In Pursuit of Happiness

~

“I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage
with my books, my family and a few old friends,
dining on simple bacon, and letting the world
roll on as it liked,
than to occupy the most splendid post,
which any human power can give.”
.
Thomas Jefferson
~
~
“Do you want to know who you are?
Don’t ask. Act!
Action will delineate and define you.”
.
Thomas Jefferson
~
~
“Determine never to be idle.
No person will have occasion
to complain of the want of time,
who never loses any.
It is wonderful how much may be done,
if we are always doing.”
.
Thomas Jefferson

~

~

“The equal rights of man,
and the happiness of every individual,
are now acknowledged to be
the only legitimate objects of government.”
.
Thomas Jefferson

~

~

“Peace and friendship with all mankind
is our wisest policy,
and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.”
.
Thomas Jefferson

~

~

“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots
uninteresting to me.”
.
Thomas Jefferson

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

~

~

“I like the dreams of the future
better than the history of the past.”
.
Thomas Jefferson
Advertisements

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9: Plan Ahead

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 007~

That title could say, ‘Plan ahead for your garden’s worst day’ and it would be even better advice.  I’ve been thinking about this these last few mornings as I stand outside for hours watering and watching our garden respond to weeks of dry heat.

~

August 24, 2016 Caladiums 016

~

We gardeners are curators of a collection of living ever-changing organisms.  In the best conditions, when we get just enough rain and temperatures are mild, we have it easy.  But those days won’t last forever.  And so we must plan ahead for all of the challenges the gardening year brings; including August’s heat and drought.

~

I've been sprinkling seeds of these chives around the garden for the past few years. They are tough and pretty and their aroma discourages grazing animals.

I’ve been sprinkling seeds of these chives around the garden for the past few years. They are tough and pretty and their aroma discourages grazing animals.

~

As change is the constant in our gardens, we plan ahead for the beauties and challenges of each season.  We make sure our garden has ‘good bones’ to offer structure and interest during winter.  We plan for evergreens, architectural structure, perhaps a few interesting perennials with seed heads left standing and a few herbaceous plants which keep going through the worst weeks of winter.

~

Violas bloom for us through most of the winter. They make a nice display from October through May.

Violas bloom for us through most of the winter. They make a nice display from October through May and pair well with potted shrubs and spring bulbs.

~

We plant bulbs and flowering woodies to greet the warmth of spring; perennials to carry us through summer; and those special late perennials and trees with colorful foliage to give us beauty lasting through the first wintry frosts.

Good gardeners are always thinking a few  months ahead to take advantage of the season coming.

~

March 15, 2015 flowers 019

~

But we also think ahead to survive the special hazards of the season coming, too.    And right now, that means having a plan in place to keep the garden hydrated until the rains come again.

It can be so discouraging to watch valued plants wither and droop from too much heat and too little water.  Mulches and drip irrigation certainly help here.  But we don’t all have extensive drip systems in place.  Some of us are carrying hoses and watering cans to the most vulnerable parts of our landscape each day.

In a few short months our weather will shift.  Winter protection for overwintering perennials will be our big concern.  We’ll begin preparing for spring with thoughtful pruning and dividing, and then watch for those late freezes which can catch a gardener unawares.

~

Black Eyed Susans may droop in the heat, but they are survivors. Native plants like these are able to manage without a lot of special care. This patch self-seeds and spreads each season.

Black Eyed Susans may droop in the heat, but they are survivors. Native plants like these are able to manage without a lot of special care. This patch self-seeds and spreads each season.

~

Changing the plant palette in the garden to include tough, hardy, drought tolerant plants helps, too.  Finding plants with deep roots, thick fleshly leaves and a hardy constitution becomes more important with each passing year.  A too-delicate plant allowed to dry out or freeze for even a day may be a total loss.

I’ve been moving pots around quite a bit over these last few weeks, trying to offer more shelter and shade to plants which need it; moving those that succumbed while I was traveling out of sight….

~

Lavender "Goodwin's Creek' and Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' have proven a winning combination in a pot together this summer. They sit in full sun and never show stress from the heat.

Lavender “Goodwin Creek’ and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ have proven a winning combination in a pot together this summer. They sit in full sun and never show stress from the heat.

~

A dedicated gardening friend sometimes reminds me, “There is no right place for an ugly plant.”  I tend to be sentimental and try to coax near-gonners back to health.  He is much more practical about it.  Get rid of that ugly plant and choose something better suited to the actual conditions of the spot!

And that brings us full-circle in this conversation.  Planning ahead also means deciding not to buy those plants we know won’t make it through the season.  It doesn’t matter how much we love the plant.  If the real growing conditions of our garden won’t support a plant long term, why waste the money?

~

This is one tough Begonia, taking a lot of sun and keeping its color well.

This is one tough Begonia, taking a lot of sun and keeping its color well.  It overwintered in our garage and new plants grew quickly from cuttings.

~

As we note which plants grow really well for us, we have to also note those which don’t.  I already know that the Dahlias I planted with such hope look like crap.  Several are already dead or dormant….  Most of the potted Petunias have now fried in the heat.  I cut them back hard, watered, and hope for grace. 

It doesn’t matter whether the problem is the soil, the weather, Japanese beetles, lack of time or lack of skill; let’s be honest with ourselves from the beginning.  Let’s choose more of what works for us and just stop trying to force those plants which won’t.

Let’s plan ahead for success rather than setting ourselves up for disappointment.

~

Many plants in our garden, like these Crepe Myrtles, are self-seeded 'volunteers.' These shrubs are never watered yet look fresh and healthy. There is a self-seeded Beautyberry in the lower right corner which soon will have bright purple berries loved by the birds.

Many plants in our garden, like these Crepe Myrtles, are self-seeded ‘volunteers.’ These shrubs are never watered yet look fresh and healthy. There is a self-seeded native Beautyberry on the right, which soon will have bright purple berries loved by the birds.  Native and naturalized plants are dependable through all sorts of weather extremes.

~

Woodland Gnome’s Caveat:

Planning ahead also means looking for ways to do things better each season.  We should try a few new plants each year.  Let’s remain open to new possibilities both for our plant choices and for cultural practices.  Just because something doesn’t work the first time we try doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve on what we’re doing, and try again.

~

These are the first leaves to open on our new Caladium 'Sweet Carolina' from Classic Caladiums. This is a new 2015 introduction that I am happy to grow out in a gardening trial for this plant in coastal Virginia. So far, I like it! It has gone from dry tuber to leaf in only about 3 weeks.

These are the first leaves to open on our new Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’ from Classic Caladiums. This is a new 2015 introduction, which I am happy to grow out in a gardening trial for new Caladium here in coastal Virginia. So far, I like it! It has gone from dry tuber to leaf in only about 3 weeks.

~

“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 # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

Green Thumb Tip #8:  Observe!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

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

~

Lantana has proven a winner in our garden. I never shows stress from heat or drought because its roots grow deep. It feeds birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. It pumps out flowers non-stop from April until it is hit by frost. It is one of the most dependable and attractive plants we grow.

Lantana has proven a winner in our garden.  It never shows stress from heat or drought because its roots grow deep. It feeds birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. It pumps out flowers non-stop from April until it is hit by frost.  It rarely has any damage from insects and never is touched by deer or rabbits.  It is one of the most dependable and attractive plants we grow.

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Delicious Attraction

August 23, 2016 pots 020

~

There is nothing like Lantana camara to attract butterflies.  And if we didn’t know that already, we would have  noticed it yesterday while we were visiting at the Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  Homestead still has a large stock of Lantana in several sizes.  Owner Joel Patton always carries a wide selection of varieties, but he concentrates on L. ‘Miss Huff’ and the new ‘Chapel Hill’ introductions known to survive our Williamsburg winters.  These new varieties are hardy to at least Zone 7A.

~

August 23, 2016 pots 024

~

And so Joel was cutting back and potting up Lantana to gallon sized pots yesterday while we visited and watched the many butterflies feeding.  I loaded up  a tray with several L. ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ and L. ‘Evita Orange,’ and a couple of Pentas, also known as butterfly favorites, to fill in some holes in our front garden beds.  I’ve got to tell you, a butterfly flew into the trunk to follow one of those Lantanas and we had to shoo it out before we could leave.

~

August 23, 2016 pots 029

~

We had another gorgeous, cool morning today, and I determined to get the new plants in the ground before the heat returns towards the weekend.  Well, once settling the tray near the bed, I made a second trip to bring up the bag of compost.  And before I could return, our butterflies had found the new little Lantana plants.  They were that eager!

~

Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feed across and 1'-2' high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

Lantana Chapel Hill Gold will grow to several feet across and 1′-2′ high. It has proven winter hardy to zone 7A.

~

And they didn’t mind me a bit.  I suppose ‘the gardener’ has special privileges….  But they just kept right on feeding with me just a foot or two away.  We had mostly Tiger Swallowtails this morning.  There were five or six individuals, including an elusive Zebra Swallowtail which kept a safer distance away.  He watched us from afar as he fed from the nearby Black Eyed Susans.

~

August 23, 2016 pots 023~

Once the Lantana and Penta were planted, a bit of weeding done and  beds dressed in fresh compost; I returned to watering.  I can’t remember when last it rained for more than a few minutes.  The garden is dry now, and my morning ritual goes straight to watering each day before I even think of making coffee.  Hours later, we come in as the mercury climbs to pull together a little brunch.

That said, the butterflies appreciate the water, too.  A lovely Zebra Swallowtail played in the fine spray yesterday morning.  Today a hummingbird showed up nearly as soon as began watering in the new plantings.

~

This Lantana 'Chapel Hill Yellow' was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

This Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ was planted in late April or early May. It loves our heat, remains drought tolerant, and weaves nicely with other plants. Behind and to the left are our Afghan Fig trees, enjoyed by the hummer this morning.

~

There is a mid-sized Afghan fig tree growing in the middle of the bed, and the hummingbird came, as soon as its leaves were wet, to drink from the water now gathered in the cup of the leaf.  The little one actually landed and sat in the leaf for a moment or two, before flying into the edge of the spray.  Well, that must have felt just grand.  He flitted back and forth, pausing now and again, until he was completely refreshed.

If your garden is as dry as mine, and you are looking for ways to help the wildlife there, water a few patches of bare ground until they are well soaked.  You may notice butterflies landing on damp earth and around puddles.  They can drink the water right out of the ground if they need moisture badly.  Birds will come to wet earth, too, finding it easier to dig for insects and worms.

~

This is the first Lantana 'Evita' I've purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I'm not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I've left the tag so I'll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

This is the first Lantana ‘Evita’ I’ve purchased. It may be a newly available series of cultivars, and I’m not sure quite what to expect. The butterflies loved it! I’ve left the tag so I’ll know during clean up next spring which Lantana was planted here.

~

Gardening to support wildlife is all about creating a delicious attraction.  When we provide steady sources of food, water and  shelter in a safe, poison free environment; they will come.  Bees, birds, butterflies, turtles lizards and toads scout out those special places to live.  They can smell when a place is right.  They can see the seeds and flowers waiting for their feasting.

~

This Verbena 'Lollipop' is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath's in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

This Verbena ‘Lollipop’ is another nectar plant new to us this season. I bought smalll plugs in late spring from the Heath’s in Gloucester. These are perennial and may need a season or two to really show their full potential. But I love the color and see butterflies visit them. These make nice cut flowers, too.

~

Just plant those special plants, like Lantana, Penta, Salvias, Basil and other herbs, Rudbeckia, Verbena, Echinacea,  Hibiscus, Canna, Pelargonium, Petunia, Zingiger  and Fuchsia.  They will attract any butterfly or hummingbird for a long way around.  And then you, too, can enjoy the beauty of these special creatures fluttering through your garden.

~

Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?

Most of the new Lantana went into this bed, full of bulbs and Iris. A scented Pelargonium makes lovely foliage but has not yet bloomed. The true perennial Geraniums we planted have struggled because they are continually nibbled down. Rabbits maybe?  Today I added a few parsley plants with next year’s Swallowtail caterpillars in mind….

~

Woodland Gnome 2016
~

August 23, 2016 pots 026

 

Sunday Dinner

August 15, 2015 Gardens 025

~

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.

Being willing is not enough; we must do.”


.

Leonardo da Vinci

~

August 15, 2015 Gardens 029

~

“I am the wisest man alive,

for I know one thing,

and that is that I know nothing.”


.

Plato

~

August 15, 2015 Gardens 024

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

~

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Lantana

“Miss Huff” Perennial Lantana

Perennial Lantana, 'Miss Huff'

Perennial Lantana, ‘Miss Huff’

~

One morning last week my neighbor called to ask about the plants blooming along the street at the very front of the garden.  My neighbor is an artist and a gardener.  He and his wife have filled their bit of forest with Daffodils, Rhododendron, Azaleas, Magnolias, and lovely tall trees.

~

September 8 2013 lantana 002

“Miss Huff” growing below Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera.  The Wax Myrtle branches are covered in berries, nearly ripe for the birds.

~

He had noticed our bright orange and yellow flowers, and wanted to inquire about them since they were untouched by our shared herd of deer.

As you might imagine, few things make me happier than someone inquiring about beautiful plants.  I was happy to tell him all about our “Miss Huff” Lantana, and invite him to stroll about the garden to see the rest of our Lantana shrubs.

~

"Miss Huff", growing along the street beneath the Japanese Box and Wax Myrtle are mostly left to take care of themselves. The walkers in our neighborhood enjoy watching the butterflies visiting the Lantana.

“Miss Huff”, growing along the street beneath the Japanese Box and Wax Myrtle are mostly left to take care of themselves. The walkers in our neighborhood enjoy watching the butterflies visiting the Lantana.

~

We ended up going to Homestead Garden Center the next day and filling the car with nearly a dozen gallon pots of blooming Lantana for his garden.  The Pattons had all of their Lantana on the “end of season sale”, and so for a small investment my neighbor bought all the Lantana camara he could plant.  I’m looking forward to next summer when the beautiful golden orange flowers extend across the front of both of our properties.

~

September 8 2013 lantana 014

Bandana White Lantana.

~

Most Lantana plants are treated like tender perennials in Virginia, and the tags generally say they are hardy in Zones 9-12.  “Miss Huff” is a cultivar reliably hardy here in Zone 7B.

Now, Lantana would be well worth the price and effort if they were only annuals.  They form dense, woody shrubs absolutely covered in flowers from mid-summer late into the fall.  They are the hubs of activity in our garden, attracting a constant stream of butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, bees, and song birds.  The birds find secure cover inside them and love the little berries which form once the flowers fade.

Even better, Lantana thrive in full, hot sun.  They require very little water, even in their first year.  Once established, their roots grow very deep into the Earth, keeping them well-supplied, even in drought.

~

September 8 2013 lantana 004

~

Nothing seems to faze them.  I’ve never seen one with any fungus or disease.  It is rare to even see a tiny hole in a leaf.  In fact, the leaves are toxic to most animals.  This has created a problem in tropical areas where Lantana camara has naturalized, as livestock who graze on them frequently grow ill and die.  South Americans have found ways to use the leaves medicinally to treat ulcers, and extracts made from the leaves are antibacterial and are used to treat other conditions as well.

~

Bandana "Cherry Sunrise" Lantana

Bandana “Cherry Sunrise” Lantana

~

I learned about Lantana many years ago when I first planted them in my Virginia Beach garden, on a bank at the front of the yard in full sun.  Once the leaves finally fall off in early winter, the woody skeleton of the plant is left. The birds dart in and out of the branches and peck at the remaining seeds throughout the winter. That first winter I didn’t know what to expect from them, but left them in place.  I trimmed them back to a few inches when the daffodils bloomed, planted some sort of other annual around their stumps, and didn’t give them much thought…. Until, one day I realized there was new growth coming from the stump and branches.

~

 

Several years old now, these "Bandana" series Lantana grew to over 6' last summer. They definitely exceed the 24" of growth promised on their label. This mound is covered in butterflies from sunrise until after sunset.

Several years old now, these “Bandana” series Lantana grew to over 6′ last summer. They definitely exceed the 24″ of growth promised on their label. This mound is covered in butterflies from sunrise until after sunset.

~

Within a few weeks the stumps had disappeared beneath vigorous new branches, and by mid-June they were blooming again.  Lantana are actually grown as shrubs further south, and grow larger and more vigorous each year.  In some tropical areas of the world, Lantana camara are considered an invasive species.  Their seeds are spread far and wide by the birds who feast on them.  This has not become a problem in the United States, although they have naturalized along the Southeast and Gulf coasts.

~

Lantana in the butterfly garden get regular trimming back, and still fill the path.

Lantana in the butterfly garden get regular trimming back, and still fill the path.

~

Moving to Williamsburg, one USDA Zone colder than Virginia Beach, I was concerned that I’d lost the joy of perennial Lantana.  When I talked to Andrew Patton out at Homestead, he assured me that “Miss Huff” had proven reliably hardy here in Williamsburg.

The front edge of our property is a very tough spot to garden.  The dirt is hard packed and poor.  The deer graze freely.  There is only a narrow patch of dirt between the road and a thick hedge of Japanese Boxwood and Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera, with established roots which soak up what water and nutrients nature might provide.  It is a long hike with a watering can, and too far for the hose.  Whatever grows in this strip must be mostly self-reliant.

~

Lantana, "Confetti"

Lantana, “Confetti”

~

So I bought enough “Miss Huff” plants, in little 4” pots, to plant in all of the open spaces between the shrubs along the street.  It was more an attempt to protect the little Camellia bushes I’d planted the year before from the deer’s grazing than a serious effort at flower gardening.  It took quite a bit of digging to break up the soil enough to even plant them, but I did, gave them a little mulch of compost, watered them, and waited to see what would happen.

That first year, the answer is, “Honestly, not much.”  They did bloom, but didn’t put on much growth.  Every year since, the “Miss Huff” Lantana have gotten bigger and more colorful.  All they get from me is a little topdressing of compost from time to time, a sprinkle of Osmocote or Plant Tone in the spring, and a little water in drought.  I cut them back hard when the daffodils come up and then wait for the show.

Our first spring in this garden, I ordered starts of Lantana from The Garden Harvest Supply Company for our new butterfly garden and the main flowerbed in the front yard.  I ordered for color and size, not for hardiness, and frankly I expected them to die over the winter.  I just wanted something drought tolerant that would fill the bed, attract some butterflies and require very little care during the season.  That first year I ordered some of the Carolina Series and some of the Bandana series plants.  At a little less than $3 per plant, they were a huge bargain.

The following spring, I tried to “pull out” some of the dead looking plants in the front bed to replace them.  Well, that was a huge problem.  You see, in just one summer, the roots had gone deep and wide.  It was like trying to dig up a tree with a trowel.  I got one or two out, then gave up.  In just a few weeks… You guessed it… there was new growth on the remaining plants.  They weren’t supposed to survive here, but they did.

~

This Lantana, planted in June, has made good growth for its first year.

This Lantana, planted in June, has made good growth for its first year.

~

Lantana leaf out relatively late in the season.  Patience is required.  The woody stumps aren’t beautiful in a springtime garden.  I’ve learned to plant bulbs around them, and to fill in with Violas, snapdragons, and other spring flowers and with perennial herbs like sage or thyme.  About the time it gets too hot for the spring flowers, the Lantana will green up and begin to take off.  Eventually you realize they have taken over the bed.  I tried to establish lavender in the bed with the Lantana, but have consistently lost the lavender by late summer because they can’t compete with the Lantana for light and air.

~

Lantana, 'Sunny Side Up' is a new hybrid expected to be as hardy as 'Miss Huff,' one of its parents.

Lantana, ‘Sunny Side Up’ is a new hybrid expected to be as hardy as ‘Miss Huff,’ one of its parents.

~

Since then I’ve planted Lantana of different varieties all over the garden.  Anywhere there is full sun, and I need something big and bright, in goes another Lantana.  I’ve stopped even reading the tag for hardiness.

There is a trailing lavender Lantana good for hanging baskets or ground cover that is especially pretty.  It is more reliable in the ground than overwintering in a basket.  There is also a lovely creamy white Lantana I like in pots.  I’ve even discarded a seemingly dead white Lantana from its pot, only to find it blooming a few weeks later where the root ball was “planted” to fill a whole in the yard somewhere.  That plant has come back consistently for two years now.

~

"Carolina Cream" Lantana in a large pot with Persian Shield, petunias, and Plectranths.

“Carolina Cream” Lantana in a large pot with Persian Shield, petunias, and Plectranths.

~

If you decide to plant Lantana, just keep in mind that you might not get a huge amount of growth the first year.  The tags predict growth of about 18-24”, with usually more spread than height.  You need to water regularly until the roots have a chance to grow; and fertilize, whether with compost, Osmocote, Plant Tone, or Neptune’s Harvest.  Plenty of food and water in the first year gives you the best display of flowers.

If your Lantana over winters, its roots have established and it will be much more drought tolerant in the second and subsequent years.  Cut back hard and feed in spring.  Lantana bloom on new growth, so it is fine to cut them back to 6-10” and then let them grow new branches.  Give the plants a few inches of fresh compost, and maybe a sprinkle of Plant Tone or Rose Tone.  After that, they’re on their own.  If you need to prune them during the season to give a nearby plant a chance at survival, you won’t hurt the Lantana.

~

September 4, 2015 garden 015~

Last August we marveled at how high our Lantana grew in the front.  We could stand beside the bed with Lantana branches towering over our heads.  We are both tall, so the Lantana grew to more than 6’ in one season.  Our blissed out butterflies don’t even mind when we come close to enjoy them.  The hummingbirds gather to share the feast throughout the day, but fly off if we approach.  Lantana brings so much life to the garden, I’m happy to introduce them to my friends.

~

August 20, 2015 butterflies 011~

All photos by Woodland Gnome

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

Join 672 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest