Cats on Monday

~

It was a foodie weekend for many celebrating Father’s Day with cookouts, picnics and fine dining.

It’s been a ‘foodie weekend’ for many creatures in our garden, too.  From deer munching a favorite blooming Hydrangea and goldfinches grabbing a few ripening Basil seeds, to finding rabbits had eaten some vines out of pots at the Botanical Garden; I’ve been coming across many signs of hungry animals picnicking in the garden.

~

I found several very well-fed rabbits picnicking in the Williamsburg Botanical Garden yesterday.

~

Our fennel is hosting these beautiful black swallowtail cats this week.  It won’t be long before they retire to their chrysalides, only to emerge later in July as beautiful butterflies.  We can hope to host three generations of swallowtails a year here in coastal Virginia.

~

~

I think of the butterflies, birds, and other creatures as our garden ‘guests,’ and plant the garden with a thought to their comfort and feeding.  I’m so delighted to spot a hummingbird on a blossom, hear the bees in the shrubs, watch a dragonfly sparkling in the sunshine, or hear the birds call to one another in the trees.

Ours is a wildlife garden, which is what it needs to be here in our wooded neighborhood.

~

One of our cats noshing the fennel on Friday evening.  He certainly has grown over the weekend!

~

We are glad to provide host plants, nectar plants, water and shelter for the many creatures that share the garden with us.  The fennel and parsley will soon grow new leaves to replace those grazed by the cats.

~

~

Our butterfly species are dwindling. We can all lend a hand to help protect them and increase their chances of survival, so that our children and grandchildren will still enjoy the magic of watching them in their own future gardens, too.

~

There are many butterflies and moths native to Virginia and all of them are currently in decline. We have a network of dedicated butterfly enthusiasts in our area who rescue and raise cats, releasing the butterflies into the wild as they emerge. By protecting the butterfly larvae, they help insure that more individuals make it to the adult butterfly stage, mate, and increase the population.  This black swallowtail was released in our garden by a friend in mid-April. We hope to host many, many generations of its young.

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

~

Advertisements

Sunday Dinner: Sustenance

~

“We are touched by magic wands.
For just a fraction of our day life is perfect,
and we are absolutely happy
and in harmony with the earth.
The feeling passes much too quickly.
But the memory –
and the anticipation of other miracles –
sustains us in the battle indefinitely.”
.
John Nichols

~

~

“The most important truths
are those which sustain us
in our daily lives.”
.
Marty Rubin

~

~

“Knowledge is the food of the soul.”
.
Plato

~

~

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches
is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum,
and that as long as the sun still shines
and people still can plan and plant,
think and do, we can, if we bother to try,
find ways to provide for ourselves
without diminishing the world. ”
.
Michael Pollan

~

~

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste.
Come join us.
Life is so endlessly delicious.”
.
Ruth Reichl

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

~

~

“Life itself is the proper binge.”
.
Julia Child
~

Six On Saturday: What Color!

~

What do most people want from their summer plantings?  Color!

~

Mophead Hydreangeas can produce differently colored flowers.  When the soil is more acidic, the flowers will be blue.  When the soil is sweeter, they will be pink.  Our Nikko Blue Hydrangeas are blooming prolifically in a rainbow of shades from deep blue to deep pink this week.  They look wonderfully confused.

~

While many landscape designers focus on structure and texture, most of us living in the landscape crave color in our garden, however large or small that garden may grow.  But what colors?

~

Every year designers choose a ‘color of the year’ as their theme. This year’s color  is a lovely peachy coral. This ‘Gallery Art Deco’ Dhalia is an intense shot of color, especially paired with a purple leafed sweet potato vine.

~

We each have a very personal idea of what colors make us feel good, relax us, and excite us.  Color is all about emotion, and how those colors make us feel.

~

Calla lilly

~

One of the joys of gardening is that our colors change as the seasons evolve.  We don’t have to settle on just one color or color palette, as we do for our indoor spaces.

In our gardens we can experiment, we can celebrate, we can switch it up from month to month and year to year through our choices of plant materials.

~

Rose of Sharon trees in our yard are opening their first flowers this week.

~

Pastels?  Jewel tones?  Reach out and grab you reds?

We’ve got a plant for that….

~

Canna ‘Red Futurity’ blooms for the first time in our garden this week, and should bloom all summer in its pot by the butterfly garden. I love its purple leaves as much as its scarlet flowers.  A favorite with butterflies and hummingbirds, we expect lots of activity around these blooms!

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

~

“The beauty and mystery of this world

only emerges through affection, attention, interest and compassion . . .

open your eyes wide

and actually see this world

by attending to its colors, details and irony.”
.

Orhan Pamuk

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

 

Pot Shots: Elephant Ears

~

All of the various ‘elephant ears’ love our coastal Virginia heat and humidity.  They grow visibly each day, generously sending up new leaves so long as they are kept watered and their soil is rich with nutrition.  This pot of Caladiums, Alocasia and Colocasias was just potted up yesterday.  it looks a bit sparse at the moment, but will soon fill in very nicely.

~

Caladium ‘Pink Splash’ will grow to two feet in partial sun.  It grows with a Begonia, a dark purple hybrid Colocasia and Alocasia ‘Portora.’

~

Caladiums are hardy only to Zone 10, but it is easy to dig them up and dry them in November, saving them inside over the winter to grow again the following year.  Keep even their dormant tubers at 65F or above.  The Caladium ‘Southern Charm’ is a new hybrid that grows in full to partial sun.

~

~

Alocasias are hardy to Zone 8 or 9, and so they can be brought indoors in pots and kept alive in a garage or basement over winter.  I’ve not had good luck with digging and drying their tubers, but kept our best Alocasias in full leaf and growing all winter in our garage.

~

I bought this Alocasia at Trader Joes last winter and don’t know its cultivar name. It will be interesting to see how large it grows.

~

Most Colocasias are also hardy only to Zones 8 or 9, though there are a few that will survive our Williamsburg winters in the ground.  They spread by stolons and so increase each year.

~

Colocasia ‘Mojito’, hardy to Zone 8, spends its winter vacation in a pot in our basement.  This division is quickly outgrowing its pot in our new little water garden.  Many Colocasias grow happily in a pond or boggy ground.

~

When kept from year to year, all three of these elephant ears calve off new tubers and increase.  Their tubers grow a bit beefier each year and produce larger plants each summer.  If you like elephant ears, and take simple measures to help them through winter, you will soon have plenty to grow and more to share.

~

Colocasia ‘Pink China’ is hardy in our Zone 7 garden.  Alocasia ‘Sarian’ grows in a pot with Caladium ‘White Queen.’

~

The potential size of most Colocasia and Alocasia hybrids is determined by available light, moisture, and how much room you give their roots to grow.  They may grow to 6′ high or more when their needs are met.  They always grow larger planted into garden soil than when grown in a pot.  But, it is easier to keep them alive year to year when they live in a pot.

When potting or re-potting, I mix some Espoma Plant Tone into the potting mix.  Depending on the mix, I often add some additional perlite to improve aeration and drainage.  Mulch the soil with pea gravel or aquarium gravel to neaten up the presentation while helping to retain moisture for these thirsty plants.  Finish with a sprinkle of Osmocote time release fertilizer to keep them well nourished every time you water.

~

This Alocasia kept some leaves through the winter in our living room.  It is sending up new growth now that it is back out on the patio.

~

If you want to grow something truly spectacular in your summer pots, and something that needs very little care or attention from the gardener, try any of these beautiful ‘elephant ear’ plants.  Add a Begonia or two for blooms, and you will have your own bit of tropical paradise in your summer garden.

~

June 6, Alocasia ‘Portora’ has begun to grow surrounded by Caladium ‘Southern Charm.’ By next month this time, the Alocasia, which can grow to 6′,  should be significantly taller than the Caladiums.

~

Woodland Gnome 2019
~

These Colocasias are just getting started on their summer growth.

 

Sunday Dinner: The Unknown

~

“Letting there be room for not knowing
is the most important thing of all.
When there’s a big disappointment,
we don’t know if that’s the end of the story.
It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.
Life is like that. We don’t know anything.
We call something bad; we call it good.
But really we just don’t know.”
.
Pema Chödrön

~

~

“In a world of diminishing mystery,
the unknown persists.”
.
Jhumpa Lahiri

~

~

Whenever we proceed from the known
into the unknown
we may hope to understand,
but we may have to learn at the same time
a new meaning of the word ‘understanding.”
.
Werner Karl Heisenberg

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

~

~

“How can you know what you’re capable of
if you don’t embrace the unkown?”
.
Esmeralda Santiago

~

~

“With no expectations
anything can become.”
.
Steven Farmer

Six on Saturday: Shimmer and Shine

~

When morning brings only a slight lightening of the darkness, sky hung with low, grey clouds; and nighttime’s staccato soundtrack of raindrops on the roof plays on and on; a certain reluctance to greet the new day may be overlooked.

But the new day still dawns and clocks tick on in their steady counting.  And so with determined optimism I stepped out this morning to see what could be seen of the garden without stepping off the stone patio.

~

~

Inches of rain poured from the sky from Friday noon until evening, from evening into the night, and all night through the melting darkness and into this reluctantly dawning Saturday.

Staying in bed, the most logical course of action, wasn’t an option.  I had plans to travel and promises to keep.  But the prospects for the day seemed dim.

And when I’m feeling unenthusiastic, the best antidote is a walk, however short, to survey the garden.

~

~

Raindrops gilded every leafy surface, reflecting morning’s pale grey light.  Puddles collected on the stones and in the leaves.  The air smelled clean and alive.

The front garden, cloaked in cool fog and wet trees, enclosed my timid explorations.  It felt like spring again, even as the blooming Hydrangeas and Hibiscus and extravagant tropical leaves proved it is early summer.

~

~

Water gives life and fuels growth.  The garden trembled with shimmer and shine in the slight breeze, even as misty rain filled the air and seeped into my light clothing.

I could hear our toads singing their approval of this fine wet morning.

~

~

It is on days like this that I most appreciate the beautiful leaves that fill our garden.  Texture takes over when delicate flowers melt in a steady rain.  What might be overlooked on a brighter day reveals its beauty under the glamour of raindrops, in the thin light of a wet morning in June.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2019
.

“But here, the rain was just another part of the landscape.

Like it was the thing that lived here

and we were merely visitors.”
.

Megan Miranda

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

Green Thumb Tip #24: Always Just Beginning….

Coleus leaves, trimmed from the bottom of a stem cutting, have rooted in their vase.

~

There is a certain exuberance, a fresh burst of energy in beginnings.  Youth has glamour, vitality. 

~

~

Most plants allow us to tap into that youthful energy as we ‘re-new’ them.

~

Cutting back stems stimulates new growth.  Remove flower stems (on plants grown primarily for their foliage) as they develop to keep the plant youthful, compact and vigorous.

~

As we approach mid-June, you might assume that spring’s fresh beginnings are behind us for another year.  Not so.  We are always just beginning in the garden.

~

This Caladium leaf broke away from the tuber as I was transplanting it into a pot. Caladium leaves with even just a bit of the tuber still on the petiole will root in water.  A new leaf is already beginning to grow (underwater) and once planted into soil, this rooted leaf will soon grow into a beautiful new plant.  A flower is beginning to grow on the left, which I’ll remove before potting up the leaf.

~

I am still planting up pots and still planting perennials and herbs out into the garden.

Garden centers still have a pretty good selection of herbs, annuals, perennials and shrubs.  As you might expect, many of the starts sitting in greenhouses and garden centers are getting overgrown and pot-bound.  They demand a bit of skillful handling to perform their best.

~

~

I bought several pots of oregano a few weeks back.  They were already overgrown, leggy, and some already had flower buds forming.  I didn’t get to use them for my intended purpose at the time, and they’ve been sitting in the nursery.

~

Do you see the new growth emerging from below the cuts on some of the stems?

~

But I did cut a few stems from each plant, not quite two weeks ago, to share in an arrangement.  And where I trimmed them back, new growth is already bursting forth.  New growth has appeared lower on the remaining stems, and new growth has popped up from the roots.

Now, I expect that the cut stems may have sprouted a few roots in their vase, too.  They can be tucked into a pot of soil or a prepared bed and allowed to grow on.  Stems that have already formed flower buds may root more slowly or may not at all.  But oregano grows in the mint family.  All of the mints are immensely robust.

~

~

If you have the chance to pick up a few late season plants at the nursery, then consider cutting back those leggy stems right away.  Root them if you wish, discard them if you must.  But understand that by cutting away the top growth, you stimulate the plant to immediately send out fresh new growth.

Cutting back, or pinching back, stimulates growth hormones at all of the leaf nodes below each cut.  The plant needs its leaves to produce food, and is anxious to replace those lost.

~

In the garden, old growth is always falling away and returning to the soil even as new growth emerges. It is a continuing cycle of growth,  and the decay that fuels new growth.

~

When you plant the start, notice if it is already ‘root-bound.’  If the roots have grown into the contours of the pot you know they have been crowded and stressed.

Water the plant well, and then take a moment to tease out the crossed roots on the bottom of the root ball.  Gently tug some of the roots along the sides loose so they can begin to grow out into the soil.  Without being rough,  understand that pulling the roots out a bit, even trimming off the bottom inch of the root ball if it is congested, will stimulate new root growth.

Just be careful to water the plant in well,  offer some nutrition,  protect it from fierce sun for a few days, and let it establish itself.

~

Ready to grow on, this oregano has found a new home.

~

I bought a beautiful but leggy coleus and immediately took cuttings last week.  It is wise to trim the bottom pair of leaves from the stem before rooting it in water, but the leaves were so beautiful I hated to throw them away.  So, I stuck them into a tiny jar of water to enjoy until they either rooted or faded.  I’ve had to refill the jar with drips from the sink twice a day as the leaves have proven thirsty.  But they rewarded me with roots!

I am often re-working established pots and don’t have room to dig a hole large enough for a big root ball.  Cuttings are a perfect solution.  A much smaller hole will embrace the smaller root system of a newly rooted cutting or recently rooted tuber.

~

New Caladium roots; this leaf is ready to plant into a potted arrangement where I want a little color in the shade.

~

You might also try dividing up a newly purchased plant.  As long as you can cut or pull apart rooted stems, those rooted stems will soon grow back into full plants.

~

I pulled apart 4″ pots of Dichondra and Verbena into several divisions when planting up this basket.  Annual Verbena often grows new roots from any stem in contact with the soil and can be snipped away, its roots pulled out of the pot, and planted separately.  Each division will now take off and grow into a full sized plant.

~

A stem cutting from an old plant, rooted, becomes a new plant.  A division of an old perennial, replanted, becomes a fresh new perennial.

~

Larger potted perennials can often be split into divisions and planted in much smaller holes.

~

Yes, it seems counter-intuitive, paradoxical, maniacal and cruel.  All of that cutting, pulling apart, breaking pieces away and gouging out the ‘eyes’ of tubers leads to a plant’s re-invigoration and renewal.

~

~

Keep planting, keep coaxing your plants to grow to their full potential, and keep your own gardener’s eye and outlook fresh, too.  Try a new plant, or a new combination of old plants.

Try a new gardening skill.  Empty out some old pots and begin again with fresh soil and fresh ideas.

We keep our excitement alive when we are always just beginning.

~

Can you spot the dragonfly?

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

~

~

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,

but in the expert’s there are few”
.

Shunryu Suzuki

~

Daucus carota subsp. sativus, flowers grown from a grocery store carrot ‘planted’ this spring.

~

“Moment after moment,

everyone comes out from nothingness.

This is the true joy of life.”
.

Shunryu Suzuki

 

Green Thumb Tip # 22: Do the Math

Green Thumb Tip # 21: The Mid-Summer Snack 

Green Thumb Tip # 23: From Small Beginnings

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Decided

~

“Once you make a decision,

the universe conspires

to make it happen.”

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

~

~

“It had long since come to my attention

that people of accomplishment

rarely sat back and let things happen to them.

They went out and happened to things.”

.

Leonardo da Vinci

~

~

“The difference between a successful person

and others is not a lack of strength,

not a lack of knowledge,

but rather a lack in will.”

.

Vince Lombardi

~

~

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance.

The wise grows it under his feet.”

.

James Oppenheim

~

~

“Determine that the thing

can and shall be done

and then… find the way.”

.

Abraham Lincoln

~

~

“Ordinary People Promise To Do More.

Extraordinary People Just Do More.”

.

Wesam Fawzi

~

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

~

~

“If you think what you tried

and couldn’t achieve yesterday

isn’t possible, think again.

Today’s a new day.

You’re stronger.

It’s another opportunity to rise

and get things done.”
.

Wesam Fawzi

~

Six on Saturday: Elegance

Peruvian daffodil, Hymenocallis festalis

~

A gift of bulbs this spring from a gardening friend finally unfolded yesterday into unexpected elegance.

A catalog photograph simply doesn’t convey the intricate beauty of these members of the Amaryllis family called ‘Peruvian daffodils.’  Native in South America and hardy only to Zone 8, their large bulbs quickly sent up Amaryllis style robust leaves and an Amaryllis style bloom stalk, topped with multiple tight buds.  I am enjoying the show as bud after bud unfolds to reveal its beauty.

~

~

Dry summer heat has finally given way to cooling rains.  I watched newly planted starts wilting under the unrelenting sun earlier in the week, and I’m relieved to see them reinvigorated and growing again after a series of thunderstorms and a welcome cold front brought us relief from the heat.  We nearly broke the record set in 2018 for hottest May since weather data has been recorded.  We only missed it here by a hair.

~

Zantedeschia ‘White Giant’ with buds of Daucus carota and Nepeta

~

And so I wasn’t surprise to notice the first white buds opening on crape myrtle trees planted along the road yesterday morning.  I noted that this is the earliest I’ve seen crape myrtles bloom, as they normally wait until at least mid-June to appear.  And then I noticed one of our new hybrid crapes last evening, the first pink fluffy flowers open in its crown.

Crape myrtles are beautiful trees in our region, one of the pleasures of summer that blooms for a hundred days or more until early fall.  They love heat, tolerate drought once established, and grow into tidy, elegant trees with interesting bark and form.  I love our crapes as much in winter for their form as I do in summer for their flowers.

~

~

Butterflies love crape myrtles for their nectar, but not as much as butterflies love Verbena.

We’ve had a strong population of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies this month and they are found most often sipping from the Verbena bonariensis, both in our own forest garden and at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.  I’ve photographed them sipping nectar in both gardens this week.

Yes, we’re also seeing Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails and Painted Ladies, along with other smaller butterflies.  We are delighted with how many individuals we are spotting around the area this year.  The efforts of so many area gardeners to provide host as well as nectar plants, and to create safe spaces for them to grow, is showing beautiful results.

~

~

Our garden continues filling up with newly blooming flowers as summer’s heat builds and the days grow longer.  We are only a few weeks away from Summer Soltice now.

Each plant in the garden unfolds and grows with its own unique elegance, filling its niche; offering up its botanical gifts with nature’s boundless generosity.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

Wildlife Wednesday: Life Everywhere

~

There is always excitement in the air as families gather, greetings as each group arrives,  hugs all around, and plenty of stories to share.   Early summer carries that same vibe for me as all of the various creatures who share our garden make their seasonal debut.

~

~

This same turtle who visited on our patio earlier this week turned up again in the upper garden this morning.  She was laying her eggs near a rose of Sharon tree in a shaded and protected place.  I happened upon her while out watering, and greeted her warmly.

I always feel a bit honored when turtles choose to lay their eggs in our garden and hope to be out and about when the baby turtles emerge from the earth several weeks on.

~

August 2014

~

A Monarch fluttered past while I was watering this morning, too.  And I noticed our first hummingbirds on Monday.  The lizards have been active for several weeks already, sunning by the kitchen door and skittering under vines or through the grass with our approach.

~

A group of three Tiger Swallowtails enjoyed these Ligustrum flowers last Sunday.

~

Our garden is filled with birds and alive with squirrels.  The birdsong begins before dawn most days, and I often catch a cardinal perched outside our kitchen window, keeping watch over what is happening inside.  The birds love to nest in shrubs near the house, and we watch over their comings and goings as they watch over ours.

Our garden has filled with life: dragonflies, butterflies, bats at dusk and owls calling from the ravine.

~

Lizards love to hide under the vines and around the pots, where they find plenty to drink.

~

It’s not all good.  Squirrels and deer bring ticks.  Mayflies haunt our every mid-day move, mosquitoes angle for a bit of skin, and  the chiggers have also returned.  Deer are finding ways into the garden and munching despite our best efforts with deterrents.

I love the sweet surprise of a turquoise dragonfly hovering nearby, or a hummingbird buzzing in close in search of nectar.  We hear more creatures than we see, and know others are lurking in the shadows of the ravine.

~

~

Ours is a wild garden, made to supply the wild things’ needs for food and water, shelter and places to nest.  There are no poisons or traps, no noxious chemicals washing into the water or soil.  There is sanctuary and peace; most of the time…. 

(I’ll leave it to your imagination what happens when we happen to notice a deer grazing on a shrub….  But families are noisy and annoying, too, sometimes.)

~

August 2016

~

Every creature has its place in the web of life.  And especially us, who have the wisdom to protect and the power to destroy this fragile place that is our own home.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

~

Butterflies on Asclepias syriaca along the Colonial Parkway (and below)

~

“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments —

there are consequences.”
.

Robert G. Ingersoll

~

 

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

Join 658 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest