Year of Grace, Day 24. Brilliance under grey skies

Today is another drizzly day, and I give thanks on the plants’ behalf, as they truly revel in this mistlike watering. Despite the greyness, there are points of brilliance in the garden, even at this time of year, for which I am additionally grateful.

Having got off to a slow start, the nasturtiums are now truly at their best. The vines have taken off, with long tendrils in every direction. I love nasturtiums – they are so easy to grow! I just soaked the seeds overnight and the next morning, a week before the last predicted frost date in May, I sowed them on a south-facing slope in rather meagre soil (they don’t like it too rich). Construction was ongoing then on the first phase of the pipe works, and the workmen (I assume seasoned gardeners all) questioned the wisdom of sowing before the Ice Saints.

Nasturtiums in the rain

Nasturtiums in the rain

The Ice Saints — Eisheiligen as they are called here in the Catholic stronghold of the Rhineland — refer to the 11th to the 15th of May — the name days for Sts. Mamertus, Pancratius, Servatius, Bonifacius, and Sophia. Traditionally,  spring planting was undertaken after these Ice Saints. I had noted that the trees had put out blossoms at least 3 weeks earlier this year, so I thought I could sow a little earlier than usual.  (I have faith in the trees knowing best.)  In any case, the seeds were protected from any later frost by a Japanese spiraea hedge.

I am glad I sowed early, and I am thankful for the nasturtium’s cheering blooms, from yellow to deepest red orange, brightening up these grey autumn days. I am thinking of gathering some of the buds and pickling them to add to salads or just as décor for winter dishes. It is not only their colour that cheers me about nasturtiums. They have these spikey heads that remind me of elfin caps, and they never fail to lift my spirits when I gaze at them. They share this quirky, cheeky form with columbines, another of my favourite flowers. Another thing I love about nasturtiums is that their leaves hold raindrops like sparkling gems.

Nasturtium's elfin caps

Nasturtium’s elfin caps

Other flowers still braving the gloom are roses. These have been flowering non-stop since the spring, and will most likely go on through the winter. They do not have the most elegant of form, and they only have a faint perfume, but they make up for these by their unceasing bloom. I am truly grateful for these.

Non-stop blooming rose

Non-stop blooming rose

This is the second year that I’ve noticed an unusual deep colour on the forsythia’s leaves. I am reminded of the extraordinary brilliance of the Viburnum tree just before it succumbed to honey fungus. And I am afraid that the forsythia has been similarly infected. The honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) has killed some nearby walnut trees and I noted a thick group of them at the base of the forsythia recently. I’m afraid the forsythia’s days are numbered, and its unusual colouring might be its last hurrah. Sad, but all part of nature’s rhythm. It’s also blooming, although its normal flowering time is spring. Despite the forsythia’s incipient passing, I am thankful to be able to witness and record these marvellous leaf colours – a brave and glorious final performance.


3 thoughts on “Year of Grace, Day 24. Brilliance under grey skies

  1. I have heard about the Ice Saints and they are a concern for anyone serious about gardening in Germany. The mist like rain is something we do not have in Costa del Sol. It’s either dry or torrential rain. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs of the blossoms in your garden. They are truly beautiful.


    • Many thanks, Murasaki Shikibu, for your kind comments. This mist-like rain is also very English. Would you say this kind of rain is rather “shito-shito”?


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