Sunday Dinner: Grace

~
“Grace is a power that comes in and transforms
a moment into something better”
.
Caroline Myss
~
~
“…whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
And peace will be with you.”
.
Barbara Kingsolve
~
~
“Grace is the celebration of life,
relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.
It is a floating, cosmic bash shouting its way
through the streets of the universe,
flinging the sweetness of its cessations to every window,
pounding at every door in a hilarity
beyond all liking and happening,
until the prodigals come out at last and dance,
and the elder brothers
finally take their fingers out of their ears.”
.
Robert Farrar Capon
~
~
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
~
~
“How we fall into grace.
You can’t work or earn your way into it.
You just fall. It lies below, it lies beyond.
It comes to you,
unbidden.”
.
Rick Bass
~

 

 

Advertisements

August Wonders

Azalea indica ‘Formosa’ in bloom on August 22, 2017.

~

A deeply pink blossom shone like a beacon in its sea of dusty August green.  What could that be?

I know that color; a color normally enjoyed in late April: Azalea indica ‘Formosa’.   But the Azaleas in our garden are old ones, planted years before the ‘Encore’ series of fall blooming  Azaleas was ever marketed.

I studied this beautiful flower, a wondrous anachronism, as I drew closer and saw that yes, it was blooming from an Azalea shrub.  In August…

August is filled with wonders. 

~

~

August often melts into a reprieve of sorts.  Relentless heat and drought eventually give way to soaking rains, cooler nights; and a chance for new growth to replace the burnt and fallen leaves of high summer.   Each new leaf whispers a promise of renewal.

~

Virginia Creeper

~

After the rains begin, one morning we’ll find living fireworks sprung up nearly overnight from long forgotten bulbs.

The spider lily, or hurricane lily, has awakened for another year.  Their exuberance is a milestone along the long downward arc of days from Summer’s Solstice to Autumn’s Equinox.

~

Hurricane Lily, Lycoris radiata

~

The cast of characters in our garden shifts through the seasons.  The topography of things changes, too, as Cannas and Ficus and Rudbeckia gain height with each passing week.

The poke weed I cut out so ruthlessly in May finally won, and has grown into a 12′ forest in one corner of our garden.

~

Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, proves an invasive native perennial loved by birds.

~

Countless clusters of beautiful purple berries hang from its spreading branches, an invitation to the feast.  Small birds flit in and out of its shelter from dawn to dusk, singing their praises of summer’s bounty.

~

~

After so many decades of gardening, one would think that I could have learned the twin disciplines of faith and patience by now.  It is a life long practice; perhaps never perfected. 

Time seems to slip past my muddy fingers each spring as I race to plant and prepare our garden for the season coming.  But nature bides her time, never fully revealing the bits of life she has nurtured through winter’s freezing nights; until she chooses to warm them back to life again.

~

Mexican Petunia, Ruellia simplex

~

At first I assumed it was a windborne weed, this bit of green growing up through the Oxalis in a humble clay pot by our back door.  I very nearly plucked it one day.  But something about its long narrow leaf was familiar, and echo of a memory of summers past.

And so I left it alone, keeping watch and feeding it, hoping it might be the newest incarnation of the marginally hardy Mexican Petunia.  My patience was rewarded this week with its first purple blossom.

~

~

Hardy only to Zone 8, this Ruellia is one of the plants I search for in garden centers each spring.   And this spring I didn’t find one.  And the pot where I grew it on our deck last summer with Lantana and herbs showed no life by mid-May, and so I threw its contents on the compost.

But this pot by the door sat undisturbed, filled with growing  Oxalis and a bit of geranium.  And obviously, the dormant, but still living, Ruellia’s roots.  How often our plants live just below the surface, waiting for the right moment to show themselves, bursting  into new growth.

We somehow have to wrap our minds and memories around the full scope of our garden’s possibilities.

~

Garlic chives spread themselves around the garden, blooming in unexpected places in late summer.

~

Autumn is our second spring, here in coastal Virginia.  It is a fresh chance to plant and harvest, plan and prune and putter in the garden.

~

Caladium ‘Desert Sunset’ has renewed its growth with vibrant new leaves.

~

We have ten or twelve weeks remaining, at least, before cold weather puts an end to it for another year.

As our season cools, we can spend more time outside without minding the heat and humidity of July and early August.

~

Hardy Begonias have finally begun to bloom.

~

We breathe deeply once again, and share the renewed joy of it all with the small creatures who share this space with us.

Late August is filled with wonders, teasing us out from the air conditioning of our indoor havens, back out into the magic waiting in the garden.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Slow to Grow: Elephant Ears

Colocasia esculenta

~

It has been agonizingly slow this spring, watching and waiting for our elephant ears to grow.  I blame the weather.  Wouldn’t you?

After all, we enjoyed 80F days in February, and then retreated back to wintery grey days through most of March.  We’ve been on a climatic roller-coaster since.

Gardeners, and our plants, appreciate a smooth transition from one season to another.  Let it be cold in winter, then warm gradually through early, mid and late spring until we enjoy a few weeks of perfect summer in late May and early June.  We know to expect heat in June, July and August, with moderating temperatures and humidity by mid-September.

~

I started working on this new bed in March, bringing the still potted Colocasias in doors and back out with the weather. Although I planted them weeks ago, they are still sulking a bit in our cool, rainy weather this month.

~

But lately, our seasons feel rather muddled.  That smooth crescendo from season to season has gone all rag-time on us.  We’ve already lost a potted Hydrangea Macrophylla teased into leaf too early, and then frozen a time too many.  Those early leaves dissolved in mush, but new growth started again from the crown.

I’ve watched the poor shrub try at least 3 times to grow this spring, and now it sits, bare, in its pot while I hold out hope for either a horticultural miracle, or a clone on sale; whichever comes first.

~

Colocasia ‘Pink China’ loves our climate and spreads a bit each year. Its pink spot and pink stem inspired its name. This is the Colocasia I happily dig up to share with gardening friends. These will be a little more than 5′ tall by late summer.

~

I hedged my bets last fall with the elephant ears.  I left some in situ in the garden, some in their pots, but pulled up close to the house on the patio, and I brought a few pots of Alocasia and Colocasia into our basement or garage.

I dug most of our Caladiums and dried them for several weeks in the garage, and then boxed and bagged them with rice hulls before storing them in a closet through the winter.  I left a few special ones in their pots and kept the pots in our sunny garage.

~

Caladium ‘Florida Sweetheart’ overwintered for us  dried and stored in a box with rice hulls. I planted the tuber again in early April.

~

And I waited until April before trying to rouse any of them.  But by early April, while I was organizing a Caladium order for 2017, I also planted all of those stored Caladium tubers in fresh potting soil and set them in our guest room to grow.  Eventually, after our last frost date in mid-April, I also retrieved the pots from the basement and brought them out to the warmth of our patio.  They all got a drink of Neptune’s Harvest and a chance to awaken for summer.

~

Caladium ‘Desert Sunset,’ didn’t survive winter in our garage. (This photo from summer 2016)  I left them in their pot, but it must have gotten too cold for them.  Happily, I ordered new tubers this spring.

~

Around this time I gingerly began to feel around in those Caladium pots kept in the garage, for signs of life.  I thought I’d divide and replant the tubers and get them going again.  But, to my great disappointment, not a single tuber survived.   The Caladiums succumbed to the chill of our garage sometime during the winter, and I had three generous sized, empty pots to recycle with fresh plantings.

~

C. ‘Desert Sunset’ didn’t make it through the winter, so I’ve recycled the pot for other plants. Calla lily has a form similar to some Alocasia, and is more tolerant of cold weather. These are hardy in Zone 7.

~

By the time our new Caladium order arrived in mid- April, the tubers I’d dried, stored, and replanted were in growth.  I moved them to the garage to get more light and actually planted the first batch of Caladiums outside by the first week of May.

I planted most of the new Caladiums into potting soil filled boxes and sent them off to the guest room to awaken, but chanced planting a few bare tubers into pots outside.  Mistake.

~

These saved Caladiums, started indoors in April, moved outside to their permanent bed in early May. Still a little slow to grow, they have weathered a few cool  nights this month.

~

Because for all the promising balmy days we’ve had this spring, we’ve had our share of dreary cool ones, too.  We even had a few nights in the 40s earlier this month!  It’s generally safe here to plant out tomatoes, Basil and Caladiums by mid-May.  Sadly, this year, these heat lovers have been left stunted by the late cool weather.

The new Caladium tubers planted indoors are still mostly sulking, too, with little to show for themselves.  The ones I planted directly outside in pots remain invisible.  I just hope they didn’t rot in our cool, rainy weather.

~

Colocasia ‘Black Coral,’ started in a greenhouse this spring, has been growing outdoors for nearly a month now. This one can get to more than 4′ tall in full sun to part shade.

~

Of the saved Colocasias and Alocasias, C. ‘Mohito’ has done the best.   I brought a large pot of them into the basement last fall, and knocked the plant out of its pot when I brought it back outdoors in April.   I divided the tubers and ended up with several plants.  They are all growing nicely, though they are still rather small.

~

Colocasia ‘Mojito’ has been in the family a few years now. It overwinters, dormant in its pot, in our basement. This is one of 5 divisions I made at re-potting time this spring.

~

I dug up our large C. ‘Tea Cups’ in October and brought it indoors in a pot, leaving behind its runners.  The main plant began vigorous growth again by late April, but none of the runners seem to have made it through the winter outdoors.

~

Colocasia ‘Tea Cups’ also overwintered in the basement.  New last year, this plant has really taken off in the last few weeks and is many times larger than our new C. ‘Tea Cups’ plants.  It catches rain in its concave leaves, thus its name.

~

I brought one of our Alocasia ‘Stingray’ into the garage in its pot, where it continued to grow until after Christmas.  By then the last leaf withered, and it remained dormant until we brought it back out in April.  It has made tiny new leaves ever so slowly, and those new leaves remain less than 6″ tall.

~

Alocasia ‘Sting Ray’ spent winter in our garage.  It has been very slow to grow this spring, but already has many more leaves than last year.  It will eventually grow to about 6′.  Zone 8-11

~

But that is better than the potted A. ‘Stingray‘ that overwintered on the patio.  We’ve been watching and waiting all spring, and I finally gave up and dug through the potting soil last week looking for any sign of the tuber.  I found nothing.

But, fearing the worst, we already bought two new A. ‘Stingray’ from the bulb shop in Gloucester in early May, and those are growing vigorously.   They enjoyed the greenhouse treatment through our sulky spring, of course.

~

Our new A. ‘Stingray’ grows in the blue pot in front of where another A. ‘Stingray’ grew last year. I left the black pot out on the patio over winter, and the Alocasia hasn’t returned. I finally planted some of our new Caladiums in the empty pot last week.

~

I have two more pots of Alocasia in que:  A. ‘Plumbea’ has shown two tiny leaves thus far, so I know it is alive.  A. ‘Sarian’ has slept in the sun for weeks now, its tuber still visible and firm.  Finally, just over this weekend, the first tiny leaf has appeared.  I expect it to grow into an even more  beautiful plant than last summer since.  It came to us in a tiny 4″ pot, and ended summer at around 5′ tall.  I can’t wait to see how large it grows by August!

~

Alocasia ‘Plumbea’ isn’t’ available for order from Brent and Becky’s bulbs this year. I am very happy this one survived winter, because it is a beautiful plant.  Hardy in zones 3-10, this will grow to 5′.

~

But the pot of Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii,’ that overwintered on the patio, has shown nothing so far, either.  Hardy to Zone 8, I hoped the shelter of our patio might allow this two year old plant to survive.  Now, I’m about ready to refresh the soil and fill that pot with some of the Caladiums still growing in our garage.

C. ‘Blue Hawaii’ is marginal here.  A few have survived past winters planted in the ground; but thus far, I’m not recognizing any coming back in the garden this year.

I’ve planted a few C. ‘Mojito’ in the ground this spring, and plan to leave them in the fall to see whether they return next year.  But I will also hedge my bet and bring a potted C. ‘Mojito’ inside again so I’ll have plants to begin with next spring.

~

C. ‘Mojito’ in our bog garden will soon get potted up to a larger container.  I planted a few of the smaller divisions of this plant directly into the ground to see if they will survive the winter coming. (Zone 8)

~

Every year I learn a little more about growing elephant ears.  I know now that Colocasia ‘China Pink’ is vigorous and dependable in our garden.  There is no worry about them making it through winter, and I dig and spread those a bit each year.

The huge Colocasia esculenta I planted a few years ago with our Cannas dependably return.  These are the species, not a fancy cultivar.  But they seem to manage fine with nothing more than some fallen leaves for mulch.

~

~

These gorgeous tropical elephant ears put on a great show for four to six months each year in our zone.  Deer and rabbits don’t touch them, and they rarely have any problem with insects or disease.   Our muggy, hot summers suit them fine.  They love, and need, heat to thrive.

Any temperate zone gardener who wants to grow them, needs to also plan for their winter dormancy.  And each plant’s needs are unique.  Some Colocasia might be hardy north to Zone 6.  A few Alocasia cultivars are hardy to zone 7b or 8, but most require zone 9 to remain outdoors in the winter.  Caladiums want a lot more warmth, and prefer Zone 10.  Caladiums can rot in wet soil below 60F.

~

Hardy Begonias are naturalizing in this lively bed transitioning to summer.  I planted the Caladiums about a month ago, and they have slowly begun to grow.  See also fading daffodil leaves, Japanese painted ferns, Arum Italicum, and creeping Jenny.

~

If you don’t have space to store elephant ears over winter, you can still grow them as annuals, of course.    That requires a bit of an investment if you like them a lot, and want to fill your garden!

My favorite source for Colocasia and Alocasia elephant ears, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs,  has put all of their summer bulbs, including Caladium tubers,  on clearance now through Monday, June 5.   This is a good time to try something new, if you’re curious about how these beautiful plants would perform in your own garden, because all these plants are half off their usual price.  The Colocasia and Alocasia plants they’re selling now come straight to you from their greenhouses.

~

Alocasia ‘Sarian’ emerged over the weekend. This is a very welcome sight!

~

I order our Caladiums direct from the grower at Classic Caladiums in Avon Park, Florida (see below).  There is still plenty of time for you to grow these from tubers this summer, as long as your summer nights will be mostly above 60F for a couple of months.  Potted Caladiums make nice houseplants, too, when autumn chills return.  (Brent and Becky’s Bulbs buy their Caladiums from Classic Caladiums, too.  You will find a much larger selection when you buy direct from the grower.  Classic Caladiums sells to both wholesale and retail customers.)

~

~

Slow to grow, this year, but so worth the wait.  We are always fascinated while watching our elephant ears grow each year, filling our garden with their huge, luscious leaves.  Once they get growing, they grow so fast you can see the difference sometimes from morning to afternoon!

Our summer officially begins today.  Now we can settle in to watch the annual spectacle unfold.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017
~

Is your region too cool for tropical Elephant Ears? Get a similar effect with rhubarb. This rhubarb ‘Victoria,’ in its second year, emerges in early spring. Leaves have the same basic size and shape as Alocasia leaves without the shiny texture. There are a number of ornamental rhubarbs available, some of them quite large.  These are easy to grow,  perennial north into Canada, and grow into a beautiful focal point in the garden.

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

~

september-21-2016-rain-013

~

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.

~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~

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…”

~

september-21-2016-trees-009

 

 

 

 

 

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #7: Experiment!

July 27, 2016 morning garden 019

~

A sense of curiosity and wonder drive ‘normal people’ to transform themselves into dedicated gardeners.  We take pleasure in watching how plants grow.  Now, that isn’t a punch-line; it is a confession …

When I learn about a new plant, or a new (to me) cultivar of a more common plant; I often want to grow it myself to watch the process of is unfolding.  And I generally want to grow several in differing conditions to learn for myself how it performs, what makes thrive, and what it needs to look its best.  But most importantly, I’m curious whether I’ll like the plant; whether it is worth my investment of time and energy to grow in our garden.

We ‘click’ with some plants and dislike others.  It’s human nature.  But it’s hard to learn what we like and glimpse new possibilities for our garden space unless we are willing to take a chance growing new plants.  We learn much of what we know as gardeners through experimentation.

~

Echinacea 'Green Envy,' which we planted for the first time last summer. All three plants returned and are doing well this summer.

Echinacea ‘Green Jewel,’ which we planted for the first time last July.  All three plants returned and are doing well this summer.

~

Saying we’re “Watching the grass grow” is a joke simply because grass is both predictable and inevitable.  Why would we watch something like that?  We all pretty much understand grass.

Yet many good gardeners love it and can deliver a long monologue on which types are best and how to properly care for a healthy lawn.  That is their thing. 

Others of us delight with each patch of grass/weeds we convert into a bed for more beautiful plants….  And still other gardeners love growing the new cultivars of ornamental grasses coming to market each year.  They take pleasure in watching the wind set their Miscanthus and Carex dancing in the changing light.  But how will we ever take pleasure in the beauty of Carex mixing among other perennials, unless we are willing to experiment with planting a few?

~

Colocasia esculenta in its third summer has grown much larger than I expected. This wasn't sold as 'Thailand Giant,' but I'm beginning to wonder.....

Colocasia esculenta in its third summer has grown much larger than I expected. This wasn’t sold as ‘Thailand Giant,’ but I’m beginning to wonder…..

~

Many frustrated gardeners who boast of their ‘brown thumb’ may be growing the wrong plants.  They may not feel confident in buying plants they haven’t already seen neighbors and friends growing in their gardens.  Or maybe they are growing familiar plants in the wrong conditions or with inconsistent care.  A more pleasing garden will result when they begin to experiment with fresh ways of doing things.

~

This experimental raised bed is bordered with hypertufa planters and planted with a combination of hardy Begonia and ferns, with a few Caladiums planted each spring.

This experimental raised bed is bordered with hypertufa planters and planted with a combination of hardy Begonia, Hellebores and ferns, with a few Caladiums planted each spring.

~

Experiments help us learn.  We observe more closely.  Perhaps we do a little reading to guide us.  We take chances we might otherwise avoid.  We learn from the results of our experiments without blaming ourselves if the results aren’t what we hoped.  After all, it was an experiment, not a commitment!

After a few experiments we’ll have a little more experience to guide us in our gardening decisions.  Eventually, after years of trial and error, we will shape our outdoor spaces into places which please us and bring us joy.  That is the point of gardening, isn’t it?

~

Colocasia 'Coffee Cups' sparkles in the morning light. New leaves now grow to between 3' and 4' high, but will likely grow larger as summer progresses.

Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ sparkles in the morning light. New leaves now grow to between 3′ and 4′ high, but will likely grow larger as summer progresses.

~

Our garden remains an ongoing experiment.  We experiment with various ways to keep deer out of the garden.  And nothing so far has proven 100% effective….   Thus, we also experiment with growing beautiful plants the deer won’t graze when they find a way inside.  Our list continues to grow….

We experiment with how to grow perennials on heavy clay soil, how to protect shrubs from the ever hungry voles tunneling through much of the garden, how to adjust to our changing climate and how to preserve tender plants through four or five months of freezing weather.  We continue to experiment with new ways to construct simple, inexpensive raised beds

~

July 27, 2016 morning garden 006

~

We also experiment with several new plants each year.  This year we’re growing Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ and Alocasia ‘Stingray’ for the first time.  We’ve been experimenting with various Colocasia since the summer of 2014, and have six different varieties growing this year.  We’ve discovered at least two which will survive our winters outdoors.  This year I’ve added four different Alocasia cultivars to the mix, and I’m very pleased with how they are performing.  These plants all love intense heat so long as they are hydrated.  Some will take full sun, while others need shade.

~

I thought I might have ruined this 'Voodoo Lily' tuber when my spade hit it early this spring. Rather, it is better. Instead of one or two stems, it has sent up many, producing a much better plant.

I thought I might have ruined this Sauromatum venosum or ‘Voodoo Lily’ tuber when my spade hit it early this spring. Rather, it is better.  Instead of one or two stems, it has sent up many, producing a much better plant.

~

Another experiment hasn’t gone so well.  I admire Begonia boliviensis, but have had little success with it in past years.  This year I began with seven huge, healthy tubers of Begonia boliviensis, ‘Bertini’, a cultivar said to do well in our hot, humid summers, which can take partial sun without burning, and that might overwinter.  I planted some in pots, another in a hanging basket, and set those containers in areas with various amounts of light.  None so far have pleased me.  Most, in fact, look abysmal, and there are zero photos to share.

When the soil is too wet, and the humidity to high, this plant collapses.  Native to the Andes Mountains, these plants naturally grow in a cooler climate on much thinner soil.  They cascade down the rocky slopes, roots tucked into a small crevice, thriving in thin, cool mountain air.  Our hot, humid Virginia summer stresses them out.  Even though they are blooming prolifically, the stems often rot and simply fall away.  I haven’t yet figured out the formula to keep them growing strong….

~

Three different Begonia cultivars share this basket with a rabbits foot fern. The Begonia Boliviensis usually dies back by late summer, but returns from its tuber the following spring. This baskets spends the winter months in our garage.

Three different Begonia cultivars share this basket with a rabbits foot fern. The Begonia Boliviensis usually dies back by late summer, but returns from its tuber the following spring. This basket spends the winter months in our garage.

~

We have several more ‘new to us’ plants just getting established in our garden this year.  Besides the C. ‘Desert Sunset’ we found last week, we are also enjoying Verbena ‘Lollipop;’  native Pycanthemum or Mountain Mint; some pretty Crocosmia given to us by a friend; a Cryptomeria ‘Black Dragon’ bought on impulse last fall;  several new Hydrangeas; and two little native Live Oak trees, Quercus virginiana, ordered from the Arbor Day Foundation.  It may take a few years for some of these to make an impact,  but I enjoy watching them sink their roots and begin to grow.

~

Alocasia 'Stingray' is a fun Alocasia whose leaf grows with a tip shaped like a stingray's tail. These prefer partial shade and will grow to several feet tall as the tuber matures. Here it is in a mixed planting with tuberous Begonias, Coleus, Oxalis and ivy.

Alocasia ‘Stingray’ is a fun Alocasia whose leaf grows with a tip shaped like a stingray’s tail. These prefer partial shade and will grow to several feet tall as the tuber matures. Here it is in a mixed planting with tuberous Begonias, Coleus, Oxalis and ivy.  The blue pot behind holds a Begonia Boliviensis tuber just gone bust…. I’ve transplanted some little Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’ divisions, wilting in our heat, to fill it while I hope for the Begonia to recover.

~

Like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, some of us view our garden as a work in progress, constantly thinking of ways to renovate and make it better.  I would soon lose interest in a garden where I couldn’t experiment and try out new ideas year to year; where I wasn’t always learning and discovering new details of nature.

A garden grows into a unique ecosystem, alive and ever evolving.  Gardeners earn their green thumb by taking an active hand in guiding the many changes taking place each season.  We plant and we prune.  We enrich the soil, irrigate, feed; but also pull the weeds and remove the plants we don’t like.  We attract pollinators while eliminating pests and disease through careful management.

None of us has all the answers to the many questions which present themselves over time; but good gardeners set out to find those answers through their own experience and experimentation.

~

July 27, 2016 morning garden 050

~

Woodland Gnome’s Caveat:  It is wise to remain open to others’ experiences to save oneself a little frustration and pain.  A little research before welcoming a new plant can help avoid unfortunate and costly mistakes. 

Be careful of introducing invasive species just because they come cheap from a mail-order nursery.  Know whether a new plant will survive in your climate and what its needs are before making an investment.  Understand how quickly and how far that new perennial or shrub might spread.  Some ‘experiments’ we don’t need to repeat.  Others will tell us what we need to know if we’ll just do a little reading and research.

~

Hardy Begonia grandis has naturalized in our garden. It spreads, but is never invasive.

Hardy Begonia grandis has naturalized in our garden. It spreads, but is never invasive.

~

“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.

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘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 #8:  Observe!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9: Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

~

July 27, 2016 morning garden 073

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

Leaf Studies

1,

1.

~

Cathy, of Rambling in the Garden, inspired me with her July post  for ‘Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day’, hosted by Christina of My Hesperides Garden on the 22nd of each month.

Cathy constructed a tessellation of 16 square photos featuring the textures and varying shades of green, showcasing leaves from her summer garden.  Her post is stunning, and perhaps you will take a moment to pop over and have a look at her photos.

~

2.

2.

~

Foliage can be so much better than flowers.  Leaves last for weeks or even months; not just days.  They are tough.  And the intricate details of their structure, often highlighted in vivid color, elevate these organs of photosynthesis to art in its purest form.

~

3.

3.

~

There was finally an opportunity to focus on foliage this morning while I watered the garden.  We have record heat here in Virginia this week, making it more critical to venture out early in the day, or just before dusk, to hydrate pots and new plantings.  Our afternoon heat indexes near 120F,  yet these beautiful leaves endure mid-summer temperatures gracefully.

Water droplets on the leaves make them even more interesting to photograph.

~

4.

4.

~

I have enjoyed taking and editing these photos because they showcase some of my favorite leaves in a unique way.  Following Cathy’s example, I’ve cropped each into a square.  Within that square, there is an effort to show you several different features of each plant’s particular foliage.

~

6.

5.

~

To make it even more interesting, I challenge you to guess the names of as many leaves as you might recognize.  Answers will appear below.

~

~

Collecting and growing beautiful plants remains my passion. I’m attracted by the unique shapes, colors, patterns and textures of their foliage.  Any flowers are surely a bonus, but almost distract from the beauty of these special leaves.

~

18.

18.

~

Grown more for their beauty than for any other purpose, they fill the garden with excitement.  Some are scented; others not.  Most of these are tropical, though a few hardy ones can survive our winters.  Each unfolds its unique geometry, a study in beauty and endurance.

~

19.

19.

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016
~
20.

20.

~
“Plants cannot stay safe.
Desire for light spools grass out of the ground;
desire for a visitor spools red ruffles out of twigs.
Desire makes plants very brave,
so they can find what they desire;
and very tender, so they can feel what they find.”
.
Amy Leach
~
Caladium

Caladium

~

 

 

  1. Caladium ‘White Christmas’
  2. Begonia ‘Gryphon’
  3. Coleus ‘Wizard Pineapple’
  4. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii’
  5. Begonia Rex
  6. Colocasia ‘Mojito’
  7. Fig
  8. Sarracenia flava
  9. Alocasia
  10. Caladium ‘White Queen’
  11. Oxalis ‘Iron Cross’
  12. Pelargonium ‘Vancouver Centennial’
  13. Pineapple Mint
  14. Coleus
  15. Pelargonium – Rose scented geranium
  16. Angel wing Begonia
  17. Canna ‘Australia’
  18. hardy Begonia ‘grandis’
  19. Pelargonium ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’
  20. Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day

Canna

Canna

~

I am joining Carol at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate what is blooming in our garden this September.  Many of us are fortunate to have something in bloom every day of the year, with a bit of planning.

September is one of our best months of the year for a wide variety of blossoms.

~

The white Sage has bloomed since mid-spring when it was planted, but looks lovely set off by our fall blooming blue mist flowers.

The white Sage has bloomed since mid-spring when it was planted, and now looks even better set off by our fall blooming blue mist flowers.

~

Not only have some of the spring annuals come back into bloom, but we also have those autumn perennials we wait all summer to enjoy.  Our garden is intensely fragrant this month as we enjoy both Butterfly Ginger lily and lovely white Moonflowers.

~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~

Both offer an intensely sweet fragrance which floats across the garden, drawing one ever closer to enjoy these special flowers up close.

~

Blue Mexican Sage just coming into bloom. It will bloom until frost cuts it down.

Blue Mexican Sage just coming into bloom. It will bloom until frost cuts it down.

~

Our blue Mexican Sage has begun to uncurl its very first flowers of the season.  It has grown quickly from its nursery pot to give a respectable showing this year.  Assuming it can survive winter, it will be much larger next year.  Some years it returns, other years are too harsh for this marginal perennial in Zone 7.

~

September 15, 2015 Begonias blooming 012

~

We continue to enjoy our Black Eyed Susans, although they are beginning to look a little spent.  Once I trim them back they will continue on through October.

~

Buddleia, 'Harlequin'

Buddleia, ‘Harlequin’

~

We also have drifts of our blue mist flower weaving through many areas of the garden.  Our Buddliea, ‘Harlequin’ continues to pump out flowers, as it has all summer.  It offers a small but intense purple bloom.  I enjoy it as much for its beautiful leaves as for its flowers, which attract butterflies and hummingbirds through the season.

~

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

A rooted cutting of Coleus grows with Oxalis.

~

The few surviving Coleus plants continue to produce tall stalks of flowers attractive to many butterlies and hummingbird.  Many of our plants have by now been shredded by squirrels.  Has this happened to you?  Systematically, one by one, squirrels have taken each plant apart.  We’ve wondered if they are drawn to the water in the plant’s stems?  They leave most of the leaves lying where they fall.

~

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

Canna, giving its first blooms of the season.

~

Our established Cannas are nearly finished for the season.  But a newly planted one, which is probably in more shade than it likes. has given its first flowers of the season this week.  It is a striking golden yellow.  I will remember to move pieces of it to a sunnier location next spring.

Also coming into bloom this month are our hardy perennial Begonias.

~

 

~

 

I enjoy Begonias of many different types.  Most of ours come inside and bloom throughout the winter.

~

 

~

But I have a special fondness for these very tough, if fragile looking hardy Begonias.  They are easy to divide and spread around, rooting easily and also producing tiny bulbs at their leaf joints.

~

Hardy Begonia

Hardy Begonia

~

Each little bulb can send roots into the soil and expand into a tiny plant.   I’ve learned that these survive winter much better in the ground than left in a pot.  They are late to emerge and late to bloom.  But they are very lovely in both bloom and leaf once they come into their own.

~

September 15, 2015 Begonias blooming 002

~

Although each flower is a simple affair, their color is very satisfying.  Almost as lovely as the pink flowers are the pink stems of this plant.

We choose our plants with both birds and nectar loving insects in mind because we enjoy watching the many creatures drawn to our garden for food and safe haven.

~

Seeds of our Butterfly tree are even more colorful than the flowers of a few weeks ago.

The seeds of our Butterfly tree are even more colorful than the flowers of a few weeks ago.

~

And it is in late summer and early fall when many of summer’s flowers have faded that their seeds appear.  I often leave the flowers to go to seed, looking forward to the goldfinches and other small birds who will visit to eat from the drying flower stalks.

~

~

Basil seeds and Echinacea seeds are a particular favorite.

And berries have also begun to form in the garden as well.  Often the berries are much showier than the original flowers, which often were quite small and plain.

~

~

We enjoy the bright color and interesting texture the berries offer until the birds finish them.

It is nearly time to shop for autumn Violas and Snaps.  We will plant both by late September, planning to enjoy them through the winter months and into mid-spring.

~

Our new Crepe Myrtle, 'Delta Jazz'

Our new Crepe Myrtle, ‘Delta Jazz’

~

Autumn is an excellent month to plant winter annuals and vegetables as well as many shrubs, trees, and perennials here in Zone 7.  I’ve already been planting new Iris and several new perennials.  I will be planting a few hundred Daffodil bulbs over the coming weeks, and we planted a new Crepe Myrtle tree a few weeks ago.  It continues to bloom even as its roots settle into their new home.

~

Rose of Sharon began its season of bloom in late May. It makes abundant seeds which feed our birds all winter long.

Rose of Sharon began its season of bloom in late May. It makes abundant seeds which feed our birds all winter long.

~

Although winter has already visited some parts of the United States, we will enjoy warm weather for another six weeks, at least.

~

Bougainvillea normally blooms in the winter in more southern climates. Ours was just beginning to bloom as we had to bring it inside for autumn last year. We are glad to have these blooms early enough to enjoy outside.

Bougainvillea normally blooms in the winter in more southern climates. Ours was just beginning to bloom as we had to bring it inside for autumn last year. We are glad to have these blooms early enough to enjoy outside.

~

We normally enjoy a last blast of warm weather in early October, even after a few fall like days and cool nights in September have enticed us to anticipate the cooler days and lower humidity of autumn.  September and October are every bit as busy for us in the garden as April and May.

~

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

Oxalis blooms here all summer.

~

As much as we enjoy the varied foliage of our garden, our fall flowers bring great pleasure, too.  Especially as we enjoy the seeds and fruits they leave behind for the birds migrating through Virginia on their way further south.

~

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

Daisy, almost ready to bloom this autumn.

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

September 6, 2015 garden 011

 

Small Beginnings

July 10, 2015 garden 005~

“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.”

.

Arnold Bennett

The small efforts we make now in the garden will still have plenty of time to grow before autumn sets in, in Virginia.  We still have at least ten weeks, probably more in most parts of the state, to enjoy our gardens.

It amazes me, sometimes, how quickly plants grow when the conditions are right for them.  This little pot grows in the shade of our Azalea hedge, beside the driveway.

Ferns love these sheltered, shady spots.  I planted this Cretan brake fern from a 1″ nursery pot early in June.  Now it has settled in and given beautiful new leaves.  I added the hardy Begonia division about two weeks ago now.  There was a stand of them elsewhere, which needed thinning.  I dug up about a dozen babies and spread them around to see where they will take off and grow.

Hardy Begonias also grow quickly once they find the right spot and dig in their roots.  I hope to show you this one in bloom by early August.  It will grow to at least 12″ tall by then.  Even better, it will form a little bud at each leaf joint which can grow into a new plant next season.

The new leaf in front is from a rhizome left in the pot from another season, just now showing its first leaf.  We’ll see what it has in store for us this year.

Whatever early summer held for you, please keep your optimism and keep planting.  Whether you sow a fresh crop of seeds for fall vegetables, or whether you adopt some of the late season offerings at your local nursery, there is still time to make small beginnings and watch them grow into something beautiful this season.

All you truly need is the desire, a vision, and a small pot of good soil to get started.

~

Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time.  From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in a shady bed of ferns.

Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in a shady bed of ferns.

~

“In the oddity or maybe the miracle of life,

the roots of something new frequently lie

in the decaying husks of something old.”

.

Craig D. Lounsbrough

~

This is one of our small 'stump gardens.'   We've planted a seedling Hellebore, an Autumn Brilliance fern, and a Voodoo Lily in compost around the stump of a fruit tree lost to a storm.  Each season we add a little compost as this tiny shade garden expands.

This is one of our small ‘stump gardens.’ We’ve planted a seedling Hellebore, an Autumn Brilliance fern, and a Voodoo Lily in compost around the stump of a fruit tree lost to a storm. Each season we add a little compost as this tiny shade garden expands.

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

The same stump garden, from a different perspective....

The same stump garden, from a different perspective….

Hardy Begonias- “A Pass Along Plant”

Hardy Begonia growing among Creeping Jenny, ferns, and ivy.

Hardy Begonia growing among Creeping Jenny, ferns, and ivy.

Many years ago I heard about a hardy Begonia- a perennial Begonia which would spread to form  a large mound of beautiful foliage and delicate pink flowers every single year.  I looked for such a plant at nurseries for several years before finally finding a small pot one day at the McDonald Garden Center in Virginia Beach.  I was so excited to finally have one to try in my own garden.August 31 2013 Dad's b'day 007

Hardy Begonia was one of those legendary plants to me in those days- wonderful plants you hear about, but can rarely find for sale.  You had to “know someone” who would give you a start of this quintessential “pass along plant”.  This of course was before the days when we lived through the internet.  I was on the mailing list for more than a half dozen nursery catalogs, but didn’t see hardy Begonia offered from any of them.

Finally, I planted my start, among some ferns, in a moist and shady bed beside the screened back porch of my home in suburban Virginia Beach.  What a treat to find it poking up underneath the winter litter of leaves each spring.  This plant not only spread each year underground, it also produces a small “bulb” at each leaf joint towards the end of summer.  Each of these tiny “bulbs” can sprout into a new plant.  These tend to get scattered about, and so hardy Begonia, after a season or two, begins to pop up in unexpected spots near the original patch.

August 28 2013 garden 015These plants generally grow to about 2′ tall when growing in a moist, shaded area where they aren’t competing with many other plants.   They show up fairly late in the spring, but once up, grow quickly.  I would often find new plants popping up in  nearby beds and between the cracks of a brick walkway.  These shallow rooted plants can be easily moved to a spot where they can be allowed to grow.

Hardy Begonia, Begonia grandis, has a delicate, medium green leaf, often with red veins.  Though more delicate than most cane Begonia leaves, the Begonia grandis has a fairly large, elongated heart shaped leaf.  This tuberous begonia still grows tall canes just like a cane Begonia. Its flowers range from various shades of pink to white, and are usually found growing in a large graceful  panicle of flowers, much like cane Begonia flowers. The entire plant dies back to the ground with a heavy frost, but will grow again the following spring, usually larger than the previous year.

I dug and potted several pieces of my beautiful hardy Begonia before selling the Virginia Beach house and garden, and transplanted them that autumn into the Williamsburg forest garden.  Of course, I hadn’t realized yet how difficult the soil and conditions are here.  I was also unsure whether or not the Begonia would come back well here, since we’re a zone cooler.  Most hardy Begonias, it turns out, are hardy north to Zone 7b, though there are one or two varieties hardy to Zone 5.  What a wonderful day when I found the first leaves of the Begonia the following spring.

I had grown accustomed to the very large, healthy patch of Begonia which had taken hold over the years.  It was reliably 2′ tall and nearly filled the bed by the time I moved.  It bloomed from late June through frost, a dependable and hardy perennial, fed only with a topdressing of compost in early spring.

This little bit I moved has struggled  in its new spot on a hillside.  There were no “beds” in the shade when we moved into this garden in the midst of a drought in early August.  The little starts lingered in pots for weeks, and then I put them into the most protected shade area I could, where I planned to later develop a shade garden.  They spread a little more each year.  They haven’t yet achieved their lush 2′ potential, but they are blooming this year.

August 28 2013 garden 032Finally, this spring, I found hardy Begonia online at Plant Delights Nursery near Durham, NC.  They carry six different varieties of hardy Begonia, including the new Begonia heracleifolia ‘Nigricans’ , or “Hogweed-leaf Begonia.  Only four of the varieties bloom.  I finally settled on “Heron’s Pirouette”, a Begonia grandis with especially large, deep pink flowers.  It arrived last week in beautiful condition.August 28 2013 garden 033  My plan is to prepare a good, raised bed for this, divisions of the Begonia I moved, and also a Begonia good friends gave me this week.

It seems they had some hardy Begonia growing in a pot on their deck last summer.  It overwintered in the pot and came back strong this year.  Suddenly, they realized that it was cropping up in an adjoining pot as well.  As I was admiring it, they offered a cutting, which I couldn’t resist.  That cutting became three pieces, dipped into rooting hormone, and set in a generous pot in the shade to take hold.August 28 2013 garden 003

I’ve already promised one of these cuttings to a friend who has none, and I’ll give her a division from my original hardy Begonia as well.  This is such a wonderful “pass along plant’, passed between friends, moved between homes, linking one generation of gardeners to the next.

Begonia, Begonia on Forest Garden

The Garden of Eaden

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 677 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest