Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2015

The winter sun peeks through ice covered branches.

Happy Winter!

Today, December 21st at 11:49 PM EST marks the 2015 winter solstice. At this moment in time, the North Pole (due to the axial tilt of the earth) is at its furthest point from the sun.

My post from December, 2011 expresses my sentiments of this day.

And … my Christmas Rose is blooming! Right on time!

 

The day on which the winter solstice occurs is deemed the first day of winter. It is the shortest day of the year and consequently the longest night of the year. For eons, many different festivals have been held in observance of this annual astronomical event, most of them celebrating the birth of the new solar year.

I find it a time to reflect on the beauty of the season – the quiet stillness of winter. And when there is snow on the ground – even better, softer, quieter …

Flower buds of the native dogwood lie in wait under a coating of fresh snow.

Flower buds of the native dogwood lie in wait under a coating of fresh snow.

But even in the midst of this tranquility, one can catch a glimpse of the dynamic new season that awaits us. A leisurely walk through the winter garden can be very peaceful; but at the same time quite exciting if you are observant to the world around you.

Though most plants are “sleeping” at this time of year, many show the promise of the beautiful blooms to come with plump flower buds adorning their otherwise naked (except for the evergreens of course!) branches.

Rhododendron flower buds are wrapped up tightly for the winter but come spring ...

Rhododendron flower buds are wrapped up tightly for the winter but come spring …

Dogwoods, azaleas, rhododendrons, and other spring blooming trees and shrubs all produced their flower buds last season. These buds lay dormant now but as spring approaches they will begin to swell and then it won’t be long until they burst into a glorious display of blossoms.

Something to look forward to!

The herbaceous perennials may be brown and dry above the ground but I know that below the soil surface, the new buds are cozy and protected, just waiting for the first warm breaths of spring to initiate their growth.

A cardinal sits on the snowy branches of a honeysuckle vine.

A bright red cardinal sits on the snowy branches of a honeysuckle vine.

.

The woods are full of the sights and sounds of critters scurrying around busy with their winter activities. Walking through the woodland garden, we always see loads of birds flitting through the trees and shrubs foraging on a wide variety of seeds and berries. We typically leave everything standing in our gardens over the winter and this provides an abundance of food for the birds. There is a wonderful diversity of wild birds that live and winter in the woods around our house. They’re great fun to watch at the feeders during the winter and happily many of them stick around to gobble up some of the insect pests in the vegetable garden during the summer!

The elongated hole is typical of the Pileated Woodpecker. Notice the strategically placed holes! Do you think they were using the shelf fungus as an unbrella?

The elongated hole is typical of the Pileated Woodpecker. Notice the strategically placed holes! Do you think they were using the shelf fungus as an umbrella?

Often the silence is broken by the drumming of woodpeckers in the surrounding woods. We purposely leave dead trees standing –
if they’re in an area where we’re sure they won’t fall on the house or across our driveway! The woodpeckers love them and most of these trees are riddled with holes of all sizes and shapes where the different species of woodpeckers have been pecking for insect treats.

Squirrels are busy rustling through the dry oak leaves in the woods sniffing out acorns, hickory nuts, and other seeds that have fallen to the ground in great abundance. They scurry up the nearest tree if we get too close and then sit on a branch flicking their tails and scolding us for disturbing their foraging.

A fluffed up bluebird tried to stay warm on a snowy day.

A fluffed up bluebird tries to stay warm on a snowy day.

.

.

I have so much to be thankful for and a quiet walk through the woods on a beautiful winter day just seems to be a fitting time to reflect on all the good things that life has brought and to look forward to a wonderful new year full of promise.

My Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) is beginning to bloom right now!

My Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) is beginning to bloom right now!

.

.

.

So on this winter solstice, take some time away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Enjoy a relaxing stroll through your garden and just immerse yourself in the quiet beauty of the winter day!

.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all!

I’m looking forward to sharing many new gardening adventures with you in 2012!

.

Noon in Alaska on the solstice. The beautiful Chugach mountain range. Sent to me by Bill McDonald

Noon in Alaska on the solstice. The beautiful Chugach mountain range.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A cardinal sits in a paperbark maple tree

Where IS winter?

It sure doesn’t FEEL like winter right now! The winter of 2015 is starting out rather mild to say the least! The whole east coast has “enjoyed” record warm December temperatures. USA Today has reported that in the eastern US, over 1,000 new record highs have been recorded so far this December! People around here have been mowing their lawns! It’s crazy! Who mows their lawn in December in the Shenandoah Valley!

Thankfully, the temperatures are supposed to start dropping to more seasonal levels by the end of the week.

It still LOOKS like winter despite the unseasonably warm temperatures. The winter landscape is quiet and peaceful with leafless trees standing tall and majestic. Here is a post I wrote in December 2012. I think it bears re-posting!

Happy Holidays everyone! Enjoy …

Have you ever looked at trees in the winter?

Trees against a winter skyI mean REALLY looked? I’m talking about the deciduous trees with their bare limbs silhouetted against the sky. Many of them are really quite beautiful in a simple kind of way.

Driving to work the other day I happened to focus on a large, solitary maple that was in someone’s yard. The bare branches gave the tree such an attractive shape against the brilliant blue sky. It struck me that the “skeleton” of the tree was just as interesting in the landscape as the tree was in full foliage – if not more so. This revelation made me pay closer attention to the other trees around me. Maples, oaks, hickories, sycamores, dogwoods …

A majestic oak silhouetted against the winter sky

A majestic oak silhouetted
against the winter sky

The distinctive growth form and branch structure of these trees, which can really only be seen during the winter, add an element of beauty to the winter landscape. Each species has its own unique pattern. It’s something that you can’t really appreciate in the summer when the trees are covered with leaves but it definitely becomes a major part of the charm of the winter landscape. In fact, tree form, branch structure, and bark texture might be features to keep in mind when choosing the trees and shrubs to plant in your garden or around your home.

If you spend some time in the winter garden, you might be surprised at the subtle beauty and tranquility you will find at this more simple time in the gardening year. The winter landscape is all about muted colors and the bare bones of the garden. It’s not just the form and structure of the trees that provide character to the winter landscape, but also the interesting colors and textures you will find in their bark. In the winter when we aren’t distracted by foliage, the bark becomes a much more prominent characteristic of the trees.

Sycamore trees show their attractive form and beautiful bark in winter

Sycamore trees show their attractive form and beautiful bark in winter

As I neared the nursery, I noticed the large sycamore trees which grow along the creek that flows through one of the fields. The sycamore is a tree that I find to be much more appealing in the winter than at any other time of the year. To me, this is when you can really appreciate the grandeur of this massive tree. The open, wide-spreading crown has a beautiful silhouette against the winter sky. In addition, sycamores have wonderful exfoliating bark on the upper trunk and branches which peels away to reveal a striking white inner bark. Much of this interesting bark pattern is hidden during the summer and only becomes visible in the winter months when the leaves have dropped.

White oak (left) and chestnut oak (right) have very different bark textures.

White oak (left) and chestnut oak (right) have different bark textures.

The oaks are one of my favorite trees when it comes to bark texture. Chestnut oaks have beautiful dark colored bark which is deeply furrowed and coarse while the white oak has light grayish bark that has a finer textured and is almost flaky. So beautiful in the winter!

The American beech is another favorite with a beautiful spreading crown which creates a lovely silhouette in winter. The smooth, silvery, blue-gray bark creates a striking contrast to the bronze colored fall leaves which often persist on the tree throughout the winter.

Beech trees with their smooth blue-gray bark contrast with the bright white bark of a white birch.

Beech trees with their smooth blue-gray bark contrast with the
bright white bark of a white birch in the Vermont woods.

Exfoliating giraffe-like bark of crape myrtle.

Exfoliating giraffe-like bark
of crape myrtle.

There are many other species of trees that have beautiful bark which provides color and interest in the winter landscape. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) and many cultivars of crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) have wonderful exfoliating bark which peels away to reveal a rich cinnamon colored inner bark that really stands out in the winter. These bare, leafless trees also have a nice shape at this time of year and, if the seed heads are left on the crape myrtles, they not only provide added interest but they will also supply much needed winter food for the birds.

So, take some time to appreciate the wonderful form that your trees reveal in the winter. Spend a quiet moment or two just observing the simple beauty that can be found at this time of year. Just because there are no colorful flowers around, don’t think that Mother Nature has abandoned her artistry. It just takes on a very different form and you have to look a little harder to see the subtle elegance in the winter landscape.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Lori

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: