Imagining Spring

Now that we’re about at the halfway point of Winter, I start to imagine Springtime.  The days are just starting to lengthen, and the sun is just beginning to feel a bit stronger.  By Valentine’s Day, the sun begins to heat up the car again.

I’ve been AWOL for awhile, so may I wish you a Happy New Year, belatedly.  My desktop computer is on its last leg (a new laptop has been ordered); my camera bit the dust (I got a new one); and we’re working on a new website and blog design.  Those will debut this Spring.   So I’ve been busy with the help of my trusty computer guy, Jason; my brilliant web/blog designer, Peter; and my smart partner, Steve, who chose my new camera for me (it’s the bomb!).  We’ve got to update this blog–the spam is absolutely awful, frustrating and a pain in the you-know-what.

I’ve been on lots of fun trips this Winter already:  the Chihuly exhibit in Richmond, VA, as well as a visit to the holiday-lit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; and yesterday, a trip over to a bald cypress swamp in Southern Maryland.  I love swamps.  I guess it’s that liminal space between land and water, and I love the mysterious blur between the two.

Last week, we got down to a low of about 15F, the lowest so far this Winter.  We had a couple of light snow events, and an icy morning yesterday, followed by the Spring-like weather today.  A couple more days of this nice weather and then it’s back to cold, as I’d expect this time of year.

I let the water run over the waterfall until just a trickle was flowing, then I turned it off so the pump wouldn’t burn up.  Here’s what it looked like, frozen.  It’s thawed out amazingly today.  [you can enlarge the photos by double-clicking on them, I think.]

Frozen waterfall at Woodland Cottage

Frozen waterfall at Woodland Cottage

And a few palms in the snow…these are Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) and yes, they are hardy–down to about OF, or the bottom of zone 7A.  I have some Needle Palms, too–they’ll survive even lower temps–down to about -5F or -10F, or zone 6a/b.

I walked around the yard today and, so far, it seems like most everything has escaped Winter damage.

Last week, just before the snow, I had two young red foxes bound into the back yard, a male and female.  Happily, I was able to grab the camera and get a few shots.  They hung around much of the day.  They are beautiful and healthy.

Just before the freeze, I went out in the yard and picked the few Camellias still in bloom.  I’m glad I picked them because I’ve been enjoying them inside for over a week.  They help me imagine Spring!  I float them in shallow saucers and bowls–“Camellia bowls”.  Many of the bowls are very old and were made for just this purpose.

I’m leaving in a few days for my annual time in Wilmington, NC, and I’m really looking forward to spending time with Steve.  We’ll be touring lots of gardens in the Lowcountry this year, so I’ll have lots to share with you.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.  Thanks.

Posted under Animals in the Garden, Flowers in the House, Garden Travel, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Winter Garden, Water in the Garden

It’s a Japonica Kind of Day

JaponicaCamellia.  Some say it like this:  Kuh-MAYL-yuh.  Here in the South, “Japonica” is a catch-all term for so many plants:  Winter/Spring-blooming Camellias, Pieris…any plant whose species name is japonica is fair game down here.  Whatever you call them, they’re all the same and they’re all Camellias.

I just took a turn around my woodland garden, and the early Camellia japonicas are blooming away.  Of the varieties I have, these aren’t my favorites (those will bloom later); yet any flower at this time of year is welcome, both indoors and out.  Indoors, I love to float them in shallow dishes.  I have my eye out always for vessels in which I can float Camellias.

Camellia dishes/bowls are an old stand-by, Southern style.  Actually, I got this flat dish in Murano, the island off Venice where the beautiful Venetian glass is made.  It’s perfect for floating Camellias.  I bought it for this use.  This one will hold several blossoms:

Here’s an old one I got at the gift shop of the Mercer House in Savannah, GA.  Steve and I get down there several times a year–we love it–and a stop at the Mercer House shop is a must.  (Remember the book/movie, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’?  This is the house of Jim Williams.  Check it out here).  A clue that it’s a Camellia dish, and not a cigarette ashtray (though, yes, you could use it as an ashtray), is that it doesn’t have the notches in the rim where you’d rest a cigarette.  I love the cut glass and gold rim:

Many Camellia dishes are passed down through Southern families.  Many shallow dishes did double duty as condiment dishes and Camellia dishes, like these, which were passed down to me by my maternal grandmother, “Miss Lill”:

Sometimes, a Camellia may be blooming at the tip of a branch and have tight buds adjacent.  Every bud means a precious flower, so I’ve found that twisting off the flower, carefully, is the best way to pick them.  Just plop them in a shallow dish, Camellia or otherwise, face up, and there you have it.  They last many days in my house–probably because I’m cheap and keep the house so cool!

What a Winter!  To be able to walk around the yard daily–in JANUARY–and see what’s happening (because, yes, it is changing daily–hard to believe) is a treat beyond treats.  Good for the soul and what ails you.  The days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer, too, here in the magical Mid-Atlantic.

I never thought I’d ever say this, and I may never say it again–and it may be a first:  Just for now, I’m loving Winter.  How about you?  Do you have any Camellia traditions?

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Flowers in the House, The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 28, 2012

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Bring in Some Branches

When I got home from Wilmington a couple of weeks ago for the spring season, one of the first things I did was cut an armful of dormant forsythia branches. I have a wonderful Blenko Glass vase that some friends gave me–heavy, solid and perfect for holding floppy branches. I re-cut the branches and put them in deep, warm water. They started to bloom this week. When I cut them, it was still snowy and quasi-wintry…now, it really is feeling like spring. No matter. The forsythia blossoms laugh away on my kitchen table, the color of summer sunlight.

You can cut and force lots of different spring-flowering shrubs and trees into bloom, you know. In addition to forsythia, I’ve done spirea, viburnum, flowering almond, cherries, plums, pears (but the pears are a bit stinky, I’m just sayin’)…almost all the deciduous, spring bloomers can be forced.

Re-cut them before sticking them in deep water and enjoy. I do it every year.

Forced forsythia in my kitchen

Forced forsythia in my kitchen

Posted under Flowers in the House

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on March 14, 2010

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