Sunday Dinner: Sustenance

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“We are touched by magic wands.
For just a fraction of our day life is perfect,
and we are absolutely happy
and in harmony with the earth.
The feeling passes much too quickly.
But the memory –
and the anticipation of other miracles –
sustains us in the battle indefinitely.”
.
John Nichols

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“The most important truths
are those which sustain us
in our daily lives.”
.
Marty Rubin

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“Knowledge is the food of the soul.”
.
Plato

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“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches
is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum,
and that as long as the sun still shines
and people still can plan and plant,
think and do, we can, if we bother to try,
find ways to provide for ourselves
without diminishing the world. ”
.
Michael Pollan

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“Pull up a chair. Take a taste.
Come join us.
Life is so endlessly delicious.”
.
Ruth Reichl

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Life itself is the proper binge.”
.
Julia Child
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Sunday Dinner: The Unknown

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“Letting there be room for not knowing
is the most important thing of all.
When there’s a big disappointment,
we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.
It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.
Life is like that. We don’t know anything.
We call something bad; we call it good.
But really we just don’t know.”
.
Pema Chödrön

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“In a world of diminishing mystery,
the unknown persists.”
.
Jhumpa Lahiri

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Whenever we proceed from the known
into the unknown
we may hope to understand,
but we may have to learn at the same time
a new meaning of the word ‘understanding.”
.
Werner Karl Heisenberg

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“How can you know what you’re capable of
if you don’t embrace the unkown?”
.
Esmeralda Santiago

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“With no expectations
anything can become.”
.
Steven Farmer

Fabulous Friday: Floods of Rain

Native sweetbay Magnolia virginiana, in bloom this week at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, fills the garden entrance with its musky perfume.

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This Friday dawned humid and grey, and I set out as soon as we finished a quick breakfast to meet a friend at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  While I am all about the plants, she is all about the cats and butterflies.  Today, she was hunting for a few special cats to use in her upcoming program  at our local library  about protecting butterflies and providing habitat for their next generations.

We checked all of the usual host plants: Asclepias,, spicebush, Wisteria, fennel, Passiflora vines, and parsley.  We weren’t equipped to check out the canopies of the garden’s host trees, like the paw paw or the oaks, but we were left empty-handed. There were no caterpillars that we could find today.

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A Zebra Swallowtail butterfly enjoys the Verbena bonariensis at the WBG last week.  Its host plant is the native paw paw tree.

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In this peaceful nectar and host plant rich environment, where are the butterflies and their young?  We both happily snapped photos of interesting views and blooms as we searched, took care of a few chores together, and then she was off.

By then the first Master Naturalist gardeners had arrived.  All of us had one eye to the sky and another on our ‘to-do’ lists.

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Native Asclepias tuberosa is one of the Asclepias varieties that Monarch butterflies seek out as a host plant to lay their eggs.

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I have great admiration and affection for the Master Naturalists who work at the WBG, and I appreciate the opportunity to ask questions when they are around.  I hope to join their ranks one year soon.  The course is rigorous and the standards high, and the volunteer work they do throughout our area is invaluable.

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This is our native Carolina wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis, that blooms near the gate at the WBG. 

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One of the Master Naturalists was also working on an inventory of butterflies in the garden today.   He checked out all of the tempting nectar plants from Verbena to Lantana, the Asclepias to his blooming herbs, the pollinator beds of native flowers, the various Salvias and Agastache.  Where were the butterflies today?

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Native spiderwort, Tradescantia ohiensis, also grows near the garden’s gate.

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I had the constant company of bees buzzing around my knees and ankles as I climbed into a border to weed and deadhead.

But no Zebra Swallowtails danced among the Verbena.  Not a single butterfly fed on the Salvias where I was working.  A Monarch showed itself briefly and promptly disappeared.  We observed the heavy, humid air and decided they must be sheltering against the coming rain.

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Native Iris virginica blooming last week at the WBG.

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But as the storm grew closer, there wasn’t much time for sociability today.  We could hear the thunder rumbling off in the distance as we weeded, cut enthusiastic plants back, potted and chatted with garden visitors.

My partner kept an eye on the radar maps at home and phoned in updates.  When he gave the final ‘five minute warning!’ it was nearly noon, and the rain began as I headed back to my car.  It was a good morning’s work and I left with the ‘to do’ list completed.

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Seedpods ripen on the sweetbay Magnolia

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But the rain has been a constant presence this afternoon, falling loudly and insistently all around us.  There are flood warnings, the ground is saturated, and I am wondering how high the water might rise on local roads and along the banks of the James and its feeder creeks.  It has been a wet year for many.

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The James River last week, before this last heavy rain brought it even higher.

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There was a timely message from the James River Association in my inbox.  The river is brown with run-off, and has been for a while now.  They are encouraging folks to address run-off issues on their properties.  The best advice there is, “Plant more plants!”  But of course, the right plants in the right places!  Successful plants help manage stormwater; dying ones, not so much.

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I use both rock and hardwood mulch in our garden at home to help protect the soil during heavy rains. This is a native oakleaf Hydrangea in bloom.

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Rain gardens are encouraged to catch the run-off and allow it to slowly percolate into the earth instead of running off so quickly.  There are programs available that help plan and fund new rain gardens to protect local water  quality.

Where there is no good spot for a rain garden, then terraces help on slopes like ours, and solid plantings of shrubs and perennials help to slow the flow of water downhill towards the creeks.

Most anything that covers the bare soil helps with erosion.  But deeply rooted plants help hold the soil while also soaking up the water and allowing it to evaporate back into the atmosphere through their leaves.

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Groundcover plants, like this golden creeping Jenny, also hold and protect the soil.  Our Crinum lily is ready to bloom.  This hardy Amaryllis relative gets a bit larger each year as its already huge bulb calves off pups.

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We’ve been watching flooding news roll in from all over the region this afternoon.  Streets and sidewalks underwater, cars floating away, and families chased indoors by the weather.  It looks like a wet stretch coming, too.

I’m glad have a new garden book, The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom waiting for me; the prose is as inspiring as the photographs.  I love seeing how other gardeners plant and how they think about their planting.  There is always more to learn.

Once these flooding rains subside and the soil drains a bit, I expect to be back outside and “Planting more plants!”

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious; Let’s infect one another!

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Echinacea, purple coneflower, delights pollinators and goldfinches  in our forest garden.

Wildlife Wednesday: Life Everywhere

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There is always excitement in the air as families gather, greetings as each group arrives,  hugs all around, and plenty of stories to share.   Early summer carries that same vibe for me as all of the various creatures who share our garden make their seasonal debut.

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This same turtle who visited on our patio earlier this week turned up again in the upper garden this morning.  She was laying her eggs near a rose of Sharon tree in a shaded and protected place.  I happened upon her while out watering, and greeted her warmly.

I always feel a bit honored when turtles choose to lay their eggs in our garden and hope to be out and about when the baby turtles emerge from the earth several weeks on.

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August 2014

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A Monarch fluttered past while I was watering this morning, too.  And I noticed our first hummingbirds on Monday.  The lizards have been active for several weeks already, sunning by the kitchen door and skittering under vines or through the grass with our approach.

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A group of three Tiger Swallowtails enjoyed these Ligustrum flowers last Sunday.

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Our garden is filled with birds and alive with squirrels.  The birdsong begins before dawn most days, and I often catch a cardinal perched outside our kitchen window, keeping watch over what is happening inside.  The birds love to nest in shrubs near the house, and we watch over their comings and goings as they watch over ours.

Our garden has filled with life: dragonflies, butterflies, bats at dusk and owls calling from the ravine.

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Lizards love to hide under the vines and around the pots, where they find plenty to drink.

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It’s not all good.  Squirrels and deer bring ticks.  Mayflies haunt our every mid-day move, mosquitoes angle for a bit of skin, and  the chiggers have also returned.  Deer are finding ways into the garden and munching despite our best efforts with deterrents.

I love the sweet surprise of a turquoise dragonfly hovering nearby, or a hummingbird buzzing in close in search of nectar.  We hear more creatures than we see, and know others are lurking in the shadows of the ravine.

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Ours is a wild garden, made to supply the wild things’ needs for food and water, shelter and places to nest.  There are no poisons or traps, no noxious chemicals washing into the water or soil.  There is sanctuary and peace; most of the time…. 

(I’ll leave it to your imagination what happens when we happen to notice a deer grazing on a shrub….  But families are noisy and annoying, too, sometimes.)

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August 2016

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Every creature has its place in the web of life.  And especially us, who have the wisdom to protect and the power to destroy this fragile place that is our own home.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Butterflies on Asclepias syriaca along the Colonial Parkway (and below)

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“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments —

there are consequences.”
.

Robert G. Ingersoll

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Sunday Dinner: Early Summer’s Golden Rays

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“We went down into the silent garden.

Dawn is the time when nothing breathes,

the hour of silence.

Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.”

.

Leonora Carrington

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~

“I had forgotten how much light

there is in the world,

till you gave it back to me.”

.

Ursula K. Le Guin

~

~

“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.

Because he believes in miracles,

miracles begin to happen.

Because he is sure that his thoughts can change his life,

his life begins to change.

Because he is certain that he will find love,

love appears.”

.

Paulo Coelho

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“I am part of a light, and it is the music.

The Light fills my six senses: I see it, hear, feel,

smell, touch and think.

Thinking of it means my sixth sense.

Particles of Light are written notes.

One bolt of lightning can be an entire sonata.

A thousand balls of lightening is a concert.

For this concert I have created a Ball Lightning,

which can be heard on the icy peaks of the Himalayas.”

.

Nikola Tesla

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“One does not become enlightened

by imagining figures of light,

but by making the darkness conscious.

The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable

and therefore not popular.”

.

C.G. Jung

~

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“Whatever you are physically…male or female,

strong or weak, ill or healthy-

-all those things matter less

than what your heart contains.

If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior.

All those other things, they are the glass

that contains the lamp,

but you are the light inside.”

.

Cassandra Clare

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“Oh phosphorescence.

Now there’s a word to lift your hat to…

To find that phosphorescence, that light within —

is the genius behind poetry.”

.

William Luce

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“It may be that you are not yourself luminous,

but that you are a conductor of light.

Some people without possessing genius

have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”

.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“You have to be transparent
so you no longer cast a shadow
but instead let the light pass through you.”
.

Kamand Kojouri

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Six On Saturday: Flowers In Bloom

Our first white coneflowers, Echinacea, opened yesterday.  Each flower lasts for a very long time. Pollinators frequent the flowers over several weeks. Once the petals finally drop, goldfinches delight in picking out the tasty seeds. Coneflower remains a presence in our garden all summer, producing new flowers deep into the season.

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The few weeks after Azaleas fade and Iris finish bring a brief lull in the garden.  Our trees are fully covered now in deep green and shrubs cover themselves with tender new growth.  Now is a good time to take softwood cuttings, if you want to clone any woodies.

Most gardeners keep secateurs close at hand as we deadhead spent flowers and sometimes need to clip a path for ourselves through vigorous new growth.

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African blue basil remains one of my favorite annual flowering herbs. I grow it for the sweetly scented flowers and rarely cut it for cooking. Once the flowers finish, goldfinches swoop in to claim the seeds. This basil continue flowering and growing all summer long.

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I’ve done more trimming than planting this week as I continue to tame the rampant goldenrod and obedient plant claiming too much real estate in our front perennial beds and the thuggish cutleaf coneflower shading out its companions in the butterfly garden.  Abundant rain and warm weather fuels this early summer growth spurt, as plants increase by inches a day.

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Verbena bonariensis, a South American native Verbena, is one of my favorite perennials at the moment. I have planted it in beds and pots this year. I’ve learned that it self-sows generously, and returns more vigorously with each passing year. I saw a friend’s plant that had grown into a small woody shrub and fooled me, as I thought it was a butterfly bush leafing out last month!  All Verbenas prove magnets for butterflies and other pollinators.

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But looking across the front garden I don’t see as much color this week.  And so I walked our garden paths, camera in hand, to see what new flowers have appeared as we transition from spring ephemerals to summer’s perennials.

Most of these flowers will continue for several weeks more, if not for several months.  Some will bloom on from now until frost.  Spring’s exuberance settles now into summer’s steadiness.

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Garlic chives are always the first of our Alliums to bloom in May. They spread a bit more each year. These are an edible herb, a good pollinator plant, and add color during early summer.

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I brought home a new rose colored Salvia today and a beautiful new coral Agastache.  I am looking forward to their bold color shining in the garden for many weeks ahead.

Spring is all about the flowers, but summer color comes more reliably from interesting foliage.  Flowers come and go, bloom and fade and fall.  They bring in the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, but they fade all too quickly.

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Spiraea japonica blooms reliably each May, and will re-bloom if deadheaded. This is a very traditional shrub, left by a previous gardener, and may be cut for the vase.

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I’m most excited this week about all of the deep red Canna plants growing by the day, tubs of Caladiums and Alocasias ready to take their places throughout the garden, and a growing collection of beautiful coleus.  But our winter Violas are still going strong in their pots, and they are so colorful I am loathe to pull them before they fade.  Our summer foliage plants continue to wait on the Violas and snaps for their turn in our summer pots.

Another steamy summer settles over the garden, and the garden is transforming itself yet again, as our perennials emerge and grow.

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Heuchera ‘Melting Fire’ keeps these deep ruby leaves all year long, even through winter.  It is a special treat when its flowers emerge in early summer.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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

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“At last came the golden month of the wild folk-

– honey-sweet May,

when the birds come back,

and the flowers come out,

and the air is full of the sunrise scents

and songs of the dawning year.”
.

Samuel Scoville Jr

Sunday Dinner: Fleeting

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“Exquisite beauty
is often hidden
in life’s fragile,
fleeting moments.”

.

John Mark Green

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“If a beautiful thing were to remain beautiful

for all eternity, I’d be glad,

but all the same I’d look at it

with a colder eye.

I’d say to myself: You can look at it any time,

it doesn’t have to be today.”

.

Hermann Hesse

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“Everything changes. The leaves, the weather,

the colour of your hair, the texture of your skin.

The feelings you have today –

whether they kill you or enthrall you –

won’t be the same tomorrow, so let go.

Celebrate. Enjoy. Nothing lasts,

except your decision to celebrate everything,

everyone, for the beauty that is there

within each moment, each smile,

each impermanent flicker of infinity.”

.

Vironika Tugaleva

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“That which is impermanent

attracts compassion.

That which is not provides wisdom.”

.

Stephen Levine

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“Nostalgia is an illness
for those who haven’t realized
that today
is tomorrow’s nostalgia.”

.

Zeena Schreck

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“Nothing endures but change.”

.

Heraclitus

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Fabulous Friday: Time Marching On

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I am delighted with how many of last summer’s marginal perennials survived winter to bloom again this spring.  It satisfies my thrifty nature to enjoy another season’s blooms from a plant sold as an ‘annual.’  Actually, quite a few of our ‘annuals’ are perennial a zone or two to our south.

With a little thought and effort, and a bit of grace, we can shelter them over winter and enjoy them again.

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Last year’s Lantana blooms for another season in one of our patio pots, alongside a favorite Clematis vine.

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I leafed through a book on container gardening this week which offered the sage advice to empty all of one’s pots before the first frost, composting the contents and storing the pots indoors.  I’m sure many gardeners swear by a clean pot and fresh compost each spring, planted up with brand new plants from the nursery.  If I had nothing to do with my time and loose change but garden, I might enjoy that approach, too.

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Dianthus and Saxifraga thrive in their pots near the back door, growing larger and giving more flowers every year.

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But I am hooked on the ‘Four Season Pot’ approach, and try to keep something interesting growing in most of my pots year round.  Some may be growing in the garage, but quite a few weather the season outside with small trees or shrubs, bulbs, violets, perennials, and herbs.

I change out some of the upper layer of compost in some a few times a year, fertilize generously, and re-do the entire pot rarely.  Our climate is mild enough that the plants generally live through the winter, and the pots don’t crack in the cold!

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‘Annual’ Verbena returns this spring from its roots, quickly filling its pot before I’ve had time to even plant most of my new starts from the nursery.

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And as we near the middle of May new plants are blooming even as earlier beauties fade.  Our heat this week has taken the Iris sooner than I’d hoped.  In fact, the heat has put a serious crimp in my plans to move pots back outside, and to re-plant many of our pots with summer herbs and perennials!

It has been too hot and the sun too intense to spend much time outside in the middle of the day.  I’ve had to ration my morning and afternoon hours among several different ‘to-do’ lists.

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But time marches on, as native perennials grow at lightening speed, demanding a firm hand on the clippers or string trimmer to cut them back.  Irises need trimming as their flowers fade, perennials need pinching back to make them bush out, and I have rows of sprouting Caladiums wanting to sink their roots into a permanent home.

Having a few marginal perennials return and fill their pots once again pleases me so much, as those pots burst into flower with little from me beyond an approving smile.

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The first Lantana bloomed this week, and all of our Clematis have covered themselves in flowers.  What more could I reasonably hope for?  Watching perennials emerge and bloom feels like greeting old friends after a while apart.  I’m surprised all over again by their beauty and character.

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It will be June before we know it; solstice lurks on the horizon.  I appreciate the longer evenings to wander in the garden, water a bit, and do a few more gardening tasks.

The sweet fragrance of blooming Ligustrum thickens the evening breeze, even as bats fly low over the garden catching their dinner.  There are huge buds on the Magnolia trees, ready to open one day soon, releasing their nostalgic perfume.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea blooms with the foxglove.

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Time seems to evaporate when I’m engaged with the garden; and yet time governs its unfolding, the rise and fall of every creature and leaf.

Timelessness permeates the relentless waves of change, eternity lives in root and rhizome.  Each flower opens in its own unique color and form, synchronized to the deeper rhythms that govern us all.

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Yellow flag Iris pseudacorus blooms this week.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious; let’s infect one another!

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“Time doesn’t seem to pass here:
it just is.”
.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday Dinner: Flow

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Mist to mist, drops to drops.

For water thou art,

and unto water shalt thou return.”

.

Kamand Kojouri

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They both listened silently to the water,

which to them was not just water,

but the voice of life,

the voice of Being,

the voice of perpetual Becoming.”

.

Hermann Hesse

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“To them, as to Magnus,

time was like rain, glittering as it fell,

changing the world,

but something that could also

be taken for granted.”

.

Cassandra Clare

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“…I keep looking for one more teacher,

only to find that fish learn from the water

and birds learn from the sky.”

.

Mark Nepo

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“Water is the most perfect traveller

because when it travels

it becomes the path itself!”

.

Mehmet Murat ildan

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“Water is the driving force in nature.”

.

Leonardo da Vinci

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“Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape,

so in warfare

there are no constant conditions.”

.

Sun Tzu

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“Empty your mind,

be formless, shapeless, like water.

Be water, my friend.”

.

Bruce Lee

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019
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Six on Saturday: Plants With a History

Yellow flag Iris psuedacorus is one of the earliest Iris species recorded in our history.  Native in parts of Europe and North Africa, it was grown in palace and  temple gardens in ancient Egypt .  Considered invasive in North America, it produces very high quantities of nectar when in bloom.

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Why does May hold such nostalgia?  All seems right with the world when early summer settles over the neighborhood; the air is sweetened by blooming hollies, roses, and honeysuckle, and something is blooming in nearly every yard.

May is a month for Mother’s Day, college graduations, weddings and family trips.  We allow ourselves a mental break from the news of the day as we reconnect with loved ones and simply enjoy the pleasures of May.

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Peonies remain some of the most popular garden plants and cut flowers. They bloom for only a few weeks each spring, but remain a favorite artistic motif in temperate climates around the world.

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Many of the shrubs and perennials that bloom each May carry with them an air of nostalgia, too.  They may remind us of our mother’s or our grandmother’s gardens.

My great grandmother had an old craftsman style house in an established Richmond neighborhood.  Her back garden was filled with luxurious climbing roses, blue spiderwort, peonies and a giant old mulberry tree.

I have vivid memories of wandering around her yard when I was a very young child, enjoying the flowers while the grown-ups talked inside.  The grass grew long and lush as she could no longer mow it herself.   I’d pick the mulberries in season and she would serve them over heaping bowls of ice cream.  She was elderly when I knew her, already an invalid.  But her garden told me all I needed to know about her loving spirit and her joie de vivre.

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Native mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, grows wild across much of Virginia on large shrubs, sometimes growing into small trees.  It grows best in the mountains, and follows the Appalachians from New England to the Gulf Coast.  Native Americans used this poisonous shrub for many purposes, including medicinally.  The wood is extremely hard and was carved into many useful household items.

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The beauty of antique, heritage flowers is their persistence.   Most are so easy to grow that once planted, they largely care for themselves.  A gardener’s skilled hand can certainly help bring out their full potential, but they generally outlive their gardeners and can fend for themselves decade after decade.

Heritage plants bring us comfort, through their beauty and fragrance, as they return us to people and places and times long passed.  They have a long and rich history themselves, even as they help us follow the threads of memory to recall our own personal history.  Yet they bloom fresh and beautiful each year, insinuating themselves into our hearts anew each time we encounter them.

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We always had Azaleas in our yard to admire each spring,  These Southern Indica hybrid Azaleas, dating back to the 1830’s, have especially large flowers and will grow to 10′ tall.  We enjoyed viewing them at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and Richmond’s Bryan Park when I was a child.  Here, ‘Formosa’ and ‘Delaware White’ were planted by a previous gardener on our property. 

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Plants carry our history more surely than any diary or text.  They form a living archive of our lives:  the flowers we grow, the foods that recall childhood pleasures.  The trees we played under and in when young, and trees planted at our homes along the way.

All are a part of our story, and we a part of theirs.  And when better to remember the joy they brought us than when the world is renewed each May.

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Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, ‘ the poet’s or pheasant’s eye daffodil, is native to the mountains of Europe.  One of the earliest cultivated species daffodils from the ancient Mediterranean world,  it is one of the latest daffodils to bloom each spring.  Here, it greets visitors at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

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“If you don’t know history,

then you don’t know anything.

You are a leaf that doesn’t know

it is part of a tree. ”
.

Michael Crichton

*

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

 

 

 

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