Winter Solstice

holiday lights around our deck
     The winter solstice arrived today, but you wouldn't know it from the weather.  Two weeks ago, with below freezing temperatures, ice and snow, it was perfect winter solstice weather.  Today is the second day of above average, record-shattering temperatures.  It was 70 degrees today.  Forecasters say tomorrow it will be 73 degrees.

     Today my husband and I cleaned up all the pine limbs and branches that fell during the ice storm.  We felt really strange working in the yard without any coats.  Monday the temperatures will fall dramatically, and by Wednesday, Christmas Day, the high will be 37.

     Not much is happening in the yard or gardens right now.  All the activity has been indoors, preparing for the Christmas holiday.  Below are some holiday photos from around the house.

A poinsettia and tumbling santas grace the kitchen table.

A rocking horse music box

Glittery reindeer ornaments in front of a Christmas card on the mantle

The three wise men figurines that are part of our creche

A glass snowman sitting in shredded paper "snow"

From our house to your house

Merry Christmas

Ice and Snow

ice-covered Yoshino cherry trees

     Our area was hit last Sunday with an ice storm and then two days later our first snow.  We only got about three inches of snow.  It has been very cold here, so not much melting has occurred.

     The ice storm caused some trees to come down in our area, but many more large tree limbs (particularly pine) and branches fell from the weight of the ice.  Luckily we missed out on the snowstorm this weekend.  It just grazed us with a brief period of sleet and freezing rain yesterday.

     Here are some photos I took around the yard of ice-covered trees and plants, the snow, and limbs that came down in our yard.

ice on mums

ice on the back yard garden

ice on dogwood branches  that still had a few leftover red berries

the same ice-covered mums now with snow on top of the ice

snow covering the ice on the back yard garden

overlooking the garden to the snow in the back yard

the front yard covered in snow

pine limbs and branches that fell from one of our pine trees

     I think the Farmer's Almanac was right about this winter being colder with more snow than normal.

Deep Into Fall

dwarf Alberta spruce

     There are signs we are heading deep into fall here.  As I was returning from my walk with the dog one afternoon I noticed branches had been torn out of one of the three dwarf Alberta spruces that line the front of the house.  I have seen a young buck come through the yard many times this fall.  I assume this buck did this with his antlers.  I have read that as the antlers harden, the antler velvet dries, and deer like to remove the dried velvet. And as breeding season approaches bucks spar with the trees and make high visibility rubs.  Of course the damage had to be in the front of the house instead of out back where there are many more trees and bushes.  I will wait till spring and probably replace this and the other two spruces with something else.  I heard a fox cry for the first time since last fall about two weeks ago.  A few days ago I finally saw two red foxes in the woods at the back of the house, but they were too quick for me to catch with my camera.

     In the garden, after sub-freezing night temperatures for the last two weeks, plants are all but gone.  The mums in the patio pot are looking very bedraggled.

sweet alyssum
     In the back yard garden, the sweet alyssum have given up.

     And the brunnera plants are fading fast.

       The only plants looking good are the hellebores under the dogwood tree.  I hope they bloom in January or February.

white alyssum
     In the garden at the front of the house, the white alyssum are done.

ornamental cabbages
     But the ornamental cabbages  in between the white alyssum are in their prime and will look good until March.

daffodil shoot
     Even with the snow and ice storm forecasted for us today, the hope of spring is visible in a shoot in the front garden.

Brave Plants


     In the last three weeks we have had some cold night temperatures.  The temperatures have not just gone below freezing, but have been in the mid-twenties.  Yet I have some flowers that are still hanging on with a few blooms.  The mums, of course, are still blooming.

Carolina Jessamine vine
     The Carolina Jessamine vine has a few blooms.  I did not know whether it would bloom this fall, since it was so recently planted.  But it did surprise me with several blooms.

     I have one begonia that is still blooming.


     Everything around my one petunia in the back yard garden succumbed to the cold.  But it is still holding on.

     The gaillardia in the side garden is still trying to put out blooms.

back yard garden
     My back yard garden is cleaned out for winter except for some sweet alyssum that still has flowers.

bare trees
     Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees in our neighborhood.  So everything is looking kind of bare outside now.

       But surprise!  As I was doing final cleanup in the gardens yesterday I saw a flash of pink in the rhododendron bush.  I looked inside and found three blooms.  So even though we are supposed to have wind chills in the teens tomorrow, these blossoms reminded me to think about the coming spring.

Growing Season Over


     The freeze we had last weekend killed all my annuals and put a halt to perennial blooming.  This photo shows some of the vinca and hardy begonias in my backyard garden that succumbed to the freeze.

     Similarly, the annuals in my deck planters, like these wax begonias took a hit.

     Although the calibrachoa in one planter is still fine.  It may last until December.

     The deer, which never bothered my jumbo begonias along the front of the house, one night ate all the top blossoms off of them just before the freeze. 

     After the freeze, I planted ornamental cabbages in their place

     Peak color on the trees suddenly appeared this week after the freeze.

     I saw a stray violet blooming this week on my daily walk with the dog.  When I went back to photograph it, I couldn't find it.  Too many leaves covered the area where I saw it.  But there is the promise of spring as we head into winter in the buds of my rhododendron.

Fall Happenings


     Signs of fall are all around.  There is an abundance of pumpkins in all the farmer's markets and groceries.  Daylight savings time will soon be gone.  And we have a freeze warning tonight over all the DC metro area.

     The leaves on the trees are slowly changing color here and are starting to fall.


     The Yoshino cherry trees are already completely bare.

     The marigolds in the side yard garden have almost completely died out, and the zinnias are starting to fade.

     Over in the electric garden, the milkweed follicles have started splitting and inside you can see the brown seeds with their white, silky filament hairs being blown by the wind.

     A week ago I bought some hellebores and loriope for the back yard garden.

     I planted the hellebores under the dogwood tree.

     The loriope was put along the edge of the garden.

     The rest of the back yard garden still looks lovely with the lacy cosmos and New Guinea impatiens in full bloom.  I am anxious to see what the garden looks like in the morning after the freeze tonight.                

Rain, Rain, Go Away

     It has been gray and rainy here for several days.  Each day we have had rain, drizzle, rain, and more rain.  We have had 7 inches of rain in six days.  The ground is like a wet sponge.  I'm really craving sunshine.  The weatherman says we will see the sun sometime tomorrow.  This photo shows the back yard garden with the cosmos beaten down by the rain.  When it stops raining, I will get out and stake them.

     A sign of autumn here is the falling nuts from our black walnut tree (Juglans nigra).  Commercially, the wood of the tree is used to make furniture and flooring.  And the walnuts are used in cookies, cakes and other bakery goods, and ice cream.

     This is a photo of the green hulls that have the walnuts inside.  You have to be careful around the tree now, as you have a good chance of being hit with the falling nuts.

     Here half the green hull is torn away, and you can see the shell of the nut inside.  It is extremely hard to remove the hull and crack the shell of the nut.  Some suggestions I've read say to run over the walnuts with a car,  stomp the nuts underfoot, or pound them with a hammer.

     The squirrels have been busy gathering and burying these nuts.  I found holes being dug in my deck pots and the walnuts being deposited there.  To keep the squirrels out of my pots and the dirt they dig up off my deck, I covered the soil in the pots with pea gravel.  The squirrels don't like to dig in the pea gravel, and so will leave my pots alone.

       The jumbo begonias along the front walk seem to like the cool, wet weather.  I've had enough of it.  I hope we see the sun tomorrow.