The Way of Things

March 25, 2016 Daffodils 002


Things are always changing.  This is the touchstone for all of us past a certain age, I’ve learned.  Gardening brings one intimately close to an understanding of our lives in this material world.  Sometimes changes bring happiness.  Other times we feels frustration as we lose something we enjoy, something we expected to last.

Understanding the nature of change is a lifetime’s work.  Accepting, even embracing it, hones our spirits.


March 25, 2016 Daffodils 003


Our beautiful evergreen Star Jasmine vine covered the railings to our porch long before we ever came to this garden.  An ancient thing, with a large trunk, we enjoyed its greenness all winter and waited for its lovely fragrant flowers to open each spring.  Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds all came to sip from its flowers.  It was one of the most beautiful gifts of the garden.

But harsh cold in winter 2013 weakened it.  Some of its stems never sprouted fresh leaves and flowers that next summer, and flowers came late.  We worked with it all summer and hoped for the best.  But a second harsh winter in 2014, followed by the cold and late spring last year, finished it off.  Its leaves dropped for months.  We were saddened to loose this beautiful vine.  And we didn’t want to lose its bulk and intricate stems which had protected our porch for decades.  What to do?


March 25, 2016 Daffodils 005~

Although we did some cleaning up and trimming back, we left the vine in place;  and decided to use it as a framework for growing other vines.  The handful of Muscadine grape seeds I’d casually planted below the Jasmine in 2013 were growing happily, undamaged by the cold.  So we spent last summer training those new vines up and over the framework left by the Jasmine.  I planted a Clematis in a pot at the base of the old trunk, and began training it up into the Jasmine as well.

And now, our bare framework of vines is greening.  The grapevines sprouted tiny green leaves this week, which grow larger each day.  The Clematis has sprouted new leaves as well, with new growth stretching further each day.  We’ll help anchor it along the front face of the old vines above the trunk.


March 25, 2016 Daffodils 009


Change is happening to our framework of vines.  It will glow green and fruitful once again this summer in its fresh clothing of grape leaves and Clematis flowers.


March 25, 2016 Daffodils 001


Change remains the dynamic force of creation.  We can harness its principles to create great beauty around us.  We can work with it when it comes unbidden.  But we cannot arrest its eternal power. 

The tale of change is written all around us in the incredible transformations which have swept over our beautiful planet.  The story unfolds within each of us, and in the faces of our loved ones.

It is the way of things. 


March 25, 2016 Daffodils 004~

Woodland Gnome 2016


March 25, 2016 Daffodils 022

… Wait For It…..

June 7, 2014 garden 081

Our unusually intense winter made a devastating impact on several plants in the garden.  The amount of snow and ice the garden endured, and the longer period of freezing cold weather before winter finally melted into spring made this a record breaking winter in Williamsburg.

Although we are technically in Zone 7b (average low temperatures of 5-10 F) , many winters, especially in recent years, have been far milder.  Plants rated for hardiness in Zones 8-10, like our Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, have made it through recent winters just fine.

Normally evergreen, with thick, glossy dark green leaves, our Star Jasmine has been an important feature of this garden for decades.  Planted in brick planter box beside the railing and fence which enclose our side entrance, this vigorous vine grew to completely cover the metal structure long before we came to the garden.

June 7, 2014 garden 079

Its tough woody stems have twined themselves into oneness with their support.

We find the vine beautiful.  We enjoy it year round, but especially in winter when it is still green and leafy.  We also enjoy many weeks of its white blooms perfuming the air each summer.

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This vine is a vigorous grower and will expand its reach each year if not frequently pruned.

And so when its leaves began turning brown and dropping in February we were concerned, but hoped the vine would survive the season.  As winter turned to spring, more and more of the vine turned brown so that  our once healthy green living wall of Jasmine by the side entrance shriveled into an unsightly mass of bare vines.

I’ve avoided showing you photos of our poor Jasmine vine.   It has been such a depressing sight.

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We both had confidence in  its strength and eventual recovery.

Soon after we recycled the pots of our seemingly dead Bay trees, and after we gave up on several Rosemary and Lavender plants, we finally agreed the time had come to prune the Jasmine vine hard in hopes of shocking it into growth.

A few remaining green leaves here and there were testament to a bit of life still in the vine, but these were few and far between.

So in late April we both had a hand in the great pruning.  We took almost half of the vine, trimming back to where the structural woody branches were clearly visible.

I poured Neptune’s Harvest over the roots, and have included the planter box in all of my outdoor watering this spring.

And the vine is slowly recovering.

From a distance our Star Jasmine remains a mass of brown, with patches of green around the edges.  But up close, new leaves and fragrant flowers are visible all over the vine now.

After a hard winter, sometimes you just have to wait for plants to respond to spring on their own time.

Osmanthus Goshinki lived happily in a pot on the deck until this winter.  Since it still has some leaves alive, we hope it will soon sprout new growth.

Osmanthus Goshiki lived happily in a pot on the deck until this winter. Since it still has some leaves alive, we hope it will soon sprout new growth.


We still have any number of plants “in recovery.”

An Osmanthus goshiki shrub has lived in a pot on the deck for three previous winters, but has only a handful of green leaves at the moment.

We moved the pot to a shady recovery area and I we keep checking for evidence of new growth.  So far, we’re still waiting.

A new fig shrub has growth coming from the roots, but none has broken out of its woody structure, yet.

This little fig, planted in autumn of 2012, trippled in size last summer.  So far new growth is visible only from its roots.

This little fig, moved from a container to the garden  in autumn of 2012, trippled in size last summer. So far new growth is visible only from its roots.


I haven’t pruned off the old wood, waiting to see whether it responds to our warm May before giving up.  So from a distance the shrub looks like a casualty of winter.

Nature has its own rhythms and patterns of hot and cold, light and dark, moisture and drought.

June 10, 2014 wait for it 003


We observe and respond, sometimes an ambivalent dance partner with nature taking the lead in this ever unfolding dance of life.


A more established fig, elsewhere in the garden, finally shows new growth from its branches.  I'll continue to wait for our newly established fig to sprout new growth before pruning it bakc.

A more established fig, elsewhere in the garden, finally shows new growth from its branches. I’ll continue to wait a few more weeks for our newly established fig to sprout new growth before pruning it back.


Often patience is our best ally.  And we are often rewarded with beauty when we are willing to simply …. wait for it…..


June 7, 2014 garden 080

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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