Sunday Dinner: Grow

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Patience is not the ability to wait.
Patience is to be calm no matter what happens,
constantly take action to turn it
to positive growth opportunities,
and have faith to believe
that it will all work out in the end
while you are waiting.”
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Roy T. Bennett
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Fennel

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“When life is sweet,
say thank you and celebrate.
And when life is bitter,
say thank you and grow.”
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Shauna Niequist
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“I have no right to call myself one who knows.
I was one who seeks, and I still am,
but I no longer seek in the stars or in books;
I’m beginning to hear the teachings
of my blood pulsing within me.
My story isn’t pleasant,
it’s not sweet and harmonious
like the invented stories;
it tastes of folly and bewilderment,
of madness and dream,
like the life of all people
who no longer want to lie to themselves.”
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Hermann Hesse
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“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone.
The shell cracks, its insides come out
and everything changes.
To someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.”
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Cynthia Occelli
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“There is no beauty in sadness.
No honor in suffering.
No growth in fear. No relief in hate.
It’s just a waste of perfectly good happiness.”
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Katerina Stoykova Klemer
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Blossom XXVIII: Fennel

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Fennel produces beautiful golden flowers.  Many different pollinators feast from these tiny blossoms.  Abundant flowers and fine foliage make this a special plant in our garden over many weeks.

Bronze fennel is particularly beautiful, and may be grown in pots with other herbs and flowers for a spectacular container garden.

Considered an herb, it in an edible hardy perennial in our garden.  Use the leaves fresh as needed, or dry for winter.

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Fennel feeds both pollinators and butterfly larvae.   Finding caterpillars devouring the plant cheers us that the next generation of swallowtail butterflies are on their way.

Plant fennel in full sun for best flowers.   It will grow quite large in good sun and soil, and may need staking after its first year.  These flowers are good enough to cut for arrangements; though we prefer to leave them sparkling in the sun, offering their nectar to whatever hungry mouth might buzz buy.  Their seeds are tasty, and may be gathered to dry for cooking through the season.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry;
conquer the wicked by goodness;
conquer the stingy by generosity,
and the liar by speaking the truth.”
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Gautama Buddha

Sunday Dinner: Discovery

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“From so high above it,

the world seems ordered and deliberate.

But I know it’s more than that.

And less.

It is structured and chaotic.

Beautiful and strange.”

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Nicola Yoon

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“Our real discoveries come from chaos,

from going to the place that looks wrong

and stupid and foolish.”

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Chuck Palahniuk

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

(parsley flowers and fennel leaves, after the rain)

.  .  .

For the Daily Post’s 

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Order

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Fabulous Friday: Growing Herbs

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One of the nicest things about summer is the garden filled with fresh herbs.  Most herbs prove very easy to grow.  They enjoy full sun, can stand a little dry weather, naturally repel pests, and smell delicious.

Herbs have such beautiful and interesting foliage, that I enjoy using them in containers and in the perennial garden. They also add an interesting touch in a vase.

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Rose scented Pelargonium grows with parsley and fennel.

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Evergreen perennial herbs, like rosemary, often maintain a presence through the winter.  Even when frost damaged, most will begin to recover and grow again by early spring. Although many Mediterranean herbs are marginally hardy in our climate, we’ve had enough success overwintering them that it is well worth making the effort.

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Overwintered Lavender and Artemesia. Artemesia propagates easily from stem cuttings in early spring.

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Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Artemesia, culinary sage, Santolina, germander, oregano, chocolate mint and many varieties of Lavender remain evergreen in our garden.  Other herbs, like comphrey, dill and fennel, return with fresh growth once the weather warms.

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Comphrey is one of our earliest herbs to bloom each spring.

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We’ve had mixed experience in overwintering one of my favorite herbs, scented Pelargoniums.   I’m always thrilled to see tiny leaves emerge in early spring where one has survived the winter.  Perennials, they aren’t fond of winter indoors, unless you have a spot to keep them in bright light.

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Thyme provides lots of early nectar for pollinators. It grows into an attractive edging for perennial beds and borders.

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Scented Pelargoniums rank high on my spring shopping list, as I scout out choice varieties wherever herbs are sold.  P. ‘Citronella,’ sold to ward off mosquitoes, can be found in many garden centers and big box plant departments.  But I am always watching for the rose scented varieties and an especially pretty plant called P. ‘Chocolate Mint.’ 

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Pelargonium ‘Lady Plymouth’ has the scent of roses

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Basil grows particularly well for us here in coastal Virginia.  It really takes off quickly in our late spring and summer heat.  Sometimes I begin with seeds, but most often watch for my favorite varieties at herb sales.  Some varieties, like African Blue Basil, are hybrids and can’t be grown true from seeds.

African Blue and Thai Basil quickly grow into small, fragrant shrubs.   I let them flower, and then enjoy the many pollinators they attract all summer.  Their seeds attract goldfinches and usually stand in my garden until after the holidays, when I finally pull the plants once the seeds are gone.

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Basil gone to seed, delighted our goldfinches and other small birds last September.

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Our garden is filling up again with growing herbs, now that we are into mid-May.  Taking some time to enjoy our herbs makes this rainy Friday fabulous.  The perennial herbs are into active growth now, and I’m finding and planting choice varieties of Basil, Salvia and Pelargonium.

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Newly planted Santolina and purple Basil will grow in quickly.

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We experimented with a relatively new Lavender cultivar last year:  L. ‘Phenomenal.’  This very hardy (Zones 5-9) and disease resistant cultivar was introduced by Peace Tree Farms in 2012. Hybrid ‘Phenomenal’ can take our muggy summers, so long as it has reasonably good drainage, and doesn’t die back during the winter.  It will eventually grow to a little more than 2 feet high and wide.  I was curious to see how it would grow for us, and bought a few plugs through Brent and Becky’s Bulbs last spring.

I was so pleased with how fresh they looked all winter, that I ordered new plugs this spring.   The plugs are still growing on in pots, but I look forward to planting them out before the end of May.

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Culinary purple sage grows well with German Iris and other perennials.

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If you have faced challenges in past years overwintering your Lavender, or losing them during a muggy summer; you might want to give L. ‘Phenomenal’ a try.  These will work nicely in a good sized pot if your space is limited.  Add a little lime to the potting mix or garden soil, and try mulching around newly planted Lavender plants with light colored gravel to reflect the heat and protect the foliage from splattered soil.

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Spanish Lavender also proves very hardy and overwinters in our garden.  This is my favorite Lavendula stoechas ‘Otto Quast.’

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Herbs prove such useful plants.  They nourish, they heal, they repel pests, and they thrive in challenging garden conditions.  Their unique leaves and healing scents add beauty to our lives.

Do you rely on herbs in your garden?  Wild at heart, they simply want a place to grow.  Why not try one this summer you’ve not grown before?

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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August herbs in a vase

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Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

Against the Odds: Carrot Flowers

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Lunch, right?  Maybe not….

I read an interesting tip last night about planting carrots in the April 2017 issue of  Fine Gardening Magazine .

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Most of us immediately think of seeds and planting carrots in our vegetable garden to harvest and eat in a few months.  This writer, David Perry of Seattle, explains how he plants “ratty carrots from the local produce stand” at strategic places in his flower garden.

Since carrots are biennials, in their first year they put their energy into growing a fat, orange tap root.  But while that is happening, beautiful fern-like leaves fuel the delicious growth.  This is the point where most of us pull the carrot, discard its foliage, and transform it into something delicious and satisfying.

But wait, there’s more!

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Perhaps, like me, you’ve set a severed carrot top into a shallow dish of water to amuse a child.  What is left of the tap root will continue to drink, and new leaves will sprout.

The carrot leaves will grow, in a bright windowsill, for a few weeks until bacteria wins the day and you feed the project to your compost pile.   I’ve been known to amuse myself in this way through a particularly raw February!  It feels like a little horticultural miracle unfolding in the dead of winter.

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Parsnips

Parsnips

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But David goes a step beyond this to create something lasting and beautiful.   He takes a carrot, already pulled and trimmed and destined for the table, and gives it a reprieve in his garden.  Like a pardoned turkey at Thanksgiving, this joyous root rewards him with beautiful flowers and foliage for the season.

He says, “Visiting gardeners and garden designers often ask about the white umbels that appear at beautiful strategic places in my garden.  Here’s my secret: ….”

This is certainly an economical way to generate large, flowering, unusual plants.  David simply plants a carrot or two wherever he wants to enjoy their flowers later in the season.

To do this, choose a carrot which still has its top where leaves can grow.  Dig a narrow hole an inch or two deeper than your carrot is long.  You can just open the earth with a shovel or trowel to the necessary depth, slip the carrot in so the top sits flush with the top of the soil, and push the hole closed around the carrot.

Site your carrots in part or full sun, in good soil, and keep the root moist as it begins to grow again and gets established.  You may need to stake the plants as they grow, especially if you’ve planted in rich soil.  They will grow to several feet high.

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Queen's Anne's lace, or wild carrot

Queen’s Anne’s lace, or wild carrot

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Do you know the wildflower, “Queen Anne’s Lace?”  These beautiful creamy white flowers turn up on Virginia roadsides and along the edges of fields each summer.  I’ve always admired them, and they provide a rich food source for pollinators.

Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, is also known as ‘Wild Carrot.”  This may give you an idea of what to expect from planting a carrot in your garden!  And while wild Daucus carota is generally considered poisonous and not gathered for food; true carrot leaves, from the edible Daucus carota subspecies sativus can be eaten. In other words, the foliage from edible carrots in either their first year of growth, or their second, may be harvested and added to your salad. 

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Horseradish

Horseradish and parsley roots

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Like many leaf vegetables, they contain alkaloids. But they also contain many healthful vitamins and minerals.  There are some yummy carrot recipes and a full discussion of their nutrition here.

In years passed, before the convenience of packaged seeds; many gardeners left a few carrots in their garden over winter to flower and produce seeds in their second year.   Seeds from the previous year’s crop of carrots were gathered and saved every fall so there were always seeds to plant the following spring.

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Taro is also Colocasia. Plant these when the soil is warm, and huge 'Elephant Ears' will soon emerge.

Taro is also Colocasia. Plant these when the soil is warm, and huge ‘Elephant Ears’ will soon emerge.

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This also works for parsley, fennel, broccoli, celery, onions, garlic, and many other vegetables and herbs.  In fact, the flowers from all of these add to the beauty of an herb or flower garden.

Their flowers attract beneficial insects, like lacewings and lady bugs who help eradicate harmful ones.  Beneficial insects are always welcome in organic gardens and wildlife gardens were pesticides aren’t used.

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Attract beneficial insects to your garden

Garlic chives, and similar flowers attract beneficial insects to your garden.  Beneficial insects help control harmful ones, and pollinators increase yields.

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And so, if against all odds, you replant that carrot rather than eating it; you’ll reap a rich harvest of flowers, food, and other benefits in your garden.  Since carrots are biennials, each carrot you plant will give flowers over a single summer.  The flowers will eventually yield seeds, and then the entire plant will die back.  The carrot you planted will no longer be edible, after this second year of growth.

But carrots aren’t the only produce market find you can plant and enjoy.  Try parsnips, another biennial, as well.

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Frrom lower right

Clockwise, from lower right:  Garlic, Tumeric root, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot and ginger root.  Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, produces very tall yellow flowers in summer, like small sunflowers, and edible tubers.

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Ginger and tumeric, tropical and tasty rhizomes, will root and grow beautiful foliage in a pot or garden bed.  You can’t leave them outside over winter in our climate, but they will add to the garden’s beauty while the rhizomes grow larger over the season, and can be saved indoors from year to year.

Heads of garlic may be broken into individual cloves and planted in rich garden soil in full sun in autumn.   Each clove will grow into a new head of garlic the following summer.  Garlic and garlic chives also produces beneficial flowers.

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Go ahead and plant a piece of that horseradish root in your garden to produce more.  These grow into large plants, so you need to leave a few feet in all directions for it to grow.  Horseradish is a perennial and is  grown from root cuttings, not seed.

Green onion roots may be planted even if you’ve sliced and diced their tops onto your dinner.  Often hydroponic lettuce heads come with roots still attached.  Harvest some of the leaves and plant the roots and crown.

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Potatoes may be cut into chunks, each with an eye, and replanted to grow a new potato vine.  Many gardeners recommend buying certified seed potatoes to avoid spreading certain potato diseases, but in a pinch….

Buy a sweet potato now, and coax it into growth in a shallow pan of moist soil or even suspended in a jar of water.  New green shoots will soon begin to grow.

These luscious vines may be grown for their own sake.  They are both beautiful and edible.  But if you break the starts away from the potato when the soil has warmed in May, each may be planted out in the garden (or a pot) to grow into a new, productive,  sweet potato plant.  You can produce a garden full of sweet potatoes from the shoots of a single ‘mother’ potato.

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Some markets offer prickly pear cactus pads.  Each may be rooted and grown in full sun to a prodigious size over the years.  Your new plant will begin producing fruit in just a few years.  You might also plant the seed in your avocado to grow your own tree.

Beautiful pineapple plants may be grown from the crown of a fruit.   I even have a potted grapefruit tree which grew from a sprouted seed I found in my Ruby Red one day!

It is easy to save seeds from pumpkins and winter squash to plant the following spring.  Even raw peanuts are seeds, remember, and each will grow into a productive peanut plant!

Against all odds, you can create a beautiful and productive garden from  what might otherwise be eaten or thrown away.

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This week, I’ve been reading Ken Druse’s book, Making More Plants. book-5a

What a wonderful read in February!  Druse explains, in well-illustrated detail, how to grow new plants from stems, seeds, leaves and roots.  Whatever you might be lacking in propagation skills, you will find guidance and ideas to create new plants for your garden from the tiniest bit of leaf or root.  He shows how to build or find the equipment you need, explains the botany, and demonstrates how to become more successful at multiplying your plants.

 

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Relax, daydream a bit, and notice what might have a second life if given a chance.  Consider how to use all of the resources at hand….

This is how our ancestors supported themselves and their families in the days before supermarkets and garden centers.

There is always more to discover and to learn…..

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Wild carrot flowers

Wild carrot flowers

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for the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Against The  Odds

And with appreciation to our local Harris Teeter for allowing me to take photos in their produce department.

May Update:  Carrot Flowers?

 

In A Vase Last Friday

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We enjoyed this vase of flowers last Friday evening; and Saturday morning, my beloved computer refused to boot.

That is the short version of the story.  The computer came home with us this evening, and we are getting re-acquaited.  Let’s just say nothing works quite like it did.  AND none of my usual websites, not even WordPress, have opened properly on the first try… or even on the third.

It is a mystery what happened to all of my settings over the past several days during the ‘diagnostics.’

I’ve spent the evening finding workarounds, looking up passwords, assuring the browsers that my websites are safe places to visit, and desperately clicking links to try to get online life back to normal.

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I would like to re-boot this story back to Friday, when I had such an interesting time gathering these flowers for the vase.  The dark purple leaves and flowers are Basil.

This beautiful purple Basil grows in a huge pot on our deck.  I cut it in late afternoon, and found bees still pursuing the flowers as I cut and dunked the stems into a tall glass of water.  I had to shoo them before heading back inside.

In fact everything in this little vase, with the possible exception of the roses, feeds our pollinators.  There is Kent’s Beauty ornamental Oregano and bronze Fennel, also loved by bees and butterflies, tucked in with the Basil and roses.

Gathering this bouquet reminded me that we can all plant for the pollinators, even in tight circumstances.  If we only have room for a pot or two on a landing or balcony, we still can join the effort to support these beautiful and important creatures.

I remember vividly my days living in apartments and condos, with no garden to call my own.  But somehow I always managed at least a pot or a hanging basket.  Some might use the term obsessed, but flowers bring me joy.

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There is still plenty of time to purchase summer herbs and flowers, if you would like to plant a pot for the pollinators in your neighborhood.  Most of these plants have gone on sale now and are already in bloom.  Some are quick to germinate from seed.

You will have greater success if you plant several plants together in the largest pot your circumstances allow.  It is easier to manage the soil, and you get a nicer effect in a pot of at least 20″ diameter.

Here is a short list of plants you might like to try this summer to draw in bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinating insects.  These plants enjoy full sun, but most will grow with at least six hours of direct sun each day.  You will be amazed and delighted how much life gathers to enjoy your flowers.

HERBS

Basil, Thyme, Sage, Germander, Mint, Oregano, Fennel, Dill, Lavender, scented Pelargonium, Hyssop, Nasturtium and Lemon Balm.

ANNUALS and  TENDER PERENNIALS

Fuschias, Pelargoniums and Geraniums, Lantana, Petunias, Begonias, Calibrachoas, Zinnias, Coleus flowers, Salvias and Angelonia.

Any combination of these herbs and flowering plants will bring beauty to your space, and will help support nectar loving insects.  Many will produce seeds for birds to enjoy, as well.  You will often see goldfinches eating Basil and Zinnia seeds, for instance.

Whether in a pot, or in a vase, these flowers offer us delicious scents, saturated color, and elegant form.  I hope you are enjoying all the beauty summer offers us.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Sunday Brunch, Or, One Thousand Shades of Green

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I took Sunday brunch in the garden today, feasting on the sounds, smells, and beautiful sights the garden offers on this mid-summer’s Sunday.

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It is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  In Williamsburg, our sun rose today at 5:47 AM and will set at 8:30 PM for an astronomical day length of 14 hours and 44 minutes.

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Interestingly, our period of the summer solstice began on June 17 this year when the sun rose at 5:46 AM and set at 8:30 PM.  Our days will remain this exact length until June 24.  The sun will rise a single minute later on June 25, at 5:48 AM.  The sun will continue to set at 8:31 until July 6, when it will finally set a single minute earlier at 8:30 PM.   By then, the sun won’t rise above the horizon until 5:53 AM, a full six minutes later than today.

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The sun is felt, even after it has dipped below the horizon.  It stays light now for more than an hour past the moment of ‘sun-set,’ and it stays hot from dusk to dawn.

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We had violent thunderstorms move through Virginia again last night, feeding off the muggy heat which envelops us.  We were among the fortunate who kept our power and our trees as the storm passed.

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And this morning dawned rain soaked, hot and bright.  Opening the slider to the deck, I inhaled the greenness in the morning air.

Our cat slipped past my ankles to drink the fresh rain water collected in his dish overnight.  He lingered a little while to listen to the birds chattering from their hiding places in the overhanging trees.

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But he lingered only a little while.  He was ready to slip back inside to the shade and cool of our house when my partner appeared at the door.  Wise old cat, he knows this heat can be deadly.

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He was asleep behind a chair when I suited up and headed out to the garden an hour later.  Camera in hand, I went only to appreciate and record the morning’s beauty.

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But you know the truth of good intentions.  Before long I was deadheading something here, pulling a weed there, and finally succumbed to the lure of the herbs we picked up on Friday morning still waiting in their tiny nursery pots.

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I was in the lowest, sunniest part of the garden planting a Basil when my partner’s voice reached me.  He was back out on the deck, searching for a glimpse of me in the green forest below.

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His voice broke the spell the garden had woven around me. 

He reminded me of the heat, and called me back inside.  It was only then that it registered that my clothes were soaked with perspiration and I was exposed to the fullness of the still rising sun.

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We lost a friend this past week.  We lost one of the kindest, gentlest, most loving people in our circle of friends.

Long retired, he was a tireless volunteer in our community; a gardener, caretaker for stray cats; devoted husband, father, and grandfather.  Our friend was out walking in this relentless heat mid-week, and collapsed.

He was doing what he loved, out of doors, and left us all peacefully and swiftly.

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The news reached us yesterday morning.  As much as we will miss him, we are so grateful that he left us all on his own terms, and was active until then end.  May it be so for each of us.

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And yet his passing in this way is a stark reminder to all of us. 

We must respect this extreme weather, and remain cautious in the face of the heat and sun.  Our children, our pets, our elderly and even ourselves need a little extra consideration during this hottest part of the year, in the northern hemisphere.

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The sun burns, and burns quickly.  The heat overpowers our body’s cooling systems.  The heavy, humid air makes it that much harder to breathe.

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I will not pretend to understand climate change; but I can see the signs that our climate is changing, rapidly.  And so we must change and adapt.  We must shift our behaviors to survive.

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Our friend’s passing was only the latest in a string of untimely loss this week.  I won’t rehearse the litany of loss; I trust you’ve been watching the news, too.

But the common denominator in all of these heart wrenching stories boils down to this:  People going about their business, doing what they have always done, were caught in extraordinary circumstances.

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There is a a message here for each of us.  Perhaps it is no longer, “Business as usual.”   Perhaps we all need to be more mindful of our changing environment and plan for the unexpected to touch our lives.

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It is summer in Virginia.  Our theme parks and beaches are full of tourists.  There are festivals every weekend, and holiday traffic fills our roads.

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And our garden is full of fragrance, color and sound.  Something new blooms each day.  Blackberries ripen, bees buzz from flower to flower and the herbs release their perfume to the caress of the sun.

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Everything is growing so fast.  A thousand shades of green filled our garden this morning. 

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Most people, when asked, will tell you how much they love the summer; and will give you a long list of things they love to do in these few sweet weeks from June through August.

May this summer be filled with joy for you and yours. 

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And please, remain mindful of a few simple things you can do to keep yourself and loved ones safe and healthy during this special season:

1.  Stay hydrated, and always carry water with you for everyone in your party when traveling.

2.  Keep your head and skin covered when outside.

3.  Wear sunscreen, routinely, to protect yourself even further from the sun’s rays.

4.  Stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day.  Seek the refuge of shade.

5.  Pace yourself.  Don’t overexert when it is hot and muggy.

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6.  Watch the weather forecast, several times a day, and plan accordingly.  Stay off the roads when heavy rains and are expected.

7.  Keep pets indoors when it is hot, and keep fresh water available.

8.  Never leave a child, a pet, or a companion waiting outside in a car during the heat of the day.

9.  Remember that our environment is rapidly changing. Expect the unexpected.  Remain alert to these changing conditions, and prepare in advance to survive potential hazards and extreme weather events.

10.  Balance pleasure with vigilance.  Enjoy the fruits of summer and all of the special experiences it brings.  But do so smartly and cautiously, so all survive to enjoy many more summers to come.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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With fond remembrance of our treasured friend,

Lt. Col. Alden George Hannum.

May his memory always bring  joy to those who loved him.

“Pay It Forward” With Cuttings

September 4, 2014 Coleus 002

 

As the growing season draws to a close, I’m beginning to look around with an eye to which plants I’d like to save for next year, and which will be left to the frost.

Other years I’ve sometimes assumed that a favorite variety will be available the following spring and let a beautiful annual expire at the end of the season.  Sometimes that variety is available, and other times not.

Last year I grew several gorgeous varieties of Coleus ‘Under the Sea,’ a fairly recent introduction with intensely colored, deeply cut leaves.

Coleus, Under the Sea

Coleus, ‘Under the Sea, Gold Anemone’ in my garden last summer.  I couldn’t find this line of Coleus locally this year and have missed them.

 

This spring they never turned up at my local garden centers.

Some annuals are reasonably simple to keep indoors from one season to the next.

And if you have a favorite variety, that you want to enjoy again next summer, it may be worth the effort.

Another of last summer's Coleus varieties I never found this spring.

Another of last summer’s Coleus varieties I never found this spring.

 

While perennials are engineered to survive over many seasons, almost indefinitely; annuals are engineered to grow, flower, set seed, and then decline.

One reason for “pinching back” or “deadheading” is to keep a plant productive by preventing it from ever setting its crop of seeds.

It keeps producing flowers until it fulfills its life’s purpose with seed production.

Coleus in this year's garden.  A neighboring plant was targedted for distruction by a wayward deer.

Coleus in this year’s garden. A neighboring plant was targeted for destruction by a wayward deer.

 

That said, the annual you’ve had growing on your patio all summer might not be a good candidate for overwintering in the garage.

Even if it survives, it may not look like much the following season.

A better approach is to overwinter cuttings of a favorite plant.  The cuttings can then be grown on into beautiful plants when the weather warms in spring.

These cuttings have been rooting in water for not quite two weeks.

These cuttings have been rooting in water for not quite two weeks.

 

And this is the time to begin the process of evaluating which plants you intend to save.

I got a head start this season thanks to some deer.  The deer chose one Coleus plant out of several to disassemble over a period of about two weeks.

We would go out in the morning and find another branch or two torn away each day.  They ignored an identical Coleus a pot or two away, and kept working on one poor plant until nothing was left.

They may have actually eaten a little here and there; but mostly they just tore off branches and left them near by.

I gathered the branches as I found them, gave the ends a fresh cut, and stuck them into a jar of water in the windowsill.

These cuttings left from "pinching back" other plants were simply pressed into a pot of moist soil.  They root quickly and grow into new plants with simple care.

These cuttings left from “pinching back” other plants were simply pressed into a pot of moist soil. They root quickly and grow into new plants with simple care.

 

Coleus is ridiculously easy to root.  It roots easily in moist soil or in water.  And Coleus will grow in a simple jar of water for months.

All you need is a windowsill wide enough to hold a jar or a vase, or an area near a window where you can tend houseplants from October until early May.  Depending on your growing season, you may need to start a little earlier than we do here, or hold your annuals inside a little later.

Take cuttings that are 10″ or longer if you plan to keep them in water.

Take cuttings 10" or longer if you plan to keep them in a vase.  Remove the lower leaves which will be under water, leaving several pair to continue making food for the plant.  Keep the water clean to prevent the stems from rotting before you can plant them in soil.

Take cuttings 10″ or longer if you plan to keep them in a vase. Remove the lower leaves which will be under water, leaving several pair to continue making food for the plant. Keep the water clean to prevent the stems from rotting before you can plant them in soil.

 

If you are planting them in moist soil you can use any cutting with at least two sets of leaves.  Strip off the lower leaves, and push the cutting into the moist soil.

Keep the pot outside in the shade for a few weeks until there is resistance (roots) when you gently give it a tug.  Bring the plant inside when nights begin to dip down towards 40F, and keep it in bright light .

Pinch the growing tips from time to time to keep the plant bushy, and water when the top of the soil begins to feel a little dry.

This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings.  I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it.  I've given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings. I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it. I’ve given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

 

I treat my Begonias the same way.  Many varieties of Begonia root easily in a jar of water, and will live in just water for many months.  I keep jars of cuttings in the windows over winter.  Many Begonias will root, just like Coleus, when the lowest set of leaves is removed and the cutting pushed into the soil so that lowest leaf node is buried in the soil.

Begonia "Flamingo' is another favorite "pass along plant."  I lost my original plant, but took cuttings from one shared with family.  This variety will grow very tall, bearing hundreds of tiny pink flowers.  Stems will root in moist soil.

Begonia “Flamingo’ is another favorite “pass along plant.” I lost my original plant, but  later took cuttings from one shared with family. This variety will grow very tall, bearing hundreds of tiny pink flowers. Stems will root in moist soil.

 

It’s that easy.  Dip the cutting into a little rooting hormone powder to speed the process if you want to; but many people have success without the hormone powder.

You can easily root many other annuals and herbs in water, and then pot them up once the roots are an inch or so long.

Believe it or not, Begonia "Gryphon' will root from a stem cutting.  Remove 4" or more of a stem, press into moist soil, and wait for new growth to appear after the roots establsih.

Believe it or not, Begonia “Gryphon’ will root from a stem cutting. Remove 4” or more of a stem, press into moist soil, and wait for new growth to appear after the roots establish.

 

Try Basil and mint, impatiens, scented geraniums, New Guinea impatiens, Oregano, and Petunias. 

Some of our “annuals” are actually tender perennials.  They grow year round in warmer climes, but are killed by freezing temperatures.

Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials.  They sometimes survive the winter here in Zone 7, reappearing in mid-May or later.  Cuttings will root in water or moist soil.

Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials. They sometimes survive the winter here in Zone 7, reappearing in mid-May or later. Cuttings will root in water or moist soil.

 

Plants like Geraniums and Caladiums can be kept from one season to the next indoors.

They will survive with  low light and minimal moisture, so long as you keep them well above freezing.

Caladium, "Gingerland" will send up new leaves in January when kept inside over the winter.

Caladium, “Gingerland” will send up new leaves in January when kept inside over the winter.  Keep the tubers in pots indoors in a heated room, and water as the soil dries.  You will be rewarded with a beautiful winter house plant.

 

Caladiums don’t even like to go below 50F.    If you have space in a basement or garage, you might be able to save these plants over the winter, bringing them back as the weather warms with more water, light, and warmth.

Our unheated garage gets enough sunlight through the windows, and enough heat from the house to serve as a shelter for many pots through the winter.

Some plants are worth keeping, others, maybe not.  

 

Begonia, "Richmondensis" isn't easy to find.  Homestead Garden Center carried it this spring, and I purchased several.  This Begonia blooms prolifically all summer and can take more sun than most.  I will definitely keep this plant over winter and root cuttings in early spring.

Begonia, “Richmondensis” isn’t easy to find. Homestead Garden Center carried it this spring, and I purchased several. This Begonia blooms prolifically all summer and can take more sun than most.  I will definitely keep this plant over winter and root cuttings in early spring.

 

But even if you don’t have space to keep a large pot of a favorite plant, you can still keep cuttings of many going in  minimal space.  Once you know how to handle cuttings you can continue to create new plants form your existing stock indefinitely.

Some of my “annuals” are now into a fourth or fifth season, started anew each year from cuttings kept in windowsills over the winter.

Basil roots easily in water and grows quickly in warm weather.  A single plant can be used to produce an "endless supply" of Basil over a summer.

Basil roots easily in water and grows quickly in warm weather. A single plant can be used to produce an “endless supply” of Basil over a summer.

And cuttings are easy to share.  Friends share with me, and I with them.

That poor Coleus, torn to pieces by the deer, has resulted in more than a dozen “cuttings,” most now gone to new homes.

I’m always happy to give cuttings to friends who will take them.

 

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And growing on gifts of cuttings fills one’s garden with love and happy memories.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

 

Herb Garden

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

“My love affair with nature is so deep

that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker, or nature tourist.

I crave a more real and meaningful relationship.

The spicy teas and tasty delicacies I prepare from wild ingredients

are the bread and wine

in which I have communion and fellowship with nature,

and with the Author of that nature.”

Euell Gibbons

 

 

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Garlic chives remain one of the easiest of herbs to grow.  Plant in full sun, keep them moist, and they will grow indefinitely.  A perennial herb, the stand of chives grows a bit larger each season.  All parts of the plant are edible, and leaves can be snipped year round to season in cooking.  Chives are especially nice mixed with cream cheese or sour cream.  Their flowers may be cut for arrangements, cut and used as a garnish, or left to delight the bees.

Thyme grows as another spreading, perennial herb which enjoys full sun.  It blooms sometimes in summer, and it is a favorite for cooking.  A good cheese spread may bee made with chives, thyme leaves, and perhaps a little garlic, minced Rosemary, and freshly ground pepper.  Mix these into any combination of soft cream or goat cheeses.

Grape leaves make tasty wraps for various fillings.  Our favorite are Greek dolmades, which are stuffed with a mixture of rice and herbs, then steamed.  Grape leaves may be eaten raw in salad or added to sandwiches.

 

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil leaves remain our favorite summer herb.  Eaten raw on a sandwich, pureed into pesto, or cooked with tomatoes, their distinctive flavor sings “summer,” even when enjoyed in February.  Their flowers are edible and may be enjoyed as cut flowers or as a garnish.  Stems of  Basil, mixed in with other flowers in a vase, perfumes the entire room.

Basil

Basil

Scented Pelargoniums are not only edible, they dry beautifully.  Lemon, orange, or rose scented geraniums, as they are called, may be added to home made mixes for tea, used as flavor in baked goods, or may be dried and preserved for their fragrance. Their flowers are edible and may be used to garnish cupcakes.  Some Pelargoniums survive the winter for us in Zone 7B.  They die back to the ground, but will sometimes come back from their roots in late spring.  They are happiest in full sun with moist soil.

Chocolate mint in bloom

Chocolate mint in bloom

Plant all of the mints in full sun.  They prefer moist soil, and will spread madly over a summer.  Every part of the plant may be eaten fresh or dried.  Used mainly to flavor beverages, mints are wonderful fresh or dried in tea.  A stand of mint in bloom remains busy with every sort of bee and wasp enjoying the feast of nectar.  This chocolate mint has beautiful, distinctive foliage and smells like minty chocolate candy.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.  All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.   All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

A garden may be appreciated by all of our senses, including taste and smell.  These wonderfully fragrant herbs contain healing oils and compounds, in addition to their delicious flavors.

Although not a traditional vegetable garden, an herb garden allows us to consume a bit of what we grow and use the plants in many different ways.

Salvia officinalis, 'Tricolor' is delicious.  This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes.  Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil  and used as a tasty garnish.

Salvia officinalis, ‘Tricolor’ is delicious. This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes. Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil and used as a tasty garnish.

Whether bringing cut herbs and flowers indoors to enjoy, making sachet packets to keep moths out of our drawers,   blending our own tea, or cutting herbs to add to our food; we come to know these beautiful plants better through frequent use.

Salvia officinalis, 'Berggarten'

Salvia officinalis, ‘Berggarten’

Perennial herbs generously offer themselves up season after season, and once planted, remain with us so long as we tend the garden.

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

*

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

Which Herb Is It?

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 027

Do you know this herb?

I knew it only from books on herbs until I purchased a start and began growing it three years ago.

A lovely plant, it is drought tolerant, shrugs off the full summer sun, is never touched by deer, blooms with lovely purpley pink flowers, and is a powerful tool for healing.

May 10, 2014 first roses of summer 030

This herb is very useful in an organic garden.  Perennial, it develops extremely deep roots.  The roots “mine” the minerals of the soil well below the depth most roots will penetrate.  These minerals  are deposited in the leaves.  The leaves may be cut, on established plants, several times each season and used for healing or to improve the soil.

Left to steep in rainwater for a few weeks, the leaves  make a nutritious organic fertilizer tea.  Added to compost, they activate the microbial action and speed the “cooking” of the compost.  Used as mulch directly on the soil, they feed the plant they are mulching as they decompose.

May 5 2014 garden 044

Common names for this plant include “bone knit” and “bruise heal.”

The powerful healing compounds speed cell repair and healing when applied topically.  This herb is a frequent ingredient in herbal healing ointments, and may be simply wrapped around an injured area of the body to heal a cut, bruise,  burn, or other injury.

Although there are medicinal  uses which include ingesting parts of this plant, these are somewhat controversial and must be prepared by a qualified herbal healer.  As with many medicines, a little helps, a lot can do significant harm.  Please consult a good herbal medical practitioner or manual before using this herb medicinally.

Also, wear gloves when harvesting this herb as the hairs on leaves and stems can irritate the skin.

Plant in spring in a well prepared bed with moist soil.  Ammend the soil with plenty of nitrogen, including manure, to keep this herb happy.  Don’t harvest until the second year.

This plant spreads with underground rhizomes, and will take a large area of the garden when allowed.  I dug up many divisions this year to establish it in new ares.  It is a hardy herb, and needs little care after the first year.

Do you know this herb?

May 5 2014 garden 041

It is Comfrey, Symphytum officinale.  Please remember this is a medicinal herb, but is never intended to be eaten.  It can be poisonous if eaten in quantity.  Which is one reason I’m spreading it around the sunny areas of our garden.

This is another plant that deer, rabbits, voles, and other hungry creatures will not touch.

Bees love it, and it attracts butterflies and beautiful moths.  It is an entertaining plant to grow where you can watch the constant traffic to its flowers.

This is an herb generally only available from herbal nurseries.  It can be difficult to find a start to establish in your garden.  The more popular cultivars aren’t available as seed because they are hybrids, and may only be produced from divisions.

But it is an herb well worth growing for its beauty, hardiness, and its healing properties.  If you grow herbs, please get to know the beautiful Comfrey plant.

 

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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