Ospreys

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

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

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

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

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Wisteria

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One of the most beautiful spectacles of springtime in Virginia is Wisteria  in full bloom.

These huge, showy vines climb through trees along the roadside, blanket pergolas, and ornament old gardens throughout the state.  The long, pendulous racemes of orchid like flowers taunt from the tops of pine trees, so delicately beautiful, and yet so tough!

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There are actually three different types of Wisteria found growing throughout the Southeastern United states.

The native North American Wisteria frutescens is the latest variety to bloom.  It is also the best behaved.

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This woody deciduous perennial climbing vine twists itself in a clockwise direction around any support it can find.  It grows to over 50′, getting longer and thicker with each passing year.

A member of the pea family, the flowers are delicate, and in form much like any other pea flowers.  Wisteria Frutescens’s flowers are soft shades of blue-purple. The vines of the North American native Wisteria are only two-thirds as long as Asian Wisteria varieties, and the flower racemes are only half as long.  The flowers aren’t fragrant.  The long bean-like pods which follow the flowers are poisonous.

Wisteria grows through through a stand of bamboo and pines near Jamestown on the Colonial Parkway.

Wisteria grows through through a stand of bamboo and pines near Jamestown on the Colonial Parkway.

The most common Wisteria varieties in the garden trade are Asian.  Chinese Wisteria, Wisteria Sinensis, produces fragrant  flowers in shades of white, lilac, and blue.  It twists around its supports in a counter-clockwise direction.

It can grow over a variety of supports, but can also be pruned and trained into a standard, or free-standing tree like shape.   It was introduced to Europe and the United States in 1816, and is much loved for its beautiful flowers.

Wisteria growing on a pergola near the library in Williamsburg.

Wisteria growing on a pergola at the municipal center, near the library, in Williamsburg.  This structure was dedicated in May of 1999 for the 300th anniversary of the City of Williamsburg.

Japanese Wisteria, Wisteria floribunda, has the longest racemes of beautiful and fragrant flowers.   The white, pink, violet, or blue racemes of delicate flowers may reach over 2 feet in length.

Introduced to the United States in the 1830s,  this exceptionally showy spring blooming vine became hugely popular growing on walls and pergolas in nineteenth century American and European gardens.  The woody, clockwise turning stems, wrap tightly around any support.

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All Wisteria varieties enjoy full sun to partial shade.  They like moderately fertile, moist soil, and require strong support.

Long lived, these vines will eventually grow into enormous plants.  They require regular pruning to keep them in bounds.

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All parts of the Wisteria plants are poisonous.  Even so, their flowers are popular with nectar loving insects.  Wisteria is an important host plant for many species of butterflies and moths.

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Wisteria, which grows in Zones 5-9, is considered an invasive species in some areas.  When grown in the wild, its long, heavy vines will choke out nearby trees and shrubs.

Wisteria vines are notorious for taking a long time to mature enough to produce blooms.  A gardener may wait ten years for a vine to bloom.  Although most bloom  in mid-spring to early summer, sometimes a late frost will destroy the flowers for that year.

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Vines grown from cuttings bloom much sooner than vines grown from seed.  With many named cultivars available, it is possible to select  a Wisteria with the color, form, and size required for a particular garden.

Wisteria vines require careful training and pruning, but are hardy and easy plants to grow once established.  As a member of the pea family, the roots fix nitrogen from the air into the soil.  Any fertilizer used should be higher in potassium and phosphorus than in nitrogen, since the plant provides for itself whatever nitrogen is needed for growth.

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I once planted a Chinese Wistera vine along the wooden railing of a deck.  I love the Wisteria’s flowers, and thought it would be pretty there.  When I planted it, I didn’t give much thought to the size of the mature vine.  Once established, this is a rampant grower and requires large and strong support.  It also requires unapologetic pruning when it begins to take over a house and deck with its long tendrils!

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That said, my advice to any gardener yearning for a Wisteria vine in their garden is to give careful thought to where it will grow before planting it.  Provide the sturdy support it needs, choose the cultivar carefully, and then patiently wait for your vine to mature into its magnificent spring beauty!

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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WPC: Threshold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

 

One Word Photo Challenge: Black

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Darkness came first: The Void.
All the old stories tell us this.
The blackness of space, of ocean depths,
Of the inside of Earth and stone.

The Beginning

The compressed creative energy of the entire cosmos,
Not yet aware of itself;
Not yet expressed in expansion,
Differentiation, diffusion, dissolution….

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It all came from darkness.
Without darkness, how does one see the light?

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We all began in darkness,
Deep within the maternal depths of our mothers.

Darkness nurtures and protects.
Darkness envelopes and comforts,
It soothes us to rest;

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Cloaks us,
When we wish to disappear in the crowd.

Ebony, obsidian, schorl, onyx:
Black crystalline beauty.

From coal comes diamond,
Like tiny quartz crystals growing
In the darkness of a geode.

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Like suns and worlds growing and spinning
In the darkness of space.

Like pinpricks of light
Dancing behind closed eyelids.

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As light radiates, so black absorbs.
The conversation of energy
bantering back and forth as light and heat.

Bringing balance.
Giving life.

The pigments of all things
mixing back into inky blackness.

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The return.

Spent life composted back
Into the soil of potentiality.

Without black, crumbly Earth,
How does one grow a garden?

Or a life?

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

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With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

For hosting the Weekly One Word Photo Challenge

 

Purple

Blue

Red

Spring Equinox

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Such a bright, clear warm day, today, to greet official astronomical spring.

Today is the day of balance, where the hours of light equal the hours of darkness.  Except, not really. 

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The Clematis vine, which looked dead for months, has budded and begun a new season of growth.

The calendars list today as the Vernal Equinox, but actually, it was Monday. 

We’ll be forgiven for not noticing, because Monday was such a cold, wet and icy, overcast day.  It was a thoroughly wintery day, dark and gloomy here.

It was hard to imagine, back on Monday, that the first day of spring was only a few days away.  But sunrise on Monday was 7:05 AM, and sunset, high above the storm clouds came at 7:05 PM.  That would have been 6:05 AM and 6:05 PM had we not already adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.

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And so Monday was the day of balance:  twelve hours of sunlight, and twelve  hours of darkness.  We’ll have such a day again next September.

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But today the sun rose at 7:00 AM, and will set at 7:08.  Doing the math, it appears that our day today will be twelve hours and eight minutes long, and the night will be only eleven hours and 52 minutes.  That is definite improvement!

By the end of the month, the sun will rise at 6:42 AM, and sunset will come at 7:20 PM.

Miniature daffodils bloom beneath a budding rose cane.

Miniature daffodils bloom beneath a budding rose cane.

Our day, by March 31, will be twelve hours and 38 minutes long.  It will increase by a few minutes each day until we reach the summer solstice in June.

Traditionally, the solstice has come on either the 20 or 21 of June.  But this year, our longest days will come on June 21 through June 23, when the days are each  15 hours and 6 minutes long.  We’ll have three days of the solstice, before the days grow shorter again, day by day, through the summer months.  Take a look for yourself at this strangely long solstice predicted for this June.

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Forsythia just opening yesterday, really sparkles in the sunlight today.

But returning to today, it is a beautiful day to celebrate the beginning of spring.

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Daffodils dance in the sunlight on the roadsides all over town.  The first of the tulip blossoms near the post office are showing a hint of red.  Budding trees color the skyline with red and greenish gold as their buds open in today’s warm sunshine.

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I hope that spring has crept into your heart after this long and difficult winter.  I hope something is budding and blooming in your garden, and that the sun’s warmth has touched your skin.

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Coat and hat remained in the closet when we headed out this morning, and the hardware store had racks of bright annuals waiting to go home to someone’s garden.  But none came home to ours.  I expect more freezing weather in the week ahead.

Another snow may or may not fulfill the forecast by next Monday, but today at least, it is spring in Williamsburg.

Happy Spring at Last!

The Clematis vine, which has looked dead for months, has budded and begun a new season of growth.

Violas

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Finding Spring

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English primroses

This morning my friend and I went with my partner to the Homestead Garden Center in search of a breath of spring.  After all, we turned our calendars over today to March.  We wanted to celebrate the day, and the new month, with a visit to our friends, the Pattons, who so lovingly and generously encourage our mutual love of all things green and growing.

Homestead Garden Center this morning, before the plants were brought back out of the greenhouse.

Homestead Garden Center this morning, before the plants were brought back out of the greenhouse.

It had just nudged above the freezing mark when we set out this morning, and the sky was low and grey.  Bundled in our gloves and hats, wrapped in our coats, we pulled in mid-morning to a still and silent shop.

Roxy and Dustin left the warmth of the office to greet us.  Only a few brave Violas and some shrubs filled the racks, normally packed tightly with an ever changing array of beautiful plants.

We had come to see the hellebores, and no hellebores were in sight.  It was so cold last night that nearly everything in bloom had been tucked back into the greenhouse before dusk, and so to the greenhouse we were led.

Hellebores

Hellebores

When Dustin opened the door, and led us inside, we found the spring we had come looking for today. 

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Warm and humid, condensation dripping on us from the roof, we smelled the warmth of potting mix and the aroma of all things green and growing.

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Violas

And the color!  The carts were packed with bright blooming things waiting to go back outside once the sun shone and the air warmed.

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We were met with Ranunculus, just opening their first buds in screaming shade of scarlet, gold, and pink.

Ranunculus

Ranunculus

Pots of vivid English primroses, and planters packed with bright Violas waited to be wheeled back outside to greet whatever hardy customers turned up today.

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Row after row of Hyacinths, Muscari, parsley, Verbena, Heuchera, and dozens of other tiny plants waited their turn to grow large enough to leave the greenhouse for the world beyond.

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The sheer joy of it.  Dustin gave us our pick of the everything large enough to leave.

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A rare treat, as the greenhouse is rarely opened to shoppers. 

My friend gathered her Hyacinths for the celebration of Noruz, coming on the 21st; and we both selected parsley and hellebores.  I gathered more Violas.

Flats of parsley ready to pot up for spring sale.

Flats of parsley ready to pot up for spring sale.

We filled the back of our car with flowers and parsley. 

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We are also keen to try the mushroom compost, a new product at Homestead this season.  We’ll dig it in to our pots as we plant our starts, and use it as a topdressing on some of our beds.

The rich, composted manure used to grow mushrooms will  improve water retention in the soil, and will perk everything up for maximum spring growth.  Because some brands of mushroom compost have higher levels of salt than other soil amendments, it isn’t  recommended for starting seeds.  This organic product is wonderful on established plants, however.

The mushroom compost we purchased is the stack on the far right.  The Pattons sell only organic soil amendments, fertilizers, and growing aids.

The mushroom compost we purchased is the stack on the far right. The Pattons sell only organic soil amendments, fertilizers, and growing aids.

After a visit with Roxy in the shop, selecting seeds, looking at new pots, and stocking up on fertilizers; we finished visiting and pulled away.

The sun had broken through the low clouds a time or two while we shopped, and we could feel the morning warming- if only a little bit.  But we had a car load of spring time.  The aromas of the greenhouse still  filled the the air as we drove home.

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Brunnera, “Jack Frost”

With yet another winter storm barreling across the country, poised to hit us tomorrow night, our pots and flats fresh from the greenhouse were carefully tucked into sheltered spots once home.  But we have them.  They are ready to go out into the garden on the next thaw.

We found spring today in the Patton’s greenhouse, and we brought a bit home with us.  Happy March!

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Photos taken at the Ulster American Homestead Garden Center

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Soil with a lot of manure in it produces abundant crops;

water that is too clear has no fish.

Therefore, enlightened people should maintain the capacity to accept impurities

and should not be solitary perfectionists.

Huanchu Daoren

The Robins’ Promise

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I stepped outside late this afternoon to check the mail, and found the front garden aflutter with a flock of robins;

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happily hopping around in search of food, their happy society was startled by my unexpected presence.

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They thought they had the garden to themselves on this uncomfortably cold day.  Thank goodness for day long golden sunshine.  This last day of February has been our coldest day for several weeks.  Bundled in hat and coat, I still shivered while walking briskly up the drive to collect the mail.  And the robins scattered, looking for cover as I passed.

Edgeworthia blossoms have begun to open.

Edgeworthia blossoms have begun to open.

Bright sun has been pouring in through the windows all day; the sky clear and deeply blue.  A lovely day, but seeing the wind, and knowing the temperature, had kept me indoors.  But out I went to the mailbox, enjoying the happy robins, and looking for any little change to show the progress of spring.

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The bulbs are still shivering, petals closed tightly against the cold.  It is as if the whole world is still waiting for warmth before daring to progress any further into the season.

Mahonia

Mahonia

But I wanted to show you these happy robins, their very presence evidence that the season is turning, despite the frigid air.

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So the mail came in, and I headed back out, camera in hand, to take portraits of the robins.  Crafty little ones, they are so fast!  Several flew off just before I clicked the photo.  The ones on the ground were a little more patient, perhaps distracted by listening for worms below their feet.

Where the robin was.... only a second before....

Where the robin was…. only a second before….

I wandered the garden in search of them, and in search of an opening daffodil, or some new sign of spring’s unfolding.  My fingers went from cold to numb, and the chill wind became more persistent in seeking its way in past my jacket.

A Columbine beginning to emerge from the frozen Earth.

A Columbine beginning to emerge from the frozen Earth.

But looking to the trees, glowing in the afternoon sunlight, I saw the sign I sought. 

Look closely at the tips of the branches… the reddening tips.

Buds on our trees are swelling, finally; and preparing to open with their early flowers and leaves.  That misty red glow around the trees’ crown is as much a promise of spring as the flock of robins gathering in the garden this afternoon.

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The robins seem impervious to the cold.  This stoicism in the face of wind, rain, sleet, snow and ice commands my respect for these fragile beings. 

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They carry on, chattering to one another, from early until late.  They know, even when I doubt, that spring will follow, and provide perfectly for their every need.

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Their chirping and hopping, shy flights from shrub to shrub, and determined hunting for food warms my heart; even as my fingers stiffen in the cold afternoon wind.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Early Daffodils

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Daffodils have always felt magical to me.  I remember my wonder as a child, finding them suddenly in bloom, with their bright yellow faces bobbing so bravely in the still cold late winter breezes.  Before the grass began to green, or the branches bud, the first daffodils always popped up in unexpected places in our yard.

I don’t recall whether my parents ever planted daffodil bulbs.  There always seemed to be some already growing in the yard each spring as we moved from house to house during my childhood.  My parents both love flowers and gardens.  They always planted annuals each spring.  We carried Iris roots with us from house to house for many years, and later Cannas.  But I don’t remember us planting daffodils.  There always seemed to be a patch waiting for us.

The daffodil foliage emerged before the last deep freeze, and was burned by the cold.

The daffodil foliage emerged before the last deep freeze, and was burned by the cold.

Daffodils are one of those wonderful heirloom plants which usually outlast whomever plants them.  Each season they divide, and the clumps grow larger.  Many also set seeds, which scatter in late spring if you don’t dead head the flowers when they finish.

It isn’t unusual to find clumps of daffodils still blooming around the foundations and burnt out chimneys of old properties in the countryside.  They are found along old country roads, in public parks and cemeteries and in many front yards each spring.

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Daffodils grow in the median along Jamestown Road near Jamestown Festival Park and the ferry dock.

These very early daffodils, some of the earliest to bloom in Williamsburg, grow along Jamestown Road near the Scotland Ferry landing.   These are the ones which bloomed in December of 2012, and then bloomed again last spring.  Hardy souls, they are left to their own devices.  Once mowing begins in early summer, they disappear.  This spring garden settles back to its usual life as a median strip of a very busy road.

Daffodils, varieties of the genus Narcissus,  grow from bulbs.  Available in garden centers and by mail each autumn, they must be planted sometime between early fall and Christmas.  They need several weeks of cold weather, with freezing temperatures, before they begin to grow in early spring.  Their leaves appear first, followed by flower stalks. Finally the blooms open.  And what amazing blooms!

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One of the most popular of flowers in temperate climates, the Royal Horticultural Society has divided the 27,000  named and registered cultivars of daffodils (as of 2008) into 13 different divisions.  Should you ever attend a daffodil show in springtime, you’ll find blossoms entered into competition in these various divisions.  Which is not easy, since daffodils open over a long season of many weeks from late winter through early summer.

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It is difficult to know exactly when the season will begin or end, dependent as it is on the weather.  The bulbs take their cues from both day length and temperature to set their schedule.   The temperature determines how long they will last in the garden once open.  The various cultivars are divided into “early season,” “mid-season,” and “late season.”  It is possible to have daffodils in bloom from late January through May here in Zone 7B.

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Daffodil foliage should be left alone to grow when the flowers finish.  The leaves will last for six weeks to two months before yellowing and dieing back.  It is important to leave the leaves alone until they finish manufacturing food to replenish the bulb for the following spring’s growth.

Although some gardeners might bundle the foliage, tie it, or cut it early, this interferes with the daffodil’s ability to make the food it needs.  Better to plant ferns and perennials around the daffodil clumps so the bulbs’ leaves visually disappear into more interesting plantings, like peonies or iris.

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The less you do for daffodils the better they like it.  Planted to three times the depth of the bulb, they may be naturalized in a lawn, or planted into a prepared bed.  Daffodils may be grown in pots under shrubs or perennials, or grown in a shallow bulb pot, forced into early bloom, and enjoyed as a house plant.

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Although they don’t need fertilizer, they appreciate a little compost at planting and as they finish flowering in spring.  If a clump stops blooming, dig, divide, and replant the bulbs a little bit shallower than they were.  Space bulbs three to four inches apart, remembering that each bulb will multiply into several new ones over the years.

Bulbs like moist, rich soil; but don’t like to sit in wet soil, which may cause rot.  They enjoy full sunlight in early spring, but grow well under trees which will leaf out to provide shade as the weather warms.

Space bulbs every 3:-4" inches when planting, knowing they will divide and fill in over time.

Space bulbs every 3:-4″ inches when planting, knowing they will divide and fill in over time.

I attended an early spring garden club meeting some years ago on daffodils.  Although the slides were beautiful and the information very interesting, one fact I learned that morning has forever changed the way I garden.  Every bit of a daffodil is poisonous.  As soon as I learned that animals won’t bother them, I determined to plant as many daffodils as time and budget allow every autumn from now on.

I plant them with confidence, knowing they won’t be grazed by deer.  I plant them generously around shrubs and perennials to create a wall of poisonous plant materials voles won’t penetrate.

I was so inspired by daffodils during that hour program that I came home and drew a pattern for my own daffodil portrait in cross stitch.

daffodil

Design by Woodland Gnome 2011

Popular as a cut flower, it is tradition in Wales to wear a daffodil blossom in one’s lapel on March 1, St. David’s Day.  Daffodil vendors begin to appear on street corners in some cities in late February or early March, selling bunches to flower loving city dwellers who welcome spring with bouquets of daffodils at home and at work.  The flower vendors selling daffodils cut from the daffodil farms in Gloucester County used to set up on The Boulevard in Richmond.  I hope they still do.

Daffodils bloom in shades of yellow, orange, white, cream, and occasionally pink.  Miniature and large, single and double, large single flowers or small clusters; there is enormous variety within the daffodil family.  Collectors fill their gardens with various cultivars.

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.

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.

The fresh, bright faces of daffodils perfectly express the joy of lengthening days, warming winds, and re-awakening Earth.  Even when the first daffodils grow out of a frozen blanket of snow, their message cheers us with the surety of spring.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2012-2014

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Frosted

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Ice and snow, crystallized water, still cover the garden. 

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Ice has grown, during this period of extended cold, to also cover our ponds and nearby creeks.

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The ground is still white in most places, and what ice melts a little in the sun at mid day freezes over again by night.

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The world is still frosted with beautiful ice crystals.

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Elegant ice sculptures appear in surprising places.

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Areas overlooked through most of the year as too raw, broken, or unremarkable to be found beautiful, shine under their gloss of crystal clear ice and pure white snow.

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We see the commonplace with fresh eyes against a forgiving backdrop of whiteness.

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What was muddy appears clean.  We are teased with bits of things poking out of their fresh blanket of white.

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Light reflects and refracts in unexpected ways, an interplay of water and ice; sky and Earth; liquid and crystal.

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Our tired and muddy December garden has transformed into something fresh and new.  We are nearly ready to begin again, the canvass cleared and scoured by ice.

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We are reminded of the miraculous nature of water when it crystallizes and coats our world.

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The same water we drink, the water which fills our creeks and pours from our taps, will also shape itself into exquisite hexagonal crystals and fall from the clouds, or creep spontaneously out of their liquid state as the temperature drops.

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“The act of living is the act of flowing.” Masaru Emoto

Each beautiful crystal of ice is unique, a creature shaped by the circumstance in which it forms.

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These same crystals will melt back into a drop of water when heated by the sun; or perhaps evaporate back into their mist-like gaseous state, and rise into the sky as water vapor, rejoining the clouds from which they came.

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Water, Earth’s life blood, moves continually from one form to the next.  In and out of bodies; up into the roots of trees, and back out through their leaves into the sky; it is in constant motion.

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“As I continue my conversation with water, the crystals continue to teach me many lessons:  the importance of living in tune with the rhythm of life and the flow of nature, leaving the Earth beautiful for future generations; love; and prayer.”  Masaru Emoto

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Seeping into the Earth, passing into streams above or below the ground; flowing into rivers, lapping against beaches in waves large and small, water is what unites us through its continual transformation.

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Its eternal journey is only delayed a bit by frost.

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Whether locked into a glacier or a snowflake, whether crystallized as hoar frost or icicle, water pauses in its constant motion only so long as it is frozen; as liquid or gas become solid, crystallized, frosted.

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Water’s strange crystalline beauty is manifest for us now, before it transforms yet again.

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Words and photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

 

“Water carries within it your thoughts and your prayers.  And as you yourself are water, no matter where you are, your prayers will be carried to the rest of the world… Fill your soul with love and gratitude. Pray for the world.  Share the message of love.  And let us flow as long as we live.”  Masaru Emoto

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Quotations from The Secret Life of Water by Masaru Emoto

Frozen

Winter Sunset

Snow Washed

Hoar Frost

Winter Sunset

Woody web of branches, Stark in winter bareness, Allows the last rays of winter sun to penetrate the forest canopy. Crimson and purple, Golden  light washed along the horizon; Colors reflecting on gathering clouds. Every twig, branch and bud frozen, Ground frozen and gilded with snow, Reflecting sunset”s last fading light. Long January night creeps … Continue reading

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