In a Vase on Monday: The Unusual…

We had terrible gales last week and one of our tall willowy willows was nearly uprooted. As there were fresh shoots at the base of the trunk we decided drastic measures were in order…

…and the top was lopped off!

My Man of Many Talents hated to see the glorious green flowers, smothered in bees, go onto the compost heap and put them in the nearest container he could find.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ

 

In case you are wondering, it is a pile driver for ramming posts into the ground. Turned upside down it served as a heavy and relatively stable vase!

What surprised us both was the delicious scent coming from the flowers.

I narrowed it down to three, but we were so taken by this strange vase that we both took loads of photos!

I am happy to be joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her Monday meme again and hope you will pop over to see her vase today.

(Not) In a Vase on Monday: Advent Wreath

It is Monday again (where did last week go?) and time to join Cathy (Rambling in the Garden) for a vase. Instead of searching (quite possibly in vain) for something to cut today, I decided to have a go at making a wreath. The neighbouring farmer is very good to us and came over specially to bring me some ‘premium’ fir branches he had saved. Some spruce was cut down near us last week, but he insisted fir was better. After years of calling all evergreens ‘firs’ I am slowly learning to remember the difference. Living on the edge of the Bavarian Forest and having a small area of woodland too means I must make the effort! Having two languages as well as botanical names makes it a bit tricky. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The finished wreath:

Well, thank goodness for YouTube videos as I immediately got the hang of it after watching one and the result was better than I had expected and certainly easier than attempts in previous years! We have no berries left for decorations, so I added some of my favourite little tree decorations and placed a new candle at the centre. Many people have four candles on their crowns, one for each sunday in Advent. But I chose one large candle I had in reserve for the middle.

There are such pretty candles in the shops and at the markets here at Christmas and I always buy far too many… I was so glad of this as I had plenty of unused ones in my ‘stash’ for this year. My decorations are mostly from the Christmas markets and this pewter one is one of my favourites…

Do you make a wreath or crown for Christmas? What materials do you use? And do you have a favourite Christmas decoration?

Wishing you all a lovely week full of little pleasures and joys as appropriate (and necessary) for the season!

๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿฅจ๐ŸŽ„

In a Vase on Monday: Snow Day

Have you had snow?

Well, the snow plough managed to get through the woods this morning after we were snowed in all of yesterday – ย all day Sunday it snowed heavily non-stop so we have about 40cm of fluffy white stuff with drifting too. Several trees and branches also came down across the road, which my Man of Many Talents is now dealing with. โ˜ƒ๏ธ

Can you spot the herb bed in this view?

The colour of my flower for this week’s contribution to Cathy ‘s meme (Rambling in the Garden) is appropriate – snow white. The name is less fitting – ‘Alfresco’. I won’t be spending much time outdoors as, despite beautiful sunshine today, it is below freezing!

Hippeastrum Alfresco

Last week’s Amaryllis flower is now over but there are more to come!

Do visit Cathy to see what others are finding in the middle of winter to put in their vases.

Hope you are all getting some winter sunshine!

 

Mast Year 2018

I mentioned in a post recently that we have a lot of pollen this spring. (Understatement of the year!) Well, I have since learned that not only has everything flowered at once due to our warm April – the warmest on record since 1881 in Germany – but it is also a so-called mast year for birches, spruce and firs in our region.

A mast year is basically a year when certain types of tree in a whole region produce much more pollen and thus far more seeds than in a normal year. Birches do this regularly – every second year – while other trees such as oak or spruce only do this every 4-8 years.

Our silver birches, swaying in the wind

Trees generally use their energy for putting on growth in non-mast years. But in a mast year something triggers them to put all their strength into preserving themselves and to produce as much seed (and hence pollen in spring) as possible. This can apparently be seen in the rings when a tree is cut, with intermittent rings of very little growth. The trigger may be a warm spring, drought or other factors such as the North Atlantic oscillation. In other words, climate change affects tree ‘behaviour’. But what fascinates me is that, for example, practically every Spruce tree in the whole of Germany has started pumping out the pollen, whether in the far north, the Alps, the Black Forest or the Bavarian Forest. Clever. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spruce, only just showing signs of fresh green

Just looking across our valley at the hillsides around us recently it suddenly became clear to me that the Spruce, Firs, and probably many other conifers have joined the birch this year – the trees are gold and brown instead of green, with little fresh growth and millions of flowers and cones forming on their branches. Perhaps you can see what I mean from this photo taken yesterday where the conifers are all much darker than the fresh deciduous trees in full leaf…

In fact, when I walked around the garden and took a closer look I could see our Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Silver Fir, Austrian Pine and other conifers I cannot identify are all going mad this spring!

Douglas Fir, with fresh shoots just beginning to show

One article I read quoted a botanist suggesting the conifers are suffering from several dry years in a row, and this is a self-preservation measure should they die. A grim thought. While looking for more information on this phenomena I found myself engulfed in the technical jargon of meteorologists and botanists. But it was interesting to find out just why we are experiencing so much pollen this spring!

Have you ever heard of mast years or experienced the same where you live?

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!

๐Ÿ˜€