Wednesday Vignette

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“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.

Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.

Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.

Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”

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Lao Tzu

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Here is another of the ‘accent plants,’ grown in a shallow Bonsai style pot, I’ve been working with this summer.  The two main plants were sold unnamed, but I believe they may be a cultivar of Alocasia, another of those plants commonly called ‘Elephant’s Ears.’  Tropical, they prefer warmth, high humidity, filtered bright light, and moist soil; a winning combination for a houseplant!

I fell in love with these striking leaves and adopted both plants on the spot.  They came in tiny 1″ pots, and have been growing in their new, more spacious pot for almost three months.

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Mid-June, right after planting up this arrangement.

Mid-June, right after planting up this arrangement

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The ground cover plant is Sellaginella, or ‘Spikemoss.”  Spikemoss also appreciates constant moisture and high humidity, but indirect light.

These little ‘accent plants’ require the frequent,  close attention a proper Bonsai requires to keep them hydrated, groomed, and in good health.  It only takes a moment or two, but the plants must be checked every few days.  I feel more comfortable growing the little ‘accent plants’ because they don’t require the frequent pruning woody Bonsai need, and can grow fairly happily in their shallow little pot for a long while.

They grow on a windowsill where they never get direct sunlight, but have bright light all day.  This has been a good windowsill plant as it never drops a leaf or petal and fills its space elegantly.

Caring for little plants such as these helps us cultivate mindfulness and patience.

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Our little Alocasia after a summer of growth.

Our little Alocasia after a summer of growth.

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“Time is a created thing.

To say ‘I don’t have time,’

is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

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Lao Tzu 

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My appreciation to blogging friend Anna at Flutter and Hum for hosting Wednesday Vignettes each week. 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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Micro Gardening

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Do you feel better surrounded by green growing things?

These very gentle and generous beings have a certain presence.  It is one reason why we feel relaxed and peaceful in our home surrounded by a forest.

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Which makes January and February such a challenge.  Most of our garden still slumbers through its winter dormancy.

Yes, the daffodils have begun to send up a few leaves here and there to test the air…. but we’re still just hanging on here.  Many reading this may simply wish to see the ground again, as their garden slumbers under its thick covering of snow and ice.

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Which might explain why the tiniest little plants bring such joy today.  Even a narrow windowsill can hold a very satisfying micro garden in February.

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It is the energy of growth which attracts us.  And watching their tiny unfoldings offers us a meditation on the nature of our own lives.

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Some find peace in the simplicity and sparseness of winter.  I find joy in watching life spin itself in new growth from the simple elements of water, air, and light.

There are lessons to be learned from this intimate observation of the infinite.

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All you need is a tiny container.  Depending on what you choose to grow, a little sand, a little water, or perhaps a little soil will sustain the tiny life you cradle there.

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This is the season when every bit of plant matter is ‘juiced,’ just waiting for the proper conditions to burst into another season of growth. 

Whether you scrape up a bit of moss, save a carrot top, plant a bean or garlic clove, suspend a sweet potato in water or moist sand, or even stand a cutting in a jar of water; the wonders of life will unfold right in front of your eyes.

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January 23, 2015 birds 002

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You don’t need acres of land to share in the mystery.  You don’t need an investment of cash.

Just see the possibility.   Offer warmth and water.

And prepare to be amazed.

 

Woodland Gnome 2015

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January 23, 2015 expressive 007

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Inspired by the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Scale

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Building a Terrarium

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Do you like miniature gardens and “little worlds”?  I downloaded samples of several books about miniature gardens, fairy gardens, and terrariums on Saturday looking for inspiration and fresh ideas.

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Terrariums and fairy gardens first caught my imagination in childhood.  I love that terrariums are largely closed ecological systems, mimicking the water cycle of our planet where water evaporates, condenses, and then returns to the soil.  Once constructed, a balanced terrarium can live indefinitely; or at least until the plants outgrow their vessel.

These are great little gardens for those with little space, or for those who want to bring a bit of nature into their professional environment.  There isn’t any anxiety over keeping them properly watered or making a mess, with a little garden in a bottle.

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Divisions used in this little garden include a golden creeping Sedum and a division of peacock spikemoss.

Divisions used in this little garden include a golden creeping Sedum and a division of peacock spikemoss.  I broke these off of pots I’m overwintering in the garage.

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My point in building this little terrarium, beyond the fun and beauty of it, is to demonstrate a few of the “tips and tricks” which make it an easy project.  Yes, so easy that you can pull it together in an afternoon, and then spend the evening admiring it with friends over a glass of wine

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An olive oil bottle from Trader Joes. Needs a bit more scrubbing to get the rest of that glue off!

This  olive oil bottle came from Trader Joe’s.   It needs a bit more scrubbing to get the rest of that glue off!

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My bottle came full of olive oil from Trader Joes.  The olive oil was delicious, by the way, and I just saved the bottle in the pantry because it was too pretty to throw away.

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Agates from Oregon beaches have a new home now in the terrarium. They're prettiest when wet, anyway. The scarf is one I just finished for a friend.

Agates from Oregon beaches have a new home now in the terrarium. They’re prettiest when wet, anyway.  The scarf is one I just finished for a friend.

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The stones are mostly agates picked up off beaches in Oregon.  There is a layer of reindeer moss from the craft store, left over from my moss-covered wreathes, and then another layer of glass shards from a bag of assorted glass purchased at the crafts store for other projects.

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New potting soil and bits of plant materials from the garden complete the project.  My only new investment here was a bit of time on Sunday afternoon.

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All terrariums need an inch or so of loose stones as their base layer.  Not only are they pretty and interesting to view from the glass, but they form the drainage system of the environment.  Any water you add to the terrarium, which isn’t absorbed, drains down into the stones so the soil isn’t waterlogged.

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Many builders add a little bit of aquarium charcoal to this layer of stones to help filter the water and keep it “sweet.”

The layer of moss between the stones and the soil serves as a barrier to the soil to keep it from running down into the stones.  It is purely aesthetic.  I added bits of “beach glass” around this moss layer to add to that barrier, as well as for the color.

Now, there are easier ways to do most anything.  Hold the bottle at an angle when adding the stones and glass, to direct where they fall.  I added a few stones to the center of my pile to take up space, allowing more of the agates to be visible against the glass.  Tilt the bottle when dropping in bits of beach glass to direct where you want the glass to land, then nudge it into place with a long, narrow tool.

Use whatever you have on hand to work inside the terrarium.  Many builders suggest chopsticks.  The cheap ones which come with your meal are the best.  I also like bamboo food skewers, and always have a pack lying around.  Even a pencil works just fine to nudge things into place through the narrow opening of the jar.

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The depth of soil needed depends entirely on plant choice.  Ferns and sedums need a little soil.  Moss needs very little.  I’ve used just over an inch of soil.  The roots will also grow down through the reindeer moss and into the stones below to reach the water there, eventually.

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A piece of paper, rolled into a funnel, is all you need to get soil or sand into your terrarium neatly.  Just spoon it through the opening, and nudge it into place with your long skinny tool.

Plants can be dropped through the opening, or gently rolled up into a piece of paper and then slid through the opening, before being nudged into place.

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These tiny plants have tiny roots.  It is fairly easy to work soil around the roots , pushing everything into place with your chopstick or pencil.

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I finished off by covering the soil with bits of garden moss.  Everything was frozen solid here on Saturday.  These bits were actually pried out of a pot on the deck, where I’ve been holding them since November.

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The secret to making an interesting miniature garden lies in beginning with tiny starts of things, and then allowing time for them to grow.

For example, you might plant a seed or a bulb, so long as the plant itself will fit in the space the terrarium allows.  Can you see a tiny crocus growing inside this bottle, from a bulb planted in the fall?  It would be a very temporary display, but very cool.

I’ve used another tiny division of peacock spikemoss, Selaginella uncinata, which can grow quite large, on one side of the bottle; and a tiny baby strawberry begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera, still attached to its umbilical stem, right in the middle.  My strawberry begonia plants, growing inside this winter, are making new baby plants every week!  I simply lowered this one, by its stem, into place where I want it to grow.  Its roots will take hold now in the soil, and quickly anchor it into place.

Once planted, add little stones, crystals, shells, marbles, bits of glass, or other ornaments to suit your vision.  Add tiny furniture for a fairy garden.  Lay stone paths or patios.  Add a statue if you wish.  This is your garden and you can do as you please!

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The final step of construction is watering.  I prefer to use bottled spring water so no chemicals are introduced, which might affect the growth of the plants.  And one must water very sparingly.  Little drops at a time are used to rinse away any specks of soil on the glass and to settle the roots into their new soil.

I left this bottle open for the first 36 hours to allow for some evaporation.  An opening this small could be left open all of the time.  But by replacing the stopper, this little garden won’t need additional water for months.  If the glass fogs up, I can remove the stopper for a few hours to allow the water to clear.  If the soil begins to look dry, a few drops of added water will solve the problem.

That is really all you need to know to now build your own terrarium. 

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Place your finished terrarium in bright light, but not right against a window. This one sits opposite the doors to our deck.

Place your finished terrarium in bright light, but not right against a window. This one sits opposite the doors to our deck.

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When choosing plants, select those which enjoy high humidity and which can grow without overwhelming the interior space of your garden.

Terrariums can be built to accommodate succulents.  These need openings for air circulation, and should be started off with even less water.  Air plants, which don’t require soil, make excellent terrarium specimens.  But these should be placed on wood or gravel, since contact with potting soil may lead them to rot.  The possibilities are limited mainly by your imagination and the depth of your purse!

Following are the books I reviewed this weekend.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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Growth

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The Amaryllis bulb planted last week has begun to grow, and its pale bud has deepened to green.

The building of this little garden was documented in “The Gift.”    There was a kind request in the comments to show you its progress.  It has been growing since last Sunday.

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In addition to the slight growth of the Amaryllis buds, I’ve also noticed the spike moss beginning to fill out with newly opening buds.

That is beyond exciting to a gardening addict like me!

Imagine, here we are deeply into a solidly frozen January, and I’m watching buds swell  and green in this little inside garden.

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January 11, 2015 terrarium 008

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Just for comparison, another photo taken today of a solidly frozen moss garden living outside on our deck.

If the weather forecast proves true, you may see this one covered in ice one day very soon!

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This bottle has now been transformed into a tiny terrarium.  Here, before construction began.

This bottle has now been transformed into a tiny terrarium. Here, before construction began.  Tomorrow I’ll show you the progress of that garden when typing becomes a bit easier.  My left hand remains bandaged today after an unfortunate accident in the kitchen yesterday….  And yes, all is well….

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Woodland Gnome 2015

The Gift

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Friends gave us an Amaryllis bulb for the holidays.  A perfect gift (for me at least) as I love them, and never purchased one this fall.

Amaryllis bulbs often come in neat kits, with instructions, pot and peat included.

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The perfect gift for the holidays, from much loved friends and neighbors.

The perfect gift for the holidays  from much loved friends and neighbors.

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If you buy your own kit, take a look at the bulb to make sure it is alive.  Do you see how some of the roots are hydrated, and a bud pokes up from the bulb’s neck?  This is a good bulb.

You’ll find the “soil” at the bottom of the pot.  Every bit of moisture has been dried out of this peat, compressed into a thin disc.

After soaking in warm water for several hours the peat expands and will fill the pot.   But I’ll leave that bit of fun for another day….

 

This healthy bulb shows the critical signs of growth:  a few plump roots and tips of new growth.  This bud will open into many gorgeous flowers in a few weeks.

This healthy bulb shows the critical signs of growth: a few plump roots and tips of new growth. This bud will open into many gorgeous flowers in a few weeks.

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I love Amaryllis mixed into larger plantings.     When in bloom, Amaryllis can be breathtakingly beautiful.

They make a huge floral splash for a few weeks as the buds open.  The flowers are long-lived, but like every other flower, eventually they fade.

And then what do you do? 

Their leaves, often two feet long or more, live on for quite a while re-fueling the bulb to bloom again next year.

Some folks probably chuck the bulb once the bloom is finished… but you know I’m not going to do that!

And so I like to grow the bulb as an element of an arrangement rather than as a single bulb in a pot.

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There is something interesting to look at as the bulb begins to grow, and there is something interesting to look at as the bulb’s foliage finishes.

I incorporated this lovely bulb into another riff on my mossy garden theme.

The container has been sitting in the basement since I purchased it off a clearance shelf for a dollar or two several years ago.  It is pretty shallow for a large bulb, but that is OK because Amaryllis don’t need to be planted deeply.

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This bowl has no drainage.  I'm using dried spaghum moss to absorb  and then release moisture as needed.  A small bed of pebbles will hold the bulb.

This bowl has no drainage. I’m using dried sphagnum moss to absorb and then release moisture as needed. A small bed of pebbles will hold the bulb.

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A bed of dried sphagnum moss in the bottom will wick up water, releasing it back slowly as needed.  A small bed of stones lifts the base of the bulb a little above the bottom of the container to give the roots a head start.  They will grow horizontally into the potting soil as they develop.

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The fern's pot is also deeper than this bowl.  I gently pulled the roots of the fern out to the side to make it fit.  This fern spreads with underground rhizomes.  Pulling it apart  in this way encourages it to spread more quickly.

The fern’s pot is also deeper than this bowl. I gently pulled the roots of the fern out to the side to make it fit. This fern spreads with underground rhizomes. Pulling it apart in this way encourages it to spread more quickly.

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A lady fern ( adopted yesterday from  Home Depot)  gives some mass, presently towering over the bulb.  The Amaryllis will quickly catch up, towering over the fern before it blooms.

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Offsets are already forming from rhizomes off of the main fern clump.

Offsets are already forming from rhizomes off of the main fern clump.  This potting soil has slow release fertilizer and perlite mixed in for drainage.  It will support all of the plants better than the pure peat which came with the kit.

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I hope the fern will fill in quickly to balance the height of the bloom scape.

And finally, I went digging in a pot out in the garden where some strawberry begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera,  and spikemoss, Selaginella, still survive.

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I dug up more little divisions to bring inside.

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Spikemoss spills over the side of the container.  Moss and lichens cover the potting soil.

Spikemoss spills over the side of the container. Moss and lichens cover the potting soil.  Tiny pebbles fill in cracks and seems.

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These are both hardy to Zone 7, but  the deep freeze coming this week  won’t make them happy.   I was glad to rescue them for a garden inside where it’s warm.

The ground cover is all mosses and lichens dug from the garden.  These add such interesting texture and color to the design.  There are endless combinations of mosses and lichens growing together, and all are wonderful viewed close up.

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An Amaryllis becomes very top heavy as it grows.  Many people stake them once they reach 12″-14″ tall.  I plan to try a different approach.

I’ve brought up a tall, clear glass hurricane globe, which I’ll place into this little garden as the bulb begins to grow.  It will make its own little “terrarium” like environment and will also support the Amaryllis, corralling both leaves and bloom scape.

The globe is so tall that it looked a little strange when I fitted it in earlier today.  But once the Amaryllis starts its stretch, I think it will work just fine.

The dish garden sits on a mirrored buffet in the dining room.  It gets bright light from several directions for most of the day.  We will enjoy watching this little garden grow.

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A dynamic mix, it will change every few days. 

When the weather settles enough to move the Amaryllis outside later in the spring, I’ll move all of the other plants back out into the garden to enjoy another growing season in the sun, wind and rain.  But until then, we’ll enjoy a close up view of their progress.

Any garden of moss needs high humidity and frequent misting and watering.

Please remember that moss plants are so primitive they have no roots or vascular system.  Each cell must absorb the water it needs from its environment.  That is why moss thrives in  rain! 

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The mossy groundcover is a patchwork of small pieces.  Pebbles placed along their edges not only hides the seams and fills spaces, they also help conserve moisture so the moss stays moist, longer.

The mossy groundcover is a patchwork of small pieces. Pebbles placed along their edges not only hide the seams and fills spaces, they also help conserve moisture so the moss stays moist, longer.

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Ferns are thirsty, too, as is the Amaryllis.  This little planting will need water every couple of days.

Moss thrive in acidic conditions.  Diluted brewed tea (no sugar or cream, please) feeds the plants and keeps their environment acidic.  I dilute whatever tea is left in the pot before washing it, and share this cold brew among different plants each day.  Any planting with ferns or moss will appreciate “a cuppa” from time to time.

Amaryllis kits remain popular gifts.  Maybe you received one, too.  These beautiful flowers charm us year after year with their bright winter blooms.

And like all bulbs, they grow as if by magic.  Just anchor them in medium, add water, and prepare to be amazed with their beauty!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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January 4, 2014 garden 063

Where’s Waldo? At Forest Lane Botanicals

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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.

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

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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 …)

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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

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