Six on Saturday: Going and Coming

Camellia sasanqua opened its first flowers this week.

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The wind swung around to blow from the north overnight as the rain finally moved off the coast. The cold front came on a wave of rain that moved in before my eyes opened at 5 Friday morning and hung around deep into the evening.

Today dawned clear and bright, crisp and chill. How rare to have a night in the 40s here, so early in October. But all that cleansing rain left a deep, sapphire sky to greet the sunrise.

The cold front caught me distracted this time. I didn’t plan ahead enough to start moving plants indoors last week. And so every Caladium and Begonia and Alocasia was left out in the soggy cold night to manage as best as possible.

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Caladium ‘A Touch of Wine’ has been particularly cold tolerant this autumn.

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Trying to make amends this morning, I began gathering our Caladiums, starting in the coolest part of the garden on the downhill slope behind the house. Pulling Caladium tubers out of heavy, waterlogged soil presents its own challenges. The only thing worse is leaving them in the cold wet soil to rot.

Timing out when to lift Caldiums can be as puzzling as when to plant them out in the spring. Some varieties signaled weeks ago that they were finishing for the season, by letting their stems go limp with their leaves fall to the ground. When that happens, you need to dig the tubers while the leaves remain to mark the spot. I’ve lost more than a few tubers by waiting too long to dig them, and forgetting where they were buried.

At the same time, other plants still look quite perky with new leaves coming on. It feels wrong to end their growth too soon, with those lovely leaves wilting in the crate. This is a time to prioritize which need immediate attention and which can grow on a while, yet. After tonight, we expect another warm spell, so I have an excuse.

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Arum italicum remains dormant all summer, emerging again sometime in October.

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Everywhere in our garden we see new plants coming out and blooming even as summer’s stars fade. If it weren’t for fall blooming Camellias, Arums, emerging bulbs and late blooming perennials, I couldn’t be so content in October. But in our garden there are always comings and goings, so I try to take autumn in stride.

The pot I planted last fall with Cyclamen hederifolium, Arum, and spring flowering bulbs has burst into new growth. Retrieving the few Caladiums I plopped in there in June was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t do too much damage, I hope, in pulling them up from between the Cyclamen that now are in full leaf. Cyclamen tubers are fun because they just grow broader and broader year to year, spreading into larger and larger patches of beautifully marked leaves and delicate flowers.

I’m finding seedpods on our Camellia shrubs even as the first fall flowers bloom. I’m working with Camellia seeds for the first time this year, after receiving a gift of Camellia sinensis seeds, the tea Camellia, from a gardening friend. Now that I know what to look for, I’m saving seeds from my own shrubs, too.

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Pineapple Sage opened its first flowers this week beside a patch of goldenrod.

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In fact, the garden is filled with seeds this week. I’ve harvested seeds from our red buckeye tree, acorns from the swamp chestnut oak, and Hibiscus seeds. I’m busily squirreling away the seeds in hopes many will germinate and grow into new plants that I can share.

Our birds are flocking in to enjoy the bright red dogwood seeds, along with beautyberry seeds and nuts from the beech tree. The drive is littered with beechnut husks and there are always birds and squirrels about. They are busy gathering all they can with birds swooping about the garden as I work. Even the tiny seeds I overlook, on the Buddleia shrubs and fading Black-eyed Susans entice the birds.

All the rapid changes feel dizzying sometimes. There is an excellent piece in today’s WaPo about the different autumn displays caused by climate change. Not only are species moving north and other new species moving in to replace them, but the very patterns of heat and cold and moisture are changing how the trees respond each fall. You may have noticed some trees whose leaves turned brown and fell weeks ago. Other trees still stand fully clothed in green.  Forests once golden with chestnut leaves now show more scarlet and purple because of new species replacing the chestnuts last century.

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Grapes ripen on the vines running through the dogwood tree. Color is slow to come this fall, with some trees dropping their leaves before they brighten.

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Our red buckeye tree is native further to the south. But it is naturalizing now in coastal Virginia, and is growing very happily in our yard. Trees are very particular about how much heat or cold they can take, and how many chilling days they require in winter to set the next season’s buds. Most also dislike saturated soils. Our abundant rainfall, these last few years, has sent some trees into decline when the roots can’t ‘breathe.’

Trees are coming and going, too, just on a much grander scale. For every tree that falls, dozens of seedlings emerge to compete for its space.

I’m planting seeds this fall, starting woody cuttings, and starting a few cold weather bulbs and tubers. I have flats of Cyclamen and Arum started, and spent some happy hours this week tucking tiny bulbs into the earth, dreaming of spring flowers.

Changing seasons takes a span of many weeks in our garden. The day will soon be here when I start carrying pots indoors for winter. Other pots stay outside, replanted with flowers and foliage to fill them winter into spring. I need to stay focused on all of the comings and going- not let myself get distracted with the beauty of it all.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Hibiscus seeds are ripe for sowing.

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

Visit my other site, Illuminations, for a daily quotation and a photo of something beautiful.

A Gorgeous Afternoon

PIneapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, Rosemary, and Lantana at their peak in late October.

PIneapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, Rosemary, and Lantana at their peak in late October.

What a gorgeous day it’s been here in Williamsburg.  After our first really cold night, down into the 30s, the morning dawned clear and brisk.  We’ve had cool wind all day and bright sunshine.  It is that time of the year to watch the weather and decide what needs to come inside for the night.  Will it freeze tonight?  Can the Begonias stay outside another day?

Dragon Wing Begonias love these cool bright days.

Dragon Wing Begonias love these cool bright days.

I have areas prepared to bring everything in, and we even bought a number of fresh, clean plastic disks for bringing potted plants into the house for the winter.  Everything is ready to go…. but the plants.  It looks like they are loving this weather!

It is a horticultural game of “chicken”, balancing the late night low temperatures against the chance to soak up another day of sunshine and fresh air.

A tiny bee uses a Camellia as a "bed and breakfast" inn.

A tiny bee uses a Camellia as a “bed and breakfast” inn.

We finally brought the Norfolk Island Pine in late last night after doing the research online to determine how much cold it can withstand:  not much.  If temps go back up next week it will go back out to its spot on the patio.

Many of our Begonias are huddled together, out of the wind, where the house and patio will keep them insulated by a few degrees at least.  We brought a few inside after watching the 5 PM weather- just to make sure a few have extra protection should it get even colder than the forecast.

The Ginger lilies are covered in bloom.

The Ginger lilies are covered in bloom.

The flowers rooted into the Earth are taking the changes in stride.  If anything, the Ginger lilies are giving more flowers than ever before.  The Rosemary have broken out into bloom.

The Camellias unfold new buds each day, and give shelter to the tiny insects who come for their nectar.

Camellia Sasanqua

Camellia Sasanqua

Pineapple Sage is at its peak, covered in scarlet, reaching for the sky.  The Bouganvilliea finally bloomed, after a summer of waiting for flowers, at the end of September.

Mexican Petunia, a tender perennial, has taken root in a pot where it might make it through a Virginia winter.

Mexican Petunia, a tender perennial, has taken root in a pot where it might make it through a Virginia winter.

October 25 garden 035

Dill and African Blue Basil are still in bloom. The Basil has grown huge this year.

This in between time is awash in color as flowers, berries, leaves, stems, air and sun vie with each other for the brightest most sparkling hues.  A day like today is a gift, a golden moment out of the ever changing year.  Knowing that the first frost can come any night, maybe even tonight, we wander the garden with appreciation; enjoying the gorgeous afternoon.

We’ve learned  that autumn in Virginia mixes all of the seasons together in an unpredictable jumble.  We’ve had 80 degree days in December, October snow, tropical storms at Halloween, and “endless summer” days after frosty breath mornings.  To see all of the buds and flowers in the garden today, you might think it May.

The Bougainvillea has only been blooming a few weeks.  I hope it can stay outside a few weeks longer in a sheltered spot.

The Bougainvillea has only been blooming a few weeks. I hope it can stay outside a few weeks longer in a sheltered spot.

But, it’s late October.  And I’m still procrastinating.  There are Caladium tubers to dig, but I hate to disturb them.  Rex Begonias to pot and move indoors, and Coleus to dig out and replace with Violas.  And it may turn warm again next week.  I’ll save those chores for another, gorgeous afternoon.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

October 25 flowers and berries 002

Small Beginnings

All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy,

and great things in that which is small. 

Lao Tzu

Pansies

Tiny pots of Pansies grow into large beautiful plants in just a few weeks time.

Autumn is a good season for beginnings in the garden.  Although some may see autumn as a season of endings; of falling leaves, falling temperatures, decreasing harvests, and shorter days; gardeners know that it is actually the season to begin the next year’s garden.

Violas in late March with Heuchera, Daffodils, and Dianthus.

Violas in late March with Heuchera, Daffodils, and Dianthus.

Fall is the time to plant spring bulbs.

A tiny Redbud tree planted with Autumn Brilliance fern, Heuchera, and Violas to give interest all winter and into the spring.  Bulbs planted under the perennials will bloom after the Redbud's flowers have finished next April.

A tiny Redbud tree planted with Autumn Brilliance fern, Heuchera, and Violas to give interest all winter and into the spring. Bulbs planted under the perennials will bloom after the Redbud’s flowers have finished next April.

Fall is the best time to plant shrubs and trees in many parts of North America so their roots can establish in the cool moist weather and get a head start on the next growing season.

Fall is the time to plant a garden of winter vegetables.

Fall is a good time to sow some seeds, especially wildflowers and sweet peas, for early spring flowers.

And fall is a good time to take cuttings.

In Zone 7, where we have occasional freezes, but temperatures remain moderate through much of the winter, we can enjoy certain annuals and perennials all winter long.  We can plant evergreen ferns, Heucheras, Violas, snapdragons, Dianthus, ornamental kale, and herbs now, expecting them to not only survive the winter, but to look good through all but the coldest stormy days.

Cuttings of hardy Begonia were dipped in rooting hormone and pushed into this pot to root.  In spring, the whole pot can be planted out in the garden where the fern and Begonia will colonize.  The tiny bulbs in the leaf joints will each grow into a new Begonia.  This is how the plant spreads year to year.

Cuttings of hardy Begonia were dipped in rooting hormone and pushed into this pot to root. In spring, the whole pot can be planted out in the garden where the fern and Begonia will colonize. The tiny bulbs in the leaf joints will each grow into a new Begonia. This is how the plant spreads year to year.

So October is prime planting season.

An Afghan Fig, newly arrived in the mail, ready to pot up.

An Afghan Fig, newly arrived in the mail in August, ready to pot up.

Here are the Afghan figs, Ficus afghanistanica, “Silver Lyre,” I ordered from Plant Delights Nursery several months ago.  I potted them up into gallon pots and let them grow in good potting soil on the deck in partial sun until roots began to poke through the drainage holes.  They grew a few inches in height, and put out some new leaves.    Last week I decided to plant them out into the garden.

These fast growing figs with ornamental grey leaves will  soon fill in an area of full sun where we lost three oak trees in mid- June.  The figs will grow to perhaps 20′ tall over the next few years, so they won’t replace the high canopy of the oaks.  They will provide a little shade, though, and will fill in the empty space left by the tress, providing some privacy for the front yard.  Most importantly, they will never threaten the house should a future storm blow them over.

I’ve protected these small shrubs from the voles by surrounding them with Daffodil bulbs.  Since all parts of a Daffodil are poisonous, I’m counting on the roots to fill in around the root ball of the figs to offer some protection.  I also mixed pea gravel into the soil, along with compost and a handful of Plant Tone.  The gravel offers some protection from hungry voles who will be unhappy to bite down on gravel.

Afghan fig surrounded with Sage and garlic chives.

Afghan fig surrounded with Sage and garlic chives.  Six weeks after transplanting into gallon pots, they were ready to plant out into the garden.

A potted scented geranium stands guard over the new Afghan fig.

A potted scented geranium stands guard over the new Afghan fig.  Golden sage, moved out of another pot, protects the other side.

Taking a lesson from the “guild” system of planting small communities of plants around new fruit trees, I dug the planting hole large enough to accommodate not only the fig trees and Daffodil bulbs, but to also hold Sage and garlic chives.  The sage and chives are there to offer some protection against hungry Bambis who might think of snacking on the figs’ few little leaves.  You may notice some dried seed heads of chives poked into the soil around them for extra protection.  Finally, I sprayed the whole planting with Plant Skydd  to render the leaves unpalatable should a determined deer choose to ignore the herbs.  I’m considering adding yet another ring around these little plantings with some divisions of Iris dug from other beds.

The two new Afghan figs look tiny in the garden, but will each by 10' around and 20' tall in a few years.

The two new Afghan figs look tiny in the garden, but will each grow to be 10′ around and 20′ tall in a few years.

These little figs look tiny now, and that is fine.  Their roots will grow over the next several months to support their growth this coming spring.  Good beginnings, steady care, and patience are the principles of effective gardeners.  Better to plant a small seed or cutting, and let it sink its roots deeply into place; than to bring in a huge, nearly mature plant, and then expect it to adjust to the garden.

That is why nature begins with tiny seeds, bulbs, corms, and roots.

Small beginnings grow into great things, given time, and room to grow.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

This Camellia and Autumn Brilliance fern, planted a year ago, have established and will take off with growth this coming spring.

This Camellia and Autumn Brilliance fern, planted a year ago, have established and will take off with growth this coming spring.

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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