Leaf V: Transmutation

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Sometime in the night, the muggy summer air hanging over our garden yesterday cooled.   We awoke this morning to cool, clear air; blue sky; and a welcome wetness everywhere.

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Every leaf, every blade of grass, and every solid surface lay cloaked in sparkly drops of precious water.  Yesterday’s wet humidity condensed into this morning’s dew.

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The elements of our world remain in constant flow, transmuting themselves from form to form.  Yesterday’s humidity may have been rolling in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico only a few days ago.  And it has already evaporated, reforming as mist in the huge clouds beginning to fill our mid-day sky.

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Every element which makes up our world, and ourselves, remains in motion.  Things are always changing, always growing or dying back in the garden.  Flowers bloom, seeds form, and then the goldfinches and other birds turn up to feast on the seeds.

The water I patiently sprayed onto the garden last week soaked into the roots of the growing plants, and is now locked into each cell of the growing leaves and stems.  Water transformed into cellulose to fuel each plant’s growth.

Water was transmuted into a living plant, and may soon fuel the life of a hungry rabbit or deer.

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Transmutation remains one of the immutable laws of life.  Every bit of energy transforms.  Every element endlessly transforms over eons of time.

Understanding this truth assures us of our own continuing transformation.  Nothing is ever truly lost, or gained; except, perhaps, wisdom.  We remain active participants in this eternal dance of life.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2017

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Elemental

 

 

Leaf IV: Satisfaction

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Small things can bring great satisfaction.

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Velvety, fragrant herbs offer leaves both beautiful and delicious.  I eat them mostly with my eyes, but both the sage and scented geranium can be used for cooking or for tea.  Many fry sage leaves in a little olive oil for a savory garnish.

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Their volatile oils perfume the air on hot summer days.  Scented geraniums carry many sweet fragrances, from rose, to citrus, to mint. Their leaves may be large or small, serrated or smooth.  But all are wonderfully fragrant and hold their fragrance as they dry.

Rubbed against our skin, they protect us from mosquitoes as we work in the garden.

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Brought indoors in a vase, their scent fills the room.  These exquisite leaves fill out a bouquet with summer flowers as beautifully as they fill a pot or a border in the garden.

They love the heat and take off when many other garden plants begin to wilt.   Site these beauties in full sun, and watch your satisfaction grow.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Satisfaction

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Tri-color sage

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Leaf:  Illumination
Leaf II:  Celebration
Leaf III: Decoration

 

Leaf II: Celebration

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Caladiums speak to me of celebration.  They remain bright and colorful, full of beautiful surprises as each new leaf unfolds to unveil its own unique patterns and colors.

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Hot and humid summer days bring out the best in Caladiums.  Their leaves grow enormous, especially after summer rainstorms leave their soil warm and moist.  Near 100% humidity and languid summer breezes set them slow dancing with one another.  I give them an occasional cocktail of seaweed and fish emulsion to keep them perky and growing strong.

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A garden filled with beautiful foliage needs few flowers.  Each year we give more and more garden space to Caladiums, and their Aroid cousins Colocasias and Alocasias while growing fewer high-maintenance flowers.  However beautiful, flowers soon fade and must be cut away.  I love flowers, and yet don’t love the deadheading required for most, to keep them coming over a long season and their bed tidy.

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Colocasia ‘Majito’ grows in its new blue  pot on the left, and Alocasia ‘Stingray’ is just getting started in its pot on the right. Both will grow to a statuesque 4′-6′ tall be summer’s end.   A red coleus grows to the far left, and some red flowered annual Verbena is beginning to fill in beneath the foliage plants.  Colocasia prefers very moist soil, so I often stand its pot in a saucer to hold water.

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I have always loved to celebrate the joy and beauty of summer.  It is a time for getting together with family and friends, for travel, for long hours on the beach, for cook-outs and for celebrating life.  Caladiums in the garden set the stage for celebration, while asking precious little from the gardener in return, to keep them beautiful well into fall.

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There is still plenty of time for many of us to plant Caladiums for this summer. Garden centers around here still have a good selection of Caladiums already growing in pots, and many of them can be found on the summer sales.  But if you want to order a special variety, the tubers will need only a few weeks to establish and grow leaves once you plant them.

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You can still order the tubers of your choice from Florida growers, get them quickly, and have your Caladiums in leaf by mid-August.  They will grow beautifully in your garden until frost, and then you can keep the tubers to start again early next spring.

Let’s keep the celebration going as long as we can.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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In this new series, “Leaf,” I will share some of our favorite foliage plants.  Summer is prime time for big, bold, dramatic leaves.  I hope you enjoy seeing our favorites.  
Leaf I:  Illumination

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Leaf: Illumination

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Illumined leaves glow like Tiffany sculptures in the morning light.  How different they look when lit in this way, with a strong June sun shining through them.
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Colocasia ‘Mojito,’ center, has unusual purple patterns on the leaves and burgundy stems. C. ‘Tea Cups,’ behind, shows its elegant veins as its leaves tip upwards towards the sky. C. ‘Pink China’ also has reddish stems and sports a pink spot on its leaf to mark where the stem begins.  The red leaf at lower right is a Caladium.  Pitcher plants grow in the foreground and to the left.

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Sculptural tropical leaves, like these Colocasia, grow quickly to fill a space and make a statement.  Always interesting, their very size and subtle colors feel like living artworks at any time of day.  Catching the light at just the right angle, shining through them, creates even more excitement in this bit of our garden.
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Here, C. ‘Pink China’ is also backlit, showing its elegant veins and slightly wavy margins .  These are very hardy in Zone 7 and spread wonderfully.

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Beautiful leaves can stand alone; no flowers needed. 
In this new series, “Leaf,” I will share some of our favorite foliage plants.  Summer is prime time for big, bold, dramatic leaves.  I hope you enjoy seeing our favorites.  
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“The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea.
The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea.
It is the richest part.   We are the same;
our essence has gone into our children, our friends,
and the entire universe.
We have to find ourselves in those directions
and not in the spent tea leaves.”
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Thich Nhat Hanh
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Alocasia ‘Sarian’ returns in the green pot, after its winter in the basement. Caladium tubers idly poked into the potting soil last fall, return also. “What is that bright red?” my partner called from his resting place. He saw the garden from a different angle, and was intrigued by such bright color. Caladiums should always make us take notice.

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“Sometimes I wish I could photosynthesize
so that just by being, just by shimmering at the meadow’s edge
or floating lazily on a pond,
I could be doing the work of the world
while standing silent in the sun.”
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Robin Wall Kimmerer
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Woodland Gnome 2017
 

Beauty of Foliage

Caladium and Begonia

Caladium and Begonia

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Consider how beautiful foliage can be;  whether the brightly veined leaves of a Caladium, the dark ruffled leaves of Anglewing Begonia, or the velvety leaves of Coleus.

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Coleus

Coleus

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All of the these plants produce flowers, but the flowers aren’t the main event.  These plants produce bright, beautiful stems and leaves month after month.

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August 26, 2014 garden 030

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii”

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Many people head to the garden center looking for flowers to plant in their gardens.  This is fine, but flowers are only a tiny aspect of what makes a garden beautiful.

Flowers open and fade- sometimes very quickly.  Many flowers last only a day.  Many perennials flower for a week or so, and then are finished until “same time, next year.”

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Angelwing Begonia leaves, larger than my hand.

Angelwing Begonia , whose leaves grow  larger than my hand

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Although perennial  flowers are often followed by interesting seedpods, somehow it isn’t the same.  Annuals give a longer season of bloom, but again are unreliable.  Many of the geraniums I planted with great hope in spring are a brown soggy mess at the moment, barely hanging on to life, because we’ve had too much rain.  They may come back in fall, or they may give up for the season.

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July 30 2013  Foliage 001

The flowering Verbena is only a foil for the beautiful lime green foliage in this planter, a gift from a master gardener friend.

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Foliage plants are far more reliable.  Even tender perennials like Caladium can be brought inside for the winter.  Although they will go dormant for a few months, they will come back with fresh leaves to amaze you.

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August 9, 2014 hummingbird moth 056

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A few years ago I left some Caladium tubers buried in a pot of other plants I’d brought into the living room for the winter.  Somehow, the Caladiums woke up and shot up bright new leaves right after New Years Day.   We enjoyed them until spring.

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Caladiums

Caladiums

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They took another rest when the pot went back outside in May, and then came back for the end of summer and fall.  Caladiums are tough and have a strong will to live.  As long as you don’t let them freeze, they are very forgiving.

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Fern, hosta, purple Oxalis

Fern, Hosta, purple Oxalis, and a Hydrangea

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Coleus have been hybridized again and again to create amazing colors and strange leaf shapes.  Many are textured, deeply ruffled or fishboned,  striped, blotched, or shaded.  No two leaves, even on the same plant, are quite alike.

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Coleus and Creeping Jenny

Coleus and Creeping Jenny

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Coleus are tough plants who prefer shade, but have been selected to tolerate sun.  The newer hybrids give much better colors in sunlight.

Their flowers are insignificant, and many of us snap them off when they appear to keep the plant branching and producing more beautiful leaves.  We have noticed that when Coleus flowers are allowed to open, they attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

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A favorite tender lady fern, living inside with us this winter.

A favorite tender lady fern, living inside with us this winter.

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Ferns, which never flower, are another wonderful foliage plant.

Ferns come in many sizes, forms, and colors.  They uniformly prefer shade, but will thrive in partial sunlight.  All prefer to be moist, but can live in varying degrees of dry soil.

In general, the more light ferns ge, the more moisture they will need to stay hydrated.

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Fern with Creeping Jenny.  Both plants are winter hardy.

Autumn fern with creeping Jenny. Both plants are winter hardy.

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Whether used as a filler, or as the main attraction, ferns are tough, reliable, and beautiful.  There are many hardy perennial ferns which will return year after year.

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July 7 2013 succulents 012

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Succulents are also grown for their foliage, although they produce small flowers once or twice a year.

These plants prefer bright light, warm temperatures, and like their soil on the dry side.  They can go a fairly long time between waterings.

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July 7 2013 succulents 010

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Most succulents won’t survive  freezing temperatures, and so need to come inside for winter here in Zone 7b.  In warmer climates, they put on a beautiful display year round, growing bigger and bigger as they form colonies.

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July 30 2013  Foliage 015

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In many cases, succulents look like flowers because they form rosettes in shades of blue, green, burgundy, and gold.

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succulents

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If you are looking for fresh design ideas for your pots and gardens, try designing with foliage.   Watch for interesting colors, textures, patterns, and forms in the plants you choose.  Select plants which will look fresh and healthy over a long season.

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Many of the plants in these photos will survive from one year to the next indoors.  They keep getting better with age, and are always interesting plants we want to  include in our garden.

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 Photos by Woodland Gnome

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