I have mentioned before that, to me, February feels like the longest month of the year. It drags and drags and this year is no exception. Just four days ago I woke to the above scene. Fortunately this lasted just a day and today there were a couple bright spots in the garden. The snowdrops are showing white, pure and elegant even when skirted by brown leaf debris. I would love to have those huge swaths of snowdrops which are seen on old English estates. I have only seen them in pictures and wonder, will I live long enough to see these multiply to that degree? There is no telling. Last year the snowdrops waited until the second week in March to crack color but then last year there was still snow on the ground. The crocus followed the snowdrops by a week but here they are in full and glorious color while February toils on. These gifts of the garden are quite small and it does take a bit of attention and searching to find them. It is worth the search as the hope of finding new growth is never as satisfying as the reality. I did find one other treasure stretching out of its fetal position. March is still two days off but the march of color has begun. What is catching your eye in your own garden today?
The sunny days have a definite and discernible brightness signaling to the garden and the gardener that it is time to get busy. This weekend was brisk and light filled even as the ice still covered the fish pond. The maiden grass is looking tattered and torn having suffered a very early and heavy snow in October and many swirling winter winds. We have had just a couple very cold days this winter. There has been little snow cover compared with last year. In addition to the golden glow of the grass which compliments Tucker's blond coat, the moss is almost impossibly green. Along the drive there is a newly planted witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'. Arnold is starting to wake up. It may be a whole month until spring but here brightness and light are returning. There will be slips back to winter. It is inevitable. That said, there is a touch of yellow in the garden. Is your garden showing the signs of a new season yet?
Can you name the happiest place on earth? I happen to think that Disney World might be in contention. While visiting Mom in FL last week with my son and his almost 3 year old daughter, Hailey, we had occasion to visit The Magic Kingdom. One might question the sensibility of taking a not even 3 year old to Disney World. My son and I questioned our sanity but little Hailey loves Mickey Mouse. She sings the song...not M-I-C-K-E-Y, sadly, but the new one and she dances to it and she asks for the TV show as it is her very favorite. Hailey's love of Mickey coupled with free passes and free parking sealed the deal.The smiles begin right inside the gates. Not all of us would want a planting of annuals bedded out in the likeness of Mickey Mouse but it looks quite appropriate right here. Who wouldn't smile at that face? I witnessed only acts of kindness by all employees I observed and encountered which seems an impossible task given the quantity of people who visit and who were there that day with the exception of this guy. I knew that I would be checking out plants and plantings but that did not take away from the day since pictures can be snapped quickly under the guise of looking at the sights. Gardening is regional and a trip is always an occasion to learn some new plant names. While February in RI means cold, hard ground and little color, in Florida there are some trees which are in full and glorious bloom. This tree, I cannot find the name so help me out, was blooming. It looks similar to the orchid tree but I think it is something other than that as it is blooming with no leaves present. My Mom has a book on some of the trees growing in Florida but this one was absent. This matched the pictures in the book of the orchid tree which has blooms and leaves at the same time. The Disney World crew beds out quite a few annuals and I did enjoy seeing color at this time of year. I know it is expected in Florida but it was a nice relief from the drabness of this year's RI winter with limited snow. No snow on the ground means less light in the landscape in New England. It has seemed ever so dark this year. These cyclamen swirls in the midst of wax begonias were quite pretty. I'll bet it would look nice on a wall as a vertical planting as well. I could use a few of these Trees of Gold to brighten the garden but, alas, they are not hardy for me. I will enjoy them here. The flowers are bourne in clusters before the tree leafs out. They are the bright yellow of that famous mouse's shoes.
Clinging to an arbor, this lovely lavender blue vine caught my eye. It looks like the pictures of the Queen's Wreath but if you know if by another name, let me know. Some people embrace the thought of going to Disney World and some people cringe at it. I am talking about adult people, of course, because I have never met a child whose eyes did not light up at the mention of this wonderland. Disney World does not come cheap even when you have free tickets. My son and I are still laughing about the 'free' part of it since we did purchase a few items which added up quite quickly. There is no price to be put on the smile and awe on a little girl's face at the sights and wonders within the walls of the Magic Kingdom. If little Hailey is too young to remember this trip, I only have to pull out these pictures to prove she was there. Have you been to Disney World? What do you think is the happiest place on earth?
Addendum: Many thanks to Francis for identifying the lovely pink flowered, deciduous tree in the above pictures. It is the Pink trumpet tree or Pink Lapacho tree, Tabebuia impetiginosa. More can be read about that tree here.
It is Friday and time for another garden trip. Today takes us to the garden of Heather and Harry Brickford which is another beautiful National Garden Scheme garden. The NGS is an organization which features over 3,700 gardens. You can read more about this organization here. The Brickford garden is located in Essex is a bit north and east of London. This garden surrounds a very photogenic home which is made of brick with diamond shaped, leaded windows. A gravel drive sweeps up to the front of the house, the crunch of tire or shoe treads announcing visitors. The wide front step is an invitation to enter the house but all our eyes were on the sharply edged beds overflowing with flowers and shrubs. These frame a perfect lawn which leads around the house to the slightly sloped and terraced back garden. A brick wall provides privacy and continuity of style to the house. The sweet scent of lavender permeated the air as trousers brushed the foliage and yellow columbine skirted the opposite edges of the path.The back garden wraps around the property and includes flowers, shrubs and trees. There is a central water feature perfectly framed by brick and a terraced garden which divides the garden into loose rooms. Many of our group were enticed into this beautiful summer house. I don't know the English term for this building but many gardens our group visited had a serene little building such as this one. Robin's egg blue never looked as good as on this respite with its soft yellow interior. The summer house has a view all its own.The back of this home has this lovely patio which would have been even more inviting if the rain had held off but water makes plants and surfaces shine in photographs and no spirits were dampened. This grouping of hostas set off the beautiful stonework and the hostas are thus out of the reach of any slugs which might want to chomp on the luscious leaves. Who could blame them? I may have actually heard about the origin of the name of this garden, Orchard Cottage, but I don't remember it.
The view was delightful from both the outside and the inside where tea was graciously served.
There is nothing like English tea and English hospitality.