The drab perennial winter garden is here except for a few final blooms trying to hang on to autumn. I have a single Tabu rose, now a deep red though it begins as an almost-black, tightly-wound bud. Its petal edges have been frost-bitten. The hummingbirds spot the one brilliant red highlight in the front garden, thinking there’s nectar to be had, but there isn’t. Fooled! So they buzz away quickly, tour the garden, and head back to the feeders. The hydrangeas have shivered in the cold and allowed their dark pink mopheads to fade through the green-pink phase to mostly brown.
Except for one. Who knows why. It’s not particularly large. It’s not protected. It’s just there. Kind of mottled, but still quite beautiful. The leaves remain green and healthy looking. However, with a few 22° frosts over the next couple months, they will succumb and turn to brown mush, the stems too. But the garden also fools us. Nothing dies. This is the dormant, or resting period. I’d want a rest, too, if I’d been pumping out leaves, buds, flowers, berries or nuts, and new growth for nine months!
And there are surprises in the garden and on the hillsides now. My garden Paperwhites are like bright lights against the greens and browns. The Coyote Bush is in full bloom. The Garrya elliptica is sending out its shimmery silver-white tassels, decorating its glossy green holly-like leaves. And the Arbutus ‘Marina’ is covered with clusters of tiny red strawberry fruit, providing food for the over-wintering fruit-eating birds. In some areas of the county, rosemary is beginning to clothe itself with its miniature Tuscan blue flowers. That’s enough to attract our native bees, who unlike the European honey bees, work when its chilly and damp. Yay for the natives–the bees, the birds, the insects, and plants! Yes, winter can be dull and drab, but I always look for the hold-outs and winter-bloomers. They can turn the clouded sun and a dreary, dismal day into a bright and optimistic one. Let the cold and rains come, but spring is right around the corner. The buds will soon be popping out on the hydrangeas. Really.