Sunday, December 7, 2008

Frost and sunshine

We never really think of winter as a time when colours alter. The blazing tints of autumn or the new green leaves of spring: these are the dramatic scene changes that are celebrated and eagerly anticipated. Yet winter can take you by surprise. Its tints are subtle, and have more to do with light and weather conditions than physical changes in plants, so perhaps that's why gardeners can sometimes overlook them.
I took this picture of my garden this morning, from the attic bedroom, and I was fascinated by how the frost on the cordylines, the phormium and the loquat on the right of the garden had turned their leaves to a lovely blue-grey, matching the silvery eucalyptus on the left-hand side. Appropriately for a frosty morning, this eucalyptus is a Jounama snow gum, or E. debeuzevillei. Like all eucalyptus its bark peels and drops, but with E. debeuzevillei  lovely creamy-white mottled trunks are left behind (mine is multi-stemmed).
In the foreground, the sunshine has caught the top of the pine, below left, and the bamboo on the right, turning the needles and leaves to a fresh, spring-like yellow-green. This soft citrussy colour goes beautifully with the blue-grey and is a world away from the garden's normal livery of jungle green. All you can see of the normal colour is the bamboo and holboellia that clothes the fence at the rear of the garden.
By the time I'd finished taking the photograph, my cat Pushkin was miaowing for his breakfast and the first line of his namesake's famous poem, Winter Morning (Зимнее утро) came into my head. Pushkin's work is notoriously difficult to translate into English, but the first line of this poem is pretty straightforward. "Frost and sunshine, day of wonder" (Мороз и солнце; день чудесный!)