There were some issues getting our solar panels started (there was an electrical short), but they were finally fixed and the system was activated on December 11.
Days are so short leading up to Christmas, and the weather remained cloudy, gloomy and overcast every day. There was a bit of sticky snow that covered them even after the rest of the roof melted.
It's been nothing but steely gray skies and simply no sun. Day after day.
A spot of sun on Christmas day and finally some visible sky today, but it was almost as if our solar panels had shut down the sun.
Could that be? Correlation or causation? Hard to tell.
Two days before Christmas men with chainsaws came. They took down the struggling spruces on the berm. It needed to be done, but the minute those big bulky trees were felled, I panicked. Bare space.
These are the two that came down.
Now there are no spruces flanking the river birch. The scene looks a little grim on a wet gray day.
We originally planted five dense spruce trees in a staggered row in 2005 to screen us from the road and houses behind. We added little pyramidal blue hollies in between each spruce. Later I added two big rangy river birches. And some spicebush shrubs. Over the next 9 years it all got way too crowded.
But I loved the complexity and lushness of this berm as it all grew together, and it really did screen our view. There was a brief moment a year or two ago when all the plants were in harmony, the right size next to each other.
It looked especially nice in winter. Not as crowded then as in the height of summer when the birches and yellowroot and spicebushes were in full leaf.
But plants grow. By early 2014 we had to take out the holly bushes that had been planted in between each spruce. They were too crowded.
I kept cutting back the spicebushes on the back of the berm, and I hacked off river birch branches all the time to get them off the spruces. The spruces succumbed to branch dieback in these conditions, and the two on the right were becoming bare.
Now the berm is asymmetrical -- there are still three closely grouped on the left side, but the right half of this raised area has only the river birch and some empty ground.
I think I will get several more spicebushes (Lindera benzoin) and add them to the two that I had stuffed in behind the now felled spruces. I'll make a grove of lindera, which can get quite large and spreading.
Here are the two on the back of the berm, after hacking these back for a couple years to keep them away from the spruces.
And here is one we saw at Cornell Plantations that had never been pruned.
I think these wide spreading large shrubs under the river birch will fill out the empty side of the berm. In a group they will add bulk to counter the three remaining spruces on the left, although they are deciduous and will be open and bare in winter.
They will form a middle height between the ground cover yellowroot and the tall river birch. They are woodsy, which is the look I still want for this berm. They will get big enough to screen the road when in leaf.
They are slow growers, though, which will drive me crazy waiting and I will be tempted to plant other things among them to "fill in" and then I'll have the same problem with crowding as before.
I have such issues with overstuffing my gardens.