Beginning a New ‘Stump Garden’

Tree damage in our area after the October 2018 hurricane swept through.

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This has been a very bad year for our trees.  Our community sustained major tree damage when a hurricane blew through in October, and even more damage when heavy wet snow fell very quickly in early December, before the trees were prepared for winter.

There appeared to be just as much, maybe more damage, from the December snow.  At least that was the case in our yard, where we lost two old peach trees.

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December 10, 2018, a few days after a heavy snow toppled both of our remaining peach trees. We couldn’t even work with them for several days because everything was frozen solid.

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We found trees and limbs down all over our area again today, after a severe line of thunderstorms pass over us around 3 this morning.  There were tornadoes in the area, and we were extremely fortunate.  We had a mess to clean up, but no major damage to our trees.

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I know many people whose beautiful trees have been reduced to stumps over the past several months.  Depending on how the tree breaks, you may have a neat platform, sawed off cleanly, or you may have a jagged stump left where the tree broke.

A stump is still another opportunity to respond to a challenge with resilience, seeing an opportunity instead of a tragedy.  There is nothing personal about a tree knocked over by gnarly weather and so there is no cause to sulk or lament.  Once the shock of it has passed, and the mess cleaned up, it’s time to formulate a plan.

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Our peaches in bloom in 2017

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Maybe easier said, than done.  I’ve pondered the jagged stumps left by our beautiful peach trees for the last four months.  The trees hadn’t given us peaches for many years, although they bloomed and produced fruits.

The squirrels always got them first, and the trees had some health issues.  Now we see that the stumps were hollow, which is probably why they splintered when they fell.  But we loved their spring time flowers and their summer shade.

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The jagged remains of a once beautiful peach tree, that once shaded our fern garden and anchored the bottom of a path.

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Now, not only do I have a stump at the bottom of our hillside path, but the main shade for our fern garden is gone.  I’m wondering how the ferns will do this summer and whether other nearby trees and the bamboo will provide enough shade.  A garden is always changing.  We just have to keep our balance as we surf the waves of change.

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Native ebony spleenwort transplanted successfully into this old stump.

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Stumps are a fact of life in this garden, and I’ve developed a few strategies to deal with them.  The underlying roots hold water, and they will eventually decay, releasing nutrients back into the soil.  I consider it an opportunity to build a raised bed, maybe to use the hollow stump as a natural ‘container,’ and certainly an anchor for a new planting area.

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I planted ‘Autumn Brilliance’ ferns in Leaf Grow Soil conditioner, packed around a small stump, for the beginnings of a new garden in the shade in 2015.  This area has grown to anchor a major part of our present fern garden.

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This particular new stump forms the corner of our fern garden, and I very much want trees here again.  And so I gathered up some found materials over the weekend and began reconstructing a new planting.  First, I found some year old seedlings from our redbud tree growing in nearby beds, just leafing out for spring.  I didn’t want the seedlings to grow on where they had sprouted, because they would shade areas planted for sun.

Tiny though these seedlings may be, redbuds grow fairly quickly.  I transplanted two little trees to grow together right beside the stump.  They will replace the fallen peach with springtime color, summer shade, and all year round structure.  Eventually, they will also form a new living ‘wall’ for the jagged opening of the stump.

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I planted two small redbud tree seedlings near the opening of the stump.

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I had two deciduous ferns, left from the A. ‘Branford Rambler’ ferns I divided last fall, and still in their pots.  I filled the bottom of the stump with a little fresh soil, and pushed both of these fern root balls into the opening of the stump, topping them off with some more potting soil, mixed with gravel, pilfered from one of last summer’s hanging baskets.

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This is a fairly fragile planting, still open to one side.  It will be several years before the redbuds grow large enough to close off the opening in the stump.  And so I pulled up some sheets of our indigenous fern moss and used those to both close off the opening, and also to ‘mulch’ the torn up area around the new tree seedlings.  Fern moss always grows in this spot.

But fern moss also grows on some shaded bricks in another bed.  It is like a little ‘moss nursery,’ and I can pull off sheets to use in various projects every few weeks.  It renews itself on the bricks relatively quickly, and so I transplanted fresh moss from the bricks to this new stump garden.

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After pushing the moss firmly into the soil, I wrapped some plastic mesh, cut from a bulb bag, over the opening in the stump, and tied it in place with twine.  I was hoping for a ‘kokedama’ effect, but the rough contours of the stump thwarted every effort at neatness.

I’ll leave the mesh in place for a few weeks, like a band-aid, until the moss grows in and naturally holds the soil around the roots of the fern.  Something is needed to protect the soil during our frequent, heavy rains.

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I will very likely add some more ferns or other ground cover perennials around the unplanted side of this stump over the next few weeks, just to cover the wound and turn this eye-sore into a beauty spot.

The ulterior motive is to make sure that foot traffic remains far enough away from the stump that no one gets hurt on the jagged edges.  Could I even them out with a saw?  Maybe-  The wood is very hard, still, and I’ve not been successful with hand tools thus far.  Better for now to cover them with fresh greenery from the ferns.

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The second peach stump stands waiting for care.  I noticed, in taking its photo, that it is still alive and throwing out new growth.  It is also in a semi-shaded area, and I plan to plant a fern in this stump, too.

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The stump garden begun in 2015 with a pair of ferns has grown into this beautiful section of our fern garden, as it looked in May of 2018. The tall ‘Autumn Beauty’ ferns in the center are the originals, shown in the previous photo.

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Quite often the stumps disappear entirely after such treatment.  The new perennials grow up as the old stump decays, enriching the soil and holding moisture to anchor the bed.  And of course all sorts of creatures find food and shelter in the decaying stump and around the new planting.

This is a gentle way of working with nature rather than fighting against it.  It calls on our creativity and patience, allows the garden to evolve, and offers opportunities to re-cycle plants and materials we might otherwise discard.  It allows us to transform chaos into beauty; loss into joy.

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Woodland Gnome  2019

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“Don’t grieve.
Anything you lose
comes round in another form.”
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Rumi
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The fern garden in late April, 2018

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Sunday Dinner: Artistry

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“Art and love are the same thing:
It’s the process of seeing yourself
in things that are not you.”
.
Chuck Klosterman

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Iris germanica ‘Secret Rites’

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“Everything you can imagine is real.”
.
Pablo Picasso

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“If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I, an artist, will answer you:
I am here to live out loud.”
.
Émile Zola

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“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist
once he grows up.”
.
Pablo Picasso

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“Art washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.”
.
Pablo Picasso

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“It would be possible to describe everything scientifically,
but it would make no sense;
it would be without meaning,
as if you described a Beethoven symphony
as a variation of wave pressure.”
.
Albert Einstein

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“When words become unclear,
I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate,
I shall be content with silence.”
.
Ansel Adams

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

Vases by Bob Leek

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“Art is not what you see,
but what you make others see.”
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Edgar Degas

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“There are painters who transform the sun
to a yellow spot,
but there are others
who with the help of their art and their intelligence,
transform a yellow spot
into sun”
.
Pablo Picasso

Fabulous Friday: Emerging

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“Acorn struggles in pain to crack the hard shell and emerge.
For it senses that out there… exists more and it knows it.
It feels that there is a sun, even if Acorn hasn’t seen it.
It has felt some warmth and energy
and it aches for more.”
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Robin Rumi

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Once begun, spring’s progression continues in waves.  Sometimes faster, sometimes slower depending on the weather; it remains inevitable in its power to transform the world around us.

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Perhaps it is a painful experience for bursting bulbs and acorns, swelling seeds, and bark ripping open to allow buds to emerge and grow.  It is a birth of new life, after all.

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Growing up, I never thought of plants as experiencing fear or pain.  Recent research shows that they register both.

I’ve been reading Peter Wohlleben‘s book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World.  I am amazed to know that trees feel pain when cut or grazed, and can signal one another to chemically change their leaves so they are distasteful to grazing animals. 

There is so much more to understand about the natural world than we ever really consider….

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Now I wonder whether plants shiver and feel the cold on our frosty nights, especially now that our perennials are awakening and new growth has begun to emerge.

I certainly feel the cold, wandering through the garden to check its progress.  Surely they must feel the icy wind as surely as they feel the sun’s warmth on their emerging leaves.

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I relish watching the process unfold, as the earth splits open to allow tender shoots to push their way up to a new season of life.    The roots hold life, even when we don’t see or even remember them.

I am continually surprised as perennials emerge from the mulch, often spreading and popping up where they never were before.  Winter’s forgetfulness  is erased by the sudden unfolding of spring.

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The cat mint, Nepeta, is growing strong now, much to our cat’s delight.

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The dry and shaggy perennial stems hold life, too; ready to cover themselves in fresh leaves, when the time is right.

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Watching perennials emerge feels like greeting old friends returning from their travels far away.  We spot a few more each week, waiting not too patiently for their time to take off and grow once again.

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The excitement is building in my gardener’s heart, this Fabulous Friday, as we discover ever more signs of spring.

Gloucester’s Daffodil Festival begins tomorrow.  We have just returned from greeting friends there, and exploring the Heath’s display gardens at their Bulb Shop.

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Narcissus ‘Katie Heath,’ hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother. This stand blooms in our garden today.

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All of the roads leading into town are lined with thousands of blooming daffodils this weekend.  Shops in Gloucester Courthouse are preparing for the crowds tomorrow, all wreathed and tied with yellow bows.  Tents are popping up, and the Daffodil Arches have been raised.

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Did I mention that we have snow in our forecast for tomorrow night??  As much as we long for spring, winter has not yet finished with us here in coastal Virginia.  We studied the weekend weather, and decided to make our trip to see the daffodils today, when it was sunny and almost warm.

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We are ready to step up and do our part in the garden, just as soon as the weather settles.  But anticipation is a large part of the pleasure, isn’t it?

I hope that you have signs of spring around you this Friday afternoon, and plans to enjoy the weekend ahead.  Even if winter is still lingering in your garden, we each know in our hearts that a new season is emerging all around us.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious! 
Let’s infect one another!

Fabulous Friday: Signs of Spring

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Jack, or Jacqueline Frost, visited our garden last night.  The temperature dropped quickly after the sun went down, and there was no wind.

Long, intricate ice crystals formed on every moist surface.

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I went out early enough this morning to discover them.  The sun’s first rays were just stroking them, and releasing each ice crystal back into the sky as mist.

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“In the process of  falling to the earth,
seeping into the ground, and then emerging,
water obtains information from various minerals
and becomes wise.”
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Masaru Emoto
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As I wandered around, admiring the rim of frost on grass and leaves, buds and glass, I also noticed many signs of spring.

The ground in our garden may be frozen hard, but determined green shoots still emerge.

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Perennials still push up a few tentative leaves.  Woody buds swell.

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And the desiccated chaff remaining from summer’s growth blankets the ground.  It, too, prepares for spring as it decomposes and enriches the soil for all that will follow.

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Maybe it is in our nature to watch and wait for signs of events still beyond the horizon of our lives.   Perhaps it is a lack of discipline when we shift our focus from ‘what is’ to ‘what will come.’

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Even as we appreciate winter’s gifts of fiery sunsets, quiet snow, long evenings and intricate crystalline artworks shining in the morning sunshine;  spring already stirs in our hearts.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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“What is the relationship between love and gratitude?
For an answer to this question, we can use water as a model.
A water molecule consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom,
represented by H2O.
If love and gratitude , like oxygen and hydrogen,
were linked together in a ratio of 1 to 2,
gratitude would be twice as large as love.”
.
Masaru Emoto, Hidden Messages in Water

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another.

More Growth: Past, Present, Future

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“Patience is to wait for the ice to melt

instead of breaking it.”

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Munia Khan

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“…ice contains no future ,

just the past, sealed away.

As if they’re alive, everything in the world

is sealed up inside, clear and distinct.

Ice can preserve all kinds of things

that way- cleanly, clearly.

That’s the essence of ice,

the role it plays.”

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Haruki Murakami

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“Snowflakes are one of nature’s

most fragile things,

but just look what they can do

when they stick together.”

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Vesta M. Kelly

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“Thank goodness for the first snow,

it was a reminder-

-no matter how old you became

and how much you’d seen,

things could still be new

if you were willing to believe

they still mattered.”

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Candace Bushnell

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

 

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Growth

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Fabulous Friday: Visitors

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We don’t see everyone, ever.  And those we see, we never see all at once.  Often I don’t see them at all, until I spot them in a photo, later.

It fascinates me to take a photo seemingly of one thing, and spot beautiful creatures lurking in it, well camouflaged, when I study it later.

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Somewhere within the tangled mass of stems and petals, our visitors quietly go about their business.  Some, like the bumblies and hummers we may hear.

The hummers generally dart away before my camera finds its focus.  They have a special sense to know when you’re watching them, I’ve learned.

The bumblies don’t care.  They remain too focused on their serious business of gathering nectar and pollen to let my camera distract them.

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The butterflies and moths drift silently from flower to flower.  If I stand very still and quiet near a mass of flowers, I may catch their movement.  If they notice me, they may take off above the tree tops, waiting for me to move away so they can resume their sipping.

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We are spotting mostly Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies lately.

Yes, the Tiger Swallowtails and Zebra Swallowtails show up, too.  We’ve even spotted a Monarch or two.  But these beautiful black butterflies are hatching now from the caterpillars we fed earlier in the season, I believe.  I think they may be “home grown.”

Do you ever wonder whether butterflies remember their life as a caterpillar? Do they fly past the plants they grazed on earlier this season, and remember crawling there?

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We spent much of the morning out in the garden.  It was cool, and there was a breeze.

We enjoyed a ‘September sky’ today; brilliantly clear and blue, with high, bright white wisps of cloud.  It was the sort of September day which reminded me how blessed I am to be retired, and free to be outside to enjoy it.  The first week of school is still a special time for me; and I count my blessings that others have taken on that work, and I have left it behind.

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There are always things to do in the garden.  But I much prefer ‘not-doing’ in the garden.

‘Not-doing’ means wandering about to see what we can see.  I may notice what should be done later, but the point is to simply observe and enjoy.

Sometimes I leave my camera inside, or in my pocket, and just silently observe the intricate web of life unfolding around us.

But soon enough, I’m wanting to capture it all, frame it all, and share the best bits with you.

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious,

Let’s Infect One Another!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
.
Lao Tzu

Collage: Hibiscus

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Hibiscus flowers fill our garden each summer from July through September. 

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Tree Hibiscus, also known as Hibiscus syriacus or Rose of Sharon; were first planted by earlier gardeners on this site.  Now they reseed themselves all over our garden.  Deciduous, their lean frames catch winter’s snow,  and hold seed filled pods to sustain our birds all winter.

Both leaves and flowers open a little late, but the flowers keep coming into September.  Butterflies, every sort of bee, and hummingbirds feast on their nectar from early July until autumn.

Rose of Sharon flowers remain fairly small, only a couple of inches across.  Our other perennial Hibiscus sport huge, saucer sized blossoms.

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Native Hibiscus moscheutos, which grows wild in the marshes near us, grows rapidly once the weather warms in early summer.  Though its flowers are short lived, they keep coming over several weeks.  The dried seed pods linger into winter, when we finally cut back its woody stalks.

Beautiful swamp Hibiscus, Hibiscus coccineus, will soon burst into bloom in our garden, sporting scarlet flowers on towering woody stems.

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Hibiscus coccineus, another native Hibiscus, will bloom before the end of July. Its beautiful slender leaves gracefully clothe its tall stems. it will tower above the surrounding garden when it blooms.

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These showy, generous blossoms blend into a collage of color in our garden, animated by the many pollinators buzzing from one to the other, sustained by their sweet nectar.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Collage

 

First of June

Bumbly on Verbena bonariensis

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The first Crepe Myrtle blossoms have opened on median strip trees near our home.  It surprised me to see their pink fluffiness in the upper reaches of these trees which so recently sported only bare branches.

It still feels like witnessing a miracle to watch the annual progression of leaf and blossom, a miracle which still thrills me.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea, showing the first tint of pink in its blossoms.

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I was chasing two does out of our garden this afternoon, when I noticed a new soft blueness from the corner of my eye.  Looking more closely, freshly opened mop-head Hydrangea flowers came into focus in the depths of our shrub border.  These were well hidden, out of reach of hungry mouths scavenging for any greenery not lately coated in Repels-All.

The nearby buds of a  R. ‘John Paul II’ were gone.  We’ve had days of rain lately, so no use worrying too much over what’s been nabbed.  We’ve done our best.

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Our flowering carrots have proven very satisfying.

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But my day’s ‘to-do’ list is still not done.  I’ll head back out to the garden at dusk to spread what’s left of our bag of MilorganiteMaybe that will discourage further trespass.

It’s impossible to remain grumpy for long, when in the garden.  For every hoof print or buzzing bitey, there are a dozen newly opened flowers to enjoy.

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We stopped to enjoy this Zebra Swallowtail feeding on milkweed while in Gloucester yesterday.

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It is fabulous to watch our summer garden finally unfold.  The first Canna flowers opened today, too, and the first vibrant spikes of Liatris are showing color.  Everywhere I look, there is something new to discover and to enjoy.

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First Liatris flower from the bulbs we planted this spring.  Pollinators enjoy these, too.  The feast is spread; where are our butterflies?

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We celebrated this turning towards summer yesterday with a day trip to  Gloucester.  It is a beautiful drive, first of all, along the Colonial Parkway and over the Coleman Bridge.  The York River was alive with small craft.  There’s an active Osprey nest nestled into the bridge’s structure above the control booth, and I always watch for a glimpse of mother or chicks.

We visited at the Bulb Shop and spent a while meditating on the new season’s growth in the Heath’s display gardens.  I’m always studying how they assemble groupings of plants, looking for fresh ideas.

But I was distracted at the Heron Pond, photographing their newly opened water lily blossoms.  There is so much to see, so much to learn, and so much to enjoy.

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Now that their summer stock is marked down by half, I took advantage of the opportunity to try a few new perennials.  I’ll be planting our first ever Kniphofia.  I don’t know how to pronounce it, so we’ll just call them ‘Red Hot Pokers’ and you’ll know what I mean.  This is another perennial I admire growing in huge clumps near the Pacific beaches in Oregon.  Pollinators and butterflies love them , and so I plan to plant a clump in our front garden to see how we like them.

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Daucus carota

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Other than moving the remaining Caladiums out to the garden, our spring planting is about finished.  Now comes the joy of it all, as we sit back and enjoy watching everything grow; and enjoy, even more, sharing it with friends who stop by for a leisurely summer-time visit.

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Calla lily, or Zantedeschia, with Black eyed Susans nearly ready to bloom and starts of Obedient plant given to us by a friend. 

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Bees do have a smell, you know,
and if they don’t they should,
for their feet are dusted
with spices from a million flowers.”

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Ray Bradbury
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Allium

Sunday Dinner: Water Is Life

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“Brushing the clouds away from my eyes,

I see clarity in the raindrop

and beauty in the first ray of morning sun… 

Life is strange and wondrous…”

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Virginia Alison

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“On the fifth day, which was a Sunday,

it rained very hard.

I like it when it rains hard.

It sounds like white noise everywhere,

which is like silence but not empty.”

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Mark Haddon

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“The sky mingled with the Earth infinitely

in the tenderness of rain drops.”

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Meeta Ahluwalia

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“Sometimes enlightenment descends upon you

when you least expect it…”

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Dean Koontz

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Mist to mist, drops to drops.

For water thou art,

and unto water shalt thou return.”

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Kamand Kojouri

Fabulous Friday: Wisteria

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We pulled into the parking area below VIMS at the Gloucester Point Beach the other evening, just as the sun was setting.  We wanted to see whether that beautiful Heron might still be around, and so I hopped out with my camera to explore the nearby wetland.

I was delighted to discover a huge Wisteria vine in full bloom along the opposite bank.

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The air was fresh and salty.  We could smell the river and hear the bridge singing as vehicles drove across above us.

Otherwise, it was peaceful and silent in this beautiful place, near the beach.

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The bridge which brings us from Yorktown to Gloucester Point

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When we visited last time, leaves were just beginning to emerge.  Thin green blades were emerging among the reeds.  We never even noticed the Wisteria vines in the tangle of vegetation.  What a difference a week makes in April!  Quite suddenly, the cove was ablaze in beautiful flowers.

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We have been enjoying the Wisteria this week.  Wisteria grows wild here.  You’ll find it weaving its way through the trees in neighborhoods, along roadsides, and here beside the York River.   It just grows bigger and better each year, covering vast areas with its tenacious stems and lush green leaves.  The flowers last for a few weeks, and then they are gone until the following year.

Wisteria in bloom is one of the most fabulous sights of spring, and worth sharing with you this Friday.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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