WPC: Twisted Wisteria

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If you have ever wondered whether plants are aware and know what they are doing, just study a Wisteria vine for a while.  Plants are wiser than you may want to believe.

This formidable vine grows across an arbor at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in Freedom Park.  Believe it or not, this vine hasn’t been growing here more than a dozen years.  It already looks quite venerable and sage, doesn’t it?

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It has enthusiastically taken over the arbor, like a toddler with a new play set!

Never mind the climbing Hydrangea petiolaris desperately trying to grow up the opposite side, or the always feisty Virginia creeper that has snuck its way through the dense network of twining branches.

These three neighbors fight it out, now, for the best real estate on the arbor to catch the summer rays.

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This is our native North American Wisteria frutescens, which grows from Virginia west to Texas, and south into Florida.  A deciduous woody vine, W. frutescens will grow to only about 15 meters long, which is only two thirds of the mature height of Asian Wisterias.

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Wisteria grows best is moist soil with full, or at least partial sun.  It normally uses a strong  nearby tree for support, but also grows on fences, trellises, or pergolas.  It makes a lovely ‘ceiling’ for a pergola over a  porch or deck.

Our native Wisteria may also be trained into a standard tree form, but requires a lot of tending along the way and regular trims to keep it in bounds.

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A member of the pea family, Wisteria captures nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil along its roots, helping to ‘fertilize’ other plants growing nearby.  But please don’t taste its pea-like pods!  Wisteria is a poisonous plant if eaten, which helps protect it from hungry rabbits and deer.

Wisteria also absorbs carbon from the air, cleaning and purifying the air around it while fixing excess carbon in its woody stems and roots.

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Our native Wisteria’s flowers are smaller than its Asian cousins’, too; and so it is often favored by gardeners who want a more contained Wisteria for a small garden.

Our native Wisteria is also a larval host for several types of butterflies and moths, including skippers.

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This particular vine has embraced its arbor in a crushing grip.  It is as though the vine itself has become a living, twisted, arbor that will stand the test of time even if the man-made frame eventually comes apart.

Let this be a caution to you if you ever choose to plant one near your home.  I did that once, and realized that wood and nails and staples are no match for this prodigious vine, no matter how sturdy the construction may appear!

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Wisteria twists clockwise around its support, weaving itself into a living sculpture.

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While other vines may have tendrils that twine or sticky pads that stick to surfaces like masonry, Wisteria is the twisting, twirling boa constrictor vine of the plant kingdom.

It gives shade to us weary gardeners, and it generously shelters birds and bugs, lizards and toads.  It is teeming with life, reaching wildly with its newest branches in search of something to support its restless sprawl.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Twisted
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WPC: Living Lines

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Much of our garden’s personality can be defined by the lines.  There are the lines we create and the lines we allow.

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Do we cultivate the formality of lines straight and orderly, or do we invite ever changing curves and organic softness?

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Our plants grow in lines.  Our beds are bordered by lines… or not.  We organize our garden spaces within the confines of a line.

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Lines give us structure.  Woody trunks and branches frame and fixate; divide, fill, support and explode with soft flowers and leaves.

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We recognize our garden’s denizens by the outline of their leaf; the pattern of the life giving veins networking through them.

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At times, the lines of vines overtake and blur the others.  They extend of their own accord, to their own rhythm, geometry and design.

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There is a primal intelligence in these living, breathing, ever exuberant lines as they stretch towards the light, defying gravity and the gardener’s imagination.

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As the season progresses, all of the lines evolve and change.  New lines criss-cross the old.  Lines swell into curves, then shrivel into zig-zagged shrunken shells of  themselves before falling away.

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Our gardens’ lines inspire us even as they define us, ever unfolding, ever new.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For The Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Lines

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Blossom XXXVIII: Akebia quinata

Akebia quinata

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Chocolate vine, Akebia, grows joyfully in a corner of our garden.  It springs back to life early in the season, when many of our other woodies are still resting.  First, the delicate spring green leaves emerge, clothing the long and twisting stem with fresh growth.  Compound leaves emerge in groups of five leaflets, which is how it earned its species name, ‘quintata‘.  And then its beautiful rosy flower buds appear, opening over a long season of several weeks.

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I mail-ordered this ‘chocolate vine’ several years ago to clothe a new arbor we were installing.  I’d never grown it before, and never admired it growing in another’s garden.  But I’m always interested in trying new things; especially unusual fruits.    This vine is supposed to produce an edible pod that tastes like chocolate.

And I only ordered one, not the two necessary for pollination, to first determine whether it would grow well for us.  Does it like our climate?  Will the deer eat it?

Yes, and no.  And from that first bare root twig, it has taken off and begun to take over this corner of the yard!  Yes, I could prune it into better manners.  But I rather like its wild sprawl through the neighboring trees.

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But as much as the vine extends itself, it doesn’t appear to pollinate itself.  We’ve not yet found any edible pods to taste.  I could plant another vine to see if I can make them produce fruit, but that would be unwise. 

Akebia grows so robustly that it can smother out other nearby plants.  It is considered invasive in the mid-Atlantic region and has made the list of regulated invasive species in Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia.

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We enjoy this vine for its flowers.  It is simply stunning in bloom, filling its real estate with bright flowers.  There are plenty of little dangling stems to cut to add to flower arrangements.

I’ve never noticed this vine growing in the wild in Virginia, and have not heard of it being a problem in native habitats in our area.  It is something of a novelty to us.

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In its native Asia, where both the pulp and the husk of the fruit are enjoyed in cooking, the vines are cut and woven into baskets.  The vines wrap themselves in neat spirals around their supports, laying themselves in parallel layers like a living sculpture.  Akebia was first imported to the United States as an ornamental vine around 1845.

Akebia is a beautiful plant, and you can find it from several good mail order nurseries in the United States and the UK. You will even find named cultivars.   It tolerates shade, is drought tolerant, and grows in a variety of soils.  This deciduous, woody vine is hardy in Zones 4-10.  The color of its flowers blends well with other springtime flowers in our garden.

Ironically, the more resilient and adaptable a plant, the more likely it will eventually make it on to a list of ‘invasive’ plants.   Although this spreads and roots at the nodes, I feel confident that the birds won’t spread it elsewhere, since our vine isn’t producing fruits and seeds.

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I would plant Akebia again, given the opportunity.  It is a useful  vine to cover a trellis, pergola, fence or wall.  But use it with caution, and do keep the secateurs handy.

I’ll need to give ours a trim this spring, when the flowers have faded, to keep it in bounds.  That said, some of those trimmings will be rooted and shared with gardening friends.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Blossom XXXVII: Daffodils, Variations On A Theme

Blossom XXXVI: Crocus

Blossom XXXV: In The Forest

Sunday Dinner: Expansion

Redbud, Cercis canadensis

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“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every
small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birds’ wings.”
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Rumi

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“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
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Antonio Porchia

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Clematis

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“Sometimes we know in our bones
what we really need to do, but we’re afraid to do it.
Taking a chance and stepping beyond
the safety of the world we’ve always known
is the only way to grow,
and without risk there is no reward.”
.
Wil Wheaton

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“Life can take so many twists and turns.
You can’t ever count yourself out.
Even if you’re really afraid at some point,
you can’t think that there’s no room for you to grow
and do something good with your life.”
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Portia de Rossi

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“If we don’t change, we don’t grow.
If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
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Anatole France

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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“This life therefore is not righteousness,
but growth in righteousness,
not health, but healing,
not being but becoming,
not rest, but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it,
the process is not yet finished, but it is going on,
this is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory,
but all is being purified.”
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Martin Luther
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“Physicists have yet to find anything
capable of exceeding our known speed of light.
The Tao cannot be named,
and so I say there is one thing
that out-paces all things: we call it “thought.”
I can fill a room a with light
before I’m anywhere near the switch.”

.
Laurie Perez
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Lilac, Syringa vulgaris

 

Fabulous Friday: Ivy Shining in the Waning Sun

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Evergreen treasurers, often overlooked during the warmer months, grow in importance as summer’s foliage blows away on autumn breezes.

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We notice that nearby forests are filled with a small army of shining holly trees, covered in bright red berries.  Clumps of mistletoe hover in the bare branches of nearby trees.

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And, we are grateful for the beautiful green and cream leaves of our stalwart ivies growing in pots and garden beds.

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A grapevine fills this pot all summer, but ivy anchors it on our deck during the winter months.   Newly planted Violas will bloom sometime in the next few weeks.

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There are many varieties of ivy available.  Find leaves large and small, wide or very narrow, green, yellow,  cream and variegated.

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The smallest leafed ivy I’ve ever found, this lovely little cultivar was sold for terrariums and fairy gardens. It is growing indoors this winter with a little Begonia.

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Now, native plant purists positively scowl at any kind word uttered about ivy.  It is not native by any stretch of the imagination, though it has naturalized throughout much of the United States.  Worse, ivy can escape cultivation and grow invasive.  This is a problem when ivy completely enshrouds a tree.

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Ivy covers these trees in a county park near Jamestown, VA.

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This vigorous vine can shade out the tree, eventually killing it, and break it apart with the strength and weight of its growth.

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Ivy was already growing on this mature beech tree when we came to the garden. The vine grows root-like anchors, but doesn’t suck sap from the tree. Ivy keeps its roots firmly in the ground and makes its own food from photosynthesis. These aerial roots may absorb dew and rainwater, but they don’t take anything from the tree.

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The ivy you or I plant this fall likely wouldn’t kill a tree in our own lifetimes.  This takes decades.  However, our ivy may escape into the wild when we are no longer tending it for whatever reason, or, the ivy may eventually form berries, and those ivy seeds may germinate elsewhere.

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Ivy makes a popular low maintenance ground cover. Keep it trimmed back, and away from your tree trunks.

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You can puzzle out the relative morality of ivy on your own terms and in your own garden.  But I will tell you that I admire it for its tenacity and toughness.

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Ivy offers some benefits for wildlife.  It shelters many sorts of insects, and so helps attract birds to the garden.  It can produce berries, once the vine is mature.

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English Ivy, Hedera helix, serves as a dense, evergreen ground cover in many Colonial Williamsburg gardens. It requires little maintenance beyond periodic trimming.

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It tolerates dry soil, sun, shade, heat and cold.  It can be cut back hard and still re-grow into a lush plant in a season.

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Newly planted Hellebore and ivy will soon fill this pot with evergreen beauty. The Hellebore will begin blooming early in the new year.

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It will fill a hanging basket beautifully, and remain lovely all winter long through the worst weather we might face here in Zone 7.

Ivy is very useful as the ‘spiller’ in potted arrangements.  I especially enjoy using it in pots where the main plants are perennials, and the pot won’t be re-worked year to year.  After several years, the ivy can take the pot without worthy competition, however.

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New Year’s Day 2017, and this basket of ivy looks fabulous.

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Let it trail, or train it on a trellis or other wire form.  Ivy can be groomed into many interesting shapes, grown on wire mesh orbs as a ‘kissing ball,’ or even grown on a  privacy screen or a fence.

If you place a rooted cutting in a vial of water or plant its roots into damp moss and a little peat, you can even grow it on a living wreath enjoyed on a shaded porch.  Just keep the wreath hydrated and out of direct sun.

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Violas and ivy make a beautiful winter hanging basket in our climate.

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Just remember the Ivy rule:  The first year it sleeps, the second it creeps, and the third, it leaps!  This is a lovely vine that takes some time to work its magic.

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In the best of possible worlds, deer generally leave ivy alone.  But we don’t live in that world, and find our ivy grazed from time to time.  Generally, it isn’t even noticeable. 

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But deer did seriously dine on a beautiful new ivy in a pot this fall.  Like with most new plants, spray it or otherwise protect it if deer frequent your garden.

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We are admiring our ivy on this Fabulous Friday.  If your green thumb is itching to grow something easy and rewarding during the cool months ahead, you might search out a beautiful ivy for your winter pots or baskets.

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Now that our stump is losing its bark, I’ve planted ivy in the pot.   Beautiful ivy will soon cover it all in a curtain of green.

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious…

Let’s infect one another!

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Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Fabulous Friday: Lushness

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It is simply fabulous to notice winter’s bare vines and stems suddenly cloaked in soft new leaves.  Emerging leaves look soft and moist; their colors nearly translucent.

These grapevines cover the rails of our porch, and a Clematis grows entwined with them.   Soft and pliable now, these new green vines will harden by summer’s end.

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Even as much of the country still measures their snow in feet, spring melts into summer here in coastal Virginia.  It is fabulously lush and lovely here on this last Friday of April. 

If spring has not yet found your garden, I trust its lush beauty will soon touch you, too.

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Peony with emerging Monarda and rose leaves

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017
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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

 

Fabulous Friday: Wisteria

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We pulled into the parking area below VIMS at the Gloucester Point Beach the other evening, just as the sun was setting.  We wanted to see whether that beautiful Heron might still be around, and so I hopped out with my camera to explore the nearby wetland.

I was delighted to discover a huge Wisteria vine in full bloom along the opposite bank.

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The air was fresh and salty.  We could smell the river and hear the bridge singing as vehicles drove across above us.

Otherwise, it was peaceful and silent in this beautiful place, near the beach.

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The bridge which brings us from Yorktown to Gloucester Point

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When we visited last time, leaves were just beginning to emerge.  Thin green blades were emerging among the reeds.  We never even noticed the Wisteria vines in the tangle of vegetation.  What a difference a week makes in April!  Quite suddenly, the cove was ablaze in beautiful flowers.

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We have been enjoying the Wisteria this week.  Wisteria grows wild here.  You’ll find it weaving its way through the trees in neighborhoods, along roadsides, and here beside the York River.   It just grows bigger and better each year, covering vast areas with its tenacious stems and lush green leaves.  The flowers last for a few weeks, and then they are gone until the following year.

Wisteria in bloom is one of the most fabulous sights of spring, and worth sharing with you this Friday.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to photograph each Friday.   If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Sunday Dinner: Foresight

Akebia quinata, Chocolate vine

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“You are here to make a difference,

to either improve the world or worsen it.

And whether or not you consciously choose to,

you will accomplish one or the other.”

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Richelle E. Goodrich

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“No effect occurs without cause,

and no cause occurs without effect.

No unjust action goes without penalty,

and no action or thought flows unnoticed

throughout the universe.”

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Suzy Kassem

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“We cannot live for ourselves alone.

Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads,

and along these sympathetic fibers,

our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”

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Henry Melvill

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“No matter what your spiritual condition is,

no matter where you find yourself in the universe,

your choice is always the same:

to expand your awareness or contract it.”

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Thaddeus Golas

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“…everything has a past. Everything –

a person, an object, a word, everything.

If you don’t know the past,

you can’t understand the present

and plan properly for the future.”

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Chaim Potok

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Woody Vines

November 11, 2015 Parkway 036

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Strong, woody vines take hold easily and grow quickly, clambering up trees in the wild.  Without a vigilant gardener recognizing and removing these vines, they grow enthusiastically; reaching for the greater light high up in a tree’s canopy.

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July 27, 2015 Parkway 014

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Tiny airborne seeds, blown on the wind or left by birds, soon sprout and begin the climb.  The Virginia woods are interwoven with these familiar vines:  Trumpet Vine, Poison Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Honeysuckle, native grapes, Wisteria, Clematis, Kudzu and Ivy.

While some are native, others were imported from other parts of the planet as ornamentals…. and escaped.

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November 6, 2015 Parkway 071

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These vines need the support of shrubs and trees to grow.  Once they scamper up the trunk, they begin weaving through the branches.  Some  form aerial roots to support themselves, and perhaps draw moisture from a tree’s bark.  They aren’t true parasites because all have green leaves for synthesizing their nutrition from sunlight.

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November 11, 2015 Parkway 048

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But they can weight a tree down; create shade and sap its strength.

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November 11, 2015 Parkway 043

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Some vines, like this poison ivy, eventually grow massive trunks of their own.  These huge old vines hang from the branches in heavily wooded areas looking like great ropes for swinging.

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March 6, 2015 birds 019

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Most of these vines prove useful in some way.  Native grapes can be gathered.  Most are tasty if they last long enough on the vines to ripen.  But I’ve also harvested grapevines over many autumns to craft wreathes and for holiday decorations.  These vines grow quickly, and respond well to pruning.

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October 3, 2015 wet day 021

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Others, like Honeysuckle, Clematis, Wisteria and Trumpet vine offer up nectar in summer and provide seeds in winter.  Even Poison Ivy makes berries enjoyed by birds in the winter months.

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November 6, 2015 Parkway 080

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Most of these vines crop up in our garden.  Even those which aren’t native have naturalized.  Once invited or allowed, they become fixtures.

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November 6, 2015 Parkway 081

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So it is good to recognize them when young, and understand their potential if left to grow.  Poison Ivy is easy:  eradicate it on sight.

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"Leaves of three, let it be". Poison Ivy growing in the edge of my garden.

“Leaves of three, let it be”. Poison Ivy growing in the edge of our garden.

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But I’m more tolerant of Virginia Creeper, which turns brilliant scarlet in autumn.

I let it grow in a few locations, but remove it where it could choke out younger shrubs and perennials.   But  ‘pruning back’ doesn’t eliminate vines like these.  Their extensive roots are tenacious, too, and simply send up new shoots.  To remove one of these vines, one must get the roots, as well.

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October 28, 2014 fall color 081

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Honeysuckle vines tend to twine around trunks and branches, entangling themselves in the thickest part of a shrub.  I remove these in most parts of the garden, tolerating them only along one tall hedge for their sweet perfume in early summer.

A friend has offered me some Sweet Autumn Clematis from her garden, and I’m considering accepting the offer.

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Sweet Autumn Clematis

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I planted some in my last garden to soften a tall wooden fence.  It is appreciated by pollinators, and looks pretty when in bloom.  Sited carefully, it is a wonderful addition to the Autumn garden.  Because it self seeds, you have to remain vigilant or find your garden eventually sporting new vines everywhere.

Our long, moist, warm growing season favors abundant growth from vines.  They are just a part of our landscape. 

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October 3, 2015 wet day 001~

Now that many leaves have fallen, Ivy covered trees along the side of the road shine in the sunlight.  They add interest, along with the native Holly trees in the understory and the Cedars and Pines along the edges of the woods.

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Along the path from the parking area to the boat ramp and docks.

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And the woody trunks of mature vines climb and twist through the stark silhouettes of our newly bare trees.  We see them now in all of their architectural splendor.

Majestic in their own right, they sometimes add to the beauty of our trees.

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November 12, 2014 golden day 106~

They remain an important part of the forest community as well, helping feed small mammals and birds through the winter months ahead.

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November 11, 2015 Parkway 035

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Woodland Gnome 2015

More detailed information on these vines can be had here.

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April 19, 2014 wisteria 082

 

 

 

NaBloPoMo_1115_298x255_badges

Wordless Wednesday

 

Honeysuckle vines, growing wild on Jamestown Island.

Honeysuckle vines, growing wild on Jamestown Island.

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“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!

I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”

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Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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May 19, 2015 hot 025

 

 

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