Monday, January 31, 2011

Real Gardening

Sunny and in the 20s today.

I actually did real hands-and-knees gardening today, with pruners in hand!  I decided all the overwintering plants on the porch needed haircuts.

So I cut back the dried stems of the butterfly bush and all the sages (the Lady in Red coccinea and the black and blue sages had actually bloomed all winter).   I chopped back the begonias in the black troughs, which were finally mushy.  I was surprised at how the gaura is green and seems to be thriving.  The Angelina sedum is green and growing too.

And the soapwort in the containers seemed to still be growing, but I did cut that back.  The rosemary is looking good.

And when it was all done, I watered.  Everything was quite dry. Although most plants are dormant, they do need water in winter, just as they would get from winter snowmelt outside.  The porch is staying in the 20s at night, and up into the 40s in daytime.

It all felt so good: trimming, cutting back, watering, snipping and generally doing real gardening.  And everything looks a little neater now, ready for spring to come someday.

But in spite of doing some real gardening today, I still can't get out the back door:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snow Damage

In the 20s today, with some sun.  No wind.

I made an attempt to go out in the yard and try to dig the evergreens out of the deep snow that is weighting down the branches.  The fir by the front door has its lower branches bent down under a weight I can't shovel.  The Austrian pines out back are weighted down.

The hemlock looks stripped, with its branches all pulled down.

The little Swiss Stone Pine looks ridiculous, peeking up out of the snow.

So I put on my ski pants, got a shovel and plunged into the snow at the edge of the driveway.  It was scary.  I sank into snow up to mid thigh.  I later measured: that's 28 inches. It is not light enough to swish through, there is a crusty hard layer about a foot down, which is what is trapping the evergreen branches and pinning them so firmly to the ground.  It trapped me in each step, and I had to pull my leg entirely out of the snow, lifting it 28 inches to place the next step.  It was truly a feeling of being trapped!

I made it out to the hemlock, but it took a lot of effort, raising each foot so high and plunging back down.  I finally was able to dig down and free some of the snow and ice bound branches.

But I fear I did more damage.  Hemlock sprigs were torn off and ripped up with each shovel thrust.  There was no way I could avoid stripping some of the branches.

The little Swiss Stone Pine was freed from snow a little more easily.  It's smaller than the hemlock, and not as wispy.

But after that, I struggled back in.  Just moving in that grasping sucking snow, up to my thighs was exhausting, and it really did give me a scary feeling of being helplessly trapped.  And I think I was doing more damage than if I left the limbs pinned under all that weight.  I didn't even try to get to the Austrian pines or the spruces or the poor fir tree by the front door.

What  a winter.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Another foot of snow, maybe more, last night.  Abundant sunshine this morning, and all looks pristine and virginal.  The deer can't get out, nor any other creature, so I am not seeing tracks all over the yard.

The sign under the half buried paperbark maple should say "chill" rather than "relax".

Is it over yet?  Is it gone?  The snow?
there is a 3 foot high sundial somewhere in front of the birch
the heated birdbath, 3 feet high, is almost gone

I'd go out, but I can't open the door

Advancing . . . .

. . . . and retreating
Japanese maple in snow.  How zen like.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fun with Google Maps

Snowing again, but not so cold.  Last night was about 10 degrees, but today is in the 30s.

What to do on a snowy house bound day in winter?  Play with Google maps.
I got an overhead view of our lot complete with landscaping from last summer (during the worst of the heat and drought in July, so the grass and weeds look awful).  And I got a view of the actual lot lines in the same scale and overlaid the two screenshots in Picasa.

The superimposed picture, with the lot lines highlighted in blue, shows where all of the major gardens and trees are.... and some are outside the lot boundaries, as I knew they were.  Click the photo to enlarge.

I knew the spruce berm was angled differently than the lot line and the right side of it fell outside the boundary, which the map shows.

But I was surprised that the whole line of buckeyes at the back are over the line.  The hemlock and bayberry at the back of Meadow's Edge are over the line.  The deepest part of the V behind the house comes to a point just behind the end of the dry creek bed.

Pretty amazing that you can get this level of aerial detail!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And It Snows

Not so cold, in the single digits overnight, but up into the 20s today.

And still it snows.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And Colder

It just keeps going on.  Colder and colder. It was -8.6 degrees at 5:45 this morning.  Eight below!! We haven't had a winter like this in years.  It's well within our zone 5 limits, but we just haven't seen such frigid temps for so many days in a long time.

My hope is that this will knock down the deer tick populations for next summer.

While it's below zero (and it was windy yesterday, creating a special kind of misery), the snow cover is so deep that plants are snugged away, sleeping comfortably and well protected.  An ideal situation for this kind of winter.

In these cold nights, the porch stays in the mid 20s.  Freezing, but not close to zero.  The plants that I have stored there should be able to take these temperatures, out of any winter wind.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Still Frigid

Another 6 below zero temp at 5:30 a.m. today.  Windy, cold. 

Was I really complaining last summer about the endless 100 degree temps and drought?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garden Blogger Meet Up

Ice storm last night, thick coating on all surfaces, the driveway is impossible.  But today the temps got up into the mid 30s and a chilly rain softened things up.

I was able to get out and drive down to Hamden to meet a group of CT garden bloggers for lunch:

Cyndy Cromwell from Gardening Asylum (she lives in Glastonbury!)
Debbie Roberts of A Garden of Possibilities
Joene Hendry from Joene's Garden
Scott Hokunson who runs Blue Heron Landscaping in Granby
Colleen Plimpton, a writer from Bethel whose blog I haven't read before.

Only Cyndy and I are non-working, the other four are all garden coaches, speakers, landscapers, and writers who freelance for papers and magazines.  Most of the discussion was about publishing, writing conferences, developing business contacts and leads, speaking dates, clients they have dealt with, and garden renovations they had done.  Colleen had a book published that she passed around and is trying to sell, obviously.

It was interesting, but I had hoped to learn more about each gardener -- a little about their families and history and gardens and interests.  It felt more like a business networking session.

But they were all very nice and the conversation was spirited.  I enjoyed meeting them, and will go again if there is another meet up.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Below Zero

PhotobucketColdest temps of the season so far.  At 5:48 this morning it was MINUS 6 degrees.  The snow cover is so deep that all the plants are pretty well insulated.  In Wednesday's blizzard we got about 22 to 25 inches.  Entire shrubs have disappeared below snow cover, with not a ripple in the snow above to show that a whole woody plant is buried below.

The temps on the porch are below freezing for the first time this winter, at just under 30 degrees.  While that's a freeze, it should not do any harm to the tender perennials (the salvia coccinea and others) that are overwintering there.  The potted rosemary 'Madeleine Hill' is hardy to well below freezing, but keeping it on the porch protects it from winter wind.

Boy, it's cold!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pam's Garden

Snow.  Temps in the 20s.  We got 5 inches of light silky snow overnight.  It is clinging to the garden making it all look wonderful, but it's really not heavy or wet.  A very unusual texture and very pretty.

I've been thinking.  Yesterday at Pam's I said to her "who's going to take care of Bob's gardens?"  "You are" she said to me, joking (perhaps).  Got me thinking.

I could do it.  I could go over there next spring and spruce up the gardens and do some planting.  It is the complete opposite of my conditions here and would be good to experiment with: she has sandy, dry, acid soil, and lots of shade.  Opposite of this garden here.  I could take some of my dry-loving sand tolerant plants over (or buy more of the same kinds).

In her driveway garden I would take out the peony and digitalis and astilbe... they need way more water than they get there.  That corner does get some sun at midday.  I'd put in:
Baptisia: big and full and leafy, a filler
Asclepias: it will like the dry... nice orange pop
Yarrow: mine just don't like the heavy garden soil here, lovely colors
Caryopteris: should do very well in lean soil, another filler
Agastache: for some height
Rhus aromatica: let it spread under the plants as a sand loving groundcover

By the driveway walk under the bedroom window where hydrangeas are planted now, I'd put in more rhus aromatica --- to balance the other side of the driveway and to cover the bare mulch under the shrubs that are already there.

In the back yard I would add large rhododendrons at the far edge to screen the compost area some day and to define the edge of the shed.  Rosebay rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) is faster growing than other screening plants, and can get up to 15 feet tall and wide. Trusses of rose, purplish-pink, or white flowers appear in the summer.  I got mine at Rarefinds Nursery.

At the edge of the deck where there is shade I would put in tiarellas mixed with heucheras, they're no-fuss.  Mix in some epimediums.  Keep that a low band of plants to step over.

The front walk?  A problem.  The hollies have to come out.  Denser evergreen screening is needed there.  I would need Jimmy to help pull out the hollies when he comes for the summer.
Japanese plum yew 'Duke Gardens' might work along the front walk
Possible: Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Duke Gardens’) is one of the most shade-tolerant and garden worthy evergreens available. Soft, black-green foliage is less appealing to deer than yews. ‘Duke Gardens’ reaches a height of  4 feet at maturity, so it's a short screen. 

I might have to amend the soil in that strip for a little more richness.

Might get too wide, like the leggy shrubs that are there now?  Would Sky Pencil hollies be better?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pruning the Paper Birch

Cold, in the teens at night and in the low 30s in the daytime.  Snow coming tomorrow... I skiied at Sundown today.

While I was in the guest room the other day sipping coffee and designing my new hydrangea hedge (see last post), I got a good look at the birch trees from above.  And it looked like I really need to remove the leftmost trunk of one of the birches.  Bartlett had suggested removing it when they pruned.  It really isn't healthy, it feels soft at the base.  But we left it up.

Now I think it needs to go.  Here's a picture from last October that shows just as clearly as my view this winter that the furthest trunk should be removed.

There will still be a decent shaped clump even after pruning away the leaning stem.