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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Feb 23


Posted on February 23, 2018 at 9:21 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

As gardeners, we often are so focused on the big picture of maintaining our gardens—weeding, pruning, harvesting—that we forget to notice the small things. For me, the small things are where the magic of gardening occurs. The emergent greens poking through the soil from seeds sown or the developing swell of a bud evolving into a beautiful flower—these little details can be breathtaking in their own way. Upon returning from my vacation, I watered my houseplants and noted a small, green bump on the orchid sitting on the table. That bump is a promise of magnificent flowers yet to come! 

 sweet violets
 Sweet violets
Sometimes these small things come in the form of mysterious fragrances. For example, while walking through a garden have you ever caught a whiff of a perfumed flower, not knowing from where the fragrance is originating? If your curiosity is aroused, you might be in for a treasure hunt. The answer to the mystery may be hiding under a shrub in the form of a tiny patch of violets. Sometimes those sweet scents appear only at certain times, like when plants such as Cestrum nocturnum (night-blooming jasmine) open up on a warm evening. Yet other plants such as Sarcococca hide their tiny white flowers under their leaves, which leaves anyone wandering by wondering about the origin of such sweetness.

Other intricacies such as groundcovers are often blurred by the big picture of our gardens. As we view the landscape, we note the trees, shrubs and surroundings as a whole, but fail to note the groundcovers knitting the entire package together. There are many types of low-water-use groundcovers that accomplish this important job so subtly that we overlook them—until they are in bloom. One of my favorite groundcovers is the thyme family. The tiny leaves and flowers remain close to the ground, withstand extreme conditions and form a tightly knit cover that prevents weed seeds from germinating. Yet when they bloom, their colors are something to behold.

 Leaf patterns at Hawaii botanical garden
Oft times we also fail to notice the intricate patterns found in our leaves and flowers. These patterns can be bold, or fine lacy forms that are easily missed if we’re not paying attention. Sometimes different patterns can occur within the same location, as in this leaf I photographed while walking through the botanical gardens of Hawaii.

Intricacies require awareness and taking the time to see the details we often miss due to our business called life. May I suggest pouring a favorite hot beverage of choice during this late date in February, and walking through the garden with attention directed toward the small things? This gardener will be seeking out the Daphne odora if for no other reason than taking in my favorite fragrance—that is, my favorite until the freesia come into bloom!


Anonymous User
February 23, 2018 at 11:41 AM
I loved this article. And it opened me up to a plant I'm not familiar with, Daphne odora. I shall look for it in our garden centers.
Anonymous User
February 23, 2018 at 3:26 PM
Daphne odora is a low water using shade plant that blooms in the middle of January to February. It does not like wet feet so be certain to plant it where the drainage is good. Enjoy the fragrance. It is intoxicating! Always, Charlene.

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