First Frost

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The first frost of the season touched our garden last night.  After a windy, cold day, the temperatures dropped quickly through the 30s and into the mid-twenties here.  What a quick transition!  We awoke to a front garden sparkling in the morning sunshine, the ground covered in frost.

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Ollie, our cat, asked to go out around supper time.  He had spent the day basking in the sunshine on a thick rug, watching the trees swaying and the birds flying through a large glass door nearby.  Even with his thickening fur coat, it was a bit much.  He was at the door, ready to come back inside, in short order.

I know.  I was out there, too.  A rumble at the street alerted me that a truck was at the top of our drive well after nightfall.  I stepped outside to find a new UPS driver struggling to find us in the dark.  I called to him, an invisible voice in the night; confirmed the delivery was for us, and then started the long climb up the drive to meet him.   Oh, the wind was cold!

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Cold comes swiftly to our region, once it finally does.  Week after week of lingering  warmth, sunshine, and generally happy weather don’t just fade into fall.  It was 80F her on Saturday!  And now, after a couple of windy days on the downside of the mercurial climate roller coaster, we find ourselves waking up to a frost covered garden.

Ah, change!

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You just know, sometimes, when it is time to move on.  And living in Virginia we learn early that change is the only real constant.   Summer must come to a close.  Autumn leaves must fall on the frosty wind even as perennials fade, annuals freeze, and the clearest blue sky imaginable glows through newly bare branches.

We find beauty and happiness in each season’s progress.

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It is time for winter to settle over our garden.  We have returned to a season of rest and contemplation; a time to meditate on the ‘bare bones’ of things as we make way for something new.

Winter cleans the garden in ways I never would.  The winds, like a cadre of frosty maids, sweep and scour, straighten and put away what has grown perhaps a bit shabby with time.

We appreciate nature’s gesture, even as we appreciate the beauty and richness of the season’s passing.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is now available

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Outrageous Color

Beautyberry

Beautyberry

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Fall never fails to fascinate with its outrageous color.

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 Camellia

Camellia

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Suddenly, the tired, dry world of late summer in reinvigorated by cooler nights, shorter days, and a bit of rain.  And the world transforms itself yet again.

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Each day just grows better as the colors concentrate into the brightest possible hues.  A cerulean sky floats above gold and bronze, scarlet and orange leaves of all shapes and descriptions.

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When the wind whispers even slightly, a shower of falling leaves gently let loose and dance their way to the ground.  And there they lay in moist and colorful splendor, against an emerald green mix of grass and herbs, until they fade.

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We, too, float in that magical space of Indian Summer, here in Williamsburg this year.

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After morning rain, we enjoyed warm sunshine this afternoon.  The golden late afternoon sun animated every petal and leaf in the garden.

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We had the slider to the deck open to enjoy the balmy, rain rinsed air.   The cat and I enjoyed this chance to hear the birds just outside in the trees and smell the sweetness of autumn.

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New flowers are opening daily on the Camellias.  Even our perennials still bravely pump out buds, hoping this warmth will last.

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Echinacea

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The hungry bees lap of each day’s nectar like the precious gift that it is.  And we feast on the colors of autumn, changing daily, packing in every bit of beauty to our minds’ eyes, while they last.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not,

but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess,

and then thankfully remember

how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”

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Marcus Aurelius

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Winter's buds have appeared on our Edgeworthia.

Winter’s buds have appeared on our Edgeworthia.

Bright and Beautiful

Forsythia

Forsythia

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The garden looks bright and beautiful today with golden October sunshine on our colorful leaves.

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Dogwood

Dogwood

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We are still on the early side of the transition here, with many trees still green.  Others have a halo of color along their silhouette, or sport leaves with mottled color.  We enjoy the beautiful transition from green to bold before they brown and blow away.

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We enjoy colorful foliage throughout the season, and select plants for the garden with interesting and colorful leaves.

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Some of these, like purple sage, will remain unchanged as winter approaches.

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This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

This Afghan fig will grow into a small tree.

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I’ve read several articles this week about winter gardens.  While we don’t have much man made architecture, we enjoy the living sculpture of deciduous trees, hollies, Camellias, and a few conifers.  We have added many shrubs for winter interest in the garden during our short time here, and now many of them have begun to grow into their promise.  Our Hellebores are spreading and we have added many evergreen ferns.

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Camellias growing through Dogwood

Camellias growing through Dogwood

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I catch myself imagining what the garden will look like after the frosts cut back the tender growth in a few weeks.  Some of our new Camellias are now covered with buds.  But they are hidden behind Cannas and other leaves at the moment.  It won’t be long until they come back into view, shining in the winter sunshine.

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Yesterday was Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day.  I’ve been taking photos of our beautiful leaves all week, focusing on the special beauty of our forest garden now, in late October.

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We are blessed with many interesting trees and shrubs in our garden.  Most have been here now for decades, but we have planted several dozen more.  We love their foliage, their bark, their flowers, and the shade they give.  We enjoy the variety of birds who visit to eat their berries, feed on insects living in them, and find shelter in their branches.

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A friend, who understands my love for trees, gave me an article last night written by an English gardener who has experienced the loss of Ash and other trees to various pests and diseases around  in the English countryside.  She wrote poignantly about how trees give us a sense of place.  They define our familiar landscapes.  They create our beautiful spaces which make us feel ‘at home.’

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American Holly

American Holly

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While every tree has a lifespan, most live much longer than do we humans.  We expect the trees of our lives to live on past us.  We know that most mature trees were here long before we were born.  We see them as stalwart and as a fixture of our lives we may depend upon.

It is always a bit shocking when one comes down in a storm or dies of a blight.  It is heartbreaking when wildfires claim them.

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Leyland Cypress

Leyland Cypress

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The author spoke about our rapidly changing landscapes, and how our children and grandchildren may grow accustomed to losing trees and forests; seeing meadows developed into shopping centers; and wooded areas cut for subdivisions in a way earlier generations have not.  When we lose our landscape, we lose something of our sense of place, our feeling of familiarity and ‘home.’

Our community in particular, and the east coast of the United States in general, have lost many beautiful old trees in recent years during storms.  A friend lost more than two dozen of her mature trees during a hurricane a few years back.  You could play softball in her front yard now, which once was like an arboretum.  We’ve lost so many trees to storms that many neighbors call in crews to simply cut those trees near their homes, before they can fall on a car or deck, or worse.

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While I understand their fears, I mourn for the lost trees.   And so we plant, and nurture as many of the volunteers as we can allow to grow.

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Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

Crepe Myrtle growing back from its roots, and newly sprouted Beautyberry

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And each autumn, we celebrate our beautiful trees.  If you have lost trees in recent years, I hope you have planted new ones to replace those you lost.

There are many beautiful choices available now.  Many of the newer trees have disease resistance, improved foliage, and other desirable qualities.  And this is the perfect time to plant new trees across much of the United States.  It is a gesture of love; a gesture of faith, and a gesture of hope for a beautiful future.

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Our newly planted Magnolia tree will look beautiful next spring.

Our newly planted Magnolia stellata tree will look beautiful next spring.

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You might enjoy visiting Christina to see her beautiful garden in the Hesperides in its October glory.  She has done quite a bit of renovation this year, and it is lovely now that her new plants have settled in.  You’ll find links to many other beautiful gardens from around the world.  We can draw ideas and inspiration from them all.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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