it is,

you are free of the mind.

You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.”

.

Eckhart Tolle

~

~

“Don’t look for peace.

Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now;

otherwise, you will set up inner conflict

and unconscious resistance.

Forgive yourself for not being at peace.

The moment you completely accept your non-peace,

your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace.

Anything you accept fully will get you there,

will take you into peace.

This is the miracle of surrender”

.

Eckhart Tolle

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

~

~

“Everything that has a beginning has an ending.

Make your peace with that

and all will be well.”
.

Jack Kornfield

~

~

Please visit Illuminations, for a daily photo from our garden.

Six on Saturday: Always Another Surprise

This old redbud tree fell over in a storm last year, yet is covered in new growth this spring. Its roots are strongly planted in the earth even as its trunk lies nearly horizontal along the slope of the garden.

~

We weren’t expecting to get between 3 and 5 inches of rain yesterday afternoon.  Sure, we knew it might rain; there might even be a little thunder.  It’s nearly June, the start of Hurricane Season.  Storms come and go in coastal Virginia, and we’ve had a lot of that wet traffic lately.

But the storms seemed to be going around us for much of the day.  And even when the wispy little edge of a system brushed over us on radar, we expected only a passing shower.  But no.  It lingered, grew, intensified, roiled around a while.  It filled the ditch by our street and turned the creek in the ravine into a rushing river of run-off as a flash-flood warning pinged on my phone.  We began to hear about local roads flooding as heavy rain pounded on the roof and patio, our trees bending and swaying under such an unexpected watery attack.

~

Some parts of the garden love the rain.

~

Does it make sense to say that you’re surprised, while not being really surprised at all?  We’ve had so many fast, unexpected storms roll over our area in recent years that nothing from the sky should surprise us anymore.  And yet when they sneak up in mid-afternoon, without proper warning from the weather-guessers, and then leave a changed landscape behind, it does leave a scuff-mark on one’s psyche.

Of course we are in these already surreal and surprising months of 2020, so nothing should surprise us too much at this point.  Weather seems the least of it, honestly.

~

Athyrium ‘Ghost’

~

But when I went out early this morning, camera in hand, to spy on the rabbits munching the front ‘lawn’ and to see what I could see in the garden, I was greeted with more little surprises in the garden.

Maybe what I really love most about gardening is the novelty of tending a living system and all of the surprises, both pleasant and not, which greet one each day.  What’s changed?  What’s in bloom?  What’s grown?  What’s been eaten overnight by the deer?  What young tree has just fallen over after the voles ate its roots?  You get my drift….

The very back of our garden is sheltered by a small ‘bamboo forest’ which shields it from the ravine.  Now, you likely know that bamboo, even when it’s 40′ tall and as big around as a large grapefruit, is a grass.  And grass grows from underground rhizomes, which spread as far as they possibly can.  We love the bamboo and the cool privacy it gives us.

~

~

That said, every May we must police its new shoots daily to keep it in bounds.  You see, it really, really would like to claim more of the garden and so marches right up the hill towards our home every spring.  It sends up new shoots hourly over several weeks, and then it gives up until next year.  Sometimes the shoots are chopstick thin and actually look like a respectable grass.  They’re rather artistic and I’d be tempted to leave them, emerging in the midst of a flower border or my fernery, if I didn’t know their intent.

Other shoots come up thick and strong, like fast growing baseball bats claiming their right to seek the sun above the garden.  It’s a good thing that the squirrels love fresh bamboo shoots so much, because they quickly clean up the stray shoots we must knock over each day.

Well, when I wandered into the back garden this morning, I was greeted with unexpectedly prodigious new bamboo shoots thrusting up through shrubs, ferns, perennials and grass.  How can they grow that fast?  I wasn’t in my boots yet, so I made their portraits and left them to grow another few hours until my partner could deal with them.

~

~

The ground was soft and squishy, still completely saturated from another early morning rain.  Fig branches were bent and touching the ground.  The lamb’s ears flower stalks I’d been allowing to grow for the bees lay flat in the mulch.  Only the ferns looked truly happy this morning.  The ferns, pushing out abundant new fronds, and a lone Japanese Iris that just bloomed for the first time in our garden.

A fresh Iris blossom always elicits a smile from me.  Like a deep breath of fresh spring air, it fills me with unreasonable happiness.  What is this magic some flowers work in our gnarly, jaded hearts?  I can turn away from two score bamboo shoots invading the garden to admire a single Iris blossom, and let that beautiful surprise buoy me back inside to pour my morning coffee.

Yes, we garden as much for the surprises as for the known rhythms of our gardening year.  There’s always something new to enjoy and always some new chore to do.  What more could one hope for?

~

Iris ensata, ‘Temple Bells,’ blooming for the first time in our garden this morning.  It was a gift from a friend last summer.

~

Woodland Gnome 2020

.

Please visit my new website, Illuminations, for a daily photo from our garden.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

Sunday Dinner: Bathed in Light

~

“It is not we who seek the Way,

but the Way which seeks us.

That is why you are faithful to it,

even while you stand waiting,

so long as you are prepared,

and act the moment you are confronted

by its demands.”

.

Dag Hammarskjöld

~

~

“True morality consists not in following the beaten track,

but in finding the true path for ourselves,

and fearlessly following it.”

.

Mahatma Gandhi

~

~

“Does the walker choose the path,

or the path the walker?”

.

Garth Nix

~

~

“Water is the most perfect traveler

because when it travels

it becomes the path itself!”

.

Mehmet Murat ildan

~

~

“Don’t keep forever on the public road,

going only where others have gone.”

.

Alexander Graham Bell

~

~

“As one gets older

one sees many more paths that could be taken.

Artists sense within their own work

that kind of swelling of possibilities,

which may seem a confusion, or a freedom.”

.

Jasper Johns

~

~

“Who said it was a path?

It could have just been artfully strewn cookies.

You made it a path by following it,

and assuming it had any intention.”

.

Roshani Chokshi

~

~

“Let the path that you follow

be bathed in light.”

.

Anthony T. Hincks

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2020

~

~

“They aren’t roadblocks.

They’re signposts.”
.

Richie Norton

Please visit my new website, Illuminations, for a daily photo from our garden.

 

 

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