The Violet Fern

Creating Art & Gardens


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Sights at Selby

A little GREEN for y’all today and a first for me … I am sitting in a cafe! Yes, my first cafe-side created post. Today, a wonderful cafe called Green Sage Cafe in Asheville NC with many fresh, healthy ingredients on the menu – including GREEN Vegan/plant-based meals. I could get used to this.

We have been traveling for a week so please forgive my absence. I’m a little road weary but today and tomorrow we rest and plan to stretch our legs on a hike or two somewhere among this beautiful country side (Smoky Mountains) in search for the end of the rainbow and a pot o’ gold – Mojo will be oh, so grateful. He’s a good dog, but even a good dog has his limits! Thursday it is back on the road and finally home as we plan to arrive the first day of Spring. Spring is here (in Asheville)! Daffodils, forsythia, azaleas are in bloom. I know I will have awhile to wait once we arrive home so I’m soaking it up.

Not too long ago this lucky girl visited the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota FL, and I wanted to share some of the sights with you. Selby is known for its collection of epiphytes which includes many types of orchids. We began our venture right in the hot house! A beautiful collection of epiphytes contained within glass in ideal conditions. I’ll let the sights speak for themselves … (wish I could also share the scents and sounds of gently trickling water).

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You might believe those orchids would steal the entire show, but no, I was won over by the pitcher plants. I have never seen some of these types and I was fascinated.

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My favorite!

I was also entranced by some of the beautiful patterns of foliage – so much to see and absorb in just one trip. I’m not sure I’m giving these plants and gardens a fair show. There were so many names, plaques, plants that are/were new to me. So begins my education by simply, exposure. I dream of a tropical garden someday that never dies under a blanket of white – only shifts and transitions between blooms, exotic seed pods, large lush leaves.

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Did I mention “exotic?” Wow. (CAUTION: some of this content may not be suitable for young children!)

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There are so many layers to a garden. I find that I am now drawn to the forms of plants mainly because I have some scenes in my head that I want to paint on paper – all lush and large. Looking through my photos, one can tell; it’s not only in the flowers that I find interest. Believe it or not I used to own this very same plant as a houseplant – look at this root!

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Look at these seed pods!

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Then, of course there were trees to ogle over. You know me, I’m all about trees.

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This tree was in full bloom – large, fist-sized red flowers.

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The bark of a Gumbo Limbo tree.

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Just one of a superb collection of Bonsai.

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Not sure if this is a tree per say, but its form is certainly tree-like.

The magnificent roots of a Fig tree.

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More roots – look at this network!

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One of my favorites – Banyan tree.

Banyan tree.

Well, I hope you enjoyed these sights. I assure you Spring is on its way. The Robins are singing here. Soon, it will all creep further North. I hope to hurry it along and bring some home with me. I certainly picked up many great things this tour to reflect upon – best Winter I have ever had!

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If you ever find yourself in Sarasota be sure to visit Selby but WARNING: they sell orchids! Imagine the restraint I had to use not to bring one of these beauties home (simply had to remind myself that I’m a plant murderer).

Orchids for sale at the Selby gift store …

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What’s Blooming: Rosemary and a Spike!

Things are looking brighter here. The sun is stronger, the shadows longer. My indoor plants are taking notice. My rosemary is doing unbelievably well this year. Both types are blooming (usually just the creeping blooms).

rosemary in bloom

Amaryllis Evergreen is growing. It has a big, beautiful bud that I can’t wait to see unfold. It looks green as promised. There are more leaves peeking from the bulb. I may even get a second stalk.

amaryllis evergreen

For those of you who do not regularly read my blog, I have been struggling with where to place my orchids since we moved into our NY house. They were extremely happy in their spot in our Maine house. Here, not so much. Many have dwindled into smaller and smaller plants and I haven’t had one bloom in four or five years. I moved them once again into my office/studio and invested in some large bell jars to hold warmth and humidity. (See previous post Project: Indoor Garden Shelf) I am happy to report it is working! I finally have a spike on my moth orchid (it is to the left tucked under the leaf). Hopefully my other orchids will positively respond, too.

orchid spike

This is what the flower will look like from a previous picture of this orchid blooming in Maine.

moth orchid bloom

There may be a few buds outdoors in the garden but for now they are buried in snow. What is blooming for you? Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month. Share the love, share your blooms!


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Project: Indoor Garden Shelf

Although I have a window in my small studio/home office, I do not have a view – except into my neighbor’s window. I usually keep white, honeycomb shades drawn for privacy. I do, however, have wonderful light as it faces Southeast, and this wonderful light filters through the shades. Better light is definitely what my declining orchid collection needs. I have a mix of Paphiopedilum or Lady Slipper, Phalaenopsis or Moth, Cattleya and Dendrobium orchids. Some of these I’ve cared for (and neglected) for nearly ten years.

In addition to my orchid trials, I now have terrarium fever. I really want to create and tend to some mossy, woodsy, miniature indoor gardens.

Another factor at play here is that I want to revamp my studio/office so that it’s more inspiring to work in. Since I love to garden and love the woods, I thought maybe I could bring these elements into my work space and they could nurture my nature year round.

I put up a shelf along the width of the window just about eye level so that I could create my own view. On this shelf is, initially where all my orchids and new attempt at terrariums will reside. More shelving will continue along the walls above my desk area for a better, roomier, display and to incorporate my woodland finds which I’ll save for another time.

I sifted through what I already owned for some creative glass containers, although I will need to purchase some very tall ones for my Slipper Orchids in the near future. Here a pub glass makes a mini cloche.

When we moved here a nice collection of old mason jars was left behind in our cellar. I kept them thinking that I would do something with them at some point. I have a collection of sea shells in some glass jars that my grandmother owned. I swapped the shells into the mason jars so I could use my grandmother’s glass jars for planting. Some of the shells I used in my new containers. Some shells mimic large shelf fungus found in the woods, some are purely decorative.

I was inspired to do this project after receiving The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin as a Christmas gift. This book contains many creative ideas. Using this book as a guide, I purchased a soil made for terrariums called plantation soil. It is a soil made from compressed coconut husk fibre that comes in bricks. I placed a brick in a bucket, added water and voila, big bucket of beautiful soil substrate! In each container, I layered charcoal, pebbles and soil. The pebbles allow for good drainage and the charcoal filters the water, keeps things sweet, and prevents stagnation and fungi. I also enclosed potted plants in glass. Some of my new plantings are open at the top but because the plants are still enclosed in glass, humidity levels are elevated. My orchids are very dry here in spite of misting. A boost of humidity should also help them thrive. I excavated a little moss from my property as a top dressing.

1. Potted orchid in large glass vase with sea shell base.
2. Shells mimicking shelf fungus found in woods.
Miniature Buddha rock garden on my desk.

In Maine my orchids bloomed every Winter without fail. Here in NY, they have bloomed once or twice but have clearly declined. Some of them still remain in their pots. I will closely monitor those in terrarium-like containers. I am hoping this new spot will make them bloomin’ happy once again. I also hope to create some terrariums with other types of plantings and more miniature scenes. This shelf is now a garden surround to ground me while working and lift my spirits while creating. I can’t wait to continue it along the other two walls. Glass sun catchers add to my new garden. How about you? Is there a place where you, too, can create your own view? Bring the garden indoors?

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