Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'Winter Landscape'

            When I had seen the painting “Winter Landscape” by Russian artist Nikifor Krylov I realized his name has not been familiar to me at all, although I know some Russian artists. 

I think the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's poem goes well to Krylov's painting:
The snow below the azure skies,
As though a magic carpet lies,
And in the light of day it shimmers.
The woods are dusky. Through the frost
The light-green fir-trees are exposed;
And under ice, a river glitters. 

Krylov painted a winter landscape from a high bank of Tosno river near Saint Petersburg and presented a wide panorama of the countryside. The road comes down from hillside to the river, its banks covered with shrubs are visible and the strip of dense conifer forest darkens far away. 
Nikifor Krylov finely felt the nature in a winter day. Bluish shadows lie on the snow, the sky is covered with clouds, objects are clearly silhouetted against the snow. Human figures enliven landscape, people are busy daily chores: two women met on the way to the ice-hole where they rinsed their linen, a high stately peasant woman carries water in wooden buckets on a yoke, a young farmer leads a horse by the bridle.

About the Nikifor Krylov's life is known that in his youth he painted the iconostasis in the Tver province monastery. Also in the monastery Krylov began to draw from nature and to paint portraits. In 1825 he arrived in St. Petersburg starting the drawing classes at the Academy of Fine Arts.
Nikifor Krylov's paintings are too little known. His work “Winter Landscape” (or “Russian Winter”) appeared on the Academy of Fine Arts exhibition in 1827 and made a strong impression on the audience.
There is evidence about this landscape history in the documents of the Company to promote artists. Patrons of art were found when young Krylov intented to fulfill the winter view from nature. He chose a place near the village of Tosno close to Saint Petersburg. There the patrons built a studio for him, the artist were given a cash benefit on all the time of his work.
Working on the landscape, Nikifor Krylov remained faithful to principles derived by the Academy of Fine Arts professors: "nothing else than to depict nature and obey it."

Today the landscape has changed. Near the river a speed railway runs.  Several times a day express trains from St. Petersburg to Moscow and back break the silence of the woods. Now standing on the high bank of the river Tosno you can see and hear the rushing express train.

Do you love winter landscapes or you think they are boring? Thank you!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Birthday and Herring Under a 'Fur Coat'

There is the book "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by English writer Oscar Wilde. If someone of you my friends bloggers have read it or seen the film about the Dorian Gray's portrait you remember his story: since the day his portrait was ready Dorian wanted the portrait would grow old in his place and so Mr. Gray remained young all his strange life. Unlike him, we all get older and wiser with age! 


I am writing this because today is my birthday. I have been thinking about my age and I realized that I rejoice every passing year, each day in the garden. I remember all the good things happened during the years, successes and failures. Therefore, each new birthday is my "A Moveable Feast" as American writer Ernest Hemingway said.
The day before I made a new fresh salad which is called Herring under a 'fur coat'. I've bought herring fillet pieces, potatoes, beets and eggs. People usually cook this salad with mayonnaise but I prefer sour cream. A layer of potatoes, layer of herring,  layer of beet, sour cream and layer of egg. I love the special mixed taste of salt fish and sweet beet. 
Here's how I did it:   (recipe)

I've also bought some salmon (red) caviar (it is expensive!) and put it in my favorite old vase and beautifully adorned it with a flower of butter. Then I have decided to decorate the salad too and made a rose of kiwi. Salad and caviar are in the fridge now waiting for the evening when my family and friends come.

This morning I've received the gift of orchids, I'm pleased them very much! Can't wait for delicious cake with nuts, fruit and cream and a glass of good vine in this evening.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reading Catalogs In Wintry Evening

              It is pleasant time to read catalogs of flowers, plants, fruit trees in a wintry evening, to plan something, to think about where to grow, to transplant or to cut. Wherefore I've been thinking about the small bulbous flowers, I enjoy them in spring and early summer.

These are Bluebell (Scilla) and Pushkinia. Scilla is a wonderful well known plant, it is difficult to imagine a spring garden without it. Bright blue spots of Scylla are as pieces of the spring sky on flowerbeds or among the shrubs. The flowers can be single, bluish, purple, white, pink. After flowering, Scylla forms the fruit with little black seeds, but I rarely collect them because bulbs also form little ones for breeding.

Pushkinia is a charming little plant with pale blue or nearly white flowers, with two or three leaves, which appear simultaneously with buds. Flower stalks about 15 cm have 12-15 buds sometimes up to 30 flowers, they have strong fragrance during flowering and attract many bees and butterflies.

Pushkinia is better to watch it in a short distance. I want to try them for spring forcing! Several years ago I planted small bulbous plants in a shady place, there they grow well as in sunlit flower beds. They are frost resistant that is important for my Northern garden, I usually do not cover them for wintering. Although it is thought they can not tolerate acidic and marshy soils but I grow them in different soils and I don't see any backlog in blooming.

Do you grow these flowers? Did you like them for forcing?
Thank you!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year, New Ideas: Container Flowers

        Each new season brings its joy, and now my new ideas for container gardening have appeared. I already had an experience some years ago when I decided to plant flowers in boxes, vases, bowls, large flower pots etc.
I'd like to expand the range of plants for garden containers. Begonias, gladioli, pelargoniums, anemones, calla lilies, ismene and petunia, impatiens, lobelia, cineraria, dahlias. I'd like growing fuchsia in container this summer, as my friend blogger Helene does in

When choosing containers I try to use the most common ceramic, metal, plastic and wooden boxes, hanging baskets, flower pots and vases.
To add a new touch to my garden, I think to combine several containers of different shapes, or may be to paint plastic and metal ones as I like. Keep in mind that containers of ceramic or wood evaporate moisture faster, but they allow oxygen to plant roots. I have old containers made of metal and plastic that retain longer moisture in the soil, so I always do the drainage, that is very important. I'm planning to use pieces of old foam plastic for drainage instead of moss that I have no more.

I try to place the plants with the same requirements to light in one container and take in account how much sun plants can get. But container, pot, box can always be moved to a sunny place!
Thinking over a combination of plants is important especially when growing seedlings. When I buy seedlings, can already imagine how they will be combined in a flowerpot. I prefer the higher flowers to be planted in the middle (as gladioli), the lower plants to put along the edges (as anemones, lobelia) in a big vase. 

By my experience container plants do not require special care. I cut the withered flowers and if necessary prune stretched shoots of petunias, geraniums,
begonias, impatiens, sweet peas and cut up the dry gladioli stalks. Tall flowers need support. I had already collected sticks of bushes, thin branches of trees, metal rods to support these plants in containers.
Imagination and planning for future is so enjoyable work!

What are your plans for a new garden season?
Do you like growing flowers in containers? Thank you!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Traditions

         The start of a New year has a special significance to people all around the world. It is a time rich with history and traditions. Interestingly, the month of January is named for the Roman god Janus,who had two faces, which can represent looking back at the old year and one looking forward to the new one. Noise-making and fireworks on New Year's eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck.
Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.

I've found out about old and new traditions in different countries in Internet. The Spanish ritual on New Year's eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year.
The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees on the street and launch fireworks. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new.

In Finland the New Year's Eve is usually celebrated with family or friends. Late supper is served, often featuring wieners, Janssonin kiusaus and potato salad. A Finnish tradition is to tell the fortunes of the New Year by melting "tin" (actually lead) in a tiny pan on the stove and throwing it quickly in a bucket of cold water.

Greece, New Year's day is also the Festival of St. Basil. One of the traditional foods served is Vassilopitta, or St Basil's cake. A silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be especially lucky during the coming year. 


The Anglo-Saxons, who settled what is England, had a festival called Yule, which celebrated a fertile and peaceful season.
In Germany old tradition is to predict the future by small pieces of lead melted in a spoon over a lit candle. The melted lead is dropped into cold water. It hardens into shapes, which predict the future.
In Japan before the holiday, houses must be cleaned, inside and out. At midnight on New Year's Eve, a monk at a local shrine strikes a gong to signify the forgiving of the past year's mistakes.
In Scotland first footing-people visit neighbors just after midnight to wish them well for the New year.

The most extensive New Year celebrations in Russia occur on December 31st/January 14th. Fireworks and concerts mark this holiday. In this day the Russian Santa, or Grandpa Frost and his granddaughter Snow-girl visit children to pass them gifts. 

Russians have a second opportunity to celebrate the New Year, which falls on January 14th according to the old Julian calendar. This “Old New Year” is spent with family and is generally quieter than the New Year celebrated on January 1st. True Russians would never miss an opportunity for yet another get-together, and so the tradition of celebrating the coming of the New Year twice is widely enjoyed eating Olivie salad (recipe).

I wish my friends bloggers
a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

What are favorite New Year's traditions in your family?
Do you know some old traditions?