There is a lot to be said for the snowy white Christmas mornings I remember from growing up in New Hampshire, but it's hard to beat waking up to temperatures in the high 50's, with sunshine and a promise of mid to high 60's in Atlanta today.
It's almost as if the birds realize it's a very special morning, since they are out in droves today. The chickadees and wrens are all around, along with the nuthatches that seem to walk up and down the tree trunks on their heads. The titmouse family is going to town on the almost dead Sweetgum in front of the house, and there is a pair of Phoebes perched on the pergola, just checking things out from the safety of that perch.
This is the time of year I had in mind when I planted the "Winter King" Green Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis "Winter King") last season. It is loaded with huge red berries, and is a magnet for the Cedar Waxwings and Robins. I don't even mind that they'll probably strip the tree of berries in the next several days; I guess Christmas is a feasting day for them, as well!
We're lucky to have a number of Eastern Towhees in our garden, as well as the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Blue Jays and Cardinals. The Woodpeckers can be hugely annoying when they decide to fall in love with the cedar siding on the house, but on days like this when the windows are closed, it's just beautiful to sit back with a cup of coffee and watch them against the naked tree branches.
The only shrubs blooming right now are two hybrid camellias. One is called "Jury's Yellow," which was introduced from New Zealand and is apparently more common in England than in the US. It is really closer to off-white, but it's one of those plants we gardeners need to have just so we can say we have a "yellow camellia." The other one is called "Winter's Snowman," and it is blooming its heart out! I wish I remembered where I bought it, but it has done amazingly well, with virtually no special care, for three years now. Dark green flawless foliage, just covered with big snowwhite blooms for several weeks at this time of year!
In that peculiar way that nature has of working things out, the two very pale camellias are the perfect backdrop for holly berries and the extraordinarily bright plumage on the birds of winter.