Into the New Year

As I write it is still the last day of the year and we had some lovely warm sunshine today: 13°C!

So to ring out the old year here are a few pictures of my leisurely wander around the garden with Anouk this morning.

The blue sky and sunshine was a real treat…

This is the corner Anouk likes to inspect first every morning, as the hares come through the fence there…

Still a few rose hips left in the hedge…

And some morning mist across the meadow beyond our fence…

Anouk, checking for mice…

The buzzards often sit on the perches first thing to warm their wings in the sun… we put up several of these to encourage the birds of prey to help keep the mice population down.

The hellebores are in bud!

 

Can she smell Spring? (No, probably deer or hares!)

Wishing you all the very best for the new gardening year. Health, happiness and lots of flowers!

Happy New Year!

 

Happy Christmas!

Another old Christmas carol has been popping into my head the last few days  – ‘God rest ye merry gentlemen’ – with the line ‘comfort and joy’ seeming just perfect for the kind of Christmas I would like this year. A few days of cosiness, with good food, music, and some relaxation. So I wish you all the same: Comfort, joy, a happy and peaceful Christmastime and all good wishes for the New Year!

🎄🎄🎄

Winter Solstice in Bavaria, Krampus et al

About 250km to the south of us lie the Alps, already covered in a good thick layer of snow at this time of year. The mountains have always been fascinating to me, and seeing them awakens that same childish pleasure as when I catch the first glimpse of the sea on the way to the seaside.

Summer near Berchtesgaden

And the traditions find it fascinating too.

Before the age of digital photos I would occasionally drive there, either for some sightseeing of the beautiful lakes and mountain passes, or for a day of skiing.

Life in the villages and remote farms in mountainous regions used to be very hard in winter (and still can be), and many superstitions arose, particularly regarding this time of year. Some of these are rather sinister, with evil spirits and fearsome creatures playing a role. One of these is Krampus, often depicted as a hairy horned man-like figure, who frightened children into being well-behaved. This is one of the least frightening photos I could find. If you search ‘Krampus’ online you will see even scarier images!

Photo from National Geographic

Similarly, in Bavaria ‘Knecht Ruprecht’ was an evil man dressed completely in black, who supposedly ate naughty children. Here he is depicted as part animal, resembling the devil…

While, on December 6th, the good children receive gifts from Saint Nicholas (the original Santa!), naughty children were tortured; I remember a student of mine (an adult at the time) telling us how he was still filled with dread on December 6th when he recalled how he was collected by Krampus/ Knecht Ruprecht every year and put in a sack, convinced he was going to die!!

Another myth involves evil who people make a pact with the devil during these dark days and turn into weirwolves, threatening humans and animals alike. It was common to burn incense in the stables and barns over Christmas, to ban evil spirits. One of the superstitions I have heard is that the animals in the barns are suddenly able to speak, and foretell the future. Should, however, anybody hear them, he or she is destined to immediate death. (Not sure how that one can be explained!) Another story is that on New Year’s Eve the animals can air their complaints to the ‘house spirit’ about the farmer if they have been mistreated, and he will then be punished. (I like that one!)

All of these myths and many more have become tradition and are remembered, re-enacted or celebrated in December, mainly between Thomas Day (today, December 21st) and Epiphany (January 6th) – the so-called ‘Rauhnächte’ – varying greatly from region to region. The appropriate clothing, masks and paraphernalia are passed down through generations or carefully preserved by communities. I love the fact that so many truly ancient traditions are still alive here today, mostly with pagan origins, being then rearranged around Christian holidays and adapted or extended over the centuries. I am sure, though, that children nowadays are not tormented as much as my student was 50-odd years ago. 😉

And now some nicer images… of my garden on a frosty winter solstice day. 😃

(Click on any image to open a slideshow).

Wishing you a happy Solstice day.

❄️☀️❄️

The Ice Saints, May 2020

Modern art, you may ask?

No, it’s a young Gingko tree, given to us by friends when we moved here, and wrapped up in garden fleece!

In Germany the final frosts of the year according to ancient folk sayings are mid-May, on the four Saint‘s Days from 12th to 15th May. And until today they are surprisingly accurate. Last night the 11th-12th was Saint Pankratius and we had a couple of degrees of frost. Tonight is Saint Servatius and temperatures could drop below zero again… a nightmare for gardeners who have been tempted by an exceedingly mild and warm April and early May to plant up pots of Pelargoniums and vegetables and sow annuals…

The Cold Frame

Thank goodness for garden fleece and various bits of packing materials saved for wrapping up sensitive plants. And for our trolley, which came in handy for gathering up these pots to put under cover for the night.

The zucchini and butternut are in pots this year as the ongoing drought deterred us from starting a vegetable bed again this spring. Maybe next year… In the meantime, it means wrapping up pots overnight. These looked a bit peaky this morning when I took the photo, but by the afternoon they had perked up, albeit with some slight leaf damage despite the fleece wrapping.

With our greenhouse plans also postponed for at least another year, I invested in this mini patio greenhouse. It has been worthwhile, with room for twelve trays. And with a bit of garden fleece it stays above freezing overnight. It was delivered in a trillion pieces though, so don’t ask how long it took me to put it together! 😫

At the beginning of our lockdown in mid-March I panicked a bit and worried I would not get any tomato plants, as even if our garden centres ever opened again there would be a rush for them. So I ordered a mix of tomato seeds from a Russian lady not far from us who has a private nursery and usually sells young plants in spring. They are all old varieties brought over from Russia by her parents, and so are not EU certified (so I can‘t eat them… 🤪🤣😉) and ALL of them germinated! So I now have 28 healthy young plants and cannot give them away as I can‘t visit anyone! I think I will be spending all summer watering…

Tomatoes, Tithonia, Sunflowers, salad leaves and a couple of leftover zucchini plants

Some dahlia tubers freshly planted in pots were brought indoors, as were my Lemon Verbena plants. I have been coddling these darlings, bringing them indoors every night.

I love lemon verbena tea and dry the leaves so I can enjoy it all year round. Last year my plants did not thrive and I had to ration my remaining tea. I hope this year I can refill my stock. 😀

The last of our Ice Saints is the dreaded ‘kalte Sophie’, cold Saint Sophia on the 15th, and it looks like that might be our last frosty night…. I do hope so as the wrapping up and unwrapping is getting a bit ridiculous!

How do you cope with late frosts? Is there a specific date for the last ones where you live?

🌷❄️🌷