Summer Solstice Wishes

Butterfly bush prepares to welcome a hungry bee.

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Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.  It is a good day to celebrate our wishes, especially those wishes that have finally manifested for us. 

I first wrote and published ‘A Dirty Hands Garden Club’ in the summer of 2014, and would like to share it with you, again.  I hope that you have found your own community of gardeners, naturalists, conservationists, teachers, artists, and plant nerds, as I have so happily found mine.

WG June 2018

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Asclepias incarnata

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I would love to join  a “Dirty Hands” Garden Club;
One whose members know more about fertilizers
Than they do about wines…

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I’d want our meetings spent wandering through nurseries,
Learning from  expert gardeners,
Or building community gardens…

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Echinacea and Monarda prove beautiful native perennials in our area.

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Not frittered away in chit chat over drinks and hors d’oeuvres .

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Hibiscus syriacus and bumbly

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And all of us would be at least a little expert in something, and
Glad to share what we’ve learned;

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Native ebony spleenwort transplanted successfully into this old stump.

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And we all would love putting our hands in the dirt
To help something grow.

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Lavender is still recovering from the winter.

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My club would collect species, not dues;
Re-build ecosystems rather than plant ivy and  box.

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Caladium ‘Fannie Munson’ with Bergenia and ferns.

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We “dirty hands” gardeners can band together
In spirit, if not in four walls.

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We can share plants and insights,
Instigate, propagate, and appreciate;

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Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

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Perhaps we can even help rehabilitate 
Some sterile lawn somewhere
Into something which nurtures beauty
And feeds souls….

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Magnolia liliiflora is giving us a second flush of bloom in early summer.

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Others can judge flowers,
Decorate homes at Christmas
And organize tours.
These things are needed, too.

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Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, opens its first blooms of the year.

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(But I would rather be out in the garden;
Where cardinals preside over the morning meeting,
And  hummingbirds are our special guests for the day.
The daily agenda ranges from watering to transplanting;
From pruning to watching for turtles and dragonflies.)

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We  wear our muddy shoes and well worn gloves with pride,
Our spades and pruners always close at hand.

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We converse with Nature,
And re-build the web strand by strand,
Plant by plant.

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Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ with Basil

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If this invitation speaks to you,
Perhaps we can work together
From wherever we might find ourselves
Around the globe.
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Colocasia ‘Mojito’ in front with C. ‘Pink China’ behind

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We can each put our hands in the dirt
and create a garden,

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Nurture Beauty,
And restore health and vitality to our Earth,
our communities, and ourselves, together.

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Native Oakleaf Hydrangea glows in the morning Solstice sun.

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Poem by Woodland Gnome 2014
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“The Holy Land is everywhere”
.
Black Elk

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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Fabulous Friday: What is Beauty?

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We live surrounded by beauty.  But how do you define it?  Everyone has their own idea of what is beautiful, and what is not.

This is a conversation that has been going on for a very, very long time.  We know that people living many thousands of years ago discussed this a lot, and had their own, very definite ideas.

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Anything in any way beautiful
derives its beauty from itself
and asks nothing beyond itself.
Praise is no part of it,
for nothing is made worse or better by praise.
.
Marcus Aurelius
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We gardeners generally intend to cultivate beauty through our efforts.  That isn’t to say our gardens are always beautiful, though.   Beauty happens, but there is a lot of cleaning up of the ‘not so beautiful’ too.

And that is the space which interests me: when there might be disagreement as to whether or not something is beautiful.

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Do you find this Eucomis beautiful?  Would you grow it?

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“Everything has beauty,
but not everyone sees it.”
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Confucius
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Most of us find flowers beautiful.

But what about the perfect insects which drink their nectar?  What about the beetles eating their petals?  Can you see their beauty, too?

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Perhaps my perception of beauty is a little skewed, but I find the insects, in their geometric grace and perfection, beautiful.

There is beauty in every leaf, every petal, every stem.  The longer you gaze, the more beauty one absorbs.

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I was so pleased, when I walked through the garden this afternoon, to find these beautiful wasps enjoying our Allium blossoms.  There must have been 20 or more of them, each enjoying the sweet nectar at their feet.  They were peacefully sharing the bounty with bees and other pollinators.

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There are people in my life who would have squealed and backed away at the sight of these busy insects.  But I was too fascinated to fear them, and instead took great joy in making their portraits.  They are interesting visitors, and we rarely see such large, colorful wasps.

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Our garden’s bounty this week includes golden parsley flowers and creamy white carrot flowers, in addition to the Alliums.  There are Echinaceas now, lavender, Coreopsis, Salvias, crepe myrtle, Basil, and more.  All these tiny nectar filled flowers attract plenty of attention from hungry pollinators!

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It’s a feast for our eyes, too.  Sometimes, it is hard to imagine the abundance of our June garden until it returns.

We’re celebrating the solstice this week, and we are surrounded by such beauty here, that it is a true and heartfelt celebration

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I’ve always valued beauty.  To me, beauty can cause happiness, just as food expresses love.  There is beauty in truth, though you can argue that beauty may often be based in illusion.

We could discuss this all evening, couldn’t we? 

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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
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Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Rather than ‘over-think’ it, which may be the antithesis of beauty, let’s just enjoy it.

Let’s simply celebrate this Fabulous Friday, this Beautiful high summer day; and like the bees, drink in as much sweet nectar as our eyes and hearts will hold.

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Caladium ‘Highlighter,’ a new introduction this year. Do you find it beautiful?

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Woodland Gnome 2017

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that will endure
as long as life lasts.”
.
Rachel Carson
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Clematis ‘Violet Elizabeth’

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious, Let’s infect one another!

Our Golden Companion

June 20, 2016 garden 008

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Celebrate the sun,

The source of all heat, light and life

on Earth;

Our Golden Companion

through all the days of our lives;

The fiery center of our solar system;

Sol Invictus.

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 028

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Apollo’s bright chariot;

Atum-Ra in his bark, traversing the sky,

Vanquishing Apopis so the sun might rise again.

Lord Shamash at the gates of the East,

Belenos, whose fires are lit to celebrate

his healing powers,

Helios.

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June 20, 2016 garden 015

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Earth grows green and verdant at your touch,

But burns and withers if you come too close.

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June 20, 2016 garden 010

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Solstice, midsummer; longest day;

The tipping point.

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June 20, 2016 garden 005

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With summer’s sun now in retreat;

Cooling darkness returns

to quench the heat.

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June 20, 2016 garden 011

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Photos taken Summer Solstice 2016, after 8 PM

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June 20, 2016 garden 009

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“Limitless undying love

which shines around me

like a million suns

it calls me on and on across the universe.”
.

John Lennon

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June 25, 2015 orbs 007

Rainbow orb in our garden June 2015

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“We all shine on…

like the moon and the stars and the sun…

we all shine on…come on and on and on…”

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John Lennon

Welcome, Summer

June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 015

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“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”

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Charles Bowden

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 010

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“Rest is not idleness,

and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees

on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur

of the water, or watching the clouds float

across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

.

John Lubbock

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 007

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It is June, and we are enjoying those magical longest days of the year.  On Saturday, the sun will rise here at 5:46 AM, as it has been doing since Tuesday, June 7.  But we will have that extra minute of golden sunshine as it waits to finally set below the horizon at 8:30.  Both Saturday and Sunday will be our longest days this year, at 14 hours and 44 minutes.  Official Summer Soltice is scheduled for Monday June 20, but the sun will wait until 5:47 to rise that day, making it a minute shorter than Sunday.

Interesting, isn’t it, that our American observance of Father’s Day falls, this year, on our longest day of the year, the day when the sun takes longest to traverse the sky?

But then, on Tuesday, the sun will still rise at 5:47, but will set at 8:31 PM.  And these times of sunrise and sunset will continue through next Friday, June 24.  So we will actually enjoy a full week of Summer Solstice; days nearly 15 hours long, at our latitude.

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 002

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What are you doing to celebrate the Summer Solstice?  Are you traveling, or enjoying the pleasures of home?  Are you on vacation now from school or work?

We are enjoying these long summer days in our garden.  There are daily changes as plants grow and bloom.  Hummingbirds, song birds, and every sort of insect buzz about outside. Our yard now sports five different turtle nests, where mother turtles have left a clutch of eggs on rainy days. 

This is the time of year when we search out farm stands for peaches and home grown tomatoes, new potatoes, squash and blueberries.  The menu changes to what may be sliced quickly and eaten fresh and cold.

Our first Hibiscus buds opened yesterday.  Sweet Gardenia flowers near the door greeted me for the first time this morning.  The Buddleia have covered them selves in nectar rich blooms.   It is finally summer, and we welcome the magic summer always brings.

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 009~

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses.

The sunshine was like powdered gold

over the grassy hillside.”

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Maud Hart Lovelace

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 001

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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June 16, 2016 Hibiscus 004

Summer Fireworks

Asclepias incarnata, milkweed.

Asclepias incarnata, milkweed

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What a wondrous sight when the nighttime sky is painted with moving light.  We love watching fireworks. 

Out of doors in a warm, humid summer night; listening to music; enjoying a light picnic with friends, sets the perfect mood for a fireworks show.

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July 5, 2015 garden 027

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Meteorological fireworks passed around us last night a few hours ahead of our Williamsburg fireworks.

Strong thunderstorms and heavy rain threatened all evening.  We stayed in and watched the shows broadcast from Washington DC and New York.

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Hydrangea, 'Ruby Slippers'

Hydrangea, ‘Ruby Slippers’

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We enjoyed the spectacles in comfort, still listening to the distant booms of our local fireworks filling the sky in a break between showers..

The is air is filled with distant booms again tonight; low rumbles threatening from south of the James River.

Another huge thunderstorm is struggling to stretch northeastwards this evening.  It stalls at the river’s bank, contained by this beautiful river.

Another summer night fills with rain, running into creeks and falling on our spongy ground.

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July 5, 2015 garden 010

Yucca grows near a new bed of Colocasia

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Yet the sun greeted us this morning, coaxing clouds of steam up from pavement and lawn.

The roses were still covered in water droplets as I trimmed back spent flowers riddled with shiny green beetles.

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July 5, 2015 garden 030

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The morning air shimmered to a soundtrack of hungry bees buzzing around their breakfast feast.  Bright dragonflies and damselflies swooped from shrub to shrub, pausing only seconds before taking off again.

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July 5, 2015 garden 006

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I made the tour of the garden, clippers and camera both close at hand.  A large bucket half filled with soapy, Borax laced  water went with me, ready to swallow those sadly eaten flowers and their still munching attackers.

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July 5, 2015 garden 011

Someone ate the petals away from this Echinacea, but the bees don’t mind. The crown is still filled with rich nectar.

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Summer’s sweet fragrances filled the air: warm roses, crushed mint, sweet grass and damp soil.

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July 5, 2015 garden 012

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I am interested in a different sort of fireworks this morning.  

So many of mid-summer’s flowers echo the rockets and starbursts of last night’s spectacle.

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July 5, 2015 garden 013~

Hundreds of tiny flowers cluster together, a welcoming committee laying a buffet for their hungry visitors.

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July 5, 2015 garden 031

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There is power in numbers, always.  Each tiny nectar filled flower humbly takes its place somewhere in the mass of flowers.  But opening together,  their invitation is clear.

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July 5, 2015 garden 032~

July is the rising crescendo of each year’s floral fireworks spectacular.

Still months from the finale, the intensity of sound and smell and sight grow daily.  Such energy!  Such variety!

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 096

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We have neared the far edge of Solstice.  Our daylight will grow shorter by a second or two each day, starting tomorrow.

Soon we’ll feel that our slide back down the slope towards shorter, cooler days and longer nights.

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Crepe Myrtle begins to bloom in our garden, and will fill the garden with flowers until early September.

Crepe Myrtle begins to bloom in our garden, and will fill the garden with flowers until early September.

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But not yet.  No, we are still at the top of the wheel of the year, looking across our gardens filled with color and life.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 097

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It is summer, and even our night time skies are painted with phosphorescent gardens of bright, neon-hued light.

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 090~

Summer, and the garden nearly bursts with pent up energy. 

As above, so below….

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July 4, 2015 Jamestown 086~

Woodland Gnome 2015

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July 5, 2015 garden 018

High Summer

Geraniums and Bronze Fennel

Geraniums and Bronze Fennel

We find ourselves at the Summer Solstice again; the high point of our solar year.

It is the official astronomical beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

But for most of us, the transitions from one season to the next are somewhat blurred.

This rabbit is a frequent guest in our garden, relaxing on our lawn like a pet.  I've only found him eating grass and clover.

This rabbit is a frequent guest in our garden, relaxing on our lawn like a pet. I’ve only found him eating grass and clover.

We listened to a discussion on our local news last night about when summer, and summer heat, actually begins.

The conversation came in the context of  our brutally high temperatures this week, coming days before the “official” start of summer at the Solstice on June 21.

What signals “summer” to you?

Hydrangea Macrophylla always speaks of summer to me.  It has been a favorite since I was a small child.

Hydrangea Macrophylla always speaks of summer to me. It has been a favorite since I was a small child.

Is it the onset of uncomfortable heat?  The end of the public school year?  Memorial Day weekend?  Graduation?

Traditionally, the Summer Solstice falls on the longest day of the year.

That is, the longest period of time between sunrise and sunset.

It was almost 9 PM when I took these photos of our rabbit on Wednesday evening.  A long day, indeed.

It was almost 9 PM when I took these photos of our rabbit on Wednesday evening. A long day, indeed.

Although day length varies with latitude and altitude, most of us still count on our “longest day” falling around June 21 (or December 21) each year.

And, it stands to reason that when our hemisphere of the planet is tilted towards the sun on our annual circuit through space, we experience our warmest weather.

But our planet is in transition.  Our seasons, like our weather, are shifting.

Abundant holly berries speak to a possibly intense winter ahead.

Abundant holly berries speak to a possibly intense winter ahead.  This holly shrub has never produced a crop of berries like this since we’ve been in the garden.

Partly due to strong earthquakes which have shifted the angle of our planet’s axis, and partly due to the ongoing movement of our magnetic poles; our climate is not what it was even ten years ago.

I’ve noticed that the “astronomical” equinoxes and solstices have been shifting these last few years, too.

Generally they occur earlier than their official dates.

Our Rose of Sharon shrubs have burst into blossom this week, a sure sign of summer.

Our Rose of Sharon shrubs have burst into blossom this week, a sure sign of summer.

So, I looked up the actual times of sunrise and sunset for our latitude to see what is happening this year.  (Follow the link for your location in many parts of the world.)

Here is what I found:

On June 1, 2014, our sun rose at 5:48 AM and set at 8:21 PM.  Our sunrise reached its earliest time on June 7 at 5:46 AM, and sunrise will stay at that hour until Saturday, June 21, when it will rise at 5:47 AM.

So our time of sunrise doesn’t change at all for 14 days from June 7 through June 20.

This is Begonia, "Flamingo" coming into its first flush of blooms this summer.

This is Begonia, “Flamingo” coming into its first flush of blooms this summer.

On June 1, our sun set at 8:21 PM.  Sunset came a minute later about every two days until June 18, when sunset came at 8:30 PM.

Now, here is what is strange.  June 18, Wednesday, was 14 hours and 44 minutes long.  But so is today, and tomorrow.  June 18-June 20 are exactly the same length with the same hours of sunrise and sunset in Williamsburg Virgina. 

So, we have a three day summer solstice this year, and we are experiencing measured temperatures in the high 90s, with heat indexes over 100 nearly every day this week.

This is our rose scented geranium finally in bloom.

This is our rose scented geranium finally in bloom.

In Norfolk yesterday, the Berkley Bridge wouldn’t close properly due to the heat, and traffic backed up for over an hour.  We had warnings on our local news of “heat health emergencies” all over the area.

On Saturday, our day will be a single minute shorter as sunrise moves to 5:47 AM, but sunset remains at 8:30 PM.

But on Sunday, sunset comes at 8:31, so we are right back to  a 14 hour and 44 minute day- the same length of daylight we are experiencing now at the Summer Solstice.

Sunrise will come at 5:47 AM on June 21 through June 24.  And, sunset remains at 8:31 PM through July 6.  There is no change in the time of astronomical sunset  for a total of 15 days.

Ivy Geranium

Ivy Geranium

Please check your own tables for sunrise and sunset, and see what is happening in your neighborhood.  Here, we will have three more days of “longest day of the year” on June 22, 23, and 24.  Sunrise and sunset will both be one minute later than June 18, 19, and 20; but the total number of minutes of daylight will be exactly the same.

Our time of sunrise returns to a more normal pattern around the first of July, where we will finally have sunrise time stay the same for two days at a time, then shift to a minute later on the following day.

Our Canna, "Australia" came as a bare root tuber this spring.  I hope it will bloom by the first of July.

Our Canna, “Australia” came as a bare root tuber this spring. I hope it will bloom by the first of July.  Hibiscus in the background is showing buds, as is the Butterfly bush to the left.

So, the year turns yet again.  After June 24 our days will continue to grow shorter by a minute or two each day until the Fall Equinox, in September.

Summer weather generally lasts well into October in our part of Virginia, long past the start of school, the “first day of fall” and the Labor Day holiday, which is the official close of summer in the United States.

June 19 garden 012

Perhaps because I’m outside in the garden nearly every day, I’m keenly aware of the weather, and the rhythms of our Earth.  In this time of transition, please stay in touch with what is happening in your part of the planet, also.  These larger rhthms affect us all in so many ways, large and small.

Asian Magnolia generally blooms in early spring, before the leaves come out.  This shrub is ready to bloom a second time.  The photo was taken this morning.

Asian Magnolia generally blooms in early spring, before the leaves come out. This shrub is ready to bloom a second time. The photo was taken this morning.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Spring Equinox

March 20 2014 spring 002

Such a bright, clear warm day, today, to greet official astronomical spring.

Today is the day of balance, where the hours of light equal the hours of darkness.  Except, not really. 

March 20 2014 spring 007

The Clematis vine, which looked dead for months, has budded and begun a new season of growth.

The calendars list today as the Vernal Equinox, but actually, it was Monday. 

We’ll be forgiven for not noticing, because Monday was such a cold, wet and icy, overcast day.  It was a thoroughly wintery day, dark and gloomy here.

It was hard to imagine, back on Monday, that the first day of spring was only a few days away.  But sunrise on Monday was 7:05 AM, and sunset, high above the storm clouds came at 7:05 PM.  That would have been 6:05 AM and 6:05 PM had we not already adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.

March 20 2014 spring 004

And so Monday was the day of balance:  twelve hours of sunlight, and twelve  hours of darkness.  We’ll have such a day again next September.

March 20 2014 spring 005

But today the sun rose at 7:00 AM, and will set at 7:08.  Doing the math, it appears that our day today will be twelve hours and eight minutes long, and the night will be only eleven hours and 52 minutes.  That is definite improvement!

By the end of the month, the sun will rise at 6:42 AM, and sunset will come at 7:20 PM.

Miniature daffodils bloom beneath a budding rose cane.

Miniature daffodils bloom beneath a budding rose cane.

Our day, by March 31, will be twelve hours and 38 minutes long.  It will increase by a few minutes each day until we reach the summer solstice in June.

Traditionally, the solstice has come on either the 20 or 21 of June.  But this year, our longest days will come on June 21 through June 23, when the days are each  15 hours and 6 minutes long.  We’ll have three days of the solstice, before the days grow shorter again, day by day, through the summer months.  Take a look for yourself at this strangely long solstice predicted for this June.

March 19, 2014 red 012

Forsythia just opening yesterday, really sparkles in the sunlight today.

But returning to today, it is a beautiful day to celebrate the beginning of spring.

March 20 2014 spring 013

Daffodils dance in the sunlight on the roadsides all over town.  The first of the tulip blossoms near the post office are showing a hint of red.  Budding trees color the skyline with red and greenish gold as their buds open in today’s warm sunshine.

March 20 2014 spring 006

I hope that spring has crept into your heart after this long and difficult winter.  I hope something is budding and blooming in your garden, and that the sun’s warmth has touched your skin.

March 20 2014 spring 015

Coat and hat remained in the closet when we headed out this morning, and the hardware store had racks of bright annuals waiting to go home to someone’s garden.  But none came home to ours.  I expect more freezing weather in the week ahead.

Another snow may or may not fulfill the forecast by next Monday, but today at least, it is spring in Williamsburg.

Happy Spring at Last!

The Clematis vine, which has looked dead for months, has budded and begun a new season of growth.

Violas

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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