It doesn't look like spring here in the garden. The sky is blue, the temperatures are hovering just over freezing and all is covered with a nice, soft white blanket. It doesn't matter. The season will progress and under this blanket of snow there is an abundance of green shoots. I do like a slow spring.
It gives the gardener time to adjust to the changes although it is hard to rake with snow on the ground. There are seeds to be started, pruning to be done and today there is a birthday to celebrate. My son, Ben, has a birthday today. He was born as a new season started and while spring is cause for celebration for a gardener, there is no greater celebration than the annual festivities of a child's, now a grown man, birthday.
Happy Birthday, Ben.
There is a perceptible change in the light levels here in the garden at the end of February. Last nights dusting of snow outlined and frosted the garden dressing it up for a photo op. While the weather is still quite cold with temperatures hovering just above freezing during the day, the buds on trees and shrubs are getting fat with expectation. I know I am expecting warmer weather soon.
The garden is still covered with a good six inches of snow and the high plowed piles will be around for a while but the brightness of morning comes a bit earlier and evening much later. There are very few snowdrops visible as most are still buried but this small clump by the house is showing a bit of white.
Can blooms be far behind? What signs of spring are you seeing in your garden?
February is a time of broken plants and delayed dreams here at Ledge & Gardens. Heavy snows have shattered the once stately grasses and they lie bent, broken and ragged.
The small grasses are invisible wrapped tightly under the white blanket. These grasses are usually burned in March but only time will tell if the sodden lumps left after the snow leaves will ignite.
The noticeably longer days have unfulfilled promise and only the indoor
garden provides a bit of greenery to keep the spirits up. Today, the wind is howling outside. The hyacinths are giving off a spring scent. The seed catalogs are still arriving. What are you doing to keep sane during this month of February?
I know everyone is tired of hearing of the big Northeast snowstorm. That it made such a splash on the news is good in a way. It means that there were no school shootings or major political incidents. I will take weather hype over those stories any day but I am tired of it as well. I am also living with the aftermath. New England should have snow in the winter and it does but not usually over 20" at a time.
Twenty inches of snow is fairly impossible to walk through. The EM had to get to the tractor in order to plow. The barn is a good 300' from the house. I had to poke a hole in the snow cover over the fishpond. That is only fifty feet or so away from the walk but it was quite a chore to get there. There is a circulator in the pond but that much snow capped it which could cause the fish to die.
I left the seedheads of Autumn Joy sedum for winter interest but they have disappeared in most of the garden. These by the shed are visible due to the high winds blowing the snow off their location. Gardening is a regional activity and winter interest means different things to different people all over the world. Winter interest in Texas can mean blooming bulbs. Winter interest in Florida can mean gardenias and orange blossoms.
Cornus with clouds of snow
In Buffalo, winter interest can mean trees and forced bulbs in the indoor garden. I have a better sense of a more northerly approach to winter interest at this time in mid-February. My attention is drawn to the garden accents which are spread around the garden.
The colorful birdhouse on the hook in the long border adds pretty contrast to gray and white.
The orange globe in the sunny border is warming me with its glow.
So, what is keeping your garden interesting at the moment? Is it inside or outside? Is it man made or natural?
Perhaps it is just the trees which come into their own this time of year. Whatever it is, please share it as I need a bit more winter interest when the snow is more than knee deep.
When it looks like this outside, the inside garden provides a bit of sanctuary. Really, there is little to see outside in the garden with snow on the ground. I will go take a closer look tomorrow morning but right now, the indoor garden is providing a bit of green relief.
Are any of you interested in aeriums? Aeriums are like a terrarium but with no 'terra', just air. I am not sure who coined the term. Perhaps it was Flora Grubb Gardens which sells a wide variety of these interesting little worlds. If you can find the glass globes, glass teardrops, glass cubes or clear wall vases at your own local garden center you can pretty much make your own with bits and pieces of lichen covered twigs and ground lichens along with dried moss.
You could use a small glass container of any sort. Tillandsias are also now easy to find at most garden centers. If you can't find them you could mail order them if necessary. Tillandsias are in the bromiliad family. Called air plants,they take their nutrients from the moisture in the air, decaying leaves and the surrounding environment of their native habitat. They are native to Central and South America, the southern United States and Mexico.
Once you nestle your little tillandsia inside a clear container with any bits and pieces you like, you will need to mist it every now and then. It seems that once something is put in glass, whether it is an air plant, a garden of small plants or even inanimate objects such as those in snow globes, the object or objects become deserving of a bit more attention. Tiny little self-contained worlds are that much more interesting to look at and enjoy. These tiny, miniature gardens seem to help ward off the fatigue of winter and they require little care. I am enjoying them along with the terrariums in the indoor garden. Have you tried adding them to your plant collection? Will you?
The usual slow pace of decline in the garden is fast forwarded when you are away from it for any length of time. Usually, October is brilliant but the autumn colors are less than dramatic here this year. Perhaps it is relative and I am unfairly comparing them to the brilliance of the trees in Maine which I saw the first of the month. The seasonal change in leaf color can spice up the garden as flowers wane.
The first heavy frost occurred just a week ago and morning temperatures are finally chilly.Having been away for a good part of the month, all that is left blooming is the very late 'Pink Sheffield' mums along with Eupatorium 'Chocolate' and a couple Knock out rose blooms.
I do see some color on the delphinium in the upper garden but that is another story. The garden needs a good cleanup as the leaves fall and cover everything with their uniform brown. Most of the trees closely surrounding my garden are oaks while the outer perimeter is ringed with white pine. White pines are very shallow rooted and not a great choice when planted in close proximity to a garden. They are a softwood evergreen and the native white pine, Pinus strobus, is very large. Oaks are more desirable for my garden as they give great shade, are deeply rooted and can be pruned up for more light. They are, however, very stubborn about giving up their leaves. The leaves start to fall in October and they continue to drift to the ground right through the winter. The abscission layer of oak leaves is stubborn and fails to fully mature uniformly. Some leaves wait to fall until spring growth begins. They settle on the garden through the fall and winter like dust on the bookshelves requiring weekly attention if the garden is to look tidy. Not so the white pines. The white pine woods are cleaning themselves.
A new layer of pine needles have been shed and they cover the ground with a uniform sprinkling of cinnamon.
This soft layer of needles muffles the sounds of the wildlife and not so wild life. Plush as a Persian carpet, the woodland paths are inviting me in to take a walk.
The sunny days have a definite and discernible brightness signaling to the garden and the gardener that it is time to get busy. This weekend was brisk and light filled even as the ice still covered the fish pond. The maiden grass is looking tattered and torn having suffered a very early and heavy snow in October and many swirling winter winds. We have had just a couple very cold days this winter. There has been little snow cover compared with last year. In addition to the golden glow of the grass which compliments Tucker's blond coat, the moss is almost impossibly green. Along the drive there is a newly planted witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'. Arnold is starting to wake up. It may be a whole month until spring but here brightness and light are returning. There will be slips back to winter. It is inevitable. That said, there is a touch of yellow in the garden. Is your garden showing the signs of a new season yet?
This is what the garden looked like this morning. We skipped the first hard frost and went right to snowfall. The zinnias and the Spanish flag are still blooming. Time will tell if they will succumb to this cold spell. It was 29F here this morning and the roads were coated with ice. Rumor has it that sand trucks were out. This must be a record for them although last year we had an appreciable snowfall on November 8th. Mother Nature has forgotten how important it is for a gradual transition of temperatures in order for plants to acquire hardiness. We have had a nice fall with very mild weather and a good amount of moisture. The days are getting quite short as we head to the winter solstice. There are still bulbs left to plant and hoses and pots to be gathered and put away for the winter. Is the weather in your garden normal for this time of year?
I realize that this is not a timely report but last Sunday's hurricane Irene pulled down power lines, phone lines and the internet which has yet to be restored to Ledge & Gardens. I know the crews are working frantically and since we sustained no permanent damage it is just a reminder how tied we are to the comforts of life in the 21st century. Cell phones do not work in my area either...hard to believe that is true in the densely populated southern New England area. No worries, the EM and I packed up the dogs and headed up to the wilds of Maine. Seboomook Lake is near the more popular Moosehead Lake. I first featured the camp herein a previous post. It is an eight hour drive but at this remote camp there is a generator, gas stove and refrigerator and, believe it or not, a satellite connection. It is not everyone's dream to be so remote but if you have to live off the grid, you are prepared. Not so at home where flush toilets do not flush and showers don't shower without power. The major damage in the yard and gardens was to the tomato crop. I planted lots of heirloom tomatoes, 36 plants which were over six feet tall and still growing. The cages were bending under the burden even without the storm. Now they are lying on the ground. I picked a huge amount of tomatoes just before the storm. Many of them have 'catfacing' on the bottoms. I have learned that 'catfacing' occurs from one of two conditions and usually on the beefsteak type tomatoes. The first condition would be herbicide damage which is not an option for these since they are organic and no herbicides were used at L & G anywhere near tomatoes. The other situation which causes 'catfacing' is cool temperatures occuring at the time of pollination. We had cool temperatures well into July this year. The tomatoes still taste great, they just look a bit funky. I packed many of them for the trip to Maine since canning them was out of the question with no power. I am wondering if I can consume all that I brought with me. Perhaps I will tire of the taste of tomatoes fresh from the garden...almost fresh. Do you evey get tired of garden tomatoes? Stay tuned for the next installment of L & G 'On the Road'. I will be featuring the big tomato crop up here at camp.