Freeze-Froze-Frozen

One of the major inland waterways for freight carried across Germany, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, is currently closed to traffic…

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It has been below freezing point for several weeks now (apart from a couple of days around Christmas), at times reaching -17°C and frequently staying at around -9°C during the day. I have seen the canal freeze over once before, but it never freezes completely, being built into the bed of a slow-flowing river. Last Monday it was officially closed to traffic, as the locks froze up and no ice breakers could get through.

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The canal links up the North Sea (Rotterdam in the Netherlands) with the Black Sea, and millions of tonnes of heavy building materials, grain and coal are transported via this route on long deep barges each year. Passenger cruises also regularly use this route, the most popular trips being from Rotterdam or Nurenberg, down past us to the Danube, and then on to Vienna and even Budapest. This part of the canal near to us was the last section to be built, involving high costs to reduce the environmental impact and secure habitats for wildlife. The completed canal is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

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Today it is a balmy +1°C, with +3°C  forecast by the weekend. Still cold at night though, so it will take a while before we see boats coming this way again. In the meantime it is pleasantly quiet…

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Have you seen local waterways freeze this winter?

Stay safe and warm everyone!

In a Vase on Monday: A Small Collection

I suppose many of you have heard of the icy weather that has much of northern and eastern Europe in its grip. First of all a cold front from Russia stretched across to Germany, then a hurricane brought snow and icy rain (and took down our old pussy willow too), and now another cold front from Norway is rushing down our way.

This Monday, as I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her lovely meme, I briefly considered filling a vase with snow, but that’s a bit boring and I couldn’t bring it indoors. So once again my vase this week contains materials from my garden that were collected and saved in the summer months…

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Cones from our fir trees: pine, larch and spruce.

Also on my windowsill a beautiful red amaryllis is teasing me, opening so very very slowly. I am hoping it will be fully open for next Monday. I wonder if you have any flowers on your windowsills?

Have a good week, and stay warm and dry!

A Very Happy Christmas!

The beautiful countryside around us has been shrouded in thick fog and covered in layer upon layer of frost for most of December. When I heard the lovely carol “In the bleak mid-winter” the other day I found it quite apt to describe our surroundings here – the earth is hard as iron (although it has thawed a little in places in the last 24 hours) and the water in the bird bath is hard as stone again. But no snow still. (Sigh)

So I’m afraid I cannot post any pretty photos of frost covered pine trees, glittering in the sun with a blue sky beyond…. but I can offer a glimpse of our black and white world instead.

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And I can wish you all a very Happy Christmas too!

I hope you have the opportunity to relax over the holidays, spend time with loved ones, read a good book or just chill out in front of a warm fireplace with a hot mug of tea…

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Many warm wishes to you all!

😀

 

The Rocks in the Rockery (and the Tuesday View)

If you have seen summery pictures of my rockery in this year’s ‘Tuesday View’, you may be forgiven for wondering why I call it a rockery… Apart from the large rock in the foreground on the right there is hardly a rock in sight.

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The rockery in early August

But when you see this view in December it is quite a different story, and the rocks become a focus when the plants are no longer able to provide interest.

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Shapes, shadows, moss and wintergreen ground cover create a very different feel to the summer abundance of flora… especially on a frosty day like today.

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When I first cleared this area, which was covered in thick layers of ivy, I remember smiling as each rock was revealed. I particularly like this one with the little ‘window’, and try to keep it free of growth for most of the year.

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And this one too…

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Others vanish completely in summer, and in the shade of the perennials moss gains a grip, becoming more and more visible in the autumn as the surrounding plants die back.

Even on a grey day I can take pleasure in the rocks themselves. But when the sun shines on them they are even more attractive.

If we get snow in winter it can turn the rockery into a moon-like landscape for weeks. However, in a snowless winter I often look at it despairingly, convinced everything has died and it will never be green again! Do you get that feeling too?

And then I need to look at some of the photos taken in summer, to remind me on a dreary winter’s day of what it will feel like to step outside, barefoot, and walk across the warm patio paving to the steps – those steps from which photos of the Tuesday View are always taken – and sit down with a cup of coffee and look and dream and listen to the sounds of nature.

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The rockery in June

To finish off, a short video from June last year at the bottom of the rockery…

Both summer and winter views are lovely in their different ways. But I know which view I prefer… 😉

What is your favourite feature in your garden on a dreary grey winter’s day?

Germany’s ‘Flower of the Year’ 2017: the Field Poppy

Each autumn the Loki Schmidt Foundation in Germany announces the flower they have chosen as ‘Flower of the Year’. I was pleased to hear that for 2017 it will be Papaver rhoeas, the Common Poppy, or Field Poppy as I know it.

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We are fortunate to see it growing wild in corn fields and around the edges of agricultural land near us. But in some regions it has all but died out. The intense use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, along with other modern technology in farming methods, mean the conditions no longer exist in which this wild flower can colour our fields and roadsides.

A couple of years ago this was the view just beyond our garden gate.

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Not just poppies, but sweet peas, chamomile and cornflowers were mixed in with the crop.

And this summer several farmers started sowing strips of wild flowers along the edges of their crop fields to encourage wild bees and other pollinators, insects and wildlife. This is subsidized by the EU – I only wish they would offer subsidies for NOT deep plowing, fertilising, and spraying chemicals or slurry on the land year in year out!

The idea of this Flower of the Year campaign, called ‘Blume des Jahres’ in German, is to draw attention to the plight of certain flowers which are slowly becoming endangered in our countryside. I hope it helps with awareness, as it would be tragic to lose more of our beautiful wild flowers.

Which wild flower would you miss most of all? The poppy perhaps?

The Tuesday View: 6th September 2016

Well, there have been a few changes to my Tuesday view since last time, two weeks ago. The garden held up well to the heat at the end of August and has been enjoying a little respite over the past few days, with cooler temperatures and quite a bit of rain.

TuesdayView6th1 The main change is that the Sedums are now open, contrasting nicely with the grasses and fern, which is now turning golden…

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…and my pink rose Gertrude Jekyll has finally produced more than just one flower at a time after barely flowering at all earlier in the year. I like the effect next to the Succisella.

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The Gaura lindheimeri  (‘Summer Breeze’) at the top of the rockery has also filled out well and is producing lots more lovely pale pink/white flowers. I think the name so appropriate as it sways gently in the slightest puff of wind, even on a very hot day, making me believe there is a cool breeze!  Gaura is not always hardy in our climate, but this one seems to have got established, with its roots nicely protected under the Golden Euonymus.

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The other Euonymus, which I planted last year (a dwarf Euonymus alatus), has started to turn a lovely shade of pinky red and orange… last year it dropped all its leaves in the summer in the stress of drought and extreme heat, so I am pleased it has got established now. It is hiding below the Perovskia from this angle…

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If you would like to join me in following one view of your garden week by week to observe the changes as the year progresses, please leave a link below.

🙂

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The Tuesday View: 14th June 2016

I decided to get a shot of the view in the morning today, as (surprise, surprise) rain is expected later. The sun just managed to add a bit of warmth to the photo before disappearing behind thick clouds again!

Tuesday View, 14th June 2016, 11.30am

Tuesday View, 14th June 2016, 11.30am

I think this view of the rockery has changed quite a lot since last week, but then I know every centimetre of it! Almost all the poppies have gone over now, some have been removed too to give the other plants some breathing space, and the red rose top centre is starting to flower. The white peony is almost over, while the lavender is just showing a hint of colour. And my new rose (centre) ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ is flowering. The Centranthus ruber is in full bloom, but I am quite worried as I have only seen one solitary Hummingbird Hawk-moth on it so far. Normally there are several at a time throughout the day.

What changes have you noticed in your garden recently?

It would be lovely if any of you wish to join me in posting a photo of  the same view of the garden week by week. Just put a link to your post in the comments here, so others can also enjoy your view!