Sunday, January 27, 2008

We did it!

Robert and I signed up for the 24-hour Short Story Contest at writersweekly.com. At 1pm yesterday, we received our "topic" and max word count (which was just 1,000 words - can you imagine, a chatty gal like me?). Just before 1pm today, we emailed our entries. (And just after that, my computer restarted for no reason at all, so right after that Robert was forced into his "tech support for life"role.) Mine was 999 words, R's shorter. We didn't skip meals (as if!) or stay up all night. I didn't know what to make of the topic at first, but working to include its elements made all sorts of things happen in the story that wouldn't otherwise have occurred to me.

It was oddly exhilarating. And then we had lunch.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Can hibernation truly be over?

Oh, blog and kind visitors, thank you for your patience. I was just about to declare that I wasn't going to recite my little tale of upgrade woes and hardware/software issues, when my browser closed in the middle of my unsaved post. But I'm still not going to talk about it. Let's skip right to "plant choices," and hope for the technical best.

Here's a "special" Hamamelis vernalis in my front yard - it's 'Purpurea' (or maybe var. purpurea):

Pretty exciting that something's blooming in chilly late January, but visually, not something that makes us want to do backflips, is it? (No one asked why I was taking pictures of a dead plant, but a couple of passers-by did a double-take that I'm sure meant precisely that.) For one thing, it's looking more like straight-up H. vernalis than like anything purplish. Which is actually a slight improvement, as the purply-brown flowers it bore the last few years used to blend even more completely into the purply-brown stems. This is the first year the leaves have persisted this late. Maybe they're sad the fall foliage display never really happened? My front garden is given over (almost) exclusively to native plants, and increasingly to native plants with uses - preferably edible uses. This plant is native, but I think it would be happier with steadier water than I can provide there, and maybe a little more sun.

If I had more room, our fall-blooming H. virginiana would be a spectacular choice - that's where witchhazel, the stuff you buy in drugstores, comes from. And of course, it does its glory thing late, which is just as exciting as early. And it's arguably showier, though neither is as glamorous as some of the popular hybrids (like 'Arnold's Promise') - they're all descendants of Chinese witchhazel, H. mollis. Here's that flashy thing blooming (on your birthday, Ellen!) last week, at NYBG:

Did I mention all these witchhazels are fragrant, each in a different way? I actually started this post to warn the plant-besotted against getting all sidetracked by "special versions" of plants, and I was thinking it was time for my poor H. vernalis to move on and make room for something else. The container blueberry bushes look far more dramatic, with their bare red stems, than this poor thing in full bloom (and so very edible). But now I'm not so sure. I'll have to give it the scent-test in the next few days, when it warms up a little. And wait till spring, in any case.

And speaking of passing seasons - we are watching our beloved Kozskat's accelerating decline with a loving ache. At 17, she's still herself, if a little more addicted to heat sources, like my desk lamp. Please click on her, and think of her kindly. There's not much to do for her, and we are sad, but surprisingly not afraid.