Woodland gardening can be tricky, soil conditions change from spot to spot and root competition and low PH and soil robbed nutrients abound.
Compost and water is of the utmost importance and since Oak Grove here in the Shire Garden consist of almost all oaks, it makes for soil conditions to be very acidic and root bound. Know although most woodland plants prefer a little lower PH., most others, if it is to low of a PH., their performance will be less, so I have to prepare small areas for the new plants to adapt to their new home. I clear low brush and dig out the roots of the areas and amend the hole with leaf and garden compost.
Over the years Oak Grove has evolved into a magical woodland walk with paths of moss and wood bark mulch to leaf mulch and growing soft woodland fescue grass to stepping stones, making for a most interchanging and interesting walking experience that changes the mood under your feet. Just doing this brings about a magical feeling that most who walk through have now idea of what is happening.
Most of the wild flowers in Oak Grove are rescued from areas being developed, so creating the right growing conditions for the new plants have become a very important research issue.
Part of Oak Grove’s charm is the tall old oak trees that grow on the higher side of the Shire Garden, thus calling to you to enter the paths through Firefly Knoll at the woodland edge and to enter an untamed but purposeful planting of where the wild things grow.
As the seasons change so do the colors and textures and shadows of Oak Grove, in the spring the may apples and blood root and lady slippers appear then the azaleas and rhododendrons and solomon seal bloom and the early dog wood in time for Mothers Day take center stage. as the tree canopy thickens the grove grows darker and the mushroom and indian pipes show up with the ferns and woodland daisy’s. As the season goes longer hepatica’s and trailing arbutus, gentian’s and hydrangea and cardinal flowers dance their way into glory. Then with the cooler air of autumn come the change once again in the tree canopy of gold and greens and orange to rust and the low wild blue berry brush that is abundant on the woodland floor turns scarlet red and the may colors of the seed berries of the viburnum and holly’s welcome the many birds to their fall feast. With the turn of winter all goes dormant and the evergreens and gray trunks and branches take their turns with a shadow waltz upon the snow.
With all of this happening in Oak Grove the seasons of sound in the woods changes as well and very often those sounds call to us to enter the woodland garden once again for new reasons and experiences. I placed a large and low toned wind chime deep in the grove. The deep temple like tones mixed with the birds and other animal sounds brings a new dept to the woodland garden experience, that is deep in side of our self, one of fear and intrigue and it is that, that moves us forward and into the woods.
Often as a child and sometimes now as an adult child I still believe that on the nights when the moon is full and a lite fog drifts through the woods that the woodland elf’s and fairy’s party and play and very often I swear I see their lanterns all aglow amongst the fireflies, that twinkle deep within the Grove.
Woodland gardening is fun and if you are lucky enough to posses a stand of trees or forest land I would encourage you to cultivate it in to a place of joy and wonder.
A thought; The Fairy creed; To the heavens above and to the Earth we love.
I have had a very busy spring season as this last winter delivered the most snow we have had on the ground for the longest duration that I can remember. With most of the damage to the plants accruing during the melting and compaction, with the weight of that ice braking and crushing things to the ground.
This is the first time in weeks I’ve had to write. The temperatures this winter were well below normal where for several days in a row never got above 10 degrees and below zero was everyday for a time. For many of our plants this was extreme and plants like hydrangea were hit hard and most will have scant to no bloom at all this year and the only hope for some of us will be the repeat bloomers and PeeGee’s that bloom on new growth much later this fall. I am asked all the time about when should I cut back my hydrangea and will I be cutting off the bloom in doing so?
Let me make this simple and easy, in my opinion there are four types of hydrangea, the big leaf hydrangea ( Hydrangea macrophylla ) is the least hardy under harsh winters. These have both large and small mop head like blooms as well as lace cap shapes. Pruning these should happen in the spring as the bloom on these are set on the previous years growth. Then there is the smaller leaf hydrangea and largest group the Pee Gee ( Hydrangea paniculata ) and are the most hardy and can be enjoyed for generation and are best known as grandmothers favorite. These most often have large and small conical shape blooms and also have lace cap types as well. Pruning on these can be hard and done in the spring or fall as they bloom on new growth and will set bud and bloom in the same year. However the lace cap varieties set bloom on previous years growth and only dead heading the previous seasons bloom will be required. Then there are the oak leaf hydrangea ( Hydrangea quercifolia ) and are the fanciest of hydrangea are cold hardy and enjoys more shade than others and need little to no pruning, but only to repair damage or shape, and should happen in the spring as growth appears and bud seat is apparent. Then there is the climber ( Hydrangea petiolaris ) slow starters and some time hard to get to bloom for several years, but are hardy to cold climates and seldom need pruning like the Oak leaf hydrangea, but should never be planted near the house or dwelling as is known to lift shingles and fill attics.
With the harsh winter we had and the snow melt compaction, than extreme cold nights right thru April the exposed tips of the big leaf hydrangea froze, leaving half dead sticks standing. This is a waiting game as we watch to see where the growth will return in order to determine the point of pruning back to active growth.
I have always loved Hydrangea and the thought of not having their presence in the garden as being with less grace. The highs are when the winters are mild and the summer blooms so profuse and glorious, that heaven is truly on earth. The lows are harsh winters with extreme cold and wrong pruning with scant to now bloom and just being left with foliage and thought of what could have been.
A thought; Life is full of Highs and Lows, it’s what we do during them that matters most.
As a young boy spring was the time when the grass is new and time spent playing and rolling in it was a great adventure. As a teen spring meant spring fever and if you had any sense about you, it was hard to find. But as a young man spring meant new begins and courage to charge forward. However as an older man spring is hope and an understanding that life is cyclical and the promise of new life is in the air.
When as a younger man often I would write poetry and small verse, for some reason for me the transition from spring fever to young adult thought, shined through at that time. Jan came across some of my poems and I thought for this first day of spring I would share this small verse with you, one of Jan’s and my favorite.
To the Sky I look to fly
From the Soil I Grow to Live
To the Tree I Hope to Be
and the Spirit a Life to Live
Thank you for taking a moment to think of spring with me, and hold this simple verse as a gift to grow in strength from where and who you are.
A thought; Reminder that all we really need is all around us, we just need to understand that.
Hope’s Gentle Gem, tender moments, with beauty and grace remember me.
Latin name ” myositis ” meaning, mouse ear, is a wonderful sky blue and bright-eyed flower of the brook where they grow naturally and abundantly, and when you encounter them in full bloom it leaves you breathless.
As I start to write this, my mind wonders a little and I’m thinking what would I want to be remembered for, what is my legacy to be? I hope one of caring and giving, that I lived each day as if it was my last and that I helped to bring a little heaven to earth by way of the gardens I helped to grow and nurture. That with time would fade and with a knowing that perhaps others might follow in my foot steps will help to forget me not, for I was a part of something bigger than myself. Just knowing this brings me peace.
In any case, forget-me-not’s are wonderful at self seeding, and very easy to grow from seed. So once you plant them they will follow the wind across your garden and surprise you on where they choose to show up, for that alone I admire them. They like most soil types but do really well in moist conditions where they quickly multiply and create great drifts. Beginning their bloom with the daffodils and tulips.
In the nineteenth century they became recognized as a garden flower as a welcoming addition to the pond and waters edge, and quickly became the symbol of one’s undying love and devotion, and became a gift of love and remembrance.
Forget- me- not’s make great cut flowers and will last in a vase for a week or more, the small bright blue flower clusters will brighten any place you put them and people always seem to notice them. Thus remembering them is easy.
These plants grow in many of the countries of the world and have many legends told about them, one of my favorite is the one where God after creating the earth comes to name all of the animals and plants and after doing so, he starts to return to heaven when he hears a tiny voice at his feet saying ” what about me? ” He bent down and picked up the little plant whom he had forgotten, and said, ” Because I forgot you once, I shall never forget you again, and that shall be your name.”
When they are in bloom, which is most of the season, I can’t help but to be reminder of so many people and places that have come and gone in my life, some with joy and some with sadness and regret, but always with a knowing that this beautiful little humble flower reminds us never to forget and to go forward with great beauty.
In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: ” Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”
A thought; Let’s not forget where we came from and to be aware of where we are going. Forget-me-not!
As I am writing, the waxing moon is becoming full and its rising in the horizon is large and intense, and with the clear cold evening star lit sky the moon looks larger and brighter than ever. The reflexive sun light creates long branching finger like shadows of the trees across the glistening drifts of snow and a sense of mysterious knowing happens.
The Shire Garden is quite now and only the haunting hoots of the large snow owl fills the evening air. As the moon slowly rises higher, the shadows move and the scene changes once again, the shadows shrink and the white of the snow appears more blue in tone and the evergreens grow darker in color and the stars twinkle more intensely. I notice now that the heavens have opened up to me and the clouds of the galaxy are noticeable.
This full moon on March fifth is called the Worm moon, as March is the month to which the worms begin their work. How ever here in the Shire garden there lies three feet of snow upon the ground and I think the worms might be confused below the frost that lies beneath the snow.
This next week with the waning moon I will start some of my seeds as this is the best time to do so. It is believed that root start is strong during this phase of the moon’s cycle. Thus well established roots will help thrust forth leaves and stem growth as the new to waxing moon brings upward growth to the next full moon.
The moon and sun and stars have always played and important role in the garden as well as in animal husbandry, and farmers know this well. If you spend enough time in the garden you will come to understand just what I’m talking about, the heavens have a lot to do with what we are doing on earth and we are best to know and to accept that as fact.
I told you a year ago or so that I planed to garden more by the stars and for the last year it has proven to do the garden well, things seem to be in more harmony with each other and the growth and colors have been better and the weeding less, [ not to sure what that is all about ] but I’ll take it any way. So you see working with the universe and in harmony with the energy around you, beautiful things happen.
Make a simple moon cycle chart on paper and plan your daily work around the phases of the moon, go to www.moonconnection.com you’ll be surprised by how much better things will workout in the garden as well as in your life. Perhaps for the first time you will really experience the strength of a full moon rising, you may even want to howl!
When I look at the moon I often find myself to be reflective in thought, I get a sense of mystery and a touch of romance and always feel like I’ve been here before. Perhaps its that lunar lure people talk about or maybe its just magic with a touch of imagination.
A thought; When we allow the rhythm of the universe in, we to glow like the moon and stars.
To have or not to have, this is the question every garden owner asks as they listen to the garden trends of the moment. Because they are sometimes over used in the garden, some people find it to be busy looking and that you lose sight of the beauty of the plants and flowers.
Statuary and garden ornamentation can be as simple as a small stone bird to a statue of a god and goddess of angles, then there are fountains and urns of stone, benches and bird baths and of just about anything we humans can imagine to be found in the garden. That is how and why some gardens can become crowed with so many. So with that knowledge in mind we might be a little more sympathetic to those who might have gone a little over board.
Outdoor ornamentation has been around a lot longer than cultivated gardens. Throughout history and as long as man has been on this planet we have placed them as tributes to deities, or in memory of great leaders and famous warrior’s. They have always been linked to great civilizations of antiquity as their remains are found all around the world in the ancient ruins. All of this may have started with the early cave people who etched such things into their cave stone walls.
As the European world started to expand so did great wealth, and the large mansions and gardens and grounds became show places for some of these great finds, although this is not the first time we find them in the garden, it is the first time they began to commercialize them for such use and it is the industrial Victorian age that we see it in full acceptance of use in the garden. It is during this time period, when great fortunes were made here in the United States. The wealthiest of wealth could commission great sculptors to create wonderful ornamentation for their large mansions and for their vast landscape and formal gardens.
Today we see all kinds of ornamentation being added to the garden because of reproductions and low-cost and the thing to keep in mind is that the true use of this garden art is to achieve balance and points of interest. You can also use this art to convey a message or to simply give tribute to an area or view, as well as a place to stop and to reflex for a moment.
You will find all kinds of price ranges out there and the best advice I can give is to take your time consider its placement and sun value upon its appearance and always look at the material it is made of, for that will determine its timely appearance and life span in the garden. Not all stone is equal and not all material last for ever.
So I will answer the question of just how many is too many? It’s your garden and as I’ve said it before and now, again, The garden is where you go to create who you are, in a way that only you know how. Just remember, not everyone will understand.
A thought; Beauty and knowing why, is in the eye’s and mind of the beholder.
If ever there was a view that made you think that time had stood still it would be one of a snow-covered garden. The stillness as the snow falls blanketing the trees and ornamental’s with an outline of white lace that is so fine and soft. The softness is all about the garden, the quiet whiteness is like being in the clouds and there is a comfort in that.
The empty clay pots have beautiful white rings and the statues are topped with white hats and the evergreens bow their branches with white lace gloves. The vines twist and curl as the snow dances through them as if none of this existed at all. That some great silent white ball was taking place and only the garden was invited.
Everything seems as if time has stopped and much of the garden floor is deep below the snow and only small glimpse of what is there are now just mounds in the snow. The stone walls are gone from view and the whole Shire Garden is asleep beneath this white comforter and I know all is well.
We call this snow poor mans fertilizer for all of the nutrients it will deliver to the soil when it melts in the spring, and the flowers this coming year will be even prettier.
As the snow falls there is a magical feeling in the air and the cloud cover makes for hardly a shadow to be found upon the snow and that of its self is something to notice for it allows the red and yellow twigs of the dogwoods and willows to show more brilliantly against the white back drop.
For us in the northern hemisphere snow is our friend, it insulates and protects our plants from drying out and or freeze. It reflexes light and that helps with our shorter days of light now. The snow also allows me to see where the Rabbits trails are, so that I might change that in the spring.
Snow, frozen rain, and each with its own shape and size how wonderful is that and here in the Shire Garden once again this snow gives yet another still picture of time standing still.
The quiet in this picture is one of knowing that there is a time for work and growth and a time for rest and it is that rest when most work is done.
A thought; Comfort is knowing that the snows of our life are there to protect and nourish.
We have had so much snow in the last two weeks that with today’s sun and cabin fever setting in, I thought outside air and a walk through the drifted snow was in good order. I saw an open spot of bare ground where the wind had blown the snow away up in Oak Grove and thought that was a good sunny spot to stand for a while and to look back upon the Shire Garden to see how things had weathered the storms so far.
Well getting there was quite a walk with snow drifts up to my hips, good workout though. As I stood in the cleared area and dusted the snow from my pants, the sun was warm and everything in the snow sparkled like crystals, with the sun light dancing through it, and it made me stop, just to notice such beauty.
Stomping the snow from my boots I noticed some green at my feet and I stooped a little closer to look at this green and to my surprise, it was Trailing Arbutus or May Flower and it was in bud with some bloom and all I wanted to do was to call out to someone to come and see, I found Spring here in all this snow, But at last, I was alone and shared my find with a fat gray squirrel heading to the bird feeder, he didn’t seem to care much, it was more about I was in his way.
Trailing Arbutus, May Flower, Ground Laural ( Epigaea repens ) meaning ” crawling upon the earth ” and should not be confused as the flower named for the Pilgrims ship the Mayflower, that was named for the European blossom of the crab apple tree. Arbutus have small up to two-inch evergreen leaves with a fine fuzz on them that helps to protect it from cold winters and the waxy five pedaled flowers form in small clusters and the fragrance is spicy sweet and are wonderful to eat as well. Member of the Heath Family a classified division, Magnaliophyta, order Ericales, family Ericaceae. Native habitat along woodland cart paths and pine and oak forest floors where mosses grow well. Poor to transplant and is best if left were found to enjoy. Bloom time is early spring through May but here in the Shire’s Oak Grove it seem to be in bloom year round. Once on the almost over collected list, to the point of rarity. The state flower of Massachusetts, its protected by law, and should not be picked or removed from public lands and road sides.
Growing up in the rural country side it wasn’t unusual to know all of the secret spots of where the wild flowers grow and it was always gramma who would say to me I think we should see if the arbutus or the lady slipper’s are in bloom its close to that time, and we would head out on great flower finding adventures, the rule though was never reveal the spot where the wild flowers or blueberries are found because others will come and pick them. To this day I hesitate to tell where the wild things grow.
So here I stand out in Oak Grove in a sunny snow free spot enjoying my first glimpse of spring with no one but the birds, squirrels and the trees of the Shire Garden, and you know, that’s fine, because who better, than my best friends to share it with.
A thought; There is a first for a lot of things, but knowing there are always first’s makes life wonderful.
When I was very young at the age of four or five, I would accompany my Dad to our church on Saturday morning, as he was Deacon and he would ready the church for Sunday worship. During the summer season church members like, Mr. Bowen would bring in a large bucket filled with their garden flowers and his was always his prized gladiolus for the altar vases. I remember how beautiful the colors where and the long flower stalks where as tall as I was at the time. Mr. Bowen would combine the colors so that they looked nicely together and he would tell me all about the hundreds of colors he had in his garden, he would say the best part of gladiolus was that every year you get a new corm from each plant. ( A corm is some what of a bulb that is the food storage for the growth and flower for the next year.) similar to rhizomes, tubers and bulbs. Early that fall Mr. Bowen gave me about 50 gladiolus corms for spring planting in my garden and he told me not to plant them all at one time, plant seven to ten every other week till they are all planted, that way I would have flowers all summer.
As an older man working in my flower shop I grew to under appreciate the gladiolus because of their over use in funeral arrangements and just seeing them, for me, made me think of death. However the flower means nothing of death. The flower signifies strength of character, sometimes called ” Corn Lilies or Sword Lilies” The word Gladius in Latin is ” the little sword” which was the flower of the Roman Gladiators whom used the corms as amulets for protection. They also grow abundantly in the Holy Land and are thought to be the lilies of the field mentioned in the Bible. So you see there is a lot more behind these flowers.
The gladiolus is made up of three main groups; Grandiflorus, Primulinus and the Nanus ( or butterfly ) and most of their origins are from south Africa, thus they are not cold hardy plants and in colder regions of the world, must be dug and stored in a warmer place for the winter, to which they do very well with little to no care till spring. This is when you separate the new corm from the older one and your corm count doubles, with the new corm bloom being the same as the parent.
I plan to plant more of these Sword Lilies in the Shire Garden this year, but of the older varieties for the smaller flowers with a greater sword appearance in their foliage that will create more character to the flower beds, and will be a great addition to our flower arrangements, as they make great cut flowers. This is the time of year when you order glad’s, and remember the first order you don’t need many, for in the coming years ahead you will have more than you’ll need.
Looking back to those early days in the church with my Dad, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic about Mr. Bowen and his cultivation and hybridizing of his beautiful gladiolus and what I could have learned from him today.
Thought; Never put off the questions of today, for the answers could be lost in tomorrow.
January is a long month of cold temperatures and over cast days and I thought it was a good time for a flower story.
This is one of many short stories I have written about the flowers and it takes place on a magical Island called, “Laurels”.
High above the lush green valleys stands the stony mountain of Lair. Here the rocks are step and upright, yet clinging in the cracks and crevasses are thousands of alpine flowers that help to transform this difficult area into a magical place. This is where the dragon of Laurel lives and it is here that our legend begins.
A dragon’s lair is a place of great wonder, for dragons are known to collect all things that shimmer and shine. Great hordes of treasures and trash are collected here. A great horde makes for a mighty dragon.
This lair was filled with golden candle sticks and chairs of gold guilt, dishes of silver and diamonds and jewels so vast that they set the whole of the lair aglow with the most wonderful colors. This was truly a most mighty dragon.
It has been recorded that dragons live to the age of five hundred years and over those years his main job is to collect his weight in wealth. The dragon of Laurels has done his job very well in deed.
He knew his days where growing near to an end and he worried about his many treasures day and night. He wanted no other young dragon to take his lives work from him, and on this matter he worried often.
One morning the dragon woke from a dream, in this dream he saw himself as a younger dragon again, and after much thinking on the matter decided that all he had to do was to give away some of his precious treasure. That if he did this good deed he would be given a new lease on life.
This is a very hard thing for a dragon to do, because by nature dragons are greedy and always presume everyone is out to take what they have.
This dragon was truly the greediest of all and smart too, he figured that if he gave just a few of his small treasures away that it would not only allow him to live another five hundred years, but would also make room for more treasure for his lair, this made for a very happy dragon!
Thus the dragon of Laurel’s Lair Mountain filled a great sack with the smallest of his treasured jewels of every color, and decided to hide them about the island thinking no one would find them spread so far and wide. As each jewel snapped from the greedy tight grip of the dragon, they fell to the ground like great hail. Where each jewel landed an unusual flower sprang from the soil marking its hiding place and its color.
The good people of Laurel where so taken by these keepers of the jewel flower, that they named them after the giver, the Snapdragon.
The snapdragon flowers have fell into many a greedy hand, but when the greedy person holds on to tight the dragon shaped flower head snaps open and the true colors are on display for all to see.
A thought; Often from strange places and under even stranger circumstances beautiful gifts can come to us.