Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Blissful Christmas!

A very blissful Christmas to all the visitors of this blog. I hope that all of you who celebrate Christmas will have a wonderful time in the company of those who are near and dear to you.
It's been great fun to receive you all and to read all the wonderful and kind comments you left behind on my blog. I've made quite a few new friends from all over the world, for which I'm grateful. Garden (and occasionally cat) blogging has been a very positive experience for me
I started blogging last February and have had over 25,000 visitors so far, which is quite amazing.
This year it's not a white Christmas in the Netherlands; we very seldom have them. The last white Christmas I had was in 2001 when it snowed on the Second Christmas day (Boxing day). The sparkling white wonderland we had last weekend is gone alas and nature is wearing her grey frock again.
But I'm glad I enjoyed the winter wonderland while it lasted as it was so beautiful to see the whole world turned into a sparkling white and silvery, magic fairyland.
Today it's gold and purple indoors but in remembrance of that magic world outside, I have decked the Christmas tree (tralalalala, lalalala)
in silver and white too, and it's almost as pretty as the trees outside were. Art imitating life. ;-) So far, everything is still in one piece, the Bliss team is at its best behaviour it seems. I wonder how long that will last. :-)
Merry Christmas!
copyright 2007: Y.E.W. Heuzen

No gardener need go far to find

The Christmas rose,
The fairest of the flowers that mark
The sweet Year's close.
Nor be in quest of places where
The hollies grow,
Nor seek for sacred trees that hold
The mistletoe.
All kindly tended gardens love
December days,
And spread their latest riches out
In Winter's praise.
But every gardener's work this month
Must surely be
To choose a very beautiful
Big Christmas tree,
And see it through the open door
In triumph ride,
To reign a glorious reign within
At Christmas-tide.

DollieRadford, 1904.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Come, it's time for a walk. It's been awhile and we're getting lazy. Wrap up nice and warm though, it's minus 5 degrees C. It's still freezing, but fortunately that cold north-easterly wind has gone and the sun is shining.

But before we go for a walk, let's go into the garden first, shall we? See what happens when you don't winter clean the garden?
Beautiful isn't it? No, it hasn't snowed, what you're seeing is the wonderful result of 3 consecutive foggy evenings followed by 3 nights of frost. Yes, that's right, it's frozen mist that has turned the dull and grey outside into this sparkling, magical faeryland. Let's look a bit closer, shall we?

It really is magical, don't you think? Don't you just love the "ferns" of ice on one of the windows of the Victorian greenhouse? It's truly breath taking what a bit of ice and frozen mist can do.
Come, let's go. Have you got everything? Don't forget your gloves, it really is cold.
This is the house of one of my neighbours, just take a close look at that hedge.
The trees look gorgeous, don't you think? It looks like as if they are all covered in a fine layer of pearls and diamonds.
And the branches are completely covered in diamonds and pearls, not just on top but on the underside too.
The ice is white too, normally it's transparent but now it looks like frozen milk with a sprinkling of sparkles.
It's great to be out and about in the countryside don't you think? It's such lovely weather for walking but for other outdoor activities too.
Very quintessentially Dutch this, just like in the paintings of all those old Dutch masters. Well, I hope you liked the walk, I'm off, getting my skates on! ;-)
copyright 2007: Y.E.W. Heuzen

A garden without trees scarcely deserves to be called a garden.
Henry Ellacombe (1790-1885)

Monday, December 17, 2007

An Act of Kindness

Today thousands of bloggers are posting about acts of kindness that they have performed and that's great! I heartily applaud the sentiment and although I've decided to join this event I'm not going to blog about my own act(s) of kindness as that would be totally cringe worthy for me. Instead I've opted to write about a wonderful act of kindness that I've witnessed at close quarters.

A few years ago my darling Russian Blue girl Pippa was pregnant for the first time and we were all very pleased about that. The pregnancy went well but unfortunately when the time came for the babies to be born things went rather down hill fast. Although Pippa had had contractions for hours, no babies came. In the end she had to have a Cesarean at the vet's.

I was there during the operation to assist the vet and noticed that he had a hard time anaesthetising Pippa and had to give her more and more before she finally went under. The op went smoothly and soon 2 Russian Blue babies were born, one boy, Delius, and one girl, Delia. After the op the vet gave Pippa something to revive her, the babies got a drop each too and home we went.

As soon as we got home I put the babies with their mum Pippa but they wanted to have nothing to do with her. Both Pippa and her babies felt cold to the touch so I made two hot water bottles and stoked up the central heating. I rubbed both babies vigorously with a towel to get their circulation going and did the same with Pippa. But all three of them still felt too cold and their reactions were sluggish which worried me a great deal. Especially Pippa had me worried as she seemed unable to shake off the effects of the anaesthetic. So I phoned the vet and he told me that I was doing the right thing in keeping her warm and rubbing her and that if things had not improved by the end of the afternoon I would have to take Pippa back to the vet's.

So there I was, getting very worried as I didn't want to lose my Pippa but I didn't want to lose the 2 babies either. I couldn't look after all of them at the same time and was starting to feel a bit desperate. What to do?
Three weeks earlier my Maine Coon Vita had given birth to a lovely litter of bouncing Maine Coon babies. The wonderful thing about my Vita is, that she is such an exceptionally good mother, she loves all kittens dearly. So I decided to put the newborn Ruskies with Vita even though her kittens were already 3 weeks old. Cat mums are very protective of their babies and anything out of the ordinary would be perceived as a threat by them. Many female cats, if (and that's a big if) they'll accept another kitten, will only accept kittens that are about the same age as their own, so I was a bit apprehensive when I put the 2 Ruskie babies with Vita; would she accept them?

As soon as Vita saw the babies she sniffed them and then she gave both of them a thorough wash which was what they needed. After the bath she encouraged them to drink with her, and after a few false starts, they succeeded in doing so. They had not wanted to drink with their mum Pippa, so I was very relieved to see them drinking with Vita at long last. Phewwy!!!

The 5 Maine Coon kiitens also accepted the 2 little grey intruders very kindly, which was wonderful to see.
Here you see some of the Maine Coon kittens drinking and the 2 Ruskies as well. Note the vast difference in size. The 2 babies were about 100 grams each at that time, whereas the Maine Coons were about 400 to 500 grams each. One little shove or push from a Coonie would have sent a little Ruskie flying. But no, they were very calmly accepted into the bosom of the family and it was very quickly and peacefully decided that they should all take their turn to drink at the milk bar. There were after all only 5 milk producing nipples but 7 kitty customers.

I was utterly amazed; usually kittens fight over who gets which nipple to drink from and they all want the best one. And believe me when I tell you that no prisoners are ever taken; it's a fight to the death, literally. Mother Nature can be very cruel.
I was so happy to see everything going so well with the 2 newborn kittens; Vita was looking after them properly and by doing so, gave me the opportunity to look after Pippa. In the end I decided to go to bed and take Pippa with me. She was still far too cold and very lethargic which worried me a great deal. But once we were under the covers her temperature started to rise and her responses became slowly more normal. After a few hours Pippa had fully regained consciousness, her body temperature had much improved and, after some encouragement from me, she had drank some lukewarm cat milk and was starting to feel better. I was so relieved, I can't tell you.

All in all it took Pippa 2 weeks to fully recover from the op and by that time it was much too late to introduce her to her babies and the other way round. So Pippa's babies remained with their foster mum Vita who took excellent care of them.
When the Coon babies were about 4 weeks old, they boldly went where no kitten had gone before and started to explore the world outside their nest box. Soon they discovered the couch and how the climb up it. Vita was keeping a watchful eye over her kittens as good mums do. But the two Ruskie babies were still in the nest box as they were only 1 week old and not ready yet to explore the world. But as soon as all 5 Maine Coon kittens were on the couch, Vita went back to the nest and gently took one of the Ruskie babies in her mouth and carried it to the couch. Then she went back for number two and she put that kitten also on the couch. After that she gently lay down and let the 2 babies drink while keeping an eye on her Coon babies' antics. I was utterly amazed by how intelligent Vita was in solving this problem
And mother nature was not lacking in intelligence either. Normally Russian Blue kittens start to explore the world when they're 3 weeks old as they are then able to walk properly. The 2 Ruskie babies managed to walk when they were a mere 2 weeks old, one week earlier than normal. To be together with kittens older than them, forced these two to develop more quickly than they would normally have done.

I was surprised from start to finish by the very gentle way the big Maine Coon kittens treated the little Ruskie babies. It was as if they realised that they had to treat the 2 babies much more gentle than they would treat their siblings.
And Vita continued to be an excellent mum for both her own kittens and the two adopted ones. I was amazed to see that she knew from the start that she had to treat the 2 younger kittens very differently from her own. Ordinarily as soon as the kittens are about 8 weeks old they have to initiate drinking, whereas before the mother cat would offer the opportunity to drink to her kittens. So when the Coon babies were 8 weeks old they had to ask for their milk but Vita would still freely offer it to both the Ruskie babies until they were 8 weeks old as well. My Vita is a very clever cat, no doubt about that.

The wonderful way in which Vita and her kittens adopted the 2 Russian Blue kittens was truly an act of kindness.
Little Delia and her brother Delius were pampered to the max, being surrounded by a loving foster mum and 4 gentle big sisters and one big, kind brother. It's no wonder that they both grew up to be very gentle and loving pets.

Little Delia stayed with me and she has a son herself now that also lives with me. His name is Merlijn (Merlin) and he and his mum are inseparable. Like his mum Delia, Merlin has a very loving disposition. Between you and me; he is a bit of a mummy's boy. ;-)
Vita and Delia are mother and daughter still in the way they behave towards each other. It's wonderful to see how Vita treats Delia as her baby girl from time to time. My dearest Vita, she is such a wonderful cat and she has clearly demonstrated that it's not only human beings that are capable of acts of kindness.
copyright 2007: Y.E.W. Heuzen

Hollies in the window
Home's where the wind blows
Can't walk for running
Christmas time's a comin'.
Emmylou Harris, Christmas Time's A-coming.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hunting For December Blooms on Bliss

At this time of year there's not all that much in bloom in the garden if you garden in a temperate or, worse, a cold climate. This seems to be a worry for many a garden blogger who has joined Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, a fun idea that sprouted (grin) from Carol's (of May Dreams Gardens ) brain. But it doesn't worry me though, because at this time of year I love to hunt for the odd bloom here and there and I was pleasantly surprised a couple of times by unexpected blooms. And, as there's not all that much in bloom outside, we're allowed to show off our indoor blooms as well. So fellow garden bloggers, don't worry, be happy! ;-)
First I want to show you the usual suspects that flower outside at this time of year: pansies!
They flower for such a long time and in so many different colours too: blue, yellow, white, burgundy and pink.
I use the little darlings where ever I can find a spot for them; in window boxes, hanging baskets and pots. Pansies and violets cheer up my garden in every season of the year. I love them to bits, small wonder as Yolanda means Violet. What's in a name, eh?
The winter Jasmin is also a plant to flower at this time of year, just as this one
my Christmas box or Sarcococca humilis. Once those flowers open the air will be filled with a wonderful scent. Another good plant for adding some colour and scent in winter is Skimmia japonica Rubella.
My old friend Periwinkle can be depended upon to put up a few bloom at this time of year too.

This is what my garden looked like this morning so I was agreeably surprised to find my Lavatera still in flower
and my lovely Rosa Magenta was also kind enough to give me a lovely rose today. Most people seem to think that roses are very delicate plants but I've found many of them to be as tough as old boots.
But today while I was hunting for blooms in my garden I came upon some very unexpected finds:
the hanging rosemary in my strawberry pot had started to flower and so was the fennel in the kitchen garden.
But I found more unexpected blooms in my kitchen garden such as the Centranthus and also the Bergenia.
I also found that this one was still outside in its pot but it should have been inside for a month at least. So far it seems to have survived the night frosts but this weekend it will go into my Victorian greenhouse to overwinter there safely.

In the south borders I found the yellow wallflowers were still in flower as they have been since last October.
I was utterly amazed to find this plant in flower too, my white Penstemon. This plant is supposed to be not all that hardy and would probably not survive a winter with some frost. Isn't it amazing then to see this Penstemon in flower in December and after a night of frost as well?
Last Spring I bought some pots with bulbs in flower and after they had flowered I put them outside next to my greenhouse and promptly forgot all about them. I had planned to plant them in my garden when the time was right. Imagine my surprise today when I noticed this:
grape hyacinths in flower outside in the garden at this time of year. I took one pot inside and the others I planted in the new border.

Another plant I brought inside is my Camellia that's been flowering for over a month now and it seems to be very happy in my conservatory.
And there are more who enjoy life in the conservatory as you can see here.
Erm, I was talking about the plant, do pay attention, please! ;-)
The Aeschynanthus produces wonderful flowers, don't you think ?

My Orchids are providing lots of colourful joy inside my home. Here are some of them. Gorgeous, aren't they?
Recently I bought a few houseplants, one of them a Kalanchoe. This one is very pretty as it has pink double flowers, as you can see here.
My Streptocarpus is down to its last flower but it has been happily flowering its little heart out for months now. It's one of my favorite houseplants.
I like to have flowers and plants everywhere, especially in places where you notice them a lot like next to the kitchen tap. It's amazing how often you use the tap, and every time you do you're treated to this sight. Not bad, eh?
My indoor blooms would not be complete without a bunch of flowers or two. This one is shop bought
and this one I picked in my front garden a few days ago. Not too shabby eh, to be able to pick a bunch of your own flowers in December. This little bunch consists of rosa Moonlight, rosa Guirlande d'Amour, rosa Sombreuil, rosa Madame Alfred Carriere, some Gaura and a few sprigs of winter Jasmin.
copyright 2007: Y.E.W. Heuzen

We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
Oliver Herford (1863-1935)