High Water and Hurricane Lilies

September 3, 2016 014


The storm, Hermine, still spins off the coast making her way, slowly and majestically, towards the northeast.  Now off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and back over open water, she gathers strength even as she loses speed.

Her winds are up, her pressure down, and she generously keeps sending rain showers our way.


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The folks on-air at the Weather Channel obviously aren’t allowed to use the ‘H’ word anymore.  They call her a ‘Post-Tropical Cyclone.’  But we know the truth.  Her winds are back up to a sustained 70 mph and her pressure is down to 29.38 inches.  That sounds like a hurricane to me.


The James River is well out of its banks here near Jamestown.

The James River is well out of its banks here near Jamestown.


I’m thinking of loved ones on the ‘Eastern Shore’ of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.  They pretty much sit on a little peninsula out in the Atlantic Ocean, well out of site of the mainland.

It must feel very lonely out there when a hurricane is knocking at the door.  And this one brought an overnight bag; it may spin off their coast between now and Wednesday or Thursday!


College Creek

College Creek


We’re far enough inland to have benefited from the rain but not had problems caused by the winds.  Our streets, wet and covered with pine tags and fallen leaves, are blessedly clear.  The few branches we’ve cleared were all small enough to pick up and toss with one hand.


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But the creeks and rivers have spilled out of their banks.  All the marshes and ditches filled and overflowing from the storm surge, reflect our low grey sky.  Flocks of birds gather and fly in great arcs above the wetlands.

They feel the change in the air, as do we, and have gathered to prepare for their autumn journeys.


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Our rain came last night, soon after dusk.  Quiet and gentle at first, we had to listen carefully to know it had begun.  It rained all night, giving life back to our desiccated  garden; and we awoke to a newly greened and wonderfully  wet world.

Plants which I thought were dried and finished plumped up and revived themselves overnight.


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This slow, gentle rain has soaked in instead of running off.  The soil is soaking it in, channeling it down, down, to the reservoirs below.

There is nothing like a prolonged drought to remind us that water is the life’s blood of every living thing.  It is that magical, precious substance which animates and sustains us all.


Alocasia 'Sarian' grows happily here in a pot filled with Coleus.

Alocasia ‘Sarian’ grows happily here in a pot filled with Coleus.


The ‘Hurricane Lily,’ or ‘Spider Flower’ got its name when gardeners recognized that its bloom comes on only after a heavy late summer rain.  A long dry hot spell, followed by a heavy rain, such as a tropical storm might bring, triggers growth in this unusual bulb.


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Its flowers come first in late August or September.  Carried on tall bare stems, this flower is another of the lilies commonly knows as ‘Naked Ladies.’  Long, thin Liriope like leaves will emerge in several weeks, growing through autumn and into the winter.


Even a damp and bedraggled Ginger Lily still smells sweetly.

Even a damp and bedraggled Ginger Lily still smells sweetly.


My intense watering, these last few weeks, of the roses and Ginger Lilies growing near our bulbs triggered their early blooming.

They didn’t wait for the hurricane to pass before they bloomed.


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Now, if you want to order a few bulbs for yourself, please search for ‘Lycoris radiata,’ not ‘Naked Ladies,’ as a friend told me he recently did.  There are several lilies from bulbs which bloom either before or after their leaves appear, and so have earned this descriptive moniker.  My friend suggested that his returns on the search were more interesting than he expected.  And I promised to email a link to him for ordering some bulbs….


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We’ve now enjoyed 20 hours of nearly steady rain, with more to come.  The air smells fresh and the breeze is cool.

We are quite satisfied with Hermine’s brief visit.  And we wish her well and hope she moves on out to sea, sparing our neighbors to the north any ill effects from her passing.


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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Mirror


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Woodland Gnome 2016




An Ice Spike

December 26 2013 Christmas 010

Do you believe in synchronicity?

Have you ever noticed the universe communicating with you through interesting events and coincidences? 

I do.  In fact, I believe that the more we notice the coincidences and synchronicities (related things happening at about the same time, seemingly independently of one another) in our lives, the more likely they are to occur.  I take it as a little affirmation that we are “in sync” with the universe; that the lines of communication are open.December 26 2013 Christmas 015

I first noticed something odd about our cat’s water bowl, out on the deck,  when I made that first morning trip to the kitchen on Boxing Day, still a little blurry eyed.  “How did a straw get into Ollie’s bowl?” I wondered.  What fell in there and froze overnight?  Having never before heard of an ice spike, icicles which grow up instead of down, counter to gravity; it didn’t even enter my mind that I was witnessing such a strange phenomenon.  And so I paid it no mind, other than to make a mental note to investigate and remove whatever was in the cat’s bowl of water later in the day when it had thawed a bit.

December 26 2013 Christmas 011Until, that is, we happened to watch The Weather Channel that morning during breakfast.  The Weather Channel ran a little clip about the strange, unpredictable occurrence of  “ice spikes.”  They ran a little video showing ice growing up, out of a small container of water, like an upside down icicle.  Very odd!  But, then I began to wonder….  And went outside for a closer look at that bowl with something seemingly frozen into it.

And there was the first “ice spike” I have ever noticed.  Something new under the sun!  What a treat.

Have you ever seen such a thing?  Apparently, it all has to do with the speed at which the water freezes, the volume of the water, and the fact that water expands as it gets colder.  We all know that ice occupies more space than water, and that water expands as it chills and finally freezes.  Perhaps you’ve seen “ice flowers” blooming out of the ground or out of frozen woody stems on frosty mornings.  As the freezing water expands, it extrudes from any small crack or crevice and then freezes out in the open air.December 26 2013 Christmas 012

So, the synchronicity was the ice spike appearing on our own deck overnight and being there to greet us on the very morning we saw the special feature about ice spikes on the Weather Channel.

Some might call that, “Asked and Answered.”  The lesson, to me, was to be open to learning something new.  We should never just take the world for granted, assuming we’ve already learned what there is to know.  There is always something new and different to amaze us, if only we’ll pay attention.   We must, in some important ways, remain “as little children,” full of wonder and curiosity; open to learn what the universe is willing to teach us.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2013

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More information on Ice Spikes

With an Eye On the Weather

C. Sasanqua, "Jingle Bells" unfolding its first blossom this year.

C. Sasanqua, “Jingle Bells” unfolding its first blossom this year.

We checked the weather forecast repeatedly today.

On days like this, we just wish all of the local media weather people would get together on a conference call and work it out among themselves.

Instead, we are hearing a different story on most every channel.  And none of them see it the way the Weather Channel staff is calling it for the next week.

Time to finally bring this cane Begonia in for the winter.

Time to finally bring this angel wing cane Begonia “Sophia” in for the winter.

The day started with a weather report from my partner, and then a dash to the car to see whether the dashboard thermometers agreed with the TV’s “Locals on the 8s.”  They didn’t.

Why such concern?  Most of our potted things were still outside soaking up the sunshine and gentle autumn rain.  Please notice the past tense of that statement.

A late rose

A late rose

We were hearing more than a 10 degree spread on the forecast for low temperatures tonight, depending on who we listened to.  Not an issue for the Camellias, but definitely an issue for the Begonias.  You see, we may have our first dip below 32F tonight, with wind from the northwest.  That is a recipe for disaster for any annual or tender perennial abandoned to the elements over night.

In fact, the weather maps on the 10 day forecast are filled with this huge blue field of cold high pressure air swooping down from Canada.  Not only are we hearing, in minute detail, about the wintery temperatures on the way, we even heard them discuss the “S” word for next week.  REALLY?  We need to think about snow before Thanksgiving in coastal Virginia?

Snaps will bloom happily outside all winter.

Snaps will bloom happily outside all winter, and the lamb’s ears will green up in early spring with lush growth.

So far, we’ve had roller coaster temps and Indian summer.  It was 70F here yesterday.  I’ve let the daytime sunshine balance out the early morning dips into the 40s or even high 30s, providing a little shelter for the tender potted things and hoping they could withstand the cool.

So, with one eye on the monster typhoon crossing the Philippines, headed directly into Vietnam, where a dear friend is on a cruise with her extended family; the other eye was fixed on tonight’s forecast and the projected lows for the next several nights.  And on the threat of snow.

This cane Begonia "Cracklin Rosie" has grown huge outside.  It was quite a challenge to get it inside with minimal damage.

This cane Begonia, “Cracklin Rosie,” has grown huge outside. It was quite a challenge to get it inside with minimal damage.

By noon the decision was made.

Today was the day to bring in any potted plant we’re not willing to see freeze.  I was handed Latex gloves, and I accepted one for the “infected thumb hand.”  Then I was handed gardening gloves.

I could see this was going to be a big deal, but that I would have help.

Ivy geraniums love the cool, but will freeze in the cold.  This one came inside today.

Ivy geraniums love the cool, but will freeze in the cold. This one came inside today.

My allotted space in the garage, between the hot water heater, the washer, and the steps had already been outlined with dots of “Duck Yellow” paint.  I had partially covered the area with a white plastic tablecloth, to better protect the floor this winter, days ago when the first of the Begonias came inside.  Now it was finally time to match the right plastic saucer to the right plant in the right spot.

Oh how I hate bringing the plants in.  Not only do I hate bringing them in out of the sunshine they need; but I hate mucking with the muddy summer saucers, the fallen leaves stuck deep in the branches, and the occasional slug or snail clinging to pot or leaf.

The baskets and pots are heavy and awkward.  Worse, I hate seeing bits broken off as we move them from deck or patio to narrow doorway to their allotted winter spot.

It is a very messy operation.  But I would hate watching them die in the cold so very much more.

The Bougainvillea is still outside tonight.  We'll need to bring it in before it snows.

The Bougainvillea is still outside tonight. We’ll need to bring it in before it snows.

We carefully calculate the timing for each plant.  How much cold can it stand?  What if we shelter it close to the house under the eaves?  How likely is it to warm up again?  How well will it fare inside for five months, and what will it look like by spring?

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Dragon wing Begonias will wither when they freeze. They root easily from cuttings, so one saved plant can yield many for spring.

There isn’t enough room for all of them, but we get very creative to save as many as we can.

Hanging baskets stand in empty five gallon buckets.  Others sit in combinations of plastic trays to both support them and catch the inevitable drips from watering.

Some we keep mainly for late winter cuttings, others we know will soon go dormant and won’t need much light.  The choicest come inside to the living room, the rangy stay in the garage.

It amazes me to see how huge some of the Begonias have grown this summer.  Two of the canes stand taller than either of us, and we aren’t small people.  They look so much bigger now that they are inside.  They fill the allotted space with a dense forest of leaf, bloom, and branch.

A friend recently asked whether I’d considered getting a greenhouse.  The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” but so far that hasn’t been an option.  There is no good place to site it here where falling trees or limbs wouldn’t be a constant worry.

The cane Begonias look so much larger inside.

The cane Begonias look so much larger inside.

So we appreciate our bright garage with windows to let in the winter sunlight.  We appreciate our bright living room with space to line up the pots like obedient elephants in a circus.  We appreciate the windowsills wide enough for little pots of orchids and cyclamen, and the good light we receive on bright days.

Our entire home becomes a greenhouse from November through April.

Oct. 6 pots 002

Cyclamen love the cool autumn, but must come in before a freeze.

Late this afternoon, when most of the moving was finished and I was soaking the thumb before fixing us some lunch, I found a missed call from a cherished friend.

I returned her call and learned she had “a few things” she wanted to drop off for us.  She had some candles, some magazines, a lent plate to return….  We told her to come on by.

Along with the cardboard carton came a shopping bag- holding a gorgeous asparagus fern.  She didn’t have enough light to keep it through the winter, and she knew we’d find a bright spot for it.

It is lovely, and I have an empty pot in mind….

Our asparagus fern in its new pot.

Our asparagus fern in its new pot.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

November 7 2013 031

A week into November, and winter is closing in.

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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