The Coldest Summer….

Those of you living anywhere in the Northeast recognize this: the sun obscured by smoke from the wildfires in Canada. You can smell the smoke too–our air quality has been impacted. My heart goes out to all of Canada impacted by these raging fires.

But the smoke is not the only thing impacting our weather lately. To quote Mark Twain, “the coldest winter I ever spent, was my summer in….” Well, he was in San Francisco when he said that, but I have used it several times to refer to June and even July in Connecticut! We are under the influence of an Atlantic system that will not budge and it’s just keeping us cooler than we should be. It’s nice to save on air conditioning but I am still wearing fleece! Ugh!

However, for something very unexpected in early summer, here’s some amaryllis that are struggling bravely through our cooler temperatures. Because we have only had highs in the upper 60s and little sun, the flowers have lasted much longer than they might ordinarily have in bright sunshine and warmer days–so I suppose that’s a bonus!

And behind these blooms are some more buds waiting to open. There are from my “saved” bulbs that I hold over in my basement from year to year. All the newly purchased ones bloomed this winter. They are the ones in the back, whose leaves you see already sprouted up.

And if you are wondering why I am speaking of “early summer,” I go by the meteorologists definition of summer, which begins June 1. So now you know why I am very unhappy about the chill!

Who Planted These Here?

You can see that these cracks at the base of our stone wall and in our driveway are just prime spots for all sorts of “vegetation,” to put the best possible spin on it. Weeds love them, but so do opportunistic bits of other little plants.

There are always little bits of some sort of sedum growing here. I keep hoping that the sedum will out-compete the weeds, like the chickweed that you can see already sprouting. But they have different growth cycles and the sedum don’t really get going until later in the season, while this is prime chickweed time.

If you’re wondering how the grape hyacinths got here, it was my buddies the ants 🐜. Muscari have a special little structure called an eliaisome that ants love. They bring that back to their colonies and spread plants around that way. It’s not exactly pollinization–it’s mechanical movement.

My lawn is filled with grape hyacinths that I haven’t planted, courtesy of my buddies, the ants. So I am always very careful to leave them alone, so long as they are away from the house. In my kitchen, well, it’s a different story. But luckily that happens pretty rarely.

It’s yet another benefit of being pesticide free in the yard!

All Bulbs All the Time

Since I was posting about other things in January, I really haven’t had an opportunity to post about gardening at all.

These are my hyacinths that I started forcing Thanksgiving weekend. They’re now all beginning to open (the lack of color in the leaves is because I just brought them up from the dark basement).

Here’s one of the purple ones already open

And then there are the amaryllis. This is Charisma.

And this is Amadeus.

To me, these all make up for the indignities of winter–almost.

Waves of Plants

Herbs and tender evergreens

it’s kind of funny–my plants come in in “waves,” as l call it. And people who know me will periodically ask, “are all your plants in? They have no idea what they are asking!

The tropical plants, or house plants, are all in because it is getting quite cool here. It’s down to the mid 40s this morning. So the 200 or so tropical plants are safely inside and have been for the last 3 weeks. I will talk more about my theory on that–and some other theories–on Monday.

Amaryllis bulbs

Then there are these: amaryllis bulbs. They should be drying out before I bring them into the basement for winter. I may have to bring them in when they are wetter than I care for them to be. I should have brought them in this past weekend but I was too busy pruning dead stuff off my other plants because of our summer drought.

Then I have the plants that come into the sun porch–that’s the photo at the head of this post. These herbs and “tender” evergreens can take some cold, but not New England cold. They will need to come in before a hard freeze.

Container succulents

And then there are my containers that also will need to come in before a hard freeze because, as a general rule, container plants can’t be left to over-winter outside here. These are things like potted succulents that would be hardy if I were growing them in the ground, blueberries in containers, and plants that everyone else thinks are appropriate to plant in the fall like hydrangeas and roses so they ship them to me but if I were to try to plant them now, they would die–so I have to overwinter them in my garage.

So the “are all your plants in?” question is hugely complicated!

Springing Ahead

Glory of the snow–chionodoxa bulbs

Spring in Connecticut is always a “one step forward, two steps back,” sort of thing. This week we have actually had a few days of sustained warmth, which has been lovely.

Snow fountain cherry tree

It’s allowed some of the early spring flowering trees to bloom. For those of you that think late April is a strange time for “early” spring bloom, we have very strange springs here in Connecticut. While autumn has become an extended period of warmth, spring has not changed accordingly. Instead, it is an extended period of cool weather, sometimes dry, sometimes wet, sometimes snowy even. It’s not a very pleasant season at all.

Pieris Andromeda–blooming since mid-March

But one thing that the extended cool weather does permit is an extended bloom time as well. Bulbs that might bloom for days in warmer temperatures are lasting for weeks.


Flowering trees and shrubs–even that old stalwart, forsythia–also bloom for close to a month!

And the less frequently seen forsythia border

So while we may shiver for a longer period of time up here in the frozen north, we also get to experience our early blooming trees and shrubs for quite a long time.

Since I hate the cold, I am not sure the tradeoff is worth it. But then again, since I am always so grateful to see the first flowers and color, perhaps it is.