Six on Saturday: Fresh Colors of Spring

Scarlet buckeye echoes the fresh leaves of our crape myrtle in the upper garden.


“Color is simply energy, energy made visible.
Colors stimulate or inhibit
the functioning of different parts of our body.
Treatment with the appropriate color
can restore balance and normal functioning.”
Laurie Buchanan, PhD

Columbine has spread itself with dropped seeds, from a single plant or two.


Our garden fills itself with more color each day.  We love watching the various leaves and flowers unfold, revealing their beauty, bit by bit.


Native Iris cristata


The color palette shifts and changes as we move deeper into the season.  More and more colors appear, filling our forest garden with beauty.

This week we’ve enjoyed the emerging pinks and reds as azaleas have bloomed, the scarlet buckeye tree covered itself with flowers, and the new hybrid crape myrtle leaves began to emerge.  Its leaves will stay fairly dark, in the purplish range, through the summer.

Winter clothes itself in greys and browns, summer in greens.  Autumn erupts in reds, yellows and golds.  But spring gives us delicate shades of yellows and blues, white, pink, scarlet and fresh pale green.


Wood hyacinths finally reveal their delicate blue flowers.


“I celebrate life with a different color each day.
That way, each day is different.”
Anthony Hincks

Color shows us the vibration of light.   Physicists and philosophers teach us that our world is wholly composed of light and energy’s vibration.

Some light vibrates so rapidly that our eyes won’t register it at all, and some light vibrates too slowly for our eyes to see.  But other eyes, in other creatures, can see what we can not.  We see the spectrum allowed to our human species, and the colors we see effect how we think and feel.

Perhaps that is why we feel joy on a spring time day, surrounded by such pure, vibrant colors.



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019


“For colour is one of the most rapturous truths
that can be revealed to man.”
Harold Speed


Iris pallida are the first to open this year, though we noticed the first German bearded Iris opened during the storms, overnight.  I. pallida is one of the European species Iris used in many German bearded Iris hybrids.  It was first brought to our area by European colonists in the Seventeenth Century and can be found growing in Colonial Williamsburg gardens. These were a gift from a friend.


Yes, a bonus #7 photo today, just because the Iris are blooming and it’s spring!  N. ‘Salome’ in the pot bloom to close the Narcissus season for another year.



“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect-

-they are much more interesting.”

Marc Jacobs


For all we might celebrate spring, in reality it often appears rather ragged.  Especially when the weather is a bit off, as it has been this year, there are scars here and there where we might hope for more beauty and less brown…


Helleborus ‘Snow Fever’ now fully in bloom


We have such hopes for spring.   The ‘catalog perfect’ images of bud and flower live in our imaginations through the long months of winter.  We watch for those first signs of color to break the white/grey/brown/ green monotony a new year brings.

But stems fall over in the wind, dropping daffodil flowers to the ground.  Frost bites, brown leaves lodge in unwelcome spots, and even winter bugs gnaw through leaf and petal.



It’s the transition which remains a bit rough around the edges.  The garden beds sprouted some lively weeds, perhaps.  There are newly fallen leaves to rake.  A few dead stems remain in beds and pots from last year’s growth.  There is so much still to tidy up when one takes a good look around in mid-March!


Ajuga with just emerging Muscari


And there’s the mud.  Perhaps your garden is perfectly mulched or paved.  Ours is not…  and perennials and ferns have begun to re-appear from the wet earth.  The photos aren’t so picture perfect as perhaps they’ll be a few weeks on.


A newly emerged Japanese fern unfurls beside HelleboresIt may be Athyrium niponicum ‘Burgundy Lace.’


We visited a garden Friday, and felt a bit relieved to find the same flaws there we find at home:  Toppled, frost kissed daffodils; spent perennials; broken twigs on shrubs; and copious blooming weeds feeding deliriously happy bees.  Somehow, the imperfections added charm.

We were just so very happy to be there, and to feel the sun through our coats, and to count the reassurances of spring’s victory over another winter.



Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017



“The question isn’t whether the world is perfect.

The real question to consider is:

If it were, would you still be in it?”


Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Searching for Spring

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“Woods were ringed with a colour so soft, so subtle

that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all.

It was more the idea of a colour –

as if the trees were dreaming green dreams

or thinking green thoughts.”


Susanna Clarke 


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It is still winter here.  It only takes a single step out on the porch to prove this.  I still reach for a chunky sweater each day, and huge pots of home made soup offer us warmth and comfort.  I keep reminding us both of March snowstorms in years passed.

And yet we, and everyone we know, are waiting for spring.  We’re watching for the earliest signs of nature’s shifting.    All it takes is a few hours of warmth and sunshine to draw us outside.


Flowers from our garden, finally in their vase.

Flowers from our garden, finally in their vase.


Yesterday, we drove out to visit our friends at Homestead Garden Center.   They are weather watchers, too, of course.  I was curious to see what signs of spring they might have on offer.

Aside from freshly delivered pallets of compost, we found precious little.  They know that winter’s not yet finished with us, too.


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They did have a cart of gorgeous bright primroses, raised since autumn in their greenhouses.  They time the first ones to arrive just before Valentine’s Day.  What joy to simply gaze at them and soak in the colors!


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And inside the shop, we found sprouting Hyacinth bulbs.  Our first sweet breath of spring.  I always bless those whose planning makes these late winter flowers possible.


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These precious winter flowers get us through February.

We left with a tray of little bulbs in their forcing glasses, some compost, and a set of empty pots.  The compost is ready for that next warm day when I’m itching to work in the garden.  The pots stand ready to move the olive trees up for the season ahead.


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And the bulbs are for sharing spring with a few loved ones who need it as much as  we….


Woodland Gnome 2016


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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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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Inspired by the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Scale


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Flux, movement, transformation, evolution. 

Ice melts, buds awaken, and spring creeps ever closer with each passing day. 

Our first tiny snowdrops have opened.


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Green daffodil leaves push up through the muddy ground.

The sun rises noticeably earlier each morning and set a bit later each afternoon. 

Whether we’re moving forwards, backwards,

or just dancing around in spirals and circles,

movement is life.


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And we are all a part

of this magnificent, vibrating, harmonious

dance of life.


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Woodland Gnome 2015

What’s Popping Up?

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What is that popping up from the ground? 

Have you wandered outside lately, looking down and around?


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It might surprise you to see what new life  is unfolding,

Or to notice wildflowers boldly growing

Where there’s not yet been mowing.


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Spring’s  a bit wild, a bit wooly;

Unexpected, untidy….


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Winter’s neatness mussed up

With  random greening which hides it.

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Like a child not yet trained to color within  the lines,

Springtime’s exuberance comes in spurts, and at odd times.


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Random flowers pop out of the grass,

Unplanted, untended, almost magically fast.

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So keep a sharp eye on the trees and the ground,

Don’t ever miss springtime pulling colors from brown.


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This mystery unfolds once every year,

But to appreciate the beauty,

BE  fully here;

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Watching and listening, sniffing and touching,


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If you don’t look for beauty,

You might miss it, while rushing.

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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National Poetry Writing Month

If You Would Know Love, Know April



Life Bursting



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Have you noticed the shrubs full of tiny yellow flowers just coming into bloom in our gardens? 

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The first Forsythia shrubs observed in Japan were misidentified by Carl Thunberg in his 1794 Flora Japonica as a new species of Lilac.

They are most likely Forsythia.  Commonly called by its genus name, Forsythia made its way into the gardens of Europe in the late 18th and early 19th century from Eastern Asia.  Found growing in gardens in both Japan and China, and exported to Holland and Great Britain, Forsythia quickly spread from garden to garden on its new continent, and then on to North America.

Absolutely easy to grow, Forsythia , like daffodils, gives us a shot of bold yellow in the garden just as we feel like we can’t stand another day of winter’s greys and browns.

The tiny yellow flowers just burst with the message of spring as they open during the earliest of “almost warm” days.  I’ve seen a whole bank of golden Forsythia bushes  come into bloom, together, in earliest spring along a major roadway in southern Virginia Beach (Zone 8b).  A magnificent sight.  And once they open, a little snow and freezing rain doesn’t faze them, as we saw earlier this week.

This large clump of Forsythia is decades old.  It has spread to cover a huge area.  Of the weeping variety, it lights up the garden in early spring.  It provides shelter for small animals year round.

This large clump of Forsythia is decades old. It has spread to cover a huge area. Of the weeping variety, it lights up the garden in early spring. It provides shelter for small animals year round.

Honestly, deer will nibble Forsythia .  Nibble, but not destroy.  Some of our Forsythia shrubs look oddly misshapen from grazing, but a few patches are massive.

Although not a native, these shrubs have naturalized in many areas of the United States.  They provide an early nectar source for bees and other early nectar loving insects.  Older shrubs, grown thick over the years, provide excellent cover and nesting areas for small birds and mammals.

This much younger plant shows that it is frequently grazed by deer.

This much younger plant shows that it is frequently grazed by deer.  Notice the multiple stems already growing from its crown.

Plant Forsythia in average soil in late fall or early spring in partial to full sun.  Like any shrub, they need care until they establish.  That means keeping the shrub irrigated during at least the first year.  Once the roots take hold and spread, the Forsythia becomes quite tough and independent.

Beyond that initial care, the only thing you might do is trim the Forsythia up from time to time, after it blooms, to keep it from overgrowing its spot.  These aren’t large shrubs, but they sucker.  In other words, additional stems begin to grow around the original stem, and the shrub spreads laterally as it ages. Most stay under 6′  tall, but old shrubs may grow larger. Some gardeners rejuvenate older shrubs, and control their size, by cutting a few stems of established shrubs to the ground each year, after the shrub has leafed out in late spring.  This stimulates new canes to grow from the crown.

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Cut during the first week of March, these Forsythia branches began opening after only a few hours inside.

I tend to cut my Forsythia back in late winter, before they bloom.  I cut very judiciously, and only long branches covered in flower buds.

It isn’t so much pruning as harvesting.  I love to bring those branches inside and keep them in a vase of water.  They open very quickly in the heat of a home, and last for several weeks.  Even after the flowers fade, the branches with leaves remain attractive.  If they root before I’m ready to switch them out for something else, all the better.  I can plant the rooted stems.

By the middle of March, these forced branches were completely open indoors, while the buds on the parent shrubs outside were still tightly closed.

By the middle of March, these forced branches were completely open indoors, while the buds on the parent shrubs outside were still tightly closed.

After losing a few of these newly rooted shrubs in recent sizzling summers, I would recommend planting these rooted cuttings into a pot.  They will form a nice back drop against summer annuals.  In autumn, when you’re cleaning the annuals out of the pot, either move the Forsythia out to the garden, or leave it in place for structure through the winter, planted with Violas, flowering Kale, bulbs, Heuchera, and snaps.

You can enjoy spring bloom in your potted arrangement, and then move the Forsythia to a location in the garden when you switch out the pot  with your summer plants.

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March 19 is the latest I can remember for the Forsythia to come into bloom.

There are two main original species of Forsythia  imported from Asia between the 1780’s and 1890’s.  These plants had already been cultivated garden plants for centuries before they were “discovered” and imported to Europe.  Since  then, a great deal of hybridization has taken place.  So one can purchase Forsythia with different growth habits, and with some variation in the shade of yellow of their blooms.  Some Forsythia cultivars are more weeping and other cultivars more upright.

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By March 23, more flowers are visible.

Personally, I’ve never purchased a Forsythia .  Not only have they naturalized in Virginia, but they start easily from cuttings, or by layering.

This is another shrub common in our neighborhood.  When the leaves come out after the blooms fade, these deciduous shrubs just fade into the background.  They are completely unremarkable until autumn, when the leaves turn gold before they fall.

Forsythia leaves turn yellow gold in November.

Forsythia leaves turn yellow gold in November.

If one grows Forsythia , it is for the golden glow they reliably bring to the garden in earliest spring!

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Miniature daffodil

Miniature daffodil


WPC: Reflections

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Let us reflect upon reflections….

According to Miriam Webster’s Dictionary

: an image that is seen in a mirror or on a shiny surface

There was enough light in this moment, on this very overcast day, for the evergreen trees to reflect their beautiful living green onto the still water of the pond.

There was enough light in this moment, on this very overcast day, for the evergreen trees to reflect their beautiful living green onto the still water of the pond.

: something that shows the effect, existence, or character of something else

The whitecaps on the York river reflect what a windy morning we've had ahead of the next weather front.

The whitecaps on the York river reflect what a windy morning we’ve had ahead of the next weather front.

:  consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose

These waterways along the Colonial Parkway are protected by the Federal Government, and offer important habitat for migrating birds.

These waterways along the Colonial Parkway are protected , and offer important habitat for migrating birds.

:  a transformation of a figure in which each point is replaced by a point symmetric with respect to a line or plane

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:  a transformation that involves reflection in more than one axis of a rectangular coordinate system

March 23, 2014 parkway and flowers 088Bing Dictionary

: careful thought, especially the process of reconsidering previous actions, events, or decisions

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: something that clearly shows something

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The Free Dictionary

: Mental concentration; careful consideration.

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: implicit or explicit attribution of discredit or blame

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: Energy diverted back from the interface of two media. The reflection may be specular (i.e. direct) or diffuse according to the nature of the contact surfaces.

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Although our garden feels wintery again today, with another storm moving in, spring time is reflected in the details:  the wildflowers sprouting up in the grass, the unfolding buds, the unexpected jolts of bright color from daffodils and early Magnolia trees. 

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So often what we see simply fulfills whatever we expect to see. 

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The wise tell us that our environment is but a reflection of our own true nature.  

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The beauty around us simply a reflection of the eternal beauty within.


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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections, The Ancient Eavesdropper

Low Pressure

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We’ve had  a Nor’Easter blowing  past today, on top of our storm earlier in the week, and the one before that…

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I’m choosing to loose track of them, especially as I see the long term forecast for the possibility of another major storm blowing through by the middle of this coming week.


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Low pressure.  Systems, that is.  It actually increases pressure on those trying to keep up with normal life through the storms.  And on those who must repair the damage low pressure brings.

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Trees fall in the wind, roads crack, power lines fall.  The storms take their toll as they blow through.

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But we’re waiting it out, here in our forest garden.  It is a peaceful time.  The world on pause; tranquil, waiting….

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We’re letting the storms pass, and only keeping an eye on things; waiting for the sun to come out and the air to warm.  Sometime soon, perhaps?

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We have been blessed to have only rain today, and nothing frozen.

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Too wet to go out into the garden.

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Our ground is a totally saturated sponge. 

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Too cold to prune…more cold is on the way.  Too early to start any seeds.  It will be a long time before there is enough sun to charm seedlings into growth.

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So we turn to other indoor things.  Low pressure. 

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Waiting for the wind to change, the sky to clear, the ground to firm, and the sun to return.

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. 

Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

Mary Sarton

Who can wait in stillness while the mud settles?
Tao Te Ching

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Spring: Out of Focus

March 5 sunset 013A little out of focus…

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That is how spring feels at the moment.

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Surely it is beginning to appear, but in such tiny increments.

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They are hard to see.

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One has to search them out,

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and finding, one must squint a bit to bring them into focus.

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The wintery background still overwhelms the senses, and the lens.

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But if you look very closely, and squint a bit yourself,

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Perhaps your heart will see spring,

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and celebrate, with mine.

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

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Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

Please visit and follow Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues to see all new posts since January 8, 2021.

A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

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