Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Blooms

I hope everyone has had an enjoyable holiday season -- my parents and my husband's mother joined the four of us for Christmas as usual this year, and we all enjoyed the company, food and Christmas spirit. Part of the magic for me is the holiday decorations, particularly the horticultural ones: a Christmas tree, cut flowers and various potted plants and bulbs. Here are a few scenes:

First, the Christmas miracle of this year: the highly unusual outdoor foliage that is still green through December, plus, incredibly, even a few flowers, blooming the day after Christmas! The oddly warm temperatures we've been enjoying all during December have allowed these freak occurances:

A viola flower that is still hanging on.

This orange mum sent up a new flower this week.
A snapdragon on the protected east side of my house

I know those aren't particularly impressive or beautiful flowers in themselves, but the fact they have occurred is highly unusual and worth documenting. I don't have any spring flowers blooming yet, unlike a few people around here whose hellebores or snowdrops are already flowering (the Lenten Rose usually doesn't bloom here until March or April), but these leftover autumn flowers are good enough for me.

But the flowers that I have been enjoying inside are even nicer, since I don't need to venture out into the cold, damp, sunless weather of this month:

Some seasonal house plants in my east kitchen window, including a poinsettia, holly and ivy, a Christmas cactus and a cute little potted European cypress tree at far right. The Norfolk Island pine in the center was upstairs in my plant corner, but I brought it down here and decorated it with very light ornaments.

From the other end of the same display, where the potted paperwhites and white amaryllis can be seen
behind the holly and the Anthurium plant, which isn't a traditional Christmas plant but looks right
 at home with its red and green colors.  

A cut-flower arrangement on the bar, next to two "frosty fern" plants (Selaginella).
An all-white and green arrangement.
Sometimes my favorite arrangements are those made with
the short stems left over from the larger arrangements. I
made this little bouquet for our downstairs bathroom
with leftover blooms and a little snowman stake that
came in one of the Selaginella plants.

Anyway, I have enjoyed these many plants during the Christmas season and during our warm spell, which seems to be ending, judging from the ice storm with horizontal winds that is currently raging outside right now. Brrr! A good day to stay inside and slowly clean up after the holidays.

I hope you are recovering from all the Christmas excitement as we get ready to ring in the New Year. Here's to a happy, healthy and lushly growing 2016!

Thanks for reading! -Beth

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Across the Pond Garden to the gazebo, on a frosty morning.

I woke up earlier than usual on Friday morning, and this was the scene: heavy frost and the low light of a sunrise only a few weeks before the winter solstice. It wasn't terribly cold or windy, so I was able to get a few shots of the frost before the sun made it disappear half an hour later. Here are a few scenes:

The Herb Garden.

Frost-rimed rose leaves (Merriam-Webster: Rime, 12-century, from the ME rim, OE hrīm, after Old Norse hrīm, meaning frost -- aren't etymologies fascinating?) 

Basket-of-gold (Aurinia saxatilis) already has gray, fuzzy leaves, made even more so by the frost.

A grassy area that I let grow this year. It reminds me of waves on an ocean.

A low, near-solstice sunrise that soon ended this otherworldly scene.

I've been continuing to think about the project I discussed in my last post, enclosing my front porch to make a sunroom, and I discovered this interesting site maintained by the University of Oregon Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory, which has a very useful solar path chart calculator. You only need to enter your ZIP code (or latitude and longitude if not in the US) and time zone and it will make a very nice chart showing you the angle of the sun throughout the day at various dates of the year. (It shows six months of the the year, and the other six months are exactly the same, except the inner months are July-November.)

My solar angle chart. The sunrise in the last photo is about 120° from north, according to this chart.

We've been having what I like to think of as "English" winter weather: overcast, damp and not too cold, most days around 40°F. I hope we get our usual clear, sunny cold days back soon, as I'm missing the sunshine inside the house.

And I hope you are enjoying mild, sunny days in your own gardens as we approach the winter solstice and the Christmas holiday. Thanks for reading! -Beth