Sunday, November 02, 2008

Winter and Winterberry

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A crisp morning here on the mountain. The crows are noisy and their message is confusing. I think perhaps they are calling friends to a breakfast at the compost pile. It is amazing how far into the woods I find food scraps that they drop. This morning's offering is a few egg shells and a bowl of apple parings from last night's Apple Crisp. That's a fall delight for sure and anything goes well with the "crisp" bite of the fall air.

There has been "sleeping trouble" here at Vermont Flower Farm of late and last night made three nights in a row that Karl the Wonder Dog sounded his animal security barks at a time when I really wanted to be dreaming. It wasn't the three bears this time. I woke at about 12:30 to the sound of deer hooves walking up or down the path from the drive to the house. At that time of night (morning), it sounded like the Budweiser Clydesdales on a paved road.

Eighteen years ago I built a wooden walkway of pressure treated decking boards and although it has lasted well, I'd never do it again. I had seen several configurations in garden magazines at the time and they looked very nice, landscaped right to the edge. A chop saw made cutting angles easy and articles suggested ways to add a serpentine look without too much carpentry skill. I thought there was some merit in the ease of construction and future care. The downside, I find, is that over time the walks develop a slippery coating of algae and moss that creates a challenge that aging ankles and legs don't need in the winter. Last year I took three headers, each time landing in either the lilac bush or the Alberta Spruce. Strange safety nets that worked!

The noise of the deer woke Karl from the front room and in nanoseconds he was at our bed shouting barks of "Go-Away, Go-Away" that took a while to register with the deer. By then we were wide awake again, hoping that slumber would return. There is a price for any good security system!

As fall weather brings it's first snow, I always make a ride to the same place where I have cultivated a nice stand of winterberry. If my timing is right and I haven't allowed too many 15 degree nights to get ahead of me, I pick a nice bucket full of winterberry for the house. This is the native variety found along Vermont streams, ponds or in bogs. It grows to 9 feet tall and in good years offers a profusion of berries. The key is to getting to them early. Successive cold nights eventually wear down the anti freeze in the berries and when you bring branches inside, the temperature change turns them mushy in a week. If you plan it right, you have a nice display through Thanksgiving. There are several hybrids on the market now and other than needing a companion variety to set berries, they are a nice addition. Color through the fall and another seed crop for birds and small creatures.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a large flock of Canada Geese is moving overhead. The sky is clear, the air pressure high and the geese are at several thousand feet but there are so many, their voices are clear even here inside the house.

With kind fall wishes,

George Africa
The (sleepy) Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


inadvertent farmer said...

Beautiful berries! Sorry about the deer, we have elk here so I completely sympathize. Maybe today deserves a Nap!!!

Susan Tomlinson said...

George, I'm really enjoying your blog.

The algae on the boardwalk does sound slippery. I've encountered that elsewhere, in my travels, but not here--it's just too dry for algae to hang around for any length of time. I'd love to see a picture of your boardwalk sometime.

George Africa said...

Hello Kim, the inadvertent farmer!

Enjoying your site but I am not sure about camels! I notice you are in Vancouver, Washington. I visited there three years ago when stopping by for a meeting of the Pacific Northwest Lily Society. Right there in Vancouver is a one of the world's best lilium hybridizers, Judith Freeman. She and her daughter operate The Lily Garden,
I don't believe the fields are open but you could probably arrange a vsiit if interested. Absolutely incredible. Of course camels, like deer or elk, see lilies as pieces of candy so-o-o-o-

Best gardening wishes,

Connie said...

The Winterberry is so pretty, and your post well-written. Happy Fall!

garden girl said...

I love winterberries and hope to add a couple of them to a mixed shrub border in the back of our yard in the next year or so.

If your weather is anything like ours today, (typical November, chilly, drizzly, and grey,) it would be a perfect nap day!

George Africa said...

Hello Linda;

It was 40 degrees this morning at 4:30 and it's 41 now, a little more than 12 hours later. The drizzle came and went, came and went, and only once did I take off my sweater, only to put it on half an hour later.

If you purchase winterberries ask about reliability in your area and how to get good berries.

I have changed the water once for the two vases in the house and they look great. I'm planning on a row next year against the fence behind the new hosta garden. I want to continue to develop color for Labor Day until "snow fly".


joey said...

A lovely photo and peaceful post, George. The simple beauty of winterberry graces my dining room at Thanksgiving, thankful to enjoy simple beauty.

Tyra in Vaxholm said...

Hello George and thank you so much for the very nice comment on Rosehip post in 'the greenhouse' blog. I am amazed over that you have had minus 14-16 and we hardly any frost at all but I guess it is because Vermont has inland climate and we haven't. Have a really great week George/ Tyra