Waiting

Milkweed pods crack open to release their seeds onto the wind.

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Our lives unfold to the cadence of waiting.  We wait for the milestones of maturity; birthday candles, privileges, grades passed.  We wait for friendship and love.  Sometimes we wait for a soured relationship’s messy end.

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Garlic chives go to seed all too quickly.

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We tick off the long awaited steps of our lives at first with eagerness; later with longing.  We wait for spring.  We wait for summer’s heat to break.

We wait for the trees to bud and for the roses to finally bloom in May.

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We wait for storms to come and to pass; for children to grow independent; for dream vacations; for retirement.

Which is sweeter, the wait, or the fulfillment?

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Beautyberry ripens over a long season, to the delight of our many birds.

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“We never live;
we are always in the expectation of living.”
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Voltaire

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I await the much loved succession of our garden each year:  emergence, growth, bud, bloom, fruits and seeds.

By September, many of the season’s flowers have already gone to seeds; others are still just coming into bloom.

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Obedient plant blooms with Rudbeckia hirta, black-eyed Susans.

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Hibiscus, Echinacea and Basil seeds bring a small cadre of bright goldfinches darting about the garden.  They have waited long months for their delicious ripening.

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Hibiscus pods split open in autumn to offer their feast of seeds to hungry birds.

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And sometimes, after the longest of winter waits, those dropped and forgotten seeds fulfill their destiny, sprouting and growing into the fullness of maturity.  Self-sown plants, appearing as if by magic, are a special gift of nature in our garden.

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Self-sown Basil going to seed again.

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No, I’m not speaking of the crabgrass or wild Oxalis sprouting in the paths and in the pots.  I’m speaking of the small army of Basil plants which appeared, right where I wanted them, this spring.   I’m speaking of the bright yellow Lantana growing now in the path, and the profusion of bright golden Rudbeckia in our front garden.

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A Black Swallowtail butterfly feeds on perennial Lantana.

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And, I’m speaking of the magnificent Aralia spinosa blooming for the first time this summer.  It’s gigantic head of ripening purple berries reminds me of why we tolerate its thorny trunk.

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Aralia spinosa’s creamy flowers have faded, leaving bright berries in their wake.

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Gardeners soon learn the art of waiting.  We wait for tiny rooted slips of life to grow into flowering plants, for bulbs to sprout, for seeds to germinate, for little spindly sticks to grow and finally bear fruit. We wait for the tomatoes to ripen and the pecans to fall.

We wait for hummingbirds to fly north each spring; for butterflies to find our nectar filled floral banquet.

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We wait year upon year for our soil to finally get ‘right.’  We wait for rains to come, and for the soggy earth to dry out enough to work in the spring.

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We are waiting for the Solidago, Goldenrod, to bloom any day now, drawing even more pollinators to the garden.

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And we wait for ourselves, sometimes, too.  We wait for our fingers to grow green enough that we can tend our garden properly, coaxing beauty from the Earth.

So much to learn, so much to do, so much to love…..

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
.
Fulton J. Sheen

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Waiting

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The Power of Seeds

August 30, 2015 garden 004

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“Seeds have the power to preserve species,

to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity,

to counter economic monopoly

and to check the advance of conformity

on all its many fronts.”

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Michael Pollan 

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August 30, 2015 garden 001~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Fly Away…

August 26, 2015 milkweed 003

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“Don’t judge each day

by the harvest you reap,

but by the seeds that you plant.”

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Robert Louis Stevenson

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August 26, 2015 milkweed 001

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for Rickii....

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Milkweed, Asclepias incarnatarnata

Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Seeds of Change

Milkweed pod ready to share its seeds:  Asclepias incarnata

Milkweed pod ready to share its seeds: Asclepias incarnata

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“Only those who sow seeds of change

can hope to grow and reap a harvest.”

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Andrea Goeglein

 

Photo by Woodland Gnome 2015

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August 25, 2015 garden 003

Monarchs in the Garden

Monarch spotted feeding in our garden this morning.

Monarch spotted feeding in our garden this morning.

 

Monarchs have returned to our garden.  In the past three days I’ve seen Monarch butterflies feeding on several different occasions.

The first time wasn’t in our garden at all.  It was Sunday afternoon in far western Chesterfield County.

I was driving out towards Amelia, and made a “U” turn to return to a little roadside nursery.   There was a small stand of goldenrod growing in the median, and to our delight, a beautiful Monarch was hovering over the goldenrod.  I was thrilled to finally see one again after watching for them all summer.

 

October 7, 2014 garden 019

And then this morning, a Monarch flew past our porch, and lit in the upper branches of our pear tree.  We watched it until it took off again.  We took it as a very good omen.

Especially since my partner had found, and shared with me, an article about cooperative preservation efforts involving Canada, The United States and Mexico in the current Scientific American magazine yesterday morning.

 

October 7, 2014 garden 010

It is always good when our nations cooperate. 

To find a high level of dedication and coordination in an effort to save the Monarch butterfly is astounding.

One idea mentioned in the article, which shows a lot of promise, is to establish corridors of native plants, especially milkweed species, along certain north-south interstate highways.

Monarchs need habitat and food all along the way of their annual migration.

 

October 7, 2014 garden 011

This is such a good idea, it begs the question:  Why not establish native plant habitat along ALL of our interstate highways? 

I know that many states have planted wildflowers and allowed native plants to grow along their highways.  To me, this is not only common sense, but also a beautiful approach to highway maintenance.

It certainly makes a trip more interesting for the traveler to have wide swaths of beautiful flowers and trees to enjoy along the roadside.

 

October 7, 2014 garden 015

It helps travelers get a better “sense of place,” too, to see how native vegetation varies form region to region.

But it also would save each Department of Transportation money that in currently spent mowing the roadsides and medians every few weeks.

Our butterfly and songbird populations both would benefit from corridors of native plants all along our major highways.

I hope that efforts to preserve habitat in Mexico, and efforts to curtail the use of insecticides and herbicides  in all three nations prove successful.

This is the patch of roses and Lantana where I found the Monarch this morning.  It now reaches well over our heads.  The Lantana are several years old, but still die back to the ground each winter.  So this is one season's growth....

This is the patch of roses and Lantana where I found the Monarch this morning. It now reaches well over our heads. The Lantana are several years old, but still die back to the ground each winter. So this is one season’s growth….

 

Efforts to plant more milkweed should be encouraged and supported by individuals and institutions, in addition to  government agencies planting milkweed along the roadsides.

We can all make a small effort towards providing a supportive habitat for wildlife and the specific plants our butterflies need to reproduce.

 

Many of us plant exotic plants and purely ornamental plants, like these roses, instead of Milkweed and other host plants for butterfly larvae.  The dill, fennel and parsley we grew this year, host for swallowtails and other butterflies, weren't eaten by larvae this season.  We have been concerned at how few larvae and butterflies we've spotted since spring.

Many of us plant exotic plants and purely ornamental plants, like these roses, instead of Milkweed and other host plants for butterfly larvae. The dill, fennel and parsley we grew this year, host for swallowtails and other butterflies, weren’t eaten by larvae this season. We have been concerned at how few larvae and butterflies we’ve spotted since spring.

 

The third Monarch butterfly was feeding on our Lantana when I came out to work in the garden this morning.  I was thrilled to find it there, and even happier that it was still blissed out on Lantana nectar when I returned with the camera.  It  kept peacefully feeding as I joyfully photographed its progress.

 

October 7, 2014 garden 008

When it finally fluttered off, it was to another patch of Lantana a few yards away.

Although Lantana won’t support Monarch larvae, it offers a good food source to fuel the mature Monarchs’ migration this month.

 

October 7, 2014 garden 006

I hope you have recently spotted Monarchs feeding in your community. 

October is the time when they gather together for the long trip back to Mexico, where they will spend the winter.

We also hope this winter is gentler to them than last, and that this beautiful species will not only survive, but will respond to our conservation efforts (as many eagles have) and become a common sight in our summer gardens once more.

(All of the links today will take you to interesting and current information on Monarchs and efforts to preserve them.)

 

October 7, 2014 garden 017

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Butterflies, Dragonflies, and Bumblebees

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 016

Eliza Waters is a wonderful advocate for wild creatures of all sorts, but she has a special interest in Monarch butterflies.

We have been corresponding this spring about the plight of the Monarch.  She has been involved in creating habitat for them.  And she responded to the post with photos of a Monarch  we found near Yorktown, Virginia, in late May.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 035

We found this Monarch on May 23, 2014. There was no sign of Monarchs today, sadly.

Eliza asked, earlier today, whether we had found any eggs or signs of Monarch larvae on the Milkweed by the pond where we have been watching for butterflies.

So my partner and I returned this evening, to see what we might see.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 006

We found the Milkweed plants just covered in bumblebees, feasting on their tiny flowers just as the flowers were opening.  And the bumblebees were so blissed out on the wonderful nectar, they were totally oblivious to my presence.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 007

Just inches away, they continued to feed while I took photos.

But in the entire time we explored, there was only one small butterfly or moth.  I don’t know its name, but suspect it is a moth.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 004

Not a single Monarch to be found.  And at Eliza’s suggestion, I searched for signs of eggs or larvae on the Milkweed plants.

I”m so sorry to say that I couldn’t locate either.  The Milkweed leaves look pristine- no larval munching.  I checked the closest Milkweed plants and found no eggs, either.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 010

Perhaps the Monarch did lay her eggs on one of these plants closer to the pond; one I didn’t climb down the bank to inspect.  Let us hope that is the case.

And we’ll continue to check back from time to time to see what evidence we may find as the summer unfolds.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 017

Today we were happy to find a brilliant blue dragonfly.

He was quite happy to sit still while I snapped off several portraits of him.

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He was watching me, but didn’t even flinch until I moved away.  He was a great sport, and I appreciate his patience.

The swans have moved on, too.  But we found Egrets wading further down the road.

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 023

Early summer brings such a pageant of life to our community.

We enjoy the staccato music of the frogs and the basso continuo buzzing of bees under the melody of birds calling to one another.

So much life, and such beauty.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

June 5, 2014 dragonfly 026

A Monarch For Memorial Day

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 034

This lovely Monarch was feeding along the Colonial Parkway, near Yorktown, at mid-day today.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 018

The entire bank of a pond was covered with purple milk vetch, Astragalus; butterfly weed , Asclepias; daisies, and grasses.

A perfect habitat for a Monarch to feed and to lay its eggs welcomed this little one on a perfect, sunny late May day.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 038

I didn’t see the Monarch at first.  My lens was focused on Mountain Laurels growing on the opposite bank.

And as we were pulling into the parking area, we spotted a family of swans.  You’ll see the swans in another post.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 035

While I was following them around, my partner, always the keen observer, spotted the Monarch.

He pointed it out as I returned to the car; both of us thrilled to spot a Monarch in an area where it can lay its eggs and expect them to survive to the next generation.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 037

This pond lies on Federal land.  The sunny bank of wildflowers is part of the narrow National Park, maintained by our National Park Service,  which skirts both sides of the Colonial Parkway.

These gorgeous wildflowers and all of the creatures who live here are protected.

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At one time Virginia, like much of the United States, was covered in wildflowers each spring.  Our rich soil and abundant rain support luxuriant growth.

Where land is regularly mown, many are destroyed before they can flower and set seed.  One of the joys of drives along the Parkway are the many species left alone to grow each year.

The purple flowered Milk Vetch is a member of the pea family.  If you’ve ever grow peas, or sweet pea flowers, you see the resemblance immediately.

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These plant improve the soil by fixing nitrogen, taken in through the stomata on the leaves, in little growths on the roots.  When the plant dies back or is cut, the roots remain to fertilize the soil with extra  nitrogen.

This stand of milkweed ensures the survival of the Monarchs as it is their preferred host plant.

All of these plants feed insects now, and later birds will eat their seeds.

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 027

Wildflowers hold the soil against erosion, cleanse the air of pollution, and add to the beauty of this spot along the Parkway.

How much richer we all would be if more government and private land were allowed to bloom in wildflowers each year.  How much better for species like the Monarch, who rely on spots like this for their very survival.

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Although the adults will enjoy nectar from many flowers, the larval caterpillars eat milkweed leaves.

These will bloom in a few more days, adding to the beauty here and providing food for butterflies and other nectar loving insects.

 

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”

Native American Saying

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”
Native American Proverb – See more at: http://www.famousquotesabout.com/on/Wildflower#sthash.jLEHvugU.dpuf
“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”
Native American Proverb – See more at: http://www.famousquotesabout.com/on/Wildflower#sthash.jLEHvugU.dpuf

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

May 23, 2014 Mountain Laurel 025

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