In a vase on Monday: Iris, Snowdrops and Raindrops

That ‘inbetween’ time has begun and there are finally a few flowers beginning to open as winter draws to an end and spring knocks on the door. After a couple of mild and sunny days some crocuses and dwarf irises are providing tiny splashes of colour in the otherwise brown and ragged flower beds, and the snowdrops have opened up completely. Just enough for a small vase!

From my small clump of Iris reticulata I picked two deep blue flowers, and one pale ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ which has fascinating markings but in my eyes cannot compete with the gorgeous colour of the blue one. With the help of some artificial light you can perhaps appreciate what I mean…

A few snowdrops were added and I used my tiny pottery vase again, bought at the  Christmas market last year. The small rock in the photo is a reminder of a wonderful weekend spent in the mountains a couple of years ago, picked from the dry part of the river bed of the Isar near the Austrian border. 🙂

I am pleased to be back this week, joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her lovely Monday meme, and look forward to visiting many other vases over the next couple of days.

Have a great week!



Snow fleas? Pull the other one!

(If you don’t like tiny creepy crawlies, I suggest you go and look at a different post!)

On our walks in the woods recently we have once again noticed little black specks on the snow. Until now we thought it must be dirt from the machinery used for forestry or from old tractors driving through the woods, but this year it was extreme and so we took a closer look…

Here we saw that where tracks are (from tractor tyres, deer, our footprints, skis etc) there is more of this ‘dirt’. Could it be soot? Is our air so bad? Here, in the middle of nowhere, with no industry for miles…

When we got home my Man of Many Talents googled for ages, trying to find something about it, and when he showed me what he had found I was AMAZED! He went back to get more photos so we could check the facts!


Now I’m going to get even closer…

They are SNOW FLEAS! Now, maybe we are the only people in the world who have never heard of snow fleas before, so I hope I am not showing my ignorance, but aren’t they simply incredible? Here are several hundred or even thousands of them gathering in the hollows of tracks.

Now a little information that we found in German, summarized:

Snow fleas come out of the ground in February/March when the temperature is just above freezing. They are often thought to be soot, as they cover the snow quite thickly in places. But these ‘specks of dirt’ are all the same size (around 1 millimetre long). They can crawl and jump (about 10cm high). However, they aren’t actually fleas, but springtails, so Wikipedia says they are technically not insects.

They emerge at temperatures of about -3°C, and live on fungi, pollen or algae which provide them with a special protein that functions as a kind of antifreeze. They prefer damp forests with evergreens. It is a real migration at this time of year, as they use the snow to move more easily and to search for food and for new ground where they can increase their population.

For scientific purposes my Man of Many Talents let some crawl across his hand, and we think they are actually smaller than 1 millimetre…

So, please let me know if you have ever encountered these fascinating little creatures and any extra information would be very welcome!


Interesting links:




Book Review: ‘Lab Girl’ by Hope Jahren

I have just finished reading this great book, recommended to me by Sheryl at Flowery Prose last November and immediately put on my Christmas wish list. You can read her review here, but I will add a few words too.

Hope Jahren is a scientist with a gift for writing, and the book flows right from the start. She recounts her life in an enchanting and extremely readable way, mixing in fascinating information and descriptions of trees, plants and her work. The story is full of ups and downs, telling candidly, passionately, and often hilariously of her (sometimes unconventional) struggles to set up labs, her discoveries, her dedication to her research, and the dear friend Bill who accompanied her through it all. Her style of writing is fluid and amusing, but also incredibly poignant when we note the hidden comparisons between the lives of trees and those of humans.

I really loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a vague interest in trees, botany or science in general who wants a good weekend read.

Take a look at Sheryl’s review – she can say it so much better than I can!



Freezing February

A very cold area of high pressure has swept across Northern Europe from Russia and we are experiencing the first really cold spell of this winter with daytime highs of around -6°C. I would love to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for a vase again today, but there is not yet anything I could pick!

So instead a couple of views from brisk walks in the sunshine…

I can feel the cold just by looking at this picture… 😉

This pathway is along the edge of an area of woodland where only beech grow, and being on a south-facing slope it catches the sun nicely, melting the snow and warming the ground enough to allow the first little flowers of our native Hepatica (H.nobilis) to start unfurling…

It is always a major event for me when I see these first blooms! I looked in vain for some Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), which is also one of the very first wild flowers to appear here, but perhaps that needs a few more days of sunshine.

Up on the hills above us the woodland contains mostly evergreens, and the view is quite different…

Sunday afternoon walk (-6°C)

I wonder how your season is progressing this week, as we in the northern hemisphere slowly but surely move towards the spring equinox. I hope you are getting some winter sunshine at least!

Stay warm and cosy!


In a Vase on Monday: The Fair Maids

“Wait! the world shall waken;

It is not dead, for lo,

The Fair Maids of February

Stand in the snow!”

I finally picked a few snowdrops today, after waiting in vain for them to open outdoors, and put them in the little blue pottery vase I bought at the Christmas market especially for them.

The words above are from The Song of the Snowdrop Fairy, and along with my little flowers they offer me hope that spring will indeed come soon. What a grey winter it has been here. But we are practically half way through February already… 🙂

And just 20 minutes later they were opening. 🙂

With little to share the past few weeks I shall take extra pleasure today in viewing all the other vases posted for this lovely meme, which is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. As always I will start with Cathy’s very own creation, and I do suggest you take a look too!

I hope you have a sunny week!