Daffodil Surprises and Permanent Periwinkle

Just in the past couple of days, the bulbs that I planted a couple of years ago (which have produced lots of green foliage but never bloomed) have started blooming! I'm thrilled to say the least! Except I thought they were narcissus or paperwhites. Turns out... they're daffodils!

For the first time, I have a pretty little row of daffodils going down the walk in the front garden. The yellow blooms look so sunny against the backdrop of the blue and pink hyacinths. I normally don't get to enjoy daffodils in the spring like everyone else because the only ones I thought I had in my garden are in a sheltered area that causes them to bloom either on or just after Christmas. March is daffodil month around here, and I always felt a bit sad that mine had already come and gone months before. With March only a few days away, it's nice to have daffodils that are on schedule finally. So I don't mind that they aren't paperwhites.

One flower that is always on schedule in our garden is the lovely periwinkle (or vinca major). This vinca has been in the garden since we moved in and is almost impossible to kill. By May, it can be pretty invasive if I don't get tough with it. But right as we move out of winter, the cold has put the vinca back in control, and we are friends. I love the blue star blossoms it produces every spring... which is why I don't wage complete war on it in May and just remove it. I'm a softy.
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Winter is almost over...

On a walk along our street today, I came across a neighbor's beautiful pyracantha bushes that are more like trees than bushes. As you can see, many of the trees around here are still leafless as they should be in winter. Although I have beautiful spring bulbs blooming in the sheltered areas of my garden, the rest of the area has yet to wake up from winter. In the meantime, the beautiful red berries and the lines of the branches are just as pretty to me.
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In the pink

I'm a huge fan of the color pink. That's why my other blog Dusting in Pearls is pink. That's why the logo for Rosehaven Cottage Inc. is pink. That's why my studio is slowly but surely getting decorated in pink. That's also why Hubby brought home a bouquet of pink roses for me on Valentine's Day (above).

Interestingly, I don't necessarily go ga-ga over every shade of pink. The shade of pink that will stop me dead in my tracks is the soft pink of ballet slippers (you know, the ones that little girls wear to ballet class). I call it "ballet slipper pink". And when I see it, I am drawn to it. Just ask Hubby what happens when we're in a store and I see something in that shade of pink. It could be a pile of garbage, but if it's "ballet slipper pink" garbage, I'll want it.

I really love the blossoms of spring because of their array of soft pinks. The ornamental plum tree at the end of the street is in bloom right now. I was hoping we'd get a break in the rain before the blossoms fell off so I could take some shots. I got my wish today. A beautiful sunny day with blue skies and white puffy clouds was just the ticket for taking shots of the ornamental plum in all its glory.

Of course I have pink hyacinths in my front garden. Of course! When I went out to take shots of them this afternoon, they were laying down because the blossoms had caught so much rainwater that it was weighing them down. I shook the majority of the rainwater out to perk them up and then took some shots.

Yes, indeed, I am swimming in pink right now. I'm even working on pink projects. I'm surprised that I haven't grown weary of it. In fact, just the opposite has happened. I look for pink everywhere now.

Just in case any of you would like to get "in the pink" too, I've created a wallpaper/desktop that is available for anyone to download for free. Just click on the image below and it will take you to the download site where there are download instructions. Have fun and enjoy being "in the pink"!

Pink roses wallpaper/texture
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Flowers for a rainy day

Pink hyacinth just beginning to bloom and looking a bit scrawny

Today is drizzly and rainy outside. The ground is so soggy that if I went out I would end up with clay caked inches thick on the bottoms of my shoes. I'm fine with the rain though. We really need it. I'll just hole myself up here in my studio and do creative things while we get the much needed moisture.

Tight "Cherry Parfait" rosebuds insisting on blooming even though it's February

A few days ago, we got a short break between stormfronts blowing in off of the Pacific. I took the opportunity to take some photos of the flowers out in the garden.

A little volunteer growing in the potted palm by the pond

I find that it's always good to have "sunny" flower photos to look at on days like today. Somehow it makes the skies outside a little less grey. As my sweet Hubby wisely said this morning in an email to me, "...carry your own sunshine".
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Having a blue spring day... and why

With blue skies and some blue flowers blooming around Rosehaven Cottage, yesterday and today are "blue" in the good sense of the word. I've been out weeding around the rosebushes where the bulbs are sprouting and blooming at their feet. The heady fragrance of the first hyacinths are intoxicating. And, for me, the blue color is even more intoxicating...

Click image to see larger

I didn't do any color correction to the above image... that's the brilliant blue that my eyes see. Isn't it amazing? I have pink, "red", and white hyacinths too, but none of them take my breath away like the blue ones.

Also to my delight, the plum tree is blooming!

Click image to see larger

The blooming of the plum tree heralds my favorite part of spring. I live and garden in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Ornamental pear and almond blossoms arrive first in late January or early February. The rest (like the plum) start coming around now. The neighbor's nectarine and peach are in bloom right now too.

Our micro-climate is much like the south of France or Tuscany--a Mediterranean climate with just about all our rainfall in the winter months, leaving us with hot and dry summers. So right now, our hills are green (they'll be golden in summer), and spring has begun.

I know I reference "micro-climates" a lot when I'm trying to describe our climate. I've decided to finally show you how complex this whole thing really is for gardeners in our neck of the woods. Sunset magazine (also the publisher of Sunset Western Garden Book) has divided the entire U.S. into zones (click here to see them online).

The state of California is long, taking up a large portion of the United States' western coastline along the Pacific Ocean. It has bands of hills and mountain ranges running north to south that start at the western coast and move eastward interrupted only by a large flat plain called the Central Valley (a former ancient inland sea with wonderful loamy soil where much of the U.S. crop production occurs).

Click any image to see larger

All of this interesting topography means that just because someone says they live in California doesn't mean that they'll be basking in mild sunny temps all winter long (that's more often the case in coastal Southern California). Case in point, California has high elevations that get large amounts of snow-pack in the winter which provide the rest of the state with water throughout the summer--and also provide a lovely winter playground for skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sports enthusiasts.

Almost in the middle of the California coastline is an inlet that the Golden Gate bridge spans which leads to a large inland bay--San Francisco Bay. This bay stretches north to south spanning an aerial distance of over 50 miles. The towns and cities surrounding this bay make up the greater San Francisco Bay Area that covers an almost circular area over 50 miles wide.

The Bay Area is informally divided into regions called the "Peninsula", the "North Bay", the "South Bay", and the "East Bay", so when we watch the weather forecast on the news we listen for our "region's" forecast because the weather can be dramatically different from one part of the Bay Area to another.

Sunset took things a step further and divided the San Francisco Bay Area into zones. Although helpful, the zones still aren't representative of the hundreds of micro-climates that exist within each zone. But knowing one's zone is at least a good start when one begins gardening here.

Click image to see larger

Although the zone map says that we're supposed to be zone 17, we really aren't. Our adjacent zones are 14 and 15 but those aren't quite accurate either. So we have to take the definitions of all three zones and kind of morph them together through experience. Sunset's definitions are as follows with what is true for our climate highlighted in green and what is false for our micro-climate highlighted in red:

ZONE 17. Oceanside Northern and Central California and Southernmost Oregon
Growing season: late Feb. to early Dec. Coolness and fog are hallmarks; summer highs seldom top 75 degrees F/24 degrees C, while winter lows run from 36 degrees to 23 degrees F/2 degrees to -5 degrees C. Heat-loving plants disappoint or dwindle here.

ZONE 14. Inland Northern and Central California with Some Ocean Influence
Growing season: early Mar. to mid-Nov., with rain coming in the remaining months. Periodic intrusions of marine air temper summer heat and winter cold (lows run from 26 degrees to 16 degrees F/-3 degrees to -9 degrees C). Mediterranean-climate plants are at home here.

ZONE 15. Northern and Central California's Chilly-winter Coast-influenced Areas
Growing season: Mar. to Dec. Rain comes from fall through winter. Typical winter lows range from 28 degrees to 21 degrees F/-2 degrees to -6 degrees C. Maritime air influences the zone much of the time, giving it cooler, moister summers than Zone 14.

See how hard it is to get your head around it???

That's why I gauge things more by what I see going on in nature. When I see the first almond trees in bloom, that's a sign that spring is on its way and our plum tree will be in bloom soon. When I hear the twitters and tweets of birds (particularly the high-pitched Rufous hummingbird), I know that birds are migrating through from the south to the north. And when the hyacinths peek their heads out of the soil, I know it's time to trim up the rosebushes for the coming season.

Our first crocus blooming in among the green foliage of the California poppies
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If you need Spring now, then buy it!

Click image to view larger to see the amazing details

Last month I ordered and received the most beautiful photo greeting cards I've ever seen from Jen at Muddy Boot Dreams. I've been an adoring fan of Jen's work for a while now and to finally be able to own some of her work is a real treat. I am partial to blue and purple flowers (lilacs in particular) so of course I chose an assortment of cards that had those colors in them. Jen's cards are pristinely handcrafted and each is a work of art.

What I love most about Jen's work is that she has an eye for great natural lighting. It's what makes her floral macro photography a step above the rest. It is also what makes me stop and look twice... three times... and more. Many of Jen's photographs are so beautiful that they make me ache inside. Her obvious love of florals comes through in her compositions--particularly when she showcases flowers en masse and allows one variety of flower to take center stage and show off. And her portfolio doesn't stop at floral macros. Her waterside shots are amazing in their depth and perspective. Her still life shots are deep in textures and colors.

Jen's work is what drew me in, and it is her warmth and kindness that has made her a dear blogging friend. If you haven't visited her blog, Muddy Boot Dreams, I strongly recommend that you do. And if you want a REAL treat for your eyes view her online portfolio of greeting cards. They're so beautiful you can almost smell the flowers!
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My "Personal Assistant" and the other members of our cat colony...

Last night, our local PBS station aired a show about dogs and cats and why we humans love them. The show featured a humane society facility that has a screening process they perform on both the animal up for adoption as well as the potential adoptive families. For cats, the evaluation helped to classify their personalities into three color categories with three personality types in each color category (a system I was pleased to find is in action at our local rescue shelter, ARF). Being the stewards over our own indoor cat colony of eight, it was highly informative and very amusing for Hubby and I to place each of our own kitties into the category they belonged.

Interestingly enough, two days earlier on Friday I had taken a break from work in my home office to take photos of each of the furry friends I had "assisting" me in my studio at that time. I thought it would be a great snapshot of a typical day running a company from my home office/studio. Now that I've been enlightened about cat personality profiles, I thought it would be fun to match up those photographs with their corresponding personality.

Dee Dee is a "Personal Assistant"...

"Personal Assistant: You’re working on the computer? Let me press the keys. Reading the paper? I’ll hold the pages down for you. Watching TV? I’ll just plop in your lap so you can pet me. I love an orderly household, don’t you? I’ll help you with all your chores, and I’ll help you relax when we’re done. You’ll wonder how you ever managed without me."

Dexter is the "Leader of the Band"...

"Leader of the Band: I’m a cat who does everything in a big way. I not only like to be in the middle of things - I like to lead the parade. I’m an adventurous cat, but I’ll still make plenty of time to show you my affectionate side. I’m the demonstrative type, you might say. Want a cat who’s brimming with confidence? That’s me."

Tom Tom is an "MVP"...

"MVP: I’m a savvy cat who knows the score. I’m pretty unflappable, too. I don’t mind entertaining myself, but a human companion at the other end of the couch and a nice scratch behind the ears always make my day. If you’re looking for a resourceful addition to your team, think about signing this Most Valuable Pussycat."

Thomasina is a "Love Bug"...

"Love Bug: Do you seek affection? I do! If you also like petting, purrs, and paws kneading your lap, I think we might have A LOT in common. I’m looking for 'someone who enjoys quiet times and togetherness.' "

Lucy is a "Party Animal"...

"Party Animal: I’m a cat on a mission: PARTY! I love to play and explore and test my limits. I’d love to play with you, but I can make a toy out of anything: pencils, post-it notes, potatoes. If you’re looking for some laughs and someone to liven up the party, think about inviting me."

That's it for the kitties that were "assisting" me in the office/studio last Friday (they're almost always the ones in there too). Now for the others that were elsewhere at that time...

Gus Gus is a "Private Investigator"...

"Private Investigator: I’m working undercover to keep an eye on you and your household. You may not even know you’re under surveillance. I can vanish into thin air if anyone or anything interferes with my investigation. If you need a cat who knows how to stay out of trouble and will always keep your secrets, I just might take your case. "

Suzette is "The Executive"...

"The Executive: I have to say, I’m a busy cat. First, I’ve got to check out what’s happening out the window. Next, I’ll see if any closets or cupboards need looking into. And then there are my naps –can’t be late for those. I can fit a little socializing into my schedule. Shall we plan on breakfast and dinner? I hope you like kibbles."

Lydia is a "Secret Admirer"....

"Secret Admirer: When it comes to relationships, I’m very level-headed. I don’t leap in paws first, if you know what I mean. But give me a little time, and then I’ll shower you with purrs, head-butts, and plenty of lap time. In the meantime, you may not see a lot of me – but I’ll be thinking a lot of you."
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A Valentine from Mother Nature

Click image to view larger
Used my free texture Sitting bench 3

While visiting with family last Sunday, I found these lovely miniature roses in bloom in February in my sister-in-law's garden... and of course they are Valentine roses! So to all of my dear blogging friends, Happy Valentine's Day!

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Cupid blowing kisses

I was at my sister-in-law's home yesterday, and shot some photos of a precious wind chime/bird feeder hanging on her front porch. Because Valentine's Day is a favorite holiday of mine--mostly because of all the red, pink, and white (the colors of my kitchen, by the way), I'm in a very Valentine-y mood today (and probably will be for the rest of the week). So when I was post-processing the image I'd shot of the little angel, I thought it would make a perfect Valentine's image. I manipulated the blue sky and made it pink, while adding some other fun elements like a texture, some text, and some faint swirlies.

Used my texture Flourish in stone
Used the Photoshop action Retro Love by pseudonymfreak
Click the image to view it larger

Before I left her house, Hubby's sis mentioned that the little angel was made for them by a friend. What a lovely gift to receive! I'm glad I got shots of it from another angle as well. The feeling is completely different even though the subject matter is the same.

Used the Vintage Film Photoshop Action by By_Fallout75
Click the image to view it larger

Isn't it fascinating how a different perspective makes so much of a difference? A lot like life in so many ways.
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This blue sky will have to do...

Used my Worn blue cover texture available along with my other free textures.
I also used a dirty plaster texture but can't remember the source.

With the rain we've been having this week, I haven't had the privilege of seeing a blue sky that much. So I went into my photos (taken only a couple of weeks ago) and found some blue sky. My "Tahitian Sunset" rose had decided to bloom in the unusual January warm weather. It looked so cool against the blue sky that I had to turn it into a "painting". It's always good to stop and enjoy a blue sky, so the creative process afforded me that opportunity to really drink it in.

Another spot of "blue sky" is when someone thinks of me and honors me with a blogging award. I've been really behind in acknowledging the awards I've received as of late. I know that I'm not remembering at least one, and I sincerely apologize if I missed yours.

I received this pretty award from Carolynn at Glowing Ember. The hearts are an instant fave of mine (I love Valentine's Day). The award is to be passed on to eight recipients and should be awarded to blogs "...[that] are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award." Since I can't possible single out only eight of my favorite blogs, I am passing this award along to every dear blogging friend because you all fit this description to me.

Then I received this absolutely adorable pink and green award from Debbi at Aunt Debbi's Garden. I'm supposed to list six things that make me happy... Hubby, kitties, gardening, church service, Chinese chicken salad, and sunshine. There are so many other things that I could list that make me happy.

I'm curious... what things make you the happiest and why?
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Secret whispers between daffodils...

Used the Photoshop action Retro Love by pseudonymfreak

This isn't the first time I've caught some of my flowers "conversing". Last year, I caught the hollyhocks doing it too, and I ended up writing a little poem about it.

Whenever I see the flowers nodding toward one another like this, it reminds me of Disney's Alice in Wonderland when Alice goes into the flower garden and finds out that "you can learn a lot of things from the flowers..." And the daffodils in the film are called "dizzy daffodils". I think mine look far more intelligent than the ones Alice encountered, but I'm probably biased because they're growing in MY garden.

Golden Afternoon
Music: Sammy Fain
Lyrics: Bob Hilliard
Performed by: Kathryn Beaumont [Alice], Chorus [Flowers]

Little bread-and-butterflies kiss the tulips,
And the sun is like a toy balloon.
There are get up in the morning glories,
In the golden afternoon.

There are dizzy daffodils on the hillside,
Strings of violets are all in tune,
Tiger lilies love the dandy lions,
In the golden afternoon,
The golden afternoon.

There are dog and caterpillars and a copper centipede,
Where the lazy daisies love the very peaceful life they lead...

You can learn a lot of things from the flowers,
For especially in the month of June.
There's a wealth of happiness and romance,
All in the golden afternoon. ...
All in the golden afternoon,
The golden afternoon...
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