WPC: Mother Earth

May 6. 2016 garden 047

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“She is the creature of life, the giver of life,

and the giver of abundant love, care and protection.

Such are the great qualities of a mother.

The bond between a mother and her child

is the only real and purest bond in the world,

the only true love we can ever find in our lifetime.”

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Ama H. Vanniarachchy

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“Love is active, not passive.

It is our love for one another,

for Mother Earth, for our fellow creatures

that compels us to act on their behalf.”


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Laurence Overmire

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“But behind all your stories

is always your mother’s story,

because hers is where yours begins.”


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Mitch Albom

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Earth

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“Life is a walking, a journey.

So, if life upon Mother Earth is a journey, there are two ways to walk. We can choose to walk forward or we can choose to walk backward.

Forward Walking choices are rewarded with consequences that light the way to peace, happiness, joy, comfort, knowledge, and wisdom.

Backward Walking choices bring to the Two-Legged beings consequences of misery despair, and darkness.”

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Anasazi Foundation

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Amaryllis Centerpiece

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You know the weather has shifted when I’m inspired to make a living centerpiece for our dining room.

We enjoyed watching our Amaryllis grow so much last winter, that I decided to start one early enough to enjoy over the holidays this year.

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The Great Big Greenhouse, near Richmond, carried some of the largest Amaryllis bulbs that I’ve ever seen .  They also have the largest selection of varieties I’ve found, anywhere.  Some of the ‘specialty’ varieties normally only found in catalogs, with exorbitant price tags, were right there in their bulb display at grocery store prices.

And so I selected a huge Amaryllis bulb last weekend, and four tiny ferns, for this arrangement.  A bulb this large would be expected to give several stalks of flowers.

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The ceramic bowl has no drainage.  It is much deeper and wider than the Amaryllis needs, which leaves room for a couple of  inches of aggregate in the bottom to afford drainage for the roots.  I’ve used a fairly coarse pea gravel to leave pockets for air or water.  Use only new, good quality potting soil for a project like this.  I’m using a lightweight mix of mostly peat and perlite.

Amaryllis need only their roots in soil.  The ‘collar’ of the bulb, where its leaves emerge, should be visible above the soil line.  In addition to the four tropical ferns, I’ve planted a tiny Strawberry Begonia and a tiny tender fern division, both rescued from an outside pot.  The soil is covered with sheets of moss lifted from an oak’s roots in the upper garden.

Maybe it is an odd idiosyncrasy, but I don’t like looking at potting soil in a living arrangement.  Who wants to look at a dish filled with dirt in the middle of their dining table, anyway? 

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Rarely do I leave a potted plant ‘unfinished,’ without at least a mulch of fine gravel over the soil anymore.  It is easier to water neatly, the plant needs less water, the plant stays cleaner outside in the rain, and it just looks better to me.

Since moss has no roots, it won’t grow down into the potting soil.  It will continue to grow only in the thin film of soil where it is already anchored. Press it firmly into the surface of the potting soil as you place patch beside patch.  I drop fine stones around the edges to help meld these pieces together, and to help retain moisture around the patches of moss.

Moss will live indoors so long as it remains hydrated.  You can mist it, or pour a little water over it every few days.  Keeping the mix evenly moist keeps the moss and ferns happy.   Watering occasionally with diluted tea (no cream or sugar, please) makes the moss happy, too, as it appreciates soil on the acidic side.

When I eventually break this arrangement up, in a few months, the moss should be transplanted back outside.  It can also be ground up and used to start new colonies of moss, even if it appears dead at that point.

This is a simple project which gives weeks of pleasure.  It would make a nice hostess gift over the holidays.

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If you’re ever tempted to order the glitzy Amaryllis gifts from your favorite catalog, consider making your own instead for a fraction of the cost.  Even a non-gardener can enjoy an Amaryllis bowl such as this one.

Simply add a little water, and enjoy!

Woodland Gnome 2015

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“If nature has made you for a giver,

your hands are born open,

and so is your heart;

and though there may be times when your hands are empty,

your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that-

-warm things, kind things, sweet things-

-help and comfort and laughter-

-and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.”

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Frances Hodgson Burnet

 

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Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day: June

This little Acer Plamatum germinated in my parents' garden this spring.  I brought it home to grow on, here in a large pot with ferns and Caladiums.

This little Acer Palmatum germinated in my parents’ garden this spring. I brought it home to grow on, here in a large pot with ferns and Caladiums.

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Our world is leafy green this month; a thousand shades of green.  Yet there are many more colors found glowing on leaves in our garden.

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Coleus

Coleus

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Layer upon layer of leaves extend themselves to catch the sun’s rays.

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Canna lilies have reached about half their final height.  Hibiscus, behind them, will bloom with scarlet flowers in a few weeks.

Canna lilies have reached about half their final height. Hibiscus, behind them, will bloom with scarlet flowers in a few weeks.

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From the Oaks’ canopies down to the tiny chartreuse leaves of creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, which blanket parts of our garden; leaves bask in summer’s brilliant sunshine.

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I ventured into new territory last summer when planting a border of tall Canna lilies, given by a friend, and elephant ear Colocasia.  Both are well up now with the Cannas bursting into bloom.

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They will continue growing for a few weeks, topping out above head high with blooms through the summer.

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Tall, perennial Hibiscus join these tropical looking, large plants in the front border.  I’ve extended the grouping to a new area in the lower garden where growth has been slow.

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Colocasia 'Mojito'

Colocasia ‘Mojito’

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There is less light here, and the Cannas were purchased as roots just this spring.  I hope they will catch up in the summer heat and make a good show by mid-summer.

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They border the new bog garden, filled now with pitcher plants, Sarraceniaceae, which are native to the mid-Atlantic coast; with the African rose Hibiscus; Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’ and Coleus.  Two pots of milkweed grow here, too, in our hope to draw in Monarch butterflies.

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Oxalis triangularis has struggled here because deer frequently graze these beautiful burgundy leaves.

Oxalis triangularis has struggled here because deer frequently graze these beautiful burgundy leaves.

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The border of Oxalis I planted with such confidence in May is nearly gone, grazed by rogue deer who have somehow snuck into the garden through our fences.  I’ve sprayed what remains with deer repellent and hope they will re-grow from the tubers.

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This Oxalis has been protected with a clove of garlic grown here since fall.  In more shade, there are no flowers and darker leaves.  A division of hardy Begonia can be seen at the top of the photo, and a division of fern to the far right.  These will fill in fairly quickly.

This Oxalis has been protected with a clove of garlic grown here since fall.  In more shade, there are no flowers and darker leaves. A division of hardy Begonia can be seen at the top of the photo, and a division of fern to the far right. These will fill in fairly quickly.

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Oxalis is supposed to be ‘deer resistant,’ but anyone who gardens near deer understands the humor of that phrase.

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Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia 'China Pink' grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia ‘China Pink’ grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.  Rudbeckia, to the right, will bloom golden in July.  I just love these spotted stems!

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Our collection of poisonous plants has grown this summer to include the “Voodoo Lily,” Sauromatum venosum, bought at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in April; and a hardy Calla lily, just ordered from Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh, NC.

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I was pleased to learn that Calla, native to South Africa, is in fact poisonous.  The poisonous leaves have more staying power in our garden, and do no harm to those who aren’t grazing them!

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Helebores, also poisonous, protects this pot from grazing.  The Heuchera would be munched if unprotected.

Hellebore, also poisonous, protects this pot from grazing. The Heuchera would be munched if unprotected.

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There are many more leaves to share, but you’ll see them as the summer unfolds.

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We continue to plant ferns, and we’ve added several new cultivars this year.

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We have also found several interesting cultivars of scented Pelargonium.  This rose scented Pelargonium grows in a pot with Ajuga.

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Herbs smell wonderful on hot sunny days, and have such beautiful foliage.

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 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.

Please visit her and follow as many links as you can to enjoy beautiful foliage posts photographed in a variety of different gardens.

But, before you do, we will end with a few more photos of my beloved Begonias:

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There will be another Begonia post soon.  These beauties continue growing better each week.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Green Rain Falling

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Green rain falling.

Staccato dripping from gutters,

Broken by frog song,

Call and response from the pond;

Celebration of wet abundance.

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Ground glistens below

Jewel encrusted leaves.

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Steady patter, hour after hour.

Creek filled ditches flowing,

Flowing, flowing, where?

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Frogs shelter on  windows, hunting

By porch light.

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Turtle heaven,

Watery world

Filled with liquid shadows.

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Birds perch beneath the eaves,

Warbling,

Waiting,

Rainy week in June.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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A Re-do and a Potential Success

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After constructing several terrariums this winter, I wanted to experiment with an “aqua-terrarium.”  I wanted to try a terrarium of plants growing in a watery environment.

Petco offered a selection of plants sold specifically for use in aquariums, from which I chose two small ferns.  Both ferns were new to me, and so I did a little internet research between buying them and planting them.  Which proved very helpful.

I learned that the Crested Java Fern, Microsorium pteropus, ‘Windelov,’ should be anchored to something and not planted directly into soil, sand or gravel.  And I learned that the (so called) Aqua Fern, Trichomanes javanicum, does not grow well completely submerged.  The success rate of growing this fern in an aquarium long term is slim to none…

I pressed on, allowing the upper leaves of the Aqua Fern to remain above water, and nestled its roots into a pocket of potting mix covered in small stones.

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Less than a week into the experiment it was clear that this was not a healthy planting.  The water quickly grew murky.  The Aqua Fern never perked up.

I decided to cut my losses and save the Crested Java Fern by moving it into a new, soil-less  “aqua-terrarium.’  I used pure spring water in the construction, and placed the newly built container where it would get bright but indirect light for most of the day.

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And the fern has responded with new growth.  There is not only evidence of new shoots from the base, but what appear to be roots have begun to grow from the tips of some of the fronds!

Native to Southeast Asia, this fern may be found growing along areas that flood and in shallow bodies of fresh or brackish water.  It will grow in anything from moist soil to a completely underwater environment.  And it spreads itself, with those growths on its leaves which take hold to most any surface, to cover wide areas.  I enjoy the beautiful shape of its fronds floating in the water.

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I clean the surface of the water every week or so with a paper towel before topping off the water level.  I don’t know what the “sheen” which forms on the water’s surface may be, but I remove it and wipe residue from the neck of the vase to keep it looking fresh.

Thus far, I rate this experiment as a potential success, and would recommend it to others who want to try growing an ornamental plant underwater indoors.  Now, I’m considering whether to add a small aquatic snail to help feed the fern and balance the planting….

After cleaning the murky water from the original ‘aqua terrarium’ planting, adding a bit more gravel, and allowing the Aqua fern several weeks to show new growth; I decided a “re-do” was in order.

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Who knows; this poor fern may have been on the decline when I purchased it.  An unfamiliar species, I don’t know how it should have looked to begin with, but it didn’t look particularly appealing from the beginning.

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Back to Petco to find a replacement plant, I was amazed to find several containers of my favorite Peacock Spikemoss on the aquarium plant display!  Really?  I know they appreciate moist soil, but have never heard of growing them completely submerged!

But I decided that while I wouldn’t try to grow it underwater, spikemoss would certainly look better in my vase than the dead fern!  And I just happened to have some clumps already growing well at home…  Remember the Amaryllis planting?  Well, the strawberry begonia plants and spikemoss are still growing strong.

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The re-do was a simple bit of “chuck and pluck.”  I very unceremoniously chucked the dead fern where all such things land, and plucked a healthy bit of spikemoss and strawberry begonia out of the Amaryllis garden where they were growing.

A bit of re-arranging of stones and cleaning up of the original vase made it ready to accept the new plants.  I added some clumps of moss, an Apophyllite cluster for sparkle, and watered it all in with a bit of pure spring water.

Although not an ‘aqua-terrarium,’ it is still  a pleasing ‘terrarium.’  We will enjoy it until the plants grow too large for the vase.

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Although the original ‘aqua terrarium’ experiment didn’t work out as I had planned, it has finally worked out OK.  All I lost was a single plant, while gaining some useful experience.

Lessons learned:  Regular potting compost doesn’t work out well in an aqua-terrarium.  Maybe I needed a thicker layer of sand and gravel to contain it, but I still think it was the factor in making the water murky and unpleasant.

Don’t depend on the pet store to recommend appropriate plants for growing underwater.  I should have browsed and noted the names of the plants first;  then done the internet research before making a purchase.  Just because a plant is sold for use in an aquarium doesn’t mean it will grow successfully underwater.

Given the right plant, like the Crested Java Fern,  this approach to an aqua-terrarium works and makes an interesting and unusual display.  I would definitely construct ‘aqua-terrariums’ in future, using the Java fern, with an eye to an interesting container and beautiful stones.

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This fern is known to grow rapidly and divide easily.  It is a good gift for someone who claims they have no green thumb, but would like to have a plant in their home or office.  There is no worry about over-watering!

Gardening experiments give us ample opportunities to fix our mistakes and try again.  It is better to try something new and learn something, even if we have a ‘re-do’ or three along the way.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

Table Top Fern

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This ‘Birdsfoot’ or ‘Table top fern,’ remains one of my favorite ferns.  I’ve been searching for one for at least a year now, both in local shops and online.

With sleet and temperatures already falling; we ran to the grocery store for a few last minute items yesterday afternoon.  I checked the floral department (as I always do) and found this beauty, the only one left, mixed in with the Pothos and Kalanchoes.

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What a treasure! This was my reward for braving the elements in the midst of a winter storm to pick up some last minute groceries!

Birdsfoot fern, Pteris cretica, has very different fronds from traditional ‘Boston’ style ferns.  Its unusually shaped fronds and beautiful markings have always caught my eye.

Each frond grows from a creeping rhizome, and the plants can spread over rocky soil to cover large areas.  Known as a ‘brake’ fern, these tender evergreen ferns may be found in the wild in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean island of Crete, which is the native home of this the Pteris cretica.

Pteris cretica is cultivated mainly as a houseplant in the United States.  In fact the name ‘table top fern’ is given because it grows so well as a medium sized houseplant, fitting neatly on a table.  Preferring shade, Pteris cretica grows well in the low light conditions found in most homes.  Several different cultivars, with various degrees of variegation, may be found.

They live quite happily in moist, shady areas outside, so long as night time temperatures remain well above freezing.

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When I took a close look at this little fern yesterday evening, it was apparent that it needed a good soaking since it was both dry and pot bound.  Its roots had grown out of the drainage holes of its pot a long while ago.  I gave it a drink of warm water and let it rest overnight.

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It badly needed release from its tiny nursery pot, and so I chose an elegant Japanese bowl as its temporary home to wait out the rest of winter.

Since the bowl has no drainage, we lay a foundation of medium stones and sphagnum moss to prevent the fern’s roots from becoming waterlogged.  Fresh potting soil, with an extra dose of Osmocote fertilizer, provide a good foundation for the root ball.

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Although the pot appeared to fit in the bowl to begin with, the root ball ended up as too tall to fit once the bowl was prepared.  I gently teased the roots apart and spread them slightly to make the fern fit, and then covered the soil with a layer of various mosses.  The soil appears slightly mounded since the fern’s crown sits slightly higher than the rim of the bowl.

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Re-hydrated, the fronds of this little fern have relaxed and taken on a healthy glow.  Only two fronds didn’t re-hydrate and had to be cut away.

I’ll grow this fern on for the next few weeks before moving it outside into a larger pot in late spring.  It can be divided then, or transplanted whole.

So long as it remains warm and moist, this fern remains a very tough and long-lived plant.  If you haven’t grown a ‘table top fern’ yet, please give it a try next time you see one offered for sale.

Although ferns never bloom, they offer interesting and consistent texture and color both in a pot and in the garden.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Let The Planting Begin!

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We had a taste of spring here yesterday and this morning.  We actually hit 70 F yesterday afternoon!  It was the perfect day for a drive out to the country, and so some loved ones and I took off for destinations west after lunch.

Just over the county line, in the eastern edge of Amelia, Clay Hudgins of  Hudgins Landscape and Nursery, Inc., is preparing for his first spring in his new location. We had visited last fall and been impressed with the excellent condition of the plants and friendliness of his staff.

What else to do on the first 70 degree day of the new year, but go wander through a nursery?  Although I was in search of potted Hellebores, Clay interested me in shrubs instead.   Many of his shrubs were on sale, and most of his Espoma products.  So I stocked up on Holly Tone and Rose Tone; and adopted a gorgeous Rhododendron.

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Our neighbors have successfully grown Rhododendron, even without fencing out the deer; and so we are going to try this one in a spot where a Camellia failed this autumn.  The poor Camellia had been nibbled by deer multiple times during its short life.  Sadly, most of its roots had also been eaten by the voles.  It was too abused to even take a photo of it.

But I’ve learned a trick or two to protect new shrubs since that Camellia went into the ground in 2011.  Today I planted both the Rhodie, and a potted dwarf  Eastern Redbud tree, Cercis canadensis, which was already growing with Heuchera ‘Caramel,’ spring bulbs, and an Autumn Brilliance fern.

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This is a cool and partially shaded area, part of our fern gardens behind the house.  These plants will get afternoon sun, and should grow very happily here.

The first line of defense to protect a shrub’s roots from vole damage is gravel in the planting hole.

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I dug this hole about 4″ deeper than needed, and about 6-7″ wider.  You may notice a clam shell stuck to the side of the planting hole in the photo.  That is plugging up the main vole tunnel, which is now back-filled with gravel behind that shell.

Like earthworms, voles dig and tunnel through the soil.  My job is to make that as difficult and hazardous as possible.  In addition to gravel, I like to surround the new shrub with poisonous roots.  There were already a few daffodil bulbs growing in front of the deceased Camellia.  You can see their leaves just poking through the soil in the bottom left corner of the photo, if you look closely.  I’ve added a few more daffodils now, planted near the new Redbud, a few feet behind the Rhodie.

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These roots are beautiful; not potbound at all.  I still scored vertical lines in several places around the rootball with the tip of a knife to stimulate growth and prevent any 'girdling' of the roots .

These roots are beautiful; not pot bound at all. I still scored vertical lines in several places around the root ball with the tip of a knife to stimulate growth and prevent any ‘girdling’ of the roots as they grow .

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I’ll plan to plant more daffodils in this area when they come on the market again in fall.  But, until then, I’ve surrounded the Rhodie with seedling Hellebores, spaced about 12″ apart.  Hellebores are one of the most toxic plants we grow.  Every part, including the roots, is highly poisonous.  Once these roots begin to grow and fill in, they will form a poisonous “curtain” of plant matter around the Rhodie’s roots, protecting the root ball as the shrub establishes.  Just for good measure, I’ve laid a light ‘mulch’ of the old Hellebore leaves we pruned this morning.  They will quickly decompose into the soil, and their toxins will offer this area additional protection.

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From top left: Yucca leaves, Heuchera, 'Caramel," a tiny Redbud tree, emerging bulbs, seedling Hellebores, Hellebore leaves, Rhododendron Purpureum Elegans, daffodil leaves, and a mature Autumn Brilliance fern.

From top left: Yucca leaves, Heuchera, ‘Caramel,” a tiny Redbud tree, emerging bulbs, seedling Hellebores, Hellebore leaves, Rhododendron Purpureum Elegans, daffodil leaves, and a mature Autumn Brilliance fern.

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Japanese Painted Ferns are already established in this area.  Their first fronds will unfurl over the next six weeks.  I’ll add additional ferns, and most likely some Wood Anemones to this planting.  It is mulched in pea gravel and some shells at the moment, to further thwart creatures who might want to dig here.

A little Holly Tone is mixed into the bottom of the planting holes and is also dusted over the mulched ground.  Mushroom compost is mixed with the soil used to fill in around the root balls.  Finally, I watered in all of the plants with a generous wash of Neptune’s Harvest.  It smells so foul that hungry creatures give it wide berth.  Just for good measure, I also sprayed the Heuchera and Rhododendron with deer repellent just before going back inside.

Overkill?  Not at all!  I want these plants to get off to a good and healthy start!  I’ll show you the progress here from time to time.  This gorgeous Rhodie is absolutely covered in buds, which will open in a beautiful shade of lavender later in the spring.   I’m so pleased with this shrub, having seen its beautiful roots and abundant growth, that I’m seriously considering purchasing a few more Rhododendrons from this same lot while they are available, and still on sale.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Hellebore with a bud emerging in another part of the fern garden.

Hellebore with a bud emerging in another part of the fern garden.

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