This was the first snow we’ve had this year and indeed the first really cold weather.
This was definitely a different and unusual Christmas. One to regret the things we missed and to be thankful for the things we still have. Our youngest son ended up spending the Fall with us and then on through Christmas. He has sparked the rediscovery of the many things that we associate with the holiday season around Ball Rd. There are many large and small things that connect us with past shared memories.
In addition we jointly watched the Christmas Revels celebration in Cambridge. It was great fun and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to move forward into the new year with contemplation of the way the human community has moved from the dark to the light over centuries. On the night before Christmas we tuned into the Follen Unitarian Church in Lexington, MA where the Reverend Claire Feingold Thoryn delivered a marvelous sermon discussing the Christmas Weed Tree of Toledo, Ohio and what that means for the rest of us.
Finally I should mention that I had a chance before Christmas to preview a new book written by a good friend.
Tropical Plants and How to Love Them will be available in March but it can be ordered now on Amazon. It is a wonderful exploration of tropical plants for the temperate gardener and I think a great many people will enjoy both the authoritative descriptions and Marianne’s always entertaining writing style. Highly recommended!
Last year, which now seems like ages ago, we joined an Alpine Garden Tour of Spain and Portugal that was focussed on the various Narcissi that grow naturally there. For us it was intended to be little bit earlier taste of Spring than we would normally get here in Maryland. We began with several wonderful days in Porto getting a sense of the culture and the cuisine. Then we met up with our guide and headed out to our first destination in the hills near the Serra da Estrela National Park
As you can see from the citrus, the climate is indeed a notch warmer than our Maryland zone 7a. But, as it turned out, the first couple of days were definitely on the cool side and we were bundled up with our warmest clothes. This short movie clip will give you a sense of what it was like to go plant exploring those first two days.
At the end of the day we came back to the warm farmhouse for a lovely meal and after dinner drinks.
After two days in the mountains we drove down the coast past Lisbon. Along the way we encountered lovely rock rose on the hillsides.
These are widespread in Portugal but are apparently zone 8-10 in the U.S.
We ended up at Cape Espichel. The weather was warmer but still not what one would call spring-like.
The flowers were incredible though.
It was here where we began to realize that as nice as the Narcissi were the really special aspect of the trip was the display of terrestrial orchids. These are plants we just don’t get in the U.S.
For the balance of the trip we were located near Ronda, Spain in lovely farmhouse that dates back to Roman times. The couple managing the hotel were a wonderful source of information about the area. For four days we traveled out into the surrounding hills looking for flowers.
The picture below gives a good sense as the environment with a sense of discovery around every corner.
One morning found us out in a pasture that was full of beautiful little white Narcissi
But also the characteristic Fritillaria of the area.
Another day took us to top of a local peak where we could look out across the Asphodelus to the surrounding countryside.
It turns out that the animals really don’t like Asphodelus (Onionweed) so it is everywhere.
Some of the towns we went through are very picturesque white villages hanging on the mountainside.
And with more orchids nearby.
This was, ironically, near the time when the covid-19 was beginning to spread rapidly around the world. It was striking to see this image in one of the villages.
As it turns out we left Spain on one of the last flights before all travel shut down. Nonetheless we will keep in our thoughts this lovely part of the world with beautiful flowers and remarkable scenery. I leave this post with this image of Ronda as a place to be returned to someday.
Well it is December so it’s not surprising that the first Hellebore is blooming for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. Helleborus Niger is always well ahead of it’s compatriots in providing winter bloom. Nonetheless it’s still the camellias that are providing the most stunning flowers around our hillside.
The camellias are pretty consistently with us for the fall and then on again off again until into the springtime. More surprising is the heather that is blooming right now.
And there is also a little ice plant that is flowering way out of season.
You can see white tips on the snowdrops and the adonis are also coming into bud.
But we are expecting 10 inches of snow tomorrow (the first real snow we’ve had this year), and that means the plants are likely to slow down for awhile.
In the greenhouse we have a number of early daffodils in bloom.
And there is also the beautiful wavy-flowered Nerine undulata still flowering after more than a month of bloom.
We have put up our traditional live Christmas tree, this time a Canaan Fir.
This will be planted out in the pasture after the holidays.
December 15th is also the first day for choosing seeds from the North American Rock Garden Society’s Seed Exchange. I was up early this morning (late last night) putting in my request for my 35 1st choice seed packets on the list. This is great fun and I would encourage everyone to get involved. There are 2480 taxa available including many rare and unusual varieties that you will not find from commercial sources.