Native Virginia Trees

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Early spring, as the buds swell and glow red or orange or softest green around the crown of every tree on the horizon; directs our attention back towards our majestic, elegant hardwood trees which fill the landscape here in coastal Virginia.  We’ve largely ignored them since autumn, when their bright leaves blew away in November’s storms. 

The many native trees discovered by our early colonists still grow wild here.  They form the backdrop to our everyday lives.  Some of us love them and choose to live in forested communities.  Others fear them.  Perhaps for good reason, after seeing these gentle giants toppled by the storms which blow through our area several times a year. 

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Yet, the great North American trees define our landscape and our lifestyle.  They shade us and offer relief from our summer heat and humidity.  Their flowers announce spring and make early summer sweetly fragrant. 

The ready supply of good strong trees for lumber allowed early settlers to build homes and churches and businesses in the wilderness.  Although it is unusual to find a fully grown, mature hardwood tree anymore, we still can find them in parks and on preserved estates.

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Cypress Trees grow large here along the Colonial Parkway at the mouth of Powhatan Creek.

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I love trees.  And I love to plant trees. I count and visit the Dogwoods, Oaks, Redbuds, Crepe Myrtles and Poplars on our property pretty regularly to monitor their growth.  In fact, I spent an hour today with a shipment of bare root trees we just received from the Arbor Day Foundation.

I get angry when neighbors cut healthy trees, changing the landscape for our entire community.  And I really hate to see stands of trees cut for new development ,  mourning the ever increasing loss of the naturally forested acres left in our area. 

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We often fail to consider how much oxygen each tree produces each year, or how many pollutants each can filter from the air we breathe.  Trees absorb greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide in their respiration, locking that carbon into their woody flesh. 

They help moderate the temperature through all of our seasons, and fertilize the Earth and build new soil with their fallen leaves.  Each tree supports and houses countless animals, feeding and sheltering birds, small insects, butterflies and their larvae, and  small mammals.

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Native Redbud, Cercis canadensis, blooms in April.

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Since trees are on my mind today, I am republishing an essay I wrote in August, 2013, about how prized our American trees became to the Europeans who financed and supported colonization in North America.  I hope you find some useful bit here you didn’t know before.   And I also hope that perhaps this essay invites you to pay a bit more attention to the trees in your landscape and your life.

-Woodland Gnome

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View towards Jamestown Island from the Colonial Parkway.

View towards Jamestown Island from the Colonial Parkway.

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Did you know there was a time, not too long ago, when the most prized plants growing on regal British estates were trees imported from, “The Colonies”?  I had no idea how much 17th and 18th Century British gardeners coveted North American plants- particularly our trees.

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American Sycamore growing along the Colonial Parkway on the bank of the James River.

American Sycamore growing along the Colonial Parkway on the bank of the James River.

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Isn’t it interesting how things are forgotten over the years, and we assume that how things are in our own experience is how things have always been?

I grew up on the East coast of North America, making annual trips to view the colorful forests cloaking the Blue Ridge Mountains each autumn.  I’ve always had brilliant autumn foliage to enjoy in my own yard, and lining the streets of whatever town I happened to visit.

We in Virginia accept these things as part of the normal progression of the seasons.  We savor them, but don’t take notice of what a rare treat we enjoy.

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An oak tree growing beside the James River near Jamestown.

An oak tree growing beside the James River near Jamestown.

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It was the book, Brother Gardeners:  Botany, Empire, and the Birth of an Obsession, by Andrea Wulf, which opened my eyes and my mind to the treasures growing here, as weeds in the woods.

Prior to the 17th century, European, and specifically British gardens, had a limited palette of plants.  The formal geometric schemes of lawn, hedge, topiary evergreen shrubs, roses, and very few summer flowers were the norm.  Green and brown were the main colors found in the garden for most of the year.  Hardscape paths, stairs, fountains, arbors, and structures were the relief from all of this green lawn and green hedge.  Gardeners overcame and reshaped nature when creating a garden.

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Dogwood tree in early November

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The notion of working with nature was born in the colonies, and exported back to England in some measure toward the second half of the 18th century.

As European ships sailed abroad to explore and claim the world, they took as treasure not only gold and silver, but also botanical treasures from all of the lands explored.

Very little of the plant material collected actually made it back alive to a gardener in Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, or the Netherlands.  When a voyage lasts many months, things happen.  Things like hungry mice and storms; gnawing insects, pirates, salt spray; and unmitigated heat and cold on the deck of a sailing ship.

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But whatever seeds, bulbs, cuttings, roots, and even live plants did miraculously make it home and into the hands of a skilled gardener, were loving tended and coaxed into growing in specially built hot houses and garden plots.

Plants were grown out for seed, sold, traded, and propagated in great botanical gardens across Europe.  Botanists befriended ships’ captains and crews in hopes of bribing them to bring home new specimens.  And, as colonies were established, relationships sprang up between the colonists and avid collectors “back home” in Europe.

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Red Cedar growing in Colonial Williamsburg.

Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana growing in Colonial Williamsburg.

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The fledgling scientists of the Enlightenment realized that every new species of plant contains tremendous gifts.  Aside from their beauty and use in an ornamental garden, plants contain useful chemical compounds to heal, create new products, nourish, and enlighten.  Some of this research continues today in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil and other inaccessible and remote corners of the world

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Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.

Catalpa, or Monkey Cigar tree, on the Palace Green at Colonial Williamsburg. The lawn is lined with Catalpa trees of various ages, and they are absolutely stunning when in bloom.  Enlarge the photo and you’ll see the long seed pods growing in early August.

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The colonial era was an exciting time for discovering countless new species of plants. The gardens of Great Britain and Europe reflected the explosion of diversity by welcoming previously unknown flowers, trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables into their evolving and increasingly naturalistic garden schemes.

Remember, the great forests of Britain were decimated long before this era.  When Maple, Tulip Poplar, Pine, Sycamore, Cedar, Dogwood, Sassafras, Magnolia and other colorful tress and shrubs from America grew in the first garden plots of importers, they were a novelty.  The aristocracy quickly fell in love with these new plants, and clamored for a seed or a cutting to grow on their home estates.

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Oak and pine grow in abundance on Jamestown Island.

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Benjamin Franklin helped build the relationships that enabled this trade between his amateur botanist friends in the American colonies and his contacts in Britain.  The story told in Andrea Wulf’s book unfolds with the drama and personality of a good novel, and I recommend it to every like minded gardener, no matter which side of the pond you call your present home.

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Native holly

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For the purposes of this post, I will  mention a few of the trees growing wild right here around Jamestown, which were collected in the Colonial era and sent back to England.  These trees, common to us, opened up a whole new way to design and enjoy gardens for those still in Europe.  They were grown for their beautiful form, fall color, interesting bark, and some for their flowers.

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An old oak tree’s exposed roots. This tree holds the bank of the James River along the Parkway.

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Eventually, gardening became a passionate pursuit not only of the aristocracy, but for many Britons.  As we admire their beautifully tended gardens of trees, shrubs, and flowers today, so they admired the wild and beautiful plants we sent back to them from, “The Colonies”.

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Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

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Here is a partial list of trees and shrubs introduced to Britain from the American colonies:

Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple, 1725

Aesculus pavia, Red Buckeye, 1711

Colorful fall leaves were almost unknown in Britain before American species of trees were introduced n the 17th and 18th centuries.

Betula nigra, River Birch, 1736

Callicarpa americana, Beauty Berry, 1724

Catalpa bignonioides, Southern Catalpa, 1722

Chamaecyparis thyoides, White Cedar, 1736

Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree, 1736

Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood, 1722

Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon, 1629

Euonymus atropurpurea, Burning Bush, 1744-6

Fraxinus americana, White Ash, 1724

Hydrangea arborescens, Wild Hydrangea, 1736

Juglans nigra, Black Walnut, 1629

Juniperus virginiana, Red Cedar, 1664

Kalmia latifolia, Mountain Laurel, 1734

Liriodendron tulipifera, Tulip Poplar, 1638

Magnolia grandiflora, Southern Magnolia, 1734

Dogwood, our Virginia state tree, blooms in April.

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet Bay, 1688

Pinus strobus, White Pine, 1705

Platanus occidentalis, American Sycamore, 1638

Sassafras albidum, Sassafrass, 1630

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Dogwood, Cornus florida

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2017

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession

Brother Gardeners at Barnes and Nobles

Brother Gardeners at Amazon

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Sunday Dinner: Abundance

December 13, 2015 CW 129

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“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love;

it will all come back to you in abundance.

This is the law of nature.”

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Steve Maraboli

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December 13, 2015 CW 106

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“Honor your desire for a new life.

Say yes to the small inklings of interest and curiosity

that present themselves each day.”

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Lynn A. Robinson

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December 13, 2015 CW 026

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“Love opens all channels,

while Fear closes them down.

Love facilitates sharing,

while Fear demands selfishness.

Love allows us to be exposed,

while Fear insists we be covered.

Love provides unconditional acceptance,

while fear stipulates requirements.

Love enables abundance.

Fear chases abundance away.”

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Donald L. Hicks

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December 13, 2015 CW 100

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“Making a dream into reality begins with what you have,

not with what you are waiting on.”

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T.F. Hodge

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December 13, 2015 CW 101

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“Gratitude is the key for the door of abundance.”
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Debasish Mridha

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December 13, 2015 CW 141

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“Herein lies the paradox:

If you want more of whatever it is you desire,

you have to first prove to the universe

that you are capable of having it

by developing a consciousness

that affirms there is no shortage of it.

The only way to do this

is by creating a vacuum or space for it to be received,

and the only way you can create a space for it to be received,

is by letting go of what you do have,

trusting that the universe knows what it is doing.

That’s the law of circulation in action.”

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Dennis Merritt Jones

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December 13, 2015 CW 083

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“You are heir to a heavenly fortune,

the sole beneficiary of an infinite spiritual trust fund,

a proverbial goldmine of sacred abundance

beyond all common measure or human comprehension.

But until you assert your rightful inheritance

of this blessed gift,

it will remain unclaimed

and forever beyond your reach.”

.

Anthon St. Maarten

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December 13, 2015 CW 082

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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December 13, 2015 CW 165~

All photos taken at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

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December 13, 2015 CW 138

One Word Photo Challenge: Eigengrau

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Eigengrau, (read: I’-Gen-growl, both g’s hard) is the color your brain sees in the absence of light.

Jenny has chosen a very esoteric color to end her color challenges.  Her final ‘color’ is the absence of color in the absence of light.  Those who understand these things explain that eigengrau is more of a dark grey than a true black, by the way.

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Also explained as ‘brain grey’ or  ‘dark light,’  this color describes what you might see upon opening your eyes in a dark room.

This is a new color term for me, and a fitting way for Jenny to close out this challenge.

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Don’t worry, Jennifer begins a new ‘One Word Photo Challenge’ next week using weather themes.  She starts us off with an easy one:  rain.

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Colonial Williamsburg in late afternoon

Colonial Williamsburg in late afternoon

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I am choosing to interpret eigengrau as the dark grey one sees when an object is seen in silhouette against a background of light, and the deep shadows where light cannot reach.  Although the Germans, who coined this color term, elaborated an entire cult to celebrate the very esoteric ‘Black Sun;’ I celebrate the life giving sun of visible light. 

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April 5, 2015 Parkway 015

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The photos I’ve chosen celebrate the light, which nourishes all life, while also showing us the shadows.

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Eigengrau

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

One Word Photo Challenge: Taupe

Redbud tree seedpods

Redbud tree seedpods

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Taupe: Tan, brownish grey or greyish brown; 

Khaki?

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Not my favorite color, but sadly, much of our garden fades to taupe in winter.

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This is the dried out husky color of dead grasses.

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The bleached left-over color of fallen leaves and dried seed pods. 

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It is the background, the default; Nature’s neutral. 

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It cloaks the marshes and carpets the forest floor. 

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We distract ourselves in December with pine green, berry red, cone brown. 

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We gild it all with frost and snow. 

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But Taupe is patiently waiting. 

It’s death-mask tranquility will still greet us

in January, February, March. 

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Beaten by rain, blown by wind, bleached by sun, rotted by time;

Taupe will not  surrender

Until it is overpowered with fresh spring green growth.

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 185

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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March 31 2014 flowers 007

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Taupe

Water Views

 

College Creek, a tributary of the James River.

College Creek, a tributary of the James River.

 

Forest Garden, and all of the Williamsburg area in fact, exist on a series of peninsulas.

We sometimes joke about living on “Williamsburg Island,” because water surrounds our area.

 

The York River, to our north.

The York River, to our north.

 

The Chesapeake Bay divides us from the Delmarva Peninsula, and then the Atlantic Ocean rolls in further east.

Our little finger of land is bound by the York River to the north and the James River to our south.

 

The James River, to our south

The James River, to our south

 

There are so many little creeks and ponds, bays, tributaries, reservoirs and rivers that we cross numerous bridges, large and small, to go anywhere.

Even our “Peninsula”, the term for our area on the local evening news, has its own little peninsulas.

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Our geography is formed by flowing water and the tides.  

Much of the real estate is at sea level here.

On Jamestown Island, where archeologiests race with the rising river to complete their work.

On Jamestown Island, where archeologists race with the rising river to complete their work.

 

That would be the rapidly rising sea level, caused in part by subsidence;  sinking land all around the Chesapeake Bay.

Fringes of marsh border most of the dry land here.

The banks of our main rivers and creeks were recently “hardened” by government contractors bringing in truckloads of granite rock to hold the land in place.

 

Powhatan Creek

Powhatan Creek

Rock is something we rarely see here, unless it has been imported.

Far more frequently, we see shells.

In fact, it is commonplace to find oyster shells dropped over the garden by a snacking bird.

 

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We love the water. 

We love watching its changing moods, and the quality of light reflecting from its surface at all times of day and in all sorts of weather.

Jones Mill Pond

Jones Mill Pond

 

We enjoy watching the changing year reflected in the water which surrounds our home.

 

Passmore Creek

Passmore Creek

 

Like all of the elements on Earth, water can be life-giving or deadly;  destructive or beautiful.

 

Indian Field Creek

Indian Field Creek

 

Yet we are drawn to live near flowing water.

Our bits of forest are always bounded by water.

 

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And those waterways were once the highways here.

In earlier times, before our modern roads were built, most travel was by small boat.

The Colonial Parkway skirts or crosses many waterways on its journey from Jamestown on the James to Yorktown on the York RIver.

The Colonial Parkway skirts or crosses many waterways on its journey from Jamestown on the James to Yorktown on the York RIver.

 

Most homes were built near water, and the waterways provided a rich variety of clams and oysters, fish, duck, and goose for food.

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And so we still are drawn to drink in the beauty of the water views which surround us.

Never attracted to inland life, we find happiness on the edges where land and water meet.

 

College Creek, explored by the Spanish in the late 16th Century, was passed over for settlement by the 1607 English colonists who chose Jamestown instead.

College Creek, explored by the Spanish in the late 16th Century, was passed over for settlement by the 1607 English colonists, who chose Jamestown instead.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

GetMap.ashx

Birthday Portraits: Snapping Turtles

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We were in the midst of watering the garden yesterday morning when my partner spotted it, barely visible against the blacktopped street.

But my partner has a special knack for spotting anomalies,  and the tiny turtle, craning his neck around this way and that for a  complete view of his newly found world, caught his attention.

He called me over, and together we decided to lift the little one out of the street, back into the garden.

Barely more than an inch from one end of its sculpted grey shell to the other, this one had just arrived to the world of sunlight.

Once set down under the shrubs, he quickly disappeared into the dried leaves.

 

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We both returned to our tasks, murmuring our appreciation for this little turtle and our good wishes for his survival.

But then tiny turtle reappeared, running across the mulch from one bed to the next.

Or was it another one?  This one was moving so fast it was hard to tell.

 

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But when we spotted a third, and then a fourth; we realized that a nest of turtle eggs must have opened somewhere in the garden.  The search was on.

And it didn’t take long to spot a fifth turtle, just appeared near a small hole under our Hibiscus.

 

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The hole wasn’t two inches across, nestled near the stems and well hidden in the mulch.

But careful observation soon revealed a tiny head, and two tiny eyes adjusting to sunlight for the first time.

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Watering now on hold, I settled in near the hole, camera focused, hoping to photograph the moment when this little guy crawled out into the world.

But these creatures are smarter than you might expect. 

And he was very aware of the great human giants too near beside  his sipapu.  And cautiously, he waited. 

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Too long, because soon another head popped up behind him.  There was obviously a que of turtles waiting below.

So Mr. Cautious dropped back into the hole, and Ms. Adventurous took his place at the opening; weighing her options.

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I kept the camera focused and ready, taking birthday portraits from time to time, but waiting for the moment of emergence.

My partner suggested that I needed to back off.  My body suggested I not stay bent in position  too long.

And Ms. Adventurous suggested she had all day long to begin her journey.

We chatted.  We both encouraged her, and gave her lots of parental advice about staying in the garden, and hiding well, and how she would find plenty to eat here.

Listening attentively, she still waited.  And yet another head appeared.  My partner wandered away, and I moved back a ways further  from the hole, and slightly out of their line of sight.

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A birth must not be rushed, and patience finally was rewarded as Ms. Courageous climbed the rest of the way up onto the soft mulch.

Her grey eyes took in her new, bright surroundings, and her gigantic human companion, before she took off running across the mulch.

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Each turtle headed in a different direction, but all must have had some sense of the pond at the bottom of the hill, waiting for them.

 

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I left the rest of the turtles in peace to emerge in their own time.

We kept encountering our tiny turtles throughout the day.  When we spotted them on the driveway later, we moved them to safer spots in the garden.

Found later on the driveway, my partner moved this turtle to the safety of a pot so I could take another photo.

Found later on the driveway, my partner moved this turtle to the safety of a pot so I could take another photo.

These are snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentina, common throughout Virginia.

We spot them from time to time in the garden and throughout the community.

Although their reputation is fierce, we must have uncommonly gentle ones here.

We’ve never encountered an aggressive one.

 

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The baby turtles disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared.

We hope they found their way down to the ravine and pond, where they can hunt and find shelter.  There are plenty of wild spaces for them to live and grow in safety.  As omnivores, there will be plenty for them to eat year round.

It will be at least a dozen years before these turtles reach maturity, and they may still inhabit the garden a century from now.  Turtles are extremely long lived, if they reach maturity, with very few predators.

We’ll have our eye out for them, now.

This Box Turtle was waiting for me in the lower garden when I arrived, later, to water.

This Box Turtle was waiting for me in the lower garden when I arrived, later, to water.

 

They can join the box turtles and the blue tailed skinks; the toads and tree frogs, as welcome denizens of our Forest Garden.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Toad, found laying her eggs in the garden yesterday morning.

Toad, found laying her eggs in the garden yesterday morning.

What I Learned From Our Hummingbird

July 20, 2014 hummingbird 012

As more and more flowers continue to bloom, hummingbirds become more frequent visitors to our garden.

They dart around so quickly from flower to flower, and are normally so shy, that I’ve had no photos to share with you; though we see them daily now.

We’ve identified at least four different hummingbirds who frequent the garden.

But one was kind enough to visit with me at the Stump Garden late on Sunday afternoon .

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Returning from a walk to a friend’s home, I stopped to take photos of the newly blooming Gladiolus.

And while I was busy snapping away from various angles, I heard the whirring buzz of a hummingbird zooming into the garden to sample the Glad’s nectar.

The hummingbird is drinking from the lowest flower on the left.

The hummingbird is drinking from the lowest flower on the left.

He was so comfortable hovering inside the huge Glad blossom, that he ignored me and my clicking, chiming camera entirely.

The Hummingbird zoomed from blossom to blossom, and then paused to rest on a leaf.

All the while I’m happily taking his portrait.

Now the hummingbird has turned to drink from the catnip on the right.  Can you see his curved beak?

Now the hummingbird has turned to drink from the catnip on the right. Can you see his curved beak?

And by observing, I learned.

Conventional wisdom holds that hummingbirds prefer red flowers.

Supposedly, that is why the plastic hummingbird kits come with gaudy red and yellow feeders and bright red Kool-Aid like mix with which to fill them.

But our little guy was sipping  first from blue Glads, then white catnip flowers, and finally from the tiny purple flowers of our Coleus, growing in the pot on the stump.

Did you know Hummingbirds would drink from Coleus flowers?  I normally break those off as a part of “grooming” the Coleus for more leaf production!

But there he was, hovering beautifully high up in the air, drinking as happily from the Coleus as from the reddest Canna, Salvia,  or Fuschia.

Hummingbirds need to consume half their weight in sugar, daily, just to survive.   They prefer flowers which offer nectar of 25%-35% sugar content.

They can starve in a matter of hours when food isn’t available. 

“Feed them and they will come.” 

Good advice, especially in the world of wildlife gardening.  And it always amazes me to see how many different species will show up for the feast, once the garden blooms each summer.

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

July 20, 2014 hummingbird 013

Low Tide, Rainy Day

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This morning dawned  cool and wet. 

Thunderstorms yesterday afternoon  settled into showers overnight, pushed out to sea by the cold front sweeping towards us.

 

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What a welcome change from the heavy hot air of the past few days!

A beautiful morning to walk down to the creek, I  ventured out with clippers in one hand, camera in the other, to see what could be seen.

 

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Low grey skies promised more rain at any moment, and droplets of water clung to every leaf and stem along the way.

 

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Good weather for mosses and ferns, and people who need a break from summer’s heat!

 

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I was surprised to find the tide so low this morning.

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The area around the dock was muddy, with shallow pools filled with little fish.

The bottom of the creek was clearly visible for a long ways in every direction, showing the roots of plants growing from the mud flats.

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At one time, years ago, this creek was navigable.

Boats could access the dock .  But silt continues to fill the creek.

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The tide must be high to float a boat anywhere near the dock these days.

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I was struck by the still silence this morning.

No eagles called out from the sky.  Aside from dragonflies, no wings filled the air.

It felt as though the whole world were holding its breath waiting for something.

 

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A moment of peace, while walking to the end of the dock; looking back at the shoreline,  unfamiliar now in its exposed low-tide aspect.

A novelty. 

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Perhaps not to be seen again anytime soon,either.

I studied the muddy bottom to see what might be learned about this bit of shoreline.

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Aside from a broken turtle shell, and the madly flopping fish, no living thing showed itself.

Not a crab or frog, snake or bird to be seen, anywhere, for as far as I could see in any direction.

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And so I began the long climb home, away from the empty creek.

The garden awaited, still soggy but in need of a “walk about.”

And that is another story.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

Tree Wisdom

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Free people, remember this maxim:

we may acquire liberty,

but it is never recovered if it is once lost.

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

***

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You forget that the fruits belong to all

and that the land belongs to no one.

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

***

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

The Geese

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa, growing along the Colonial Parkway

Native Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa, growing along the Colonial Parkway

There is a spot along the Colonial Parkway, on the way back from Jamestown Island, where I’ve wanted to stop and take photos for several weeks now.

There is no designated parking area along this long stretch of open fields beside the James River, but there is a privately owned dairy farm on the opposite side of the road.

We always enjoy watching the herd of cows who pasture there.  The family also maintains a small herd of goats, who love to escape, and a few Llamas.

My interest in the field beside the river is, of course,  botanical.

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There is a large colony of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa; native to hot, sunny, well drained areas along the East coast; growing in this field beside the river.

I mentioned to my partner how much I’d like to photograph these cactus in bloom.

With very light traffic so early in the morning, we pulled over  into a driveway by the dairy farm’s gate.

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Now the pasture is home not only to the cows, but also to a huge flock of Canada Geese.

They enjoy the low areas of the pasture which fill with water and the abundant supply of food.

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Yesterday morning the geese were feeding in the rich, wet grass beside the road.

When we stopped and I got out, and started walking back towards the field of cactus; the geese were not amused.

 

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In fact, the leader gave the signal to the flock, and they all turned and began the long journey from pasture to river…. on webbed foot.

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Every goose in the flock obeyed the command- in single file.

They reminded me of the Penguins who paraded around the London Zoo when I was a child.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 104

The geese  were visibly unhappy at my approach.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 108

But they were between me and the cactus we had stopped to photograph. 

One or two stood up to full height and spoke honks of caution, warning me to keep a safe distance as they passed.

A lone car approached along the Parkway, and stopped to watch the spectacle.

 

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 107

Every goose in the flock eventually plodded along the long route from pasture  to beach.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 101

They milled about on the sand, watching out for one another, and finally launched into a flotilla paddling out into the current.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 117

As the last of the geese marched across the field, I followed.

I went all the way to the beach, following their progress,  taking photos of this  not yet explored area along the river’s bank.

 

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 122

And yes, I managed a photo or two of the cactus along the way.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 097

But mostly, I was intrigued by this “up close and personal” visit with the deliberate and dignified community of geese.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 116

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 120

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