Wednesday Already?

February 29, 2016 early flowers 055

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This haunting photo taken on Monday is my lone offering for Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday this month.

It is a shell my partner spotted lying on the sidewalk in Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens when we visited earlier this week. He had an eye for small treasures like this, while I was totally absorbed in the spring flowers we found.

We’ve been enjoying the many birds who visit our garden, but I haven’t the talent Tina has for attracting and photographing them.  I hope you will click to visit her post and share one of her secrets for photographing birds, which is absolutely clever!  And then,  if you have a moment, please also check out her gentle reminders to provide safe haven for our precious pollinators.

We were thrilled to find these trees already in bloom in Gloucester; an early food source for those hungry bees!  The Heaths maintain many hives at their garden.

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We did spot this wonderful guy beside the water garden, guarding some Crocus,

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and this beautiful Koi enjoying the bright sunshine on his pool.

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But, I was searching for the earliest blossoms from the Heath’s extensive collection of spring bulbs.

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This little winter blooming Iris unguicularis caught my imagination at planting time last fall, and I planted the tiny bulbs in pots.  The one above is growing by the Heath’s water garden in Gloucester.  The one below is the first Iris to bloom in a pot in our garden this year.

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March 2, 2016 Iris 003

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It is still very early to expect to find much in the garden.  Our friend who works in the shop on Mondays reminded us of this.  But I was already headed outside, and knew there would be treasures for those who searched for them.

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We found Hellebores and Crocus, early Daffodils and Hyacinths, Camellias and other flowering shrubs relaxing in the day’s brilliant sun.  A cool breeze off the water kept the garden visit brisk and brief.
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But it proved just what we needed on ‘Leap Day.’  We leapt into spring full of hope and optimism, though it still is very much winter here.
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And now it is Wednesday, already.  A very busy week for us, and no time to spend in our own garden before the cold settled back over us today.
No matter.  ‘To everything there is a season,’ we know.  There is time enough for every purpose under heaven…
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

at Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens

in Gloucester, Virginia

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Silent Sunday: Light

May 10, 2015 Mountain Laurel 020

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“The Sun will rise and set regardless.

What we choose to do with the light while it’s here

is up to us.

Journey wisely.”

  .

Alexandra Elle

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“Pointing to another world will never stop vice among us;

shedding light over this world can alone help us.”

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Walt Whitman

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“Whatever you are physically…male or female,

strong or weak, ill or healthy-

-all those things matter less

than what your heart contains.

If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior.

All those other things,

they are the glass that contains the lamp,

but you are the light inside.”

.

Cassandra Clare

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“PHOSPHORESCENCE.

Now there’s a word to lift your hat to…

to find that phosphorescence, that light within,

that’s the genius behind poetry.”

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Emily Dickinson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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May 15, 2015 roses 009

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“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.

Because he believes in miracles,

miracles begin to happen.

Because he is sure that his thoughts can change his life,

his life begins to change.

Because he is certain that he will find love,

love appears.

.

Paulo Coelho

The Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy

April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 650

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Were you a botanist, and an horticultural artist, would you choose to move to a new home and garden in a notoriously difficult environment?  Connie Hansen moved from Oakland CA, where she was a respected botanist on faculty at the University of California, to a small plot of land only blocks off of the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon, in 1973.

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She bought a small home and a little over an acre of swampy land with a creek running through, in a residential neighborhood close enough to the beach to hear the ocean, in the shade of huge evergreen trees.  What confidence and spunk this gifted gardener had! 

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 575

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Lincoln City, in Zone 8, endures near hurricane force winds from the southwest through much of the winter.  These winds off of the Pacific bring torrents of rain.  There is occasional ice and snow, but mostly cold rain and fog.  Summer days might reach into the 80’s for a few hours, but only rarely.  Salty fog settles over the area for some part of most days, and the rocky soil remains salty far inland.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 665

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Walk a few blocks down 33rd street from Connie’s garden and you find yourself at the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the ocean.  The Cascade Mountains come right up to the coast here, and many creeks and streams flow from the cliffs directly onto the beach.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 573

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But Connie loved the home, previously owned by a painter, and chose to establish her garden in this challenging spot.  She saw potential to grow the Rhododendrons, Japanese Iris, ferns and primroses she loved so much in this damp garden, now home to several small ponds.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 299

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Connie spent the next 20 years, until her passing in 1993, constructing her gardens.  And as Connie created and tended her gardens, she also built community.  She networked with other gardeners not only in her neighborhood, but all over the Pacific Northwest.  She hosted many visiting groups and opened her garden to guests of all sorts.  She ran “Orphaned Plant Sales” with divisions and extras from her garden, which continue today.

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Divisions from the garden are offered for sale by volunteers to help raise funds for the garden's support.

Divisions from the garden are offered for sale by volunteers to help raise funds for the garden’s support.

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In fact, Connie had such a loving and supportive network of gardening friends that when she passed, they kept coming to tend the garden for her.  The property was converted to a Conservancy and operates now as a free community garden staffed and tended by volunteers.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 670

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The garden still hosts visitors every day of the year.  The garden is supported wholly by donations and has no other financial support.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 281

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Connie’s former home at 1931 NW 33rd Street may be rented for special events.  It is open two days a week to visitors.  But one may simply wander in any time from dawn to dusk to enjoy the peaceful beauty of this special place.

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And this is a teaching garden.  Visitors learn what will thrive in this peculiar climate, and how to nurture it.  There are no “off-limits” areas so far as I could see.  The huge compost bins are right there for everyone to examine, and many of the plants are labeled for the curious.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 303

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Compost is most obviously the key to this garden’s vibrant abundance.  The native soil wouldn’t support a garden this densely planted.  Copious quantities of compost are added on top of the various beds, which was evident as I walked through.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 345

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While Connie has included many native plants in the design, she also established her own extensive collection of exotic and hybrid plants here.  I saw a vividly blue Azalea in bloom; Skunk Cabbage growing in a path; a giant ornamental Rhubarb; many varieties of Iris; Horsetail ferns, Equisetum, everywhere; and huge old Rhododendrons in the most wondrous and unusual colors.

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Ornamental Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum

Ornamental Rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum

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As the brochure states, this is truly a botanist’s paradise.

One may learn by simply sitting on one of the many benches and contemplating the surroundings.  Connie’s plant choices and associations are simply brilliant, even at the very opening of the season in April before many of the perennials have come into their own for the season.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 317

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If the climate and wet soil weren’t enough to contend with, the garden also hosts families of deer, believe it or not.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 557

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I had been told that deer remain a problem in the communities of Lincoln City, but saw them grazing on one of my late evening visits.  They appeared silently while I was wandering around capturing photos in the soft evening light, and had no fear of my presence there.  When they moved on, I couldn’t see any damage from their grazing.  What might they be eating, other than grass?

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Connie also tended a collection of geraniums. This was the only one I saw on my visits, obviously overwintered and now growing new leaves.

Connie also tended a collection of geraniums. This was the only one I saw on my visits, obviously overwintered and now growing new leaves.

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One of the many informational pamphlets offered by the volunteers is an exhaustive list of deer resistant plants suited to this peculiar coastal climate.  Other pamphlets offer suggestions for shade gardens and list plants which can grow so near the beach.  What an invaluable resource for local gardeners!

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Japanese Iris, which need boggy soil, were very special to Connie Hansen. Many were moved after her passing to create the current off-street parking area.

Japanese Iris, which need boggy soil, were very special to Connie Hansen. Many were moved after her passing to create the current off-street parking area.

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This beautiful garden remains a gift of love from Connie Hansen to her community.  She worked in it every day she was able for twenty years, and used it to connect with her neighbors and with horticulturists all over the world.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 363

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Her mission to delight and educate has been taken up by others now, but it continues.  When you visit the garden’s website you will find a rich schedule of events on offer for those who may be interested in learning more.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 645

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I appreciate volunteer Lisa Bain, who greeted me on Saturday morning, and invited me to explore the garden with my little granddaughter.   She was warm and friendly and answered every question I could think to ask.

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Horsetail ferns, a new plant I learned about by talking with Lisa. These look like pine seedlings to me, but she assured me they are naturalized ferns.

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She presided over a tantalizing offering of plants for sale, which I would have happily adopted had there not been the small matter of the jet taking me home to Virginia in a few days…    The plant sale  helps to support the operation of the garden.

If all of the volunteers are as enthusiastic and welcoming as Lisa, I know this beautiful garden will continue to thrive indefinitely in this little coastal town in Oregon.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 638~

Woodland Gnome 2015

With special appreciation to Rickii at Sprig to Twig, who first told me about the Connie Hansen Garden.

Rickii gardens in Portland, Oregon, and suggested that I visit this beautiful garden during my visit to the coast. 

Thank you, Rickii!

 

Additional photos taken at the Connie Hansen Garden were published in “Back to My Garden.”

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in April 295

In A Vase On Monday: Iris In Bloom

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When the weather finally warms, the Iris spring into action by sending up wonderful thick stalks of fragrant, intensely colored buds.  I’ve loved Iris of all sorts since childhood.  My parents once received several grocery bags full of Iris fans from a friend who bred them.

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He was thinning his patch, and gave us the most wonderfully scented varieties we had ever experienced.  We planted them all around our home, and my parents tried to move a few of each variety every time they moved thereafter.  Some gardens are better for Iris than others, but they left a legacy of beautiful Iris everywhere they lived.

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First blooms of Iris established in this new bed last summer.  The golden Iris is I. 'Harvest of Memories,' which reblooms in our climate.

First blooms of Iris established in this new bed last summer. The golden Iris is I. ‘Harvest of Memories,’ which re-blooms in our climate.

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Iris need full sun and relatively rich soil.  They want their roots moist but their rhizomes somewhat exposed and dry.  Those rhizomes creep and expand the clumps over time if they are sited where they are happy, and so there is a constant supply of rooted fans to chop off and share or spread to other parts of the garden.

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Re-blooming Iris I. 'Rosalie Figge' and I. 'Lunar Whitewash' bloom again each autumn.

Re-blooming Iris I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ and I. ‘Lunar Whitewash’ bloom again each autumn.

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I’ve purchased several varieties of re-blooming Iris for this garden from Mike Lockatell, a breeder of re-blooming Iris in the Richmond area.  I’ve also received an old variety of Iris popular around Williamsburg from a gardening friend.

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This old variety can be found in Colonial Williamsburg gardens, and in many neighbors' yards around the community.  These plants were a gift from a gardening neighbor.

This old variety can be found in Colonial Williamsburg gardens, and in many neighbors’ yards around the community. These plants were a gift from a gardening neighbor.

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Blogging friends have generously sent me clumps of their Iris, and I’ve purchased a few.  I’m working on building a good collection of beautiful Iris plants  in our sunny areas here.

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My partner loves our Iris, and was less than enthusiastic when I mentioned cutting some from the garden for today’s vase.  So I cut only one, and that one where I didn’t think he would notice.  I’ve taken only photos of some of the other Iris in bloom today.

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Also in today’s vase are the last of the ‘Josee’ lilac, some apple mint, more Aquilegia,  a stem of Azalea, and a bit of dusty miller.

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The vase today is actually a handle-less mug purchased last week at Mossy Creek Pottery on the Oregon Coast.  I love the soft blues and greens of its glaze, and the sculpted shape which fits my fingers perfectly.  It also makes a pretty good vase, don’t you think?  It is half filled with aquarium gravel to hold the stems in place.

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I appreciate Cathy’s dedication to her “Vase” meme each week at Rambling in the Garden.    She is away this week, and yet she has given us a bouquet and a post most creatively.

I hope you will visit her blog to see how she has posted a unique ‘vase’ while away from her garden, and to enjoy what other gardeners have found in their gardens in these first days of May.  I am always delighted with the beautiful arrangements she creates and hope you visit to enjoy them, too.

I am settling back into my garden, finally, and am so happy to enjoy these wonderfully fragrant flowers we’ve waited for all winter.  You probably know that it takes a few years for Iris to establish and perform.  What a wonderful experience when they finally come into bloom each May.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Seeds to Share

This blue morning glory vine reseeds itself each season.  I have seeds to share.

This blue morning glory vine reseeds itself each season. I have seeds to share.

 

Sharing plants is one of the nicest things about gardening friendships. 

Several of us regularly share cuttings, seeds, and divisions within our own community.

These lovely Cannas were given by a friend last fall.

These lovely Cannas were given by a friend last fall.

If it grows for one of us, chances are very good that it will grow in our friends’ gardens, too!

Our visits nearly always end up with a gift of something which will grow.

A friend pulled this division of Sedum from her own pots one day over tea.  Now I must share it with the deer....

A friend pulled this division of Sedum from her own pots one day over tea. Now I must share it with the deer….

 

And our gardens grow as constant reminders of our friendships.

 

Blogging friend Michael, of Michael's Woodcraft, send these divisions of Lemon Lime Hosta earlier this summer.  All of his divisions are growing well!

Blogging friend Michael, of Michael’s Woodcraft, send these divisions of Lemon Lime Hosta earlier this summer. All of his divisions are growing well!

 

I’ve exchanged seeds, cuttings, and divisions with a few blogging friends this summer, too.

 

Barbara, from Silver In the Barn brought this lovely clump of Iris.  I am so looking forward to seeing them bloom next May!

Barbara, from Silver In the Barn brought this lovely clump of Iris when she came to visit.   I am so looking forward to seeing them bloom next May!

 

What a joy to share our gardens and love of plants with one another!

 

Rose of Sharon seeds are ripening now, and may be collected for anyone who wants them.  These small trees bloom after three or four years of growth.

Rose of Sharon seeds are ripening now, and may be collected for anyone who wants them. These small trees bloom after three or four years of growth.

 

I have gathered seeds this autumn from our beautiful blue morning glory vine and from our native Hibiscus moscheutos, and will be happy to share.

 

Native Hibiscus moschuetos.  I have seeds of red, pink, and this lovely white variety.

Native Hibiscus moscheutos. I have seeds of red, pink, and this lovely white variety to share.

 

I sent a packet off to a blogging friend in today’s mail, and have plenty left to share with others who may be interested.

The morning glory is an annual and reseeds itself each year.

 

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It should grow anywhere the growing season is at least two to three months long.

The Hibiscus is a perennial in Zones 5-10.

 

Native Hibiscus blooming in our garden this morning.

Native Hibiscus blooming in our garden this summer.

 

It will take a few years for the plant to bloom, but it is stunning and gives more than a month of blooms once it does.

Please leave me a comment if you would like seeds from either of these beautiful plants.

 

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

This is my favorite Begonia to share.  I've given cuttings to many friends.  They root very easily.

This is my favorite Begonia to share. I’ve given cuttings to many friends. They root very easily.

Trades

Hosta "Lemon Lime" divisions, sent by Michael Laico, newly potted up and ready to grow.

Hosta “Lemon Lime” divisions, sent by Michael Laico, newly potted up and ready to grow.

Blogging friend Michael Laico offered a plant exchange on his site right after the Fourth of July.

He grows and hybridizes Hosta, and hoped to trade some divisions of Hosta for other plants he wants for his garden.

Michael offered up a miniature Hosta, called “Lemon Lime” which grows to about 8″ high.  It sounded perfect for growing in pots on the deck.

This Hosta offers beautiful golden green leaves and scapes covered in purple flowers, much enjoyed by hummingbirds.

Reblooming German Iris, "Stairway to Heaven."

Reblooming German Iris, “Stairway to Heaven.”

I offered a re-blooming German Iris, “Stairway to Heaven” in exchange; and the deal was done.

It has taken us about a week and a half to dig, prepare, and post our plants.

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Michael received my package of Iris and some rooted Begonia cuttings on Wednesday, and I received his package of Hosta and Japanese Iris today.

What fun to get a package of new plants in the mail!  And how satisfying to exchange plants with friends.

Sometimes it is good to have a little faith that a friend’s gifted plant will be something you’ll also enjoy growing.

The plants as they appeared when I opened the box this morning.  They look healthy and ready to grow!

The plants as they appeared when I opened the box this morning. They look healthy and ready to grow!

Although I don’t grow many Hosta, since they are basically deer candy in our garden; I love Hosta foliage and flowers.

They are dependable shade perennials whose foliage can stand alone or provide an interesting backdrop for other plants.

I would have a garden full of them were it practical.  The six we planted our first season here survive- barely- even through nibbling after nibbling when deer finagle their way through the fences and into the garden.

Our Hostas were badly grazed early in the season.  This one blooms bravely, despite its chewed and mangled foliage.  yes, I do know about all of the deer repellant sprays on the market, and I use them every few weeks...

Our Hostas were badly grazed early in the season. This one blooms bravely, despite its chewed and mangled foliage. yes, I do know about all of the deer repellant sprays on the market, and I use them every few weeks…

So I will enjoy this H. “Lemon Lime” as a potted perennial, grown well out of reach of hungry deer!

I haven’t made up my mind yet whether to pot the Iris or plant them directly into the garden.

Since they love moisture, I’m leaning towards a pot whose moisture I can control; rather than taking a chance on drought or voles devouring these iris before I get to enjoy their blooms next spring.  Photos to follow….

Michael's Hosta divisions, ready to pot up.

Michael’s Hosta divisions, in good, rich soil, ready to pot up.

So thank you, Michael, for offering this exchange. 

Not only is it fun to trade plants, it is a very economical way to expand one’s garden.

These divisions are potted up with a rooted Cane Begonia cutting, which will have white flowers.

These divisions are potted up with a rooted Cane Begonia cutting, which will have white flowers.

I shipped USPS Priority Zone  Mail, and paid a little less than $7.00 for postage, which included tracking and $50 in insurance.

Here is the Begonia before I planted it tonight.  See the new stem growing from a node?  The rooted cuttings I sent to Michael already had miniature plants growing from the node, ready to grow into a new plant quickly.  These Begonia canes have been rooting in water for several weeks.

Here is the Begonia before I planted it tonight.   See the new stem growing from a node? The rooted cuttings I sent to Michael already had miniature plants growing from the node, ready to grow into a new plant quickly. These Begonia canes have been rooting in water for several weeks.

The plants traveled from Virginia to South Carolina in a day and a half.

Michael shipped Fed Ex.  It took about the same time, and his well packaged plants arrived in great condition.

These newly planted Hosta divisions looks a little droopy, right after planting, but will adjust quickly to their new home.  Hostas need shade and moisture to thrive.  These got a drink of Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed emulsion immediately.  The roots are strong, and new leaves will appear with a week or so.

These newly planted Hosta divisions looks a little droopy, right after planting, but will adjust quickly to their new home. Hostas need shade and moisture to thrive. These got a drink of Neptune’s Harvest  fish and seaweed emulsion immediately after planting. Their  roots are strong, and new leaves will appear with a week or so.

We both poked holes in the boxes for ventilation, and packed the roots of our plants in damp medium and Ziplock bags.

So if you’d like to grow H. Lemon Lime for yourself, and have something interesting to trade, please hop over to Michael’s site and leave him a message.

He has great photos of the mature Hosta in bloom on this page, should you want to take a look at the beautiful flowers it produces each summer.

I promise you it is well worth the effort.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

To All Mothers, With Love

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Every nurturing soul, male or female, who has cared for another living being is celebrated at this special time.

Maybe you have raised a child, cared for animals, taught others, or even tended a garden.  That peculiar interest in, and concern for, the well-being and growth of another living being breathes in your heart.

Happy Mother’s Day to you.   -WG

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, each in our own way, here are some interesting thoughts to ponder:

"Golden Celebration," a David Austin English Shrub rose blooming today for the first time this season.

“Golden Celebration,” a David Austin English Shrub rose blooming today for the first time this season.

“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves,

allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway…

… let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”

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C. JoyBell C.

Unknown Floribunda rose

Unknown Floribunda rose

 

“But kids don’t stay with you if you do it right.

It’s the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.”

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Barbara Kingsolver

Rose, "Lady of Shallot" with Dutch Iris.

Rose, “Lady of Shallot” with Dutch Iris.

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess.

She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way.

I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.”

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N.K. Jemisin

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“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”

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―Robert A. Heinlein

 

An unkown Floribunda rose

An unkown Floribunda rose

“Mothers are all slightly insane.”

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―J.D. Salinger

Columbine growing through the foliage of peonies.

Columbine growing through the foliage of peonies.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own,

to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…

and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”

*
Donna Ball

"Lady of Shallot" English shrub rose by David Austin.

“Lady of Shallot” English shrub rose by David Austin.

“Motherhood is near to divinity.

It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.”

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Howard W. Hunter

Japanese Iris, blooming in the frog pond.

Japanese Iris, blooming in the frog pond.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

R. "Lady of Shallot"

R. “Lady of Shallot”

The First Rose of Summer

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The first roses of summer were blooming when we came outside this morning.

I’m always happy to greet these first fragrant opening blossoms.

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It is a sign that we are entering the most flower filled season of the year when spring has not quite yet melted into summer.

We are still enjoying cool nights, and the occasional cool day.  We made it to 90 in Williamsburg today, according to the thermometer in the car, as we drove out on afternoon errands.

Although it feels like “instant July,” we know more wonderfully cool days lie ahead before the heat settles in for high summer in late June.

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Irises are in full bloom in many neighbors’ yards, and late blooming Azaleas are hitting their peak as the Rhododendron shrubs begin to bloom.

Our next door neighbors have a new Rhododendron growing near our Azaleas.   We noticed its buds opening this morning, and noticed that our shrubs match perfectly in a lovely, deep rosy pink.

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Roses always bloom in coastal Virginia for Mother’s Day.

Their blossoms lend an extra, fragrant,  note of celebration during this special weekend.  The College of William and Mary holds its commencement on Sunday, and our community is full of visitors.

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The air is sweet with the smell of flowers, and ripe with the love of families celebrating their special days together.  The aroma of freshly cut and trimmed grass wafts through our neighborhood.

But my attention is held, today, by the unfolding roses. 

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One May, nearly 20 years ago now, I was asked to choose what I would like to receive for Mother’s Day that year.  I chose a climbing rose shrub to plant by the front door.

I knew that whatever else might be happening in my life, I would have a gift of fresh roses for Mother’s Day every year from then on.

That Mother’s Day gift was an “Eden” rose, still a favorite for its fragrance.  I literally filled that garden with roses over the years.

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Antique Bourbon roses climbed up into the nearby Crepe Myrtle tree, and pegged themselves to put down roots and grow new shrubs throughout a large border filled with herbs, Irises, and more roses.

That garden has passed on to other hands, now, and I hope they enjoy the roses (and care for them) as I did.  That garden didn’t have deer visiting from time to time to graze on tasty flower buds.

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This one does, and so each rose which blooms holds a special gift.  Against all odds, it survived in this Forest Garden. 

All of my partner’s work on fences to keep out the deer, and all my efforts to improve the soil, plant and prune come together in the fragrance and beauty of each opening bud.

Our shrubs are full of buds at the moment, so we may enjoy roses for many weeks to come.

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Or not.  I’ve learned to not count my roses before they bloom around here.  But for today, they are lovely, and I hope you enjoy sharing them with me.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who has survived the joys and trials of parenthood. 

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Remember, especially if your children are still quite young:  All of the effort, pain, hard work, sacrifice, and time will find their reward in those sweet moments when you, “Smell the roses.”

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Whether at a kindergarten program, a first communion, an athletic triumph, a commencement ceremony, or a special weekend spent together; the fragrance of the rose allows us to overlook the thorns.

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The magic of unfolding  beauty is its own reward for the time and love invested in nurturing it.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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For the Love of May

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“And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”


Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

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“Keep your faith in all beautiful things;

in the sun when it is hidden, 

in the Spring when it is gone.”

Roy R. Gilson

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“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become,

I will always plant a large garden in the spring.

Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy

that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?”

  Edward Giobbi

 

May 5 2014 garden 010

“Sweet May hath come to love us,
Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;
And through the blue heavens above us
The very clouds move on.”

Heinrich Heine

 

 

May 5 2014 garden 054

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Associations

Oakleaf Hydrangea shares a pot with Japanese painted fern.  Vinca and Mayapples carpet the ground under Camellia shrubs and Deciduous trees.

Oakleaf Hydrangea shares a pot with Japanese painted fern. Vinca, English ivy, and Mayapples carpet the ground under Camellia shrubs and deciduous trees.

Just as we  structure our lives by our associations with friends, family, and business colleagues; so plants also form useful relationships with other plants.

Azaleas prefer to grow under deciduous trees.

Azaleas prefer to grow under deciduous trees.

Our human associations are based on things we have in common with others.  We may form friendships based on shared interests, or spend time with members of our biological family.

We may enjoy the company of others in our profession, or with those who share our passion for music, for tennis, or for gardening.

Coleus, creeping Jenny, and sedum love the hot sun they enjoy in this pot near the house.

Coleus, Creeping Jenny, and Sedum love the hot sun they enjoy in this pot near the house.

When planning pots, beds, borders, and landscapes, we generally plan in terms of groups, or associations, of plants.

Something like Lego blocks, or notes in a chord; certain plants go well together.

Artemesia and Vinca can tolerate the drypoor soil and bright sunshine on this slopinge beside the house.

Artemesia and Vinca can tolerate the dry, poor soil and bright sunshine on this slope beside the house.

These associations must first take into account shared needs for a certain amount of light and  moisture.

It is wise to also consider what sort of soil is best for a grouping of plants, and what temperatures they need for best growth.

A newly enlarged bed featuring English shrub roses also hosts herbs, bulbs, annuals, and perennial geranium.

A newly enlarged bed featuring English shrub roses also hosts herbs, bulbs, annual Ageratum,  sage, Rudbeckia, and perennial Geranium.  All enjoy partial to full sun, enriched soil,  and can tolerate heat.

Beyond these basic considerations for what plants have in common, we look towards how their differences may compliment one another.

Vining plants, like Clematis, which will grow up a trellis, may share a pot with a bushy or trailing plant to shade their roots.

Clematis, "Belle of Woking" grows on a trellis suspended above a large pot.  Caladiums were just planted in the pot, along with fern, to shade the roots of the Clematis.

Clematis, “Belle of Woking” grows on a trellis suspended above a large pot. Caladiums were just planted in the pot, along with fern, to shade the roots of the Clematis.

An indeterminate tomato plant filling a tomato cage benefits from shorter basil and marigold plants at its base which shade the soil and repel certain insects and predators.

Just as a composer relies on certain chords and phrases to compose a melody, so a gardener benefits from a repertoire of plant associations to construct a garden.

German Iris grow with Lavender, a shrub rose, bulbs, and other perennials.

German Iris grow with Lavender, a shrub rose, bulbs, and other perennials.

And these associations are peculiar to the gardener and the environment of a particular garden.

The associations depend on which plants a gardener enjoys, the style and mood of the garden, and the growing conditions with which a gardener must work.

German Iris in a different bed with roses.

German Iris in a different bed with roses.

Most of us gardeners are drawn to particular plants.   I visited with a woman a few weeks ago who loves boxwood shrubs.  A fellow blogger has a garden full of day lilies, which he hybridizes.

Azaleas and Hostas in my parents' garden.  They enjoy both of these plants and plant them in abundance.

Azaleas and Hostas in my parents’ garden. They enjoy both of these plants and plant them in abundance.

Some gardeners go to great lengths to grow tomatoes or squash each year, and others want a shady garden full of Hostas and ferns.

Hosta, Lady Fern, and Mahonia shrubs in my parents' garden

Hosta, Lady Fern, and Mahonia shrubs in my parents’ garden.  A newly planted Begonia semperflorens completes the association.

Personally, I love every species and color of Iris.

Iris germanica "Rock Star" reblooms in late summer

Iris germanica “Rock Star” reblooms in late summer

And I collect English roses, and always want a summer garden full of delicious herbs. And I absolutely want something in bloom in the garden each and every day of the year.

Living in a forest, these obsessions are not always compatible with reality.

Re[blooming Iris cultivars "Rosalie Figge" and "immortality"

Re-blooming Iris cultivars “Rosalie Figge” and “Immortality”

As I plan what will grow in borders, beds, and pots throughout the gardening year, I have learned to rely on certain plants, and combinations of plants, which I know from experience will grow together successfully.

Relying on perennials as much as possible, and on plants I can keep through the winter; simplifies the process of moving from one season into the next.

Perennials, once established, gradually spread to fill a bed reliably year after year.

Perennials, once established, gradually spread to fill a bed reliably year after year.  Because their season of bloom is short lived, different plants lend interest at different points throughout the season.

But there is still shopping to be done in spring and fall.  Knowing which associations of plants one wishes to recreate each year helps organize the process.

For example, German re-blooming Iris, Iris germanica,  thrive in the sunny areas of this garden.  They are drought tolerant, don’t mind our Virginia summers, and are not bothered by deer.

Perennial Columbine, which also seeds itself, growing here with a newly planted Coleus.

Perennial Columbine, which also seeds itself, growing here with a newly planted Coleus.

They are absolutely lovely for the few weeks each year of bloom.  Whether in bloom or not, German Iris are always a presence in the garden since their signature sword like leaves persist through most of the year.

I like growing Iris near roses.  They have similiar needs for light and feeding, and they look good together.

Iris grow here with Dusty Miller, culinary Sage, Allyssum, and

Iris grow here with Dusty Miller, culinary Sage, Basil, Alyssum, and onions.  the red onions are an experiment in keeping deer away from annuals planted in the bed.

Wandering through a garden in Warm Springs, Virginia, I found  a brilliant combination of Iris,day lily, and daffodils planted together.

The growing day lily and Iris foliage hid the daffodil’s leaves when the flowers were finished.  Iris bloom soon after the daffodils, and then day lily carries the planting on into the heat of summer.

I now grow Iris and daffodils together in some sunny areas of the garden.  And I add Columbine  to the  mix, along with sun tolerant ferns.

Iris coming into bloom in a bed where daffodils have recently faded.  Columbine will bloom next.  Various ferns grow in the shadow of a Dogwood tree behind the iris.

Iris “Stairway to Heaven”  coming into bloom in a bed where daffodils have recently faded. Columbine will bloom next. Various ferns grow in the shadow of a Dogwood tree behind the iris.

By early summer, the canopy of shrubs and trees has grown in enough to shade the ferns, and the daffodils and Iris have already enjoyed many weeks of strong sun when they most needed it.

Many country gardeners, especially in the Piedmont of Virginia, grow perennial low growing Phlox around their Iris bed.

In springtime, you’ll see wide expanses of pink, white, and lavender Phlox blooming around island beds of Iris.  These plants thrive in full sun, and take very little care.

Iris with Lavender "Otto Quast"

Iris with Lavender “Otto Quast”

I also plant Lavandula stoechas “Otto Quast”  at the base of both roses and Iris.  This Spanish Lavender, with finely cut foliage, sports abundant large blooms at the same time the Iris bloom in late April to early May.  L. “Otto Quast” has a long season of bloom, over many weeks in late spring and early summer.

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It isn’t destroyed by rain and humidity as some other Lavenders are in our Virginia summers.  The brilliant purple blooms work well with the colors of the Iris blossoms and English roses.  This evergreen Lavender looks good at the front of a bed whether in bloom or not.

Another hardy association is Lamb’s Ears, Stachys byzantina, with roses, Dianthus, and Echinacea.  A drought tolerant full sun perennial, Lamb’s Ears are disliked by deer.

Lamb's Ears

Lamb’s Ears with Dianthus, Dusty Miller, and Violas under shrub roses.

They divide easily in spring and display stunning silvery foliage through most of the year.  Their purple blooms in early summer are quite beautiful and attract many nectar loving insects.  I’ve spread these throughout sunny areas of the garden.

One way to bring unity to a garden is to repeat plants and associations of plants from one area to the next.

Even with a tremendous variety of genus, species, and cultivars of plants throughout the garden, narrowing the selections to repeat colors and forms again and again weaves the many individuals into a patterned tapestry which feels harmonious.

Autumn Fern cover this hillside along with other ferns, Creeping Genny, Ivy and Hellebores.

Autumn Fern cover this hillside along with other ferns, Creeping Genny, Ivy and Hellebores.  Daffodil foliage is left behind from the recently faded flowers.

I have incorporated Iris into at least six different planting areas.  In all of those areas, they are paired with a silver foliage plant such as Lamb’s Ears, Lavender, Dusty Miller, or Artemesia.

In most of those areas, they are growing near an English rose shrub.   Silver foliage, with white or purple blooms nearby, also weave throughout the summer beds.

White Dianthus often grows with Dusty Miller, purple or tricolor sage,  and grey Winter Thyme.  These reliable plants look beautiful together, and help extend the season over many months.

Newly planted white Dianthus and Winter Thyme will grow into a silvery border for this bed, edged in slate.

Newly planted white Dianthus and Winter Thyme will grow into a silvery border for this bed, edged in slate.

Shade associations are built around various species of ferns, Hellebores, Heuchera, Begonias, Coleus, Caladiums, and Fuchsias.

The Fuchsias and Begonias must be grown in pots out of reach of the deer, or in hanging baskets.

Fuschia with Impatiens in a basket

Fuschia with Impatiens in a basket

After discovering that Impatiens, which I’ve always grown in abundance in shady areas, are simply deer candy; they are reserved for hanging baskets well away from where deer can reach.

June 21 Lanai 008

They always complement ferns, and grow well at the base of cane Begonias.

I also like to plant cane Begonias with Caladiums to hide their leggy stalks.

July 28 2013 third try caterpillars 008

This season I’ve added garlic cloves, chives,  and onion starts to many associations in the garden because their aroma repels deer.  There are green garlic plants growing out of potted arrangements on the front patio.

There are also a large number of scented geraniums in flowerbeds and pots for the same reason.

Scented geranium, culinary Sage, garlic

Scented Geranium, culinary Sage, garlic, Viola, and Coleus grow with the Brugmansia start. 

I’m experimenting with a mixture of scented geraniums, zonal geraniums, and ivy geraniums.  The scented geranium will the the fragrant “thriller” in the pot, growing the largest with striking foliage.

The zonal geraniums will give a punch of color as they fill out the middle of the pot.  The ivy geranium will spill down over the edges of the pot as the “spiller.”

When shopping for plants this spring, try to think about buying “associations” of plants rather than just choosing individuals for some quality which strikes you.

Coleus with Sedum

Coleus with Sedum and bulb foliage.

Remember to analyze a plant in terms of what it needs to perform well, what it will give you or do for you,  and how it will blend into the garden as a whole.

Remember to buy in multiples.  In most cases, it is better to buy several of the same plant, and then use the plant again and again to weave a sense of unity through a given space.

This past week I planted 16 Nicotania plants, in three colors, throughout three nearby beds beside the butterfly garden.

Newly planted annuals

Newly planted annuals:  Cayenne pepper, Marigold, Nicotania and Bronze Fennel grow against a back drop of Iris foliage.

A dozen Cayenne pepper plants went into the same beds, along with 16 white marigolds, a dozen cherry Zinnias, four Bronze Fennel, and three Dill plants.

This area is already planted with perennial Echinacea, Monarda, Salvias, Lavenders,  culinary Sage, Rosemary, and lots of Iris.

Geraniums

Three different types of Geraniums with Coleus, Garlic and Sedum.  Seeds for annual vines are planted at the back of the pot.

More Zinnias are sprouting and will be planted within the next few weeks, when I add multiple varieties of Basil.

These plants have similiar needs for full sun, drainage, and nutrients.  Most are distasteful to the deer, and so offer some protection to the shrub roses planted among them.

The variety works because the same plants are repeated again and again in associations throughout the space.

May 3 2014 afternoon garden 071

The last consideration when planning associations of plants is color.  Within a particular genus, and even species, there is frequently a choice of color in both flowers and foliage from which to select.

Although flower color is important, I am far more interested in the form and color of foliage when choosing plants.

Foliage is far more of a presence in the garden than flowers both for its relative mass, and for its longevity throughout the season.

Newly planted Canna "Australis" with burgundy foliage will grow behind Colocasia "China Pink" with bright red stems and light green foliage.

Newly planted Canna “Australis” with burgundy foliage will grow behind Colocasia “Pink China” with bright red stems and light green foliage.

Some plants, like Coleus, Heuchera, and Hosta are grown primarily for their foliage.  The flowers are incidental for most of the season, and may even be systematically removed .

These bright plants always draw attention to themselves and set the mood of an area in the  garden.

Perennial Ajuga serves as a ground cover around Iris, Heuchera, and at the base of a tea rose.

Perennial Ajuga serves as a ground cover around Iris and other perennials.

Whether you prefer peaceful, monochromatic gardens or bold dramatic ones, the size, form, and color of foliage sets the tone.

May 3 2014 afternoon garden 073

It is generally easy to select for color of both flowers and foliage within any given genus or species of plant.  Culinary sage alone may be had in golden, tricolor, purple, silver, or  green.

Popular flowering annuals like Petunias and Calabrachoas  come in an overwhelming number of stunning shades and patterns.  New hybrids of patterned leaf Heucheras and Coleus are introduced each season.

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All of the many choices of plants for a temperate garden, such as we have in much of the United States, makes it both endlessly interesting and almost overwhelming to select and arrange plants for each season.

Planning for repeating associations of plants, and selecting plants based on specific criteria, helps bring structure and cohesion to the planning process.

May 3 2014 afternoon garden 055

I always approach the garden in the spirit of experimentation.  I want to know what works well,and what doesn’t.

Repeating associations which work well, season after season, still allows for changing things up with different cultivars of old favorites.

The more plants you come to know personally, through growing them, the more interesting and effective these associations of plants become.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

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