To Delight A Passerby

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A fallen tree, teeming with life, caught my eye as we were out driving last Sunday afternoon.  Lush and green, it stood out against our wintery landscape of greys and muddy browns.

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It has been fallen for a few years, from the look of it; lying where some forgotten windstorm left it, normally hidden from view in the edge of the forest.

But the leaves are down now, allowing glimpses into the hidden places.

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It is an interesting geography of ravines and ridges, creeks and fallen timber.

One glance piqued my curiosity enough that we made a point of stopping on the way home.

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The ravine is steep enough that I didn’t climb down to take photos close up.  Perhaps another day in my climbing boots I’ll make the hike.

We’ve had abundant rain for a while now, supporting luxuriant moss, lichens, and shelf fungus.

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And I can only imagine the hidden colonies of tiny insects living below this green carpet of moss, in the bark and interior of the tree.

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Such a wonder!

Nature uses every resource, allowing nothing to go to waste.  And does it in such style, creating this lovely garden on a falling tree, to delight a passerby on a cold and grey wintery day.

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“The Holy Land is everywhere”

Nicholas Black Elk

 

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“Knowing nature is part of knowing God.

Faith directs us to the invisible God,

but leads us back from God

to the entire visible world.”

Arnold Albert van Ruler

 

Woodland Gnome 2015

The Gift

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Friends gave us an Amaryllis bulb for the holidays.  A perfect gift (for me at least) as I love them, and never purchased one this fall.

Amaryllis bulbs often come in neat kits, with instructions, pot and peat included.

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The perfect gift for the holidays, from much loved friends and neighbors.

The perfect gift for the holidays  from much loved friends and neighbors.

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If you buy your own kit, take a look at the bulb to make sure it is alive.  Do you see how some of the roots are hydrated, and a bud pokes up from the bulb’s neck?  This is a good bulb.

You’ll find the “soil” at the bottom of the pot.  Every bit of moisture has been dried out of this peat, compressed into a thin disc.

After soaking in warm water for several hours the peat expands and will fill the pot.   But I’ll leave that bit of fun for another day….

 

This healthy bulb shows the critical signs of growth:  a few plump roots and tips of new growth.  This bud will open into many gorgeous flowers in a few weeks.

This healthy bulb shows the critical signs of growth: a few plump roots and tips of new growth. This bud will open into many gorgeous flowers in a few weeks.

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I love Amaryllis mixed into larger plantings.     When in bloom, Amaryllis can be breathtakingly beautiful.

They make a huge floral splash for a few weeks as the buds open.  The flowers are long-lived, but like every other flower, eventually they fade.

And then what do you do? 

Their leaves, often two feet long or more, live on for quite a while re-fueling the bulb to bloom again next year.

Some folks probably chuck the bulb once the bloom is finished… but you know I’m not going to do that!

And so I like to grow the bulb as an element of an arrangement rather than as a single bulb in a pot.

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There is something interesting to look at as the bulb begins to grow, and there is something interesting to look at as the bulb’s foliage finishes.

I incorporated this lovely bulb into another riff on my mossy garden theme.

The container has been sitting in the basement since I purchased it off a clearance shelf for a dollar or two several years ago.  It is pretty shallow for a large bulb, but that is OK because Amaryllis don’t need to be planted deeply.

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This bowl has no drainage.  I'm using dried spaghum moss to absorb  and then release moisture as needed.  A small bed of pebbles will hold the bulb.

This bowl has no drainage. I’m using dried sphagnum moss to absorb and then release moisture as needed. A small bed of pebbles will hold the bulb.

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A bed of dried sphagnum moss in the bottom will wick up water, releasing it back slowly as needed.  A small bed of stones lifts the base of the bulb a little above the bottom of the container to give the roots a head start.  They will grow horizontally into the potting soil as they develop.

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The fern's pot is also deeper than this bowl.  I gently pulled the roots of the fern out to the side to make it fit.  This fern spreads with underground rhizomes.  Pulling it apart  in this way encourages it to spread more quickly.

The fern’s pot is also deeper than this bowl. I gently pulled the roots of the fern out to the side to make it fit. This fern spreads with underground rhizomes. Pulling it apart in this way encourages it to spread more quickly.

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A lady fern ( adopted yesterday from  Home Depot)  gives some mass, presently towering over the bulb.  The Amaryllis will quickly catch up, towering over the fern before it blooms.

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Offsets are already forming from rhizomes off of the main fern clump.

Offsets are already forming from rhizomes off of the main fern clump.  This potting soil has slow release fertilizer and perlite mixed in for drainage.  It will support all of the plants better than the pure peat which came with the kit.

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I hope the fern will fill in quickly to balance the height of the bloom scape.

And finally, I went digging in a pot out in the garden where some strawberry begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera,  and spikemoss, Selaginella, still survive.

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I dug up more little divisions to bring inside.

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Spikemoss spills over the side of the container.  Moss and lichens cover the potting soil.

Spikemoss spills over the side of the container. Moss and lichens cover the potting soil.  Tiny pebbles fill in cracks and seems.

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These are both hardy to Zone 7, but  the deep freeze coming this week  won’t make them happy.   I was glad to rescue them for a garden inside where it’s warm.

The ground cover is all mosses and lichens dug from the garden.  These add such interesting texture and color to the design.  There are endless combinations of mosses and lichens growing together, and all are wonderful viewed close up.

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An Amaryllis becomes very top heavy as it grows.  Many people stake them once they reach 12″-14″ tall.  I plan to try a different approach.

I’ve brought up a tall, clear glass hurricane globe, which I’ll place into this little garden as the bulb begins to grow.  It will make its own little “terrarium” like environment and will also support the Amaryllis, corralling both leaves and bloom scape.

The globe is so tall that it looked a little strange when I fitted it in earlier today.  But once the Amaryllis starts its stretch, I think it will work just fine.

The dish garden sits on a mirrored buffet in the dining room.  It gets bright light from several directions for most of the day.  We will enjoy watching this little garden grow.

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A dynamic mix, it will change every few days. 

When the weather settles enough to move the Amaryllis outside later in the spring, I’ll move all of the other plants back out into the garden to enjoy another growing season in the sun, wind and rain.  But until then, we’ll enjoy a close up view of their progress.

Any garden of moss needs high humidity and frequent misting and watering.

Please remember that moss plants are so primitive they have no roots or vascular system.  Each cell must absorb the water it needs from its environment.  That is why moss thrives in  rain! 

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The mossy groundcover is a patchwork of small pieces.  Pebbles placed along their edges not only hides the seams and fills spaces, they also help conserve moisture so the moss stays moist, longer.

The mossy groundcover is a patchwork of small pieces. Pebbles placed along their edges not only hide the seams and fills spaces, they also help conserve moisture so the moss stays moist, longer.

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Ferns are thirsty, too, as is the Amaryllis.  This little planting will need water every couple of days.

Moss thrive in acidic conditions.  Diluted brewed tea (no sugar or cream, please) feeds the plants and keeps their environment acidic.  I dilute whatever tea is left in the pot before washing it, and share this cold brew among different plants each day.  Any planting with ferns or moss will appreciate “a cuppa” from time to time.

Amaryllis kits remain popular gifts.  Maybe you received one, too.  These beautiful flowers charm us year after year with their bright winter blooms.

And like all bulbs, they grow as if by magic.  Just anchor them in medium, add water, and prepare to be amazed with their beauty!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Green World

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What to get for the guy who has nearly everything?

A world of his own, of course!

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Welcome to “Green World.”

This little environment is almost self-sustaining.  Did you get interested in terrariums when they were popular back in the 1970’s?  Those were often completely enclosed, needing little to no attention for months at a time.

What was old is new again, and terrariums have come back in fashion.  Today’s terrariums are a little less rigorous, with small openings to allow fresh air to circulate.

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This little terrarium is made with divisions from plants I’ve kept going this winter.  In addition to the mosses, collected from the garden during a break in the rain, there is a tender lady fern, strawberry Begonia divisions (Saxifraga stolonifera) , and some bits of of moss fern,  Selaginella pallenscens.

The plant divisions are a bit spare now, but within a month or so they will begin to fill in.  And it will get a bit crowded and need division by this time next year.  This fern is especially vigorous, growing to about 14″ tall and sending out many runners.  The strawberry Begonia gets its name from the tiny plants it produces on the tips of long stems.

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As you look closely, you may notice lots of little plants growing up through the mosses.  There are several different varieties of moss, and bits of lichen.

The lichen on the branch will continue to live, drawing moisture from the air.

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Examining the tiny plants is relaxing.  It is a beautiful, green respite in the midst of December.  A tiny breath of spring…

The little landscape is completed with quartz and apophyllite crystals.  The cluster of very bright crystals is apophyllite.

Bright, indirect light and occasional watering to keep things moist will keep this little green world alive and growing.  It is a Christmas gift for a special member of my family.

It is Christmas Eve, and our preparations are now completed.

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Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Woodland Gnome

Still Playing Around With Wreathes

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Today I’ve translated my ideas for some unusual wreathes into substance.

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Eliza Waters makes the excellent point that we make our wreathes and arrangements for the joy of doing it.  We do it for our own pleasure, and the pleasure of our loved ones.  (in the comments, here)

The judgement or approval of others is not really a factor when we’re just “playing around.”

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And I’m still playing around with using moss, sticks, lichens and ivy in winter decorations.

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My partner likes these, and so do I.

We have so many birds in our garden that most years they’ve tried to build little nests in our wreathes.

We have to be very careful how we open our door that we don’t invite one inside accidentally.

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So we took it to the extreme, and peopled our wreathes with little wooden birds to begin with.

Do you think the real birds will still visit the wreathes? 

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I’m guessing they’ll find the moss irresistible for lining their nests, and I may need to patch these up from time to time!

The sticks are dead branches from Azalea and Mountain Laurel.  I gave the Mountain Laurel a light wash of white acrylic paint for contrast against our door.

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The shells come from the coast of North Carolina, picked up a few years back on vacation.

The moss is all purchased from the crafts store and glued on to the straw wreath forms with hot glue.

The ivy is all alive, roots tucked into a little plastic wrapped package of soil and wet moss.  I hope it will grow additional roots into the wet moss over the  next few weeks.

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We love having  these  living, growing wreaths for Christmas.  They reflect our garden and the things we enjoy. 

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Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

Moss Garden

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What stays green all winter, shrugs off snow and cold, needs little to no care, and comes in a variety of textures and forms?

Why moss, of course.

 

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Moss is a plant choice we often overlook for winter pots and baskets.  And it doesn’t just work in winter.

Moss is a useful ornamental plant in all seasons.

 

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I’ve experimented with moss before, but most often for inside plantings.  While it stays green for many weeks, when properly watered; moss really doesn’t like life in a dim and heated home.

 

A moss garden I constructed in February of 2012 using stones picked up on the beach in Oregon.

A moss garden I constructed in February of 2012 using stones picked up on the beach in Oregon.

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Moss is happiest out of doors.

Which is why I’m planning a patio planting using mainly a dwarf evergreen shrub, moss, and stone.  Think Zen garden in a pot….

Another moss garden made for a table centerpiece in February 2012.

Another moss garden made for a table centerpiece in February 2012.

 

Have you ever used moss in a potted planting?

I’ve seen a few interesting photo essays in gardening magazines in recent years, but they are few and far between.

 

Moss pairs well with ferns, as their needs are nearly the same. Lichens may also be incorporated in the design.

Moss pairs well with ferns, as their needs are nearly the same. Lichens may also be incorporated in the design.

 

One of the simplest of plants, the 12,000 or so species of moss are grouped into their own phylum, known as Bryophyta.

 

Moss has no roots and no vascular system. Leaves are a single cell thick.

Moss has no roots and no vascular system. Leaves are a single cell thick.

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Mosses are different from other plants, like grasses, because they have no vascular system to carry water and food from one part to another.

Their leaves and stems are usually only a single cell thick, and each cell takes moisture and carbon dioxide directly from the air which touches it.

 

Airborn spores collect on a tree's bark and begin to grow. They don't harm the tree in any way.

Airborn spores collect on a tree’s bark and begin to grow. They don’t harm the tree in any way.

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Like all plants, mosses produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide, using the energy of sunlight.

Mosses growing on trees aren’t parasites.  They anchor themselves in the tree’s bark, benefiting from the moisture which collects there, but don’t take any nutrients from the tree.  Mosses manufacture their own food, like other plants.

 

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Different species of moss prefer to grow on different surfaces.  Some grow directly on the soil, others on concrete, stone, bark, or bricks.

 

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Mosses  produce spores rather than seeds.  Although shallowly anchored in the earth by their threadlike rhizoids, mosses don’t absorb water through them from the soil.

This is why moss seems to thrive in rainy weather, prefers growing in the shade, and tends to shrivel when the weather is dry.

 

Lush moss grows between the roots of this beech tree. Lichens grows on the roots.

Lush moss grows between the roots of this beech tree. Lichens grows on the roots.

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So the secret to growing lush moss is frequent watering, bright indirect light and high humidity.

Perhaps my indoor arrangements would have lasted months longer if I had misted them several times a week instead of just watering them from time to time…

 

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If you decide to create your own moss garden, keep in mind that you don’t need deep soil to establish mosses.  The only reason for any depth in your container would be to sustain the other plants, like ferns, ivy, dwarf shrubs, or bulbs.

Mosses prefer slightly acidic soil. Peat and organic material in the potting mix give this acidity.

One method for establishing moss outside on rocks is to blend mature moss with buttermilk, and then pour the mixture where you want mosses to grow.  The buttermilk helps the spores adhere to the intended surface.  Kept moist, moss will soon appear.

The spores first form a flat, felt like covering in their initial stages of growth.  This protonema will spread, eventually allowing stems and leaves to grow up from the mat and rhizoids to grow into the surface where it is growing, to anchor the plant.

 

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The easiest way to create a moss garden is to simply lift moss from where it is growing already, and move it to your container.  A little of its native soil comes with most varieties, embedded in its rhizoids.

Use a trowel , or even just your fingers, to lift small clumps of moss.  Carefully clean off any bits of soil, sticks, leaves and pine tags clinging to the moss using your hand or a soft brush. Store these clumps in a sealed plastic bag or box to retain moisture until planting time.

You might also use stones with moss already growing on them, sticks with bits of lichens, and bits of wood already colonized with moss.

 

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There are mail order nurseries which sell particular species of moss.  One must be careful though, to plant  mosses which can survive in the climate you can provide.

(And the moss sold is craft stores looks nice, but is dried out and often painted green.  I wouldn’t recommend using it to establish a living garden.)

 

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Prepare your container, usually with peat based potting soil, and simply lay the sheets of living moss on top. Press down firmly, and water in.  If the container garden will live outside, anchor light mosses with toothpicks or metal pins to hold it in place until it rhizoids attach to the soil.  I’ve had many mosses in containers plundered by nesting birds and curious squirrels!

Place the container in bright, but indirect light.  The moss should take it from there! 

Keep the moss moist with misting and watering.  If outside, humidity in the air and rain should be enough when the weather is cool.

Use moss as a ground cover around other plants. or create a garden with several different varieties of moss and stone.

Moss exudes a calm and peaceful presence however you choose to use it.

And it is the easiest of plants to grow.  Just look how tough it is in nature!

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Furry Trees?

Do you see a "Green Man's" face in this mossy tree?

Do you see a “Green Man’s” face in this mossy tree growing in the garden surrounding the aquarium in Newport, Oregon?

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I fell in love with Oregon during my first visit back in 2006. 

That visit allowed us to explore the beautiful Willamette Valley from Eugene in central Oregon north to Washington’s Puget Sound.

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Abundant rainfall and mild temperatures make this a nearly perfect region for growing gargantuan, gorgeous plants of all types.

Newport Aquarium garden.

Newport Aquarium garden.

 

Farms and orchards here are prolific.  Vivid flowers bloom through a long season late into autumn.

 

Curbside planting in Lincoln City, OR.

Curbside planting in Lincoln City, OR.

 

Fields, forests, and vineyards form a patchwork of green across the hills and valleys.

 

A foggy mid-day along the coast on Highway 101.

A foggy mid-day along the coast on Highway 101.

 

And nearly all of the trees are “furry.”

 

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It was an early spring visit, a few years later, which highlighted Oregon’s “furry trees.”

Hardwood branches grow cloaked in several varieties of moss and fern.

 

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High humidity and frequent rain showers encourages lush moss to grow along trunk and branches.

(Actually, lush Oregon moss grows on wood, stone, brick, concrete…  buildings…  One dare not sit still outside for too long, if you get my meaning….)

 

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Some trees grow dressed in several different sorts of mosses, lichens, and also have walking ferns growing along their horizontal branches.

It is an unusually beautiful sight!

 

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This summer’s heat and drought has taken a toll on the usually lush and green landscape.  Nearly the entire state, even along the coast, has experienced a drought over the last year.

However, I still found some “furry trees” in the lovingly tended gardens at the aquarium in Newport.

 

Ferns in the gardens at the aquarium in Newport.

Ferns in the gardens at the aquarium in Newport.

 

Now that I’m back home in Virginia, rain has returned to the Pacific Northwest.  It is raining there today, as it is here, along much of the Atlantic coast.

The Earth is renewed with this welcome moisture.

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Before the rain…. Oregon’s drought.

I hope the ferns and mosses are soaking up this rain and will bounce back, green and vibrant, lush and beautiful;  all thoughts of drought washed away in the autumn rain.

My own garden is responding to today’s rain, and I expect the “furry trees” of Oregon are loving it as well!

Oregon's beautiful coast, just south of Depoe Bay.

Oregon’s beautiful coast, just south of Depoe Bay.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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