Fairy Merry Christmas

Winter Solstice just passed in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning our daylight hours will start to grow longer. My friends in the Southern Hemisphere are honoring the longest day of the year.

Meanwhile, San Jose’s fairies are celebrating the arrival of several wet storms, a welcome pause in our very long drought.

Merry Christmas!
Happy Solstice!
Good tidings of summer!
And for those of you feeling the winter blues, just think: The first day of spring is just three months away.

fairy garden Christmas long view

Fairy Garden Festivities

fairy garden kitty with scarf

Look who has a bright red scarf for the holidays?

fairy garden with reindeer

There are a couple of reindeer on the roof. The rest of the team must be on a coffee break.

fairy garden merry christmas sign

Merry Christmas!

 

The Winter That Never Was

daffodils

Daffodils growing in the curb garden

Spring is technically less than a month away, but the view outside my window is shouting, spring, spring, spring!

pink hyacinth and fuchsia freesia

‘William and Kate’ Hyacinth and fuchsia Freesia

San Jose, California is more that two-thirds of the way through the winter that never was.

Initially, I gave Winter the benefit of the doubt. Though the calendar announced the arrival of winter solstice in late December, Winter decided to take his time. As a woman in her mid-fifties, I respect that. I no longer move like a twenty year old and my memory isn’t that great either. Winter, however, forgot about January entirely. No rain and above-average temps ruled the month. Winter left us high and dry, leading us into year four of our historic drought.

Okay, so December and January came and went, but surely February would live up to its winter reputation: cold, windy and wet. We’re ready.

san jose temperatures february

Source: Accuweather

As you can see by the Accuweather chart above, virtually every day this month has been warmer than average, sometimes by as much as 12 degrees. Winter says no can do.

While the rest of the country is battered by rain, wind, sleet and snow, it seems ungrateful to complain. I enjoy beautiful weather as much as the next gardener, but it feels like cheating. It’s supposed to rain in January. February is known for cold, windy days and a good splashing isn’t unheard of either. Our forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife depend on it.  Winter left town and I miss him terribly.

Winter, won’t you please come home?

Winter Solstice in San Jose

Sunday we honored the shortest day of our year. It’s winter solstice in San Jose.

Do you know what that means?

It means that spring is only three months away!

Seriously though, you have to look a bit harder for signs of winter in California. We’ve had a few weeks of back to back rain storms, a welcome break from the drought but temperatures remain mild. Most of the deciduous trees are bare of their leaves but others remain evergreen.

Here’s a peek into the winter garden. It asks for little and gives a lot. Nature is like that.

orange cosmos buds

Cosmo buds, no sign of slowing down

orange cosmos

Cosmo in bloom

hummingbird in chinese pistache

Hummingbird in the Chinese Pistache tree

chinese pistache winter

Stripped bare of its leaves, but covered in buds waiting for spring

California poppy

I’m on the ‘every other season’ plan. All the seeds that forgot to come up last year are sending out little beacons of green delight. That’s a California Poppy on the right and to be determined seedlings on the left.

statice

Statice in bloom

pink zinnia

Zinnia. The plant looks shabby, but the flowers continue to bloom

unidentified planted objects

Unidentified planted objects

mexican sage

The Mexican Sage reminds me of a purple caterpillar

lemons

Lemon scented holidays

Here is a shot of the little tomato that could, a self-sown seedling growing from a crack in the steps. Yep…tomato plants in December.

tomato volunteer

Self-sown tomato making a go of it out of the side of the concrete steps

During this hectic time of year, I hope you can find a few moments to enjoy what nature has to offer.

The Color of the Day is Orange

Winter solstice is just two weeks away. We’ve had a slow descent into fall this year with unseasonably high temps.  That said, the colors are finally here.

We’re expecting a storm worthy of a NOAAWatch this Thursday, with high winds and heavy rains. Anything left on the trees now will be long gone by Friday. I’m enjoying the color while it lasts.

We planted this tree 18 years ago specifically for its gorgeous fall colors.

DSC_0006

Chinese Pistache

This beautiful Acer grows outside our living room window. It’s a landing-place for hummingbirds, lesser goldfinch and a favorite of squirrels.

acer

Acer aka Japanese Maple

Several Abutilon grow along the fence. Their showy orange flowers are a hummingbird favorite.

Abutilon : Coral Bells

Abutilon : Coral Bells

Our oranges don’t taste very good (it’s an ancient tree) but the rats don’t seem to mind. When my boys were young, they enjoyed turning it into orange juice and selling it to passersby. It was the California version of a lemonade stand.

California Oranges

California Oranges

Are you as busy as I am this time of year?

Frost Nipped Peas

Two days of a hard freeze were unkind to the garden peas.

frost damaged peas

Frost Damaged Peas

I gathered a handful this afternoon. There’s nothing to be gained at this point by leaving them on the vine. The vines are drooping as well.

The frost damaged the outer skin leaving it mottled.  The inner ‘pearls’ look surprisingly good though.

peas

Peas, unmasked

garden peas

The in and out of garden peas

It’s supposed to ‘warm up’ to a low of 38º F (3ºC) by Friday, but will drop back ten degrees  the following day.  With over two weeks to go before the winter solstice is upon us, I wonder what this means for the season ahead?

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this week on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak.  Today’s blog offers some tips for creating new giving traditions for the holidays.

Winter Solstice: Near Miss

I guess I missed it.

I’ve been referring to my wall calendar all week and according to the cute little box with the number 22, winter solstice occurred at 6:12 am EST today, December 22nd, 2012.   With all the “end of the world” talk this week, I somehow failed to connect the winter solstice and the end of the world on the same day.  My calendar was plain wrong.

December 22nd, 2012

December 22nd, 2012

It’s no small irony that the calendar producer is a company called Sounds True.

Sounds True Calendar

Sounds True Calendar

The rest of the calendar entries were correct this year, so you can appreciate why I missed it.  Remaining dates are in good working order as well:  Christmas, December 25th. Check.  Boxing Day, December 26th. Check. And finally, New Year’s Eve, December 31st.

Here’s is what National Geographic has to say about the solstice:

During the winter solstice the sun hugs closer to the horizon than at any other time during the year, yielding the least amount of daylight annually. On the bright side, the day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days leading up to the summer solstice.

“Solstice” is derived from the Latin phrase for “sun stands still.” That’s because—after months of growing shorter and lower since the summer solstice—the sun’s arc through the sky appears to stabilize, with the sun seeming to rise and set in the same two places for several days. Then the arc begins growing longer and higher in the sky, reaching its peak at the summer solstice.

The solstices occur twice a year (around December 21 and June 21) because Earth is tilted by an average of 23.5 degrees as it orbits the sun—the same phenomenon that drives the seasons.

During the warmer half of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted toward the sun. The northern winter solstice occurs when the “top” half of Earth is tilted away from the sun at its most extreme angle of the year.

Please join me in counting down to the first day of spring; the Vernal Equinox.  For those of us that long to get our hands in the dirt, that’s a date we don’t want to miss.  And for all you computer experts who know that the internet is always right, please help me understand why my countdown calendar (right sidebar) it teasing me when it says March 20th is in two months?