Honoring Earth Day


“Our Mother Earth is the source of all life, whether it be the plants, the two-legged, four-legged, winged ones or human beings.
“The Mother Earth is the greatest teacher, if we listen, observe and respect her.
“When we live in harmony with the Mother Earth, she will recycle the things we consume and make them available to our children and to their children.
“I must teach my children how to care for the Earth so it is there for the future generations.



“So from now on:

“I realize the Earth is our mother. I will treat her with honor and respect.
“I will honor the interconnectedness of all things and all forms of life. I will realize the Earth does not belong to us, but we belong to the Earth.



“The natural law is the ultimate authority upon the lands and water. I will learn the knowledge and wisdom of the natural laws. I will pass this knowledge on to my children.
“The mother Earth is a living entity that maintains life. I will speak out in a good way whenever I see someone abusing the Earth. Just as I would protect my own mother, so will I protect the Earth.
“I will ensure that the land, water, and air will be intact for my children and my children’s children – unborn.”
Anonymous, reprinted from WhiteWolfPack.com




Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970.  I was in grade school, and this new celebration felt like a very big deal to me.  I was happy for all of the efforts the ‘grown-ups’ were making to protect the air, water, land and wildlife.  It felt good. 

This new Earth Day celebration was a ray of hope, a spark of light in an otherwise very dark time in our country.  We were still using unspeakable weapons in Southeast Asia, destroying their forests with Napalm and their people with terror. Nixon and his cronies still controlled the White House.

The first nuclear weapons in modern times had been used against two Japanese cities only 25 years earlier, and the the arms race to develop and test more of these life-destroying weapons was exploding around the planet.

But, we also still had George Harrison and John Lennon in those days, and the millions of voices of the Woodstock Generation raised in song and protest.

So much has happened in these last 47 years.  Our lives have changed in unimaginable ways.  Our country has changed, too.  The Woodstock Generation has mostly spent their lives now in doing what they can, for good or for ill; before losing their voices and their mobility to the natural progression of things.



And their legacy lives on, in the rest of us ‘youngsters.’  The battles still rage across our planet between the special interests of our age.  There is a basic philosophical divide, as I see it, between those focused on preservation of the environment, sharing and preserving our resources for generations yet to come; and those focused on using up every resource they can to make a profit.

The divide is between those focused on themselves and their own profit and pleasure, and those whose focus and concern expands to include the good of the millions of voiceless plant and animal species , generations yet unborn, and our beautiful planet.

That is a stark oversimplification, I know.  And I would bet that many who read these words disagree with my interpretation of things.



Good people can disagree.  Well-intentioned people can see things differently.  We each have our own story to tell about life and our experiences, in our own way.

A neighbor said to me just the other day, “The Earth doesn’t have a problem.  The Earth has never had a problem with human beings.  It is the humans who want to continue living on this planet who have the problem.”



And he is right.  Actually, the more information which leaks out about Mars, and what has happened to that once beautiful planet over the last half a million years, the more we understand how fragile our own planetary biosphere to be.  Perhaps that is why our government has tried to control the many photos of man-made structures on Mars, and evidence of water and the life once living there, so fiercely.



So what can any of us do?  Each of us can choose something, or somethings, which are in our power to do that will make a positive impact on our biosphere’s, and our own, well-being.  And then, we can raise our own voice, and use the power of our own purse to influence our neighbors, and the greater human community, towards doing something constructive, too.

Here are a few ideas from the Earthday.org site to get us all started:

Create your own ‘Act of Green’

Plant a tree or donate a tree

Eat less meat

Stop using disposable plastic

Reduce your energy footprint

Educate others



I invite you to celebrate Earth Day 2017 in your own personal way.  Do something positive for yourself, your family, our planet and our future.  It doesn’t have to be something big, fancy or expensive.

Just do something to commit your own “Act of Green,” your own radical act of beauty.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016-2017



“I do not think the measure of a civilization

is how tall its buildings of concrete are,

but rather how well its people have learned

to relate to their environment and fellow man.”


Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe


For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Earth


Sunday Dinner: Flow

August 19, 2016 birds 008


“Have you also learned that secret from the river;

that there is no such thing as time?”

That the river is everywhere at the same time,

at the source and at the mouth,

at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current,

in the ocean and in the mountains,

everywhere and that the present only exists for it,

not the shadow of the past

nor the shadow of the future.”


Hermann Hesse


August 10, 2016 River at dusk 048


“Water does not resist. Water flows.

When you plunge your hand into it,

all you feel is a caress.

Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you.

But water always goes where it wants to go,

and nothing in the end can stand against it.

Water is patient.

Dripping water wears away a stone.

Remember that, my child.

Remember you are half water.

If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it.

Water does.”


Margaret Atwood


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016


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“Life in us is like the water in a river.”


Henry David Thoreau


Oregon's beautiful coast, just south of Depoe Bay.

Nature Challenge Day 2: Lilies and Koi at the Heath’s Gloucester Gardens

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We returned to Gloucester today, with my gardening sister, to visit Brent and Becky Heath’s gardens and pick up our ‘end of season’ order of plants and tubers.  Brilliant sunshine and warm fragrant breezes off the river made for a perfect day to wander around their acres of display gardens.

Every plant the Heath family offers is showcased somewhere in the gardens, grown against a backdrop of ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and Virginia natives.  We learn so much by observing these thousands of plants grown in optimal conditions by professionals who truly love the many plants they nurture.  I am continually surprised with an unexpected combination of plants, and by familiar plants grown in unusual and beautiful new ways.


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The garden was punctuated today with hundreds of Amaryllis bulbs grown out in the beds with other perennials.  You probably know Amaryllis as one of those bulbs sold in the autumn, and grown in a pot during the winter holidays.  Well, come spring, one can plant those bulbs outside in a flower bed.  Many of them are hardy in our coastal Virginia winters and can be left to naturalize, blooming in early summer.


The Heath's gardens, where Amaryllis grow beside perennials.

The Heath’s gardens, where Amaryllis grow beside other perennials.


Jay Heath, attacking weeds along the main path, encouraged us by pointing out that our wet spring has brought abundant growth of ‘natives,’ or weeds to some, to everyone’s garden.  Even with a dedicated staff, they are still challenged to stay ahead of this spring’s abundant growth.

Side by side, both the nurtured and the ‘self-sown’ sprawled and bloomed, a banquet for their bees and butterflies.   The ground was wet, saturated by recent storms.  And everywhere were signs of the change of season and evolution of their garden.


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I was captivated by the first water lily blooms of the season.  The Koi here were nearly hidden by the many water plants.  Imagine having to weed the water garden, too!  But that is just what is planned for later this week, along with a re-do of the planters surrounding the fountain and pool.


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We were fortunate to find owner Brent Heath consulting on the water garden as we wandered back to the shop.  I am always delighted to find Brent in the garden because he so generously shares his deep knowledge of plants with interested visitors.

My friend and I had questions, and he guided us around some of the beds to demonstrate answers and to give useful advice.  He points out plants like the old friends they are, teaching us all the while.


This is the meadow garden where Brent showed us Mountain Mint and other native perennials we might grow in our own gardens.

This is the meadow garden where Brent Heath showed us Mountain Mint and other native perennials we might grow in our own gardens.  Some, but not all of these plants are listed in the summer catalog.


We each accepted a generous clump of Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum, pulled from the meadow, with advice to plant it in a bed with deep borders to keep it in check.  This native medicinal herb can be used in numerous ways, both in herbal medicine and in a perennial border.  But Brent introduced us to its strong delicious fragrance, and advised that rubbing it against one’s skin keeps flying insects like gnats and mosquitoes far away.

Mountain mint is very hard to find for sale.  Brent and Becky Heath don’t sell it at their garden.  But I had been looking for a source ever since reading about its use in perennial plantings in Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s new book, Planting:  A New Perspective This is one of their ‘go to’ plants for long-lived perennial plantings which carry through all of the seasons of the year with minimal maintenance.  For Brent to spontaneously offer us each a well rooted clump was a tremendous blessing for us both.


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If you still have an empty spot in your garden, and would like to fill it with something gorgeous and unusual, please take a look at the Heath’s online summer catalog of plants.  Their end of season, 50% off sale lasts through Saturday, and their offerings can’t be beat for quality and value. We filled the back of our car and look forward to happy planting days ahead!


May 25, 2016 Brent & Beckys 001~

Blogging friend, Y,  invited me to join the Seven Day Nature Challenge last Saturday.  Thank you for your invitation Y., at In the Zone, and for sharing your fascinating photos taken around our shared state of Virginia.  Y and I know many of the same places and share a love for the quirky and beautiful, the fun and poignant.  I appreciate her invitation and will follow her lead to capture the spirit, if not the exact parameters of the challenge.

Not only is one asked to post a nature photo for seven days running, but to also invite another blogger to join in each day.

For this second day of the challenge, I’ll invite you again to join in.  This challenge has been out there for a while, and many nature photographers have already participated.  If you would like to take up the challenge, please accept in the comments and I’ll link back to you tomorrow.

Although I try to take photos in our garden each day, friends and followers may have noticed that it has been a very long time since I’ve been able to post daily.  Life has gotten quite busy over the past year, and the garden is always calling me out of doors!

But in the spirit of the challenge I’ll set the intention to post a photo or three daily.  If you decide to accept this challenge, too, I’ll look forward to seeing what surprises May has brought to your corner of the world, even as I share the beauty of ours.


All photos in today's post were taken at the Heath family display gardens in Gloucester, VA, which are open to the public during much of the year.

All photos in today’s post were taken at the Heath family display gardens in Gloucester, VA, which are open to the public during much of the year.  Please check their schedule if you are planning a trip to visit the shop and gardens.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016




Which Way?

June 7, 2015  Yorktown 084~

We went a different way today and enjoyed some different views. 


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The shots I captured from “The Other Side” (of the York River, of course) inspired me to join Cee for her Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge this week.


Our view of The Hermione as we crossed the Coleman Bridge above her.

Our view of The Hermione as we crossed the Coleman Bridge above her.


A lovely French tall ship, The Hermione, anchored in Yorktown Virginia, this weekend.


The Hermione is anchored at the beach in Yorktown.

The Hermione is anchored at the beach in Yorktown.


After crawling through the traffic in Historic Yorktown, we crossed the Coleman Bridge to view the ship and river traffic from Gloucester Point.  We were rewarded with wonderful views of this historic ship and the festival which cropped up in Yorktown today to celebrate its visit.


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This is a reconstruction of the ship which brought General Lafayette to Yorktown in 1780, when he came to meet with General George Washington to pledge France’s support to the colonies in our revolution against the British Crown.


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Huge French and American flags fly from the ships docked in Yorktown today.


~June 7, 2015  Yorktown 076

We knew we had taken the right way today, to enjoy this beautiful day.

We found some new river beaches to enjoy, enjoyed the salt breezes blowing off of the river, and appreciated our chance to view this beautifully reconstructed tall ship.


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Woodland Gnome 2015




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Butterfly Magnets: Mimosa Tree


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“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh


This beautiful tree, which I learned to call “Mimosa” as a small child, is also known as “Persian Silk Tree” because of the silky texture of its flowers.

Native to areas of Asia, the Mimosa, or Albizia Julibrissin, was brought to Europe in the mid-Eighteenth Century, and eventually to North America.

It now grows across the entire United States, especially in the southern half of the country.


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This is one of the first trees I learned to identify as a child because it is found so commonly on roadsides in Virginia.

It would always catch my eye, and I would admire it on family trips.


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Its soft pink blossoms are also fragrant, and limbs with blossoms provide many hours of make-believe fun for little ones.

Introduced as an ornamental tree, it blooms here from June until September.


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Seeds grow in long pods, much like the seeds of a Redbud tree, and also provide food for wildlife.

Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies love this tree.

Planting one in your garden guarantees hours of enjoyment watching the traffic of nectar loving creatures dining from it each day during its long period of bloom.


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This beautiful non- native naturalizes easily, and despite its beauty, is considered an invasive species in some areas.

It is considered invasive because it self-seeds so easily.  A high percentage of all seeds produced are viable.  This is the species, not a cultivar; so all seedlings have the potential to grow into beautiful trees just like the parent.


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New trees crop up on any bare ground, and grow rapidly.

When we came to this garden, a huge mature Mimosa tree grew near our property line, ornamenting that part of the garden.  We could watch the many visiting butterflies from our deck.

Sadly, it was one of the trees lost in a recent hurricane when oaks fell on it, taking it to the ground.  We have missed that tree tremendously, but are happy that it is coming back from the roots.

This Mimosa, in another part of the garden, is blooming for the first time this season.  We are thrilled that new Mimosas have grown up to replace the one we have missed so much.

One of the difficulties in growing Mimosa in our garden is its attractiveness to deer.  Our herd has grazed the recovering tree each year, and all new trees, slowing their growth.

If the Mimosa can survive to outgrow the deer’s reach, then they can mature into their full potential.


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A member of the pea family, Mimosa has very tender (and most likely tasty) deciduous leaves.

The leaves, which grow much like the fronds of ferns, will close up at night, and may close during heavy rain.  They don’t give much fall color, but do help to build the soil as they decay.


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This is another plant which will look after itself.  Other than watering a new tree during drought, little else is needed from the gardener.  Pruning lower branches may become necessary depending on where the tree grows.

Some may look at this tree as “weedy,” especially when it self-sows in areas where it isn’t needed.

I happen to love the beauty of its pink flowers each summer, and still find its appearance in June one of the joys of early summer.


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Only the present moment contains life.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

May 1 2014 iris 011

The climatic changes we experience during spring are sometimes soft, gentle and sunny.  Other times, not.

The last week of April brought violent storms with tornadoes, torrential rain, hail and lightening to much of our region.

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For many in our country, “spring” came with destructive force this year, washing out roads and leveling neighborhoods.

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We experienced flooding rain and wind, but were so fortunate that truly violent storms stayed mostly to our south.   April went out like a hungry lion this year.

May 1 2014 iris 001

May first dawned muggy, with tropical air masses blowing up from the Gulf.  Storm clouds and hot sun alternated all day.

Dogwood petals lay scattered across the still soggy garden like souvenirs of the previous day’s storms .

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Soft warm  Earth yielded willingly to my spade, accepting the roots of transplants tucked into worm filled pockets.

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They will get a good start under cloudy skies, with more gentle rain coming in the days ahead to water them in and speed their growth.

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Spring, always unpredictable, feels more untrustworthy this year.  Perhaps it was the lingering winter which delayed everything for weeks.

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Perhaps it was the harshly hot sun which so quickly blasted the apple and cherry blossoms; bringing us from wintery overnight temperatures into early summer by the afternoons, before temperatures quickly fell back into the 40s overnight.

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This spring has a wildness to it.  An unpredictable edge which bears watching.

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Even so, beauty continues to cautiously unfold all around us.

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Spring can  never be ignored. 

The elements all in play, doing what they will, there is life to be celebrated and enjoyed.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

April 28, 2014 azaleas 001

 Weekly Photo Challenge:  Spring


April 19, 2014 wisteria 051

This pair of Osprey Eagles was trying to build a nest for themselves in a tree along the Colonial Parkway when we spotted them on Saturday afternoon.

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My partner spotted the birds sitting in the tree, and pulled into a parking area across the road.  Their tree sits less than 20 feet from the roadway, in an  open area.

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When we stopped, one flew off, leaving his mate perched on a small branch.  He soon returned with a branch to lay the foundation for their nest.  As we continued to watch, he came and went several times without finding a good position in which to leave his branch.  Eventually both flew off together.

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We hope they found a better tree for nest building.  One with perhaps a little more privacy, a little further from the main road, for raising their family this summer.


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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A Japanese Painted Fern emerging under a Hydrangea in our spring garden.

One of our special joys this past week, our unfolding ferns, continue to pop up in surprising places.

Although some varieties, like Autumn Brilliance, are hardy and provide color and mass throughout the winter; others, like these little Japanese Painted Ferns, are deciduous.

Autumn Brilliance ferns stay green throughout our winters.  New spring foliage is copper colored for the first few weeks.  These clumps grow larger and more beautiful each year.

Autumn Brilliance ferns stay green throughout our winters. New spring foliage is copper colored for the first few weeks. These clumps grow larger and more beautiful each year.

Deciduous ferns disappear entirely after a hard freeze, and you almost forget about them.

April 15 2014 ferns 006

Then, after a stretch of warm days in the spring, they just suddenly appear again.  It seems like they just pop up overnight.

Christmas ferns planted in a bed of Vinca

Christmas ferns planted in a bed of Vinca

Once they begin growing, ferns unfurl their fronds very quickly.

Japanese painted fern just emerging in a pot with Heuchera and ivy.

Japanese Painted Fern just emerging in a pot with Heuchera and ivy.

Ferns are one of my favorite perennial plants.  Not only are they beautiful throughout the season, but they are never bothered by deer.  They require no maintenance.

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Many varieties of Autumn, Christmas, and Lady ferns even grow in partial sun, provided they have adequate moisture.  These plants naturalize beautifully, most spreading by underground stems which wander hither and yon beyond the original plant.

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Adding ferns to a planting creates an instant feeling of peace and relaxation.  Their softness “takes the edge off” their surroundings, and helps other plants in the group weave together more harmoniously.

Our "fern garden" is on a very shady slope.  Little else grows here successfully, partly because deer who slip into the yard are drawn here to graze.

Our “fern garden” is on a very shady slope. Little else grows here successfully, partly because deer who slip into the yard are drawn here to graze.

I often use  ferns in container plantings.  Lady Ferns grow  especially well indoors, even in the winter.

Several need potting up or dividing this week as they’ve grown so much over the winter.

Ghost fern emerging at the base of a potted Hydrangea

Ghost fern emerging at the base of a potted Hydrangea

I like Japanese painted ferns, or Ghost ferns, around the trunks of small shrubs.

I often add them to a Four Season planting featuring a shrub or small tree.  Even though the Japanese Fern disappears over the winter, they add such interest in spring as the shrub also begins to grow again.

Autumn Brilliance and a wild grape vine.

Autumn Brilliance and a wild grape vine.

Several shady areas of our garden are given over almost entirely to ferns.  Their movement in the breeze adds texture and interest to areas where not much else will grow.

Because deer tend to find their way in, despite our best efforts, the Heuchera and Solomon’s Seal I’ve planted here in past years was frequently munched, and never looked  good.

Anolther view of our fern garden.

Another view of our fern garden.

About all we’ve had success with in these wild areas are ferns, Hellebores, moss, and spring bulbs.

Last spring I planted a beautiful fern in a hanging basket with some annuals, and hung it on our deck in partial shade.  I forgot to note the variety, and so didn’t know whether or not it was a hardy fern.  It grew large and lush over the summer, but there was no space to over-winter it inside.

It was a loser in the lottery of which plants would winter in the house or garage.  We moved it up close to the wall of the house, in a sheltered spot, and hoped for the best.  Sadly, by January it was entirely brown.

Do you see the fiddleheads emerging from the clump?  The fern survived winter in its basket on the deck!

Do you see the fiddleheads emerging from the clump?   The fern survived winter in its basket on the deck!

Earlier this week I was turning it out of its basket in order to re-use the basket  with a fresh planting for the season ahead.

Just as the root ball was headed to the compost… I saw fiddleheads!  The fern survived the winter!  I happily repotted it into a larger basket with fresh soil, gave it a drink of Neptune’s Harvest, and set it back into its protected spot.

As soon as the fiddleheads uncurl, and our weather settles out, I’ll happily hang it up for another season on the deck.

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Ferns are an affordable luxury.  Most retail for under $10.00, even in a gallon sized pot.  I purchase them in pots 4″ or smaller.

Homestead Garden Center offered many varieties of fern in little 2.5″ pots for $2.50 last year, and I keep pestering the Patton family to please offer them again in the small size this year.

This Japanese Painted Fern was planted from a 2.5" pot in 2011.  It is growing below a yound Camellia shrub in partial sun.

This Japanese Painted Fern was planted from a 2.5″ pot in 2011. It is growing below a young Camellia shrub in partial sun.

When you are careful to purchase hardy ferns, even deciduous ones, it is a great long term investment in the garden.

Ferns work well against a foundation,  along walls and hedges, as a backdrop for a border, under established trees, and in naturalized areas.

The key to success is in knowing how much light a given cultivar can take and in keeping the soil moist during times of drought.

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With so many species and cultivars, there is a color, form, and size for most every taste.

Our Oakleaf Hydrangea and Japapnese Painted Fern survived winter here in a shrub border.  Mayapples and Vinca surround them.

Our Oakleaf Hydrangea and Japanese Painted Fern survived winter here in a shrub border. Mayapples and Vinca surround them.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014



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A beautiful “Caramel”  Heuchera begins it s fourth season in this large pot, this spring.

Last summer it was covered with blooms.  It filled the pot and spilled over the sides.

MId-June, and the Heucheara was huge and healthy.  See it behind the other pots.

MId-June, and the Heuchera was huge and healthy.   See it behind the other pots.

Until the night of the deer.  One morning  in October we came out to discover a rangy mass of stems, with most of the leaves eaten in the night.

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October, the morning after the deer feasted on our Heuchera

We planted Violas around the root mass, and tidied it up as much as we could.

We fertilize pots with Osmocote for long term feeding, and always sprinkle some on the soil after adding new plants, like these Violas.  We also water every few weeks with a solution of Neptune’s Harvest from early spring through the season, and into the autumn.

Late December

Late December

A few more leaves were nipped along the way, until I finally planted a few garlic cloves around the plant, between the Violas.

So far the garlic has offered some protection.

March 2, 2014

March 2, 2014

Now, in early April, I’m thrilled to see new leaves beginning to fill out.

Some of the gifts of spring are fresh opportunities for growth, renewal, and hope for the coming season.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Deer.... in our neighbors' garden.

Deer…. in our neighbors’ garden.

WPC: Threshold

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On the threshold of a new season in the garden, we still stand poised at the beginning.  Although the earliest snowdrops and daffodils have shriveled and gone to seed, it is still to early to plant the tomatoes and basil we have dreamed of all through the long winter.

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Like music, the artistry of a garden must be appreciated little by little in the fourth dimension of time.  We can not rush, we can not have it all at once.

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We must nibble at the deliciousness of the season a little at a time, allowing the beauty of each day to be savored.

Had I rushed last night, we would have missed the tree frog, newly awake, resting in the grass near a clump of daffodils.  My partner spotted him, and we took the time to welcome him back to the garden for another season.

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Beginnings and thresholds; both combine anticipation with a bit of anxiety.  Will the weather cooperate?  Will the harvest be a good one?  Will we manage to keep the deer away from the roses?

It all extends before us now, in moment after moment of beautify and fruitfulness.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold


Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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