Season of Light…
The garden is still, quiet, and a morning mist lingers following yesterday’s rain. Cranberry Viburnum leaves, the last lemon-yellow gold of the year, fall away, a singular bright spot at the back of the garden path as a leaf puddle against the dark earth. The bird feeder hangs motionless, not even the usual dawn-feeding birds looking for breakfast. I look for signs of them, maybe a sparrow in the bare shrubs and see only a gentle rain begin to fall, but no birds. Wait. What is that in the birch tree? I grab my binoculars to take a closer look. Sharp-shinned hawk. Explains the quiet. I watch him for several minutes through the lenses to see him turn his head in hawk-style, a near 360 -degree rotation. Finding nothing for breakfast he rises from his branch perch, and heads south. I mark the image to keep for this season of light.
Last weekend, we strung lights down the garden fence and along the porch. The fence lights were a new last year and I liked the look so much they are back for a repeat performance. The light they cast on the fence and walk, along with the landscape lighting, is a big plus for the winter garden. With foliage now gone, shadows cast from the branching habit of the trees and shrubs is even more dramatic and most welcome as we have more and more dark days ahead. While I’m one to count down the days until things turn ’round again–just three more weeks—-before we head toward days of increasing light, there are still things to love about the garden right now, to brighten our point of view:
1. Buds. I designed some winter planters for a client and her daughter, the feature plants Winter Hazel–Corylopsis. I bought two for my containers. If you click the link I’ve inserted, you will see the yellow flowers emerging from the rosy-pink bud–this will happen late winter, very early spring. For now, the plant is covered with these big, rosy buds. Quite a large shrub, the plant will not stay as a container item; mine will go into the garden frontside of the Cherry Laurels at the end of the drive, the evergreen gloss a rich back-drop to the Winter Hazel when in bloom in subsequent years. Another plant with great buds: Paper Bush–Edgeworthia–really exciting. If you are looking to add this to your garden, Triple Oak Nursery in Franklinville carries it in their inventory. If you’ve never been, it’s worth a drive out for sure. Edgeworthia is an under-utilized plant for the garden, I think. Blooms late winter as well and is exceedingly fragrant, typical of plants from the Daphne family. Mine is very happy in a dry shade spot and near the gate so I can experience the fragrance in my comings and goings;
2. Bright twigs. The Yellowwood tree I planted this year, true to its name, reveals bright yellow new growth branches that are really striking in the winter garden. Mine is planted where the bright morning sunlight fires it up. Similar to the Winter Hazel, the Coral Bark Maple also has a rosy color, but in its branches. The rose color is mixed with a bit of orange, lending the name. If you have a protected garden, this tree is great but note that many of my clients did lose their trees in the severe winters we had in recent years;
3. Squirrels. For the past week, each morning when I sit to read and write, the squirrels in my neighbor’s Linden trees are busy at work at the same task: shoring up their nest. Maybe its just one squirrel who drew the short straw and has the work duty this year. Squirrel travels down the swoop of a large limb to a smaller branch, to the smallest branch that will hold his weight and to where he can grab the tiny branches he’s after. He spends a few seconds deciding if he wants it; sometimes he rejects it. But when he finds one he wants, he snips it off with his teeth, turns around, and moves toward the nest, weaving his way back. Now and then he loses hold of the twig when it gets hung up on a branch obstruction and he watches it fall all the way to the ground–probably about thirty feet. He shakes it off and heads out for another. I am wondering how long this home repair and improvement will last– yet I am having great fun in the meantime;
4. Of course the birds. The bright red of the cardinal shows so well against the bare branches and the Juncos have come back.