"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today is winter solstice, the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. For me it means now that winter has officially started, that spring is not all that far away.

It was a frosty, but clear morning for the first day of winter.
 To celebrate the solstice I joined up with the winter sowers group to start my first round of winter sowing. 

 The first four sets of seeds are supposed to honor Remembrance, Life, Mother Nature and Faith. I decided to throw one more in for good measure.

This is my third or fourth year winter sowing and I've had really good luck. Towards the end of winter I will winter sow some annuals too.
It was actually sunny enough to set up outside rather than on my kitchen counter!
This is a link to my post from last year which also shows brief instructions on how to winter sow. The whole point of winter sowing is to let the seeds go through the cold weather and even lots of snow to help with germination. If you live where your winters are cold and snowy this will still work for you! That's the fun part about it, gardening in winter!

Remember:  "No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow"  ~ Guinea Proberb.
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let it snow and other ways that I've gotten rid of Christmas stress.

This Christmas season has been one of the least stressful ones that I can remember having as an adult.  Why?  Because I took away all the expectations that I normally put on myself to have it be "perfect" or like one that is seen in a magazine. 
Didn't get the Christmas cards finished.  Oh well, my family and friends still know they are important to me because I'm making an effort to tell them that instead. 

The Littlest Gardener made chocolate treats for her friends at school
Didn't get trays of cookies and candies made this year.  Did have fun making fudge with my sister and splitting it with her (and dropping a couple of plates off to friends who needed a little chocolate fix). 

 Didn't get a real tree cut down fresh (or even from the hardware store) this year.  Did get a fake one that took the stress and future stresses out of finding time on a weekend (that are filled with sporting and family and work events) to go as a family and find one, wait for it to dry out enough to put up and then want to take down the day after Christmas because it's so dried up I'm afraid to turn the lights on anymore.  We still all decorated it together, and truthfully it looks better than most real ones we've had. 

Went to the mall once only to be overwhelmed by all the people and lack of choices, instead found better and more personal things online (including some hand made). 

Did take time to do a sewing project, something I haven't done in many years.  I sewed and embroidered the advent stockings across the mantle.  I even taught Sweet Pea how to do a little embroidery. 

Didn't worry about the big box that was turned into a reindeer by the Littlest Gardener in the middle of our tiny family room.  Normally that much clutter would drive me crazy. 

 Love that Sweet Pea has turned our house into a winter wonderland with the snowflakes and paper chains we made together.  If we don't get snow for Christmas, we still have our own homemade snowflakes inside instead.

As I read recently:  "Take time to appreciate the little things, for one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December flowers.

Over the weekend my girls and I visited a couple of nurseries.  I love to see the Christmas displays and also what plants are out.  I never stop thinking of gardening, even when the top layer of soil is frozen in much of my yard.  Some nurseries are still trying to get rid of perennials and there are still good deals to be found.  The weather over the weekend was very cold and wet.  Over the last couple of days the sun has broken through, but it's still cold with the high getting only to 39.

How come every winter I decide I can squeeze one more Hellebore in?  Probably because there's barely anything blooming right now.  I found this Helleborus Niger 'Jacob' and thought it would brighten up a spot in the garden.  Where, I don't know, but I'll find a good spot that I can see from inside the house.

While carrying 'Jacob' around I found a clearance table at the nursery.  Everything was at least 50% off!  There were lots of really good plants on it too, but I was good and just found a few.

After seeing the Hellebores in the nursery I decided to see what the Hellebores in my garden were doing.  These are Lenten Rose type Hellebores and they bloom toward the end of February whereas the H. Nigers also called "Christmas Rose" are blooming right around now.

A self seeded Red Valerian in my backyard blooming now which seems very late, but I'll take that color anyday!

Violas seem to love this half wine barrel.  I think they are protected enough that the cold temperatures don't seem to bother them.  I'm also very happy to see all those buds on the Pieris.  I find myself checking for buds on other plants like Camellias and Sarcococcas.  Just seeing those buds helps me through the cold weather because I know there is the promise of flowers to come.

Daphne 'Summer Ice' will bloom up until about January and then take a month or two off before it's back in bloom again.  This is an evergreen shrub and those flowers smell so good!

Isn't the new growth on Abelia pretty?  It didn't bloom long this year but the pink here is almost as good.  It's mostly an evergreen shrub unless we get many days really cold weather, and then it will lose most of its leaves.

Our backyard gets the most sun during the winter and spring and so I love to go and stand on the deck to soak up the sun when it's out.  I've been adding more and more container plantings to this area.  The red flowers are Cyclamen and Pansies  There are a few more containers that aren't seen in this picture that are planted with tulip bulbs.  I've seen signs of digging, but so far no bulbs are gone.  I think the squirrels still prefer the apples that are left on the tree.

We had a beautiful sunrise this morning with lots of oranges in it, tonight's sunset is just as pretty.  As nice as it is I do look forward to when the sunset is later than 4:20 pm!
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Frosty and Foggy Days.

 Today is the first time I've seen sun in days.  It's been very cold and very foggy lately.  The sun finally got a chance to break through today and it's so nice to see blue skies.  The sun has tried to come out for days, just breaking through the fog around 4:15 as it was setting.  It did give us some beautiful sunsets though!  And the moon at night was extra bright.
Earlier today I went out to look at the garden and how pretty it looked frosty with the haze of fog around everything.  I've seen so busy I haven't had a chance to enjoy how pretty things look covered in frost.  Even the spider's silk that draped from branch to branch looked like it had been dipped in white paint and made the delicate silk look much thicker than it is.  The winter light, even in the fog, is my favorite.  All the colors seem so much deeper.

 The butterfly garden covered in frost.  There are still two different Erysimums blooming!

 Abelia, to the right, starts blooming late and is mostly evergreen, unless we get many days in a row below freezing.

 In one of the raised beds there is chard, beets and kale growing here.  Since this the first winter growing them I'm not sure if this is the end for them or if they will bounce back.

 The driveway bed that I worked on earlier in fall still has lots of interest.  The Ninebark hasn't lost any leaves yet.  The bright green in front is an evergreen called False Holly (Osmanthus) 'Goshiki'.

 A frosted unknown pink rose.

 Frosty 'Lady Emma Hamilton'.

 We put garland and lights up on the picket fence, something I've always wanted to have.  It looks so pretty all lit up at night.

 The front of the house through the fog.  You can see what a slope our yard is on in this picture.

 The pond had no ice, although the birdbaths all do.  After 8 years of having the pond I came up with a good way to clean the pump when it's cold.  It was quite dirty and needed a final cleaning for the year.  Instead of dealing with cold hose water.  I filled a bucket with warm water from the house and took the filter and pump apart and cleaned them in the warm bucket water.  Cleaner than usual and no numb hands!  Why it took me so long to figure this out I'll never know.

 I haven't adjusted the color in any of these pictures, it's just this vibrant looking right now in the garden.  Maybe it's the cold or maybe it's the fog?  Do you see our neighbor cat on the fence?  He and his brother are friends with Gracie.  They have been sleeping on our back deck the last few days, seems like a cold place to sleep, but I think they are waiting for Gracie to come out and play in the mornings.

 The bright red apples just pop against the bare branches.  They are too high to reach and so the squirrels are mostly enjoying them now.

Down the path you can see how colorful the Oakleaf Hydrangea is.  This has been it's best year ever.

I'll be interested to see how our winter goes.  Typically we've seen a dusting of snow by now, or at least a few flakes.  I've found myself hoping for some, maybe during the school break?
It's been very busy here so far we've had a choir concert, a choir field trip (the kids got to sing in the State Capitol), seen Arthur Christmas with preschool friends (very cute movie), gone Christmas shopping and seen Santa.  We've still got to get our tree, make candy, finish shopping, more basketball games and a Christmas ballet recital.  As busy as it all is, I'm enjoying this Christmas season more than ever.  But, I know that once it's over I'll be impatiently waiting for spring gardening! 
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Mornings at the pond.

 With the much cooler weather we've been experiencing, there's been the usual winter increase in birds here.  I see the Juncos and Wrens hopping through the garden eating seeds from Black-Eyed Susans, Coneflowers and other plants I haven't cut back yet.  I see the Pileated Woodpecker and Crows (and squirrels) in the apple trees munching on the apples too high for us to reach.  I see them splashing in the birdbaths.  There are hummingbirds fighting over the feeders now that most of the fuchsias are done.  I've seen large flocks in the tall Cedars at the church down the street.  And my favorite is seeing them enjoy the waterfall in our pond.  They are there mostly in the early day, right when the sun is low and it makes picture taking difficult, but yesterday morning I just had to try and capture some of the large flock of Pine Siskins that were visiting.  We used to see lots of these birds in the summer, but I've noticed over the last 3 years or so that they only visit in winter now.

 These are just a small group of the many were actually around the pond and in the apple tree.

 The water is so cold it hurts my hand to have it in for more than a minute or two, and yet I find them splashing and bathing in the waterfall.

 Looking for insects in the rocks.

A few last sips, and then they were gone.

I'm not sure what it is about birds, but I am fascinated by them.  My husband has pointed out lately that there are birds decorating every room, I took that as a hint that they might not be his first choice of home decor.
Are you seeing more or less birds this time of year?
All words and photos in this post are property of A Gardener in Progress. Pin It