WPC: Surprise

Athyrium niponicum ‘Joy Ride’

~

The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge this week invites us to explore the often overlooked details in form.  A ‘macro-lens view’ opens up new worlds of beauty.

Often, in the hurry of our daily lives, we glance around us and take the world into consciousness in chunks of meaning.  We register the traffic moving around us, the child moving towards us, the inventory of our fridge. Even in the garden, we register our landscape in chunks of form and color.

~

~

It takes undistracted time to focus the lens of our mind on the tiniest of details, like the uncurling fronds opening on our ferns this week.  This annual springtime show might otherwise be overlooked as the garden explodes in color and fragrance.

~

Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’

~

Who can pass a fragrant Iris to contemplate a tiny fern?  Only the child or the gardener!  Our eyes train on those tiniest of details as we pace the paths of our garden each day, documenting what changes have unfolded since our last visit.

~

Fiddlehead of Brilliance autumn fern

~

I had a few minutes to wander this morning, camera in hand, as I waited for a friend’s arrival.  And although I couldn’t pass the Iris without capturing another shot or two, I also spent time with several of our ferns.

Jen kindly crafted a challenge this week especially for us craven gardeners, who must photograph our flowers in minute detail.  But because that was the model she set, I decided to leave flowers to others this time, (well, almost….) and instead focus on the elegant and fascinating details found only in the leaves of ferns.

~

~

The Japanese Painted ferns, Athyrium niponicum, have just emerged from their winter dormancy.  Their fragile fronds disappear after a heavy frost each autumn, to reappear quite suddenly and surprisingly some warm spring day.

They are one of the most beautiful surprises our garden offers us each spring.  I realized today, in sharing our garden with friends, that we have something of a collection now of Athyrium niponicum cultivars.

~

Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’

~

Not that I intended to make a collection of them, I simply like them and wanted to watch some of the different varieties grow out.  I have ordered a few, like A. ‘Joy Ride’, A. ‘Branford Beauty,’ and A. ‘Burgundy Lace’ from Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh, NC, in years past.  They carry a staggering and surprisingly wonderful variety of ferns and other unusual perennials which do well in our Zone 7 climate.

~

~

I am still lusting after A. ‘Lemon Cream,’ A. ‘Godzilla’ and A. ‘Thrill Seeker.’  And that lust will go unrequited for the foreseeable future, it seems, as their shipping charges just keep climbing each year.  Now that the minimum shipping charge is nearly $30, I am seeking out these wonderful cultivars locally, and asking our nearby nurseries to consider stocking these beautiful new varieties.

I was absolutely thrilled to find a beautiful pot of A. ‘Ghost’ at Green Planters, Inc., in Gloucester earlier this week.  I will be returning, as they carry a satisfying selection of native ferns in addition to their various Japanese Painted ferns and other cultivars.

~

~

The best ferns in our garden, year round, are our Autumn Brilliance, Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’.  Their tough, but graceful fronds weather sun, rain, drought wind and winter.  Who could ask for more?

~

~

These sturdy clumps expand a bit each year, and each new year’s fronds seem a few inches taller than the last.  We’re not talking tree ferns, of course, but the older ferns make a substantial presence.  What I admire in these ferns is their wonderful bronze color as  new fronds emerge each spring.

~

~

As each frond unfolds, the hairy brown fiddleheads relax into soft, shiny fresh rose-gold leaves.  It is quite a show and goes on for several weeks.  By mid-summer, each leaf will have relaxed further into a soft medium green.  It’s not until winter that the same fiddlehead brown begins to frost the edges of the mature fronds once again.

~

~

It is the surprising beauty of leaves which carries our garden through the seasons.  Flowers come and go all too quickly.  They may delight with a bold color or enticing scent.  But flowers prove ephemeral by nature.

They are only there long enough to lure a bee, butterfly or hummingbird to pollinate them. so they can get down to their real business of seed production.  Even the hybrids seem confused on this point, and fade far too quickly despite their sterility.  Like kids gone off to college, what is left behind is none too pleasant to look at, oftentimes….

~

~

But leaves prove their worth and loyalty; offering sum and substance, color, drama and incredible detail.

*

Woodland Gnome 2017

~

~

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Surprise!

 

Worth the Wait

Helleborus

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever”

~

“It is said there are flowers that bloom

only once in a hundred years.

Why should there not be some

that bloom once in a thousand,

in ten thousand years?

Perhaps we never know about them

simply because this “once in a thousand years”

has come today.”

.

Yevgeny Zamyatin

~

february-9-2017-daffodils-010

~

The Helleborus ‘Snow Fever,’ which we planted earlier this winter, have come into bloom.  We’ve been watching their progress daily.  We’ve marveled at the delicate new growth emerging from the center of its lovely white splattered leaves, wondering at the flowers yet to emerge.

Here is the first of the opening blossoms.  Its new leaves, behind the buds, are creamy white with the most delicate edging of  red.  This unusually elegant Helleborus has been worth the wait.

~

february-9-2017-daffodils-011

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

The Gift: H. ‘Lemon Lime’ In Bloom

June 23, 2015 004

~

“Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them,

not the merits of who receives them.”

  Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Last July, Michael Laico offered to trade plants with those who follow his woodworking blog.  Michael maintains a lovely woodland garden on his mountain in South Carolina, and listed the plants he could offer as divisions.

~

June 23, 2015 002~

I was interested, and soon we moved from his comments to emails negotiating our trade.  Michael sent me a division of his yellow Japanese Iris along with a bonus gift of his Hosta ‘Lemon Lime.’

~

June 23, 2015 003

~

I learned that Michael loves Hosta, and grows many varieties in his garden.  I also love Hosta, but discoverd early on that those I plant out in this garden are subject to grazing by rabbits and deer.

I now grow some Hostas in  pots on the deck to protect them.  And Michael promised me these H. ‘Lemon Lime’ are miniatures, and perfect for culture in a pot.

~

June 23, 2015 001~

We exchanged plants in late July, with an eye to the weather.  I planted both Iris and Hosta in containers to protect them while they established.  The Iris went into a garden bed this spring and are growing on well.

The Hosta still grow in their original pots.  And their growth this spring has been spectacular!

~

June 23, 2015 005

~

Hosta make a good ground cover.  When not in bloom, they often recede into the background of a planting scheme.  These miniature Hostas, especially, don’t scream for your attention, like my Begonia Rex and showy Coleus.

But now that they have bloomed, I see they are truly stunning in their own way. Hostas attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.  I expect to see hummingbirds hovering around these blossoms any day now.

~

June 23, 2015 013

~

Their delicate flowers show exquisite markings.

Michael sent enough divisions that I divided them between two pots.  After putting as many as I dared in the decorative glazed pot, the remainder went into a spare nursery pot with a rooted Begonia cutting.  Somehow a bit of hardy Begonia grandis found its way into the pot as well.

I like the Hosta on its own merits, but also as a ground cover under a larger potted plant.  Both pots of Hosta would probably benefit from division after they bloom, they’ve grown so well.

~

June 23, 2015 008

~

“Give freely to the world these gifts of love and compassion.

Do not concern yourself with how much

you receive in return,

just know in your heart it will be returned.”

Steve Maraboli

~

June 23, 2015 011~

This post is to thank Michael once again for his gift of healthy plants, and to reinvigorate the notion of garden bloggers sharing plants with one another.

Gwennie recently made the generous offer to send me a start of her Begonia, ‘Muddy Waters,’ which I covet.  As much as I would love to accept her offer, I believe border inspections might prevent it from reaching me from her home in Belgium.  I’ve thanked her and continue my search to locate this stunning Begonia in the United States.

~

This cane Begonia has been with us for many years now.  It roots easily in water, and I've shared cuttings with many friends.

This cane Begonia has been with us for many years now. It roots easily in water, and I’ve shared cuttings with many friends.

~

But I enjoy sharing plants with blogging friends and neighbors.  The Pelargonium cuttings Eliza recently shared continue to root on my kitchen counter.  I planning to send her some of our re-blooming German Iris when this heat finally breaks!

Neighborhood friends pass plants among ourselves routinely, and always learn something interesting as we share.  My garden is populated with beautiful living gifts, constant reminders of loved ones and friends.

~

June 23, 2015 010~

“A gift consists not in what is done or given,

but in the intention of the giver or doer.”

 Seneca

 

~

June 23, 2015 018

~

Deb, at Unexpected In Common Hours,  passed on another gift of sorts, yesterday, when she asked me to participate in the ” Three Days Three Quotes” blogging challenge.  I enjoy sharing quotations in my posts, so this challenge is a pleasure to accept.

I’ve learned that when sharing plants with someone, it is important to make sure they can accept the plants, first. Can they provide the conditions a plant needs to thrive?  How much space is needed?  Is this a plant they will enjoy growing?

A surprise gift can become a burden, especially when that gift is alive.  As with any other gift, there has to be a certain “fit” between the gift and the one who receives.

~

These odd 'Under the Sea' Coleus may be an acquired taste.  I love them, but would not offer a cutting unless a friend admired them first.  They grow here with Oxalis triangularis, which I've shared with many friends.

These odd ‘Under the Sea’ Coleus may be an acquired taste. I love them, but would not offer a cutting unless a friend admired them first. They grow here with Oxalis triangularis, which I’ve shared with many friends.

~

Which brings us back to this latest blogging challenge.  I’ve recently read some interesting essays by fellow bloggers  about these awards and challenges which make the rounds.  To some, they have the icky feel of chain letters.

Maybe there are just too many lately.  Maybe they pressure bloggers to reveal more about themselves than they wish, or to post more frequently than they comfortably can.  I don’t want to pass on something which makes another uncomfortable.

That is why I have decided to participate in this three day challenge, but not to pass it on this time.

However, if you would like to take part in this simple three day challenge, please let me know and I will be delighted to invite you.  I’m happy to pass on the invitation to those happy to receive it!

Let gifts always be those things which bring our loved ones joy, like this beautiful Hosta, and so many other beautiful creatures growing in our garden.

~

June 23, 2015 009

~

“It is a tremendous gift

to simply and truly listen to another.

  Bryant McGill

~

June 20, 2015 garden 037

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

 

Another Weird, Wonderful and Poisonous Plant

Sauromatum venosum, just planted last night.

Sauromatum venosum, just planted last night.

~

Yes, we’ve brought home another weird, wonderful and poisonous plant.

Its name says it all:  Sauromatum venosum.  Get it?  Venosum?

It is also called “Voodoo Lily” because it begins to grow, as if by some strange magic, without water or soil.

That is how we found it, actually.  It wasn’t on my shopping list per se…

~

A second of the several tubers we purchased, planted about 18" away from the first.

A second of the several tubers we purchased, planted about 18″ away from the first.

~

But as we were browsing the summer flowering bulbs offered in Brent and Becky Heath’s bulb shop yesterday, there they were:  the already growing flowers of Voodoo Lily reaching out of their bin for our ankles.

They put me in mind of cats reaching through the bars of their little cages at the animal shelter, vying for attention and maybe a new home….

How could I ignore them?  Some of these flowers were already more than 18″ long, poking out of the holes in their little red mesh bags.  Phototropic, they were reaching for the light.  They were ALIVE!

~

This was the only barely growing tuber of the lot... which is how I missed planting it last night.  It went into the lower fern garden this morning.

This was the only barely growing tuber of the lot… which is how I missed planting it last night.   It went into the lower fern garden this morning.

~

Actually, some weird plantophiles (much like yours truly) will buy these Voodoo Lily tubers and simply set them, dry, on a shelf to watch them grow.  They will grow happily for weeks on the energy stored in their tuber.  Eventually, one must plant them up, of course.  Which is what I did with these poor little guys last night.

~

See?  Not a hint of a root...

See? Not a hint of a root…  Like a Caladium, this is a tuber, not a true bulb.

~

Keep in mind they’ve been growing in a bin of bulbs on the floor.  One mustn’t expect too much yet in terms in statuesque form.  The flowers will grow several feet high, open, release a putrescently musky scent for a few days, and then die back.  The scent is to attract the right insects for pollination, of course.

~

April 9, 2015 planting 018

This flower stalk is only just getting started. It will grow to several feet high before dying back to the ground. Leaves will follow in early summer.

~

Once the flowers have died back, one or more leaf stalks emerge and add a lovely tropical note to the garden for the remainder of the season.  Native to Africa, Sauromatum venosum remain hardy from Zone 7 south.  They will spread by tuber and by seed indefinitely.  Phototropic, they will reach for the light if grown in too much shade.

I hope that as these little guys get established and sink some roots into our garden soil, the flower stalks will lift themselves and continue growing towards the sun.  Plants will do amazing things, given the opportunity.

~

Plant the tuber 2" to 3" in good, moist soil in bright partial shade.  Keep moist.  I've heard these guys stay hungry, and grow better with occasional meals of compost.

Plant the tuber 2″ to 3″ in good, moist soil in bright partial shade. Keep moist. I’ve heard these guys stay hungry, and grow better with occasional meals of compost.

~

Whether the flowers right themselves or not, the leaves will still emerge properly by early summer and offer some interesting foliage in the garden for several months.  They will die back with the fall frost, but the tuber can remain in the garden, mulched, over winter.

So we’ve covered ‘weird’ and we’ve covered ‘wonderful.’  Why poisonous?

~

Yes, another stump garden.  I've been planting around the stump of a peach tree we lost in 2010.  That is a Hellebore to the right, also poisonous.  A deciduous fern will emerge soon, and the 'Voodoo Lily' will complete the set.  I'll add compost and extend this garden outwards bit by bit as the plants fill in.

Yes, another stump garden. I’ve been planting around the stump of a peach tree we lost in 2010. That is a Hellebore to the right, also poisonous. A deciduous fern will emerge soon, and the ‘Voodoo Lily’ will complete the set. I’ll add compost and extend this garden outwards bit by bit as the plants fill in.  The decaying stump retains moisture and feeds the plants as it and the tree’s roots decompose.

~

Poisonous plants don’t get eaten by miscreant deer who sneak into our garden for dinner. 

I’m becoming something of an aficionado on poisonous plants.  For more on this, you might enjoy an earlier post titled, Pick Your Poison.

After losing our early investments in Phlox and lilies, roses, impatiens, holly shrubs, tomatoes and Camellias; we realized that tasty plants disappear in the night.  Poisonous plants manage to grow all season.

~

These N. "Katie Heath,' growing in our garden, were hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother.  These have been growing in our garden for several years.

These N. “Katie Heath’  were hybridized by Brent Heath and named for his mother. These have been growing in our garden for several years now.  We continue to plant lots of new daffodils each year to protect other plants, as every part of a daffodil is poisonous.

~

So now it is a bonus when I find beautiful plants for the garden which also happen to be poisonous.  Like Hellebores and daffodils, all parts of the Voodoo lily are very poisonous.  Not only will they not get eaten to a nub; their roots offer protection from tunneling voles to nearby plants.

So there you have my take on the very weird, wonderful and poisonous Voodoo Lilies we brought home yesterday from our shopping excursion in Brent and Becky’s Bulb Shop at their farm in Gloucester.

I’ll show you follow up photos of these lilies as they grow.

A pair are planted at the top of the garden, visible from the street.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you can keep a watch on them as they come along.  And if you smell something like rotting meat when you pass our garden, you’ll know they have come into full bloom.

~

It's Alive!

It’s Alive!

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Holding the Bank, or, The Dogwood is Free!

March 14, 2015 creek 025

~

It was a harmless little thing when we moved here…. barely knee high.

We debated at the time whether to keep it or cut it.

~

Dec. 27 snow 018~

We both know, firsthand, the problems with white pine trees growing near a home:  fallen branches, pine cones, tons of needles, and the ever present danger of the whole thing falling in a strong wind.  If any tree might be considered a ‘weed’ in Virginia, the white pine comes close.

But it was so cute and green; and its root system held a very steep bank.  I made the argument to leave it be.  And we did.

But that isn’t to say we haven’t reconsidered that decision seasonally.  We have trimmed off branches and headed back others in our efforts to keep it in bounds for its space.  And even I had to admit that the cute little pine had grown large and rangy.

What finally convinced me to ‘sign off’ on removing the pine, was seeing that the Dogwood seedling, which has been growing beside it, needs space to grow.  It is over 6′ tall this spring.  Its roots will help hold the bank, and it needs room to develop symmetrically.

~

April 6, 2015 vase 011

~

Beloved partner was tactful enough to get the task completed while I was away for the day.  I came home to the stump; the happy Dogwood, and a huge mess now visible on the bank.

~

April 6, 2015 vase 010~

This was an inaccessible area we mostly ignored in the garden; until now.  With the pine gone, I raked back the pine straw and gathered leaves to find a seriously eroded clay bank much in need of attention.

Our garden tumbles and rolls down a fairly steep hill from street to ravine.  There is no naturally flat surface on the entire lot.  We’ve invested a lot of effort and materials in reinforcing the steeper areas of the garden to control erosion.  In fact, the guys at our local garden center know that I’ll need them to load gravel and compost on most every visit.

~

April 6, 2015 building 001~

My prescription for these areas is simple:  soil, gravel and perennial plants.

Monday afternoon found me on hands and knees rebuilding the bank around where the pine once stood.

~

April 6, 2015 building 003~

Interestingly, I found a very old, hollowed out stump and a smaller solid stump beside the newly cut stump of our pine.  It appeared that the roots of the pine have battled valiantly over the years to maintain a presence here!

Once all of the accumulated needles had been raked away, I pulled the weeds, filled in the creature tunnels with small stones, and then packed the bank firmly with moist compost.  A  Carex plant, salvaged from a potted arrangement several years ago, was still alive near the base of the bank.  I had planted it and a deciduous fern two years ago in an earlier attempt to work with this area.  I simply reinforced the area around and below it with more compost.

~

April 7, 2015 spring chores 001

~

I also re-cycled pieces of a broken planter, and its gravely soil, at the base of the bank to further hold the new compost in place and to add a little interest.

~

April 8, 2015 spring garden 037

~

I plan to extend the existing fern garden across to this new planting area.  A variety of ferns, daffodils,  Hellebores and Lamium maculata already grow east of this new bed.

~

April 8, 2015 bank 007

~

And so I selected Lamium maculata ‘Aureum,’  Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’ ferns, a golden leaved Hypericum, and Tiarella cordifolia, or foam flower, for the initial planting.  I plan to add some additional ferns and Hellebores before considering this area finished.  I’ve already added a strawberry begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera, and a table top fern, to the pockets created by the planter.

~

~

All of these plants have proven unappealing to our herd, even if they could now find a way into the garden through our deer fences.

After the initial planting, I packed gravel over the entire area both to hold and mulch the compost and to discourage digging from the wild things.

It is only a start.  Newly developed beds always take a while to settle in and begin growing together. The white gravel will gradually ‘disappear’ as time goes by.  The plants will grow to cover it, and weather will dull it.

But we believe this spot is already infinitely better than it was a before the pine came down.

~

April 7, 2015 spring chores 004

~

Once the nearby trees grow their leaves, this bank will remain in deep shade most of the time.  I hope the golden leafed perennials will brighten a previously dark and forgotten area.

Part of the pleasure of creating gardens is in re-doing an unappealing area to make it beautiful.

~

April 8, 2015 bank 001~

 

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

The Dogwood tree has responded dramatically in the four days since the pine was cut.  It is ready to fill this space with its beauty.

The Dogwood tree has responded dramatically in the four days since the pine was cut. It is ready to fill this space with its beauty.

~

Postscript:

Several hours of thunderstorms with heavy rain rolled through here in the wee early morning hours today.  Listening to it, I wondered whether this newly reinforced bank would hold.  The plants haven’t had an opportunity to take hold yet and they haven’t grown to cover the newly laid compost.  We were so happy to see, in the morning’s light, that everything held.  There was absolutely no damage from all of the rain.  Success!

~

After last night's heavy rain... no damage to be seen at all.  The bank held.

After last night’s heavy rain… no damage to be seen at all. The bank held.

Where’s Waldo? At Forest Lane Botanicals

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 008

Assorted Sarracenia species available at Forest Lane Botanicals. Can you find the dragonfly in the photo?

Do you remember the Where’s Waldo books?

My daughter and I enjoyed them when she was just learning to read.

We would page through the drawings, competing with one another to find “Waldo” before the other one could.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 007

A friend came with my partner and me to visit at Forest Lane Botanicals today.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 002

We enjoyed the company of a beautiful blue dragonfly as we admired Alan and Wendy’s Pitcher Plant collection.

Have you found the dragonfly in the photos yet ?  (The dragonfly appears in the first, second and fourth photos.  It may be in the third one, and I just haven’t noticed it …)

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 009

We could also hear the frogs, but never spotted them today, sadly.  We found a few tadpoles darting around the partially submerged pots, and heard a tell-tale “splash” as we drew near.

Tadpoles

Tadpoles

Mostly we enjoyed Alan’s guidance to the garden, and the sheer pleasure of wandering around discovering one beautiful plant after another.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 011

We especially enjoyed the many varieties of Hosta and fern in the garden.  We can grow the ferns, but our attempts at Hosta are usually “grazed short” by our visiting deer.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 020

We are always inspired with new ideas as we explore what Alan and Wendy Wubbels have done with their shade garden.

We left with pots of new treasures to grow and share. 

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 018

I with a Saxifraga stolonifera, Strawberry Begonia or Strawberry Geranium- (both common names are used) and my friend with a pot of beautiful Selaginella, or Spikemoss.

Salginella, Spikemoss

Selaginella

Both will grow in the cool shade in beds beneath mature trees in our gardens.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 015

Readers in Eastern Virginia who have not yet  visited Forest Lane Botanicals nursery will be delighted once you find them.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  I believe this is an unusual cultivar known as "Ocean's Fury" and introduced in 2007.  This is a hardy deciduous fern.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  This is an unusual cultivar known as “Applecourt  Crested” according to Wendy Wubbels. This is a hardy deciduous fern.

A gardening friend told me about Alan and Wendy’s nursery last summer, but it took us nearly a year to make our first visit.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 016

We are so glad we did.  Now we enjoy watching the gardens evolve as spring turns to summer.

There is always something new to notice and enjoy.

June 6, 2014 Forest Lane 001

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

All photos were take at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia

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

Join 507 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest