Looking to the New

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.” ~~ Vita Sackville-West

It has been — it is still being the strangest of winters.  We had virtually no rain through all of December and January.  We had several weeks of freezing weather, which is most unusual around here — we get scattered nights with below 32 degree temperatures but they are few and far between..  We soft-living Californians were like hot-house plants suddenly thrown out into the cruel cold.  These freezing weeks were immediately followed by two or three weeks of such balmy warmth that we walked around in shorts and flip-flips. While that might be somewhat normal for southern California, this is northern California — no sandals here in January! On top of that we are now officially in a drought — yet it is raining outside today — glorious rain! — the first real rain we’ve had this long winter.  Last weekend we even had snow in the hills around us!  Again, a pretty unusual happening — something that comes maybe once every four or five years. ….. A very strange winter!

Here in Ray’s garden, almost nothing is blooming — the paper-white narcissus and the old-fashioned purple iris are the only winter faithfuls doing their job right now.  And so, clean-up and planning for future additions is about all that’s going on here, but goodness knows, that’s plenty.

cutting corners

Here they are “cutting a corner” — actually repaving a spot that a delivery truck destroyed one day.  While the location is often mistaken for a home, this is a business, and very large trucks come through making deliveries.  After the third or fourth time this corner was flattened, Ray wisely decided to cut it back and give the trucks more space.

The major remodel however is happening in that back area where things get dumped that you don’t want seen — every garden has a space like this.  This one has been cleared out and has some lovely new paving in place.

mud path

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“Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday’s dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow.”
~~ Nelda Hartmann, January Morn  

The grapefruit tree once stood where the paving now lies, and the persimmon and pear trees are just around the corner.  The grapefruit, which was always in an awkward spot, has been moved to a back corner and we are all anxiously watching to see if it will survive.  The existing trees are now to be joined by a Mission Fig, an Italian Prune, and a Fuji Apple.  (That’s the heavily-pruned grapefruit under cover in the back corner.)

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Now we wait.  These are the waiting weeks.  Clean-up has been done.  Pruning is finished for the moment.  The beds have been cleared of excess growth.  Everything is clean and bare — and now we wait for what this very strange weather-year will bring us.  And we dream of bright blossoms and fresh new fruit.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.” ~~  Andrew Wyeth  

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A Rainbow of Iris

In Greek mythology, Iris is one of the messengers of the gods, though less well known for this attribute than her masculine counterpart Hermes/Mercury.  She is more commonly known as the goddess of the rainbow — all the beautiful colors of the rainbow.

Mauve w-poppies 2

Once again, we haven’t a lot to say about Ray’s Garden — just a collection of photos of the plants that have been bringing us joy lately.  Hope you enjoy them,too.

“Thou art the Iris, fair among the fairest,
Who, armed with golden rod
And winged with the celestial azure, bearest
The message of some God.”
–  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Iris

apricot

blue two-tone

two-tone

“Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages.  Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields.”  
–  Hana No Monogatari: The Stories of Flowers

blue

bronze

As usual, we have no names for each particular variety here — since most Iris home-growers trade for colors rather than name.  [Oh, I don’t have that shade of blue.  Maybe when you thin them out I could have one?  I have a particularly gorgeous bronze I’ll trade you…..]

When I first moved to Sonoma County years ago I met an older woman whose Iris garden was the talk of the town.  On hearing that I was just starting my garden in a new home she offered me a few rhizomes when she thinned out the next day.  “Just come on by and I’ll give you a few.”   I went home that next day with three large shipping boxes filled with Iris!  It took me a week working full time to get them all into the ground.

One more photo …  This little guy does not have a  particularly large or showy blossom– though it is a lovely color.  It is most interesting for its wonderfully striped leaves.

variegated