Sunday Dinner: Promise

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“Know who you are,
what your potential is
and press towards it with all
that you have within you”
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Sunday Adelaja

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“There is that gnawing feeling
that we are far more than what we believe ourselves to be.
Maybe it’s time to believe the gnawing.”
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Craig D. Lounsbrough

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“A potential is a hidden greatness.
It is the success to be realized.
It is an accomplishment yet to be uncovered.”
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Israelmore Ayivor

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“The unlike is joined together,
and from differences
results the most beautiful harmony.”

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Heraclitus

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“Dreams become regrets when left in the mind,
never planted in the soil of action.”
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Auliq-Ice

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“To be ordinary is a choice,
for everyone has it in them
to become extraordinary.”
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Lauren Lola

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“This is the miracle of all miracles—
when life sacrifices itself to become something greater.
When it awakens to its potential
and rises in power.
That is true magic.”
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Seth Adam Smith
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Never become impatient with the process,
bored with the pace, frustrated at the meager results,
just keep trying.”
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Auliq-Ice

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“All of those things – rock and men and river – resisted change,
resisted the coming as they did the going.
(Mt.) Hood warmed and rose slowly,
breaking open the plain, and cooled slowly
over the plain it buried.
The nature of things is resistance to change,
while the nature of process is resistance to stasis,
yet things and process are one,
and the line from inorganic to organic and back
is uninterrupted and unbroken.”
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William Least Heat-Moon

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“Everything is an experiment.”
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Tibor Kalman

 

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Sunday Dinner: Ordinary Acts

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“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery,

in the courage that drives one person

to stand up for another.”

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Veronica Roth

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“Endurance precedes success.”

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Wayne Chirisa

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“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy;

I’m saying it’s going to be worth it.

If it was easy, you would’ve done it by now”

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B. Dave Walters

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“I am the bended, but not broken.

I am the power of the thunderstorm.

I am the beauty in the beast.

I am the strength in weakness.

I am the confidence in the midst of doubt.

I am Her!”

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Kierra C.T. Banks

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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“What difference does it make to the dead,

the orphans and the homeless,

whether the mad destruction

is wrought under the name of totalitarianism

or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

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Mahatma Gandhi

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“Who are the learned?

Those who practice what they know”

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Anonymous

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“If  liberty means anything at all,

it means the right to tell people

what they do not want to hear.”

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George Orwell

Golden February

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Have you noticed that certain colors predominate in the landscape each month?  August here is always very green.  January is a study in brownish grey.  April is awash with Azalea pinks and reds.

And February is golden.

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Yes, there are white snowdrops and rosy Hellebores in our garden now.  Purple and blue Violas bloom in pots and baskets.

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Mahonia aquifolium

Mahonia aquifolium, blooming through our winter, provides nectar for early pollinators.  By summer each flower will have grown into a plump purple berry, loved by our birds.  These tough shrubs, native to western North America, have naturalized across much of Virginia.

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But the flowers highlighting our garden now, blooming fiercely against a still wintery brown backdrop; are the first golden Daffodils of spring, showering cascades of yellow Mahonia flowers, the occasional sunshiny Dandelion, and hundreds of thousands of yellow Forsythia buds.

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Forsythia greets each spring with thousands of tiny yellow flowers.

Forsythia greets each spring with thousands of tiny yellow flowers. An Asian native, Forsythia naturalized in North America more than a century ago.  An important source of nectar, these large, suckering shrubs provide shelter for many species of birds and insects.

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Forsythia and Daffodils line many of our public roads, too.  We found a huge stand of blooming yellow Daffodils in the median of Jamestown Road, near the ferry, last week.  Their cheerful promise of spring feels almost defiant as we weather the last few weeks of a Virginia winter.

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Edgeworthia chrysantha, or Chinese Paperbush, fills our front garden with fragrance now that its blossoms have opened. We found happy bees feeding on these flowers on Sunday afternoon.

Edgeworthia chrysantha, or Chinese Paperbush, fills our front garden with fragrance now that its blossoms have opened. We found happy bees feeding on these flowers on Sunday afternoon.

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Touches of gold may also be found in the bright stamens of Hellebores, the warm centers of Edgeworthia flowers, and the bright Crocus which will bloom any day now.

These golden flowers of February prove a perfect foil to bare trees, fallen leaves and late winter storms.

What a lovely way for our garden to awaken to spring.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Sunday Dinner: Resilient

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“Morning will come, it has no choice.”

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Marty Rubin

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“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour  are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.”

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Arnold Bennett

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“But there’s a beginning in an end, you know?

It’s true that you can’t reclaim what you had,

but you can lock it up behind you.

Start fresh.”

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Alexandra Bracken

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“Perhaps that is where our choice lies –

– in determining how we will meet

the inevitable end of things,

and how we will greet each new beginning.”

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  Elana K. Arnold

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“We grow up with such an idealistic view

on how our life should be; love, friendships,

a career or even the place we will live ~

only to age and realize none of it is what you expected

and reality is a little disheartening,

when you’ve reached that realization;

you have learnt the gift of all,

any new beginning can start now

and if you want anything bad enough

you’ll find the courage to pursue it with all you have.

The past doesn’t have to be the future,

stop making it so.”

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Nikki Rowe

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“New Year – a new chapter, new verse,

or just the same old story ?

Ultimately we write it.

The choice is ours.”

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Alex Morritt

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“The more you know yourself,

the less judgemental you become”

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Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Resilient

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Happy New Year!

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016-2017

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Plant Now For Spring Living Flower Arrangements

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Who wants to look at empty pots for the next four months?  I am as interested in planting attractive pots for the winter season as I am interested in replanting those pots for summer.  And each fall, I keep an eye and and ear open for new ideas.

Brent Heath offered a workshop last month at his Bulb Shop in Gloucester that I sorely wanted to attend.  He even offered to bring his workshop across the river if I could pull a group together in our community.  And how I wish my time and energy had stretched far enough to invite him!

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Miniature daffodils grow to only 6"-8" tall and work well in spring pots. Plant the entire bulb and foliage out into a permanent spot in the garden when switching out plantings for summer.

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Brent, a master horticulturalist, teaches the finer points of loading containers with bulbs.  Now even though he and his wife Becky are known internationally for their prodigious offering of Daffodils; they sell hundreds of different bulbs and perennials.  Brent’s workshop teaches how to layer several different species of bulbs into a single pot to create a “Living Flower Arrangement” which changes over time as different bulbs appear, bloom, and fade.

I wanted to attend Brent’s workshop to learn a new trick or two.  I’ve used various bulbs in containers for many years now, but there is always a better way, when one is open to learn from someone more experienced.  But the stars haven’t aligned this season, and so I’ve been experimenting on my own with the bulbs we’ve been collecting.

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Violas with white Dianthus, and Muscari. Miniature Daffodils bloomed later in the season.

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The idea is elegantly simple:  since one plants bulbs at different depths depending on the size of the bulb, and since new growth from most bulbs is very narrow before it reaches the light,  one can plant one ‘layer’ of bulbs on top of another, allowing the emerging stems to sort out the spacing as they grow upwards towards the light.  In fact, three or four ‘layers’ of different types of bulbs may be planted into a single large pot.   This very crowded planting works for a single season, but must be unpacked by early summer.  The bulbs may be transplanted ‘in the green’ into garden beds, to allow the leaves to fully recharge the bulb for the next season of flowers.

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 Containers for sale at the Heath's Bulb Shop last April

Containers on display at the Heath’s Bulb Shop last April

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I modify this idea to include annuals, perennials, woodies and moss so the planting has immediate interest while we wait for the bulbs to emerge in the spring.

Begin with a clean pot.  I use coffee filters or a paper towel over the drainage holes to hold the soil while the roots are growing.  The filters will soon decompose.  Choose a good quality, light, commercial potting soil with nutrition already mixed in.  The annuals and perennials are heavy feeders, and the bulbs will perform better in rich soil.  Many of the ‘organic’ potting soils now come pre-loaded with worm castings!

Now one must  ‘do the math.’  Having chosen 2-5 species of bulbs, depending on the size and depth of the pot, first study the proper planting depth of each.  If you are using Daffodils, for instance, which are planted at a depth of 6″, then fill the pot with soil to within about 7″ of the rim.    Set the first ‘layer’ of Daffodil bulbs on the soil by pushing the root end slightly into the soil so that the tip points upwards.  Space these Daffodils 3″-4″ apart from one another and at least an inch or two inwards from the sides of the pot.  Carefully fill in around these bulbs with more potting soil so they are barely covered, and firm the soil with your palm.

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Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted Redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and Daffodils early last spring.

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Choose your next bulb, adding just enough soil so it is planted at its correct depth, and arrange these bulbs by lightly pushing them into the soil.  Try to avoid setting a new bulb directly over top of a deeper one.  Lightly top with soil to hold this layer in place, and add an additional layer or two of bulbs.  I like to select a few bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, or Galanthus nivalis, which will emerge in late winter.  These will often be the ones planted most shallow.

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Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I've tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I’ve tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

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If your living flower arrangement will contain only bulbs, then simply top off the soil with a layer of living moss, water in, place the pot, and wait.  You can certainly add a few branches, pods, stones or cones to the pot to catch the eye while you wait for spring.

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Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with Creeping Jenny and a hardy Sedum ‘Angelina’ last April.

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But I want a living flower arrangement which goes to work right away.  I always add some annuals or perennials to the mix, which complicates the bulb planting a bit, as you don’t want bulbs directly under the huge root ball of a perennial or shrub.   I tend to place  a shrub or perennial in the pot first, then plant the bulbs around it.  This is a good use for those clearance shrubs with tiny root balls so easy to find in late October or November.  Or, for the many evergreen shrubs showing up now in tiny quart or 1 gallon pots.

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March 20 2014 spring 006

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Many vines and some perennials root easily from cuttings.  Simply tuck bits of Creeping Jenny, hardy Sedum, or divisions of Ivy or Ajuga into the soil of your finished pot.  These will grow in place.  Consider sprinkling seeds for perennials like Columbine, which like to overwinter out of doors.  They will begin to sprout next spring as the bulbs emerge.

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Creeping Jenny last March

Creeping Jenny last March

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You might complete your design with some winter annuals.  You can pot up the deeper layers of bulbs, and then plant a few Violas, Pansies or snaps in the top three inches of the pot.  Layer in your Crocus and Muscari bulbs around them.

~ April 7,2014 spring flowers 002

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I still finish the pot with moss or pebbles.   This topdressing not only looks more attractive than plain dirt; it helps hold moisture, insulates the roots as temperatures dive, and it offers some protection from digging squirrels.  If I were using Tulips in the pot, I would be tempted to lay some chicken wire, with large openings, over that layer of bulbs for further protection from marauding rodents.  Tuck in a few cloves of garlic or onion sets to protect your Violas from grazing deer and rabbits.

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Now, the ultimate ‘multi-tasking’ for this sort of planting:  hardwood cuttings.  Many of our woodies will root over winter if stuck into moist soil and left alone for several months.  If you have some shrubs you would like to propagate, take your cuttings and push them artistically into the finished pot.  If they root, fine.  If they don’t, you have still enjoyed the extra sculptural elements they lend over winter while the bulbs are sleeping.

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I've added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

I’ve added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

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This sort of winter ‘living flower arrangement’ takes a bit of planning.  There are lots of choices to make about timing and color schemes, size and scale, costs and placement.  You have to imagine how the bulbs will look when they emerge, so the tall ones are more to the center and the shorter ones nearer the edges; unless the shorter ones will finish before the tall ones emerge.  And the container must be large enough to contain all of those robust roots without cracking; and of material which will hold up to your winter weather.

~March 6, 2015 garden 002

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This is an excellent way to showcase miniature Daffodils and other delicate, small flowering bulbs.  You might combine several types of daffies to include those which flower early, mid- and late season.  Daffodils with blue Muscari always look great together.

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Ornamental cabbage with Heuchera in a newly planted pot.

Ornamental cabbage with Hellebore in a newly planted pot.

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You might also compose an arrangement of various Iris.  Include some combination of Iris unguicularis, Iris bucharica, Iris histrioides, Iris reticulata, Dutch Iris, and perhaps even a root of German Bearded Iris for a long season of beautiful Iris blooms.

If your winter is especially harsh, plant your container now, water it in, but leave it in an unheated garage or shed until February.  Bring it out into the spring sunshine and enjoy the bulbs when the worst of winter has passed.

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Newly planted Violas with Heuchera

Newly planted Violas with Hellebores.  Bulbs are tucked into the soil, waiting for spring.

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We enjoy the luxury of  Zone 7b, which allows us to grow winter annuals which would die a few states to the north, and also bulbs which wouldn’t survive in the warmer winters to our south.  We also have many winter or early spring  flowering shrubs to plant in our container gardens.

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Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.

Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.  Foliage will fill this pot all winter, with flowers appearing in the spring.

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Here are some of the plants I choose most often for these dynamic pots:

Perennials:  Hellebores, Heucheras, Cyclamen hederifolium, Arum, Iris unguicularis, evergreen ferns, culinary Sage, Rosemary, Ivy, Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny), Sedum rupestre, ‘Angelina’ and other hardy Sedums, Ajuga, Vinca Minor (Periwinkle), hardy Oxalis, Columbine, Dianthus

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Pansies will soon respond to wramer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

Pansies will soon respond to warmer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

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Annuals:  Violas, Panolas, Pansies, Snapdragons, Allysum, ornamental kale or cabbage

Whatever combination of plants you choose, think of these living flower arrangements as narratives which unfold over time.

Time truly is the magical ingredient for baking bread, raising children, and creating beautiful gardens.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

One Word Photo Challenge: Indigo

One Word Photo Challenge:  Indigo

 

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With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

For her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Indigo

Photo by Woodland Gnome 2015

One Word Photo Challenge: Lemon

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One won’t find lemons hanging on the trees in November far north of the Gulf coast.

I’m sure there are plenty of fresh lemons in Florida.  Maybe even parts of Texas and Southern California have luscious lemons nearly ripe for picking.

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But here in Virginia, we’ll be happy with splashes of happy lemon yellow in our fall blooming Violas and Camellias which bring warm, sunshiny color to the garden.

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Every bit of colors cheers the spirit on a cool grey day such as this.

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Even the last of the yellow leaves on the floor of the forest along the creek offer a welcome splash of color.

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November 24, 2014 sunset 007

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With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

for her One Word Photo Challenge:  Lemon

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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December 13 2013 poinsettias 003

Holiday Wreath Challenge

Garlic With Pansies?

Violas with Heuchera, April 2014

Violas with Heuchera, April 2014

 

Every autumn we plant pansies and Violas. 

These colorful little plants brighten our outdoor pots and beds for a good six months.  They are usually still going strong when we need to pull them out to plant spring and summer annuals.

 

Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.  April 2014

 

When the days begin to warm in February and March, the plants expand and come into their glory, covered in bright blossoms.

Paired with bulbs, ferns, Hellebores, evergreen shrubs, and ornamental kale or cabbage; they create a stunning display for the cooler half of our gardening year.

 

Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.   April 2014

 

The only problem we have, is that these pretty flowers also taste good… to any passing deer.

We’ve tried various ways to protect them over the years.  And the method which works best (so far), and  which we are using again this season, involves garlic.

 

A newly planted Panola, with its personal garlic clove nestled in the soil near its roots.

A newly planted Panola, with its personal garlic clove nestled in the soil near its roots.

 

We plant cloves of garlic interspersed with our pansy starts.

Our freshly planted Violas were grazed last fall before I tried the garlic.  A few plants never recovered.  Others bounced back in late winter.

A fresh head of garlic with garlic cloves, already broken a part and ready to plant.

A fresh head of garlic with garlic cloves, already broken apart and ready to plant.  The “flat” end goes down, where roots will grow.  The pointy end sticks up, ready for its leaves to emerge.

 

Only the Violas planted out of reach on our back deck went unscathed.

But last year, after the first grazing, I tried simply tossing some cloves on top of the soil around the plants.  It worked:  No more grazing in the garlic laced pots.

But something else happened, too:  the garlic cloves sprouted!  Roots busily grew out of the business end of each clove, seeking soil and moisture.

 

These little Panola starts we purchased yesterday will go out into pots on our next warm, dry day.

These little Panola starts we purchased yesterday will go out into pots on our next warm, dry day.

 

Plants always amaze me with their determination to live and grow.  When I notice the cloves rooting into the pots, I helped them out with a gentle nudge into the soil.  Each clove grew long green leaves, which we could have snipped to eat.

When I dug the Violas to transplant out into beds at spring potting time, the garlic went with them.

These Violas have been growing in their new pot for a few weeks.  Do you see the garlic leaves growing near them?

These Violas have been growing in their new pot for a few weeks. Do you see the garlic leaves growing near them?

 

So I’m starting off right this year. 

Little cloves are going into the soil around ever Viola, Panola and pansy we plant.  Some have already sprouted leaves.

They look like ornamental bulbs beginning to sprout, and don’t detract from the beauty at all, to us.

 

Viola here with garlic under a Brugmansia.  We also push cuttings of scented Pelargonium into the soil for extra protection.  Some will root.

Viola here with garlic under a Brugmansia. We also push cuttings of scented Pelargonium into the soil for extra protection. Some will root.

 

We look at them as “green insurance” for our Violas, Panolas and pansies to last through the winter, ungrazed.

March 20 2014 spring 006

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

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December 13 2013 poinsettias 003

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

 

One Word Photo Challenge: Periwinkle

Perwinkle flowers bloom on the Vinca minor vine in early spring.

Perwinkle flowers bloom on the Vinca minor vine in early spring.

Say, “Periwinkle” out loud,

and feel the smile slide on to your lips.

Happiness bubbles up through each syllable.

Violas

Violas

Soft pastel tint of  blue,

Cool morning sky color,

German Iris, "Stairway to Heaven"

German Iris, “Stairway to Heaven”

Lavender blue,

Shade of lilacs and seashells.

May 7 2014 garden 012

Named for the tiny spring flower of the Vinca vine,

Periwinkle ,

Appears only in the big Crayola Crayon boxes.

Rosemary in bloom

Rosemary in bloom

Good for coloring spring flowers,

And hair ribbons, little girls’ dresses,

And tea time petit fours frosting.

Perennial Ajuga

Perennial Ajuga

Tastes of lavender,

Smells of honey,

Feels like cool agates found in the surf,

Sounds like the passing of a moth at dusk.

May 3 2014 afternoon garden 059

Clematis “Arabella”

Periwinkle

 

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells  for hosting the Weekly One Word Photo Challenge

 

Salmon

Purple

Blue

Red

Black

Glitter

Turquoise

A Four Season Pot In the Springtime

April 16, 2014 dogwood 001

A Four Season Pot changes seasonally, remaining attractive throughout all four seasons of the year.

It requires a little thinking ahead to pull this together, but is well worth it.  I prefer to begin a Four Season Pot in the autumn, when spring bulbs come on the market.

Bulbs are an important part of this ever changing display.  Ephemeral spring bulbs keep the arrangement fresh and interesting from late winter through early summer as the bulbs develop, bloom, and then begin to fade.  when the foliage is finished and begins to brown, it can finally be removed as the pot settles into summer.

A Four Season Pot can be designed to last for several years with only minor changes.  Begin with a large pot, of at least 18 inches, in a material which may stay outside year round in all sorts of weather.

The primary element of the planting is a shrub or small tree.  This is where the design gets interesting. 

You may choose an evergreen or a deciduous shrub.  You may select for interesting foliage, flowers, or both.  This primary plant stays in the pot as annuals come and go throughout the next several seasons.

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The Four Season pot in autumn, very soon after it was planted. Notice the Heuchera leaves are a different color here than in the spring photos.

When the shrub outgrows the pot you may choose to prune it, pot up to a larger container, or plant the shrub out into the garden and begin again with a new shrub.

Within the potting philosophy of , “thriller, filler, spiller;”  your shrub will usually be the  “thriller” or largest and tallest element.

Although I’ve done this scheme with evergreen shrubs, I prefer to create a Four Season planting design using a deciduous, spring blooming shrub or small tree.

Bringing attention to a lovely shrub, up close to daily traffic, so it can be observed as it transforms itself season to season is far more interesting to me than watching geraniums bloom.

April 16, 2014 flowers 005

New spring Heuchera leaves are touched with copper, as will be the new fronds of the Autumn Brilliance fern when new growth begins.

This little design, constructed last autumn, is built around a tiny hybrid Redbud tree , Cercis canadensis, which Jonathan Patton and Dustin  gave me at the end of the season last year.  Homestead  Garden Center was closing out its deciduous stock and they didn’t want to store this little shrub over the winter.  A tiny little shrub in a small pot,  with its golden fall leaves still clinging to its branches, it was perfect for my needs.

Underplanted with a combination of daffodil and grape hyacinth bulbs,  I filled the pot with a perennial Heuchera and annual Violas.  The Violas have bloomed all winter long, bringing color to the pot long after the Redbud’s leaves blew away.  The Heuchera also kept its color all winter, escaping the deer who found other Heuchera  plants around the winter garden.

April 16, 2014 flowers 003

The only plant in the pot which has not yet filled in is the Autumn Brilliance fern planted from a tiny 2.5″ pot.  It didn’t get established before cold set in, and its few leaves are rather bedraggled from winter yet.   New fronds will unfurl any day now, and will grow perhaps as tall as 18″.

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So the total expenditure on plants for this pot was a little under $15.00. Constructed in late autumn, the pot has been  attractive for a little more than six months already.

The only plant I’ll remove and switch out will be the Viola, when the heat gets too much for it.

April 16, 2014 flowers 002

I could replace it with an Ajuga division from the garden; a small annual like Ageratumn from a six-pack, or even a Caladium tuber or rooted cutting.  For a little or no additional investment, this pot will keep growing and changing throughout the remainder of the season.

My hope was to see the Redbud bloom this year before its leaves emerged.  It seems it is too young to bloom.  Even without blooms, its tiny chartruese heart shaped leaves are still a lovely addition to the pot.  This arrangement can survive at least one more winter in place.  The annual will get switched out for a fresh Viola next November, and this pot will continue growing in partial sun, with only regular watering and light feeding, into 2015 and beyond.

April 16, 2014 dogwood 002

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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