A Single Bloom in a Monochrome Month

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A scraggly camellia bush is planted in a cracked pot on our back deck. It has not fared well since making the voyage from our front yard, where it joined three others in an unsuccessful attempt to add some color to a small patch of grass. Too shady. So it was placed in the pot and transported to the back deck. Its counterparts did not survive the transplants, but this camellia has hung in there for a few years now. Its leaves are mottled with yellow splotches, no doubt infested with some plant disease of which I am woefully ignorant.

About a week ago, this camellia burst forth with a fat red blossom, heavy enough to bend the spindly stalk to which it was attached. It is the only blossom on the plant. I spied a few tiny buds near the bottom of the shrub, but I am wagering this will be the only bloom of the season.

Camellia blossoms are a sight to behold, a winter treat since these shrubs love cold weather. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I walk our neighborhood when weather permits —not often lately — and admire the mature camellia shrubs in front yards throughout. One shrub is about 10 feet high with dozens of pink blossoms. The petals fall to the ground, leaving a soft carpet of pink on the fallow grass. We have our sole camellia blossom, but that is sufficient.


Sitting on a bench near our scraggly camellia are two pots of begonias, still blooming. They are fragile with stalks that easily snap off. When that happens, my BMC places the broken stalk in a Mason jar of water on the kitchen windowsill and replants it in the spring.

A lime tree that occasionally produces fruit has grown to nearly eight feet, surrounded by peace lilies, asparagus ferns and other plants. A hard freeze could kill all of them, so I often consult the weather app on my phone. Twice this season, I have hauled all the plants into the shop. This is a not-inconsiderable task that renders the shop largely unusable but keeps the plants alive until the cold snap passes.

Being East Texas, it is rare to experience more than a few consecutive days below freezing before temperatures rise again. Looking at the forecast, by the weekend I will again haul plants into the shop, turn on the heater and the overhead lights, and wait out the weather. It’s good exercise.


January is a monochrome month. As I look outside my study window, the sky is gray, the tree branches bare, except for a lone squirrel balanced on a tiny branch. That tree rat better watch out for the red-tailed hawk that swoops through on occasion. Also taking up residence recently is a hoot owl, who is content to be heard and not seen. I hope the owl hunts the moles that often plague our lawns.

This winter has been a bumper crop for acorns. Thousands of them are scattered about the yard, and the squirrels have been chowing down with great enthusiasm. A couple of oak trees stubbornly hang on to their dead leaves. The sweetgum trees have begun their annual dropping season, raining down on the driveway.

For now, I ignore the sweetgum balls. Yard work will recommence as spring nears. I am content on this gray day to work inside while listening to Florence and the Machine, a small space heater keeping me warm. We keep the thermostats low to save money. Our two dogs and pair of cats are peacefully snoozing, curled up in different spots, content to stay inside as well.

Soon it will be February, and the tulip trees will bloom to announce the imminent arrival of spring. The azaleas will drop their scattering of yellowed leaves and begin to sprout buds that will burst into color in March.

Another season shall pass, though I am in no hurry to leave winter. These days, I take one day at a time, grateful for each one.

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