Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Late Winter 2016

With the warmer temperatures, I have been getting out and tackling early Spring tasks in the garden. Of course stick patrol is high on my list at this time of year just to tidy up my property. Second I have been cutting back perennials such as Liriope and ornamental grasses. I also do careful pruning of last years’ foliage on perennials such as Hellebore and evergreen ferns so as not to damage the new foliage coming up. Like most of us, I am ready for Spring. I am seeing a few signs though, so Spring is not that far away. I also had a brief show of color on some crocus and also several clumps of daffodil foliage peaking up in our big perennial bed in front. It also seems that as the temperatures rise above 45 degrees birds of all stripes start making themselves known by their songs. It is quite the happy sight when large numbers of Robins frolic in the shallows of the pond making it really seem like Spring.    

 Nature was kind to us in that the 24” of snow in January was gone in a relatively few days. Within 10 days the only trace was mountainous piles in the corner of parking lots. These will take some time to melt away. Since then we have been having a really up and down Winter, temperature wise. A few days of cold followed by several days of warmer weather has made it difficult for the body to adapt to the cold. Oh those heat bills!

I know that there is still a lot of Winter left and mother nature tends to remind us of this pretty sharply. So give it time and Winter will be done and Spring will be here and we can all start another spring season. Happy gardening!

Another storm of the century! It seems that the weather folks get off on scaring the heck out of everybody with their forecasts. I think they get paid by the descriptive word. It was a big snowfall, no doubt but the high winds never materialized and we got towards the low end of predictions. Most important – no power outages. An inconvenience but not a disaster.

On the bright side the snow will act as an insulating blanket providing protection and then moisture to newly planted plants. Not that we are having drought conditions but this type of snow really replenishes the aquifers. Real benefits from the storm. Did anyone see the full moon? It was spectacular Saturday night with all the snow.

Stargazer Lily

Stargazer Lily

August 2014

 

Well it’s been a heckuva season so far this year. First, Winter never seemed to want to let go, delaying the start to the Spring season by nearly 6 weeks. It seemed as if Spring bloomed all at once. Between early Spring pruning, the grass growing and planting annuals, it took us until the middle of July before we finished Spring cleanups. Without thinking too much about it, I’m sure that is some type of record. Since then we have had pretty good rains (certainly enough to keep us out of any drought) plus really up and down Summer weather. The few spurts of high temps combined with low humidity has made our weather very pleasurable this Summer.

As I thought, we saw plants die off for “no” reason well into July. The real reason being that many plants suffered root damage from the unusually cold weather. They had enough reserves to leaf out but then when it came time to support all the new growth, plants just didn’t have enough roots to support themselves. It’s rarely one thing that kills off an established plant. It’s usually a culmination of factors with one final blow delivered by the latest insult to their integrity. A suggestion to help plants get through Winter is a thorough watering as late in the season as can be managed. This will help any plants combat the effects of Winter cold and winds.

It’s also been a robust year for plant growth. Gardens have needed a lot of attention this year to contain all the new growth. We have been focused on pruning since completion of the Spring cleanups. It’s been a lot of work to hand prune as much as we do. I think though that our clients will tell you that the results are worth it.

Finally, it seems to be a bumper year for Crepe Myrtles. The bloom this year is fantastic!

Snowdrops - a reliable late Winter bloomer

Snowdrops – a reliable late Winter bloomer

Casa Blanc Lily peeking through the snow

Casa Blanc Lily peeking through the snow

 

We are all confused/upset/frustrated with the never ending Winter we seem to be stuck in. 8” of snow on St. Patrick’ Day? Yes it seems totally absurd but our weather so far to me, is just another example of typical Baltimore-Washington weather. In other words – anything goes. Remember last Spring? It was gorgeous the way Spring unfolded with cool temps well into May. Spring blooming times were extended and the colors were just gorgeous. But then again, it was the first time in my 37 professional years that we had a frost warning as late as May 24th. Where weather is concerned in our area, crazy is a good descriptive.

 

The cold temperatures we have been having for nearly 10 weeks will lead to a lot of disappointed gardeners who regularly push the envelope (like me) with marginally hardy plants. Most of these will perish along with pretty harsh damage to old standbys like Nellie Stevens Holly, Crepe Myrtle and Camellias. Hopefully most will be in the form of winter scorched leaves and not dieback.  Anyone remember the Winter of 1979 when it seemed as if all the Crepe Myrtles in the Washington, DC area died back to the ground?

 

There are some good things that come out of Winters like this one. Spring will be delayed (obviously) and when it comes it will be sudden and spectacular. We will most likely experience a compressed flowering season where plants that normally bloom in something resembling succession will probably overlap. It could be gloriously long or spectacularly short show of color depending on the weather when Spring does happen. The melting snow over the last 3 months really helps to replenish our water table and also acts as a protective layer of insulation for those marginally hardy plants. Remember snow on the ground is very close to the freezing mark while the air temps could be well below that. We take water for granted in our area but there are portions of this country that have very serious decisions to make concerning their water supply. Lastly for serious gardeners, a brutal Winter just provides us with more space in our gardens to try new things.

 

Happy gardening!

Winter magic 02

A little snow to add to the effect!

The big snow

The big snow

 

A frozen waterfall

It’s so easy to love having water in your yard. The enjoyment to be had by the constant run of critters to water (as I sit here writing this I hear a crack of ice and a splash and I look up and see a neighborhood cat dragging himself out of the water and up over the rocks and I assume home – a little cold and wet but none the worse for wear) that you have supplied for them, the beautiful fish you have in your pond and the changing of the seasons in the garden that is your pond. I see a lot of ponds that are shut down in Winter which is a shame as Winter provides some magical moments with the ever changing ice sculptures that appear and disappear in your pond as the day progresses. Snow is another element that adds come and go beauty to your pond. As long as water is moving in your pond it is safe for the fish as oxygen is exchanging and it is safe for the pond itself. Moving water keeps an open area in any ice thus relieving pressure against the sidewalls. This last part is important only if you have a pond that is based on a concrete foundation. Even the strongest reinforced concrete is no match for the force created as the surface of your pond freezes and exerts outward pressure. This is where having a pond heater comes in handy. I have a simple thermostatically controlled heater that is economical to run and simply heats the space around the heater itself just enough to leave a hole in the ice layer. I don’t even use mine unless there is a power outage and the surface starts to freeze. Then when the power is restored, I just drop it on top of the ice and within an hour or so it has melted its’ way through the ice leaving an opening. A wise $30 investment. In the Baltimore Washington metropolitan area we are just as likely to get a 50 degree day as there is to be ice. So when a thaw comes right after a series of 20 degree days and the ice melts and the Robins suddenly appear, you know Spring is on the way. Reality intrudes though with tomorrow’s forecast of 4-8 inches of snow. Ahh well, Spring will surely come!

Spring is coming!

Spring is coming!