Winter Updates

Amni visnaga and yucca under snow

And so it snowed, just a little though; it lasted as long as I walked out and watched in wonder, feeling like a child again, for a little moment. Then I walked in again: cold, wet and grumpy and the snow melted as I shut noisily the door behind me.

The yucca is actually producing a thick flower stalk. I’ll never understand why they sometimes flowers in june and sometimes in winter but most of the times they don’t flower at all. If anyone knows anything about yuccas’ secrets, please inform me.

It’s nearly Christmas again and I still haven’t bought a single gift. Why people waste all their money in useless junk to give away and feel a better person? I’d rather take a rain check for all those times when you need friends behind and nobody answers the phone… Ok, I quit it. Sorry, just thinking at the snow made me grumpy again…

gravel garden and frost

This morning it wasn’t snow glistening and blinking at the low sun, it was frost. The south east facing gravel garden is particularly showy: Panicum ‘Warrior’ and echinacea seed heads are the main features but the short eragrostis spectabilis stays crunchy and shiny too. The ghostly figure of kalimeris incisa adorned with some cobweb seems to come to a new life.

frosty euphorbia

But the sun is coming up and quickly transforms the frost in dew, it warms this euphorbia’s leaves up again and kiss good morning. So I move farther west in the garden, to take some other pics of winter before they fade away.

echinacea seed heads, pennisetum alopecuroides and verbena bonariensis frozen in the square garden

The square garden is the real revelation of this 2012 to me. I just love this bed, it always has something to show me. Echinaceas that went on flowering until late fall are now literally frozen in that state. Pennisetum and verbena bonariensis are those things I could never give up.

amni visnaga, schizachyrium scoparius and a view of the square garden

Schizachyrium scoparius is a beautiful grass, very difficult to photograph though; on the other hand amni visnaga is something I’d never stop taking pictures, it is a discrete annual self seeder, so I scattered its seeds around the garden because I want more for next year. They have a long tap root and they don’t like to be transplanted but when amni visnaga decides to sprout it really gives you everything.

Sprout? Did I actually say sprout? It feels so weird to use such a word now that everything is paralyzed under a crunchy coat… But plants are amazing and sedums have already started to push up some springy growth:

Sedum matrona in the grass garden

Ain’t it amazing? On a larger view vitex agnus castus points its skinny spikes to the sky, hydrangea paniculata ‘Phantom’ lives up to her name, grasses are dried and lifeless and sedum ‘Matrona’ seed heads are covered in frost but on a closer look the new generation is warming the frozen soil to come into life.

Even the vegetable garden is growing, slowly. I planted everything too late, I should have planted the savoy cabbage and the chicories at least a month earlier as well as Brussels sprouts and fennels. Nevermind, this year I learned that vegetable gardening is not a precise science and timing is important but not always fundamental. I will harvest this stuff a couple of months later, they’re not going anywhere. Red chicory ‘Verona’ (top right on the picture below) and black cabbage ‘Nero di Toscana’ (not pictured) are better harvested after frost, leaves are more tender and sweeter.

the vegetable garden

A part for watching there isn’t so much to do in the garden at this time of the year, so I finally decided to spend some time to take care of the birds that live or could live here. I started it easy with some hanging feeders, they contain lard, cake crumbles and seeds. I stringed them to some high and thin birch branches: high and thin to prevent the bird feeders to become cat feeders and then I choose the birch so I can watch tits and robins and blackbirds from the dining room windows. Jays, woodpeckers and magpies prefer bigger stuff directly from the compost leap. I didn’t know I could watch all those birds and their fights for territory and food cozily sitting in my dining room with a cup of tea. You open the curtains and it’s like tune in Discovery Channel! Shame they only broadcasts in early morning. (Where does birds spend the rest of the day?)

Tit feeding on lard while Tigre is grumpily watching

Dear Tigre, you better look down for mice rather than up for birds!

Well it’s time to go, time for seasonal greetings: I hope you won’t choke on some greasy food, I hope you won’t be slaughtered by relatives, I hope your house won’t burn down because of a short circuit on the Xmas lights, I hope your cat won’t assault your Xmas tree and I hope you won’t say anything inappropriate to your mother in law because of a drink too much, I wish you a Merry Christmas! (Unless the Mayan were right and screwed up all your plans!)

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28 thoughts on “Winter Updates

  1. Dear Alberto, first of all let me wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas!
    You have shown us some stunning photos of your garden enhanced by frost and snow. My Yucca always seems to flower so late in the year, usually November time, that is , if it flowers at all! The winter of 2010 was extremely cold (for SW England) and I think the flower must have been freeze dried, can’t help with why they flower so late unfortunately.
    So glad you are enjoying your birds visiting the garden, do remember extra rations for them on Christmas Day won’t you!!

    • Thanks Pauline! I really don’t know what to do with those birds since they say there’s the risk of spoiling them with our “easy food” while they must be kept wild. I guess a few lard won’t surely kill them though!

  2. A very Happy christmas to you Alberto. thanks for sharing you lovely frosty and snowy photos with us. I love the image with the Echinacea frosted on one side and brown on the side where the sun has warmed it, magical. Christina

    • I love frost too but this year they’re not as showy as last winter. I count on a better spring though since we’re having some rain this winter (last winter we had drought from July 2011 until march 2012)

  3. Hi Alberto,

    Ooooh, look who’s an old grumpy grinch! 😀

    I hope you have a lovely time anyway; I’m having a quiet one this year and aim to get drunk but with no relatives in sight (except my brother). So I’m hoping it’ll be plenty enjoyable.

    Beautiful photos… So you had snow? We haven’t even had any yet! Plenty of frosts last week though, but rain for the next week it would seem… Think I’d rather have frosts actually because then at least I can get outside.

    The birds will generally visit all day, but definitely early morning and evening will be the main times and the rest of their time will be spent hunting for natural food such as caterpillars, insects or seeds.

    • The grinch is not really famous around here but really that could be me on Christmas time! 🙂
      Frost is nice because you can enjoy the garden with no muddy shoes.
      After all a rainy winter is better than the one they’re having in Russia: -50*C… I wonder what could survive to that!

    • We’re having dusk at 4-4,30 p.m. here these days and I don’t see birds feeding but in the morning. Anyway this feeder are very appreciated by robins and tits and I’m happy with it.

  4. It looks much colder there than in my part of the world, but that may change this weekend. The photos are lovely — and the frost certainly makes everything look like it’s coated in glistening sugar. By the way, I may slip over to Italy and take that fountain from you. It’s beautiful — just my style. 🙂 Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Warmer weather will be here soon!

    • To be honest this year it’s not very cold, just a little frost in the morning. I love that fountain too, it used to be very common in big parks in Italy like 20 years ago, Ale found it second handed last year and brought it home for my birthday.

  5. You’ve had more cold than we have, but your garden is always so beautiful– I know you use magic and maybe someday you will tell us about that. But my favorite of this post are your seasonal greetings, just perfect and so refreshing.

    I wish you a bunch of enormously awesome holiday good times Alberto– Cheers!! L

    • Thanks Linnie! I guess Liz was right and I’m an old grumpy grinch! I like that.
      Believe me it’s not as cold as it seems, we’re having more rainy days than frost. As for magic… Well you need a lot of bat’s wings and lizard’s tongue and a very big caldron. Some day I’ll teach you how to fly on a broom.

    • “old grump” by mr Dave sounds like a compliment to me! ;-P
      The yucca stalk is still there, I wonder if it will ever flower but I guess it will collapse.

  6. Not a good idea to say “sprout” at Xmas, not in the UK anyway. I’m sure that the Italians do something more imaginative with christmas sprouts than over-boiling them.
    Cheer up Alberto – every year from now on is a bonus!

    • Lol! Yes apparently we’ve been lucky with this Mayan thing! Sprouts are often over clocked here as well, but not in my kitchen since I hate them ‘muddy’!

  7. Merry Christmas from the US Alberto where we have winter finally…12 degrees wind chill, 40 mile and hour gusts and lots of snow falling and blowing…love your frosted garden…the Mayans were right and we are now in a year of enlightenment…celebrate the light my friend…

    • A year of enlightenment… Well I didn’t see any light to celebrate around here yet, but maybe it’s the jet lag’s fault! I had a good Christmas anyway and I hope you did the same with your loved ones.

  8. A very Merry Christmas to you, too, Alberto! Your frosted gravel garden is gorgeous, and that should make you smile! My new cat was trying to eat the Christmas lights, but other than that no disasters here, so far. May your garden prosper in 2013!

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