Monday, February 22, 2010

Pretty, Little Azalea

Sitting in my kitchen, is the prettiest lipstick reddish-pink azalea (rhododendron) plant, in full bloom, standing no more than 10 inches tall, but boy, does it make a statement on these dreary February days. Given the fact that the azaleas/rhododendron (azaleas and rhododendrons are really one and the same genus) growing outside in my gardens will be extremely challenged to bloom at all this coming spring, makes this tiny tabletop bit of natural greenery (actually "pinky-redery" with a bit of greenery) all that much more pretty.

We still can't get a good look at the outdoor azaleas/rhododendron, or anything that stands under 3 feet tall in the garden beds for that matter, because they remain under deep drifts of snow and the few branches that are poking above the frozen white landscape have been broken or bitten off by the marauding devil deer that seem to take pleasure in destroying anything from holly and boxwood to even the creeping yew!...Yes, yew! For those of you who may not know, while their glossy, deep green needles make yews versatile shrubs in the garden, their berries, foliage and bark are poisonous. I've never known deer to even try munching on these, but this year, I'm sure the heavy snowfalls have brought new meaning to the word "hunger' into a deer's vocabulary. I can't even bring myself to look in the direction of the shrubs planted out in satellite borders of the yard since it's hard enough to keep the deer from eating these at any given time of the year, much less now.

Anyway, back to the azalea that I'm enjoying in my kitchen. I bought it at the local Giant Food Store at the end of January. I'm a sucker for their plants and this was on special, making it that much more appealing. The blooms were tight but some were about halfway open way back then and now, here it is February 22--still holding up beautifully and its colorful radiance makes me smile every time I enter the room. Of course, it helps that there are no devil deer around the table trying to make it their lunch...and we all know they would if they could!

Azaleas are among the most colorful of all of the flowering shrubs ranging from reds to yellows to purples and pinks. The azaleas/rhododendrons in our garden beds are mainly purple or white blooming to compliment all of the lavender bushes, of course! In the language of flowers, azaleas symbolize someone expressing "please take care of yourself" and to advise you to use temperance or caution in matters. Azaleas are also an expression of fragility. The Chinese use azaleas as a symbol for womanhood (hard to imagine given the hard life, it seems, that most women bear in China) yet, azaleas are frilly and feminine and beautifully shaped adding still an extra dimension of beauty in the fall garden with their often brilliantly hued foliage.

To further explore its meaning in flower language, the name, rhododendron, can symbolize danger which seems, to me, contrary to it's beautiful and delicate appearance, especially when in full bloom. However, a passage written in "The Complete Book of Old Wives Lore for Gardeners," by Bridget and Maureen Boland, England, 1976, warns superstitious readers to take precautions when venturing out beyond the safe and peaceful confines of their gardens by hanging "a root of rhododendron round your neck to preserve you from any savage dogs you may meet" (p. 104). I'm thinking not! Rather, I'll enjoy this pretty-little-frilly thing until it's done blooming and, later, find a place somewhere in one of the garden beds to be it's permanent home--perhaps where the deer won't think to look.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Back On Line And The Snow is Still Here!

"But now 'tis winter, child, And bitter northwinds blow, The ways are wet and wild, The land is laid with snow."
Robert Bridges

After days of no internet service, due to a bent satellite tower and the collapsed barn the satellite tower was built upon in a nearby town, I am back in contact with the outside world...hallelujah! However, not much has changed--there is still about three winters' worth of snow on the ground. The rain gauge, standing 3 feet high, is just now peeking through the snow and even an old wasp's nest I spied high up in a tree can't get a break from this weather.

I attempted to make my way to the pussy willow out back--farther afield--a place beyond, I believe, Narnia, where the deer now rule, but I still sunk into the snow drifts up to my thighs. Even the Pink Pussy Willow Tree, just off the back patio seems a long and arduous climb through banks of stubborn snow. Both approaching full bloom status in a couple of weeks and then it will be pussy willow-wreath-making-season, once again.

The Willow is a symbol of grief in the tree and woody shrub world. In the language of plants and flowers, sprigs of willow can be worn by those who have been forsaken in love. It's meaning let's them share their heartache with the world. But, no one can deny that the catkins of willows are lovely just the same. When it is blooming,he pink pussy willow is much more delicate looking and reflects a wispy glow of blush in cloudy and sunny weather.

Tucker was hopeful that I would blaze a new trail for him, having grown tired of the shoveled areas and driveway. No such luck, there! It will easily be a few more weeks of the same old trails for both of us. Now I know how the pioneers felt trying to make their way over the mountains before the big snows came or they would be stuck for months.

Thankfully, grocery stores and craft stores are the purveyors of all things necessary to get me through this unforgiving February, which is traditionally the snowiest month of the year for us here in Northern Virginia. This one, however, is a bit snowier than others with 56 inches clocked in, so far--but who's still counting, anyway?! Back to the craft room I go...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

All's Well That Ends Well

Although we didn't get the driveway shoveled out beyond that which is right in front of the house, it was a good day and, after what seemed to be endless hours of blowing snow, the sun came out and all was right with the world. Even the Witch Hazel blossoms survived the storm and live to tell about it.

After shoveling, clearing the satellite dish of snow, picture painting and candle making--hey, what else do we have to do when we are snowed in(?)--we went out and shoveled again.

Please, oh please, mister plowman with the really big John Deere tractor, please come tomorrow and and dig out the monster portion of our driveway still waiting to be shoveled. I don't think my shoulders, neck and back can take much more. And, since it was Peter's birthday today, he deserves to get out and celebrate a bit tomorrow, even if it means just going to the store for more milk. I'm sure that this birthday will be one of the more memorable ones on his list just because of all the snow and the shoveling that went along with it.

It's also Tucker's birthday today, too. He turned four-years-old and was one of eight black lab puppies born to his mother--another "ochto-mom". With that said, I fixed a nice pork loin for supper, lit the candles on a chocolate cake in honor of Peter and Tucker and we toasted to Kevin down at college, also snowed in but with no electricity there. Although we don't have phone service through our land line, it is way better than having no electricity. The smallest of birthday gifts are always the best.

So, at the end of this "blizzard" of a day, a toast to all of my boys--first, Happy birthday to Peter, I love you and to Tucker, the lovable lab and to my dear son, Kevin, I hope the electricity comes back on real soon at the University of Mary Washington and I hope you took time out to go sledding--one of your most favorite things to do in life, although I know you miss that parent-child bonding time we could have had if you had been here to shovel along with us. Stay warm and safe. And, to everyone out there, you might as well enjoy the snow. It's not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Snow Day--Big Time!

Just like a scene out of Dr. Zhivago--you now the one where Yuri and Lara drive up to the ice and snow covered palace in a horse drawn sleigh. The summer garden furniture virtually covered in billowing snow drifts. Snow everywhere. Only we aren't in Mother Russia. This is real life on February 5, 2010 in the Dominion of Virginia and we have to shovel--go figure! The tree branches are bowing down,laden with snow. So much for the Witch Hazel that is blooming. At least the Pussy Willow has strong flexible branches that will rebound even though the limbs of the magnolias and crepe myrtles are creaking and straining under the weight of the clinging, wet snow. We've already lost some branches on these lovely trees and hoping not much more will give way to the forces of nature.

Right now we have 30" and counting and it's not even noontime. It truly is beautiful and everywhere you look it seems as though we should see a Dr. Seuss character popping her head out of a snow drift with a cotton candy-like pile of white perched upon her head. She seems to be saying, "How do you do? My name is Sue." Not likely to happen, I know but I can dream, can't I?

After lunch, it's back to shoveling. Next the porch, the porch roof and more of the driveway. And, later, check on the greenhouse. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day

Happy Ground Hog Day! You'll be reminded everywhere today of groundhogs, be it through news reports on "Punxsatawney Phil" or just seeing any old Bill or Bob (or Jane or Sue for that matter) who may live in your backyard, decide to wake up and poke his head out of his hole to see what the day may bring or whether he should role over and set the snooze button for another six weeks or so.

Let me also remind you that weather predicting groundhogs are about as accurate as the highly paid weathermen on television and we should use caution in celebrating what a cloudy or sunny day forecasts for the rest of the winter. Today will be overcast, cold and dreary with even some snow thrown into the mix here in Virginia but up in Pennsylvania, Phil emerged from his hole and saw his shadow. He agrees with the meteorologists that the winter of 2010 will be a long one. Either way, winter is here until sometime into the end of March. There are no if's, and's or but's about it.

Tucker ran a groundhog up a tree last spring and I thought I had a picture of it but, unfortunately I could not find it. I didn't know groundhogs could climb trees. I guess in desperation, anybody can do just about anything. In any case, whether the winter will continue for many more weeks or not, this too shall pass and sunshine and summer breezes will arrive eventually. And, then it's back to lavender!