Snow Surprise

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Did I say surprise?  Little should surprise us anymore.  We live in such a ‘land of confusion’ these days that I’ve started taking a lot of what I hear, including weather forecasts, with a grain of salt.  Which is probably why I didn’t expect it to snow, at least not here, despite the forecasts on every wavelength and website. We decided it was as good a day as any to venture out to Toano for some shopping, and chose to ignore the sputtering rain as we headed out on our errands just before noon.

We listened to the sleet bouncing off the car as we returned in the early afternoon from our foray to the Tractor Supply Co.  It is one of our favorite stops in early spring, and we took some time browsing among the boots and hats before heading off to see what was new and interesting.

I was interested in the tools and shrubs and baby chicks huddling under heat lamps in the middle of the store.  There was an ‘instant flower garden’ seed mix complete with mulch and fertilizer; just sprinkle and add water.  I contented myself with a giant bag of potting soil, and we headed back out into the rain and darkening skies.

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After one more stop at a big box store to pick up some bags of bare-root ferns, we hastened home as the storm picked up.  I still expected hours of mixed precipitation with just barely above freezing temperatures through the rest of the afternoon.  The staccato tinkling of sleet sounded oddly comforting, and I turned my attention to pulling together something warm for lunch.

It was only an hour or so later, when I looked up from what I was reading, that I noticed huge flakes of snow falling past the windows.  The cat was asleep beside me and took no notice of our world gone oddly white.  I can’t remember when I’ve ever seen snowflakes the size of eggs, but that is what filled the sky and was already sticking to the deck.

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I quickly pulled up a radar weather map to get the latest guess on what was happening.  Right.  Our whole region still registered as heavy rain according to the NWS map on my screen.  Nothing is quite what it seems these days, but I sort of still hope that at least the radar map will reflect reality.

I looked back to the window, and put the map in motion.  It clearly showed the blue and pink clouds moving over the state well to our west, and we were under dark green and yellow.  Maybe there was still some rain mixed in with these gargantuan snowflakes?

I grabbed my camera and headed for the deck to see for myself what was actually falling.  The budding pear tree, now covered in snow, was shaking strangely.

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At first I thought that two large birds had settled into its upper branches.  I focused carefully and snapped, determined to get a closer look at what had landed in our tree.  And then they moved again, oddly for a bird, and I saw the give-away furry tails of a trio of squirrels happily snacking on our opening flower blossoms despite the falling snow.  And no, there was no rain mixed in; it was pure, fluffy wet snow falling in our yard.

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It felt far colder than the windowsill thermometer reported.  We decided that we should retrieve the mail before the box had a chance to freeze, and so I found boots and something warm and hooded for the hike to the box.  It was only an excuse, of course, to get a better look at our snow filled garden.

It looked absolutely surreal to see pops of bright springtime yellow and fresh green under the white and brown and grey of a snow covered garden.  The pavement was already slippery under almost an inch of snow; the sky thick and white and filled with falling blobs of crystallized wetness; the garden bent under the weight of this spring time ‘snow surprise’.

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Well, for my friends in the northeast, my smugness has been knocked down a notch today.    I’ve been showing you flowers and sunshine, while knowing you were getting hammered up there with winter storms.  Your gracious admiration of my springtime flower photos is appreciated.  Now, I hope you get a good chuckle seeing our snow covered garden this afternoon.

Of course, we wonder how much damage this may cause.  Last spring the Magnolia liliiflora had already bloomed when we got a hard freeze, and all of those buds and blossoms were lost.   A second flush came a few weeks later, but the damage was done.

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Our roses are showing new stems and leaves, despite my reluctance to prune them back yet.  And the redbud trees were just showing their first blossoms this weekend.  The Camellias along the street are covered in red rose-like blossoms.  The fruit trees are beginning to bloom, and the first of the Japanese painted ferns were just showing their earliest fiddle heads yesterday morning.  We’ll know what comes through unharmed tomorrow, won’t we? 

A gardener comes to accept uncertainty.  We keep on planting and tending with some measure of confidence that it will ‘all be OK.’  There is always the chance of a late freeze or snow, a summer storm, a flood, drought, earthquake or even an asteroid, I suppose.  Yet, we keep tending the soil and planting and pruning and protecting tender things when it’s cold like this.

In four months, when the ground is parched, we’ll water and mulch.  And tonight, we’ll linger by the window and find beauty in this last (?) taste of winter before spring settles in for good.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

Were you around in 1986, in the early years of MTV, when this song filled the air?  Somehow it still sounds fresh and true today….  We can still take comfort in our tunes, especially when the weirdness of the day’s news feels like a bit too much.

Land of Confusion

Genesis 1986

I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear their marching feet
Moving into the street

Now, did you read the news today?
They say the danger’s gone away
Well, I can see the fire’s still alight
Burning into the night

Too many men, too many people
Giving too many problems
And not much love to go around
Can’t you see this is the land of confusion?

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

Oh, Superman, where are you now?
When everything’s gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour

This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
There’s not much love to go around
Tell me why this is the land of confusion

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make this a place worth living in

Make it a place oh, yeah

This is the world we live in (oh, I remember long ago)
This is the world we live in (oh, the sun was shining)

Songwriters: ANTHONY BANKS, MICHAEL RUTHERFORD, PHILLIP COLLINS
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Change Is in the Air

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

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

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

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

But not this year, or last….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 8, 2014

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

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

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February 9, 2017

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

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

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Magnolia stellata blooming in late February, 2016

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

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

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Newly planted Dianthus blooms in our autumn garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Celebrating Caladiums, and Remembering Their Growers

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We’ve spent much of the weekend glued to news reports from Florida, watching the progress of Hurricane Irma on radar on our tablets, and checking the National Hurricane Center’s updates.  We have weathered a hurricane or three here in coastal Virginia, and have a pretty good idea what our neighbors in Florida are going through.

Of course, they are facing off with the biggest, strongest hurricane to hit the United States in any of our memories.  And hurricane force winds and rain have swept across the entire state.

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Caladium ‘Desert Sunset,’ a 2016 introduction from Classic Caladiums. C. ‘Sweet Carolina’ is peeking out to the left.

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Our thoughts turn to friends and family in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.  We appreciate all that local governments have done to prepare, and marvel at the can-do spirit shown by even political rivals in the face of this catastrophe.  Let’s hope that more than a little of that pragmatic, cooperative spirit lingers once the flood waters clear and the clean-up and re-building commence.

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Calaldium ‘White Delight’ was introduced in 2015 by Classic Caladiums.

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Our Caladium suppliers all live and work in central Florida.  Classic Caladiums is based in Avon Park.  Another supplier is based just to the south in Lake Placid.  This part of Florida produces tons and tons of Caladium tubers each summer.

In fact, Florida produces a large percentage of the plugs and plants sold through nurseries on the East Coast.  I hope these hard working, largely family businesses, can weather a storm of this magnitude.  I certainly hope their crops and infrastructure can bounce back.  I would surely miss them.

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Caladium ‘Gingerland’

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I try to keep in mind the small businesses that feed my gardening addiction.  It is only through their dedication and continued hard work that such an amazing wealth of plants is brought to market each year.  These folks love the plants they raise and sell.  They work hard to educate the rest of us and to support the thousands of gardeners, like us, who turn to them each season.

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Caladium ‘Pink Beauty’

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And I believe that our best gesture of appreciation is to loyally support them with our repeat business.

I know it’s easy and cheap to turn to the big box stores for our plant purchases.  We can get inexpensive bulbs at Costco, bedding plants at Wal Mart, and shrubs at Lowes.  And I won’t pretend that I’ve not ‘been there, done that’ from time to time.

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And yet, every time I return to our local family run nursery, I’m reminded of the level of quality and customer service they bring to each transaction.  Many of the plants they sell are raised in the neighboring county, and come from greenhouse to nursery in an hour or less.  I am glad to support them and invest in their continued success!

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Caladium ‘Moonlight’ with hardy Begonia is in the pot, and C. ‘White Christmas’ grows beside it.

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We do our best to support small, local businesses.  When we find a special one, like Brent and Becky’s in neighboring Gloucester County, we deal with them as much as we can.  And we are richly rewarded with fine selection and top quality plants; and also with top quality horticulturalists and fine friendly people!

In fact, the Heaths source the Caladiums they offer each spring from Dr. Robert Hartman at Classic Caladiums in Avon Park.  Brent Heath piqued my interest in Classic Caladiums in the first place, by singing their praises for quality tubers!

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Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina,’ introduced by Classic Caladiums in 2016. 

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We come through trying times best when we pull together.  I know that many of us want to give when we see neighbors in trouble, and there are a plethora of charities wanting to channel our dollars into aid to those affected by catastrophe.

But let’s also keep small businesses in our minds and hearts during these challenging times.  Some purchases may cost us a bit more, but we have the peace of mind that our dollars directly support a family business and  a local economy.  They don’t wash into some vast, corporate pool of profit.

Doing business directly with growers and small nurseries is also a form of insurance.  We help insure their survival, and a continued long and happy relationship with them.

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Today, I’m thinking of our friends in dangerous places, and feeling appreciation for our garden.

I’m enjoying our beautiful Caladiums, even as I remember those who grew and supplied them to us.  I hope their lives return to normal soon, that their challenges are manageable, and that we will enjoy many more beautiful years of working together!

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“We have to recognise that there cannot be relationships
unless there is commitment, unless there is loyalty,
unless there is love, patience,  persistence.”
.
Cornel West

 


 

WPC: Names

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We had more than 10″ of snow on the ground at first light this morning, and it has been snowing steadily all day.   It’s a good day for the simple joys of making soup, enjoying a book  and watching the snow fall.

Folks are only leaving home today if they have to, and the roads in our region are treacherous.  Schools and some offices will likely stay closed for a few days next week.

 

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Names

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Oh, the joy of winter!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

Finally, Rain

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The first fine mist of rain found us at sunset on Sunday evening.  I noticed the sweetness in the air first, that smell of wetness we’ve missed for so long.  The cool mist touched our skin as we came outside, and we saw the tiniest of water droplets on the car’s windows.

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Mexican Pegunia, Rueilla simplex

Mexican Petunia, Ruellia simplex

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Finally, rain.  After weeks of unrelenting, unnerving heat and drought, here in Williamsburg, the promise of rain felt real.

The sunset sky was filled with mounding tropical clouds.  Some heavy and grey, others white and touched with sunset pinks and golds; they were reaching for one another, but did not yet cover all the bright blue above.

We had watched their progress all day, swirling above us.  It was hot again, 90.  The forecast rain failed to appear, again.  Until sunset.

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Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana feeds songbirds for many months each fall.

Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana feeds songbirds for many months each fall.  Considered a weed, I still love the color of its berries.

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And that was the beginning of this luxurious, generous, welcome rain.  The streets were wet when we drove home Sunday night, and the rain has come in fits and starts, downpours and drizzles ever since.

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Our brick hard garden, baked by weeks of dry heat, drinks in every drop.  Burned leaves still fall.  Every gust of wind carries sheets of brown leaves  from desiccated branches down to the hard earth.  Dead leaves coat every bed and gather in every pot.

Squirrels have been shredding Dogwood berries as they form; there are no acorns in our garden to feed them through the winter coming.

 

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But every bird and squirrel welcomes this rain, as do we.  A cardinal chirped and preened in the top of the Crepe Myrtle near the window yesterday, as the rain fell.  Such happiness!

But it seems every recent weather event touches the extremes.  As we watched the rain nourishing our garden, others watched it filling their streets and parking lots.

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Oxalis

Oxalis

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A nearby high school had a foot or more of water gathered in their parking lot by afternoon, with students sloshing through standing water to their buses and flooding cars.  And inches more rain are coming as what is left of Tropical Storm Julia meanders northward past the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay today.  Not that we’re complaining….

We talked, over dinner on Sunday, about how long we can manage to adapt to the changing climate here.  If each year comes on hotter than the last, what does that mean for us in another five years? Ten? If these trends continue on, how will our lives change?

That conversation is likely unfolding around a lot of dinner tables these days.  Heat and floods, drought and extreme winter storms have insinuated themselves into our lives in odd and expensive ways.

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Basil gone to seed, before the rains, delight our goldfinches and other small birds.

Basil gone to seed, before the rains, delights our goldfinches and other small birds.

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I walked in the rain this afternoon, taking stock of the garden’s response.  It’s good to see the plants plump and happy again as they fill themselves with this cool rain.

It’s even better to find myself indoors watching it, rather than outside with the hose, trying to give each area enough water to survive another day.

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Calaldium, 'Desert Sunset'

Calaldium, ‘Desert Sunset’ bathed in fresh rain

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I’ll admit we’re  worn a bit thin at the moment, after weeks of standing in the hot sun, watering the parched earth for hours every day.  And we wonder whether next summer will bring more of the same, or worse.

My partner asks with each new plant, “Is it drought tolerant?”  

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“Well…. in normal weather, or extreme?”  

That is the question all of us gardeners  eventually ask ourselves:  “What is ‘normal’ any more, and will we experience ‘normal’ again anytime soon?”

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It may be the one thing each of us can do to help our climate, our planet really, is to plant more trees.

We can make an effort towards restoring our ecosystem, trapping carbon, filtering the air, and re-balancing the water cycle with every tree and large woody shrub we plant.

But it takes all of us, each doing what we can on many fronts, to change this equation.

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Alocasia 'Stingray' thrive in heat and humidity. These tropical plants help filter the air and trap carbon with their huge leaves.

Alocasia ‘Stingray’ thrive in heat and humidity. These tropical plants help filter the air and trap carbon with their huge leaves.

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The long drought here is ended, but the challenge goes on and on.

I hope you are tuned in to this issue, and are doing what you can, where you can, to address the challenges this climate change brings to us all.

But mostly, I hope you are also finding pleasure and relief from the heat, when it finally rains.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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“The physical threat posed by climate change

represents a crisis that is not only material

but also profoundly spiritual at its core

because it challenges us to think seriously

about the future of the human race

and what it means to be a human being.”

.

Grace Lee Boggs

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september-8-2016-birds-010

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“Knowledge empowers people

with our most powerful tool:

the ability to think and decide.

There is no power for change greater

than a child discovering what he or she cares about.”

.

Seymour Simon

(Speech about Global Warmingread on the National Mall
for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, 2010)

 

 

 

 

High Water and Hurricane Lilies

September 3, 2016 014

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The storm, Hermine, still spins off the coast making her way, slowly and majestically, towards the northeast.  Now off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and back over open water, she gathers strength even as she loses speed.

Her winds are up, her pressure down, and she generously keeps sending rain showers our way.

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The folks on-air at the Weather Channel obviously aren’t allowed to use the ‘H’ word anymore.  They call her a ‘Post-Tropical Cyclone.’  But we know the truth.  Her winds are back up to a sustained 70 mph and her pressure is down to 29.38 inches.  That sounds like a hurricane to me.

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The James River is well out of its banks here near Jamestown.

The James River is well out of its banks here near Jamestown.

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I’m thinking of loved ones on the ‘Eastern Shore’ of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.  They pretty much sit on a little peninsula out in the Atlantic Ocean, well out of site of the mainland.

It must feel very lonely out there when a hurricane is knocking at the door.  And this one brought an overnight bag; it may spin off their coast between now and Wednesday or Thursday!

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College Creek

College Creek

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We’re far enough inland to have benefited from the rain but not had problems caused by the winds.  Our streets, wet and covered with pine tags and fallen leaves, are blessedly clear.  The few branches we’ve cleared were all small enough to pick up and toss with one hand.

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But the creeks and rivers have spilled out of their banks.  All the marshes and ditches filled and overflowing from the storm surge, reflect our low grey sky.  Flocks of birds gather and fly in great arcs above the wetlands.

They feel the change in the air, as do we, and have gathered to prepare for their autumn journeys.

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Our rain came last night, soon after dusk.  Quiet and gentle at first, we had to listen carefully to know it had begun.  It rained all night, giving life back to our desiccated  garden; and we awoke to a newly greened and wonderfully  wet world.

Plants which I thought were dried and finished plumped up and revived themselves overnight.

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This slow, gentle rain has soaked in instead of running off.  The soil is soaking it in, channeling it down, down, to the reservoirs below.

There is nothing like a prolonged drought to remind us that water is the life’s blood of every living thing.  It is that magical, precious substance which animates and sustains us all.

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Alocasia 'Sarian' grows happily here in a pot filled with Coleus.

Alocasia ‘Sarian’ grows happily here in a pot filled with Coleus.

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The ‘Hurricane Lily,’ or ‘Spider Flower’ got its name when gardeners recognized that its bloom comes on only after a heavy late summer rain.  A long dry hot spell, followed by a heavy rain, such as a tropical storm might bring, triggers growth in this unusual bulb.

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Its flowers come first in late August or September.  Carried on tall bare stems, this flower is another of the lilies commonly knows as ‘Naked Ladies.’  Long, thin Liriope like leaves will emerge in several weeks, growing through autumn and into the winter.

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Even a damp and bedraggled Ginger Lily still smells sweetly.

Even a damp and bedraggled Ginger Lily still smells sweetly.

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My intense watering, these last few weeks, of the roses and Ginger Lilies growing near our bulbs triggered their early blooming.

They didn’t wait for the hurricane to pass before they bloomed.

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Now, if you want to order a few bulbs for yourself, please search for ‘Lycoris radiata,’ not ‘Naked Ladies,’ as a friend told me he recently did.  There are several lilies from bulbs which bloom either before or after their leaves appear, and so have earned this descriptive moniker.  My friend suggested that his returns on the search were more interesting than he expected.  And I promised to email a link to him for ordering some bulbs….

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September 2, 2016 hurricane lily 005

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We’ve now enjoyed 20 hours of nearly steady rain, with more to come.  The air smells fresh and the breeze is cool.

We are quite satisfied with Hermine’s brief visit.  And we wish her well and hope she moves on out to sea, sparing our neighbors to the north any ill effects from her passing.

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September 3, 2016 rain 001

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Mirror

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September 2, 2016 hurricane lily 007

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

 

 

‘Faux’ Snow?

It remained above freezing, 32F, during our snow yesterday and well into the night. How did this snow accumulate on such a warm day?

It remained above freezing, in the mid 30s F,  during our snow yesterday and well into the night. How did this snow accumulate on such a warm day?

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I remember watching it snow through the classroom window, all those years ago. 

Snowflakes filled the air, and we all hoped for an early release followed by a ‘snow day’ off.  But as hard and fast as the snow fell, it barely covered the grass outside our school; the parking lot shiny wet but clear.  It just wasn’t sticking.  Why?  Do you remember when it had to be freezing for snow to ‘stick?’

In grade school science classes we learned that ice forms at 32F or 0C.  Snow formed in the frozen clouds high above our heads and drifted down to Earth.  But if the Earth was still warm, it melted on contact.  Oh, those were the days….. of real snow and normal weather.

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Yes, I’m nostalgic.  As lovely as our snow might have left the garden yesterday, the uncomfortable little secret, the truth in other words, is that our temperatures remained in the mid-30s all day yesterday and well into the night.  And yet, we watched huge, sloppy wet flakes of snow quickly cover the ground, the shrubs, tree branches and roofs.

We had nearly 2″ of snow on the deck railings before it quit in mid-afternoon.  And such a heavy snow!  It weighted down the shrubs and bamboo terribly, uprooting and bringing 30′ bamboo stalks over to touch the ground under the weight of it clinging to their upper branches.

We had early morning rain, yesterday, before it changed over to the frozen stuff, which left puddles of water on the front patio.  Those puddles never froze all day; and yet flakes of ‘slush’ floated on top much of the afternoon.

When I made my afternoon circuit around the yard, broom in hand knocking some of the weight off of the bamboo and the shrubs, my boots sank down into the muddy wet ground.  The ground was far from frozen, and yet was covered in an inch of ‘snow.’

How is this even possible? 

~

Snow remains on trees, roofs, and the garden late this afternoon. Once the temperature finally dropped overnight, it went down to the 20s for much of today.

Snow remained on trees, roofs, and the garden late this afternoon. Once the temperature finally dropped overnight, it went down to the 20s for much of today.

~

Maybe you remember, as I do, a certain company’s TV ad slogan : “Better Things for Better Living…. Through Chemistry.”  It was their official slogan from 1935 until 1982, so I grew up hearing it often.  Chemical company research has improved daily life in many ways.  And it has also produced some pretty noxious products which have done great harm to our environment.  Scientific research remains a mixed bag in any area you care to name.

But it was in the early 20th Century, in our modern era, when entrepreneurial scientists first began to offer their services to ‘make rain’ in drought stricken areas of our country.

The city of San Diego hired Charles ‘Rainmaker’ Hatfield for $10,000 to fill the Lake Morena reservoir, after several years of severe drought.  Hatfield mixed and then heated certain chemicals together to ‘seed’ the clouds; with dramatic results.  He couldn’t spray them from an airplane, but he burned the chemicals on tall towers around the lake.  Hatfield was too successful.

After 17 days, 11.4 inches of rain fell, flooding the lake, bursting dams, causing mudslides.     Residents sued the city for millions of dollars worth of damage.  San Diego never paid their ‘Rainmaker’ for his efforts because of their catastrophic results.

~

Beginning as rain, our snow yesterday soon grew thick and heavy. The forecast for 'scattered flurries' mushroomed into hours of heavy, accumulating snow. More is on the way....

Beginning as rain, our snow yesterday soon grew thick and heavy. The forecast for ‘scattered flurries’ mushroomed into hours of heavy, accumulating snow. More is on the way….

~

There is a long history of efforts to change the weather; a mostly silent history, as it is very controversial.  California cities have been hiring rainmakers off and on through much of this century to relieve droughts, according to a series of articles published in the LA Times.

Our government grew interested in manipulating the weather as a way to influence the battlefield as early as the 1940’s Project Cirrus.  Experiments have been ongoing, under many project names.  You didn’t read about this in your high school history class?  I can’t imagine why….

Ask a Viet Nam veteran about how our government extended the monsoon season to flood North Vietnamese roads in the 1960’s.  Known as “Operation Popeye,” this highly classified program continued from 1967-1972.

~

Just before sundown today, and I'm surprised at how much snow remains.

Just before sundown today, and I’m surprised at how much snow remains.

~

The first successful experiment in creating a snowstorm came as early as November, 1946 over New York.  Dry ice was dropped from a plane into the clouds, and it snowed.

But results from these experiments continue to be unpredictable.  Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they work too well, causing property damage and loss of life from the ensuing storms. 

But the experimentation not only continues, it is now global.  Popular Science Magazine ran a series of articles about the weaponization of the weather as early a 1958.  In 1977, the United States was one of several countries who ratified a Convention at the UN to ban weather modification as a weapon of war.  Even so, accusations between nations continue as fantastic weather events unfold each year.

But now there is a new adversary in these ‘weather wars’:  the warming of the planet.  Though there are a myriad of causes for our steep increases in temperatures lately, scientists are working with many experimental protocols to slow the trend.

Which brings us back to snow.

~

January 18, 2015 snow 005

~

Have you ever used a chemical ice pack?  These are kept at the ready for athletes to ice their injuries, and are sold in most every drug store.

Our chemists have learned how to mix chemicals in a way to create ice.  And, our geoengineers have come up with a chemical soup they can spray over rain clouds, which will cause ‘chemical ice nucleation.’  This is how snow can fall when it is as warm as the low 40s F. Several US patents have already been granted for these mixtures and processes.

We all know that water can absorb and store heat.  Water vapor super cooled chemically, has proven effective in sucking heat out of the atmosphere as it falls.  This is how it suddenly grows much colder while this ‘faux snow’ is falling, and how it can remain in a ‘frozen’ crystalline form even when the ground on which it has fallen remains above freezing.  This is an ‘endothermic reaction’ where the water vapor in our atmosphere absorbs heat energy, even as it chemically freezes.

In fact, this engineered snow, which may begin when temperatures are well above freezing, eventually results in  deadly cold temperatures.  Have you noticed the unusually cold temperatures, following snowstorms, over much of the planet in recent years?  These much publicized winter storms help confuse us about the extremely warm temperatures in other parts of our planet.

~

Snow freezes to the limbs, and lingers for a very long time. This photo was taken nearly 30 hours after our snow stopped yesterday.

Snow freezes to the limbs, and lingers for a very long time. This photo was taken nearly 30 hours after our snow stopped yesterday.

~

When you hear ‘heavy, wet snow’ predicted, be suspicious.  This geoengineered snow is much heavier than natural snow, and does tremendous damage to trees and shrubs.  For one thing, it freezes to the limbs and won’t fall off naturally, adding weight to limbs and branches for an unusually long time.

Geoengineered snow contains a number of heavy metals, used in the chemical nucleation process.  These metal particles, like Barium and Aluminum, contaminate everything they touch and get into our ground water supply.

Are all snow storms the product of geoengineering?  Probably not.  I hope not.

Once you begin to delve into this subject, you begin to watch weather forecasts with a different frame of reference, though.

~

January 18, 2015 snow 009

~

If you have read this far, and you’re thinking, “That Woodland Gnome really is a nut case to write this stuff;” then please just do a little more reading.  And please notice that I’m saying, “Please.”

Pour yourself a mug of your favorite beverage, polish your reading glasses, and just follow a few of the links I’ve embedded for you.  Each of those links will lead you to a few more, and you will see the vast body of hard evidence to back up what I’ve shared with you here.

Why would you do this?  Because you want to know a little bit more about this weird weather we are all experiencing lately. Just as we do.  

And while you’re at it, take a look at the Weather Underground’s Wundermap the next time a storm is approaching your area.  Set the parameters for several hours of history, and just watch closely.  Play around with it a little bit.  You may be a little surprised at what you see.

~

We enjoyed clear skies, brilliant sunshine, and very cold winds today. How wonderful to see a clear blue sky.

How wonderful to see a clear blue sky.  We enjoyed brilliant sunshine today, with frigid winds.  Looks alike a cold week ahead.

 

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

 

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Climate Change

October 3, 2015 wet day 057

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“To thrive in this new age of hyper-change and growing uncertainty,

it is now an imperative to learn a new competency —

how to accurately anticipate the future.”

.

Dan Burrus

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 042

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“Many call this process ‘the destruction of nature.’

But it’s not really destruction, it’s change.

Nature cannot be destroyed.”

.

Yuval Noah Harari

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 019

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“There are two primary choices in life:

to accept conditions as they exist,

or accept the responsibility for changing them.”

.

Denis Waitley

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 067

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“Nothing endures but change.”

.

Heraclitus Ephesus

~

September 30, 2015 Parkway 057

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 008

~

Sea levels rise and fall along the Eastern coast of North America.  This has been going on for millions of years.  At one time, the sea lapped against the Blue Ridge Mountains, several hundred miles to our west.  Most of Virginia was underwater.  We know this from the fossil record. 

Archaeologists are finding the remains of great cities, now under water, off the coasts of Africa, India, and Southern Europe.  We know the topography of our planet changes continually. 

There is no longer any question that our climate and our landscape are changing.  I believe the important question is, “Why now?”  and “What, if anything, can we do?”

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 033

~

Storms over the last two weeks are chewing up our sandy coastline.  Beaches and riverbanks continue eroding.  Flooding is widespread, and not just along the seacoast.  Heavy rain has brought flooding well inland from the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains all the way back towards the coasts from New England to the Gulf of Mexico. 

But this is insignificant compared to the effects of  Hurricane Joaquin’s winds on the islands it has attacked.   Millions of lives have been effected by severe weather this year across our planet. 

I believe there are many causes for our warming climate and increasingly severe storms.  Some may be caused by human activity.  Other causes are part of the natural rhythms of our planet.  Activity at the planet’s core controls vulcanism,  and the heat and gasses pouring into our oceans from underwater volcanoes. 

The amount of radiation from space, which makes it through to our atmosphere, has a tremendous impact on our climate and quality of life.  A weakening magnetosphere allows more of this Solar and cosmic radiation to reach our planet.  This is one of many complex factors which affects our climate and our weather patterns.

No one of us can control any of what is happening with climate change.  But we each must adapt. 

And we can do our own little part to bring our planet back into balance by the way we live our lives.  Every tree we nurture captures and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.  Every garden we plant helps control erosion and contributes to the health of our ecosystem. 

Our choices of where to live and how much energy to consume play their part in this complex equation.

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 035

~

And each of us has a political voice we can raise with our government representatives, demanding that they not only acknowledge this accelerated climate change on our planet, but that they take actions, based on our best research, to mitigate the effects. Our voices may be even more effective when lobbying corporations to make changes in how they manage our Earth’s resources.

I believe we are in uncharted territory now.  I don’t know if there is any precedent or model to help us understand the totality of the changes occurring now in our planet’s ecosystem.  But we can not ignore the issue and expect it to work itself out. 

I believe we are all getting a taste of what that looks like…

~

October 3, 2015 wet day 036

Foliage Everywhere

July 20, 2015 garden 035

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Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day technically falls on the 22nd of each month, and it is only the 21st.

Yet foliage is the hot topic of conversation among my gardening friends this week as we look around in dismay at our overgrown gardens.  That may not be the sort of foliage this meme is intended to highlight, of course; but the unplanted abundance of grasses and other ‘volunteers’ has gotten ahead of many of us in this heat and humidity.

~

July 20, 2015 garden 004

~

My timing has not been praiseworthy this past month on very much, and certainly not on keeping up with the round of blogging memes.

~

Hardy Begonia grows in this mixed pot with Oxalis and creeping Jenny.

Hardy Begonia grows in this mixed pot with Oxalis and creeping Jenny.  Autumn ferns grow nearby on a shady slope in the back garden.

~

How long since I’ve actually filled a Vase on Monday or observed a proper Wordless Wednesday?  As you might guess, my time and energy are re-focused at the moment on a very non-garden related cause.  So I will grab onto this opportunity to craft a preemptive foliage post, and beg your understanding that it comes a day early.

~

Coleus with Colocasia

Coleus with Colocasia

~

The garden is currently on ‘auto-pilot’ and I feel grateful to make a morning or evening walk-about to water a bit and take photos.  Any serious work out of doors is on hold until the weather pattern shifts.

~

Pineapple mint

Pineapple mint

~

The lovely lush grass will just have to keep growing for a few more days/weeks/months into and around my once carefully planted beds.  C’est la vie…

~

The path behind the 'butterfly garden' is a bit overgrown at the moment...

The path behind the ‘butterfly garden’ is a bit overgrown at the moment…

~

I’m just grateful to live in an air-conditioned home in this age of unprecedented heat.  Between the unusually high humidity, frequent showers, and oppressive heat; it is hard to spend long out of doors.  Many of the plants love it, but the humans find themselves drenched in perspiration just walking out to the air conditioned car!

~

This has been a good year to begin a 'bog garden.'

This has been a good year to begin a ‘bog garden.’

~

There is a reason our garden looks tropical this summer!

~

A native pitcher plant digests whatever creatures explore these unusual leaves.

A native pitcher plant digests whatever creatures explore these unusual leaves.

~

But there is balance in all things.  As I study the progress and prodigious growth of grasses around the ornamentals, I remember that they are trapping carbon from the air with every passing moment of growth.  It doesn’t really matter whether the growing foliage is something we planted or not; every growing leaf and twig filters the air and gives us fresh oxygen to breathe.

A lovely thought, though it likely won’t make a dent in the planetary forces driving these odd weather patterns.

~

Begonia 'Gryphon' grows lush this July.

Begonia ‘Gryphon’ grows lushly this July despite competition from grape vines and other Begonias.  Yucca leaves grow behind its pot.

~

At least the weeds also protect the soil during torrential rains.  Or so my partner reminds me on the rare occasions he sees me pulling them out by their roots.

There is a certain logic there, and I acquiesce to his greater wisdom these days.   Watching video of flooding elsewhere makes us grateful for our blessings and a lot less obsessive about our landscape.

~

Wild Tradescantia  crops up among the grasses in some of the garden beds.  This more cultivated variety is one I planted this spring.  Here, it grows uphill, reaching for the light.

Wild Tradescantia crops up among the grasses in some of the garden beds. This more cultivated variety is one I planted this spring. Here, it grows uphill, reaching for the light.

~

Yet tropical growth also harbors tropical style infestations of certain insects.  The fly swatter came out of storage as my partner bravely battles with those tiny black mosquitoes which steal into the house these days!  We grow mindful of them whenever we open a door.

They like him far better than they like me; or maybe its just that they find less exposed skin to attack on me!

~

Coleus with a sweet potato vine

Coleus with a sweet potato vine

~

No matter, my latest infestation of chigger bites are still healing, thus the protective clothing.  Disgusting, but I’m even wearing socks while these things heal.

~

July 20, 2015 garden 028

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And the Cannas, Hibiscus and roses have fared no better against the hungry Japanese beetles who have settled in for the foreseeable future.  Their foliage is more riddled with holes than our skin with bites.

~

July 13, 2015 flowers 017

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Trying to practice what I preach, so far I’ve relied on the hungry birds to hunt them.

Twice I’ve pruned the roses with bucket in hand, drowning a few in Borax laced soapy water.   July offers a powerful challenge to the most sincere sentiments of Ahimsa, or harmlessness and universal love.

How much love can I muster for those shiny green beetles munching our roses?  Is it a loving act to release them from their chitin clad bodies back to the universe?

~

July 20, 2015 garden 031

~

But looking past the beetles are the bees; squadrons of them!  We are happy to see them methodically moving from flower to flower, gathering what they may.

~

July 20, 2015 garden 027

~

There is no shortage of bumble bees here, although spotting a honey bee is a much rarer event.  Bumblebees, wasps of every description, dragon and damselflies entertain us with their swooping flights around the garden.  The occasional butterfly flutters past, a reminder to persevere against all odds.

~

Joe Pye Weed, a popular stopping place for all pollinators.

Joe Pye Weed, a popular stopping place for all pollinators.

~

One can’t live this long without learning a thing or two about stubbornness and patience; and flexibility.  As I heard so often growing up, “This too, shall pass.”  Someone in the house had read Ecclesiastes a time or three….

~

Coleus with Oxalis

Coleus with Oxalis

~

And perhaps we can read this lesson in our gardens, as well; watching the magical processes of growth and passing away.

For the moment, I am happy that the garden continues to grow in beauty and abundance.  I know what is happening out there, even though much of my foliage gazing these days happens through the windows…

~

Hazelnuts are ripening on the trees.

Hazelnuts are ripening on the trees.

~

I appreciate Christina, who gardens in the Hesperides,  for hosting this Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day meme on the 22nd of each month. She challenges us to focus on the foliage in our gardens; not just the flowers.  I feel certain she will understand this early entry, and hope July finds her garden growing as abundantly as ours.

~

Begonia

Begonia

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

July 20, 2015 garden 033

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“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better,

than that a man should rejoice in his own works;

for that is his portion:

for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Ecclesiastes 3:22

 

 

Sunday Brunch, Or, One Thousand Shades of Green

June 20, 2015 garden 043

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I took Sunday brunch in the garden today, feasting on the sounds, smells, and beautiful sights the garden offers on this mid-summer’s Sunday.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 042

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It is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  In Williamsburg, our sun rose today at 5:47 AM and will set at 8:30 PM for an astronomical day length of 14 hours and 44 minutes.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 026

~

Interestingly, our period of the summer solstice began on June 17 this year when the sun rose at 5:46 AM and set at 8:30 PM.  Our days will remain this exact length until June 24.  The sun will rise a single minute later on June 25, at 5:48 AM.  The sun will continue to set at 8:31 until July 6, when it will finally set a single minute earlier at 8:30 PM.   By then, the sun won’t rise above the horizon until 5:53 AM, a full six minutes later than today.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 021~

The sun is felt, even after it has dipped below the horizon.  It stays light now for more than an hour past the moment of ‘sun-set,’ and it stays hot from dusk to dawn.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 024

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We had violent thunderstorms move through Virginia again last night, feeding off the muggy heat which envelops us.  We were among the fortunate who kept our power and our trees as the storm passed.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 003

~

And this morning dawned rain soaked, hot and bright.  Opening the slider to the deck, I inhaled the greenness in the morning air.

Our cat slipped past my ankles to drink the fresh rain water collected in his dish overnight.  He lingered a little while to listen to the birds chattering from their hiding places in the overhanging trees.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 048

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But he lingered only a little while.  He was ready to slip back inside to the shade and cool of our house when my partner appeared at the door.  Wise old cat, he knows this heat can be deadly.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 054

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He was asleep behind a chair when I suited up and headed out to the garden an hour later.  Camera in hand, I went only to appreciate and record the morning’s beauty.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 065

~

But you know the truth of good intentions.  Before long I was deadheading something here, pulling a weed there, and finally succumbed to the lure of the herbs we picked up on Friday morning still waiting in their tiny nursery pots.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 036~

I was in the lowest, sunniest part of the garden planting a Basil when my partner’s voice reached me.  He was back out on the deck, searching for a glimpse of me in the green forest below.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 081

~

His voice broke the spell the garden had woven around me. 

He reminded me of the heat, and called me back inside.  It was only then that it registered that my clothes were soaked with perspiration and I was exposed to the fullness of the still rising sun.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 046~

We lost a friend this past week.  We lost one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving people in our circle of friends.

Long retired, he was a tireless volunteer in our community; a gardener, caretaker for stray cats; devoted husband, father, and grandfather.  Our friend was out walking in this relentless heat mid-week, and collapsed.

He was doing what he loved, out of doors, and left us all peacefully and swiftly.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 005~

The news reached us yesterday morning.  As much as we will miss him, we are so grateful that he left us all on his own terms, and was active until then end.  May it be so for each of us.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 008

~

And yet his passing in this way is a stark reminder to all of us. 

We must respect this extreme weather, and remain cautious in the face of the heat and sun.  Our children, our pets, our elderly and even ourselves need a little extra consideration during this hottest part of the year, in the northern hemisphere.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 004

~

The sun burns, and burns quickly.  The heat overpowers our body’s cooling systems.  The heavy, humid air makes it that much harder to breathe.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 011~

I will not pretend to understand climate change; but I can see the signs that our climate is changing, rapidly.  And so we must change and adapt.  We must shift our behaviors to survive.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 015

~

Our friend’s passing was only the latest in a string of untimely loss this week.  I won’t rehearse the litany of loss; I trust you’ve been watching the news, too.

But the common denominator in all of these heart wrenching stories boils down to this:  People going about their business, doing what they have always done, were caught in extraordinary circumstances.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 062

~

There is a a message here for each of us.  Perhaps it is no longer, “Business as usual.”   Perhaps we all need to be more mindful of our changing environment and plan for the unexpected to touch our lives.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 019

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It is summer in Virginia.  Our theme parks and beaches are full of tourists.  There are festivals every weekend, and holiday traffic fills our roads.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 020~

And our garden is full of fragrance, color and sound.  Something new blooms each day.  Blackberries ripen, bees buzz from flower to flower and the herbs release their perfume to the caress of the sun.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 031

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Everything is growing so fast.  A thousand shades of green filled our garden this morning. 

~

June 20, 2015 garden 040

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Most people, when asked, will tell you how much they love the summer; and will give you a long list of things they love to do in these few sweet weeks from June through August.

May this summer be filled with joy for you and yours. 

~

June 20, 2015 garden 058

~

And please, remain mindful of a few simple things you can do to keep yourself and loved ones safe and healthy during this special season:

1.  Stay hydrated, and always carry water with you for everyone in your party when traveling.

2.  Keep your head and skin covered when outside.

3.  Wear sunscreen, routinely, to protect yourself even further from the sun’s rays.

4.  Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day.  Seek the refuge of shade.

5.  Pace yourself.  Don’t overexert when it is hot and muggy.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 070~

6.  Watch the weather forecast, several times a day, and plan accordingly.  Stay off the roads when heavy rains and are expected.

7.  Keep pets indoors when it is hot, and keep fresh water available.

8.  Never leave a child, a pet, or a companion waiting outside in a car during the heat of the day.

9.  Remember that our environment is rapidly changing. Expect the unexpected.  Remain alert to these changing conditions, and prepare in advance to survive potential hazards and extreme weather events.

10.  Balance pleasure with vigilance.  Enjoy the fruits of summer and all of the special experiences it brings.  But do so smartly and cautiously, so all survive to enjoy many more summers to come.

~

June 20, 2015 garden 072

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Woodland Gnome 2015

~

June 20, 2015 garden 075

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With fond remembrance of our treasured friend,

Lt. Col. Alden George Hannum.

May his memory always bring  joy to those who loved him.

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