Saturday, December 29, 2012

Backyard Birds in Winter

Red-bellied Woodpecker
We had a white Christmas with snow and ice and an even bigger snowstorm today. Winter winds are whistling around my house and the temperature remains below the freezing mark. With no flowers blooming in my garden I am thankful for the many birds that visit at this time of the year.

Birds that remain in Pennsylvania for the winter include many year-round residents such as the red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, the northern cardinal, tufted titmouse, bluejay, chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, and Carolina wren. All these, and others, are frequent visitors to our bird feeders and heated water dish.

Downy Woodpecker at the Suet Feeder

Winter is a difficult time for Pennsylvania birds ...

"The natural food supply has been consumed or is hidden by snow. Most insects are dead or dormant. Water can be hard to find, and food needed to provide the energy to keep birds warm might be scarce. Finding shelter may not be easy. If there are limited natural evergreens or shelter, birds may seek manmade houses or habitats that can provide refuge from the winds, rains, ice or snow of winter."  Wildbirds Unlimited Educational Resources.

White-breasted Nuthatch at the Heated Water Dish

Tufted Titmouse
 H.H. takes good care of the birds' needs. He provides food, water and shelter for our winter visitors. I appreciate that he places the feeders in plain view of the French windows so I can sit in my favorite chair in the garden room and enjoy the show.

Chicadee and Carolina Wren
Some birds prefer to scavenge the seeds that drop from the feeder onto the ground.

Cardinal and Black-eyed Junco
Bluebird waiting for a turn at the seed feeder
Bluebirds are my favorite. Less preferred are the cheeky blue jays that steal food and bully the other birds.

Blue Jay
Much as I love watching winter birds, I can't help thinking ahead to spring flowers. My favorite, the hellebore, will bloom first. The hellebore has to be my final pick for the 'Dozen for Diana' meme I followed each month of 2012. 

Hellebore hybrid

Hellebore hybrid
This has been a fascinating meme; please visit Diana's wonderful blog, Elephants Eye, to learn all about it. In my next posting I will review the monthly picks for my virtual garden. Also, I will begin the planning process for my 2013 'actual' garden.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Pamela x

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Longwood Gardens - Then and Now

Christmas display of poinsettias at Longwood Gardens (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
When we visited beautiful Longwood Gardens for the first time in April this year, we vowed to return for the holiday display. We traveled there last weekend and what a wonderful experience it was to see the gardens decked out in half a million Christmas lights, thousands of poinsettias, and some unusual blooms for the time of year.  And how very different from the gardens in April. I took loads of photographs and here are a few to give you a taste of the two very different seasons at Longwood Gardens.

Spring tulips were everywhere in April ...

H.H. and tulips

The trees were bursting with leaves and blossoms ...

Trees (with bluebells) in April
Longwood's trees decked out for Christmas
The trees looked very different this time! We arrived after dark to fully experience the beautiful lights.  Lights were wrapped around or hanging from every trunk and branch. The hanging lights in the top right of the picture above are suspended from an enormous old elm tree.

Longwood Gardens has an enormous conservatory which was not short on lights either.
More decorated trees inside the Conservatory.
Inside and outside there are numerous water features at Longwood. In April I took this picture of the cascade garden inside the Conservatory where you can see plants found in a rain forest.

Cascade Garden

The most dramatic water feature in December is the dancing fountain area outdoors. We watched the fountains 'dance' to the music of The Nutcracker. As the waters rose and fell, the colors changed, and it was quite magical.

On my first visit, I was amazed to see roses in bloom (in the Conservatory of course) so early in the year ...

...  I was even more surprised to see them in December.

Roses of all colors in full bloom. Yellow is my favorite.

The orchids at Longwood Gardens are superb. I don't grow them myself, and I am always impressed with their beauty ...

The Orchid House in April

I was not disappointed with Longwood's December display.

Orchids Cymbidium Mixed cultivars



Herbs and Hydrangeas

Throughout the winter Conservatory you are aware of the heavy scent of lilies.

Lilies and Poinsettias

Finally, my favorite displays in the Conservatory. First, in April ...

The delphinium border.
... I've shown this picture before. Love those delphiniums!

Then in December, a table set for a wedding. With water on either side it seems to float ...

The wedding table is set with crystal candelabra, white roses, orchids, and twinkling white lights. So.o.o romantic!

A visit to Longwood Gardens is fabulous at any time of the year, but the Christmas display will surely put you in the holiday mood!

Merry Christmas everyone!
Pamela x

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