The Beach in January

I had business in southern Alabama this week. Lou accompanied me, and we decided to drive on down to Gulf Shores and spend the night at the beach. Our beachfront condo had great views:

We enjoyed panoramic views. We could see not only the Gulf of Mexico but also the Intracoastal Waterway that separates the coastal city of Gulf Shores, Alabama, from the mainland. Charming cottages and condos occupy the area.

There had been a recent storm, but the day we were there, the Gulf was calm with the water gently lapping at the shore:

There were some dramatic shadows created by fencing that had been blown over by high wind:

This American flag on the beach reminded me of the famous "One small step" moonscape photo with astronaut Neil Armstrong.The sun was shining, but the air was cold enough for coats. So what does one do at the beach in January?

Hunt for seashells; many were washed up by the storm:

How about some extreme kite flying?

This man was flying a drone:

Fishing is always popular:

Did you see the Grey Heron? (In many of these photos his feathers have a golden glow from the sun as it is setting.) We were amazed at how tame he was as he posed for me and others. He seemed to be a part of the fishermen's community and stayed in the same place for almost an hour!

The heron was very territorial and would chase other birds away from his spot. As the sun sank into the horizon and the fishermen began to pack up to leave, we discovered why. They gave the heron their leftover bait! Apparently this was something the heron was accustomed to. When the last fisherman left, so did the heron.

Sunsets at the beach are always beautiful.

The next morning we wakened to more splendor as the horizon was once again flushed with color, this time from the sunrise:

Another day, and too soon it was time for us to leave. Before heading home, however, we drove over to Mobile Bay, where we saw the big platforms that are used for drilling for natural gas.

We also saw some dramatic colonies of sea oats.

Finally, we turned north. This had been a quick trip, a last minute decision. We met people visiting Gulf Shores from as far away as Wisconsin and Michigan and Texas. We are fortunate to be less than four hours from this great beach. It had been an unexpectedly delightful winter pick-me-up, and now we want to do it again!


Engines Thrumming 

After days of heavy rain, bitter winds, plummeting temperatures and even some snow flurries, I ventured outside this morning, briefly, like a snail poking its head from its shell to check out the surroundings. The buds of winter blooming Edgeworthia chrysantha are beginning to swell.

Hellebores, just beginning to bloom, are hunkering down against the weather.

Daphne odora 'Aureo-marginata' has fragrant blooms in late winter. Buds are expanding and soon should open.

As if to greet me, the sun came through the clouds, but the icy air soon drove me back into the warm house.

A couple of weeks ago the air was so warm I was outside working in the garden with my internal gardening engines thrumming to start on spring chores. It was premature and I knew it, just as I knew all those azaleas blooms that had started to open would soon get zapped. Encore azalea foliage provides hints of color.
Evergreens are the backbone of my garden, and they provide a lot of interest through the winter.

Arborvitae fern has grown to a lush ground cover beside my front walk.

Jasmine growing over an arch has a wintry background.Winter and spring always play a fitful tug-of-war here. By March, spring should win out.Nandina 'Firepower' has especially bright winter foliage.

Ornamental Kale provides a bouquet of color for months, from fall all the way through winter and into spring. I cut it back when it gets leggy, and it regrows.In the meantime, I am back inside, my engines thrumming, making plans as I sit by the fire with my garden books.