Sunday Opinion: The Peaceable Kingdom

Blossom and FriendsWe have had quite a run of unseasonably cold weather the past week – night temperatures in the 20’s. The ornamental kales and cabbages that often persist without a blemish into December look wilted. I have reluctantly put away my tee shirts, and stacked up wool sweaters and fleeces in their place. The evergreens in my landscape have begun to change color.  The winter color is a darker, or more bronze green.  I can see that the winter and holiday container work will be more difficult than usual. I would work with any kind of soil rather than frozen soil. I am pleased our methods of construction have evolved such that only the final installation takes place in the field. Even so, our garage space is a chilly place now. I have traded sneakers for warm boots.

old unknown sheep breedNonetheless, there is much to look forward to.  The garden going quiet means there will be time to reflect on the season just past.  What not only worked, but worked peaceably.  For instance, elements of  garden design that contrast can be interesting.  Elements of design that out and out fight with one another can make a space disquieting and uncomfortable.  Simple landscapes where the relationships are subtly detailed and modest are liveable and restorative. High energy landscapes are certainly dramatic and exhilarating, but even the most devoted eye needs an occasional place to rest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do value evergreens, as they can make a sleeping garden feel warmer, and more visually inviting in the winter months. They make a landscape feel substantial.  Even though they have gone dormant too, the green is a sure reference to life.  As for the leafless trees and shrubs, and the remains of the perennials, there is an opportunity there to appreciate the subtle textures and colors of bark.  The landscape may be gray and brown, but there are infinite variations of those colors.  The variation in the overall shapes of plants, and their appearance in winter weather is an invitation to appreciate the sculptural forms in nature.

american_blackbelly (2)So warm and woolly is and will be the order of the day for months to come.  But there’s no sense worrying about the months to come part.  Only a few small bits and pieces of the landscape work remains-the weather turning has a lot to do with that.  We have our winter and holiday containers and outdoor lighting season immediately ahead.  This late season work makes it possible to enjoy the holidays and the winter season over a longer period of time than most. So why all of the pictures of the sheep today? The moment I start thinking winter and holiday, I think peaceable.  As in the peaceable kingdom.  Though the rams generally have horns, and some with multiple horns, a flock of sheep has a very peaceful aura about it.   They are also an incredibly beautiful group of creatures. Though I am sure this American blackbelly sheep could be an adversary to be reckoned with, he has an affable and dignified expression.

e4a2f2e86b475a34-ValaisBlacknosesheepFrom There are more breeds of sheep than breeds of any other livestock species. Worldwide, there are more than one thousand distinct sheep breeds. There are more than 40 breeds in the United States alone. Sheep come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. Their wool is prized for its warmth.  This Valais blacknose sheep is native to Switzerland.

awassi ramawassi sheep

breeds-of-sheepunknown breed of sheep

Dreadlocked_sheepunknown breed of sheep

cheviot sheepcheviot sheep

manx loaghtan sheep in the UKmanx loaghtan sheep

East-Friesian-sheepEast Freesian sheep

jacob's four horned sheepJacob four horned sheep

blue faced leicesterblue faced Leicester longwool sheep


Cheviot sheep

Barbados Blackbelly sheepbarbados blackbelly sheep

dorsethornsheepdorset horn sheep

boreray sheepboreray sheep

booroola merino rammerino sheep

hebridean sheephebridean sheep

Leicester-Long-wool-Sheepleicester longwool sheep

Lundysheepheaddetaillundy sheep

Norweigan sheep breedNorwegian sheep breed

Romney sheepRomney sheep

sheepsheep face

TexasDallSheepTexas Dahl sheep

slovakian sheepSlovakian sheep

YearlingEwesWensleydaleWensleydale sheep

shetland sheepshetland sheep

rare-breeds-childrenHerdwick sheep

Texel sheepTexel sheep



Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacificflock of sheep


lincoln-sheepLincoln sheep

Capone RS 12-01Jacob’s four horned sheep.

black wensleydaleblack Wensleydale sheep

So why all the loosely connected thoughts about landscape design, the peaceable kingdom, the holidays ahead, the garden season just past, and the beauty and diversity of nature?  That is what a Sunday in November can do for a gardener.


  1. Mike Haynes says

    Love the pictures! I raise Alpacas and have a collection of pictures I would like to share sometime! There’s something so peaceful that happens when working with animals. It’s very similar to that feeling of working in The Perennial Garden on a cool summers morning and losing track of time.

    Thanks again for the educational and always entertaining writings.

  2. What fun this post was! Who knew about all the wonderful looking breeds of sheep. Thanks for the info

  3. As a former spinner and weaver, I loved this! Up close, a fleece is typically dirty and full of gunk when you prep it to spin. But all the lanolin makes your hands so soft and hydrated. i never tire of looking at sheep!

  4. Starr Foster says

    Love this post! So many great photos. Must have been fun to put together!
    Nice for you to have the time to relax and ruminate…….

  5. great, now i want sheep!
    visiting england now and love the long views with dots of sheep….so peaceful


    • Deborah Silver says

      Debra, I want sheep too, but Milo wants them with a passion! The long views of the hills in England dotted with sheep-a beautiful landscape. Rob sends me pictures of them whenever he is in England. Like most of nature’s creatures, they are so dignified and stunningly beautiful. best, Deborah

  6. What a wonderful and fascinating post. I was mesmerized by each and every picture.Thanks so much for putting this together.

  7. Lynn Fiorentino says

    Thanks Deborah. I love how you connect these beautiful creatures to the season ahead. The pictures are amazing and I’ll be thinking of sheep a lot more! Best, Lynn

  8. Tom Baldinette says

    Right on, Deborah! And what timing, too, as just this morning while “patrolling” my yard for what garden tasks to perform, a huge resident owl appeared in the woods, and reminded me why I spend so much time outdoors. Tom in NC.

  9. Very nice post. Thank you for sharing all this. Gentle, simple, dignified…(to look at) From what I’ve read from shepherds, they’re not quite so romantic close up; more like stupid, stubborn, and short-sighted. But what a display of sheep. I never knew there were so many kinds.
    Don’t you long for and love even the sound of the words, ‘the peaceable kingdom’? Did you know this kingdom exists already and is expanding, among the sheep of His pasture, that great Shepherd of the sheep, the one and only Lamb of God? He is welcoming all to Come.

  10. Thank you for making me smile.
    You are right on point, as usual.
    Sheep, when I reflect on it, are a central and important image to our holiday season….and this goes back a long way. Why are shepherds and sheep so omnipresent in all the Nativity stories….because they represent peace! And they welcome the Prince of Peace….the baby Jesus. (And, mind you, I am not a big religion or scripture person.) There is something essentially peaceful about sheep and this has been recognized throughout history, it seems. The best moment in the Christmas section of Handel’s Messiah? — the instrumental section call “Pifa” — which welcomes the sheep, the shepherds and bagpipers. It is a pastoral moment of extreme peace.

  11. J. S. Bach wanted in on the pleasure of peaceful sheep with his cantata devoted to them entitled “Sheep May Safely Graze.” Now you have me thinking about sheep. Love it.

  12. The sheep in the 8th photo down with long hair is called a Wensleydale sheep. They are gorgeous and their wool is one of the most expensive in Britain. Their faces are actually blue. So very unique. This is the link to the photo

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