Sunday Dinner: Complex

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“Abandon the urge to simplify everything,
to look for formulas and easy answers,
and to begin to think multidimensionally,
to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life;
not to be dismayed by the multitude
of causes and consequences
that are inherent in each experience –
– to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”
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M. Scott Peck

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“This is the time for every artist in every genre
to do what he or she does loudly and consistently.
It doesn’t matter to me what your position is.
You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity
and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it,
and the facets of it.
This is about being a complex human being in the world,
not about finding a villain.
This is no time for anything else
than the best that you’ve got.”
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Toni Morrison

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“Today the network of relationships
linking the human race to itself
and to the rest of the biosphere
is so complex that all aspects affect all others
to an extraordinary degree.
Someone should be studying the whole system,
however crudely that has to be done,
because no gluing together of partial studies
of a complex nonlinear system
can give a good idea of the behavior of the whole. ”
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Murray Gell-Mann

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“Simplicities are enormously complex.
Consider the sentence “I love you”.”
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Richard O. Moore 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Complexity is the blending of perfect symmetry and pure randomness.
This is where the arrow of time lives.
I think these two extremes are elusive ideals.”
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R.A.Delmonico
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Spring’s Happy Faces

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“There are souls in this world
who have the gift of finding joy everywhere,
and leaving it behind them when they go.”
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Frederick William Faber

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Bright yellow Narcissus x odorus ‘flore pleno’, also called ‘Queen Anne’s double jonquil,’ blooms with a clump of N. ‘Thalia’ this week,  within a clump of evergreen Arum.  Arum grow from fall until early summer,  forming a beautiful ground cover around spring bulbs.

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Watching spring’s flowers unfold, day by day as the season warms, brings us happiness.  Sharing these beautiful flowers, that are popping up so extravagantly this time of year, allows us to share the happiness with friends.

What a joy to have enough flowers to cut and bundle into bouquets for a vase and to share with visiting friends.

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Double Narcissus ‘Albus Plenus Odoratus’ is an heirloom variety, and has brought happiness each springtime since at least the mid-Nineteenth Century.

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There is a language of flowers.  Their colors and forms, fragrance and presentation allow us to convey meaning through gifts of floral beauty.

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Narcissus ‘Thalia’ is another heirloom Narcissus, dating to at least 1916. It is one of the few pure white daffodils, and shines like a beacon from sunrise until well past sunset in the garden.  Here, it is planted with lambs ears and Scilla.

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Filling the garden with spring blooming bulbs remains the easiest and most reliable way to fill the garden with waves of flowers from late winter until May.

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Narcissus ‘Tahiti’ is one of the brightest and warmest of the double Narcissus.  It grows here with N. ‘Katie Heath.’

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Spring bulbs appear reliably once the weather has warmed enough for them to thrive.  They give a long season of bloom, and most are perennials.

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This split corona Division 11 Narcissus may be N. ‘Smiling Twin,’ hybridized by Brent Heath in Gloucester, VA.

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Many bulbs, like Narcissus, divide and form ever expanding clumps over the years.  Some will spread by seed if you leave the flowers in place to mature.   They appear for only a few months each spring. Their foliage dies back and disappears by early June, when summer flowers have taken center stage.

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Ipheion uniflorum, star flower,  bloom in our front lawn each spring.

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Even small, insignificant spring flowers naturalized in the lawn, like Ipheion uniflorum, bring a smile.  They join whatever spring time wildflowers crop up to create a floral carpet on the lawn as we greet April.

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Spring flowering trees also fill our garden with early flowers.   While a bulb may give us only a single flower, a tree may give us thousands.

Flowering trees cover themselves in flowers, often before their first leaf unfolds.  We enjoy their ephemeral beauty for a few weeks until the petals blow away on the wind, to live on only in our memories until next spring.

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Native dogwood, Cornus florida, has been name ‘Wildflower of the Year’ by the Virginia Native Plant Society.  The swelling buds of our dogwood trees are just beginning to open this week.

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Our garden fills with more flowers each day.  The earliest daffies have begun to fade, while the late season daffodils are just showing their first leaves poking up through the soil.  Cool weather means that each stem lasts a few days longer, and they never mind a good rain.  They are joined now with Hyacinths, Muscari, Leucojum and other early flowers.

Vinca minor weaves and evergreen ground cover, studded with periwinkle blue flowers beneath them all.

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Our woody shrubs and trees come along in their own sequence of spring flowers, too.  From the earliest Forsythia and Camellia we enjoy new flowers every week; now the dogwoods will soon fill the garden with clouds of white flowers.

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Dogwood just coming into the fullness of its beauty.

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May this springtime bring you happiness, too, unfolding in beauty and wonder all around you.

Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Those who wish to sing always find a song.”
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Swedish Proverb

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Magnolia liliiflora ‘nigra’

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Foolishness

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“I have great faith in fools –
self-confidence my friends will call it.”
.
Edgar Allan Poe

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“Any darn fool can make something complex;
it takes a genius to make something simple.”
.
Pete Seeger

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“If you are not willing to be a fool,
you can’t become a master.”
.
Jordan B. Peterson

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“The first thing every mage should learn
is that magic makes fools of us.
Now you may call yourself a mage.
You have learned the most important lesson.”
.
Tamora Pierce

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“Every man is a divinity in disguise,
a god playing the fool.”
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Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“If it is ones lot to be cast among fools,
one must learn foolishness.”
.
Alexandre Dumas

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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Happy April!  Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!

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“Dare to be a fool in the face of impossibilities.”
.
Temit Ope Ibrahim”

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April Fool’s Day 2018

Green Thumb Tip #11: The Perennial Philosophy

Peonies emerging from the warming earth.

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Newbie gardeners so often fall for the trays of brightly flowering annuals each spring.  I know this, because I once did, too.  Who can resist the bright, harlequin colors of striped petunias, glowing marigolds, red New Guinea impatiens and perky geraniums?

In fact, we’re just home from Lowes.  It took all my will power to admire the tables laden with annual flats and keep right on going, without adopting a single one!

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Redbud, a small native tree which fills the garden with flowers in earliest spring.

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And I promise you, I will end buying a few annuals for pots and baskets before the last week of April.  But there is a better way to build a garden than bedding annual plants.

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Narcissus “Thalia” form clumps as their bulbs multiply each year.

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Back when, in another century, the fashion might have been to plant vast expanses of bright annuals in geometric figures in a large bed backed by a sedate hedge.  That works when you have a small army of gardeners on staff, a greenhouse of your own to raise those annuals, and plenty of time to work out the annual schemes.

It helps if your property is well fenced so that rogue rabbits and deer never find your tasty annual treats, too.

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Hellebores bloom each winter, filling the garden with flowers for three or four months when little else is in bloom.  Deer and rabbits won’t bother them.  This is a young plant, and will eventually grow to 18″-24″ wide.

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But we live, and garden, in a different world, don’t we?

Our reality includes limitations on our time, our energy, our purse, and maybe even on how much water we can invest in our garden during the hottest, driest months of summer.  Experienced gardeners learn to use plants which will return year after year, and largely take care of themselves.

It helps that most perennials not only grow larger each year, they also spread by some means or another.

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Lamium roots at the leaf nodes, and makes a beautiful ground cover. It will bloom in a few weeks and provides a beautiful foliage back drop almost year round.

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Perennials prove a wise investment of gardening dollars.  Purchased as small divisions or even bare root, most cost less than many annuals.  Some perennials even come as tiny starts in cell packs of 4, 6, or 8 in spring.  Once established, they can be divided again and again so your garden grows more lush and full each year.

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Lilac shrubs fill the garden with fragrance when they bloom each spring. Some newer Lilacs will re-bloom sporadically during the summer.

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Perennials include herbaceous plants, which may die back to the ground each winter; but they also include bulbs, tubers, ferns, herbs and flower producing shrubs. I take great joy in watching for favorite perennials to emerge from the earth each spring.  It is reassuring to see them return again and again; better each year.

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Perennial Columbine will begin to bloom any day now. Its foliage will fill this spot all summer long.

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I have heard from more than a few aging gardeners that they invest more in interesting trees or shrubs, and less in herbaceous perennials, with each passing year.  The upkeep year to year is easier.  You get more ‘bang’ for your ‘buck’ with a shrub producing hundreds of flowers each season.

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Iris ‘Immortality’ with Comphrey. This is a re-blooming Iris, which often blooms again in August or September.

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Some gardeners may be timid to plant perennials, because it is a little more complicated to plan for a full season of blooms.  Some perennials, like bearded Iris, may bloom only for a few weeks each year.  Once the Iris finish, what next?

I’ve actually seen charts showing the staggered bloom times of twenty or so perennials planted together in a bed.  Keeping track of color, size, habit and bloom time can seem overwhelming to a newbie gardener just getting acquainted with the world of perennials.

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Siberian Iris bloom with Artemesia and Comphrey, both perennial herbs. 

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It takes time to grow a good gardener.  We learn a little bit more with each passing season.   Our repertoire of plants increases through trial and error.  And our tastes evolve.

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Azaleas fill our garden in April.

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At some point, we realize that foliage is more important than flowers; and that the best gardens envelope us.  While annuals grow just a few inches tall, our trees, flowering shrubs and established perennials grow feet high, giving the garden a bit of drama and a lot of interesting structure.

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Many perennials, like Canna lily and Ginger lily, will grow to six or seven feet tall in just a few weeks.

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So go ahead a buy a few geraniums this spring to fill a pot by the front door.

But remember the perennial philosophy:  Buy it once, and then enjoy it for many years to come.

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Echinacea, or Purple Coneflower, is a favorite of nectar loving insects. A perennial, it is rarely touched by deer and grows more vigorous each year.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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“Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams.

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2:  Feed!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3 Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

Green Thumb Tip # 10 Understand the Rhythm

‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot-Bound Roots! from Peggy, of Oak Trees Studios

 

 

Fabulous Friday: Flowers From Wood

Native Dogwood, Cornus florida

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There is something totally magical about flowers blooming on woody stems.  Flowers, so fragile and soft, breaking out of weathered bark as winter draws to a cold and windy close will always fascinate me.

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Since I was a child, these natural wonders have held my attention.  Now, living in a Forest Garden, we have surrounded ourselves with flowering shrubs and trees.  They are sturdy yet beautiful, easy to maintain, and remain a lasting presence from year to year.  Their early flowers feed hungry pollinators when there is little else available.

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“Double Take Scarlet” Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Scarlet Storm’ in its second year in our garden. It has proven hardy and deer resistant, so I am watching the local garden centers for more of these shrubs to appear.  I would like to plant at least one more.

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After a cold and wintery week, we are happy to greet the sun and its warmth today.  We have uncovered the Hydrangeas again, lifted sheltering pots off of our new perennials, assessed the damage wrought by nearly a week of nights in the 20s, and done a little more pruning. 
But mostly, we have admired the many flowers opening now in the garden on this Fabulous Friday.
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The peach blossoms weathered the cold without damage.

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Although the Magnolia blossoms and Camellia blossoms turned brown in the cold this week, there are still buds left to open.  The damaged flowers will drop away soon enough.  And the fruit trees are just getting started! 

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Redbud flowers erupt directly from the trunk and branches of the tree. This is the species, Cercis canadensis, which grows wild here. Newer cultivars offer flowers in several shades of pink and lavender or white. Some also offer variegated or burgundy foliage.

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If I were asked for advice by someone just starting in their garden, I would steer them towards flowering woodies. 
The shrubs, or trees, themselves provide great garden structure year round.  They provide a permanent presence over decades, with little input from the gardener once they are established.  
And when they bloom, Wow!  What amazing ‘bang for your buck’ when a flowering tree covers itself with thousands of perfect blossoms.  It may last for a few weeks only, but what ‘gorgeosity’ in the garden when they bloom! 
Even when the blooms are finished, there is still much to enjoy from their beautiful bark, leaves, fruits and berries.  Many flowering trees return with gorgeous fall color to end the season.

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March 1, when the flowering Magnolia trees were covered in blossoms.

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There are great flowering woodies to enjoy in a mid-zone garden (6-9) through  the entire year.  When you might expect a short break in late January through mid-February, while even our hardy Camellias stop blooming, the Mahonia, Forsythia and Edgeworthia fill the garden with fragrance and color.
Now that the annual show has begun, we await the Azaleas and Rhododendrons; Lilacs; several species of Hydrangeas; Mountain Laurel; Rose of Sharon; Roses;  Crepe Myrtles, which easily bloom here for 100 days; until we finally return to our fall Camellias.

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From Left: Mahonia aquifolium, Edgeworthia chrysantha, and Magnolia stellata blooming in late February in our front garden.

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This garden was already planted, by the original gardeners, with wonderful flowering trees and shrubs which we continue to enjoy. We have added many more, and continue to plant more flowering trees and shrubs each year.  I just received a new Sweet Bay Magnolia from the Arbor Day Foundation, and have potted it up to grow in a protected place for its first year or two.
Most flowering shrubs perform well in partial sun to shade and can tolerate many types of soil and moisture conditions;  which makes them good candidates for forested and shaded gardens. 
Flowering woodies remain truly fabulous in our garden!

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Magnolia stellata, March 1 of this year

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I am setting an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to write about each Friday. 

Now that the Weekly Photo Challenge has moved to Wednesdays, I am starting  “Fabulous Friday” on Forest Garden. 

If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Magnolia stellata

 

What’s Blooming Now?

Magnolia liliiflora on April 12

Magnolia liliiflora on April 12

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What is blooming now in your garden? 

Spring comes in its own time to each garden.  It fascinates me that whenever the process finally begins, the unfolding is absolutely beautiful no matter how far north or south you may live; how elevated… or not… your garden.

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April 12, 2015 flowers 008

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Here in coastal Virginia, we live just a few feet above sea level.  I can drive a few hours west into the foothills of the Blue Ridge  and travel back by several weeks  into an earlier springtime.  When it comes to climate, altitude, and latitude, are everything!

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Dogwood on April 12

Dogwood on April 12

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It might be interesting to look at what is blooming from day to day.

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The lilacs in bud, and beginning to open on April 12

The lilacs in bud, and beginning to open on April 12

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These photos were actually taken over the last several days, but everything remains in bloom today.

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We’ve had a rainy and warm day here.  We can see a difference in the garden from hour to hour as leaves swell to cover the branches of nearby trees, and as the Azalea buds begin to open and cover our shrubs in color.

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Our wild wood violets have opened over the last several days, carpeting the 'lawns' in vivid color.

Our wild wood violets have opened over the last several days, carpeting the ‘lawns’ in vivid color.

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I’m sure that tomorrow morning the garden will feel even more vibrantly colorful than today, or yesterday.

It is all part of the magic of spring!

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April 12, 2015 flowers 019

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Silent Sunday

Forest Garden, Williamsburg, VA

Forest Garden, Williamsburg, VA

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“Let go of certainty.

The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness,

curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox,

rather than choose up sides.

The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves

exactly as we are,

but never stop trying to learn and grow.”

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Tony Schwartz

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April 9, 2015 planting 001

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“A farmer is helpless to grow grain;

all he can do is provide the right conditions

for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground,

he plants the seed, he waters the plants,

and then the natural forces of the earth

take over and up comes the grain…

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April 9, 2015 planting 002

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This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines –

they are a way of sowing to the Spirit…

By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing;

they can only get us to the place

where something can be done.”

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Richard J. Foster

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Brent and Becky Heath's display garden, Gloucester, VA

Brent and Becky Heath’s display garden, Gloucester, VA

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“Why stay we on earth except to grow?”

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Robert Browning

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase on Easter Monday

April 6, 2015 vase 022

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Spring has settled gently across our garden.  The warmth has returned quietly to re-awaken the many creatures who slumbered in the Earth through our long winter.

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April 6, 2015 vase 002

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A sea of daffodils fills the awakening perennial beds and rings our newly planted shrubs.  Woody stems burst into bloom.  Ferns have begun to uncurl their new fronds, and the front lawn is awash in wildflowers.

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Gigantic bees bumble and buzz from flower to flower in giddy joy at the feast.  We hear lizards skittering beneath the dry leaves, and hear frog song in the evening.  The breezes carry sweetness from the flowers, along with clouds of pollen from the trees.

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Ah, spring….

Today’s vase showcases some of our smaller, white daffodils which might otherwise be overlooked among their larger and brighter cousins.  N. “Thalia” remains one of my favorites, along with the larger N. “Mt. Hood,” which I didn’t cut for this vase today.

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April 6, 2015 vase 017

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I did cut small branches from a deliciously sweet shrub in our side garden which covers itself in white blossoms each spring.  It looks to me like a plum, but fruit never follows its flowers.  The flowers last only a few days, and then we must wait another year for this little woody thing to shine again.  It rarely shows growth, probably because the area where it grows remains hot and dry, and the scene of much tunneling from the voles.  Everything here struggles despite my best efforts to keep the area more accommodating.

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Clippings of overwintered Dusty Miller and Lavender stems give a bit of structure, and hold two tiny white Muscari alba stems.  A few tiny stems of our white flowering Vinca minor peek out around the edges.

This antique silver sugar bowl holding this week’s flowers was passed on from my mother’s mother many years ago.  We believe it was already an antique when she acquired it as a young woman.

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Here are a few photos of other daffodils spared the clippers today.  They remain growing in the garden….

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden  for hosting this floral challenge each Monday.  Maybe you will even feel moved to join Cathy’s Monday Vase meme with photos of a vase filled with what may be growing in your own garden this week.  When you visit her, you will find links to beautiful floral arrangements from all over the planet in her comments.

Here are a few other Monday Vases you might enjoy this first Monday in April:

John, at A Walk in the Garden

Cathy at Words and Herbs

And here is the full calendar of garden memes, for other gardeners who might want to follow this and other garden blogging events.  Thanks to Tina and her partner, at My Gardener Says... for organizing the calendar for all of us to use and enjoy!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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Silent Sunday

April 5, 2015 fowers 003

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“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted,

and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them,

and we watch the dawn remaking the world

in its antique pattern.”
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Oscar Wilde

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April 5, 2015 fowers 008

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“If there is nothing new under the sun,

at least the sun itself is always new,

always re-creating itself out of its own inexhaustible fire.”
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Michael Sims

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Eastern Redbud Tree

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In our region, springtime means rapid change in the landscape, at times, hour by hour.  Once our days, and nights, begin to warm, everything in the  garden visibly responds.

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The lawn grows shaggy and green, often brushed with the hues of magically appearing wild flowers.  (Note I call them flowers.  There are those who call them “weeds” and spray noxious chemicals to eradicate them.)

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Besides the greening lawns and most welcome beds of daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, the most stunning transformation in springtime is our trees.

At first a hazy blur in the canopies as their buds begin to swell, suddenly the trees pop into color one by one.  Some soft green, others white or pink.  And on one magical day,  in early spring, the  Redbud trees burst into color.

April 5, 2014 flowering trees 002

The native Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is one of the amazing trees the early European colonists discovered growing in the forests along the East Coast of North America, and sent home to gardeners back in England.

The native variety blooms in deep pink; almost magenta.  When the buds begin to show, it is curious to find them not only on the tips of twigs, as one expects to find apple or cherry blossoms, but also growing directly out of the trunk and larger brancehs!  The wood stems are just all of a sudden covered in these gorgeous pink buds.

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Native in the North Eastern Unite d States, and north into Canada, Cercis Canadensis lives in Zones 4-8.

Since it prefers moist soils, it doesn’t grow well west of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, unless it is irrigated during dry spells.

Growing in sun to partial shade, this small tree is most often found as an understory plant along the edges of forested areas, and now in  suburban yards.  Redbud grows to around 30′ at maturity, with a spread of perhaps 25′.

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The tree was considered a delicacy by the Native Americans.  They ate the flowers either raw or boiled.    Seeds, from the long pods which come along in summer, were roasted and enjoyed.

The tender green tips of new branches are still cooked with Venison and other wild meats today, in parts of Appalachia, as a seasoning.  One of the common names for this tree is, the “Spicewood Tree.”

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The Redbud tree has been hybridized in recent years to create many ornamental versions for the nursery trade.  Although the native form has beautiful heart shaped leaves of medium green, newer hybirds offer various leaf colors from plum to orange.

Hybrids offer various colors of spring flowers from white varieties, through every shade of pink and several shades of purple.

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An important early food source for bees, the Redbud also feeds squirrels and birds when its seeds ripen.  Its leaves are an important food source for various caterpillars.

Redbud trees readily naturalize from their abundant seed production.  Where there is one, there will often be many where the seedlings are allowed to grow undisturbed.

They have few pests or disease problems.  Because they grow relatively slowly, and remain small, they are a welcome addition to the garden.  They offer springtime color, summer shade, an easily managed growth habit, and benefits for wildlife.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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