Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

My New Year's Resolutions for 2010:

1. Label all plants in every garden so people can see what is growing before asking me and then having to wait while I search my memory banks, (which are always a bit dusty.)

2. Take time to smell the lavender and enjoy the view.

3. Take more naps.

4. Play more golf, improve my swing and lower my score!

5. Do more baking and definitely start Christmas cookies earlier than December 21.

6. Get Peter to do more flower arrangements and paint more so we can fill our booth at craft fairs with more of his wonderful and creative projects.

7. Teach Tucker to drive (especially the golf cart) so he can chauffeur me around.

8. Make time (3 days a week--and I'm really going to hold myself to this) for more blogging and to work on garden and lavender crafts for our booth at craft fairs.

9. Keep exercising--my daily walk with Tucker is great fun and always interesting! I discovered a new species called a "labragator." It's indiginous to this area.

10. Give thanks everyday for the bountiful blessings in my life!

Happy New Year and see you in 2010!

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Day of Winter

According to this year's Farmer's Almanac, winter arrived at 12:47 pm this afternoon. It goes on to say that all outdoor gardening should cease during this month as wintry conditions will spread throughout the think!? Apparently, winter received only half of the memo since the Blizzard of "09, occurred up and down the East Coast this past weekend and spread wintry conditions before today at 12:47pm.

This day, being the shortest and also the turning point of the year, is marked on many gardeners' calenders and in Northern European traditions as St. Thomas's Day. Long ago, St. Thomas's Day was a festival linked to the fertility of the soil and also the anticipation of the return of the sun and warmer days ahead.
According to garden lore and legend, a wise gardener could bank on the condition of the weather, this first day of winter, and get a good idea of how the rest of the winter would generally go. In honor of that thought, cotton candy for treat!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blizzard '09

Looks like we won't be dreaming of a White Christmas here at Blooming Hill--We will actually be living it! Snow at Christmas is a rare thing here in Northern Virginia, at least in the 15 years we have lived here...especially this kind of snow! In fact, the temps are often mild enough at this time of year that we have often played golf over the Christmas and New Year's Holidays. This year, however, it would be very nice if Santa could deliver a snow plow, sometime soon, to dig out the driveway.

The weatherman are calling this,"A storm of historical proportions for Washington D.C. and the outlying areas of Maryland and Virginia!" In fact, this is a record snow fall for the month of December in this area. It's 9pm and it is still snowing a bit and also blowing a lot! Peter measured 17" inches around 4pm today. There is at least 20'' in the yard this evening.

In between trying to dig ourselves out the old-fashioned way--just like pioneers, I'm sure--Kevin drove his jeep up and down the driveway a couple of times throughout the day. (Our version of a snow blower/plow because we don't own either one.) It should get even more interesting as we continue to dig ourselves out tomorrow after this Nor'easter has blown by and gone further up the east coast. For now, let's just enjoy the views. Let it snow...Let it snow....Let it snow...!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holly With a Side of Ivy, Please!

There are very few berries to be found on the holly bushes situated around my house and gardens this year. According to garden legend, the absence or presence of holly berries on a bush can foretell winter weather: a few berries means a mild winter is in the forecast while a lot of berries on a bush means a hard winter as these extra berries will help provide the birds with enough food to keep them fed through the long, harsh conditions to come.

As to the lack of berries on the holly bushes in the yard this year, my theory is that perhaps its because every morning I awake to find an entire herd of deer grazing in my back yard. The "alpha" is always sitting down--literally--looking all too serene, while the other 15 deer are nosing their way through my garden beds looking for whatever it is they like to eat. Apparently, they like to eat just about anything (like holly and holly berries) planted back there. I have tried, on several occasions, to get a picture of the lead deer along with her cohorts lounging about, but I can't get close enough before she jumps up and leads her followers blithely over the fence and into the woods--I'm sure snickering all of the way.

I am growing tired of watching those thankless deer help themselves to my salad bar of winter greens and goodies, from hollies and lavenders (yes, they have even nibbled on lavender) to azaleas and laurels. Yet, they come back every morning in spite of sending Tucker to chase them away or me yelling at them to leave--pointless, I know. I'm sure, to the deer, we are merely the waiters asking, "Can we clear your plates from this lovely grass table and, oh, don't bother leaving a tip...we've got it covered...come again...soon!"

In spite of the lack of berries, the assortment of hollies, some with prickly leaves and others with smooth leaves are beautiful even without their red adornments. Their green, waxy leaves provide polish and shine amidst the winter garden.

In Christianity, holly branches are used to decorate as a sign of the coming sadness of Good Friday in the spring. The meaning of holly in the language of flowers means "forecast." Holly trees are associated with Easter because it is said that the cross was made of holly wood and that all holly berries were yellow until the crucifixion of Christ when they turned red from his blood.

I found these two little variegated beauties paired with ivy leaves on the steps of a store in Leesburg and it made me think of the Christmas song that goes, "The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the ivy wears the crown." Then the chorus actually goes on to talk about the rising of the sun and the running of the deer--just like in my backyard! Yep, it's definitely Christmas time around here!

In garden lore and legend, the holly tree represents masculinity, steadfastness and holiness while ivy represents femininity because of its clinging properties and its unpredictability...say what?! In any case, holly and ivy are beautiful Christmas greenery that humans, birds and deer all enjoy. 'Tis the season to share. I'm wondering what the deer will leave in my yard as Christmas gifts for us this year? Don't tell me I think I have a fairly good idea!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Trees

Okay...So, this may not be a fancy white house on Pennsylvania Avenue and I may not be the leader of the free world or even the wife of the leader of the free world or the White House photographer or even a good photographer. But, it won't stop me from enjoying my Christmas trees--up since right after Thanksgiving.

Naturally, they are artificial. What else would we use in a home where the
Christmas trees stay up for about 6 weeks? Every year we modify the tree decorations just slightly but they are all just as pretty as ever, from the biggest to the smallest and from the fullest to the thinnest. Some years we may use more natural decorations on the trees like yarrow and hydrangea from the garden and others years like this year, we go for more glitz. Yrt, every year, each tree conveys the beauty and splendor of season and it would not be Christmas here at Blooming Hill without each one of them taking their rightful place in our home. Each tree represents a special collection of memories through the years.

This one pictured here is the most formal tree we put up with ornaments from my mother's tree as well as the most special and prettiest and most delicate ornaments we have. We flocked this tree last year and loved it so much, we kept it flocked for this year as well. It is draped in sparkling ornaments, festive ribbons and twinkling old-fashioned white lights.

We all know that the Christmas tree originally comes from German tradition and it is Prince Albert of Victorian England who is credited with importing the idea into Great Britain. There is a charming legend also that goes with the British Christmas Tree tradition and it says that the Christ Child was said to have appeared to a peasant family one cold winter's night. The child looked so hungry and cold that the family took him in and cared for him that night in spite of their own miserable surroundings and condition. When the family awoke the next morning the Christ Child was gone but the cottage was bathed in heavenly light. There was also a small branch from a pine tree planted in the ground close to their hut that hadn't been there before. The family came to believe that the child had left it for them to provide shelter and comfort in repayment for their kindness to him.

The real origin of the Christmas tree comes from Scandinavia where the people of these countries celebrated the "Tree of Time," which is derived from the winter solstice they symbols they honor for everlasting life and fertility--from the pine cones. The winter tree is the counterpart to their summer solstice symbol, the maypole. These two trees here, bedecked in a bright red theme, adorn the front entryway of our home.

It has been said that decorating the Christmas tree with lights may have even come from the Jewish tradition, Hanukkah--the Festival of Lights.

If you are one of the traditional traditionalists who remains faithful to the most beautiful of Christmas trees-- a real one--one of the most popular varieties used is the Norwegian Spruce. If you buy one with it's root still intact and water it well, it should not shed its needles if you bring it inside and you will be able to plant it out in the garden when the Christmas holidays are over--providing the ground where you live is still not frozen solid. This tall, narrow tree in the family room is home to a whimsical display of birds with feather garlands and multi-colored lights and topped with a fairie fox, it brightens up the hunter red of the walls.

This feather tree stands in the corner of the dining room and is simple yet sophisticated, shining brightly in blue and white. I think its a wonderful addition to this charming room and a nod as wellto the German tradition in an English inspired room.

And last, another small table top tree in the kitchen is decorated in blue and white ornaments with blue lights. (Is it a bit obvious that I like the color blue?) In any case, I'd love to see your Christmas tree or trees. Send me a picture of your Christmas tree and I'll share them on my blog with everyone.