Wednesday Vignette: Dreaming Trees

Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre' 2014

Ficus afghanistanica ‘Silver Lyre’ planted 2014


“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world

would go to pieces,

I would still plant my apple tree.”


Martin Luther


Star Magnolia 2015

Star Magnolia planted 2015


“My own heroes are the dreamers,

those men and women who tried to make the world

a better place than when they found it,

whether in small ways or great ones.

Some succeeded, some failed,

most had mixed results…

but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it.

Win or lose,

I admire those who fight the good fight.”


George R.R. Martin


Crepe Myrtel 2015

Crepe Myrtle planted 2015


“Most of the important things in the world

have been accomplished

by people who have kept on trying

when there seemed to be no hope at all.”


Dale Carnegie




Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016


Do you plant trees?  Planting a tree, whether for yourself or someone else, is one of the most powerful gestures one can make to assure a happy and healthy future.  Here are just a few of the trees we’ve planted over the last five years.


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The Arbor  Day Foundation sponsors several worthwhile programs to ensure that more community trees are planted each year.  The one which has my interest right now is “Neighborwoods Month.” October is a great time of year for planting trees in our region.   

Perhaps you will consider planting a tree or two of your own between now and the end of October. 

Here is the child’s tree dedication prayer recited in Philadelphia at the planting of a new community tree: 

” We dedicate this tree to beauty, usefulness, and comfort. 

May our lives grow in beauty, usefulness, and comfort to others

even as these trees expand their leafy boughs. 

Let us strive to protect and care for them

and they may so be enjoyed by all people…”








‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2: Feed!

June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 011


Most plants grow larger and fuller, have better color, and produce more flowers when they are well fed.  Well-fed plants always reflect well on the gardener, because they look healthy and robust. 

Many sources of gardening advice admonish that one must ‘feed the soil, not the plant.’  And this is generally true for trees, shrubs, and perennials.  Anything planted directly into the ground performs better in fertile, well prepared soil.  Compost is the most important thing to dig into a bed or planting hole to enrich the soil.  Adding an organic mulch, which attracts earthworms, further enriches and improves the soil.  The more worms, the better the soil.  Additional fertilizer rarely is needed once one ‘gets the soil right.’  That said, heavy bloomers benefit from an annual application of an organic fertilizer such as Espoma’s Rose Tone.


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However, most potting soils are basically sterile mixes of coir or peat, perlite and/or vermiculite.  There isn’t enough nutrition to support healthy plant growth.  Some potting soils come fortified with worm castings or pelletized fertilizer and advertise that they will feed a plant for several months.  Some gardeners recommend mixing a little compost into the pot; but this is generally not enough to encourage lush growth.

To support vibrant growth coming from a relatively small pot, there needs to be a lot of minerals available for those crowded roots to absorb.  When preparing a pot for a fresh planting, I thoroughly mix some balanced organic fertilizer, like Espoma’s Plant Tone, into the potting soil before adding any plants.  This feeds the plants long-term, but is released very slowly.  It also includes helpful strains of microorganisms to help plants use the minerals.  After adding the plants, I sprinkle the smoothed soil with a timed-release pelletized fertilizer like Osmocote, which also includes important trace minerals.  Some soil mixes already have the Osmocote mixed in.  This is a timed release fertilizer which is activated whenever the pot is watered.


June 12, 2016 pots 007


Finally,  I’ll mix some very quick release Neptune’s Harvest in a watering can to water the plants into the soil.  This is a foliar feed, easily absorbed, and offers some protection while the plants establish.  It truly does ‘feed the soil,’ and improves soil texture and its ability to retain water.  It is also a good ‘pick me up’ if a plant ever starts to look a little dull.  Now, you might think that feeding a potted plant so much fertilizer might burn or kill it.  I’ve never had any problem, probably because these are organic products and have relatively low nitrogen.  The plants begin growing quickly, have good leaf color and produce sturdy new growth.

Why it works:  Although plants make their own ‘food/fuel’ from water, oxygen and sunlight, they need nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous for healthy growth.  Lacking any of these, the plant will be stunted and sickly.  In addition, plants also benefit from a variety of trace minerals like copper, iron, magnesium and zinc.  These can be absorbed from many garden soils, but are lacking in potting soil.  Access to these important minerals is essential to productive plant growth.  Think of a plant as a living chemistry lab.  Many elements are needed to keep the bio-chemistry of life fueled.

Woodland Gnome’s Caveat:  My guilty secret for abundant flowers, especially on indoor plants during winter, is water soluble Miracle Grow Orchid Food.  This is not an organic product, but a tiny bit mixed into the usual water, every month or so, produces fabulous results!  Our ‘Christmas’ Cactus, Schlumbergera, bloomed non-stop from November through May with monthly feeding.


June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 007


“Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams. 

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.


June 20, 2016 garden 019


Woodland Gnome 2016


‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot Bound Roots!  by J. Peggy Taylor

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3:  Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

June 20, 2016 garden 022



A Gift of Iris and Another New Raised Bed

Our newly planted clump of Siberian Iris, a gift from Barbara and her husband who visited on Saturday.

Our newly planted clump of Siberian Iris; a gift from Barbara and her husband, who visited on Saturday.  Planted here with a variegated Salvia and Comphrey, 

When Barbara and her husband visited the garden on Saturday, they left a clump of Siberian Iris, dug from their own garden, as a gift.

Barbara knows how much I love Iris, and her intuition must have whispered that I’ve been wanting to establish a clump of Siberian Iris in the garden.

She brought a perfect, and much appreciated gift.

The area between our two Afghan figs will be planted to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

The area between our two Afghan figs will be planted to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.  Blooming chives and Salvias  guard the little fig trees as they emerge this spring.

But the area where I want them has very compacted, clay soil.  I planted some very tough Comphrey and Dusty Miller in this area several weeks ago, but realized the soil is not ready for much else.

And so I’ve built a super-quick, no nonsense raised bed is this slight depression between our new Afghan figs.

Fresh compost piled on top of existing mulch allows me to plant in this area without digging into the clay.  A light covering of wood chips from the forest floor mulches the planting and makes the new bed visually "disappear."

Fresh compost piled on top of existing mulch allows me to plant in this area without digging into the clay. A light covering of wood chips from the forest floor mulches the planting and makes the new bed visually “disappear.”

I’ve been watching the figs closely.  New last fall, they are supposed to be fast growers.

Afghan fig, “Silver Lyre,” is on the northern edge of its hardiness zone here in Williamsburg.   And like all of our other fig trees, they’ve taken their own sweet time in breaking dormancy this spring.

Our severe winter was almost too much, but new growth has finally come from the roots.

New Afghan fig foliage has  finally begun to grow.

New Afghan fig foliage has finally begun to grow.

This new bed, in full sun, will tie the two fig trees together as they fill in.   I’ve chosen plants to accent their silver green foliage.

I want it to be a hub of activity  on sunny days, and have chosen deer resistant plants which will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

The Siberian Iris will add height, structure, and beautiful blooms each spring.  Since they spread quickly, this bed will be awash in iris in just a few short years.

The varegated plant on the left is a hummingird "magnet" with bright red flowers.  Comphrey, right, will bloom all summer and keep bees and butterflies coming to this new garden.

The variegated plant on the left is a hummingbird “magnet” with bright red flowers. Comphrey, right, will bloom all summer and keep bees and butterflies coming to this new garden.

 Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Silver in the Barn

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