“Will Deer Eat It?”

Polka Dot plant takes center stage in this fairy garden. It comes in white, pink and red.

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The lady checking out in front of me at McDonald’s Garden Center on Jamestown Road had two cute little pots of ‘Polka Dot Plant,’ Hypoestes phyllostachya, and she had a single question for the clerk: “Will deer eat it?”  For those of us living among free-roaming herds of deer, that is always the question!

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Hydrangea macrophylla attract deer, who eat both leaves and flowers.

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Do deer graze in your garden?  It seems that ever growing herds of deer continue moving into more and more areas across the United States.  Even suburbs and small town now have a problem with deer.  So many are born each year, and they have no natural predator.  There is no longer enough hunting to keep their population in check, and so they have learned to live among us.

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Maybe you, like some of our neighbors, enjoy seeing ‘The Bambis.’  But maybe you, like many of our friends, want to grow a garden around your home to please you and your family- not to offer a free dinner to the local herd.

It is a constant struggle here, in our forested community.  Each doe can have up to five fawns a year.  Triplets aren’t uncommon.  Each buck may have a harem of six or more does in his family group.  We saw a group of more than 20 running across our neighbor’s yard one day in late January.

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Plants with poisonous leaves, like these Colocasia, won’t be grazed by deer.

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Even if you are content to let nature take its course in your yard, and you aren’t an avid gardener; you may be concerned about deer ticks and the diseases they carry.  Ticks lurk in places frequented by deer.  They wait on grasses, shrubs, anywhere they can until a warm blooded comes near enough for them to jump on and catch a ride and a meal.

The last time we were at the doctor getting an antibiotic script for a tick bite, the doctor offered up some comforting news.  She told us that the tick must be attached for 24 hours to transmit Lyme’s disease.  That is reason enough to thoroughly check for ticks after a day of gardening!

We have so many neighbors who have contracted Lyme’s disease, and we have had so many tick bites, that we do everything in our power to keep deer out of our garden.

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Ticks linger in overgrown grasses and on shrubs and trees, waiting for a ride and a meal.

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And that is not an easy thing.  Unless you are ready to construct a 10′ high chain link fence around the perimeter of your yard, maybe adding a little razor wire on top, they will likely find a way in from time to time.  And so we do everything in our power to discourage the deer from coming in to start with.  And if they do sneak in, we dispatch them and encourage them to stay in the ravine in future!

Which brings us back to buying ‘deer resistant’ plants.  The McDonald’s clerk didn’t know whether annual Polka Dot Plant was deer resistant or not.  But she looked it up somehow in her system, and told her customer that she believed it was.  She was right.  Hypoestes is considered deer resistant.

But that is a very loose term.  When hungry enough, deer will try grazing many things they shouldn’t.

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Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose.  Herbs with a strong fragrance can offer some protection to tasty shrubs, like this rose.

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We’ve had to learn a lot about what deer won’t eat in order to garden in our community.  My last garden was enclosed with a 7′ fence in a suburb which had no deer.  My azaleas were 8′ high and I could grow anything I wanted without a second thought.  But the past is the past, and we live in the present, right?

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Azaleas once grew abundantly in our forest garden, before the deer population skyrocketed. Ours are now badly grazed and misshapen.  Some barely hang on from year to year.

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So unless you have an eidetic memory, it might be easier to remember some basic principles of what plants deer avoid than trying to memorize a list!  I’ve read lots of lists over the years and listened to a few experts speak on the topic.  No one is 100% accurate. in part because deer develop different preferences.

But here are a few guidelines which might prove useful as you plan your garden this spring:

  1.  Deer don’t like strongly scented or strongly flavored foliage.  This means that almost any herb is ‘safe’ and won’t be grazed.  This includes plants you might not think of as herbs, including annual geraniums, scented geraniums, Artemisias, and some perennials related to the mint family.  All Alliums, including garlic, scallions and onions, repel deer.
  2. Deer don’t like thick, tough and textured leaves.  Your Yucca is safe, as is prickly pear cactus, Iris and Lantana.  I’ve never seen lamb’s ears, Stachys byzantina,  grazed, either.
  3. Many plants are naturally poisonous, and others have oxalic acid crystals in their leaves which irritate deer mouths.  Caladiums and their relatives are ‘safe’ due to the irritating crystals in their leaves.  That said, two friends told me their Caladiums were grazed during a summer drought last year.  We lose a leaf from time to time, but never a whole plant.  Colocasia and Alocasia, Arum italicum, and Zantedeschia all fall into this group.  If a plant is known as poisonous, like Helleborus and daffodils,  you can plant it with confidence.
  4. Deer avoid eating ferns.
  5. Deer avoid grey foliage.

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    Lavender has both a strong fragrance and tough, thick leaves. Deer never touch them and they are helpful as screening plants around tasty plants you want to protect.

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Now, here is what they do enjoy eating:

  1.  Any new shrub from the nursery, which has been grown with lots of fertilizer, looks delicious!  Even a shrub they wouldn’t think of grazing when it is mature will be tasty when young.  Nitrogen, a salt, makes the foliage taste good.  Think salt on french fries….. Give those newly planted shrubs and trees a bit of extra protection until they are at least 2 years old.
  2. Any plant you might eat, especially in your vegetable garden, will attract deer.  We’ve had fruit trees grazed, tomatoes devastated, bean vines harvested, and lettuce made to disappear in the blink of an eye.
  3. Any tender, soft, succulent, beautiful leaf, like a Hosta, Heuchera, Coleus, or Hydrangea, will interest a deer.  They also like flowers, otherwise known as ‘deer candy.’  You wouldn’t think deer would graze roses, but they do.  They adore eating any lily, especially daylily leaves and flowers.

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Grow tasty annuals, like sweet potato vine, in pots or baskets out of reach of deer.  Grown where they can get to it, expect it to be grazed from time to time.

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What can you do?  Like the lady with the Polka Dot plant, consider whether or not a new plant will attract deer before you bring it home to your garden.  Let the majority of your new plants be those the deer won’t graze.  I’ve learned how to create an interesting garden by growing lots of herbs and poisonous plants!

But I grow my favorites, too.  We gave up on a veggie garden, but we still have roses, a few Hosta, and Hydrangeas.  I defiantly grow a few tasty annuals in pots and baskets out of the reach of deer, or in pots right up against the house.  You would be amazed how brazen hungry deer can be!  And yes, I’ve had sweet potato vines and Coleus plants eaten off my front patio.

That is why the perimeter of our property is mostly planted with shrubs and trees that deer won’t graze.  We have wax myrtle, crepe myrtle, bamboo, red cedar, Ligustrum and Yucca along  the outer edges, somewhat hiding the more delicious plants in the center of our garden.

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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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I generally surround tender tasty plants with highly scented ones the deer will avoid.  We grow garlic, chives and onions in random places to protect certain plants.  Highly scented herbs can often give some protection, too, if planted around a shrub you want to protect.  I throw garlic cloves in pots of annuals.

We also regularly spread Milorganite around the perimeter of our property and around shrubs, like azaleas, we want to protect from deer.  You need at least a 4′ swath of this smelly fertilizer to fend off deer.  An interesting benefit is the drastic reduction in ticks we’ve found since we began using Milorganite last spring.

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Scented Pelargoniums and Zantedeschia prove a winning, and deer proof, combination.

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I keep a spray bottle of ‘Repels-All’ and spray the Hosta and Heuchera as they emerge; the roses and Hydrangeas as they leaf out.  Rain washes this product away, eventually, and so one needs to use it every few weeks.  Plants are more vulnerable in spring than in late summer, so you don’t have to make a life-time commitment to spraying this stuff.

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Hibiscus prove deer resistant.

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No one of us can solve the deer problem alone.  We’ve recently heard of some research in New York with contraceptive injections good for 22 months for an adult doe.  But this program is very expensive and labor intensive.  Hunting remains very controversial.  There are few ideas out there for a humane solution to this growing problem.

As undeveloped habitat disappears deer move in to our neighborhoods, sharing the land with us. And so it is up to us, as the brainier species, to adapt.  One way to co-exist with these gentle creatures is to design our gardens with plants they won’t eat.

Let them eat elsewhere!” becomes our motto, and  constant vigilance our practice.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Our ‘deer resistant’ garden, filled with poisonous plants and herbs,  in early spring

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

 

 

Ordering Caladiums For Our Summer Garden

Caladium 'Desert Sunset,' introduced last season by Classic Caladiums.

Caladium ‘Desert Sunset,’ introduced last season by Classic Caladiums.

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Again this year, I am organizing a large Caladium order for friends, neighbors  and family.  By combining our orders, we can buy large lots of 25-50 tubers of each variety which gives us a lower price per plant.  We also save on shipping costs.  I’ve selected a dozen different varieties to order this year.

Six varieties are new hybrids on offer from Classic Caladiums.  All of these were  developed by Dr. Robert Hartman, CEO of Classic Caladiums,  to withstand more direct sun and produce more leaves than older Caladium cultivars.  These six varieties have only been available commercially in the last few years.

I grew C. ‘Desert Sunset’ last summer, and was very happy with how it looked and how it performed.    One of the benefits of these new Caladiums is the introduction of some new patterns and even new colors into the world of Caladiums.

I am most interested in growing out  the new C. ‘Peppermint’ this year.

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Caladium 'Sweet Carolina'

Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’ sports chartreuse leaves and bright rose pink spots.  C. ‘Miss Muffett’ was a  parent of this new hybrid.

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You might have seen my posts last summer about C. ‘Sweet Carolina.’  I’ve saved the tubers I grew last summer and hope they survived winter in our garage.  That cultivar isn’t on the list, although the Caladium proved to be a strong grower.

Our friends who grew the tubers I shared with them weren’t very enthusiastic about it; likely because of its truly unusual appearance.

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Caladium, 'Cherry Tart'

Caladium, ‘Cherry Tart’ is a fairly short variety, but produces lots of intense, red leaves.  These plants were vigorous and vibrant until frost.

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They were much happier with C. ‘Cherry Tart.’  A gorgeous deep red Caladium, I would recommend it to anyone.  You won’t find it on this list because I want to see the new 2017 red Caladiums C. ‘Fireworks’ and C. ‘Flare.’

Here are the varieties I plan to order for 2017:

New Caladium Hybrids from ClassicCaladiums.com 

(Please follow the links for photos)

White Delight   ( part sun 18”-24”)

White Star  ( full sun/part shade 12”-18”)

Peppermint  ( shade/part sun 12”-18”)

Desert Sunset ( sun/part shade 12”-18”

Fireworks  ( full sun/part shade 18”-24” )

Flare  ( full sun/part shade 12”-18” )

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C. Florida Fantasy appreciates a little afternoon shade, but performs well in morning sun.

C. Florida Fantasy appreciates a little afternoon shade, but performs well in morning sun.

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Older Caladium Hybrids

Florida Sweetheart ( sun/ part sun 12”-18”)

 Lance Wharton ( sun/ part sun 12”-18”)

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C. Florida Roselight

C. Florida Sweetheart

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 Florida Fantasy (shade/ part sun 12”-15”)

 Florida Moonlight ( shade/ part sun 18”-24”)

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Caladium 'White Christmas'

Caladium ‘White Christmas’

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 Florida Roselight ( shade/ part sun 18”-24”)

 Miss Muffet ( shade/ part sun 12”-18”)

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Caladium 'Miss Muffett"

Caladium ‘Miss Muffett”

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All six of these older varieties are beautiful, strong growers.  It is very hard for me to choose a favorite.  Thankfully, we enjoy them all in different parts of our garden. 

All four varieties with ‘Florida’ in the name were developed at the University of Florida. They are fairly new hybrids with pretty good sun tolerance, vigor, and good health.  C. ‘Miss Muffett’ is a gorgeous Caladium, and one of the parents of the improved C. ‘Sweet Carolina.’

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Floriday Moonlight really lights up a shady spot!

Caladium ‘Florida Moonlight’ really lights up a shady spot!

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Although I shared an email invitation last week with a few friends and neighbors to join this year’s Caladium order, I am posting the list of Caladiums, and a few photos,  again here.  Some folks had trouble opening the page I sent with photos of all six varieties.

If you live in the Williamsburg area, and would like to participate this year, then please contact me sometime this week by email.  We will get in touch with one another and you can join our order anytime between now and next weekend.

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Caladium 'Lance whorton

Caladium ‘Lance Wharton’

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Caladiums prove a great plant for our hot Virginia summers.  They thrive in our heat and humidity!  Once they get going in May or early June, they keep giving and just grow better with each passing month until the weather cools in October.  Whether grown in a pot or in a bed, Caladiums have few problems and generally are left alone by deer and other wildlife.

These are a good choice for busy gardeners who don’t have time to fuss around with high maintenance plants.  Foliage plants have staying power in the garden.  These are some of the easiest and most interesting foliage plants we’ve found.

And now is the time to plan for the coming season.  Order yours now, while the selection is still good.

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Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop' proves a hardy and beautiful ground cover in pots and planting beds. Evergreen, it blooms each spring. Caladiums love our summer weather!

 Caladiums love our summer weather!

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2015- 2016

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Caladium 'Desert Sunset' develped by Dr. Robert Hartman of Classic Caladiums LLC.

Caladium ‘Desert Sunset’

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Wednesday Vignettes: Maturity

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“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.

We grow sometimes in one dimension,

and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially.

We are relative. We are mature in one realm,

childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle

and pull us backward, forward,

or fix us in the present.

We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

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Anaïs Nin

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“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish

in order to understand?

Only a child sees things with perfect clarity,

because it hasn’t developed all those filters

which prevent us from seeing things

that we don’t expect to see.”

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Douglas Adams

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“Youth ends when egotism does;

maturity begins when one lives for others.”

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Hermann Hesse

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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“To rush is to miss the experience”
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Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

WPC: Nostalgia

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My dad loves Coleus, and I remember watching him plant Coleus and Scarlet Sage, Impatiens, Calaldiums and Begonias since I was a little girl.  He loves growing flowers and tending bright annual beds each summer.

And his love of flowers came from his mother’s mother, who had an overgrown garden of old roses and bright perennials behind her house decades after she was able to go out and tend to it herself.  I remember picking flowers in her garden as a very young child; flowers and mulberries, which we ate over ice cream.

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Always the Boy Scout, Dad believes in leaving a place a little better than he found it.  And part of that philosophy always expressed itself in making beds of flowers and cultivating the lawn at each of our family homes.

And he is a talented gardener with an artist’s eye for color and a pastor’s touch for making things thrive.  He still breaks off bits of annual stem and thrusts them into moist soil, somehow coaxing them to root into new plants at his whim.

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And now I join him in his gardening projects again.  Others might call me his ‘enabler’ with undisguised disdain.  And that is fine with me. 

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Caladiums and Impatiens growing this summer in my father's garden.

Caladiums and Impatiens growing this summer in my father’s garden.

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Despite physical handicaps, his gardener’s heart is strong and craves color and flowers as it always has.  Sometimes we openly visit the Great Big Greenhouse together, loading the cart he pushes for us.  The shopping cart is even better than his walker for letting his legs follow where his eyes see something of interest.

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One of the Coleus plant we bought together this summer, and shared by rooting cuttings.

This is one of the Coleus plants we bought together this summer, and shared by rooting cuttings.

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Other times I quietly leave offerings of little plants on the back patio where he knows to find them, without saying a word about them in front of  Mother.  I’ve filled his tubs with Caladiums this summer and helped him plant a hedge of Coleus beside the back walk.  The Coleus we both love so much. 

Nostalgia can hurt or heal.  We all know this.  But I believe that nostalgia heals when it keeps us in touch with those people and things we love.

Nostalgia helps us share our happiness from generation to generation.

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Caladiums in my father's garden.

Caladiums in my father’s garden.

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Nostalgia

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Sunday Dinner: Reflection

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“A lake is a landscape’s

most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder

measures the depth of his own nature.”

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Henry David Thoreau

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“There is no future without a past,

because what is to be cannot be imagined

except as a form of repetition.”

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Siri Hustvedt

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“Learning without reflection is a waste.

Reflection without learning is dangerous.”

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Confucius

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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“Once you reject fear,

you will become the perfect candidate

to receive and reflect Truth.”

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Suzy Kassem

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‘Sweet Carolina’ Charms

Caladium 'Sweet Carolina'

Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina’ on September 22, 2016, about seven weeks after planting the tubers.

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‘Sweet Carolina’ Caladium takes the prize for the most entertaining Caladium I’ve grown; maybe the most entertaining foliage plant of any sort I’ve grown.  Why?  Because no two leaves unfold the same.

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There is so much going on with this plant!   First, there is the background color of the leaf.  Will it be cream or green?  How chartreuse will it turn?  How much darker green, and where?

Then, there are the blotches of cherry pink.  How many will appear?  How light or dark might they be?  What shape and patterns will they take?

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And finally, there are the veins.  Will they be pink, red, or white?  Will the edges of the leaf have a pink stain, too?

Thus far, no two leaves have come the same.

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‘Sweet Carolina’  is bred to take full sun, which is very unusual for a Caladium.  Ours grow in several different places with varying amounts of light.  I wanted to see how the plants would perform in everything from mostly sunny to partly shady.  I’m growing four plants directly in the ground, others in pots.

I’m also watching to see how tall the plants will grow.  Breeder Dr. Robert Hartman reports they grow into large, bushy uniform plants.  The Classic Caladium website indicates they will grow to over 36″ tall.  This hybrid is know for its large, broad leaves.

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There are four tubers growing together in this pot.

There are four tubers growing together in this pot.

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Ours have been growing now for between 5 and 7 weeks.  The pot started the first week of August is doing the best, and the tallest leaf is at around 18″ growing in only partial sun.  Fed with both Osmocote and regular feedings of Neptune’s Harvest, these plants are very well nourished.

Caladium tubers planted directly in the soil have not performed as well as those in pots.  They are shorter and have fewer leaves, and got a slightly later start.  I expect them to show a great deal of new growth now that there is plenty of moisture in the soil again.

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Caladiums delight us with their beautiful colors, patterns and forms.  They also satisfy us because they suffer little or no damage from grazing animals.  This makes them a good value for us.

The exception here is some insect damage to a few leaves of our ‘Sweet Carolina.’  Caterpillars ate a few leaves of a single potted plant.  Removing the caterpillar solved that problem.

But some of the plants in the ground have lost their tips to some other sort of grazing insect.  I’ve not noticed this problem with other Caladium varieties.

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This pot holds Begonia 'Arabian Sunset' and Begonia 'Richmondensis along with a single Caladium.

This pot holds Begonia ‘Arabian Sunset’ and Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ along with a single Caladium tuber.

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We expect to enjoy our Caladiums outside for about another month.  We will see how these plants develop now that they are all in active growth.

Our nights are dropping into the 60s now, a little on the cool side for Caladiums.  But we are still enjoying warm days.  With the warmer than average weather we’ve had so far this year, we may get to enjoy Caladiums into early November.

I hope you find these plants as interesting as we find them.  They are different from the more standard Caladiums in several ways, but that is part of their charm.  Their colors blend beautifully with other plants we enjoy.

All in all ‘Sweet Carolina’ Caladiums are an excellent addition to our forest garden.

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Woodland  Gnome 2016

The Quest: WPC

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Quest: (N) A long and arduous journey in search of something of importance.  A seemingly impossible task or challenge.  A mystery solved only through a journey into unknown territory.

What is your quest?  What is it you seek?

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When I taught literature, I challenged my students to look at many novels we read together within the paradigm of  ‘The Heroe’s Journey.’  We talked about the personal qualities which enable someone to set off from home to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.

And, of course, accepting the challenge and finding the will to leave the comforts of home behind, for the sake of the journey, counts as the first ‘seemingly impossible’ task for nearly every hero.

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Each challenge along the way finds the hero discovering more and more… about themselves.  The hero returns home transformed, perhaps even enlightened.

Sometimes  returning home may actually mean finding a new home, a better place to live, at the end of their journey.

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But one thing always true of quests is their mystery.   There is rarely a map, and one must navigate from the heart.

Guides almost always appear when needed most, yet the hero still makes the choice to turn one way or another, to engage or to avoid encounters along the way.

There are struggles to survive, and battles with evil ones.   There is never any guaranteed success.

~

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When one begins any journey, little of the road ahead can be seen.  Maybe we can see the first bit of the path, perhaps there is a even a destination in mind.

But things rarely turn out to be what they seem, and the path leads us ever onwards into the unknown; sometimes  into the unknowable.

Following a quest requires courage and determination, openness and heart. 

~

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And heroes often understand, when the quest is finished, that their journey through the world was also a journey into the mystery of themselves.  They find, within themselves, the true object of their quest.

What is your quest?

~

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Woodland Gnome  2016

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Quest

 

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A few of my favorite stories of quests and heroes:

The Teachings of Don Juan:  A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda
The Return of Merlin by Deepak Chopra 
The Alchemist  by Paul Coelho
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
The Odyssey by Homer
Hatchet by Gary Paulson
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
The Celestine Prophecy series by James Redfield
The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Epic of Gilgamesh  traditional Sumerian story

 

 

 

Water-Colored

The James River

The James River

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Wetness upon wetness, and still it rains.  Beautiful clouds swirl through the skies, allowing glimpses of piercing September blue high above them.  Great mounds of heavy rain-filled cloud soon follow, and the staccato tapping of rain on the roof and porch heralds yet another tropical shower.

Water oozes with each step in the garden now.  Clear water trickles through the ditch under our drive.  Roadsides and parking lots mirror the sky.

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Our long drought has broken.  On this first day of autumn, the equinox, we celebrate each cool breeze over the wet garden.  The land is replenished, refreshed, revived, and reinvigorated.

We see new growth, the resurrection of what had grown dry and desiccated.  We move into the new season with fresh confidence, looking forward to those seasonal changes still to come.

We are fortunate, here in Williamsburg, that the land is riddled with creeks and ravines.  There is always somewhere else for the water to flow.  The land drains, and so flooding remains rare.

Neighbors to the south and east have not fared as well.  Flooding has stopped daily routines in many areas nearby.  This week became an unplanned holiday for many as streets became canals;  parking lots ponds.

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We saw a family of happy turkeys this afternoon, finding their dinners along the roadside.  My partner counted eight.  Dusk was gathering, but their movements let us see them through the gloom.

We found herons and eagles along the banks of the creeks, deer in the open fields, and fish jumping clear of the river.   What rich diversity of life shares this place!

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The reeds and grasses in the creeks have turned golden now, and have been beaten down in places from the rain and high tides.  Shorter days and cooler nights will soon reduce them to buff colored chaff , and then the mud will shine through, and before long push-ups will dot the marshes again; homes to small creatures through the winter.

The seasons come and go like the tides; more slowly, but just as constant.  This week we feel the season turning from dry heat to wet coolness; from expansion towards rest.

Eagle nests stand empty in the trees, the youngsters now out exploring the creeks.

Soon we’ll hear the cries of geese flying over the garden each morning.  Whether they stay or go elsewhere, they still gather into great Vs and fly, singing their ageless melodies at dawn and dusk.  They often stop at the pond below our garden, finding food in the shallows and safety on its calm waters.

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And the garden calls me back outside, now that the ground has grown soft and workable again.  I’ve a few shrubs waiting to stretch their pot-bound roots into the native soil.  There are potted ferns, and soon there will be bulbs to plant.  There are beds to weed, some Irises to divide, and perennials which need a bit of grooming.  All these tasks were made to wait until the drought was ended.

But as the garden sits refreshed, so also do I.  The cool breezes breathe fresh energy into us, too.  And Indian Summer is upon us, one of the most beautiful seasons of our year.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wednesday Vignette: Dreaming Trees

Ficus afghanistanica 'Silver Lyre' 2014

Ficus afghanistanica ‘Silver Lyre’ planted 2014

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“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world

would go to pieces,

I would still plant my apple tree.”

.

Martin Luther

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Star Magnolia 2015

Star Magnolia planted 2015

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“My own heroes are the dreamers,

those men and women who tried to make the world

a better place than when they found it,

whether in small ways or great ones.

Some succeeded, some failed,

most had mixed results…

but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it.

Win or lose,

I admire those who fight the good fight.”

.

George R.R. Martin

~

Crepe Myrtel 2015

Crepe Myrtle planted 2015

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“Most of the important things in the world

have been accomplished

by people who have kept on trying

when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

.

Dale Carnegie

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Do you plant trees?  Planting a tree, whether for yourself or someone else, is one of the most powerful gestures one can make to assure a happy and healthy future.  Here are just a few of the trees we’ve planted over the last five years.

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The Arbor  Day Foundation sponsors several worthwhile programs to ensure that more community trees are planted each year.  The one which has my interest right now is “Neighborwoods Month.” October is a great time of year for planting trees in our region.   

Perhaps you will consider planting a tree or two of your own between now and the end of October. 

Here is the child’s tree dedication prayer recited in Philadelphia at the planting of a new community tree: 

” We dedicate this tree to beauty, usefulness, and comfort. 

May our lives grow in beauty, usefulness, and comfort to others

even as these trees expand their leafy boughs. 

Let us strive to protect and care for them

and they may so be enjoyed by all people…”

~

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