Articles for the Month of January 2010

Picture This: Winter’s Beauty


My thanks to SpiritKeeper on YouTube for the above reading of Winter’s Beauty by William H. Davies.

Gardens Gone Wild has a photo contest for January with the theme of “Winter’s Beauty”.  As is usual it’s a theme that offers lots of opportunity for interpretation and selection.  The classic picture for me in wintertime is the Ice Cardinal that I posted for the November contest.  But since this is for joy and sharing I ruled out any repeat submissions.  So we shall go prospecting for “Winter’s Beauty”.

It’s always interesting to see how the world looks after a snowstorm, but sometimes the results after an ice storm are even more striking.

Japanese Maple in Ice

But it may be even better when you get closer up to the plants.

Blueberry Row in Ice

What’s missing from these pictures though is the spot of color that Ice Cardinal had.  So another approach is to look at these emerging Winter Aconite fighting back an ice patch.

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) closed up for cold weather

Another traditional example of Winter Beauty  is the Japanese Flowering Quince which is ready to flower at the drop of a hat.  Snow is only a minor inconvenience.

Japanese Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) in the snow

But when you stop to think of it “Winter’s Beauty” isn’t just about the snow.  It’s all around you if you take time to look.  The leftover Northern Sea Oats are still there waiting to be seen against the winter sky.

Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) against the winter sky

So just following that lead and ignoring ice, snow, and color, I’m going to go with what is an ongoing Winter’s Beauty highlight for me.  Every morning’s trip to the mailbox takes me past a Star Magnolia that increasingly unveils the buds that will in late March open up to beautiful white flowers heralding another spring.  The buds have the soft furry texture of cat’s paws and the little gray-white hairs reflect the light dramatically.  That’s my “Winter’s Beauty”.

Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) bud in January

Color in January

Last year I was struck by the welcome sight of the Witch Hazel in early February.  It was alight with yellow petals at a time when most things were still sleeping off the winter chill.  However, our Boston children had already sent down a picture of Witch Hazel ‘Jelena’ with gorgeous red straps in early January so I was inspired to order a related variety, ‘Diane’.  The first one that arrived was on death’s door so I asked for a replacement.  And even that one was in a soft pot with a lot of loose soil.  So it has resided in a pot with little disturbance since last spring.  Now I notice that it is indeed already opening up with bright red straps.

Witch Hazel 'Diane' (Hamamelis x intermedia)

We need to find a home for this little tree this spring.

We’ve just had a week or so of somewhat warmer weather.  Yesterday was 50 degrees again.  And things are starting to pop up.  But this Witch Hazel is definitely ahead of it’s Chinese counterpart which is only just starting to show color.

Chines Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis)

It rained heavily over the weekend which helped the ground thaw out and got rid of a lot of the remaining snow.  I was very pleased to see that when the snow melted next the porch the little Hepatica that we got from Asiatica last year (Single Purple) was looking very happy and even starting to put out some buds.

Hepatica single purple from Asiatica

Garden Blogger Bloom Day January 2010

Well, here we are starting off a new year with Garden Blogger Bloom Day.  Sad to say there aren’t many flowers to show from a tour around the property.  Certainly the most spectacular on site is a very nice Moth Orchid growing inside the house.

Stripped Phalaenopsis

As is true with most of our orchids they blossom with incredible staying power, 4-6 weeks I would guess, and the flowers will stop you in your tracks.

It’s a good thing we have the orchids going on because outside there is not much to show this month.  I took a pretty good walk around and saw only the same little snowdrop that has been out for nearly a month now.

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) in January

Otherwise it was a lot of promising buds but no cigars (to borrow a phrase).  We’ve had a lot of freezing or below days that have only just ended with 50 degrees yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  One warm spell has trouble making up for a lot of frigid temperatures.  Things like the hellebores and quince are just waiting in the wings and I see lots of daffodils sticking up their little green spikes.  Scary to think that we are not even at the middle point of the winter as far as the ground temperature goes.  That could make one start to plan a trip to Florida for spring training (which I plan to do this year…).

Of course even when the plants are dormant many of the birds are still here to keep us company.  The red Cardinals are always a comfort when we get up in the morning.  But today I was noting how nicely even the House Finches are colored when they are not side by side with the Cardinals.

House Finch in January

Another surprising element to me is just how much color is left on the male Goldfinches even in the dead of winter.  Is it always this way and am I just paying more attention?

Goldfinch in January

Along with the warm weather we have had a couple of amazing sunsets.  I sat outside and watched this one with a cup of tea last night.  Those red adirondack chairs on the pasture hillside are wonderful for contemplation until the sun goes down and it gets cold enough to chase me inside.  May your winter seed catalog dreams match glowing colors of the sunset…

January sunset

Here’s Looking at You

Cooper's Hawk looking back

Cooper's Hawk looking back

This Hawk was sitting outside in the maple tree when I went out this morning.  It was not much concerned about me, but seemed to be keeping a keen eye on the yard.  Needless to say there weren’t many other birds hanging around.  I would have guessed Broad-winged Hawk from the markings, but they should have long since migrated for the winter.  This one was not large but showed every sign of living hereabouts.  So my best guess is immature Cooper’s Hawk.

Wow!  Did the holidays just race right by.  I started several postings that just never got to fruition.  First there was the Dec 20th snowfall that exceeded all expectations.

The big snow of December 20th

The big snow of December 20th

I had noticed a little snowdrop making an early appearance late on the evening of the 19th and thought (naively) that I would get out early in the morning and snap a picture before the snow got too deep.  Nope.  By the time I got up the snow was deep and getting deeper.  It was a beautiful fluffy snow that was followed by sunshine.  Perfect for sledding.

Our sledding hillside

Our sledding hillside

But when the snow melted after Christmas that little snowdrop was still there looking happy as a clam.

Our first snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

Our first snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

And it’s being joined by several others

More Snowdrops on the way

More Snowdrops on the way

The temperatures have been mostly in the thirties daytime and twenties at night so I was surprised to see that the Hellebores are also showing growth.  Ivory Prince in particular seems to be well advanced in putting out its flower buds.

Buds forming on Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince'

Buds forming on Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince'

I can see many instances of the daffodils putting up green tips as well as leucojum and meadowsweet.

New growth from the Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

New growth from the Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

But before I could fully enjoy these newly emerging shoots I had one more task from my Fall planting to accomplish.  The weather had kept me from planting the last of my December discount order from Brent and Becky.  So last Wednesday, just before the year ended I went out on a freezing day and put in 50 daffodils (Beautiful Eyes).  The ground was frozen on top but once I broke through the surface with the auger it was easy to put in one last swath of daffodils.  The hardest part was kneeling on the frozen ground.

The last daffodils planted for the season

The last daffodils planted for the season

Though I certainly pushed these to the limits of the planting season, I was ready to plant more when I finished.  But I guess I should focus on the seed catalogs next.

The other planting was our Christmas tree.  Here’s what it looked like for Christmas on the inside.

Christmas tree at night

Christmas tree at night

And then after planting at the bottom of the 2nd pasture.

2009 Christmas tree planted

2009 Christmas tree planted

Now to those seed catalogs  🙂