Thursday, December 22, 2011
WINTER SOLSTICE 2011
When you live as far north as I do, the winter solstice becomes an important event. When I got up today, it was still nearly dark, with just a faint pink glow in the sky. There was frost on the ground. It definitely looked like the dead of winter. As I write this, it’s after 10 AM and the sun is still near the horizon, shining almost horizontally through the line of cypress trees at the back of the yard. The sky is bright blue, and I can see the snow-covered Olympics from my window as I write. There will be a few hours of sunshine, then darkness again starting around 4PM.
The orchids in my greenhouse are mostly in lockdown mode, hunkered down trying to get through December with minimal light and warmth. What never ceases to amaze me, though, is that a couple of weeks after the days start to lengthen, the orchids always go into a frenzy of new growth. I’m looking forward to seeing that!
Some orchids choose the winter solstice as a blooming time. I have blooming laelias, dendrobiums, phragmipediums, and phalaenopsis in the house right now, none with a particularly noteworthy fragrance, or rather, none that I haven’t already written about. The big, highly fragrant, winter-blooming cattleyas are in full bud right now, ready to pop open around Christmas day.
When I walk outside, the cyclamens are blooming away, even under their coating of frost. I love cyclamens! They’re my favorite solstice plant. The arbutus bushes, also known as “strawberry trees” are blooming with their little sprays of white, bell-shaped flowers, and the hazelnut trees are covered with catkins. In the Pacific Northwest, the lines between fall, winter, and spring are a little blurred, so that some trees are blooming before others have completely lost their leaves. The biggest cue we have about the changing of the seasons is day length.
This morning I was working on a new batch of Gujarat, which is one of my best-sellers, and my hands still smell like Vanuatu sandalwood. Sandalwood is an excellent scent for the solstice, thick and woody, rich, and slightly sweet, perfect in the cold air outside, and just the thing to enhance the warm, cozy atmosphere of being inside.
My favorite things about the solstice are the feeling of coziness and hibernation during the dark hours, the down time from work and the opportunity to get together with friends and family, and the feeling that the worst days of winter will soon be over and the natural world will come alive again. The symbolism of death and rebirth. Best wishes to all who read this for whatever solstice-related holidays you may celebrate.
[Bridge with sun photo from Wikimedia]