A Very Short Day

To mark this short day I found a lovely, if somewhat sober sonnet by Edmond Holmes, from ‘The Triumph of Love’ collection, which I would like to share with you.

Like as the thrush in winter, when the skies
Are drear and dark, and all the woods are bare,
Sings undismayed, till from his melodies
Odours of Spring float the frozen air, –
So in my heart when sorrow’s icy breath
Is bleak and bitter and its frost is strong,
Leaps up, defiant of despair and death,
A sunlit fountain of triumphant song.
Sing on, sweet singer, till the violets come
And south winds blow; sing on, prophetic bird!
Oh if my lips, which are for ever dumb,
Could sing to men what my sad heart has heard,
Life’s darkest hour with songs of joy would ring;
Life’s blackest frost would blossom into Spring.

Moss

The winter solstice occurred here in Germany at 5.48am this morning. I was not up to experience the moment, although I doubt very much if anything would have marked the moment anyway. Since it is, quite simply, just a moment – albeit a moment many of us have been waiting for – and it is over in a tick and leaves that little itch of a thought behind… Yes, the days will not become noticeably longer for a couple of weeks yet, but they ARE getting longer. And do you sense that tinge of excitement at the thought of snowdrops, daffodils and tulips popping up in the garden to greet the spring?

We haven’t had winter yet though, so I mustn’t count my chickens…

I had in fact been looking forward to a snowy winter, but now I think I may be happier to forego snow and ice and skip straight ahead to the March winds and April showers! I have been reading how the winter appears to be just as mild in most of the US and UK too. And John at A Walk in the Garden in North Carolina has already spotted some daffodils in flower! Have you seen any daffodils yet?

Daffs

Whatever the weather, I wish you all a very happy and harmonious Christmas, full of all the things you wished for. And I look forward to seeing you in the New Year to share another year of my garden and kitchen with you and to be delighted by all your wonderful posts too.

Merry Christmas!

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In a Vase on Monday: The Past, the Present and the Future

‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!’

This was what Scrooge said, after the three spirits had visited him in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

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These three Hellebores (Christrose in German) demonstrate the three stages of life that the spirits made Scrooge visit on his eventful Christmas Eve… the Past, the Present and the Future.

Thanks go to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden once again for the opportunity to show some materials from my garden in a vase on Monday. And this week I have a new “vase” too!

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I found these three glass tubes mounted in a wooden block while hunting for Christmas gifts last week; exactly what I had been looking for, and so reasonably priced I decided to treat myself. 😀

The ivy and silver fir around the base are added for the seasonal touch.

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I like to look at some Dickens every Christmas. It became a habit while I was still teaching, since a production  of “A Christmas Carol” is shown  in English in our town theatre every year and I have often been with students. My own English teacher at school also managed to convince me of the positive side of Dickens, and I admire his ability to entertain with words/wordiness and social comment.

Another couple of Dickens quotes, appropriate for the season:

‘There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.’

and

‘Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days’.

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… and finally
‘Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.’

Have a wonderful week, stress-free with time for some fireside or candleside relaxation and contemplation!

🙂

Wild Flower of the Year 2016 (Germany)

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Every year the Loki Schmidt Foundation selects a wild flower to highlight as its “Wild Flower of the Year”. Loki Schmidt was a botanist and in her fortunate position as wife to one of our former Chancellors, Helmut Schmidt, (who sadly died just a few days ago) she was able to found this Hamburg-based charity. The Foundation promotes the maintaining of habitats for wildlife and works to protect endangered species through education. Amongst other projects, they have bought up small areas of land in the north of Germany where certain plants or animals are threatened.

For 2016 one of my favourite wild flowers (I do have many favourites!) has been chosen: the Cowslip, or Primula veris.

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In much of Germany this little flower is on the red list, as its preferred habitat – dry meadows on alkaline soil – is dwindling due to land development, agricultural use or the intensive use of fertilizers. In choosing this flower the Foundation also hopes to bring attention to the loss of such meadows and similar habitats. In the south of Germany we are more fortunate, and cowslips are still found in the wild fairly often, although not as frequently as I would like; coming across them down near our canal is like finding hidden treasure.

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Many years ago I remember being taken out by my mentor on a car ride in the south of Germany. I had no idea what the purpose of the trip was until we arrived and there they were – millions of cowslips filling a large meadow on a dry stony hillside. What a wonderful sight, and one I will possibly never see again.

Now I am cultivating a small area of our lawn where they have self-seeded…

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Each spring I wait eagerly to see them appear, and this area is not to be mown until they have safely spread their seeds again. This is where the strict farming regulations and nature reserve rules in our area assist in preserving wild flowers too – certain meadows should not be mown until June in order to ensure that some species recur naturally. I don’t think this is actually an enforcable law, as I do see farmers mowing too early sometimes, but I think subsidies must be an incentive for most to stick to the rules.

A Meadow in May

A Meadow in May

Primula veris is a sun-loving plant and in our climate usually flowers in April and May. It is a protected species, and may not be picked or dug up from the wild. However, a single plant can spread quickly into a bigger clump, seeding itself around profusely.

“Beneath the sun I dance and play

In April and in merry May”

(Cicely Mary Barker)

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The botanical name Primula means first and veris means spring. One of the common names in the German language is HimmelsschlĂŒssel – meaning “heaven’s keys”; the legend goes that St Peter dropped his keys to the gates of heaven and the first cowslips grew up where the keys landed! I then looked up the English common names in Wikipedia –  a long list of them that I have never heard before, including herb peter, key flower, key of heaven, fairy cups, buckles, palsywort, plumrocks, and tittypines! Wikipedia claims that “In the Middle-Ages it was also known as St. Peter’s herb or Petrella and was very sought after by Florentine apothecaries.” In herbal medicine the extract of Primula veris is used in cold remedies to relieve coughs and bronchial symptoms.

Although it will be some time before we see the Cowslip flowering again here, a close relative has decided to flower for me in November…

Primula x pruhoniciana "Schneewittchen"

Primula x pruhoniciana “Schneewittchen”

Are you also having such a mild autumn?

In a Vase on Monday: Peace

I read last night that today is the UN International Day of Peace. What good such a day can do, I cannot imagine. I am sure we are all very much aware of the troubles all over the world right now, especially in the Middle East – up to ten thousand refugees (mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are entering Germany daily at the moment – but a day designated for thinking about the desperate need for more peace around the globe can certainly do no harm.

I therefore decided to take the theme of peace into my Monday vase this week – joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her weekly meme. Why not pop over and visit her and see Cathy’s creation and all the other vases linking in from around the world. Or join in and make your own contribution using materials from your garden!

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Cosmos “Purity” is the star of this vase – one of the cosmos that flowered well, albeit somewhat late this summer. It looks gorgeous against our clear blue sky this morning!

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I associate the colour white with peace, and another white flower I grew from seed is the Cleome. Unfortunately the flowers are now looking a bit tatty and the leaves have been almost completely devoured by caterpillars. The seeds are ripening and I shall scatter a few and save the rest for sowing next year.

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I have identified the custard yellow Echinacea above as “Aloha”, and decided to use it to contrast with the yellow centres of the Cosmos flowers.

Other flowers included are the white Achillea millefolium, which I planted last autumn and which has now got established despite the drought. Tough little plants!

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And the creamy Scabiosa ochroleuca – this sort spreads like mad in my well-drained soil and can get quite a handful, but is easy to pull out in spring.

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Various grasses fill out the vase with silvery and golden hues.

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To finish off on a serious note, a quote for today…

“I call on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global ceasefire. To them I say: stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Have a good week, and thanks for stopping by!

🙂

Tree Following: April 2015

This year I am joining Lucy at Loose and Leafy in following a tree, and I am posting monthly about my Field Maple (Acer campestre) which stands at the bottom of our garden.

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Look up, look up, at any tree!

There is so much for eyes to see:

Twigs, catkins, blossoms; and the blue

Of sky, most lovely, peeping through…

(from “Look Up!” by Cicely Mary Barker)

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Despite some really warm days the leaf buds are only just showing signs of development. I can’t wait to see the leaves unfurl.

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The other members of the Acer family in my garden are just as far on or even a little further ahead; the Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore)…

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the Acer tataricum (Amur Maple)…

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and the Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)…

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 Between the 7th and 14th of each month you can link in with your tree at Loose and Leafy. Dozens of people from all over are taking part, so why not join in!

Are you seeing any leaf growth yet?