Garden Gold

Fennel flowers allow for easy access to their nectar.

~

The hotter it gets, the more gold in the garden glitters and shines.  As the mercury goes up, yellow and gold feel almost cooling.

~

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly feeds on Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Yellow,’ a fairly new perennial Lantana introduction. WBG

~

I don’t understand the alchemy of that, but I do understand the clear attraction of gold for all of our nectar seeking pollinators.

~

~

Gold flowers may just taste sweeter.  They certainly draw in the bees, wasps and butterflies who draw sustenance from their sugary depths.

~

Lantana ‘Chapel Hill Gold’ is also a perennial in Zone 7. WBG

~

All the while, these prolific flowers are also ripening seeds to delight goldfinches and other small birds who will feast on their ripe seeds well into the barren months of winter.

~

Flocks of goldfinches took wing from the wildflowers where they were feeding, as I walked through the Williamburg Botanical Garden yesterday afternoon.

~

Golden and yellow flowers often prove among the easiest for a gardener to grow.  Turn to dill, fennel and parsley for their distinctive round umbel inflorescence, all flat and easy to access;  Rudbeckias and Helianthus for their many petaled sunburst flowers.

~

The first black eyed Susans, our native Rudbecki hirta, have begun to open in our garden.

~

Coreopsis, Lantana, marigolds and Zinnias all bloom in shades of yellow, orange and gold.

~

~

The season ends on a wild and native note as Solidagos burst into bloom in September and October, towering over the black eyed Susans in our garden like great feathery plumes of living gold.

~

Solidago blooms alongside Rudbeckia in our garden, October 2017.

~

If the entire garden were nothing but green and gold, animated with swallowtail butterflies and goldfinches, what a beautiful display we would still enjoy.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

~

~

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood

will show you something about the sun

which you could never get

from reading books on astronomy.

These pure and spontaneous pleasures

are ‘patches of Godlight’

in the woods of our experience.”


.

C.S. Lewis

Advertisements

Native Monarda punctata

Monarda punctata in a ceramic vase by local potter Bob Leek.

~

If you’re looking for an elegant and unusual native perennial for a sunny spot in your garden, you might enjoy growing Monarda punctata.  Known as horsemint, or spotted bee balm, this very unusual floral display relies on large bracts and tiny, spotted flowers to advertise its nectar.

There are nine different varieties of this very architectural Monarda, having slight variations in color of the bracts and tiny flowers.  Unlike most Monardas, the ‘flowers’ grow in stacks, one group atop the next, surrounded by elegant bracts.  Each long branch, cloaked in narrow, opposite leaves. branches out near the top.  Each branch terminates in its own stack of flower clusters.

Bees of all sorts and hummingbirds are attracted to feed on the plant’s nectar.

~

~

Hardy in Zones 3-8, Monarda punctata is native over most of the Eastern United States from Vermont to Texas.  A member of the mint family, clumps will expand over time.  Start new plants from seed or stem cuttings taken in summer.

I found my plant at the Sassafras Farm booth at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market, and just planted it out into a permanent spot in the garden a few days ago.  I cut it back a bit this morning , hoping to encourage a new round of fresh flowers.  Who knows, maybe these little cuttings in the vase will throw out some new roots over the week ahead, and I can grow out a few more plants of this beauty.

~

~

I am encouraged to grow more of this Monarda because other Monarda species have done very well for us,  can tolerate some days of dry soil, once established, and they grow in full sun to partial shade.  This is a native herb, and can get along on its own quite nicely without a lot of fuss from a gardener.

I like that, as there are lots of other plants in our garden which need attention, and there are always a few weeds I need to pull as well!

~

~

Monarda’s texture and aroma make it unattractive to deer; another reason I’m happy to grow it!  We cut back our other Monardas after they bloom, and new blooming stems often appear along the main stems to extend the season.  Monarda will die back in autumn, and will disappear entirely over winter.  But it comes back the following spring, larger and with more flowers each passing year.

And we are always happy to welcome Monarda in early summer, knowing we will have a long season of enjoying its fragrance, beauty, and its ability to attract interesting pollinators to our garden.

~

Echinacea and Monarda fistulosa prove beautiful native perennials in our area.

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Fabulous Friday: Hibiscus in Bloom

Hibiscus moscheutos opens its first blooms of the season today.

~

We always celebrate when the Hibiscus moscheutos bloom.  These easy native perennials largely care for themselves.  Although they die back to the ground each autumn, they grow quickly once their stems finally appear again in late spring.

~

~

Native Hibiscus prove very accommodating and will grow in a variety of conditions.   Seen most commonly in the wild near water, they appreciate a little irrigation when the weather turns hot and dry.  They grow in a variety of soils from partial shade to full sun.  Happy, well irrigated plants grow to between four and five feet tall.

We let them seed themselves around and grow where they will, always delighted when their colorful blooms quite suddenly appear in mid-summer.  Each stem may produce a half dozen or more buds.  Once the flowers fade, interesting seed capsules ripen and persist into winter.  Many of our songbirds enjoy pecking ripe seeds from the open capsules until we finally cut their dried stems down.

~

Hybrid Hibiscus ‘Kopper King’ is much showier than our native Hibiscus with somewhat larger flowers. Its foliage is also more attractive… until the Japanese beetles have their way with the leaves.  This cultivar was introduced by the Fleming Brothers of Lincoln, Nebraska, who have produced several Hibiscus hybrids based on crosses of H. moscheutos and H. coccineus.

~

While many cultivars of H. moscheutos are available on the market, I believe that most of ours are the species.  We planted H. ‘Kopper King’ about four years ago and it has grown into a large and vigorous plant. Various Hibiscus volunteers in our garden bloom deep pink, light pink or white.  We see them, too, in the marshes along the James River and creeks that feed it.

~

Hardy Hibiscus coccineus will start blooming by early August.

~

Native Hibiscus prove a reliable, hardy and very beautiful perennial in our garden.  We have more native Hibiscus species yet to bloom; and the Asian Hibiscus syriacus, or woody Rose of Sharon, is in the midst of its much longer season of bloom.

~

Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon

~

The woody shrub form of Asian Hibiscus also seeds itself around the garden, growing quickly from seedling to blooming tree in just a few years.  Although new cultivars are introduced each year, we have four or five different flower colors and forms which keep us quite happy.  A non-native, it also feeds many creatures with its nectar, pollen, leaves and seeds.

~

Rose of Sharon, or tree Hibiscus

~

It is fabulous to enjoy a plethora of gorgeous showy flowers with very little effort on our part during this muggiest part of summer.  It is also fabulous to watch the beautiful and varied bees, butterflies and hummingbirds that visit to enjoy their abundant pollen and sweet nectar each day.

~

Rose of Sharon in our shrub border bloom prolifically from mid-June until early September.

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious;

let’s infect one another!

*

*

“Seize the moments of happiness,

love and be loved!

That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

It is the one thing we are interested in here.”

.

Leo Tolstoy

 

Illumination and The Freedoms We Celebrate

~

“But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue?
It is the greatest of all possible evils;
for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.
Those who know what virtuous liberty is,
cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads,
on account of their having
high-sounding words in their mouths.”
.
Edmund Burke

~

~

“If ever a time should come,
when vain and aspiring men
shall possess the highest seats in Government,
our country will stand in need
of its experienced patriots
to prevent its ruin.”
.
Samuel Adams

~

~

“Liberty without Learning is always in peril
and Learning without Liberty is always in vain.”
.
John F. Kennedy

~

~

“They who can give up essential liberty
to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
.
Benjamin Franklin

~

~

“Those who deny freedom to others,
deserve it not for themselves”
.
Abraham Lincoln
*
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

~

~

“I am an American; free born and free bred,
where I acknowledge no man as my superior,
except for his own worth,
or as my inferior,
except for his own demerit.”
.
Theodore Roosevelt

~

~
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom,
must, like men,
undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
.
Thomas Paine
~

Blossom XLIII: Verbena

~

A winning combination:  Dependable, easy to grow,  attracts butterflies and other pollinators, grows well with others.  Verbena bonariensis endears itself to my gardener’s heart a little more with each passing summer.

~

~

I bought my first few on a whim as little plugs from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs several years ago.  I had admired this Verbena growing in their display garden both for the clear lovely color of the flower, and for its obvious popularity with the winged nectar loving set.  I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I planted the plugs into slightly raised, full sun beds with confidence that something interesting would grow.

I had grown other Verbenas, of course, before trying this very tall, perennial variety.  I still pick up a few annual Verbenas for my pots and baskets each year.  They produce non-stop flowers all summer, take full sun, shrug off July and August heat, and keep on blooming up until frost.  All they ask is that you don’t let them dry out completely, and perhaps offer a snack when you water from time to time.

~

Annual Verbena grows in a sunny pot with Lantana.

~

I’ve also grown Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple,’ which makes a beautiful ground cover and often returns the following year.  It prefers somewhat dry soil, and though hardy to Zone 6, may not make it through a particularly wet or late winter.

~

Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’

~

It was introduced in the 1990s, and is very commonly available throughout our region, alongside the many colorful annual Verbenas each spring.  The flowers are a very intense purple, and the foliage a rich dark green.

~

Eastern Swallowtail butterfly on Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’ at the Heath family’s garden in Gloucester.

~

All of the Verbena flowers prolifically attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Verbena bonariensis, native in South America, mixes lightly among other perennials in the garden.  Its long airy stems, sparse foliage and small flowers allow it to appear to float in mid-air, like some magical oasis for pollinators.

~

~

It can grow to 5′ or more tall, in full sun and steady moisture.  It forms expanding clumps, and also spreads its seeds around easily.  It isn’t considered invasive in Virginia, and though it will send up nearby seedlings, they are almost always welcome.  Any falling in a path can be easily moved or shared.

And now I’m adding still another native Verbena to our garden:  Verbena hastata, which is a North American native perennial.  I’ve admired it at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, but found it potted and offered for sale on Saturday at the Sassafras Farm display at our local Farmer’s Market.

~

Verbena hastata at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

~

Verbena hastata, commonly called Blue Vervain, is native to our region and feeds both pollinators and birds.  It grows in moist, disturbed soil in full sun to partial shade and is frequently found near swamps, ditches, and ponds.  It is a larval host for the Verbena moth and the Buckeye butterfly.

I was first attracted by the wonderful violet color of its unusual flowers.  Like V. bonariensis, this is another very tall, airy plant, which blends well into a meadow planting or mixed border.  The plant itself is nearly invisible allowing its flowers to attract all of one’s attention.

~

~

Verbena has a coarse, somewhat bitter foliage that is unappealing to deer.  While rabbits have been known to nibble at Verbena hastata, especially new and tender growth, the plant survives.

I am always interested to learn by growing out a new plant.  One can read multiple descriptions and still not really know a plant, unless it has lived in one’s own garden for a season.  I want to watch it grow and see how it responds to the challenges of the passing seasons and the wandering herbivores, before I feel any confidence in recommending it to others.  But the next best thing to growing a plant myself is to watch it in a public garden, or listen to another gardener describe their experience growing it.

~

~

After talking with Sassafras Farm owner Denise Greene on Saturday, I left with pots of three new perennials to trial here in our Forest Garden.  In addition to Verbena hastata, I also came away with Eryngium yuccifolium and horsemint, our native Monarda punctata.  I’ve been looking for this Monarda for a few seasons now, and it caught my attention first with its huge, delicately tinted very architectural flowers.

I parked all three pots near the hose when we got home from the market on Saturday, watered them, and headed back out on more errands.  Yesterday I was away, and when I checked the new pots in the early evening, I was delighted to find a cloud of bees surrounding the still potted Monarda!  I’m still plotting where each of these interesting new perennials will grow in our garden.  But know that once they are settled in, photos will follow!

~

Monarda grows well in the conditions of our garden, even in partial shade. Here, Monarda fistulosa grows with purple coneflowers.

~

Most of us want to invest in plants we believe will grow well for us.  Who wants to invest, only to watch a plant decline and fail; or worse, feed some vagrant deer?

My search for deer resistant, tough, drought tolerant and beautiful perennial plants continues.  If you are considering additions to your garden, I hope you will take a closer look at the native American Verbenas.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018
*
And, another one: 
Have you grown Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum?
~

Mountain mint is another tough, native perennial for pollinators, that deer will leave strictly alone.

~
Blossom XLII: Carrots in Bloom
Blossom XLI: Tradescantia

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Building A Community

~

“The world is so empty
if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities;
but to know someone who thinks & feels with us,
& who, though distant, is close to us in spirit,
this makes the earth for us
an inhabited garden.”
.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
~
~
“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches
is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum,
and that as long as the sun still shines
and people still can plan and plant, think and do,
we can, if we bother to try,
find ways to provide for ourselves
without diminishing the world. ”
.
Michael Pollan
~
~
“I know there is strength
in the differences between us.
I know there is comfort,
where we overlap.”
.
Ani DiFranco
~
~
“Community is a sign that love is possible
in a materialistic world
where people so often either ignore or fight each other.
It is a sign that we don’t need
a lot of money to be happy-
-in fact, the opposite.”
.
Jean Vanie
~
~
“If man is to survive,
he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences
between men and between cultures.
He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes
are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety,
not something to fear.”
.
Gene Roddenberry
~
~
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
*
“Every human activity
can be put at the service of the divine and of love.
We should all exercise our gift
to build community.”
.
Jean Vanie
~

Pot Shots: Breaking Dormancy

 

These tiny Alocasias grow from tubers stored in the basement over winter. Could they be A. ‘Stingray?

~

It was with a fair amount of faith and a tad of skepticism that I pulled up some of my Colocasias and Alocasias last fall and stored them in the basement in paper grocery bags for the winter.  Some had been growing in the ground, and others in pots that I wanted to reuse with other plants, for winter.

All were likely to die if frost hit them.  So I did the best I could to save them.

~

How many plants? I didn’t count…. But here are four grocery bags filled with Aroids to sleep through winter in the basement.

~

 Some of the Colocasias, like C. ‘Pink China’ are reliably hardy in our climate.  I just leave them be when frost comes, knowing, now, that I can count on their return the following summer.

~

Colocasia ‘Pink China’ return each summer here in Zone 7.

~

But most are native in Zones 8, 9, 10 or 11 and so must be moved indoors before the first frost.  I searched online for advice on how to overwinter these very tender perennials.  Surprisingly, a number of writers suggested simply pulling the entire plant up, roots and soil still intact, and putting the entire root ball in a paper bag, to be stored in a basement or partially heated garage.

I found the two largest Alocasias in little pots at Trader Joes, in February of 2017 By October they had grown huge.  Each went into its own Trader Joe’s paper bag for the trip to our basement.

~

This Alocasia, originally from Trader Joe’s, wasn’t labeled when I bought it last winter. It reminds me of A. ‘Regal Shields,’ but grows a bit larger.  I pulled the entire root ball from the pot, and stored it in the basement over winter.

~

I am happy to report that both of them made it through winter stored in the rough, and have begun to show new growth.  I didn’t water them at all from November until moving them back outside in early May.   I potted them into plastic nursery pots, watered them well and set them aside to see whether they would live.  And now I am thrilled to see evidence of new growth on both plants.

~

It’s alive!

~

Aroids grow from tubers, and so can go completely dormant for some part of each year.  The size and shape of the tuber differs between the Caladium, Colocasia, Alocasia and Zantedeschia.  But all of these plants may be completely dried out and stored for some months, and then re-animated when good conditions for their growth return.

~

From left: Caladium Burning Heart,’ Alocasia, and Zantedesichia ‘Memories’

~

I have experimented with various ways of storing all of these tubers.  There is a balance to maintain; dormant tubers may rot if kept wet and cool.  I brought one of my Alocasias into the living room over winter.  It remained in active growth indoors, and I just moved it back outside in early June.

~

This Alocasia ‘plumbea’ spent the winter indoors, with us and the cat.  It is large enough to need some support.  C. ‘Moonlight’ overwintered in the same pot.

~

The Caladiums planted in the same pot went dormant over the winter, but are now in active growth again outside.  I watered this plant every week or so and gave it warmth and light.

A third Alocasia went into a dark spot in the garage.  I only watered it once or twice during its storage time, and it kept its leaves the entire winter.  When I moved it back outside, it didn’t miss a beat and immediately began sprouting new leaves.

~

Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ came into the garage, dormant, with its Begonia companion. This plant has overwintered outside in 2015 and 2016.  I dug this one up and grew it on in the pot last summer.  I’ve already transplanted two starts from this pot to other spots in the garden.

~

I moved six pots of Colocasias into the basement, near a window, and watered them occasionally.    Their leaves died back gradually, but many had begun to sprout new ones before I brought the pots back outside last month.  All are back in active growth once again.

~

Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ spent winter in the rough in the basement.

~

Of all the storage methods, I prefer keeping the plants in the house at normal room temperature and in growth.  But there is only so much room available for these very large plants.

Bringing the largest pots into the house is impractical.  The most radical method, paper bag dry storage, also requires the most recovery time for the plant to send up new growth again.  But it works to keep the plant alive.  I kept the root balls intact over winter.  If I do this again, I may try drying out the Colocasia or Alocasia tuber and storing it dry,  just as I do for the Caladiums and Zantedeschias.

~

Colocasia ‘Mojito’ remained in its pot in the basement, keeping some of its leaves until early spring.  A Zantedeschia shares the pot.

~

Of course, the wild card with all of these methods is the timing.  When do you replant and reanimate the tubers?

I started our stored Caladiums in March, but with a cool spring, had to hold them indoors for several weeks longer than I would like.   I started the Zantedeschias at about the same time, but they aren’t as tender and could go back outside much earlier.  Many of our Zantedeschias stay outside in the garden year round, growing larger and lusher each year.

~

Zantedeschia ‘Memories’ came in the mail as a tuber in early April.

~

I bought a dormant Alocasia tuber this spring, potted it indoors, and am happy to show you that it is growing beautifully and bulking up.  It was completely dry, rootless, and fit in the palm of my hand in March.

~

Alocasia grown from a tuber from The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond … I just don’t remember the cultivar name…

~

Colocasia ‘Black Coral’  came to the garden as a tiny tissue culture plant from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  Every new leaf grows on a longer petiole than the one before.

~

~

Once they are outside in the heat, tropical Aroids grow very quickly.  C. ‘Black Coral’ is rated hardy in Zone 7, so I could probably rely on it surviving our winter outdoors.

The Alocasias that haven’t yet reappeared are the ‘Stingray.’  I am still waiting for them to emerge. . . or for me to identify them again from the still emerging Aroids.

And we will happily welcome them to the summer garden once they finally turn up.

~

Alocasia ‘Stingray’ thrive in heat and humidity. These tropical plants help filter the air and trap carbon with their huge leaves.  Here in September 2017

~
Woodland Gnome 2018
~

C. ‘Black Magic’ was transplanted yesterday into its summer pot with Sedum ‘Angelina’.

 

 

Summer Solstice Wishes

Butterfly bush prepares to welcome a hungry bee.

~

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.  It is a good day to celebrate our wishes, especially those wishes that have finally manifested for us. 

I first wrote and published ‘A Dirty Hands Garden Club’ in the summer of 2014, and would like to share it with you, again.  I hope that you have found your own community of gardeners, naturalists, conservationists, teachers, artists, and plant nerds, as I have so happily found mine.

WG June 2018

~

Asclepias incarnata

~

I would love to join  a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club;
One whose members know more about fertilizers
Than they do about wines…

~

~

I’d want our meetings spent wandering through nurseries,
Learning from  expert gardeners,
Or building community gardens…

~

Echinacea and Monarda prove beautiful native perennials in our area.

~

Not frittered away in chit chat over drinks and hors d’oeuvres .

~

Hibiscus syriacus and bumbly

~

And all of us would be at least a little expert in something, and
Glad to share what we’ve learned;

~

Native ebony spleenwort transplanted successfully into this old stump.

~

And we all would love putting our hands in the dirt
To help something grow.

~

Lavender is still recovering from the winter.

~

My club would collect species, not dues;
Re-build ecosystems rather than plant ivy and  box.

~

Caladium ‘Fannie Munson’ with Bergenia and ferns.

~

We “dirty hands” gardeners can band together
In spirit, if not in four walls.

~

~

We can share plants and insights,
Instigate, propagate, and appreciate;

~

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

~

Perhaps we can even help rehabilitate 
Some sterile lawn somewhere
Into something which nurtures beauty
And feeds souls….

~

Magnolia liliiflora is giving us a second flush of bloom in early summer.

~

Others can judge flowers,
Decorate homes at Christmas
And organize tours.
These things are needed, too.

~

Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, opens its first blooms of the year.

~

(But I would rather be out in the garden;
Where cardinals preside over the morning meeting,
And  hummingbirds are our special guests for the day.
The daily agenda ranges from watering to transplanting;
From pruning to watching for turtles and dragonflies.)

~

~

We  wear our muddy shoes and well worn gloves with pride,
Our spades and pruners always close at hand.

~

~

We converse with Nature,
And re-build the web strand by strand,
Plant by plant.

~

Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ with Basil

~

If this invitation speaks to you,
Perhaps we can work together
From wherever we might find ourselves
Around the globe.
~

Colocasia ‘Mojito’ in front with C. ‘Pink China’ behind

~

We can each put our hands in the dirt
and create a garden,

~

~

Nurture Beauty,
And restore health and vitality to our Earth,
our communities, and ourselves, together.

~

Native Oakleaf Hydrangea glows in the morning Solstice sun.

~

Poem by Woodland Gnome 2014
*

~
“The Holy Land is everywhere”
.
Black Elk

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

Green Thumb Tip #19: Go With the Flow

Bronze fennel foliage, wet from an early morning watering, with Verbena bonariensis

~

There is rhythm to life in the garden.  Much like waves of warm briny water crashing along a sandy beach; so too waves of life appear in the garden, peak, and then quietly disappear.  Part of a gardener’s education, when working in a new garden, is sensing and recognizing a garden’s ‘waves’ of life.

~

~

Wisdom teaches us that much of our frustration and unhappiness is connected to our desires.  There are things we want that we can’t have in the moment.  There are things we love that we fear losing.  There are things we care about that we see passing away before our eyes.  All of these concerns can become causes of our suffering, to some degree, as we work with our gardens.

~

Japanese beetles have found the Zantedeschia.

~

But our feelings can shift when we take the broader view, acknowledge the rhythms and challenges, and plan ahead to address them.

~

~

When we plant early spring bulbs we know that we’ll be left with their foliage for a few weeks after the flowers fade, and then even that will yellow and fall away.  What will grow up in their place?

~

Daffodils and Arum italicum fade as Caladiums, hardy Begonia and ferns grow in their place.

~

When we plant roses, we can expect a glorious flush of blooms in May, followed by much that needs to be pruned away.  What happens if blackspot or Japanese beetles attack the leaves?  Will our shrubs bloom again during the season?

We can plan to have other perennials or shrubs nearby to take attention away from resting rose shrubs.

~

Crape myrtles have just begun to bloom in our area.

~

And what happens when a tender perennial fails to appear in spring?  Is there a gap in the border, or do we have something waiting to grow in its place?

We understand the larger cycles of the seasons and how they affect the life in our garden.  First frost claims much of our garden’s growth, and the beds lie fallow through the winter.

~

January in our forest garden

~

But there are larger cycles still, as woodies grow and shade out nearby perennials, or a tree falls and changes the light in the garden, or plants fill in, creating dense mats of growth.

~

Crinum lily comes into bloom amidst Iris, Thyme and Alliums.

~

Gardening teaches us flexibility and resilience.  Resistance to the cycles and happenstance of nature tightens us up inside.  We might feel anger at the voles eating through the roots of a favorite shrub, or the Japanese beetles ruining the leaves of a favorite perennial.  How dare they!

But these things are always likely to happen.  We can’t fully prevent the damages that come along when we work with nature.

I found a small Hydrangea shrub, that I’ve been nurturing along from a rooted cutting, grazed back by deer last week.  No matter how protected it might be, or how often I’ve sprayed it with repellents, a doe came along after a rain, and chewed away most of its leaves.

~

~

Successful gardeners learn how to ‘go with the flow.’  We do the best we can, follow best practices, and have a plan or two up our sleeves to work with the natural cycles of our space.  Even so, we learn the lessons of impermanence in the garden.

~

Working to thwart the voles, I am experimenting with planting Caladiums into pots sunk into the bed. I’m also doing this in another bed with tender Hostas.

~

Every plant isn’t going to survive.  But we keep planting anyway, trying new things to see what will thrive.

Some things we plant will grow too much, and we’ll have to cut them back or dig them up to keep them in bounds.  Weeds come and go.  Insects chew on leaves and voles chew on roots.

~

~

We stand by, observing this incredible ebb and flow of life, and take our place among the waves.

Gardeners feel the ebbs and flows, too.  We may feel energized in spring and plant lots of new roots and shoots, seeds and plugs.  But then summer heats up, the grounds dries out a little, and we are left scrambling to keep it all watered and tended.

~

~

Suddenly there is stilt grass sprouting up in our beds and pots.  The lawn is growing overnight, and the shrubs need pruning.

As our own energies come and go, we find a rhythm to keep up with maintaining our gardens while also maintaining ourselves.  We can’t stop the ebb and flow in our garden any more than we can stop the waves crashing on the beach.

But we can lighten up, enjoy the scenery, and take pleasure in the ride.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2018

What I’m reading this week:                            

*
“Enjoying the simple beauty of plant against rocks, and cultivating the distinctive forms of alpine plants, is the heart of traditional rock gardening, ranging from gardeners who obsessively recreate the look of mountaintop, to those who carefully cultivate individual specimens of plants into breathtaking peaks of loom not to be matched by anything else in the plant world.”               

Joseph Tychonievich from Rock Gardening, Reimagining a Classic Style

(Thank you, Joseph, for your entertaining talk on Saturday morning!)

“Green Thumb” Tips: 

Many visitors to Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help grow the garden of their dreams.

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.

If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what you know from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I’ll update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about gardens and gardening.
Green Thumb Tip # 13: Breaching Your Zone
Green Thumb Tip # 14: Right Place Right Plant
Green Thumb Tip # 15: Conquer the Weeds!
Green Thumb Tip #16: Diversify!
Green Thumb Tip #17: Give Them Time
Green Thumb Tip # 18: Edit!
‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

 

Fabulous Friday: Shadows and Shade

~

When the sun is shining and the temperature is climbing, it is time to seek shadows and shade.

Our temps here have been running 10 degrees or more above our historical ‘normal’ for better than a month.  Although school is just getting out and our high school seniors in the community graduate this weekend, it already feels like mid-summer.  You feel the burn quickly when caught out in the full sun.  And so the smartest place to spend one’s time is in the shade.

~

~

The fern garden at the bottom of the yard holds the cool and shade we seek.  There is usually a nice breeze, and it is quiet, save for the calls of our resident birds and the hum of bees.  With tall bamboo making a dense wall on one side, and several good sized trees for shelter, we have a beautiful spot that is nearly always sheltered and shaded.

~

~

This is where we have been planting ferns, Hellebores,  and other shade loving perennials for the past eight or so years.  It fills in a little better each year as the plants grow and spread, and as I plant up new parts of the hillside.  In fact, I just developed a large new bed this spring and the ferns are just taking hold and beginning to show new growth.

This shady area gives a great deal of textural interest, but nearly everything here grows in shades of green.  Beyond the early season Helleborus flowers and later daffodils, our shade garden glows in many shades of green, with little touches  of silver sheen on the Japanese painted fern, and the occasional burgundy stem.

~

~

This week, the our huge voodoo lilies, Sauromatum venosum, rise over the garden so their huge, showy leaves may catch every ray of sunlight penetrating the canopy.

Native to tropical parts of Asia and Africa, these unique plants belong to the family of Araceae, like our own native Jack in the Pulpit.  I didn’t really intend to plant Voodoo lily in our garden.  It chose me…

On a late spring trip to Brent and Becky’s Gloucester bulb shop several years ago, the voodoo lily had already begun to grow, their elongated flower stalks breaking free of both their mesh bags and their bottom shelf bin.  A flower stalk caught my ankle as I walked by, drawing my attention.  It reminded me of past trips to the animal shelter when a kitten reaches through the bars of their cage to invite you to play with them.

~

~

A deal was struck, and I bought a large sack full of the poor lilies, straining to escape their bags and grow.  I had to cut each plant out of its mesh bag carefully with sharp scissors to avoid damaging its bloom stalk.  I planted them in many different shady spots.

Each year they catch me by surprise, either with their huge purple flowers early, or these gargantuan leaves in early summer.  The leaves last a few weeks and then fade away.  The bulbs often divide and spread a little between one season and the next.

~

~

I wonder, sometimes, why I don’t spend more time lingering in the shade of our wonderful fern garden.

It may be that I burn up my gardening hours watering the thirsty sun-drenched upper garden.  It may be that I get distracted photographing our pollinator visitors elsewhere, or tending to some much needed weeding or pruning where the growth is more rampant.

~

~

There is always a long to-do list on my mind, and I feel responsible to take care of the garden chores before allowing myself to wander down here  to relax and enjoy the cool, calm beauty of it all.

~

~

But when I finally slip down the hill to the shade, usually hose in hand, I am delighted to spend some time in the shadows, watching for turtles and enjoying the coolness and the beauty of it all.

*
Woodland Gnome 2018
*
*
Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious. 
Let’s infect one another!

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

Join 600 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest