Woodland Tableau

september-12-2016-ferns-etc-001

~

Cathy, at  Rambling in the Garden, urges us to bring cut flowers indoors for a vase each Monday.  But instead of filling a vase, I’ve made my foliage arrangement today in small pots.

~

september-12-2016-ferns-etc-006~

My inspiration came from an intriguing photo in the fall 2016 Country Gardens magazine.  In the article, ‘The Splendor of Seedpods;” there is a log centerpiece, covered in moss, small ferns, Rex Begonias and various seedpods.  It is simply stunning. 

~september-13-2016-woodland-tableau-003

~

But, copying this arrangement meant finding a partially hollowed out log of the right size for one’s table.  The more I thought about putting a real decaying log in my dining room, and the little bugs which might come with it, the more I searched for another way to accomplish a similar effect.

~

Center pot from Mossy Creek pottery in Lincoln City, OR.

Begonia Rex in a hand thrown pot  from Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, OR.

~

My version uses a handmade pottery tray as the base.  The  ferns, ivy, and Rex Begonias are all potted, then their pots arranged with small animals, bits of glass and stones.  Moss pulled from the garden finishes each little pot.

~

september-12-2016-ferns-etc-013

~

The three main pots are cast clay, shaped to look like stones.  I’ve grown succulents in them most years, but they’ve been empty for the past several months.  They recycled nicely into this arrangement.

The two glazed pots came from Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, Oregon.   The tray was found at a tag sale a few years ago.  But it is a signed original, and I enjoy it very much.

~

september-13-2016-woodland-tableau-001

~

The classic terra cotta pot has languished in my potting area for several years, awaiting inspiration to find it a new use.  It, and the other pots with drainage holes were lined with a sheet of burlap before I filled them with good potting soil.  Lay a layer of aggregate, like pebbles, in any pots without drainage holes, before adding the plant and its soil.

I’ve chosen two tender ‘Tabletop’ ferns (Pteris species) and a division of a tender Lady fern from one of my hanging baskets.  These little ‘tropicals’ are easy to find at big box stores which sell little houseplants, and the needlepoint ivy and Begonia came from our local Lowes.

~

september-13-2016-woodland-tableau-005

~

This is a nice, relaxed, woodsy arrangement to carry us through the autumn months.  I can add a few little pumpkins or gourds in the weeks ahead.  All of these plants should grow fine in the low light of our dining room.

If you want to copy this design, be creative with re-purposing things you already have lying around.  I’ve been thinking about this for nearly a week,  collecting the materials and plants before assembling it all this afternoon.  It can be great fun to find new ways to use containers already in ‘the collection.’

~

september-12-2016-ferns-etc-003

~

I hope that Cathy will accept this humble aberration from her floral meme.  Eventually, those Begonias will sport blossoms, after all.

But I find great beauty in foliage, too, and appreciate its longevity.  This little arrangement should be alive and growing for many weeks on our dining table.

~

Tabletop or brake fern is tender in our climate, but often sold as a 'houseplant..'  These from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, Virginia.

Tabletop or brake fern is tender in our climate, but often sold as a ‘houseplant.’ These from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond, Virginia.

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

~

september-12-2016-ferns-etc-005

 

Advertisements

Moss, Ferns, and a Fairy House

May 23, 2016 fairy house 006

~

This certainly has been a wonderful spring for working with mosses and ferns!   Abundant rain, muted light, humidity and cool days provide the perfect conditions for our ferns to grow and mosses to thrive.  Sometimes it feels like Oregon’s climate followed me home to Virginia!

~

May 23, 2016 fern garden 005~

The various ‘moss gardens’ I started this spring continue to grow, but not as rapidly as the wild mosses taking over in more areas of the garden than ever before!   We continue to find new little ferns popping up in unexpected places even as all those we’ve planted take off in our moist, cool May.

This hypertufa trough held succulents in full sun, until a couple of weeks ago, when I re-purposed it for our newest moss garden.

We refreshed the trough with fresh potting soil, over a layer of gravel for drainage, planted out some tiny fern starts found at The Great Big Greenhouse, and moved the container to shade.

~

May 23, 2016 fairy house 004~

An extensive collection of tiny 1″ plants for terrariums and Bonsai always excite me at this favorite Richmond area greenhouse, and I end up ‘collecting’ a few more with each visit.  They are fun to use indoors all winter and grow quickly to standard sizes.   We had a few brake ferns, and what are likely bird’s nest ferns, which needed more room to grow for summer.  The trough seemed the perfect container for them.

~

May 23, 2016 fern garden 004~

There are also a few starts of Leptinella pusilla, Purple Brass Buttons, which look like tiny purplish ferns.  If you’ve seen a display of ‘Steppables’ at your local nursery, you have likely seen this plant for sale.  I first used it when a friend and I constructed fairy gardens in 2014.

It is a tough but beautiful ground cover for shade which spreads with horizontal stems.  I took the clump out of its nursery pot, pulled a few rooted stems loose from the mass, and tucked them in among the moss of this newest garden.  The rest of the clump went into a shallow pot of its own ready to divide again and use elsewhere…..

~

May 23, 2016 fairy house 005~

And of course the soil is carpeted with several varieties of lush, beautiful moss lifted from the yard.  Although it takes a few weeks to establish, it will soon begin growing again here in the shade of our grape vines.

But what really inspired me to construct this newest little trough garden was a wonderful ‘fairy house’ made by local potter Betsy Minney.  We were thrilled to find her at a local artist’s show on Mother’s Day, with several new items added to her offerings.  Betsy’s work is always uniquely textured, whimsical, and beautifully glazed.

~

May 23, 2016 fern garden 002~

We wanted to enjoy Betsy’s little fairy house in a properly ‘wild’ setting, and that meant outside amidst mosses and ferns. Knowing how our birds love to peck at moss, we now wire it in place while it establishes.  Since the fairy house now lives outside on our porch, we also want to protect it from getting knocked over by a curious bird or squirrel!  It is supported here on broken chopsticks and held in place, like the clumps of moss, with bent floral wire.

~

May 23, 2016 fairy house 001

~

These ferns aren’t hardy in our winters, so the entire garden, and especially the fairy house, will come inside in late autumn.  But we’ll have a good six months of enjoyment of this woodland garden by our kitchen door before the weather shifts.

You could make a similar garden using hardy ferns, especially some of the small deciduous cultivars of Athyrium niponicum and native harts tongue ferns, or Asplenium scolopendrium.

~

One of our newer Ary 'Joy Ride.'

One of our newer Athyrium niponicums in another part of our garden.

~

I’ve not cut flowers for a vase today.  Most of our roses and Iris have suffered from heavy rains these last few days.  But I will share this little potted garden with you, and still link to Cathy’s In A Vase on Monday post at her Rambling In The Garden.

I hope you will visit to enjoy her beautiful vase of white flowers, and follow the links she posts to other gardeners around the world, to see what is blooming in their gardens today.  There is always so much beauty to enjoy from these dedicated florists and gardeners!

Woodland Gnome 2016

~

May 23, 2016 fern garden 003

 

 

Green Velvet Serenity: Moss Garden

March 20, 2016 spring flowers 016

~

What can  grow on poor compacted soil, in sun or shade, with no fertilizer, has no problems with pest or disease; and still will look beautiful year round?

Why mosses and other bryophytes, of course….

~

November 18, 2014 moss 022

~

Bryophytes are hardy, ancient non-vascular plants.  They remain with us in abundance despite their long history covering the soil of planet Earth.  And their appearance often appears magical when they begin growing in the most impossible and most inhospitable spots.

~
March 20, 2016 spring flowers 013
~

Soft expanses of moss exude serenity and calm.  They offer respite from an often chaotic world.  They allow us to simplify our gardening effort; providing sanctuary for the weary gardener while helping to heal our planet.

~
March 20, 2016 spring flowers 001
~

Mosses utterly fascinate me.  These miniature plants simply appear, unplanned and unplanted; sown by nature’s hand.  Like a thick plush rug, they carpet the soil year round, remaining green even under a blanket of snow or glaze of ice.

And every moment they clean carbon  dioxide and pollutants from the air we breathe, returning these elements to Earth.

~
November 18, 2014 moss 014
~

But a moss carpet takes time to grow; many years in most cases.  Allowing nature to create the moss garden, unaided by the gardener’s hand, can be an uncertain proposition because those tiny bits of moss must compete with other larger, stronger, more weedy vascular plants.

My experiments with moss gardening in containers have been mixed.  While some have survived and colonized the pot, others have not.

~
March 10, 2016 spring flowers 012~

The moss turns brown. Birds raid the loose pieces for their nests.  Squirrels push the moss aside to dig for nutty treasures, leaving it to desiccate in the sun.

The longer we live in this garden, the more I value moss as a ground cover for paths, slopes and areas which remain in deep shade.  It is an affordable, practical option to ‘finish’ areas which otherwise would remain muddy for much of the year.

~
November 18, 2014 moss 038~

When I saw Annie Martin’s The Magical World of Moss Gardening, published in early September of 2015 by Timber Press, I knew this lush ‘how to’ manual  could teach me the techniques I needed to cultivate mosses on a larger scale in our garden.  And it has proven to offer as much inspiration as it has instruction. moss gardening bookThe photos alone opened my eyes to possibilities for using mosses in the garden which I wouldn’t have imagined on my own.

‘Mossin Annie’ takes us on garden tours around the United States; from her own and others she has created near Asheville, NC on to Oregon and California;  as well as to the centuries old moss gardens of Japan.  In fact, one of the gardens Annie photographs grows in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  In showing us these gardens, Annie demonstrates the three main ways to establish gardens and design with mosses.

~
October 31, 2014 color 003 (2)
~

The first, simplest way also takes the longest time.  Norie Burnet, a Chesterfield County teacher with a wooded suburban property and little budget for gardening, allowed nature to plant her moss garden for her.  She waited for airborne spores to take hold and colonize those areas she prepared for moss, then meticulously watered, weeded and groomed to give the moss every chance to thrive.

She has invested 25 years of careful tending and designing to help those mosses grow exactly where she wants them.  Now she enjoys an exquisite shaded garden, beautifully carpeted in many species of moss, which she can easily maintain herself.

~
March 10, 2016 spring flowers 028
~

A second method for establishing mosses gives the gardener a more active hand in selecting and placing mosses to create beautiful designs with their textures and colors.  It also speeds the process considerably.  This is the method I’m experimenting with this year.

Rather than waiting for moss spores to colonize the garden, we speed things up a bit by transplanting moss where we want it to grow.  This works best in areas where moss can and will grow naturally, using native species of moss.  But moss from other parts of the world sometimes may be transplanted if their needs are met.

~
March 10, 2016 spring flowers 017~

Ordinary unamended, compacted garden soil works best here.  First clearing away every weedy vascular plant, we rough up the surface a little, then firmly press small bits of moss onto the prepared soil.  Annie recommends pieces the size of one’s hand, but smaller bits will work.  These are laid into a patchwork with spaces left between.  The transplanted moss will take hold and grow.  Eventually it will send its spore into the surrounding areas.

~
March 10, 2016 spring flowers 009
~

The mosses need moisture and time to grow.  Daily watering is key to keeping them alive and growing during the crucial time when they are taking hold.  Firm pressure to give them a good bond with the soil is needed, too.  First, pressing them very firmly into place when planting. and later walking over them regularly to maintain that contact.

Here is where I had problems.  No matter how firmly I might push my little transplants down, some bird or squirrel will come behind me and flip it!  Some tasty morsel surely is under that moss!  And the birds appreciate my help in tearing the mosses for them to line their nests!

~
hunks of flipped moss to the right got securely replanted and held with metal pins.

Hunks of flipped moss to the right got securely replanted and held with metal pins.

~

The remedy is to pin each piece of moss into place with toothpicks, small broken sticks, or metal pins.  I used the same U shaped metal pins we keep for making evergreen wreathes.  These hold the mosses securely and allow them a chance to grab into the soil below.

This has been a major problem in my outdoor containers, too.   Agitation of the moss transplants from animals interferes with its growth. But also, the potting soil itself isn’t a good subsoil for moss.

~
March 20, 2016 spring flowers 031
~

Potting soil is too light, and the perlite in most mixes makes it nearly impossible for moss rhizoids to grow into it.  While moss spores easily colonize moist potting soil, transplanting mature pieces remains a challenge.

The size of the hunks of moss, and the size of the spaces between are determined by how much moss you have to plant and how quickly you need the ground covered.  Which do you have in more abundance, time, moss or money?

~
Volunteer moss in our garden ready for harvesting and replanting elsewhere

Volunteer moss in our garden ready for harvesting and replanting elsewhere

~

The third method for establishing a moss garden is the fastest and gives the most immediate satisfaction.  After cleaning and preparing the site, one simply rolls out the already growing moss.  Annie owns a moss garden landscaping company and raises large sheets of moss already growing on landscaping fabric, which her crews will roll out on your bare soil, for a price, and anchor into place.  Voila!  Instant moss garden! 

She, and others around the world, also grow moss in nursery flats.  It is possible to buy many varieties of moss, mail ordered from a nursery, by the square foot.  These smaller mats are then torn into designs or laid whole to carpet the area.

All methods require careful attention for the first several months as they attach to the soil below.  They must be kept clean, with fallen leaves, sticks and other garden waste swept away so light can reach the moss.  Vascular weeds which take root in the moss must be plucked.  They compete by shading out the moss and absorbing the moisture it needs.  Tears in the moss must be mended; stray bits pushed back into place.

~
Porous material, like this hypertufa pot, support moss very well. Glazed and plastic pots do not. In general, moss will grow on brick, some stone, concrete, bark and asphalt very well.

Porous material, like this hypertufa pot, support moss very well. Glazed and plastic pots do not. In general, moss will grow on brick, some stone, concrete, bark and asphalt very well.

~

Perhaps you’ve heard stories of ‘Moss Milkshakes’ as a method for getting mosses to grow on rocks or clay pots.  I’ve not yet tried this method.  Annie discourages it and explains she has had little success.  One breaks up hunks of living moss into an old blender, and adds some combination of buttermilk, yogurt, or beer….. This whole mess is whirred into a thick slurry and painted on to a porous surface, kept moist and shaded, and at some time in the future moss begins to grow.  It should work.

Most mosses can regrow from any part of the plant.  Like the arm of the starfish, even the tiniest bit of leaf or rhizoid is enough for the whole moss to grow back in the right conditions.  And the gardener’s challenge becomes to provide those right conditions consistently enough and long enough for the moss to colonize and establish themselves on the new surface.

~
March 10, 2016 spring flowers 029
~

This may be something I experiment with in the coming weeks.  Mossin Annie shares very detailed and useful information about moss gardening in her beautiful book.  But search as I may, nowhere can I find instructions for growing a flat of moss, or for growing one of her large sheets of landscape fabric based moss.  Those must be trade secrets!

And that is what I would like to learn.  I’d like a few beautiful homegrown flats of the mosses already native in our area, ready to lay on the ground,  to embellish our now growing moss gardens.  Because part of the art of designing moss gardens is the interplay of various textures and colors of mosses growing next to one another.  Flats of ready moss are the artist’s palette for a moss gardener; and like everything else in the garden, must be bought if not ‘home grown.’

~
October 31, 2014 color 012
~

And it all takes time.  Annie makes clear that the moss gardener must think in months or years to see a vision grow into place.  Even buying her moss mats to carpet a shady corner of the garden, one must still wait for mosses to grow up over rocks or stumps, trees trunks and walls.

Like with all gardening, it unfolds in its own time.  We can perhaps speed the process a little with our efforts.  We can aid and encourage nature in her natural course.  But ultimately, we wait for the miracle; with enough patience to finally witness its unfolding.

~
March 20, 2016 spring flowers 017~

Woodland Gnome 2016

 

Amaryllis Centerpiece

November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 007

~

You know the weather has shifted when I’m inspired to make a living centerpiece for our dining room.

We enjoyed watching our Amaryllis grow so much last winter, that I decided to start one early enough to enjoy over the holidays this year.

~

February 12, 2015 Amaryllis 006

~

The Great Big Greenhouse, near Richmond, carried some of the largest Amaryllis bulbs that I’ve ever seen .  They also have the largest selection of varieties I’ve found, anywhere.  Some of the ‘specialty’ varieties normally only found in catalogs, with exorbitant price tags, were right there in their bulb display at grocery store prices.

And so I selected a huge Amaryllis bulb last weekend, and four tiny ferns, for this arrangement.  A bulb this large would be expected to give several stalks of flowers.

~

November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 002

~

The ceramic bowl has no drainage.  It is much deeper and wider than the Amaryllis needs, which leaves room for a couple of  inches of aggregate in the bottom to afford drainage for the roots.  I’ve used a fairly coarse pea gravel to leave pockets for air or water.  Use only new, good quality potting soil for a project like this.  I’m using a lightweight mix of mostly peat and perlite.

Amaryllis need only their roots in soil.  The ‘collar’ of the bulb, where its leaves emerge, should be visible above the soil line.  In addition to the four tropical ferns, I’ve planted a tiny Strawberry Begonia and a tiny tender fern division, both rescued from an outside pot.  The soil is covered with sheets of moss lifted from an oak’s roots in the upper garden.

Maybe it is an odd idiosyncrasy, but I don’t like looking at potting soil in a living arrangement.  Who wants to look at a dish filled with dirt in the middle of their dining table, anyway? 

~

November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 001

~

Rarely do I leave a potted plant ‘unfinished,’ without at least a mulch of fine gravel over the soil anymore.  It is easier to water neatly, the plant needs less water, the plant stays cleaner outside in the rain, and it just looks better to me.

Since moss has no roots, it won’t grow down into the potting soil.  It will continue to grow only in the thin film of soil where it is already anchored. Press it firmly into the surface of the potting soil as you place patch beside patch.  I drop fine stones around the edges to help meld these pieces together, and to help retain moisture around the patches of moss.

Moss will live indoors so long as it remains hydrated.  You can mist it, or pour a little water over it every few days.  Keeping the mix evenly moist keeps the moss and ferns happy.   Watering occasionally with diluted tea (no cream or sugar, please) makes the moss happy, too, as it appreciates soil on the acidic side.

When I eventually break this arrangement up, in a few months, the moss should be transplanted back outside.  It can also be ground up and used to start new colonies of moss, even if it appears dead at that point.

This is a simple project which gives weeks of pleasure.  It would make a nice hostess gift over the holidays.

~

November 19, 2015 Amaryllis 003

~

If you’re ever tempted to order the glitzy Amaryllis gifts from your favorite catalog, consider making your own instead for a fraction of the cost.  Even a non-gardener can enjoy an Amaryllis bowl such as this one.

Simply add a little water, and enjoy!

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

November 19, 2015 001

~

“If nature has made you for a giver,

your hands are born open,

and so is your heart;

and though there may be times when your hands are empty,

your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that-

-warm things, kind things, sweet things-

-help and comfort and laughter-

-and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.”

 .

 

Frances Hodgson Burnet

 

NaBloPoMo_1115_298x255_badges

Plant Now For Spring Living Flower Arrangements

November 2, 2015 015

~

Who wants to look at empty pots for the next four months?  I am as interested in planting attractive pots for the winter season as I am interested in replanting those pots for summer.  And each fall, I keep an eye and and ear open for new ideas.

Brent Heath offered a workshop last month at his Bulb Shop in Gloucester that I sorely wanted to attend.  He even offered to bring his workshop across the river if I could pull a group together in our community.  And how I wish my time and energy had stretched far enough to invite him!

~

Miniature daffodils grow to only 6"-8" tall and work well in spring pots. Plant the entire bulb and foliage out into a permanent spot in the garden when switching out plantings for summer.

~

Brent, a master horticulturalist, teaches the finer points of loading containers with bulbs.  Now even though he and his wife Becky are known internationally for their prodigious offering of Daffodils; they sell hundreds of different bulbs and perennials.  Brent’s workshop teaches how to layer several different species of bulbs into a single pot to create a “Living Flower Arrangement” which changes over time as different bulbs appear, bloom, and fade.

I wanted to attend Brent’s workshop to learn a new trick or two.  I’ve used various bulbs in containers for many years now, but there is always a better way, when one is open to learn from someone more experienced.  But the stars haven’t aligned this season, and so I’ve been experimenting on my own with the bulbs we’ve been collecting.

~

Violas with white Dianthus, and Muscari. Miniature Daffodils bloomed later in the season.

~

The idea is elegantly simple:  since one plants bulbs at different depths depending on the size of the bulb, and since new growth from most bulbs is very narrow before it reaches the light,  one can plant one ‘layer’ of bulbs on top of another, allowing the emerging stems to sort out the spacing as they grow upwards towards the light.  In fact, three or four ‘layers’ of different types of bulbs may be planted into a single large pot.   This very crowded planting works for a single season, but must be unpacked by early summer.  The bulbs may be transplanted ‘in the green’ into garden beds, to allow the leaves to fully recharge the bulb for the next season of flowers.

~

 Containers for sale at the Heath's Bulb Shop last April

Containers on display at the Heath’s Bulb Shop last April

~

I modify this idea to include annuals, perennials, woodies and moss so the planting has immediate interest while we wait for the bulbs to emerge in the spring.

Begin with a clean pot.  I use coffee filters or a paper towel over the drainage holes to hold the soil while the roots are growing.  The filters will soon decompose.  Choose a good quality, light, commercial potting soil with nutrition already mixed in.  The annuals and perennials are heavy feeders, and the bulbs will perform better in rich soil.  Many of the ‘organic’ potting soils now come pre-loaded with worm castings!

Now one must  ‘do the math.’  Having chosen 2-5 species of bulbs, depending on the size and depth of the pot, first study the proper planting depth of each.  If you are using Daffodils, for instance, which are planted at a depth of 6″, then fill the pot with soil to within about 7″ of the rim.    Set the first ‘layer’ of Daffodil bulbs on the soil by pushing the root end slightly into the soil so that the tip points upwards.  Space these Daffodils 3″-4″ apart from one another and at least an inch or two inwards from the sides of the pot.  Carefully fill in around these bulbs with more potting soil so they are barely covered, and firm the soil with your palm.

~

Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted Redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and Daffodils early last spring.

~

Choose your next bulb, adding just enough soil so it is planted at its correct depth, and arrange these bulbs by lightly pushing them into the soil.  Try to avoid setting a new bulb directly over top of a deeper one.  Lightly top with soil to hold this layer in place, and add an additional layer or two of bulbs.  I like to select a few bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, or Galanthus nivalis, which will emerge in late winter.  These will often be the ones planted most shallow.

~

Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I've tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I’ve tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

~

If your living flower arrangement will contain only bulbs, then simply top off the soil with a layer of living moss, water in, place the pot, and wait.  You can certainly add a few branches, pods, stones or cones to the pot to catch the eye while you wait for spring.

~

Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with Creeping Jenny and a hardy Sedum ‘Angelina’ last April.

~

But I want a living flower arrangement which goes to work right away.  I always add some annuals or perennials to the mix, which complicates the bulb planting a bit, as you don’t want bulbs directly under the huge root ball of a perennial or shrub.   I tend to place  a shrub or perennial in the pot first, then plant the bulbs around it.  This is a good use for those clearance shrubs with tiny root balls so easy to find in late October or November.  Or, for the many evergreen shrubs showing up now in tiny quart or 1 gallon pots.

~

March 20 2014 spring 006

~

Many vines and some perennials root easily from cuttings.  Simply tuck bits of Creeping Jenny, hardy Sedum, or divisions of Ivy or Ajuga into the soil of your finished pot.  These will grow in place.  Consider sprinkling seeds for perennials like Columbine, which like to overwinter out of doors.  They will begin to sprout next spring as the bulbs emerge.

~

Creeping Jenny last March

Creeping Jenny last March

~

You might complete your design with some winter annuals.  You can pot up the deeper layers of bulbs, and then plant a few Violas, Pansies or snaps in the top three inches of the pot.  Layer in your Crocus and Muscari bulbs around them.

~ April 7,2014 spring flowers 002

~

I still finish the pot with moss or pebbles.   This topdressing not only looks more attractive than plain dirt; it helps hold moisture, insulates the roots as temperatures dive, and it offers some protection from digging squirrels.  If I were using Tulips in the pot, I would be tempted to lay some chicken wire, with large openings, over that layer of bulbs for further protection from marauding rodents.  Tuck in a few cloves of garlic or onion sets to protect your Violas from grazing deer and rabbits.

~

March 20 2015 fresh 027~

Now, the ultimate ‘multi-tasking’ for this sort of planting:  hardwood cuttings.  Many of our woodies will root over winter if stuck into moist soil and left alone for several months.  If you have some shrubs you would like to propagate, take your cuttings and push them artistically into the finished pot.  If they root, fine.  If they don’t, you have still enjoyed the extra sculptural elements they lend over winter while the bulbs are sleeping.

~

I've added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

I’ve added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

~

This sort of winter ‘living flower arrangement’ takes a bit of planning.  There are lots of choices to make about timing and color schemes, size and scale, costs and placement.  You have to imagine how the bulbs will look when they emerge, so the tall ones are more to the center and the shorter ones nearer the edges; unless the shorter ones will finish before the tall ones emerge.  And the container must be large enough to contain all of those robust roots without cracking; and of material which will hold up to your winter weather.

~March 6, 2015 garden 002

~

This is an excellent way to showcase miniature Daffodils and other delicate, small flowering bulbs.  You might combine several types of daffies to include those which flower early, mid- and late season.  Daffodils with blue Muscari always look great together.

~

Ornamental cabbage with Heuchera in a newly planted pot.

Ornamental cabbage with Hellebore in a newly planted pot.

~

You might also compose an arrangement of various Iris.  Include some combination of Iris unguicularis, Iris bucharica, Iris histrioides, Iris reticulata, Dutch Iris, and perhaps even a root of German Bearded Iris for a long season of beautiful Iris blooms.

If your winter is especially harsh, plant your container now, water it in, but leave it in an unheated garage or shed until February.  Bring it out into the spring sunshine and enjoy the bulbs when the worst of winter has passed.

~

Newly planted Violas with Heuchera

Newly planted Violas with Hellebores.  Bulbs are tucked into the soil, waiting for spring.

~

We enjoy the luxury of  Zone 7b, which allows us to grow winter annuals which would die a few states to the north, and also bulbs which wouldn’t survive in the warmer winters to our south.  We also have many winter or early spring  flowering shrubs to plant in our container gardens.

~

Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.

Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.  Foliage will fill this pot all winter, with flowers appearing in the spring.

~

Here are some of the plants I choose most often for these dynamic pots:

Perennials:  Hellebores, Heucheras, Cyclamen hederifolium, Arum, Iris unguicularis, evergreen ferns, culinary Sage, Rosemary, Ivy, Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny), Sedum rupestre, ‘Angelina’ and other hardy Sedums, Ajuga, Vinca Minor (Periwinkle), hardy Oxalis, Columbine, Dianthus

~

Pansies will soon respond to wramer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

Pansies will soon respond to warmer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

~

Annuals:  Violas, Panolas, Pansies, Snapdragons, Allysum, ornamental kale or cabbage

Whatever combination of plants you choose, think of these living flower arrangements as narratives which unfold over time.

Time truly is the magical ingredient for baking bread, raising children, and creating beautiful gardens.

~

March 25-28 013

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Small Scale

July 18, 2015 fungus 009

~

It can be interesting to watch nature’s processes play out on a small scale.  That is one of the attractions of gardening in containers, for me.

This large container sits in a shady area of our deck.  It was planted as a moss garden through the winter, but by June it required some major rehabilitation.

~

November 25, 2014 moss garden 013

Last November, when this garden was newly made. The ‘pond’ did not work out very well to hold water. I removed this feature and planted a hardy Begonia in the space. The moss turned brown in our warm spring when it dried out on sunny days.

~

Since I had some tiny potted ferns and Begonias which needed a more permanent home, I’ve been re-working this little garden by adding new plants.  Several volunteers, from airborne seeds, or possibly from the patches of moss, are colonizing the garden as well.  It is endlessly interesting to watch what grows here.

~

July 18, 2015 fungus 008

~

And now, there is a golden yellow mushroom growing right under the little tree!  Who knows whether the spores which started its growth were already in the potting soil, came with the moss, or blew in on the breeze.

~

July 18, 2015 fungus 007

~

Whatever the case, the mycelium which supports this fruiting fungus is alive and well in the pot, connecting the roots of one plant with another.  The tiny tubular filaments of the mycelium, networking through the soil, help distribute nutrients and water from one plant to another, just as they do up in our forest.  All of the plants benefit from fungi in the soil.

~

bouquet and environ

~

And what next, for this tiny garden?  Some of the Begonias are hardy.  I’m looking forward to them blooming as the season progresses, and their roots will survive here to grow again next summer.

~

July 18, 2015 fungus 005

~

A dwarf Begonia, and some of the little ferns, are tender and must be dug this autumn to survive.  Perhaps then I’ll bring fresh moss to carpet the soil through winter.

~

July 18, 2015 fungus 002

~

As dynamic as any part of the larger garden, this little space allows us to watch the seasons come and go in small scale.

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

July 18, 2015 fungus 001

The same fungi have begun to grow in a nearby pot. Perhaps their spores came with the potting soil….

Bonsai Accent Plants

May 28, 2015 garden 052~

While visiting pages written by some of my favorite Bonsai artists last evening, I was absolutely fascinated by a Japanese art form called, ‘Bonsai  accent plants.’  Growing perennials, ferns, herbs, and wildflowers in tiny, shallow little Bonsai pots, over many years, is an horticultural art cultivated along with woody Bonsai.

When I saw these beautiful spring accent pots, I had an “Ah-Ha!” moment.  Immediately, I recognized the mature form of the little “moss gardens” I constructed all winter long.

~

May 28, 2015 garden 040~

Finally, at long last, I saw how these beautiful living masterpieces should be constructed and cultivated.

These accents must look absolutely natural.  In fact, oftentimes seeds germinate after they are constructed, or unexpected perennial roots begin to grow, and are left as part of the composition.

I was especially touched by the compositions of ferns and moss growing on lava rock or hunks of wood.

Having never encountered this art form before, I searched for every scrap of information and photo I could find.  In traditional Bonsai display, the tree itself is displayed along side a calligraphy scroll, and an accent plant which expands on the theme of the tree.

~

Pteris cretica 'Albo-lineate, Variegated Cretan Breakfern

Pteris cretica ‘Albo-lineata, Variegated Cretan Breakfern

~

The accent reflects where the tree might grow in nature, and compliments its form.

The accent plant should also reflect the season in which the tree is displayed.  Plants with spring interest; either spring flowers or unfurling leaves, would be displayed along with Bonsai at a springtime show.  A complete vignette is created by the Bonsai artist to express a mood.

As lovely as the plants themselves, I was entranced by the beautiful handcrafted ceramic bowls paired with many of the plants.  Depending on the plant’s needs, the container might have drainage or not.  Some of the most interesting displays feature succulents, ferns, moss and vines growing directly on rock, as they might in nature.

How does one construct these intriguing displays?  How does one care for them?

~

May 28, 2015 garden 048

~

Of course, I was inspired to create another little moss garden today.  I used a little fern purchased last weekend, which was sitting in the shade waiting for inspiration to strike; a handcrafted pottery bowl, and moss lifted from the garden.

Since this bowl offers no drainage, I mixed a base layer of vermiculite, sand, fine aquarium gravel, and a little perlite.  Good quality fresh potting soil fills the bowl, topped with a thin layer of builder’s sand between the soil and layer of moss.  The sand, I learned last night, provides a better base for the moss than does placing it directly on uneven soil.  The moss makes better contact, and so grows more happily.

Moss should never completely cover the soil, and so fine gravel may be used around the edges of the container to make a thin margin, framing the moss, and also in seems between sheets of moss.  I was doing this instinctively, but learned so much more about moss culture and use last night.

Bare areas of soil, around 25% for trees, allows the tree’s roots to breathe.  Water permeates the soil more easily if it does not need to first soak through a layer of moss.

~

May 28, 2015 garden 044

~

Ideally, an accent plant should be cultivated for several years before it is first displayed.  Like Bonsai trees, these living works of art grow better over time.

Showing you this little arrangement the same day it was created is entirely presumptuous, as is showing it to you alongside a seedling Acer Palmatum in a pot, which is in no way a Bonsai.

I’ve only had the Acer for a few months.  But photographing them together may give  you a faint idea of the beauty Bonsai artists create by pairing a tiny potted plant with a Bonsai tree.

~

May 28, 2015 garden 046

~

Now that I’ve finally had a formal introduction to the concept of accent plants, I have fresh inspiration for my own potted arrangements.  I’ve seen a further horizon of possibility.

I’m keen to experiment with the instructions I read last night for cultivating moss in shallow trays, ready to use when needed.  I’m also now in search of an appropriate wooden or lava base for experimenting with designs layered onto a solid foundation, rather than anchored in soil in a pot.

Oh, the possibilities!

“An artist’s concern

is to capture beauty

wherever he finds it.”
.

Kazuo Ishiguro

 

~

May 28, 2015 garden 047

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

May 28, 2015 garden 053

 

 

In Celebration of Spring

March 21, 2015 moss garden 005

~

In celebration of spring, here is a tiny garden constructed as a gift for a much loved friend.

Our friends celebrate the ancient festival of Nowruz, which is the first day of spring.  This special festival, in celebration of the new year, which begins at the spring equinox; traces its history to ancient times and the Zoroastrian faith of the ancient Persians.

This special festival brings friends and family together to share wishes for health, wealth, and the fulfillment of wishes in the new year.  There is wonderful food, music, flowers, and abundant laughter.  We were so honored to be invited to join their celebrations this evening!

~

March 21, 2015 moss garden 003

~

This little gift of green life and abundance carries our good wishes for the new year to our friends and their family.  There are ferns just poking up through the soil, a sprouting vine of Creeping Jenny, many different mosses, and lichens.

I hope you have celebrated this first day of spring, and that you have found joy in it. 

What a perfect day to count as the beginning of a new year of growth and abundance!

~

March 21, 2015 moss garden 008

Woodland Gnome 2015

Table Top Fern

March 5, 2015 fern 017

~

This ‘Birdsfoot’ or ‘Table top fern,’ remains one of my favorite ferns.  I’ve been searching for one for at least a year now, both in local shops and online.

With sleet and temperatures already falling; we ran to the grocery store for a few last minute items yesterday afternoon.  I checked the floral department (as I always do) and found this beauty, the only one left, mixed in with the Pothos and Kalanchoes.

~

March 5, 2015 fern 002

~

What a treasure! This was my reward for braving the elements in the midst of a winter storm to pick up some last minute groceries!

Birdsfoot fern, Pteris cretica, has very different fronds from traditional ‘Boston’ style ferns.  Its unusually shaped fronds and beautiful markings have always caught my eye.

Each frond grows from a creeping rhizome, and the plants can spread over rocky soil to cover large areas.  Known as a ‘brake’ fern, these tender evergreen ferns may be found in the wild in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean island of Crete, which is the native home of this the Pteris cretica.

Pteris cretica is cultivated mainly as a houseplant in the United States.  In fact the name ‘table top fern’ is given because it grows so well as a medium sized houseplant, fitting neatly on a table.  Preferring shade, Pteris cretica grows well in the low light conditions found in most homes.  Several different cultivars, with various degrees of variegation, may be found.

They live quite happily in moist, shady areas outside, so long as night time temperatures remain well above freezing.

~

March 5, 2015 fern 003

~

When I took a close look at this little fern yesterday evening, it was apparent that it needed a good soaking since it was both dry and pot bound.  Its roots had grown out of the drainage holes of its pot a long while ago.  I gave it a drink of warm water and let it rest overnight.

~

March 5, 2015 fern 006

~

It badly needed release from its tiny nursery pot, and so I chose an elegant Japanese bowl as its temporary home to wait out the rest of winter.

Since the bowl has no drainage, we lay a foundation of medium stones and sphagnum moss to prevent the fern’s roots from becoming waterlogged.  Fresh potting soil, with an extra dose of Osmocote fertilizer, provide a good foundation for the root ball.

~

~

Although the pot appeared to fit in the bowl to begin with, the root ball ended up as too tall to fit once the bowl was prepared.  I gently teased the roots apart and spread them slightly to make the fern fit, and then covered the soil with a layer of various mosses.  The soil appears slightly mounded since the fern’s crown sits slightly higher than the rim of the bowl.

~

~

Re-hydrated, the fronds of this little fern have relaxed and taken on a healthy glow.  Only two fronds didn’t re-hydrate and had to be cut away.

I’ll grow this fern on for the next few weeks before moving it outside into a larger pot in late spring.  It can be divided then, or transplanted whole.

So long as it remains warm and moist, this fern remains a very tough and long-lived plant.  If you haven’t grown a ‘table top fern’ yet, please give it a try next time you see one offered for sale.

Although ferns never bloom, they offer interesting and consistent texture and color both in a pot and in the garden.

~

March 5, 2015 fern 012

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

March 5, 2015 fern 001

 

Heart Stone

February 18, 2015 fern garden 004

~

Have you ever found a heart stone?  A heart stone is a little stone worn away into the shape of a heart.  We always watch for them.

Sometimes we find them on beaches, worn into shape in the pounding surf.  These are always special.

Others we find in rock and crystal shops, at mineral shows, or from online mineral vendors.

Colleen, at Silver Threading, and I have been chatting about heart stones since I read her installment entitled, “ The Swamp Fairy-Deciphering the Code” in her online short story about The Swamp Fairy.  This is a wonderfully magical story, and I invite you to read it from the beginning, “The First Dream of the Swamp Fairy.”

A heart stone features in her story, with a wonderful photograph of the stone.

When Colleen learned that heart stones are special to us, she asked to see some in our collection.  That was enough to inspire me to create a little moss garden for this heart stone, carved from labrodorite.  The fern has actually been growing in this container for a few months now.  It came inside in early autumn to live through the winter in our living room garden.  Today I dressed it up with moss left from yesterday’s fairy garden project, a few bits of lichens I’ve been saving, and of course, a heart stone.

~

February 18, 2015 fern garden 003

~

You might have noticed that I often use bits of mineral and gemstone in my potted gardens and terrariums.  Gemstones all have a very particular molecular and crystalline structure which allows them to transmit and amplify energy; particularly electrical energy.  That is why the watch you’re wearing is probably a quartz watch.  The piezoelectric properties of all quartz based minerals are particularly useful for receiving, amplifying, storing, transmitting, and transforming energy.  That is why our computers use quartz, and why the Egyptians capped their pyramids and built their obelisks from quartz rich granite.

All plants and animals produce bioelectricity.  We respond to the energy produced by the sun and transmitted by the Earth.  Pairing plants with minerals enhances both.

And keeping a heart stone nestled in this bed of moss, beneath this young fern, in the heart of our home, feels like a good thing to do.  We enjoy its beauty, and it radiates happiness and well-being.

~

February 18, 2015 stone 002~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

Heart stones found on the beach in the Aran Islands.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 654 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest