WPC: Faces in the Crowd

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The garden explodes with flowers this week.   Buds open so quickly that we watch their progress over the course of a few hours.  Warmth will do that, you know.

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It is nearly impossible to see and appreciate them all at once.  Crowds of daffodils appeared in drifts beneath the shrub border.  Their buds pop open in an anonymous sea of gold and white.

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The star Magnolia has cloaked itself in white couture, and Edgeworthia flowers swell, wafting a startlingly sweet perfume onto the warm, humid breezes.

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Hellebores uncurl themselves languidly, ever elegant as buds and leaves unfold.  Whole clumps expand in a jumble of uncounted blossoms.  Faces shyly averted,  they radiate feminine strength in their insistence to blossom and fill such a grey and brown February garden with softest shades of cream and pink.

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Forsythia shrubs burst into bright yellow flames as thousands of tiny flowers radiate their promise that the relentless tsunami of spring is upon us.

The sky was ominous with low churning clouds, these last few days; and frequent showers, or the threat of showers, discouraging us from lingering too long in the garden.

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We were still drawn outside to witness this beauty unfolding.  Planting, pruning, spreading mulch; clearing away the remains of last season’s browned and shriveled growth; we took our turn as stage hands in the this spectacle of spring.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  A Face in the Crowd

 

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Sunday Dinner: Courage

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“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery,

in the courage that drives one person

to stand up for another.”

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Veronica Roth

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“Your strength doesn’t come from winning.

It comes from struggles and hardship. 

Everything that you go through

prepares you for the next level.”

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Germany Kent

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“I love to walk.

Walking is a spiritual journey

and a reflection of living.

Each of us must determine which path to take

and how far to walk;

we must find our own way,

what is right for one may not be for another.

.

Edie Littlefield Sundby

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“I am the bended, but not broken.

I am the power of the thunderstorm.

I am the beauty in the beast.

I am the strength in weakness.

I am the confidence in the midst of doubt.

I am Her!”

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Kierra C.T. Banks

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“I know that the future seems hard and scary,

but it will get better, I promise.

It’s time for you to move on.

Get going.”

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Asper Blurry

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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Golden February

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Have you noticed that certain colors predominate in the landscape each month?  August here is always very green.  January is a study in brownish grey.  April is awash with Azalea pinks and reds.

And February is golden.

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Yes, there are white snowdrops and rosy Hellebores in our garden now.  Purple and blue Violas bloom in pots and baskets.

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Mahonia aquifolium

Mahonia aquifolium, blooming through our winter, provides nectar for early pollinators.  By summer each flower will have grown into a plump purple berry, loved by our birds.  These tough shrubs, native to western North America, have naturalized across much of Virginia.

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But the flowers highlighting our garden now, blooming fiercely against a still wintery brown backdrop; are the first golden Daffodils of spring, showering cascades of yellow Mahonia flowers, the occasional sunshiny Dandelion, and hundreds of thousands of yellow Forsythia buds.

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Forsythia greets each spring with thousands of tiny yellow flowers.

Forsythia greets each spring with thousands of tiny yellow flowers. An Asian native, Forsythia naturalized in North America more than a century ago.  An important source of nectar, these large, suckering shrubs provide shelter for many species of birds and insects.

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Forsythia and Daffodils line many of our public roads, too.  We found a huge stand of blooming yellow Daffodils in the median of Jamestown Road, near the ferry, last week.  Their cheerful promise of spring feels almost defiant as we weather the last few weeks of a Virginia winter.

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Edgeworthia chrysantha, or Chinese Paperbush, fills our front garden with fragrance now that its blossoms have opened. We found happy bees feeding on these flowers on Sunday afternoon.

Edgeworthia chrysantha, or Chinese Paperbush, fills our front garden with fragrance now that its blossoms have opened. We found happy bees feeding on these flowers on Sunday afternoon.

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Touches of gold may also be found in the bright stamens of Hellebores, the warm centers of Edgeworthia flowers, and the bright Crocus which will bloom any day now.

These golden flowers of February prove a perfect foil to bare trees, fallen leaves and late winter storms.

What a lovely way for our garden to awaken to spring.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Wednesday Vignettes:

Forsythia

Forsythia

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“Inspiration is what keeps us well.”

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James Redfield

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“Once you learn what life is about,

there is no way to erase that knowledge.

If you try to do something else with your life,

you will always sense that you are missing something”

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James Redfield

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Color Your World: Perseverance

The Star Magnolia wants to break into bloom in the depths of our Virginia winter. February 11 Grey

The Star Magnolia wants to break into bloom in the depths of our Virginia winter. February 11 Grey

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“Begin doing what you want to do now.

We are not living in eternity.

We have only this moment,

sparkling like a star in our hand-

-and melting like a snowflake…”

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Francis Bacon

We woke this morning to the unexpected beauty of our garden covered in snow.  An inch fell sometime between midnight and morning.  The clouds were long gone by the time I wandered to the window to look out on this new day; a day bathed in warm golden sunshine, reflecting off that brilliant and sparkling snow.

We are in those depths of a Virginia winter when one must expect the unexpected.  We’ve more snow on the way, and we are preparing for night time temperatures to grow ridiculously cold by Saturday night.  These are the days and nights a gardener dreads, when those tiny bits of life one tries to nurture through till spring finally might succumb to winter’s frigid touch.

Knowing this, we moved the olive trees into the garage at sunset yesterday.  Now nearly 4 feet tall, they have made it through three winters in their very portable pots.  Hardy to Zone 8, I have left them out longer this winter than ever before.  But now they are situated in the garage to survive these next few frosty nights.

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Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' shrugs off the cold without a single leaf withering. They may turn a bit rosy in the cold, but always recover. February 13 'Yellow Green' and February 7 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown.'

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ shrugs off the cold without a single leaf withering. They may turn a bit rosy in the cold, but always recover. February 13 ‘Green Yellow’ and February 7 ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown.’

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“You never know what’s around the corner.

It could be everything.

Or it could be nothing.

You keep putting one foot in front of the other,

and then one day you look back

and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

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Tom Hiddleston

I’m always a bit restless in February.  I want to keep on gardening, but most of the garden has gone dormant.  I wander around looking for signs of change and growth.  Perhaps I’m looking for reassurance that things are still alive.

While it is fine to have a rest from weeding and watering, I miss the dynamic change of watching plants grow and develop into the fullness of their beauty.

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Selaginella with a new Amaryllis

Selaginella and Strawberry Begonia with a new Amaryllis bulb. February 10 ‘Granny Smith Apple Green.’

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This time of year challenges our spirit of perseverance.  

We plan, we order, we clean, we prune, and we wait.   I fiddle endlessly with those plants wintering indoors, too; taking cuttings, watering, and admiring those in bloom.

I planted up the last of our autumn Amaryllis bulbs today with some beautiful Selaginella adopted from The Great Big Greenhouse last week.   Understanding how February affects us all, they compassionately have a full month of special events to promote tropical houseplants.  I made it for the last day of their sale on ferns, but  will miss the Orchid presentation next Saturday….

The little Strawberry Begonia has been growing outside in a pot since last summer.  Today I finally rescued it,  and brought it inside for this arrangement.  Maybe it will respond to the warmth by sending out runners and ‘baby’ plants some week soon.

There are rarely immediate results from those tasks we tackle in winter.  We have to bide out time and wait for our efforts to bear fruit sometime further along in the season.   We wait and watch for those first tiny signs of spring’s awakening, ready to celebrate each unfolding.

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The first tiny green tips of awakening bulbs break ground in this pot by the back door. February 8, 'Gold.'

The first tiny green tips of awakening bulbs break ground in this pot by the back door. February 8, ‘Gold.’

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I am happy, this February, to participate in Jennifer Nichole Wells’s new “Color My World: One Hundred Days of Crayola” photo challenge.  Jenny is working from the Crayola Crayon chart of colors, and offers a new color challenge each day for 120 days, beginning January 1.   I’ll aim for one post each week, sharing photos of as many of that week’s colors as I’m able.

This week’s colors include:  Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown, Gold, Goldenrod, Granny Smith Green, Grey, Green, and Green Yellow.  These colors were easy to find in the garden today, even in a February garden.  There are abundant signs of life in our Forest Garden, and we appreciate finding each and every one.

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Goldenrod yellow shines in the face of this tiny Viola. February 9, "Goldenrod."

Autumn’s ‘Goldenrod’ yellow shines in the face of this tiny Viola. February 9, “Goldenrod.”

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“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one.

Of course, we are all familiar with the first book

he wrote, namely Scripture.

But he has written a second book

called creation.”

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Francis Bacon 

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Our Forsythia continues slowly breaking bud in the garden. We didn't enjoy Forsythia until mid-March in 2015. Here it blooms by the drive.

Our Forsythia continues slowly breaking bud in the garden. We didn’t enjoy Forsythia until mid-March in 2015. Here it blooms by the drive.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Our pond at sunset last Saturday. February 12, 'Green"

Our pond at sunset last Saturday. February 12, ‘Green”

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“Even in the mud and scum of things,

something always, always sings.”

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Sunday Dinner: Patience

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“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing.

It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose,

looking at the night and seeing the day.

Lovers are patient and know that

the moon needs time to become full.”

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Rumi

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“Patience, he thought. So much of this

was patience – waiting, and thinking

and doing things right.

So much of all this, so much of all living

was patience and thinking.”

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Gary Paulsen

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“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”

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Fulton J. Sheen

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“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

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Benjamin Franklin 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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In A Very Special Vase This Monday

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A very special vase, made by our friend, Denis Orton, filled with budding branches and ivy, sits in our dining room this week.  I cut the Ivy, Forsythia, Magnolia, and Elaeagnus while our ground was still covered in snow last week.  It has had five or six days for the buds to swell, and our first Forsythia flowers began to open over the weekend.

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This is our first tribute to spring, although we still have piles of snow here and there in the garden.  I expect the last of the snow to dissolve in tonight’s warm rain.

Warm?  In February?  you might wonder…. Our sunny day today reached the mid-70s by early afternoon.

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But I noticed this lovely Magnolia bud while shoveling snow off of the driveway a week ago, and decided to bring one inside.  These are magnificent as they unfold each spring.  It is the first time I’ve added one to an arrangement of winter branches.

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Our Forsythia began opening an occasional bloom even before Christmas.  They are so sensitive to the littlest bit of warmth, and their buds have swelled throughout all the various shrubs around the garden.   We could cut a few branches of Forsythia every week between now and the end of March, and you’d never notice them missing!

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Whenever we are lucky enough to have a branch root in the vase, I find a place to plant it back in the garden.

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The ivy was poking out of a snow covered planter box when I clipped it last week.  It amazes me how hardy these delicate looking leaves prove themselves to be even when covered with ice and snow.  They keep growing right through our Virginia winter.

Our friend, a retired chemist and professional potter, has been experimenting with crystalline glazes for several years now.

I think this is his most beautiful crystalline glaze yet, filled with soft greens and blues and punctuated with sparkling metallic crystals.  He surprised us with the vase, filled with fresh flowers, a day or two before Christmas.  We were so excited and pleased to receive the vase, as beautiful hand made pottery is a special joy for us.

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These glazes produce pieces which are absolutely unique. 

I’ve been looking forward to using Denis’s gorgeous vase in a Monday post.  It has been sitting on our dining table, empty, through much of January.

But now that we have traveled a month into the new year, I am happy to fill it with flowering branches, and wait for the show to unfold!

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, for sponsoring our Monday vases.   Please visit her post today to see a lovely antique vase filled with beautiful spring flowers.  If your heart needs Hyacinths and Daffodils, you will enjoy gazing at her photos today.  You’ll find a multitude of links to vases arranged by other gardeners around the world.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Vase On Monday: Unfolding Buds

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Have you ever meditated on a bud’s unfolding?  The process of its growth from a tight, scaly bump on a branch to a softly colorful flower or leaf continues to amaze me.

Forsythia branches open their buds so elegantly that bringing them inside is an annual ritual of spring in our home.

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You think you might recognize this vase?  Well, perhaps you do…

But its contours have shifted, haven’t they?  My partner declared that the Hazel branches had to go as they released their golden pollen into the dining room.  Lovely as they were, there was no denying the sneezing and our watery eyes might have been related to their virility.

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So we are left with just the Forsythia and ivy from last week’s vase, transformed by the passage of time.

But finally, it is March.

And one day soon we’ll get up and find daffodils blooming in the garden.  Longer days and a bit of warmth promise to re-ignite the whole magical process of unfolding buds, lengthening stems, greening grass, and awakening perennials.  Let color return to this wintery garden!  Let new leaves clothe the shivering bare branches!

Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden hosts “In A Vase on Monday” each week.  Please visit her post today and find links to beautiful vases created by gardeners this first Monday in March.  A few minutes spent admiring such beauty and creativity is good for us all.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Monday Vase: Feeling Spring Close At Hand

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With spring like temperatures today, we were finally able to work a little in the garden. 

We worked outside comfortably all morning, beginning late winter’s  clean-up work.  What a delight to find several patches of Hellebores in bud.  We finally began the cutting away of last season’s leaves, and were happy to find lots of new flowers underneath, beginning to emerge from the Earth.  Is it safe to start cutting back the protection of the large old leaves, now, and let the new growth fend for itself?

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You can see a little scorch already on the leaves on this new stem.  I certainly hope this pruning wasn’t premature.  We only took about half of the old leaves from the largest bed to hedge our bets, and will return for more on the next warm day.

This whole vase has the scorched, wind burned look of our late winter garden.  Even though the branch of bamboo was found well sheltered out of the wind, there are still brown tips visible on some of the leaves.  Such is February.

The bright yellow Forsythia make their third vase appearance in a row, now almost fully open.  Outside, our Forsythia shrubs remain tightly closed; weeks away from bloom.  But these have relaxed and opened in the warmth indoors.

The ivy came from a sheltered pot on the deck, where it has continued growing through the winter months.  You can see from the red veins and dark green leaves that it has frozen many times now, but it continues to soldier on.  I like this cultivar and hope these sprigs will root in the vase.

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You might recognize this cobalt vase as the one we purchased in December from glass artist John Shelton.  It normally sits in a window where it catches the light, but seemed a good vase to hold this Hellebore cutting today.

If the vase today looks like it got “short-shrift,” you may be right.  We were so busy working on other projects that the wind had already shifted to the north, and the rain begun to fall, before I began clipping for today’s arrangement.  Prior planning may prevent poor performance, but not when procrastination precludes pursuing the plan….

With appreciation to Cathy over at Rambling In the Garden for hosting this In A Vase On Monday Challenge.  Please do visit her site where you’ll see a beautiful arrangement with the first Iris of the season.  Following the many links in her comments will take you on something of a international tour of beautiful flowers, all clipped from gardens today

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Vase by John Shelton of Shelton’s Glass Works in Williamsburg, Virginia.

 

Forsythia

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Have you noticed the shrubs full of tiny yellow flowers just coming into bloom in our gardens? 

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The first Forsythia shrubs observed in Japan were misidentified by Carl Thunberg in his 1794 Flora Japonica as a new species of Lilac.

They are most likely Forsythia.  Commonly called by its genus name, Forsythia made its way into the gardens of Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century from Eastern Asia.  Found growing in gardens in both Japan and China, and exported to Holland and Great Britain, Forsythia quickly spread from garden to garden on its new continent, and then on to North America.

Absolutely easy to grow, Forsythia , like daffodils, gives us a shot of bold yellow in the garden just as we feel like we can’t stand another day of winter’s greys and browns.

The tiny yellow flowers just burst with the message of spring as they open during the earliest of “almost warm” days.  I’ve seen a whole bank of golden Forsythia bushes  come into bloom, together, in earliest spring along a major roadway in southern Virginia Beach (Zone 8b).  A magnificent sight.  And once they open, a little snow and freezing rain doesn’t faze them, as we saw earlier this week.

This large clump of Forsythia is decades old.  It has spread to cover a huge area.  Of the weeping variety, it lights up the garden in early spring.  It provides shelter for small animals year round.

This large clump of Forsythia is decades old. It has spread to cover a huge area. Of the weeping variety, it lights up the garden in early spring. It provides shelter for small animals year round.

Honestly, deer will nibble Forsythia .  Nibble, but not destroy.  Some of our Forsythia shrubs look oddly misshapen from grazing, but a few patches are massive.

Although not a native, these shrubs have naturalized in many areas of the United States.  They provide an early nectar source for bees and other early nectar loving insects.  Older shrubs, grown thick over the years, provide excellent cover and nesting areas for small birds and mammals.

This much younger plant shows that it is frequently grazed by deer.

This much younger plant shows that it is frequently grazed by deer.  Notice the multiple stems already growing from its crown.

Plant Forsythia in average soil in late fall or early spring in partial to full sun.  Like any shrub, they need care until they establish.  That means keeping the shrub irrigated during at least the first year.  Once the roots take hold and spread, the Forsythia becomes quite tough and independent.

Beyond that initial care, the only thing you might do is trim the Forsythia up from time to time, after it blooms, to keep it from overgrowing its spot.  These aren’t large shrubs, but they sucker.  In other words, additional stems begin to grow around the original stem, and the shrub spreads laterally as it ages. Most stay under 6′  tall, but old shrubs may grow larger. Some gardeners rejuvenate older shrubs, and control their size, by cutting a few stems of established shrubs to the ground each year, after the shrub has leafed out in late spring.  This stimulates new canes to grow from the crown.

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Cut during the first week of March, these Forsythia branches began opening after only a few hours inside.

I tend to cut my Forsythia back in late winter, before they bloom.  I cut very judiciously, and only long branches covered in flower buds.

It isn’t so much pruning as harvesting.  I love to bring those branches inside and keep them in a vase of water.  They open very quickly in the heat of a home, and last for several weeks.  Even after the flowers fade, the branches with leaves remain attractive.  If they root before I’m ready to switch them out for something else, all the better.  I can plant the rooted stems.

By the middle of March, these forced branches were completely open indoors, while the buds on the parent shrubs outside were still tightly closed.

By the middle of March, these forced branches were completely open indoors, while the buds on the parent shrubs outside were still tightly closed.

After losing a few of these newly rooted shrubs in recent sizzling summers, I would recommend planting these rooted cuttings into a pot.  They will form a nice back drop against summer annuals.  In autumn, when you’re cleaning the annuals out of the pot, either move the Forsythia out to the garden, or leave it in place for structure through the winter, planted with Violas, flowering Kale, bulbs, Heuchera, and snaps.

You can enjoy spring bloom in your potted arrangement, and then move the Forsythia to a location in the garden when you switch out the pot  with your summer plants.

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March 19 is the latest I can remember for the Forsythia to come into bloom.

There are two main original species of Forsythia  imported from Asia between the 1780’s and 1890’s.  These plants had already been cultivated garden plants for centuries before they were “discovered” and imported to Europe.  Since  then, a great deal of hybridization has taken place.  So one can purchase Forsythia with different growth habits, and with some variation in the shade of yellow of their blooms.  Some Forsythia cultivars are more weeping and other cultivars more upright.

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By March 23, more flowers are visible.

Personally, I’ve never purchased a Forsythia .  Not only have they naturalized in Virginia, but they start easily from cuttings, or by layering.

This is another shrub common in our neighborhood.  When the leaves come out after the blooms fade, these deciduous shrubs just fade into the background.  They are completely unremarkable until autumn, when the leaves turn gold before they fall.

Forsythia leaves turn yellow gold in November.

Forsythia leaves turn yellow gold in November.

If one grows Forsythia , it is for the golden glow they reliably bring to the garden in earliest spring!

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Miniature daffodil

Miniature daffodil

 

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