Early Autumn Garden To-Do List for the Magical Mid-Atlantic

After the Summer’s heat, it’s time to get back out in the garden and put it to bed for the Winter.  Here’s a link to your chores!

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka' at Woodland Cottage

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka' at Woodland Cottage

Posted under Garden maintenance, Houseplants, Insects in the Garden, Pruning, The Fall Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on October 3, 2012

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Often, I Don’t See the Forest for the Trees

I work outside, in Nature, almost every day of my life, either in my own gardens, in Arlington or Wilmington, or in other’s gardens.  Yet I miss so much of the beautiful detail because I am so caught up in the “doing” versus the “being”.  I’ll bet a lot of my landscaping co-horts can sympathize with this realization.  How many times have you gotten to June 1st and thought, “I missed [experiencing] Spring…again”?

April 2007, Woodland Cottage

April 2007, Woodland Cottage

My wonderful friend H/D once observed that I notice so many details in gardens/Nature.  It’s true, to a point–that’s my job.  It’s my job to notice if a plant looks a bit off, or the soil in a particular spot is washing away…if a spot is sunny or shady, or what is growing natively in an area.  These are all clues.  I constantly look for clues.  I try to solve the mysteries of insect/disease invasion, nutrient/soil deficiencies, water imbalances…that’s my job.  That’s the horticulturist Jeff, the scientist Jeff.  But what about what’s beyond my job?  What about the birdsong?  What about noticing that exact day in June when the lightning bugs appear?  Or the exact moment at dusk, in Mid-Summer, when the deafening sound of the cicadas suddenly dies and the chirps of the katydids instantly take over the chorus? What about that exact, glorious day in Spring when the fat, beside-themselves buds burst into chartreuse leaf?  In these moments, I swell and burst myself, with a knowing deep inside me.

For me, Nature calls on me to sit up and take notice in many ways.  She’s in my face to make me notice.  With a fragrance, too strong to ignore, leading me to the source of the scent.  I stop.  And let the flood of sense-memories draws me back in time.  A hummingbird, buzzing inches from my face.  I stop, in delight, and say hello to these lovely creatures that exude energy, and a renewed energy flows into me.  The songs of the birds, at dawn and dusk, calling to me, “Who am I?”  The sudden visits of the birds and squirrels outside the windows where I sit.  The fox.  The raccoon lumbering up my woodland pathways, headed for a morning constitutional dip in my pond.  The blue heron searching my pond for fish.  The rushing sound of my waterfalls.  And the trees.  The trees.  The old, all-knowing trees.

Yesterday, after intensely concentrating on the layout of a new walk we began building, and satisfying myself that it was the way I wanted it, I relaxed and stood back a ways to observe.  Suddenly, a large flock of birds swept up out of a nearby tree, swooped down over us in murmuration, looped around in unison several times and then landed back in the tree they’d left.  It was a stunning, brief performance that stopped the crew and me.  A moment in time.  Nature saying, “Pay attention to the beauty that I have to offer you, the beauty that is always here, if you’ll only look and see.”

What are the ways that Nature tries to make you sit up and notice?

Photo by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Animals in the Garden, Fragrance in the garden, Insects in the Garden, Random garden thoughts

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 10, 2012

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Honeybees in January!

What a glorious day to be alive here in the Magical Mid-Atlantic (I’m borrowing this phrase from my magical friend, H/D).  On my daily walk through the garden this morning, I stopped in front of the biggest Leatherleaf Mahonia, Mahonia bealei, and lo and behold, the half-open blossoms are covered with honeybees.  Very active and happy honeybees–in JANUARY.  This may not be the earliest they’ve emerged to feast on the Mahonia’s nectar, yet it is the earliest certainly in my memory.  And the fragrance of the Mahonia is intoxicating when I get up close to the flowers.  What a treat and delight!

Look closely and you’ll see the bees:

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Coming in for a landing on the left...

Coming in for a landing on the left...

Posted under Fragrance in the garden, Insects in the Garden, The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 6, 2012

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