Evergreens, the regents of winter

"This weather makes me want to curl up in in my pajamas and drink hot chocolate!" 

We were standing outside a funeral home in a cold mist. A friend's father, age 97, had passed away. It was an uplifting service. This great-great grandfather had led a productive, interesting life. He was a good man who loved God. No doubt, right now the weather is much nicer where he is than where we are .

Winter's breath, damp and chilly, is coming over the land, giving me goosebumps which won't go away completely till next spring. I am always cold in the winter. Even inside the house I will wear a sweater or jacket. It is a good thing I live in Alabama, where winter is short and half-hearted. How do people in Canada survive? 

However, there are some things I like about winter:

1. Hot chocolate

2. My sweet husband getting up early to build a fire in the fireplace and to prepare breakfast for me. (He has spoiled me rotten, I know.)

3. Evergreens 

I love evergreens, those regents of winter which offer shelter and food to wildlife. Many are stately trees that stand guard against cold winds. All of them are beautiful and provide color and structure to the winter landscape.

Prior to the funeral today, I was out with my camera to capture some of these beauties before the rain started.

 Osmanthus heterophyllus, also called holly tea olive, has wonderful variegated leaves.


Yaupon holly is another one of my favorites. It is native to our area. This is a dwarf variety which is commonly used for hedges and foundation plantings. People pretty much take them for granted, but they should stop and take a good look at their petite leaves. The latin name for yaupon is ilex vomitoris, which describes what happens if you ingest it.


Nandina domestica, or heavenly bamboo, has bright red berries to brighten drab winter days.






Today I found a nandina with white berries, which is unusual, but quite pretty, I think.

This weeping blue cedar is in the woodland garden. I have a fondness for all kinds of weeping trees. This is one of my favorites. It is slow growing. I think it has taken a decade for it to become four feet tall, though it is wider than that.

 The Arizona cypress, despite its name, has grown well here. I love its color and its lacy needles.

The sculptural quality of branches is highlighted against the blue green color of a deodar cedar. 

This little white pine branch is lovely against the fading foliage of a Japanese maple.

I had to take a photo of the bark of this longleaf pine. It is a huge tree near the border of my property.

And finally. below are autumn fern and spreading yew. Both give structure and fresh green color to the woodland garden throughout the year.  Have a great week and Happy Thanksgiving to you all, Deborah


We are survivors

I once bought three small weeping higan cherry trees, and I dreamed of their graceful limbs dripping with pastel blossoms in the spring. Within two years they all were stricken with a blight that caused large sections to suddenly wither and die. Soon one tree perished, followed by another. The third tree was struggling, but still alive. I sprayed it with a copper/sulphur combination, but I had little hope.

"I'm so sad," I said to my husband. "I think I'm going to cut that tree down and be done with it."

I didn't get around to it for several weeks, but one day I took my hand saw and headed to the front garden, where the cherry tree was located. When I stood in front of the sick tree, I looked at it and pondered the situation for a long while.

The tree was about ten feet tall. The main leader and all of one side were dead, but there was a side limb and a sucker coming up from the ground that were completely healthy. Interesting. Something was happening within the trunk. It seemed that the healthy tissue was walling itself off from the diseased portion.

I wanted to give the tree another chance. The surgery was drastic, and I still wasn't optimistic. I sawed off the entire top of the tree, leaving only the lower portion of the trunk that attached to the healthy limb and the sucker. This left a deformed, lopsided tree.

Today I was in the garden, and I looked at the weeping higan cherry tree. It is about thirty feet tall now. When spring comes, its delicate pink blooms will drape over beds of daffodils and other flowers.  It still shows the gaping wound where diseased tissue once rotted away. The large cavity is now hardened and surrounded by overgrown callus tissue, like a thick keloid scar. It is a gnarly tree with character. It is a survivor.

I was thinking this afternoon that I have a kinship with this tree. I am a survivor, too. Five years ago, almost exactly, I completed treatments for breast cancer. I saw my surgeon today, and she told me I didn't have to see her again. It was a graduation day, of sorts. 

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I will give thanks for many things, including air to breathe and earth to touch, and for flowering trees in my garden.

Blessings to all of you,  Deborah