Winter Solstice is a celebration for optimists. Six months of ever-diminishing sunlight leads up to this, the day with the longest, darkest night. If you weren’t an optimist or schooled in the rational ways of the world you might expect the days to diminish into perpetual darkness–No wonder the Mayan Long Count Calendar ends on this day in 2012. A pessimist could see this day as the beginning of the end of time.
But I know things are about to change. The duration of the sunlight I find so precious is about to start to increase. The plants that are beginning to sprout will take advantage of the extra light and grow faster and run headlong into California’s manic late-winter, early-spring season of flowering and regeneration. Call me an optimist. It may be tough now, but to appropriate the words of Dan Savage in his campaign to fight bullying of LGBT young persons, It gets better!
Here’s a brief white-themed gallery in case you’re dreaming of a white solstice. We have no snow to offer you, but instead how about some bright white flowers, some white leaves to get you into the mood?
Have a warm and safe holiday, everyone, whether the white stuff around you is snow, foliage or blooms. It’s all about to get better, soon.
The number of examples that I have in the garden of the sage genus, Salvia, is growing. The latest addition is a tiny little plant of white sage, Salvia apiana, that I put into a hole in the front yard where a few other plants have failed. The plant is native to this area and doesn’t require additional water so I’m confident that it should have no problem with with the dry soil and the hot sun exposure. Time will tell whether it can compete with the roots of nearby established plantings.
Local examples of the white sage show it to be fairly low, mounding plant of strongly-scented greenish white leaves. Robin Middleton’s amazing salvia site says that “people find the fragrance of the foliage unpleasant…I don’t particularly like it,” and the description at Las Pilitas Nursery calls the perfume a mixture of “sage, pine needles, burning rubber, skunk.” To my nose, that mixture of sage and pine needles and burning rubber and skunk smells like the local chaparral and long hikes on a sunny afternoon, so I actually enjoy it. In the late spring the low plant puts up informal head-high spires of white flowers, sometimes with a lavender tint, but for me the plant is most valuable for its attractive foliage.
Photo from the Wikimedia Commons, contributed by Eugene van der Pijll [ source ]
In addition to having a number of uses for the local Native Americans as a food, flavoring and medicine, the white sage was considered sacred, figured in sweat lodge ceremonies and was used remove evil spirits.
After the conclusion of 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego one of the more creative post-convention protests involved an action to exorcise the evil that some thought the convention brought to town. In an act of purification, in an ceremony that involved drumming and chanting, protesters burned sticks of white sage to cleanse the Convention Center site of the residual evil.