Season’s Change

Daucus carota, from a grocery store carrot planted this spring, blooms alongside perennial Geranium in our garden.

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We feel the season’s change every time we open the kitchen door and step outside.

The air is soft and thick, perfumed by millions of tiny white flowers opening now on the uncounted Ligustrum shrubs surrounding the garden.  It smells of summer, stirring some nearly forgotten restlessness echoing across the years, from summers long, long passed.

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The sweetness permeates the warm breeze, full of promises and  vague intrigue.  In the early morning, the breeze holds an invitation and a dare, drawing us outside to ‘seize the day.’

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By noon it grows oppressive, rank with humidity and pulsing with summer’s heat.

The air buzzes now.  Bees mind their business, methodically working flower to flower, unless startled into a quick evasive maneuver out of range.

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Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed, blooms along Jones Mill Pond on the Colonial Parkway.

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But mayflies and mosquitoes buzz in as close as they dare, waiting for a flash of skin to light and drink, waiting for a moment of distraction to attack.

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Birds call out to one another, chirping at the cat napping on the deck, warning intruders off from nests.  Ever vigilant, ever hungry; the swoosh of restless wings cuts the thick air, in pursuit of another bite of summer’s bounty.

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Our garden explodes in growth.  Warm, humid nights coax even the most reluctant perennials to pulse into life.

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Verbena bonariensis stretches towards the sky even as it spreads across the garden.

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Responding to the season’s magic, stalks rise and leaves open to the cadence of  croaked and clicked incantations wafting on the evening air.

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The air is thick with leaves, trees now fully clothed make living green walls and ceilings around our garden’s rooms.  Bamboo arises, thick and green, sealing us in from the wildness of the ravine.

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Flowers appear in every shade of purple and gold, white and ruby.  They sparkle through the sea of green, enchanting in their transience.

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Wildflowers nod along the bank of Jones Millpond on the Colonial Parkway in York County.

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Spring’s flowers have come and gone.  The last few foxglove, beaten down by the rain, limply bloom at the ends of stalks swelling with seed.

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A few Iris pods swell, too; overlooked in my pruning.  Daffodil leaves have grown limp, yellowing and fading to make room for something new to arise.

Summer’s flowers replace them, filled with nectar and bursting with pollen, a magnet for every sort and  size of pollinator.

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We feel the season’s change every time we step outside the haven of air conditioning and window screens.  When we dare leave the shade in the afternoon, a fierce sun burns down upon us.

We want the smaller shades offered by hats and sleeves; the relative safety of socks and gloves and thick jeans protecting us from ‘the bities’.

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Colonial Parkway, near Jamestown, where wild prickly-pear cactus bloom in summer.

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As the days grow longer and the nights warmer, we feel ourselves drawn to the top of the year.

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Mid-summer beckons, only days away.  Nature calls us to come out and join our own human voices in the buzzing, clicking, croaking, swooshing, chorus of life.

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This is the time of sweetness and abundance, full of promises, eternally youthful and energetic.

Summer at last.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Native Trees: American Sycamore

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North America’s trees were considered one of its greatest treasures both by European colonists like John Bartram and his son William, and by European gardeners eagerly awaiting shipments of seed from ‘the colonies.’

Our many varieties of conifers and hardwood are as beautiful as they are useful.  North American trees were planted extensively in European gardens soon after Jamestown was settled.  The early colonists were always on the lookout for ‘useful plants’ to send back home.

These same prized trees still grow wild here in Virginia, today.

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The American Sycamore grows on the bank of Jones Millpond in York County, Virginia

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One of my favorite native American trees is the American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis.   Also called ‘bottonwood tree,’ named for its round fruits which persist through winter, the sycamore may also be called an American plane tree.

I particularly like this tree’s mottled, light colored bark, and its beautiful branching form.

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The sycamore prefers moist soil and can often be found in the wild in lowlands and near bodies of water. Yet it will grow in many different environments in Zones 4-9.  It’s native range extends from Florida, north into Canada, and westwards into Texas and Oklahoma.  It is also considered a native tree in Oregon.

The sycamore will quickly grow into a massive shade tree, with a thick trunk (to more than 6 feet in diameter), a broad canopy, and a mature height of over 130 feet.  Its extensive roots can damage nearby walls or sidewalks, yet it is a common street tree in cities.  A sycamore can handle the heat and polluted air of urban areas, where it is enjoyed for its beauty and its shade.  Its dense canopy helps filter the air.

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This Sycamore grows on the banks of the James River near Jamestown Island.

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I enjoy visiting this lovely sycamore growing on the bank of Jones Millpond, alone the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown throughout the year.  It is pleasing in all seasons.

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There are several notable sycamore trees in our area.  Their interesting branches and bright bark make them easy to recognize.  In winter, the seedpods hanging from their branches playfully sway in the wind.

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A sycamore tree’s wood is useful for making things, but it isn’t a preferred wood for furniture making.  It doesn’t produce edible nuts or leaves.

It is valued more as a beautiful landscape tree and for the shade it gives in summer.

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The distinctive leaves and bark help identify this tree as a Platanus

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The sycamore ranks high among my favorite native American trees.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
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Even when pruned hard in a style called pollarding, the Platanus is easily recognized by its light colored bark. This tree grows in Colonial Williamsburg.

WPC: Peek

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“The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Curiosity has its own reason for existence.

One cannot help but be in awe

when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity,

of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.

It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend

a little of this mystery each day.”

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Albert Einstein

 

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Sunset this afternoon found us driving together on the Colonial Parkway, admiring the autumn colors finally intensifying in the surrounding forest.    Though the hardwoods are still mostly green, there are glorious highlights of gold and scarlet around the edges, and they were nowhere more beautiful than bathed in the golden rays of late afternoon.

We stopped at Jones Mill Pond to admire them.  The water was glassy.  There wasn’t the slightest hint of a breeze to mar the peaceful mirror of the water’s surface.   We listened to the quiet as we drank in the colors of the changing season and enjoyed the ever changing light.

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“The most beautiful experience we can have

is the mysterious.

It is the fundamental emotion

that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

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Albert Einstein

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Just as I was headed back to the car, I noticed something else even more mysterious than evening gathering over the waters of the pond.

What are they?  And how long have they been lurking here?

Please take a ‘peek’ and see what you think….

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“No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons,
as I would not want to live in a world without magic,
for that is a world without mystery,
and that is a world without faith.”

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R.A. Salvatore
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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“This week, share a peek of something —
a photo that reveals just enough of your subject to get us interested.
A tantalizing detail. An unusual perspective.
Compel us to click through to your post to find out more!”

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Peek

 

 

Eclipse

Sunset over  College Creek, at (Gabriel) Archer’s Hope, near Jamestown, Virginia

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Just as light and darkness maintain their own balance, and follow one another; so too do times of darkness and light follow one another in human history. Opposing forces remain in cyclical tension throughout our planet’s history.

We welcome the darkness which allows us to rest each night, and we awake hours later refreshed and reinvigorated. Our bodies heal and re-energize while we sleep.

Plants also need a period of darkness for their growth and cellular repair after many hours of photosynthesis in the sunlight each day. Many plants need a period of dormancy and rest each year, before vigorous new growth responds to the lengthening days of spring.

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Winter Solstice morning

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Northwestern Oregon, where the eclipse over the United States will begin next Monday, symbolizes the farthest point of our continental cultural expansion during the 19th Century. John Jacob Astor established Astoria, Oregon, in 1811, and his team blazed the trail which opened the Northwest to settlement. He led the economic battle to incorporate the Pacific Northwest, and its resources, into the United States. In those days, the borders between the United States and British Canada remained fluid.

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Oregon’s coast, near where the eclipse will begin sliding across North America on August 21, 2017.

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Our nation’s power and prosperity come in large part from our westward expansion to the Pacific, and the rich natural, human and energetic resources of our western states. This part of our country remains energetic, innovative and largely progressive.

Charleston, South Carolina, symbolizes the first shots fired in treasonous rebellion in our Civil War, which began in 1860-61. This terrible time in our nation’s history potentially could have destroyed our republic. But it did not; and the slow and torturous process of re-unification has played out in our courts, congress, statehouses and streets ever since.

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The James River, just a few hundred miles north of where the coming eclipse will move offshore next Monday.

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This is a critical time in our nation’s history once again. The nihilistic forces of nazism, facism, and communism which were pushed back in Europe and Asia during the 20th Century, have infiltrated our own society and American government in the 21st.

We see this with sickening clarity after the election cycle of 2016, when these forces of hatred and anarchy have been publicly emboldened both in the media, and on the ground in cities across our nation.

And only a week after the tragic and disturbing events in Charlottesville last weekend; we will experience the rare astronomical event of a full solar eclipse beginning in Oregon and ending on the coast at Charleston, South Carolina.

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Jones Millpond, where The Battle of Williamsburg raged on May 5, 1862, in the early years of our nation’s Civil War; remains a peaceful spot along the Colonial Parkway in more recent times.

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Many of us wonder what this means for our country. We are disgusted and uncertain with elements of our own government and citizenry. We are deeply troubled about what our nation’s future may hold, and wondering whether the Republic established by our Constitution in 1788 remains sufficient to order our society today.

At this time of uncertainty, we have given much thought to the meaning and potential effects of the coming eclipse. Historically, many cultures have viewed eclipses as important times of vulnerability as the sun disappeared from the sky, and dramatic changes occurred in the aftermath. There could be several interpretations of the phenomena of darkness falling across a huge swath of the United States, from coast to coast, in the middle of a summer afternoon.

We choose to interpret the coming eclipse as a time of national renewal. Beginning in the west, where our country’s economic destiny was determined with the founding of Astoria and securing our border with Canada; and sweeping eastwards across our nation to the very city where our Civil War began; the darkness of this eclipse will be followed by new light.

The emerging sun, Sol Invictus,  will shine brightly over our nation for many hours on Monday, August 21, after the moon moves on in its orbit, allowing the sun’s light to burst forth once again.

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As morning follows night, we choose to focus on the ‘second morning’ that will occur as the eclipse ends on Monday afternoon as a time of national renewal and re invigoration. Let this ‘second morning’ usher in a time when our Constitutional government will be set right once again, and these current threats of tyranny, hatred, and lawlessness ended.

Let foreign intervention in our politics be exposed and expunged. Let nazis and their ideology, influencing our political discourse, be exposed and expunged.

Let the corrupting influence of foreign and criminally laundered money holding our political leaders to nihilistic political ideologies be exposed and expunged. Let the corruption and lawlessness in our own communities be exposed and expunged.

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Let us use this energetically potent period of a summer solar eclipse to power the necessary changes which will re-claim our communities and our state and national governments for our founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of the good.

Let us reclaim our heritage as a land of promise and equal protection for all under fair and just laws.

Let our United States fully become a center of innovation and opportunity; tolerance and love; and a haven for the endless positive potential of humankind.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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Powhatan Creek

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The Yorktown Onion

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Locals in our area enjoy the spectacular early summer bloom of naturalized “Yorktown Onions” as they drive the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown.  Thousands of brilliant magenta flowers nod and bob in the breeze from late May through mid-June.

The National Park Service leaves broad areas along the roadsides unmown each spring, so that these distinctive flowers may grow and bloom, surrounded by beautiful grasses.   By late June, these stands of wildflowers will be gone; the fields and grassy shoulders neatly mown once again.

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The battlefields at Yorktown also hold broad swathes of these beautiful Alliums in early summer, to be followed by a steady progression of wildflowers, including thistle, as the months pass.  These historic Revolutionary War battlefields, now wildflower meadows, escape the mowers until fall.  But you’ll often see herds of deer grazing here in the early morning and at dusk, and clouds of wild birds feeding as the various seeds ripen.

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If you’re visiting, please resist the urge to pick or pull the onions.  York County passed an ordinance protecting the Yorktown Onion many years ago.  They may not be picked or harvested on public land.

But these are a quintessential ‘pass along plant.’   If you’re lucky enough to know someone growing them on private property, you may be able to beg some seeds or sets to start your own patch.

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I believe we make more drives along the Colonial Parkway when the onions bloom each year.  We marvel at their wild, random beauty.  Their tiny blossoms prove magnets for bees and other pollinators.  The Yorktown Onion is one of many beautiful wildflowers visitors enjoy along the Parkway each summer.

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Native in Europe and in parts of the Near and Middle East, historians suggest that seeds were brought to Yorktown during the Colonial or Revolutionary eras.    These particular Alliums are one of many Allium species you might choose for your own garden.  The Yorktown Onion, Allium ampeloprasum, may be purchased from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs  in Gloucester, along with more than 30 other Allium cultivars.  The Yorktown Onion, like other Alliums, wants full sun.  They are drought tolerant and hardy in Zones 4-8.

Also known as ‘wild leeks’ or ‘wild garlic,’ these beautiful flowers are exceptionally easy to grow.  Basically, plant them where they’ll thrive, and then leave them alone!  They don’t like to be disturbed, and will gradually increase to a more substantial display each year.

The Heath’s grow their onion sets from seed, thus the dear price they charge for the “Yorktown” Alliums in their catalog.  If you want the general effect, without the boutique pricing, you might try the very, very similar A. ‘Summer Drummer.’  This nearly identical tall (4′ +) burgundy Allium may be purchased in groups of 5 bulbs for the same price as a single Yorktown Allium bulb.

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Allium bud as it begins to open in our own garden, June 1 of this year.

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If you want something a bit shorter and less likely to fall over with the weather, consider planting chives, garlic chives, or even just onion sets or garlic cloves bought at a farmer’s market or the produce section of your grocery.  You might be a bit surprised at what beautiful flowers show up in your garden!

Chives thrive in our garden.  The clumps expand, and their seeds readily self-sow each summer.  Use them in cooking and enjoy their edible flowers as garnishes.   Dried Allium flowers look very nice in dried arrangements or used to decorate wreathes or swags.

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Allium buds in our garden, late May

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I began planting Alliums to protect other plants from hungry deer.  I’ve learned that their strong fragrance can confuse the deer nose, and possibly deter deer from reaching across them to nibble something tasty.  Like other deer deterrents, Alliums work often, but not always, to protect the garden.

That said, why not grow Alliums for their own special beauty?  It is one of the short list of plants with a fairly iron-clad guarantee to not be nibbled.

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We stopped along our drive yesterday evening at Jone’s Millpond to enjoy the view and the wildflowers.  It is one of the few places along the Parkway where you may park and get an up-close view of the Yorktown Onions.  Even at dusk, the bumblies were busily feeding on the tiny flowers which make up each globe.

There is something about seeings hundreds, or thousands of these flowers naturalized across a wild field, that mesmerizes.  This is an effect it would be difficult to duplicate in one’s own garden.

I hope you’ll find yourself in our area when the Yorktown Onions bloom some summer soon.  At the end of your trek, in old Yorktown proper, you’ll find a sandy beach and a little gift shop called “The Yorktown Onion” nestled under the Coleman Bridge.

The journey is the destination….

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Woodland Gnome 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Take Care of Our Heart

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“People ask: Why should I care about the ocean?

Because the ocean is the cornerstone

of earth’s life support system,

it shapes climate and weather.

It holds most of life on earth; 97% of earth’s water is there.

It’s the blue heart of the planet —

we should take care of our heart.

It’s what makes life possible for us.

We still have a really good chance

to make things better than they are.

They won’t get better unless we take the action

and inspire others to do the same thing.

No one is without power.

Everybody has the capacity to do something.”

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Sylvia A. Earle

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“There is such solace in the mere sight of water.

It clothes us delicately in its blowing salt and scent,

gossamer items that medicate the poor soul”

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Sebastian Barry

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“What begins at the water shall end there,

and what ends there shall once more begin.”

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Doug Dorst

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“Water records information,

and while circulating throughout the earth

distributes information.

This water sent from the universe

is full of the information of life…”

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Masaru Emoto

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“No one can know the infinite importance

of a tiny drop of water better than a thirsty bird

or a little ant or a man of desert!”

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Mehmet Murat ildan

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“To be fully alive

is to have an aesthetic perception of life

because a major part of the world’s goodness

lies in its often unspeakable beauty.”

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Yukitaka Yamamoto

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Photos by Woodland Gnome

For World Water Day 2017

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Emergent

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“The dark and the light, they exist side by side,
Sometimes overlapping, one explaining the other.
The darkened path is as illuminated as the lightened,
Only the fear of the dark keeps us from seeing our way.”

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Raven Davies

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“Love, I’m pretty sure, is light.”

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Jan Zwicky

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“The language of light

can only be decoded by the heart.”

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Suzy Kassem

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“Love is a weapon of Light,

and it has the power to eradicate

all forms of darkness.

That is the key.

When we offer love even to our enemies,

we destroy their darkness and hatred…”

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Yehuda Berg

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“No, you don’t shoot things.

You capture them.

Photography means painting with light.

And that’s what you do.

You paint a picture only by adding light

to the things you see.”

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Katja Michael

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“There is light in the world, and it is us!”

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Eliezer Yudkowsky

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WPC: The Road Taken

Jones Millpond

Jones Millpond

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“You never know what’s around the corner.

It could be everything. Or it could be nothing.

You keep putting one foot in front of the other,

and then one day you look back

and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

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Tom Hiddleston

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Do you often find roads you love so much, you travel them again and again?

We love the Colonial Parkway, and often find ourselves turning towards its quiet beauty.  It stretches from Jamestown Island to the Yorktown beaches; 23 scenic miles of Virginia history linking the earliest settlements in our area.

This is a place where you feel the presence of the past.  Earthworks stretch away on both sides of the road, along the same creeks navigated by the First Nations.  Historic homes, some crumbling and some restored, still stand along the way.  Teams of archeologists continue to dig up clues about the people who also called this place ‘home.’

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Much of the Parkway rolls across bridges, through tunnels, and along the quiet banks of the James and its tributaries.  There is always something beautiful to find, no matter the season.

We watch the trees bud and bloom in spring.  Months later we see them turn bright reds and oranges before their leaves fall.

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First wildflowers of the season here.

First wildflowers of the season here.

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We watch for eagles’ nests, egrets, Canada geese and great blue herons.  In summer, we sometimes find a family of swans here on Jones Millpond.  It is always worth driving this way to have a look.

We study the marshes for turtles sunning themselves on logs, and count the chucks and rabbits grazing beside the road.

Wildflowers grow here in abundance each summer.  Frog song symphonies and birdsong and the hum of countless bees lull one into relaxation and peace.

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There is comfort in having such a road nearby.  It is a window to an earlier, quieter time.  And there is always some interesting sight waiting for watchful eyes to find.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

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J.R.R. Tolkien

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  The Road Taken

 

Our Golden Companion

June 20, 2016 garden 008

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Celebrate the sun,

The source of all heat, light and life

on Earth;

Our Golden Companion

through all the days of our lives;

The fiery center of our solar system;

Sol Invictus.

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 028

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Apollo’s bright chariot;

Atum-Ra in his bark, traversing the sky,

Vanquishing Apopis so the sun might rise again.

Lord Shamash at the gates of the East,

Belenos, whose fires are lit to celebrate

his healing powers,

Helios.

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June 20, 2016 garden 015

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Earth grows green and verdant at your touch,

But burns and withers if you come too close.

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Solstice, midsummer; longest day;

The tipping point.

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With summer’s sun now in retreat;

Cooling darkness returns

to quench the heat.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Photos taken Summer Solstice 2016, after 8 PM

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June 20, 2016 garden 009

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“Limitless undying love

which shines around me

like a million suns

it calls me on and on across the universe.”
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John Lennon

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Rainbow orb in our garden June 2015

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“We all shine on…

like the moon and the stars and the sun…

we all shine on…come on and on and on…”

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John Lennon

Nature Challenge Day 7: In Motion

May 30, 2016 Parkway 014

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Everything we know, everything we dream, remains in motion. 

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Never a second of stillness or rest; every particle of our lives from the most distant star to the tiniest electron in our heart, remains dizzily spinning its dance of life.

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And so it is with every bird and fish, every drop of water, and everything green and growing. 

Our only response remains to dance along with life. 

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May 30, 2016 Parkway 012

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Some may wish to grasp the moment and hold it still; to stop time, if only for a little while. 

But if we ever succeed, we find that moment opening into a doorway to the deeper layers of life.  We pass through to some wider knowing, some greater vision.  But we remain in motion along the winding path of our being.

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And so we become ‘Lords and Ladies of the Dance,’ flowing along with the worlds we shape. 

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We hear the humming of insects, the crashing of waves, the crack of thunder, the whistling of wind, the call of geese, and a newborn’s cry as echoes of our own voice; the sound of life in motion.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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May 30, 2016 Parkway 025

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Blogging friend, Y., invited me to join the Seven Day Nature Challenge last Saturday from her new site, In the Zone.  I appreciate the invitation, as it has challenged me to find something to post each day over the last week.  I have enjoyed sharing some of the beauty of a Virginia May with everyone who visits Forest Garden.  And I’ve definitely enjoyed the daily exchange in comments with Y., and everyone else who has left a comment this week.

For this seventh day and last day of the challenge, I’ll invite you again to join in. This challenge has been out there for a while, and many nature photographers have already participated.  If you would like to take up the challenge, please accept in the comments and I’ll link back to you in a follow up post.

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May 29, 2016 white 002

 

 

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