Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Prelude to Spring?

February 2 was Groundhog Day. According to legend, if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on Groundhog Day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

According to the National Post Newspaper:
"The country’s (Canada's) first two furry forecasters have brought good news to winter-weary Canadians on Groundhog Day: Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam and Ontario’s Wiarton Willie both failed to see their shadows Thursday morning." 
That means, according to tradition, an early spring is on its way.

No groundhogs here, so I went to check on the locals: first there was Jack (Rabbit), no shadow, and then some of his friends, still no shadows, and then Blackie (Squirrel) and definitely no shadow. So maybe it's true.

Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. It origins are from old European weather lore, where a badger or a sacred bear was used as a weather predictor rather than a ground hog. The groundhog tradition is connected to similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day (February 2) and  early Christians in Europe; for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people marking a milestone in the winter and using the weather on February 2 as a sign of what was to come.

An English poem:
"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again." 
I have seen some early blooms, are these a prelude to Spring or just a cruel tease?

First there is Witch Hazel's bright and dazzling blooms. Witch Hazel blooms through the Winter and into the Spring. Did you know that an extract of the bark and leaves has medicinal uses such as treating bruises, scrapes and insect bites?

Witch Hazel Blooms

Snowdrops are among the earliest flowers of spring, sometimes they bloom through the melting snow. The snowdrop comes from a small bulb that when established multiplies each year; I have thousands in my garden as a result, in flower borders and coming up through the grass. They are an elegant and welcome sight in early spring.

Hardy Heathers bloom through the winter and early spring, I have seen a range of colours from white and yellow to pink and purple.

Another early bloom is this Veronica, a low growing plant with tiny bluish flowers.

These are blooms of the Viburnum (bodnantense) tree and after seeing a number of them on my walks recently and I asked a Parks Board employee the name. They are in clusters of bell or trumpet shaped flowers and have a beautiful sweet scent.

I saw two different varieties of Oregon Grape, the first one a tree, the second a bush.

Here is a beautiful Hellebore (from my neighbors' lovely garden), this is a hardy flower that blooms through the winter and spring. It has beautiful five petalled flowers as you will see in these next photographs.

This Rose bud seemed to be as shocked by the weather as I was to see it starting to bloom.

The truth is most or all of these flowers usually start to bloom in the winter, so none are proof that we will have an early Spring. The last few pictures are of buds on plants or trees that should start to flower soon. A Camellia, a Magnolia, a Pussy Willow and lastly a Clematis.

Camellia bud
Magnolia bud (above and below)

Pussy willow (the one in the middle is just starting to emerge)

Clematis bud (above and below)

Clematis bud starting to open

I have been working on more colourful spring flowers this week.

Here are a couple of things I have been working on this week. I have been experimenting with pouring backgrounds and negative painting technique. Both pictures are watercolours, the first titled Snowdrops (for now) is an experiment with negative painting, or painting the space around the image (the positive space) rather than painting the image per se. I am fairly happy with this one but not happy with the way it scanned, you will no doubt notice the darker bar across the top. I will rescan it after I remember to sign it.
This picture is a poured background and painted foreground of Crocuses. I am not happy with the composition and I am working on another.

Well not Groundhog but will Hound dog do? Here's Elvis Presley with "Hound Dog".

I appreciate you taking the time to drop by my blog. Happy Whimsy Wednesday, until next week..........


  1. I had to smile at the rabbit in your first photo as it seems to be eyeing your camera with great interest. The buds and blooms do give hope for spring and are so inspiring to draw. The little pink rose bud looks vulnerable but hopefully the frosty mornings will not overpower it. I like the idea of pouring paint onto a background. It had a lovely result.

  2. your paintings are lovely. and your blooms are too! what a strange weather year!

  3. You are gearing me up for Spring! Now there's bounce in my step!

  4. Oh I love the bunny rabbits! Such beautiful blooms of spring! I remember the witch hazel when visiting Seattle and the snow drops. Thank you for sharing photos of your flowers! Sweet anticipation of my move to the PNW in the late spring! Your paintings are lovely.

  5. A wonderful post to read Gillian and beautiful images.
    Every day is Groundhog Day for me..
    It's lovely little blogs like yours that put a smile on my face in the evening..
    Big hugs Drew xx

  6. Yes, I do believe Spring is "just around the corner"!
    I also have Snowdrops, Hellebores and Witch Hazel
    blooming .......... removed a layer of Leaves out the back to reveal Daffodils up 2 inches and many little yellow 'globe' Flowers ......
    another interesting blog ..nice work Gill!


  7. I love the black rabbits, and, all those flowers, they are superb.

  8. Beautiful prelude to spring! I love snowdrops but it is too hot to grow them where I live. They look so dainty. I didn't realise they flowered so early. The heathers are so beautiful too and the hellebore amazing, I've not seen either in real life. Our camellias flower during winter.

    Love both you paintings Gillian, especially the delicate snowdrops. The colours of the crocuses are brilliant.

  9. I see a thumbnail of the blogs I follow and when I saw the rabbit, I had to come by for a closer inspection. He is rather cute. Enjoyed viewing all the floral splendor. I wish spring would hurry up and get here soon.

  10. it is dangerous to look to long at your post. You want it to be spring right this afternoon. ;)

  11. hurry up spring! love the rabbits

  12. Wonderful post in anticipation of spring. Your photography and art are delightful.

  13. I really liked your watercolours. They are so delicate and detailed. These art pieces reflect the essence of spring.

  14. Gillian, I just love the adorable rabbits. The blossoms are all so pretty, now I can not wait for spring to arrive here. Your photos are beautiful. And I just love your paintings, well done. Have a great weekend!

  15. Spring? No, not here, in Portugal...Spring just march , 21!
    It's cold...
    I'm cold...

    Kiss you!

  16. You're making me feel jealous that you live in a place where flowers bloom in winter! :))

  17. Lovely to see all those flowers on a cold morning here.
    I think Groundhog Day is a great tradition. The sun shone here that day, so I guess we've got more winter to come.

  18. Love your little bunnies! I guess you have to use what is available when a groundhog is not handy! Your spring blooms are all so lovely--what a treat to see them. We haven't had any winter weather here yet--it has been in the 50's and 60's, but it is Kansas and you never know what you will get! Have a lovely weekend. Mickie ;)

  19. Your paintings are wonderful, Gillian. With all of that spring bursting forth around you, I can see where you get your inspiration. So impressive.

  20. Looks like you live in the warmer part of Canada seeing from other Canadian bloggers. In my part of the world, narcissus, early Japanese apricots, or other flowers thought to be harbinger of spring, are blooming, marsh reeds have started sprout, and buds are constantly swelling, but the wind is fiercely cold. We seem to share the same excitement that spring is around the corner. Your photos are lovely as always and your paintings add more special tender touch. Thanks for the reminder: I’ll be careful not to say “Hound dog Day” in stead of “Groundhog Day” as a non-native speaker of English.


  21. I love all the flower photos. Your photos are so spring like. It looks like warmth and color and lots of sunshine.

  22. I am ready for spring, especially after viewing your lovely flowers. Your compositions are wonderful.

  23. Lots of food for thought in this post, Gillian. I comment just in time, for I feel sure you are about to post about Valentine's Day, even as I scurry to catch up with Groundhog Day. Funny, only yesterday, I noticed Witch Hazel blooms, marvelled at the delicate golden spokes catching the sunlight, and wondered what they were. Once again, you have filled in a question mark :) Although you are not happy with the composition of that painting, I love the way the crocuses emerge out of the gentle pastels.

  24. What a lovely post! The spring blossoms are beautiful. We do have flowers that blossom in the spring but none of them are the traditional "spring" flowers. It's far too hot in the tropics (or are we sub-tropics?). Thanks for the reminder of how beautiful they all are.