Monday, December 28, 2009

Whether the weather be snow or raine

2010 beckons and New Years Day is almost here. I am the Putterer today. No work for me. Today, I begin a much-needed week of vacation from work. And so all day, I plan to putter.

Already, however domestic deadlines threaten my repose. In short order, the housekeeper will arrive and I haven't cleaned up for her yet. There are many errands too, that have been set aside until I had the time to do them this week, so playful putter will certainly succumb to bothersome chores.

In my robe and PJs, I ventured out to the garden with my cup of coffee but didn't stay very long. With a high of 37 today, the early morning is a bone-chilling freeze. The snow is melted on the stone paths, but still piled up around the flower beds. The rare green sightings included the marjoram and parsley, but both are bent over, burdened with their load of snow. The witch hazel, which is in all other seasons a beaut, looks evil. Its branches are covered with withered brown leaves, which because of some gardener's error on my part--lack of sunlight or wrong soil--refuse to drop. The early bloomer Lenton rose (which usually flowers when my Catholic friend Tamara begins her fast for Lent) is also green, having shaken off the snow in order to show itself to be a robust winter plant. Last year, I put in a Harry Lauder Walking Stick for "winter interest." Its curly trunk and branches are indeed proving to be interesting this winter.

So back to the white sofa I go thinking of the plants that come in early spring. I just read of the Viburnum tinus, or the flower of Saint Faine, (above) which is said to bloom on New Year's Day.

Whether the weather be snow or raine
We are sure to see the flower of St. Faine
Raine comes but seldom, and often snow,
And yet this viburnum is sure to blow.

Apparently a group of monks of some long ago era put together a list of plants that are in flower for each day of the year. And these are flowers that are associated with the various Saints. My source for this is William Hone, a 19th-century scribe, who isn't even really worth a quick wiki (he's just a dead, white guy).

The Viburnum tinus is the first flower of the year, the monks decided.

With such a reputation, I hurriedly searched for this Vibernum in my catalogs, thinking that I might need said superlative for my garden.

Those monks, of course, were probably compiling their list from a monastery on Mount Sinai and not thinking hardly of my Maryland clime. Indeed, I discovered in my researches this morning that the plant is not a Maryland native. It hails from the middle East and Africa. So it's doubtful that even if I could find one, it would bloom here on New Years Day.

My own viburnum blooms early and smells sweet, but it certainly won't be toasting the New Year. I checked my Winter Jasmine, also an early performer, but it looks dry, shriveled and sucked of sap (analogous of any number of things on our aged bodies). And the forsythia, too, is just a mass of twigs.

I'm thinking, however, it's all just beautiful out there, frigid and barren as it is, and so I've asked Patsy for some photo documentation. But I really can't blame her if she can't or won't muster any enthusiasm for getting dressed to go outside and photograph my cold, wet sticks. The Putterer

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