(Not) In a Vase on Monday: Advent

I may not have any flowers left in my garden for sharing with Cathy (Rambling in the Garden) for her Monday meme, but a walk in the woods provided me with material for this Advent arrangement instead of a vase.

A piece of bark, probably spruce, was found on the ground, along with some spruce and pine twigs which must have come down in the last storm. There were also plenty of spruce and pine cones and I took some lichen too. I added a few walnuts given to us by friends, and a chestnut and acorn or two gathered earlier in the autumn. At the front is a piece of the silver fir from our old garden – I love using it in Advent decorations as it lasts so well.

Wishing you all a peaceful Advent with lots of cosy candlelight.

🕯️🕯️🕯️

 

New Flowerbeds 2018: Update

If you visit here regularly you will know I had two new flower beds dug at the beginning of the month. Well, I was extremely lucky and our beautiful October weather continued long enough for me to get the plants in that I had ordered, as well as several hundred bulbs.

Here is a photo of the herb bed in the sunshine…

… and on a frosty morning (We even had snow flurries today!)…

This contains my kitchen herbs as well as some for pure decoration such as a red-leaved Hypericum. I added some grasses – a couple of Pennisetum, an Erogrostis trichodes and several small Stipa tenuissima (will the Stipa survive our winter I wonder?) – and a Viburnum (‘Eskimo’) as a focal point in the middle. The rosemary has been planted out, rather optimistically, from a pot. Depending on how cold the winter is it should survive with a bit of coddling (i.e. mulch and fleece). (Any tips on overwintering rosemary?)

The other bed is the ‘Butterfly Bed’…

… and has already been visited by a few late butterflies, including this one (no idea what it is), posing on this newly planted Aster pringlei ‘Pink Star’…

I have also planted a lot of different grasses here as wind protection as well as for their love of dry and open positions. But among the grasses are geraniums, lavender, verbena, Japanese anemones, Perovskia and three buddleias. I am not sure if I should cut the buddleias back as they are only about 1m tall anyway. Any buddleia experts out there?!

I also bought this lovely Hellebore “Ice ‘n’ Roses, rose” from a garden centre. It is a new hybrid from the north of Germany and is supposed to flower from December to April! Well, this one is already in flower, brought on early for the nurseries, and it is so very pretty.

It will be nerve-wracking to watch these exposed beds through the winter, but most of the plants were small, well-rooted specimens from my favourite trusted online nursery (in southern Germany) costing only a few euros each, so hopefully any casualties will be minimal and not too expensive to replace. With our last two springs being so very warm and extremely dry, I have become wary of spring planting and am taking some risks.

Do you prefer to put in new plants in autumn or in spring?

As I write the rain and sleet is hammering against the window – a fine start to our ‘winter time’, as we turned our clocks back last night. Do your clocks change soon too? The debate is on in the EU whether we should finally get rid of daylight saving and stay with ‘summer time’ all year. But it may take some time before a decision is made. I will just wait and see, as I can’t see much of an advantage either way!

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: Forcing Spring

Although there are only hours to go until the Spring equinox, the few spring flowers that have managed to appear are now under a thick layer of snow again and the daytime temperature is back to below zero.

But I still have a vase to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her Monday meme! And Cathy is celebrating her sixth blogging anniversary too, so do go and visit her! 😃

 

Last week I cut some Forsythia and Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) to force – within a couple of days both had opened their flowers. The Ribes, is a deep pinky red when it flowers naturally and is covered with all sorts of bees, but when forced it is a pale creamy white and looks even more delicate than normal. I wonder what the bees would think!

 

 I hope all of you in the wintry northern hemisphere are keeping safe and warm, and those of you in the warmer south are getting the weather you want!

😃

 

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!

Look…

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:

German:

http://www.flora-x.de/schneefloh%20ceratophysella.html

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneefloh

English:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springtail

https://www.bioethics.ac.uk/news/-snow-flea-antifreeze-protein–could-help-improve-organ-preservation.php