Sunday Dinner: In the Shadows


“There is strong shadow

where there is much light.”


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



“To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow.

For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly

as when one longs to taste it,

and when is the taste refracted

into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth,

and when do our senses know any thing so utterly

as when we lack it?

And here again is a foreshadowing –

– the world will be made whole.

For to wish for a hand on one’s hair

is all but to feel it.

So whatever we may lose,

very craving gives it back to us again.”


Marilynne Robinson



“One realized all sorts of things.

The value of an illusion, for instance,

and that the shadow

can be more important than the substance.

All sorts of things.”


Jean Rhys



“A garden should make you feel

you’ve entered privileged space –

– a place not just set apart but reverberant –

– and it seems to me that, to achieve this,

the gardener must put some kind of twist

on the existing landscape,

turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”


Michael Pollan



“It was such a pleasure

to sink one’s hands into the warm earth,

to feel at one’s fingertips

the possibilities of the new season.”


Kate Morton



“If you wish to make anything grow,

you must understand it,

and understand it in a very real sense.

‘Green fingers’ are a fact,

and a mystery only to the unpracticed.

But green fingers

are the extensions of a verdant heart.”


Russell Page



“The green thumb is equable

in the face of nature’s uncertainties;

he moves among her mysteries

without feeling the need for control

or explanations or once-and-for-all solutions.

To garden well is to be happy

amid the babble of the objective world,

untroubled by its refusal to be reduced

by our ideas of it,

its indomitable rankness.”


Michael Pollan



“To love a swamp, however,

is to love what is muted and marginal,

what exists in the shadows,

what shoulders its way out of mud

and scurries along the damp edges

of what is most commonly praised.

And sometimes its invisibility is a blessing.

Swamps and bogs are places of transition and wild growth,

breeding grounds,

experimental labs where organisms and ideas

have the luxury of being out of the spotlight,

where the imagination can mutate and mate,

send tendrils into and out of the water.”


Barbara Hurd



Woodland Gnome 2019



“It is not hard to start a small garden,

all you need is a sapling, a planting pot,

a small bag of soil,

and regular watering.

There you go,

you helped cooling the earth down by one plant.”

Noora Ahmed Alsuwaidi


Fabulous Friday: White Butterfly Ginger Lily


The very first blossoms on our white butterfly ginger lilies opened yesterday morning.



Their fragrance is indescribably sweet.  With pure white flowers over a long season,  they are one of the flowers we love most as summer slowly melts into fall.



Our patch of ginger lily has grown a bit shaded over the years, and I see them leaning out for the sun.  By October they will be at least a foot taller, and covered in white flowers.

The hummingbirds love ginger lily flowers, too, and we’ve even seen hummingbirds feeding on them at dusk.



These elegant perennials are one of the few ginger plants hardy this far north.  Hedychium coronarium grows in zones 11-7b, so we are right on the northern edge of their range.  Last winter was hard on them, and they were slow to return this summer.  In a good year, and in good sun, they can grow to 7′ high.

We are happy to see them coming into bloom now, and look forward to weeks of their beauty.



Also blooming for  the  first  time  today is the red spider lily, Lycoris radiata.  After last night’s heavy rains, we expect to find many more stems emerging over the next few days.  These  bulbs  wait  for  a  good  soaking  to  finally  bloom in  late  August  or  September, often  after  a spell of  hot, dry weather.  Which  is  how  they  earn  their  other  common  name, hurricane  lily, when  they  suddenly  appear  after  a  big  storm .



It is always interesting to watch the garden unfold day by day and week by week.  It is always changing, and there is always something to look forward to as the seasons come and go.



Woodland Gnome 2018

Fabulous Friday: 
Happiness is Contagious; Let’s Infect One Another

Ginger Lily

August 27, 2014 Parkway 004

Our Ginger Lilies began to bloom late yesterday afternoon.  Their perfume fills this area of the garden  with an aroma reminiscent of Easter lily or rich honeysuckle.

We’ve waited all summer for the pleasure of their blooming, and our stand of lilies is filled with buds, ready to burst open in the warmth of late summer.

Ginger Lilies grow from rhizomes.  These were a gift from a neighbor’s garden, and are hardy here in Zone 7.

August 27, 2014 Parkway 001

Many cultivars need warmer winters than Virginia offers, but these lilies  have survived and multiplied every year, creeping beyond their original bed.

These are called “Hardy White Butterfly Ginger Lily”,  Hedychium coronarium,  in the Plant Delights catalog, and grow to between 5′ and 6′ tall.

Aggressive growers, this stand of lily has grown thick and tall.  Like a field of corn, it offers a formidable barrier.  Make up your mind where you would like a permanent display before you plant the first tuber, because they aren’t easy to relocate once established.

The rhizomes are thick and tough.

I tried to dig out a few of these which were growing too far forward this spring, into the roses’ territory.  It was a tough job, and I didn’t get all of the sprouting rhizomes I should have dug.

You can dig enough to spread these around once established, but I would recommend a backhoe if you decide to reclaim the garden bed for other plants.


August 27, 2014 Parkway 003

But what a sweet problem to have!  These Ginger Lilies are one of our favorite flowers in the garden.

We are so appreciative to the neighbor who shared them with us.  We will enjoy a constant supply of white fragrant blossoms from now until a heavy frost.  These are one of the sweetest joys of late summer in our garden.


August 27, 2014 Parkway 002


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Pass Along Plants:  Ginger Lily (Forest Garden, 2013)

Pass Along Plants, Ginger Lily

Hedychium coronarium, White Butterfly Ginger Lily


Soon after we moved to this home, we met a wonderful neighbor who had surrounded her home with flowers.  She has giant azaleas grown from cuttings, a sea of bulbs in spring, and near her back porch, a patch of ginger lilies.


August 19,2013 roots 008


When she decided the time had come to move, she offered me the opportunity to come and dig some of her lilies.  Now, never one to turn away from the opportunity to grow a new type of plant, I happily accepted her invitation, even though I was clueless as to what a “ginger lily” might be.

These "pineapple" shaped buds will begin to open any day.

These “pineapple” shaped buds will begin to open any day.


Our friend offered a few bits of information:  the deer leave it alone, it blooms with sweet smelling flowers, and it is a very tough, hardy plant.  Enough said.  I grabbed a trowel, a container, and followed her across the street.

This was in the early spring, before these beautiful monsters had sent up their stalks.  I got the impression it might be similar to a Canna lily from the remains of the previous season’s plants and the large rhizomes as we began to dig.  She was very generous, and gave me quite a few roots.  Her only advice was to plant where they can get sun.

Ginger lilies in the second week of June.

Ginger lilies in the second week of June.


What an amazing gift these lilies have proven to be.  Ginger lilies aren’t true lilies at all, which is wonderful, since in my neighborhood true lilies are simply deer candy.  A member of the ginger family, these plants are native to Asia.  The particular variety she gave me, Hedychium coronarium, are also called, “White Butterfly Lily”, as the 2” flowers look a bit like a butterfly.

They are great favorites of butterflies and hummingbirds and smell particularly sweet.  I’ve even had a butterfly land and feed on the very flower I was sniffing!


August 19,2013 roots 006

Ginger lilies get a late start in spring, breaking dormancy with new growth in May, here in Zone 7b.  They grow throughout the summer, getting taller and taller every week, until by mid-August they are between 5’and 6’ tall.  Their first flower of the summer opened this week.  The lilies will continue to bloom into October at least, depending on the weather, and will die back to the ground after a few hard frosts.  I generally leave the brown stalks and foliage in place, as mulch, through the winter.  A more fastidious gardener would probably go and cut it all away in December or January, but I leave it as an extra layer of insulation for the roots in case the winter is colder than usual.

After cutting back the remains of last year’s stalks in mid-spring, and clearing away the last of the leaves blown in over the winter, I spread an inch or two of compost over the whole bed.  The ginger lilies are an excellent “back of the border” plant, and I have roses, Lavender, Rudbeckia, Salvia, and some low annuals growing in front of them.

In mid-August, the lilies are between 5'and 6' tall.

In mid-August, the lilies are between 5′ and 6′ tall.

Ginger lilies spread as their underground rhizomes and root system expands each season.  They eventually form huge clumps, and should be spaced, originally, at least 18”-24” apart.  Some varieties grow aggressively, and my beautiful “White Butterfly Lily” is considered invasive in Brazil and Hawaii.  It is the national flower of Cuba, where it is called, “White Moth Flower”.

There are numerous species and cultivars of ginger lily hardy in zones 7-10.   Most have yellow or orange flowers, and many cultivars have a much larger head of flowers atop the stems.  Some begin flowering much earlier in the summer.  For a good list of cultivars and photos, please visit Plant Delights Nursery, based near Raleigh NC.  This is an excellent mail order nursery and offers very personal customer service.  Their website is especially helpful in finding plants to fit into specific situations, like plants that won’t be devoured by your local herd of deer.

August 17 2013 ginger lilies 003

Ginger lilies will grow in a variety of soils, but of course do better in rich, well drained soil.  They prefer moist soil, especially the first year or so as the tubers establish, and should be watered when there isn’t regular rain.  Ginger lilies need full sun, or at the least very light shade, and they need plenty of room to spread.  These are large, bold plants and most cultivars will cover a large area in just a few years.


August 17 2013 ginger lilies 004

Our  patch of lilies has grown to the point that I should thin and divide them this spring, especially as they creep into the roses.  Little did I realize, when I was blessed with such a generous gift of rhizomes, how very “dear” these little gems are on the market.  Most retail for around $20 per plant, plus postage.  I hope that friends will remember my intention to divide when spring rolls around again, and will remind me to pass along and share what was so generously shared with me.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

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