Wintersweet memories

27 Jan

I have been mentioning the cold weather recently on Wild in Japan – by the way, it’s freezing as I write this – and this does play a role in the frequency, or lack thereof – of my posts.

Winter is supposed to be the best time for spotting birds – the lack of foliage on trees makes them easier to spot, and they have to take more risks to get food.  But as for actually getting photos of them…

 

There are plenty of evergreen plants here too, and clear sunny days create the illusion that everything could spring to life at any moment.  Unfortunately, cloud cover and rain just make the place seem miserable.

 

At this time of year, when the temperature outside and the temperature inside my fridge converge, two flowers come into their own.  I’ve already covered one – the camellia – in a previous post.  The other is the wintersweet.

 

Late afternoon, just after a sun-shower. The flowers provide a splash of contrast against the greens and greys.

The wintersweet (several plants of the genus Chimonanthus, particularly Chimonanthus praecox, or Japanese allspice) are known locally as robai (蝋梅, 蠟梅, 臘梅 or 唐梅).

Indigenous to China, they played an important role for Chinese New Year celebrations, being the few plants to blossom at that time of year.

 

Blossoms past their prime just after a sun-shower. What they lack in aesthetic appeal, they more than make up in fragrance.

In Japan, their role was less important, but they remain a popular park and garden plant, partially for being a winter-blossoming tree, and partially for the rich, sweet fragrance the blossom releases.  This is one time I wish I could share smells over the internet.

 

Smell this! Bright yellow wintersweet blossom.

Mt. Hodo in Nagatoro is famous for its wintersweet trees, but Tokorozawa’s Kokukoen also boasts a small wintersweet garden.  A great way to excite the senses on a clean winter’s day.

A tree in blossom, with the remains of the snowfall from two days before.

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2 Responses to “Wintersweet memories”

  1. wildinjapan February 28, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    My chillblains are starting to clear up, but my neck and shoulder become painful in the cold. And as for the weather warming up with the coming of spring… too many memories of snowfall on March 31st, years where it was cold all the way up to Golden Week, not putting the heater away until May…
    Roll on summer!

  2. GOAT 山羊 February 27, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Ha, it must be 10 years, just about, since I’ve heard the name Kokukoen!

    I don’t know about you, but if it doesn’t start to warm up soon, SOMEONE IS GOING TO PAY. I naively thought Spring was just about here in southern Korea, then yesterday I curtailed a hike up a nearby mountain as my hands were just so bloody cold…

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