“Why Does It Always Rain On The Iris?” and Other Gardening Conundrums

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Our Iris are in full, glorious bloom, and it’s raining…

Ironic, that just as soon as these gorgeous blooms open, they are inundated.  Petals turn to mush; stems fall over under their waterlogged weight.

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Same with the roses, if you must know.  The first gorgeous buds began to open on Saturday morning.  The rains started on Saturday, too, with more on the way.

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Now, I am always grateful for rain, please don’t misunderstand.  It is much easier to garden in rain than drought.  But I can’t help but noticing these beautiful flowers, with such a short period of bloom, blooming in the rain.

How many of us gardeners plan with the ‘worst case’ scenario in mind?  Very few, I’d bet.

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Gardeners must be optimists.  Otherwise, we’d be living in rented flats in a tall building somewhere, enjoying the local parks instead of puttering in our own unruly gardens.  We tend to expect the best and overlook the rest.

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Our stump garden has finally taken off from bare mulch, four summers ago.

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But real life is full of quirks and challenge.  We must make long range plans and then hope that we get to enjoy them.  Like the Iris, which take nearly a full year, or more, from when you plant their rhizome until they bloom.  We just plant them with a sprinkling of faith that eventually we’ll enjoy a few days of their delicious flowers.

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I have a packet of ‘Ten Free Flowering Trees’ from Arbor Day which arrived in Friday’s mail.  They arrived late in the day, while I was finishing up other projects, with no energy left to plant them.

They are still lying there in the garage, waiting for me.  We may still get a break in the rain, at least enough to get some of them in the ground today, I hope.  We have room for only a few.  The rest I hope to give to friends.

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Our front garden, yesterday in the rain, filled with blooming Mountain Laurel.

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It takes faith to plant a rooted twig, only a foot high, and envision the tree which will eventually manifest.  If one stops to consider the many things which may happen along the way, one might never even consider planting a tree of one’s own.

Two Live Oaks I planted last spring ended up broken off by something over the winter.  A very hungry deer, maybe?  (I gathered up the broken tops, and thrust them into pots hoping they might root.)

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A new Live Oak ended the summer at around 15″ tall, but was broken over the winter. It has begun growing again this spring.

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But consider our wild Scarlet Buck-Eye, Aesculus pavia.  This lovely tree began life as a volunteer seedling, before it was crushed by fallen oak trees four summers ago.  It was broken to a 4″ stump, and we could only hope it would recover.

I think that its strong roots helped it come back so quickly.  What you see is four years of growth, and its best bloom yet.  A gift of nature, it draws every eye in our garden this week.

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Scarlet Buckeye, also called ‘Firecracker Tree’ grows wild in our garden.

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A gardener learns to suspend judgement after a while.  Calling a happening ‘good’ or ‘bad’ proves one short-sighted, all too often.  Better to keep an open mind, and find ways to work with events as they arise.

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But that still doesn’t explain why this rogue, self-planted ‘Firecracker Tree’ looks stupendous today, even in the pouring rain, while our expensive and carefully tended Iris are melting before our eyes.

Maybe all of those purists who urge us to plant more native plants have a point, when you look at things dispassionately.  Did I mention that hummingbirds love those gorgeous red flowers?  Should any find our garden, their buffet lies waiting for them…..

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A gardener’s life comes filled with conundrums.  So many choices, so little time…. And yet, we get a fresh go at it with each passing season.

I’ve come to look at life in our garden as some sort of ongoing science experiment.  We try this, we try that.  When something succeeds, that is very gratifying.  When something fails, we have learned something new.

I’ll try it differently next time.

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And does that mean I’m going to rip out the Iris and plant something else; something that will stand up to our rainy springs?  Not a chance.

I’ll just grab my jacket and a hat and enjoy our garden in the pouring rain, and perhaps even find spots to add a few more Iris ….

Virginia Historic Garden Week April 22-29

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“When you find your path, you must not be afraid.

You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.

Disappointment, defeat, and despair

are the tools God uses to show us the way.”

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Paulo Coelho

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In Bloom

Camellias bloom on November 30 after a rainy day in our garden

Camellias bloom on November 30 in our garden

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Flowers still open in our garden as another year melts into December’s grip.  The gardening year has already come to a frosty close over much of the country.  And although today brought cold rain, yesterday was a perfect day for planting bulbs and re-doing pots for the coming months.

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This beautiful double Camellia opened its first blossoms last week, and will bloom off and on through early spring. Golden Forsythia leaves linger nearby.

This beautiful double Camellia opened its first blossoms last week, and will bloom off and on through early spring. Golden Forsythia leaves linger nearby.

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Camellias and roses bloom high above newly planted Violas.  A few stubborn Rudbeckia still open their golden petals despite the cold.  Summer’s beauty lingers even during this relentless march towards winter.

Most of our trees have been swept clean of their dying leaves, while woody shrubs stand naked now against a chilling wind.  And yet, the relative warmth of our front patio harbors olive, pomegranate and fig trees; potted Violas and a few lavender plants.  It stays a few degrees warmer there, nurturing the willing through long winter nights.

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Most of these late bloomers will continue blessing us with flowers until hit by ice and snow.   When?  It could be any time now.  The first hard freeze will hit on Friday night.

But even as we enjoy these last few blossoms of the season, so trees and shrubs around town are sprouting bright Christmas lights.

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As we enter this darkest part of the year, dusk falls earlier each day.  It was nearly dark tonight well before 5 PM; well before our beloved mail carrier found us through the fog and rain.

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Roses linger despite a few early frosts. These bloom on November 30, but there are still roses this lovely today in the front garden.

Roses linger despite a few early frosts. These bloom on November 30, but there are still roses this lovely today in the front garden.

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If you are looking for a great winter time read, please take a look at Noel Kingsbury’s newest work, Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden.

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This encyclopedic work comes at plants from an historical perspective, describing how various genus came into cultivation and trade.  Its fascinating illustrations are mostly historical reproductions of various drawings, advertisements, paintings and scientific illustrations of various plants.

This newest treasure from Timber Press, published this past October, describes 133 different plant groups over nearly 400 pages.  There is something interesting to learn on every page.  It is organized to allow ‘dipping in’ as time and curiosity allows. Noel’s chatty but authoritative voice rings true as he describes our wonderful palette of garden plants as though they were his personal friends.

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We found this hawk hunting in our garden as we returned home on Sunday afternoon.

We found this hawk hunting in our garden as we returned home on Sunday afternoon.

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If you want to grow your gardening expertise this winter while snuggling inside with a cup of something warm and the company of something warm and furry; this book is your ticket so you might end the winter a bit more clever than you began it.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Autumn Roses, Safely in a Vase Today

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The wind is cold out of the west.  Even with brilliant sunshine, it was shivery cold as I dug the last tender fern to bring in today.  Frost has been forecast several times over the last week, but thus far its  been only a flirtation with that first autumn frost which decimates what’s left of our summer garden.

Most of our tender plants are either inside already, or snuggled up against the walls of our protected patio.  I trust that area to stay a few degrees warmer than the garden, which will suffice until the weather turns truly frosty next month.

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I cut a half dozen roses early Saturday morning to take to my parents, believing if left growing, they would be frozen that night.  But, as you can see, the roses keep unfolding peacefully.  The colors may be a little off from May.  Yet I believe these are almost more beautiful.

Last night hovered around 33F for a few hours around sunrise.  But tonight, I believe, will be ‘it.’  We’ve had several weeks now to prepare and remember every last thing we can possibly bring indoors.

Except the roses….

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Even yesterday afternoon, I made cuttings from our favorite scented geraniums thinking to stick them in pots around other things in hopes they will root and last through winter in the garage/conservatory.  And this afternoon, I cut a few more beautiful and wonderfully scented sprigs for this vase.

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The roses are the main attraction here.  But they are accented with a few of the very first little starts I set out last April:  A lacy Spanish lavender and a beautiful blue mealy sage.  Both have bloomed non-stop for the last seven months.  They might even come back next spring if our winter is mild.   You might also notice a few stems of Euphorbia, ‘Diamond Frost,’ still blooming in the garden, and a few tiny trumpets of lavender Oxalis.

The vase was made by our potter friend, Denis Orton.  These wonderful crystalline glazes are one of his passions, and we enjoy collecting pieces of his work from time to time.

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The roses are heavily perfumed ones, and have filled the house with their beautiful aroma as they warm up indoors.  If frost does come tonight, we will still have roses to enjoy for the next few days, and the house will still smell of summer.

That was reason enough to venture out this afternoon to cut them for a vase, and touch with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden yet again.  She faithfully cuts and arranges beautiful vases of flowers each week, photographing them and writing each week about what is fresh in her garden.  I admire her dedication to this meme, and appreciate her giving other gardeners the opportunity to join in every Monday.

Please visit her page to see what other gardeners around the world have to arrange this week as we slip ever closer to the holidays.

I am far more likely to plant up a pot of something for the house than to cut flowers and arrange them.  But every now and again, I can’t resist harvesting a bit of beauty and bringing it in for us to enjoy.  And so with theses roses, safely in a vase indoors before the frost.

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Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden....

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is available now

A Forest Garden 2017 Garden Calendar

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Our third annual A Forest Garden calendar is already our favorite.  We’ve kept what we like from past years, and made little improvements to produce a uniquely beautiful and useful calendar you won’t fine from anyone else.

Why is this calendar so special?  It is created by a gardener, for gardeners.

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Find inspiration on every page and tips and reminders to help you nurture your best garden, ever.  This year’s theme is “Magic and Awe in the Garden.”

In addition to gardening tips, you’ll also find the first and last frost dates noted for Zones 5-9, information on the moon’s phases, eclipses, special dates for bird watchers, and notes on national and international  holidays, feast days, and observances.  This calendar is packed with information, while still leaving space for your own notes and reminders.

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I’ve compiled some of my favorite photos for this striking, full color calendar. Nearly all the photos were taken in our own garden, between December of 2015 and November of 2016.  By reducing the total number of photos, we’ve been able to make each month’s page even more beautiful.

Our special emphasis this year features flowering woody plants and several unusual foliage plants we’ve found that deer won’t graze.  And as always, you will  find portraits of some of our most beautiful garden visitors!

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If you would like to own a copy of A Forest Garden 2017, or order copies to give at the holidays, please contact me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com with your order and contact information.

I’ll get back in touch to let you know where to send your check.

The calendars remain $15.00 each, which includes postage within the United States.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Magic

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Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden....

Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden….

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Love Affair With Leaves

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My love affair with leaves is no secret…..

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Step into my garden, and you’ll soon suspect the truth:

There is no shyness about the amazing variety of foliage sharing our garden.

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We invite the beautiful and unusual to meet and mingle here.

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Though you’ll  find tiny little Box and Crepe Myrtle leaves facing the street,

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Once inside the gate, you’ll discover huge Colocasia, brightly painted Caladium, towering Canna and delicately etched Acer.

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Elegantly frosted ‘Gryphon’ Begonias  flutter in the breeze on their long petioles. 

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Fragrantly fuzzy Pelargoniums exuberantly spill out of their pots.

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And in those shady quiet places, ferns uncurl their fiddle heads into long and elegant fronds.

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What sheer delight to watch them grow! 

How bright the spaces where they glow on rain washed days.

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Begonia, Heuchera, Ajuga, Sage;

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Aralia, Alocasia, Sarracenia, Rose.

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Their names roll off the tongue like a mantra.

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They emerge from soil and stem,

fragile branch and woody trunk like dancers on a stage.

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They swell from tiniest bud to fully formed leaf

in red and purple, green and bronze, chartreuse, white and silver blue.

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Nip the bud and more will follow.

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Let them touch the Earth and roots may grow.

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Stroke them, smell them, dry them, eat them;

fill a pot to overflowing with them, listen to them sing on summer breezes.

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Leaves,

A growing obsession…..

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Garden Tapestry: July and August

July 13, 2015 Our native Hibiscus are in their full glory. This seedling pokes up amidst the border of Canna Lily and Colocasia.

July 13, 2015 Our native Hibiscus are in their full glory. This seedling pokes up amidst the border of Canna Lily and Colocasia.

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Cathy, of  Garden Dreaming at Chattilon,’ inspired me through her comment last week, to review my garden photos taken over the last year with an eye to those ‘tapestries’ of plant combinations which worked well, and also to analyze those which didn’t.

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July 1 2015

July 1 2015 A ‘Chocolate Vine,’ Akebia quinata and a wild grapevine grow beyond the trellis and up into a Rose of Sharon tree, with Dogwood foliage providing the backdrop.  The Akebia bloomed in early summer, before the Hibiscus.

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I started with my favorite gardening months, May and June.   I love these months because our roses always come into bloom by Mother’s Day in early May, and our Iris are at their best.  But many other interesting plants are growing, too, as the summer progresses.

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July 11, 2015 and we still have abundant roses blooming in the garden.

July 11, 2015 and we still have abundant roses blooming in the garden.

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Looking back over my photos from this last July and August, I’m struck by how many are close ups of pollinators and single blossoms rather than true ‘tapestry’ shots.  I’m also a little disappointed in myself for neglecting the weeds and wild grasses to the point where there are some shots I’d rather not publish.   They are inspiration to do a better job of keeping up with the weeding and trimming in 2016!

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July 28, 2015 and the Joe Pye Weed is in its glory and covered with bees.

July 28, 2015 and the Joe Pye Weed is in its glory and covered with bees.

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There are also several fairly ‘new beds’ which haven’t filled in quite yet.  They were more a ‘patchwork quilt’ than a tapestry in mid-summer!

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July 16, 2015 the Joe Pye Weed, planted in 2014, towers over this new perennial bed.

July 16, 2015 the Joe Pye Weed, planted in 2014, towers over this new perennial bed.  This bed did extremely well over summer and bulked up nicely by autumn.

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But excuses aside, there were some areas which pleased me.  The part of our garden nearest the street, where I concentrated my attention this season, was cloaked in deep shade until three major trees fell in a storm in June of 2013.  Suddenly, this shady and fairly neglected area was bathed in full sun.

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July 16, 2015 This is the farthest edge of the new border where Cannas end and a variegated Butterfly Bush is growing into its space.

July 16, 2015 This is the farthest edge of the new border where Cannas end and a variegated Butterfly Bush is growing into its space near a stand of native Hibiscus moscheutos.  Foxglove still bloom on the front edge of the border.

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I’ve been planting this area with perennial beds, ornamental trees, bulbs and shrubs since July of that year, beginning with our ‘stump garden.’

A sister gardener made a gift of a grocery bag full of Canna lily divisions dug from her garden that fall, which started our very tropical looking border of Cannas and Colocasia.

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July 16, 2015

July 16, 2015 the leading edge of this new border begins where the Ginger Lily ends, in the shade of a Dogwood tree.  Some of the Colocasia didn’t make it through the past winter and were replaced by hardier varieties this spring.

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We already had native perennial Hibiscus and tree Hibiscus, or Rose of Sharon, growing when we came to the garden in 2009.  But once there was more sun available, more of the seedlings began to grow and bloom in this new area.  We also planted several additional Hibiscus cultivars, a variegated Buddleia, several perennial Salvias and Lantana along this long, sunny border.

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July 16 This is the other side of the border, where Hibiscus and other perennials were left by previous owners of the garden.

July 16 This is the other side of the border, where Hibiscus and other perennials were left by previous owners of the garden.  The deep magenta Crepe Myrtle ( in the center of this photo ) has been growing from a seedling and finally gained some height this year.

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This border grows better each year as the Cannas and Colocasia multiply, the Hibiscus grow, and the existing shrubs grow larger.

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This shady bed, under a Dogwood tree, holds mostly ferns and Hellebores. The Begonias, with their large and colorful leaves, stay in pots as summer visitors.

This shady bed, under a Dogwood tree, holds mostly ferns and Hellebores. The Begonias, with their large and colorful leaves, stay in pots as summer visitors.

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Another perennial bed, still in shade, has done exceptionally well, too.  I raised a circular bed under a Dogwood tree by ringing it with containers, and filling in with bags of compost.  This was home to a good collection of Caladiums the first year, inter-planted with various ferns and seedling Hellebores.  Plants in raised beds definitely perform better than plants put directly into the ground over most of the garden.

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July 10, 2015 Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in a shady bed of ferns.

July 10, 2015 Here is my magical Begonia, which dies back to its rhizome from time to time. From its sad start when I set it out in May, it has now grown its summer crop of new leaves in this shady bed of mixed ferns.  It is going into its fourth year now, overwintering in a pot in the garage.

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I add large leaved Begonias when the weather warms in May, taking them back inside in October.  The mix of ferns here makes a pleasing tapestry of foliage.  The Hellebores have finally grown large enough to bloom this winter, and now they take much more of the available space in the bed.

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July 28, 2015 Oxalis and Hardy Begonia share one of the border pots with a division of fern. These plants are all perennial, and should fill the pot nicely this summer coming.

July 28, 2015 Oxalis and Hardy Begonia share one of the border pots with a division of fern. These plants are all perennial, and should fill the pot nicely this summer coming.

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I’ve also planted Sedum along the sunny edge and Saxifraga stolonifera into the pots which ring the bed. This past spring I added divisions of hardy Begonias with their lovely reddish leaves, which will fill in over time.

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August 2, 2015 our Devil's Walkingstick has come into full bloom.

August 2, 2015 our Devil’s Walkingstick has come into full bloom along the border of the back garden.

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July and August give us Crepe Myrtle flowers and a lovely tapestry of flowers and foliage from the many trees around our garden.  A ‘Devil’s Walkingstick,’ Aralia Spinosa, grows into our garden from the woody border between our neighbor’s garden and ours.  It was absolutely spectacular this summer, and I’ve found several seedlings in other parts of the yard.  This native plant grows wild along the roads in James City County, blooming in mid-summer before covering itself with inky purple berries in early autumn.

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August 30, 2015 Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana is a native shrub.

August 30, 2015 Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, is a native shrub which ‘volunteered’ in a stand of Ginger Lily this summer.  Considered a weed by most, I chose to let it grow for the beauty of its flowers and berries.  Birds love the berries and pollinators enjoy its long lived flowers.  But, because I let it set seed this summer, we know that seedlings will emerge all over the garden next spring….

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Much of our garden tapestry was either  already here when we began to garden, or has sprouted as a volunteer seedling.  Nature takes a strong hand in what grows where, and what is ‘edited’ out by storms and the passing seasons.  Our best intentions and plans often get thwarted or changed along the way.

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August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 August brings this glorious ‘Butterfly Tree’ into bloom at the bottom of the garden at the edge of the ravine.  It is a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators.

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As gardeners, we can certainly add plants, prune, ‘weed’ and change the landscape with new planting beds.  But at best, we adapt to the ongoing life of the garden with our own human touches.

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A scented Pelargonium growth in a bed cloaked in Vinca and Creeping Jenny.

August 7, 2015  A scented Pelargonium grows in a bed cloaked in Vinca and Creeping Jenny in the ‘stump garden.’  Vinca minor is one of the default groundcovers which encroaches in every part of the garden.  Beautiful, it quickly takes over new planting beds; and so often chokes out other desirable plants.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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July 1, 2015

July 1, 2015

 

 

Solstice in Blossoms

Daffodils blooming here on December 20....

Daffodils blooming here on December 20….

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Happy Winter Solstice to you!

Our morning was filled with bright sunshine and blue skies.  It has been unusually warm here today.   The clouds moved in this afternoon, but the nearly full moon rose early, and is shining brightly in a huge corona through the misty, drifting haze.

It was still in the mid-50s at 7 PM  here; a little above the usual mid-day high for us in December.  But the garden is loving it!

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Yesterday morning, my partner told me about an odd flower he had spotted.  He had picked it up where the rain had beaten it down into the lawn.  He said it looked a little like a Daffodil.  But isn’t it much too early for Daffodils in December?

And he was right; on both counts.  When I finally went out to look in the afternoon, the setting sun illuminated those yellow blossoms so sweetly.

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We had gone out to chase a few rogue deer who somehow snuck into the garden.  And rounding the corner, there were golden roses proudly blooming on a climber which normally blooms only in the spring.  It had re-awakened to share a few special winter blossoms with us.

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Even after a cold snap this weekend and frost on Saturday morning, the flowers keep coming all over the garden.  We have Camellias and Violas, Snaps and roses.  And now this golden Daffodil, too….

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This Camellia normally blooms each spring. Do you see the open Forsythia blossom in the photo? If it is 80 here on Christmas Eve, as is forecast, I expect this shrub to begin leafing out by New Year's Day....

This Camellia normally blooms each spring.  Do you see the open Forsythia blossom in the photo? If it is 80 here on Christmas Eve, as is forecast, I expect this shrub to begin leafing out by New Year’s Day….

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Indoors, our Amaryllis has bloomed in record time.  And such blossoms! 

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This is the special, huge, bulb I brought home form The Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  What flowers!  Only the first stem has bloomed so far, so we have at least four more blossoms to open this week.

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It was fine, until I moved it for better photographs.  That upset the balance, and the stem and leaves were flopping over by early evening.  Hindsight, right…?

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But now I’ve staked it with a coil of copper wire and a green stake from a peony cage.   The flowers are standing up proudly again, so pretty in the morning sun.

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These final ‘blossoms’ are not flowers at all; they are our ornamental cabbages, with their outrageously ornate leaves.  They appear quite happy with our mild December weather.  They will hold up to snow, but too many bitterly cold nights will show up on the leaves.

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This afternoon, we  finally brought  our Christmas tree indoors, and its fresh aroma has begun to fill our home with that special fragrance of Christmas.  I hope to get lights on it later this evening.

But these last days before Christmas are full ones. 

The beauty of our Solstice blossoms invites us to slow down; to appreciate the beauty, and not get completely lost in the flurry of  endless tasks and errands.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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Looking Good: Autumn Favorites

The first Camellias of the season bloomed this week.

The first Camellias of the season bloomed this week.

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The garden is looking good again now that the soil is moist, the days are sunny, and the nights are cool.  Our autumn flowers have begun blooming, filling the garden with vivid red Pineapple Sage, soft blue Mexican Bush Sage, pristine white Camellias and vividly rose pink Bougainvillea.

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We even have a stalk of Iris buds ready to open on a rebloomer transplanted this past spring.

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Even as brown leaves litter the lawn, summer weary plants respond to our milder weather with vivid new flowers.

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Some of our most spectacular roses open after October 1st each year and keep coming through early December.  Many of our Pelargoniums have also started pumping out plump new buds.  Late October feels almost like a reprise of spring, but with more intense color.

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Pineapple Sage waits to bloom until October, filling the garden with fragrant red flowers until frost.

Pineapple Sage waits to bloom until October, filling the garden with fragrant red flowers until frost.

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We are busy planting bulbs and perennials.  I’m ready to start filling our pots with Violas for winter color by the end of the month.

October is my favorite time of year for spreading new compost.  I bought the last few bags on offer at our favorite garden center this week.  Their next load won’t deliver until spring.  I’ll use much of it when moving shrubs out of their pots and into the ground over the next week.

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Some has already gone over a new planting of  ‘Thalia’  Daffodil bulbs, now overplanted with Ajuga, Vinca, and some bits of hardy Sedum.  A fresh inch or two of compost over freshly weeded beds keeps them looking good through the winter, and helps nourish the bulbs and perennials which will begin growing again in a few months.

Some plants, like these Colocasia divisions, which got off to a slow start in early summer, have finally come into their prime in these last weeks before frost.

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Colocasia with a scented Geranium have taken their time to grow this summer. The Colocasia divisions really took off after a placed the pot behind them, possibly providing more water and nourishment.

Colocasia with a scented Pelargonium have taken their time to grow this summer. The Colocasia divisions really took off after we placed the potted Pelargonium behind them, possibly providing more water and nourishment.

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Officially, our first frost date is October 15.  It is hard for me to believe that frost can come at any time after the middle of next week.  I’ve not yet given much thought to moving tender plants inside to the garage, basement, and living room to keep them over winter.  But it is time for me to sketch out a plan and begin putting it into action before an early freeze catches us unprepared.

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Bouganvillea begins its season of bloom in early autumn, but must come indoors before frost. It is a tender woody perennial which won't survive our Virginia winters out of doors.

Bougainvillea begins its season of bloom in early autumn, but must come indoors before frost. It is a tender woody perennial which won’t survive our Virginia winters out of doors.

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After a busy few weeks which left me little time or energy for the garden, I’m ready to begin the round of fall projects which close it out for the season.

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October 9, 2015 First Camellias 023

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There are Ginger Lilies to dig and deliver to friends; tender Colocoasia, Caladiums, ferns, and Begonias to dig and pot for their winter indoors; leaves to shred and  roses to trim back for a final time this year.

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Leaves fall steadily in our garden even as late bloomers, like this Salvia, are in their prime.

Leaves fall steadily in our garden even as late bloomers, like this Salvia, are in their prime.

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Taking time to notice what is Looking Good each week keeps my focus on the positive.  Many thanks to Gillian at Country Gardens UK for hosting this theme each Friday.  Please take a moment to enjoy her beautiful apples this week.  Gillian also offers up an enticing recipe for Apple Cake, which I want to try making this weekend with apples from our favorite farm stand.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

October 8 Parkway 046

 

Foliage Everywhere

July 20, 2015 garden 035

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Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day technically falls on the 22nd of each month, and it is only the 21st.

Yet foliage is the hot topic of conversation among my gardening friends this week as we look around in dismay at our overgrown gardens.  That may not be the sort of foliage this meme is intended to highlight, of course; but the unplanted abundance of grasses and other ‘volunteers’ has gotten ahead of many of us in this heat and humidity.

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July 20, 2015 garden 004

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My timing has not been praiseworthy this past month on very much, and certainly not on keeping up with the round of blogging memes.

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Hardy Begonia grows in this mixed pot with Oxalis and creeping Jenny.

Hardy Begonia grows in this mixed pot with Oxalis and creeping Jenny.  Autumn ferns grow nearby on a shady slope in the back garden.

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How long since I’ve actually filled a Vase on Monday or observed a proper Wordless Wednesday?  As you might guess, my time and energy are re-focused at the moment on a very non-garden related cause.  So I will grab onto this opportunity to craft a preemptive foliage post, and beg your understanding that it comes a day early.

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Coleus with Colocasia

Coleus with Colocasia

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The garden is currently on ‘auto-pilot’ and I feel grateful to make a morning or evening walk-about to water a bit and take photos.  Any serious work out of doors is on hold until the weather pattern shifts.

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Pineapple mint

Pineapple mint

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The lovely lush grass will just have to keep growing for a few more days/weeks/months into and around my once carefully planted beds.  C’est la vie…

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The path behind the 'butterfly garden' is a bit overgrown at the moment...

The path behind the ‘butterfly garden’ is a bit overgrown at the moment…

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I’m just grateful to live in an air-conditioned home in this age of unprecedented heat.  Between the unusually high humidity, frequent showers, and oppressive heat; it is hard to spend long out of doors.  Many of the plants love it, but the humans find themselves drenched in perspiration just walking out to the air conditioned car!

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This has been a good year to begin a 'bog garden.'

This has been a good year to begin a ‘bog garden.’

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There is a reason our garden looks tropical this summer!

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A native pitcher plant digests whatever creatures explore these unusual leaves.

A native pitcher plant digests whatever creatures explore these unusual leaves.

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But there is balance in all things.  As I study the progress and prodigious growth of grasses around the ornamentals, I remember that they are trapping carbon from the air with every passing moment of growth.  It doesn’t really matter whether the growing foliage is something we planted or not; every growing leaf and twig filters the air and gives us fresh oxygen to breathe.

A lovely thought, though it likely won’t make a dent in the planetary forces driving these odd weather patterns.

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Begonia 'Gryphon' grows lush this July.

Begonia ‘Gryphon’ grows lushly this July despite competition from grape vines and other Begonias.  Yucca leaves grow behind its pot.

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At least the weeds also protect the soil during torrential rains.  Or so my partner reminds me on the rare occasions he sees me pulling them out by their roots.

There is a certain logic there, and I acquiesce to his greater wisdom these days.   Watching video of flooding elsewhere makes us grateful for our blessings and a lot less obsessive about our landscape.

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Wild Tradescantia  crops up among the grasses in some of the garden beds.  This more cultivated variety is one I planted this spring.  Here, it grows uphill, reaching for the light.

Wild Tradescantia crops up among the grasses in some of the garden beds. This more cultivated variety is one I planted this spring. Here, it grows uphill, reaching for the light.

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Yet tropical growth also harbors tropical style infestations of certain insects.  The fly swatter came out of storage as my partner bravely battles with those tiny black mosquitoes which steal into the house these days!  We grow mindful of them whenever we open a door.

They like him far better than they like me; or maybe its just that they find less exposed skin to attack on me!

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Coleus with a sweet potato vine

Coleus with a sweet potato vine

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No matter, my latest infestation of chigger bites are still healing, thus the protective clothing.  Disgusting, but I’m even wearing socks while these things heal.

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July 20, 2015 garden 028

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And the Cannas, Hibiscus and roses have fared no better against the hungry Japanese beetles who have settled in for the foreseeable future.  Their foliage is more riddled with holes than our skin with bites.

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July 13, 2015 flowers 017

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Trying to practice what I preach, so far I’ve relied on the hungry birds to hunt them.

Twice I’ve pruned the roses with bucket in hand, drowning a few in Borax laced soapy water.   July offers a powerful challenge to the most sincere sentiments of Ahimsa, or harmlessness and universal love.

How much love can I muster for those shiny green beetles munching our roses?  Is it a loving act to release them from their chitin clad bodies back to the universe?

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July 20, 2015 garden 031

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But looking past the beetles are the bees; squadrons of them!  We are happy to see them methodically moving from flower to flower, gathering what they may.

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There is no shortage of bumble bees here, although spotting a honey bee is a much rarer event.  Bumblebees, wasps of every description, dragon and damselflies entertain us with their swooping flights around the garden.  The occasional butterfly flutters past, a reminder to persevere against all odds.

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Joe Pye Weed, a popular stopping place for all pollinators.

Joe Pye Weed, a popular stopping place for all pollinators.

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One can’t live this long without learning a thing or two about stubbornness and patience; and flexibility.  As I heard so often growing up, “This too, shall pass.”  Someone in the house had read Ecclesiastes a time or three….

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Coleus with Oxalis

Coleus with Oxalis

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And perhaps we can read this lesson in our gardens, as well; watching the magical processes of growth and passing away.

For the moment, I am happy that the garden continues to grow in beauty and abundance.  I know what is happening out there, even though much of my foliage gazing these days happens through the windows…

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Hazelnuts are ripening on the trees.

Hazelnuts are ripening on the trees.

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I appreciate Christina, who gardens in the Hesperides,  for hosting this Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day meme on the 22nd of each month. She challenges us to focus on the foliage in our gardens; not just the flowers.  I feel certain she will understand this early entry, and hope July finds her garden growing as abundantly as ours.

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Begonia

Begonia

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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July 20, 2015 garden 033

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“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better,

than that a man should rejoice in his own works;

for that is his portion:

for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Ecclesiastes 3:22

 

 

Loving Kindness

July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 008

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We all need a bit more loving kindness in our hearts and in our lives. 

Lama Surya Das, author and teacher, published his personal version of the Buddhist Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, on his blog last week. 

This is a beautiful meditation, which I would like to share with you.  

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July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 020

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May I be happy, content and fulfilled.
May all beings be happy!
May we all be equally peaceful, safe and serene.
May all beings be free from harm, danger and fear.

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May we walk together the path of wisdom and compassion.
May I practice loving kindness.
May I practice equanimity, acceptance and non-reactivity.


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May I be free from suffering and enjoy peace and ease.
May my heart remain open.
May I enjoy and appreciate the holy Now.
May I awaken to the intrinsic Light of my own original true nature.

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July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 004~


May I be healed and whole again;
May the planet be healed and restored.
May I recognize my intrinsic interconnectedness and interdependence with others,
And help overcome inequality and poverty through generous sharing and nonattachment.
May I live in gratitude and grace.

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July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 010

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May I love deeply, and with full acceptance, and may I open my heart also to receive love.
May I forgive and be forgiven.
May I be free from suffering, stress and anxiety.
May I see the radiant light in all people and things, including those who disagree with me.

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July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 016

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I bow to true Buddha-nature, equally innate in one and all.

Lama Surya Das

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July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 012

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“Learning how to love is the goal and the purpose of spiritual life —

not learning how to develop psychic powers,

not learning how to bow, chant, do yoga, or even meditate,

but learning to love.

Love is the truth. Love is the light.”

Lama Surya Das

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July 11, 2015 garden Hibiscus 018

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

These Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Crepe Myrtle and Roses were blooming in our garden this morning.  It was nice to discover them between showers, and to share them with you….

 

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