Grabbed the camera to capture the images of up close and personal, and the pruners and headed outside to the western side of the yard where the most activities were. Underneath the desperately needing pruning lilac, I spotted the other open snowdrop, which had spread it's petals wide with encouraging's from the winter fairies, and got on me old 54 year old knees, and set the camera to micro and snapped a close up and personal picture of little petals that were perfectly formed and wide with central "lampshade" center that had a little green dot on it. not like the Galanthus that will arrive in true spring, whose petals and hoop lampshade has a dot on every point of the droplet, this dot is subtle. Near the base of this lone stem rising above brown leaves and emerging shoots of crocus and squill and narcissus and volunteers I saw up close and personal details of things.
Ice in the birdbaths floating with images of the blue sky above and a trapped leaf. Birds overhead were fussing at me, and I remembered why I had originally come outside. The feeders needed topping. This came first while the light was good, so I tucked the camera into my back pocket and took the pruners and laid them on the end railing and pulled out the empty bucket and the half full one with the snap lids. The 50 pounds of black sunflower seed still rested in the swing, enticing the raccoons to figure out how to open it, and I maneuvered the bucket just to within reach of a tipped over bag and got out my pocket knife and cut strings inside the thick paper of the 50 pound bag. Just enough to make a pour spout, I swung the swing over to the lip of the bucket and poured seed into the empty 5 gallon plastic container until there was four inches left.
This one is round. The square one was a third full and I packed it completely with the two scoops I use in unison. Carried the bucket over and went and got the hosepipe and made sure no ice was blocking the pressure. The first hard freeze had blown out the cheap connection to the hose reel, I'll have to replace it this spring with something far better and tougher.
While I was doing this, I had the hose running into the BBQ pit frog/garden fountain to fill it up despite all the rains we'd had recently. Then going to the side yard where the packed buffet was at, I positioned the square bucket underneath the mesh feeders that collapse and filled them to bursting. Then the glass and copper Natl. Geographic feeder the birds snickered at when I first bought it. They had their preferences. Only when I put the mesh ones and the square, simpler one made of wood and hardware screening did they finally give in and take the bounty in the more "proper" bird feeder. Overhead I heard the scoldings of finches, titmice, wrens, chickadees, black caps and the thrumming of a frustrated woodpecker. I bustled about and quickly filled all the hangies, and made sure the suet baskets weren't in need of another suet cake to shove in with the other one. I just add to them and keep them tight for the various population of flying dinosaurs that descend in feeding frenzies once they discover the suet AND seed.
All of them topped and tight, I looked at the fountain and saw it was up to the top of the liner and shut the hose off and moved underneath the cable that the wind tore out that needs restapling or nailed and moved with purpose for the newer feeder. Metal domed top with screw, holds three pounds and uses hardware screening, the assorted dinosaurs adore it, and I've hung a round suet holder that packs three tight cakes into it. Refill the square bucket, and picked up the round one, transfer the scoops and then set the feeder inside on top of the seed and unscrewed the top. The birds up FRONT were scolding me! Give an old woman a break! LOL But I packed it too, and after tightening the nib with the ring, I rehung it, and pulled up some vinca and threw it in the dogrun.
Back to the swing, nestle the scoops, and pour seed in both buckets until it's to the edge and snap down seriously so no prying hands with slight operable opposable thumbs can't get it open and I find little piles of black seeds the next night from them rolling it around. Now some pruning.........
My orange handled Japanese Soboten women's hand pruners were waiting and I moved through the weaving pathways and stopped and took a picture of the ice floating in the bird bath. Another one for the sandstone looking one with the larger chunk of ice, then get on my knees and take another picture of the snowdrop. Then start cutting the spend seed heads of last years lilac's but sparing the wick shoots that had little or medium sized buds on it indicating where I could snip.
There were a LOT of spent lilac seed heads. As I snapped the thick stems, I was careful to not cut potential flower producers. The sounds of scoldings was heavy in the air, and a small airplane went over head above me and provided a little sound effects. The quiet was cut by the rustlings of Maggie-Xena, the huntress kittie who terrorizes the neighborhood of residents of Fairy Holler. I'd shooed her out when I caught her sitting in the bottomless galvanized tub planted with catmint but was half freeze burnt and some green patches that released scents when sat upon. This is what she'd discovered.
I moved with purpose, snipping and pulling the individual branches down to me (I'm still built low to the ground and the branches were more than six foot above me in some cases). I snipped with purpose and tossed the prickly seed heads into the galvanized catmint tub and onto the ground for later clean up, and moved through and around the shrub. Being short, I quickly realized I'd missed quite a few that were higher and retraced my steps as I heard the teasings and laughter of fairies and birds watching me.
As I got to the western side of the lilac, I noticed screaming magenta pink threads enticing me and ignored them. I couldn't stop until every dead cluster was snipped. This was the time before I was distracted later on and the blooming buds were definitely bulking up to fragrant flowers. I made a note to feed the shrub later on.
Once all the branches were snipped, I shut the pruners and pulled out the camera and focused on the pink threads of the Pizzazz Loripedilum, and got up close and personal. then I worked through the various secret spots and kept finding treasures. Underneath the Vitex shrub/tree, the hellebore that wowed me with a birthday blossom now had three mature flowers, and more buds. I carefully knelt on the retainer blocks, my knees clinging frantically as the steep slope started on the north side and I caught sight of treasures nestled underneath the older leaves of the other hellebore beside the blocks. I parted the leaves and there were buds, buds buds! So snap, snap, snap, I hunkered down and go up close and in their closed lips and tried to get details. White lips, with faint purple freckles indicating the spots that would later be more visible. ahhhhhhhhh, you gotta love Hellebore. Wonder if anyone wants to try to breed a YELLOW one with RED or Burgundy freckles?? LOL
My knees protested as I clung and leaned and got closer still and parted more stems of the older leaves to reveal younger growth and more buds! This was awesome....so several pictures later, my mind had begun on focusing on the emergings, when someone whispered, "since the Loripedilum is blooming thickly, and it's a member of the witch hazel family, why don't you check on your WITCH HAZEL, DIANE, and see if there are bud signs???" Good idea my reply went out into fairy space and I went down the sharp drop past the butt rock and stopped at the variegated blue lace cap hydrangea to capture an emerging bud that was frost kissed and had slight pink around the white and green bud, and then stood quietly as I scanned the young branches of the Diane Witch Hazel. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, HERE they were! So I got still and tried to capture the slight pink lipsticked lips of closed buds just in the makings. I may have my first flowers since getting the young tree-shrub from Carrolle Gardens three years ago...
Check on the Pieris and Beautybush, the Deutzia is slumbering, but I remembered the tree Peony and the bright reddish tongues were poking upwards on the dead looking stems that reached for the tree tops like gnarled fingers. Then underneath the deck, the broom needs staking before spring with a rebar, over to the compost bin from Miz Mary, the double althea is sleeping, having an epiphany on the black walnut tree who has a thickening vine of Virginia creeper imbedding into the bark, I realize the solution for the climbing hydrangea is right before me. Shade, but rich soil, and a base spot to tuck the climbing vine, and enough trunk to give support to the wide spreading arms of the hydrangea, I will have to measure the girth of the truck first. I might have to settle on a Jack to embrace the climbing Hy.
Underneath the balcony, stop and admire the Jane magnolia, see the signs of Blackberry corydalis shining blue-green and columbine leafed through leaf litter and I also see the ragged edges of Pulmonaria indicating it's alive and well, and the emerging tongues of green of stubborn bulbs tucked in at last minute intervals two years back. I was on a mission. Since I'd found more Hellebore buds than I'd imagined, I was determined to see if all the other Hellebore residents were also in bud making mode.
I moved with purpose to the black cherry gardens, stopping and admiring the variegated Pieris, spotting ethereal strands of a fern that I adore whose name eludes me, all green and saucy, but to the right, even more for my searching eyes. The baby Hellebore I'd tucked from sowing and discovery outside the bed last year that I'd shared with Karol and Ethyl. BUDS!! WOO HOO!! I got carefully close and took a picture and saw these were more white. No freckles yet.
Moved to the corner where the spent stems with the little triangular seed pods of the perennial begonia dangled like old summer oriental paper lanterns. I carefully moved my hands to part the older leaves and was rewarded with more buds, only smaller. No worries, I snapped a picture and noticed I needed to prune the Valley Valentine in Brudder John's memorial pot with the heuchera. Snip snip, I heard the echos of calls of birds higher up in trees, the quiet was wrapped around me with the cold buffering the notes of assorted birds, the crunch of Maggie-Xena chasing her mentor, Pester's the Krusty through the parked vehicles and obstacles of lots of black cherry hair shaking as they winds have loosened up dead branches and twig ends.
Slight winds remind me it's a cold January day and I'm glad I am layered. The undershirt that usually is worn in summer by itself is keeping my warmth to me, as I hear the titterings of winter Hellebore fairies urging me onwards, and the fuzzy micro fiber shirt has large enough sleeves to allow freedom and give me grins as they filled up earlier with sunflower seeds from the feeder toppings. My knees are damp with the moisture of snows and sleets and rains, as I kneel on the layer of fallen leaves and take pictures. then rise and move over towards the NSSG (not so secret gardens)and deliberately search the Hellebore leaves and sure enough, there are small treasures there too. All the way to the spot near the Indigofolia, and remember to look at the ornamental cabbage sitting now in the bird bath unplugged. Awesome colors.....
A last look around and decide to break off the spent volunteer stems of the Herbsonne rudbeckia and decide to take the sunflower tree over to the pasture, since the Maggie cat used it for cover for the new bird feeder to terrorize the visitors. The cows would make quick mulch of it to see what it was as I tossed it like a lance or kaber. The clod of dirt weighed easily 2-3 pounds and clung tight. Good rich soils and red clay, I hefted it and launched it where it landed with a thunk and instead of upright, it lay prone, all 20 feet of it. Any stray seeds I'll watch for to transplant this summer.......
Cut through the tangle of dangerous Vinca major and see the Kerria japonica that Ethyl gifted me with is doing JUST FINE thank you very much and will surprise me with bright blossoms this spring. I remind myself to lift a ramble of her sister, the single petaled one to blend with her to maybe twine around.
The cold is starting to numb my knees, and everything is done for now, some bodies of pulled vinca, spent broken tan and brown stems of assorted tall and scraggly rudbeckia's and fat, stubby but heavily green leaved Zebrina's who I cut through and tossed to be ground into the driveway. Now inside as the fingers of dusk start to ruffle the feathers of the birds as they scold me one last time as they snatch seeds of the filled feeders and try to ignore me as I quietly walk through the winter gardens. The faint sounds of traffic way over the rising hills from the interstate remind me that the leaves are off the trees, and I hear the thunking of an industrious woodpecker of unknown linage working down in the holler. A cup of Rhubarb Blackberry tea is in order with some raw turbanado sugar, maybe a few triskets with colby jack cheese and spicy brown mustard for a quick munch. Tomorrow, I'll get some dried apricots and dates and mangos to nibble for fruit and it will feed the body as these findings and treasures today have fed my eyes and soul.
The last think I check is the branches of the Lenii magnolia, it's felted buds fat and way larger than Jane's, but worth checking on. the umbrella like vines of the sherbet orange trumpet vine hovering overhead, with open mouthed pods that I missed that have sprung open and scattered fairies knows how many flat, silk threaded seeds. I'll find out this spring when they quietly sprout and weigh like sinewy anchors that will take a pipe wrench to grasp it reluctantly out..
thanks for allowing me to share the first of many musings and rambles from up here on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, where it overlooks English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36 (the temps not as cold tonight and heavy rains moving in to further nourish the emerging early arrivals, so some granuals are in order for sprinkling before the sky's tears soak the already sodden cold soils)