Soupy

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June was abnormally dry. July and this beginning part of August has been uncommonly wet. Lawns look like this. Mushrooms are even sprouting in my flower pots.

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I tweeted this photo last week. This is a reminder of how large crab grass can really get–and half of this clump is buried under the rose, weighted down by rainwater. It would be truly impressive if it weren’t so scary.

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And for those of you who need a reminder of why I hate mulch–here’s a clump of lupine being consumed by the aptly named “dog vomit” fungus (otherwise known by its more correct name, fulgo septica). Truly lovely.

Before we know it, things will dry out and it will be back to “winter” again here in Connecticut so I will take the heat, moisture, mushrooms and almost everything (but perhaps not slime molds, thank you!) that summer has to offer. Bring it on!

More Arbor-geddon

On Monday I talked about damage from a winter nor’easter that occurred on March 7 in my yard.

But the damage wasn’t limited just to my house, of course. Just about every neighbor on my street had had damage. The arborists are going to be busy for months cleaning up from this storm.

And when I went to our local historical society recently I was shocked to find 4 large eastern white pines down on its property (I am not sure why I was shocked. I guess I thought that maybe being in Hartford might have shielded them somewhat. I was very mistaken.)

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The most dramatic damage was to this pine at the entrance to the parking lot. Fortunately it seems to have fallen away from the street and away from the parking lot–it didn’t seen to have been moved there in any way (although with the size of this tree, if it were going to have been moved, I think they would have just had to remove it!)

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Over a week later, the air was still fragrant with the smell of fresh pine. That was kind of amazing to me.

As I examined these trees a little closer (and it wasn’t possible to get too close because of a combination of wet snow and soggy ground) I realized what they had in common. Here’s a photo below.

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Notice this thicket of brambles? All the tree trunks were also covered with these same vines. It was probably the weight of these vines (in addition to the extremely high winds–and the fact that pines are known to do this) that caused this issue

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In 2011–our last storm that caused dramatic tree damage–foresters and arborists claimed that the weight of invasive vines in the tree canopy contributed to the damage. You can dispute that–or not–but all of the tree trunks that fell on this property were covered with these vines. Here is another photo.

The takeaway of course is that invasive vines should be managed. That’s always easier to say than it is to do. I know that from my own property.

And of course none of my trees had the vines on them and they fell anyway. So try as you might, sometimes nature just wins.

 

“Arbor-geddon”

We here in the Northeast have had to put up with a bit much lately. Three “nor’easters” in 3 weeks.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a “nor-easter,” it is a storm that most often occurs in the winter with winds that primarily blow from the north east (hence its name). It can bring rain or snow or a combination of both. It can bring blizzard conditions. It is most often known for its devastating winds, so folks along the coast often call them “winter hurricanes.” And, if they occur at times of high tides, they can often lead to very destructive coastal flooding as well.

Each one of our nor’easters has been personally different for me and I’ve fared very, very well compared to most of New England and the mid-Atlantic. But I’ll give you a little taste of the personal destruction we’ve had at our house from nor’easter #2, the one I’ve dubbed “arbor-geddon.”

 

The first problem was the attack upon my car. Yes, there is a car underneath all this tangled foliage. The top of a Japanese maple came down on top of my Subaru. Notice my wheel in the lower left corner of the photo.

Luckily the car emerged with just a small scratch. The maple is not so lucky. Here’s what that looks like.

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Here’s the branch that was on the car, as well as a look at the now mangled tree. I planted this as a sapling 23 years ago. I will try pruning to see what it looks like “after.” Despite its attack on my car, I am fond of it. And the birds love to nest there.

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And of course there are the Eastern white pines. They shed some large limbs in every heavy snow or ice storm. Honestly, it’s a miracle we have any branches left. Notice the three distinct places where they fell. Not sure what that’s about.

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What’s a little more discouraging is what’s happened to this juniper. It was a big overgrown thing but I let it go because it produced masses of berries for the birds, particularly over-wintering robins or those that came back very early in the spring. It’s been significantly damaged. I am not sure if we can prune it into shape or if it has to come out. We’ll see a little later this spring.

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And we lost this large branch off our Japanese black pine. This is mostly cosmetic damage–sad but not terrible.

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On Friday I will show some damage that occurred elsewhere–on the grounds of a nearby museum–and the reasons for it.

 

It’s Meteorological Spring

March 1 begins meteorological spring. That being said, it sure doesn’t look like that around my house.

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This is the one bright spot. It’s my witch hazel, ‘Jelena.’

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Its bright blooms can literally be seen from all over the yard. They can even be seen from the second story of my house!

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But everything else, not so much. Here are my snowdrops–or not.

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The chives on my porch are doing well–but they are in a glassed in environment.

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And while these hellebores are called Lenten roses, we’re already well into the second week of Lent. They have some catching up to do, I think.

A few more freakishly warm 70 degree days are needed before my landscape catches up to where it’s supposed to be–but that’s okay. I’ll settle for what I have for now.

Unwelcome Guests

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This photo–which appears to show just a jumble of plants–actually shows an invasive brown marmorated stink bug on the orchid spike in the photo.  Since the new year, I have been having a mini invasion of sorts. They have never been a problem before for me,  either in the house or the garden.

I know enough not to kill them. If they are somewhere where I can catch them and toss them outside,  that’s what I do. Otherwise,  they seem to die rather quickly on their own. Problem solved.

On the same day that I took this photo,  I heard the unmistakable calls of grackles. Sure enough,  the next morning,  I saw one strutting around on my neighbor’s lawn.

That may not seem strange where you live,  but they’re a full 3 weeks earlier than usual here. Is spring really on its way?

Wordless Wednesday

20180218_083216Surprise! After days of unseasonable (or as I sometimes like to think of it, unreasonable) weather with temperatures in the upper 40s and even mid 50s, this happened!

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But, no worries. We’re soon going back to “unreasonable.” It’s supposed to be even warmer by the time you read this–maybe mid-60s, or even 70!–so all this will be just a memory.

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But this strange weather is never a good thing–not for plants, which start breaking dormancy early, not for animals, which get confused about breaking torpor, and not for people, who don’t know what to wear on a given day. Very unsettling.

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Don’t Kill A Plant With Kindness

I’ve been doing a bit of lecturing lately and I will be doing a lot more as spring begins. Some years, I am so busy lecturing, I can barely find time to get into the garden (isn’t that a happy problem to have?)

One topic that almost always comes up–regardless of what I might be speaking about–is sustainability. That’s a word that gets thrown a round an awful lot but the title of this post pretty much sums it up for me. Another way to put it, particularly for outdoor plants (because remember, I speak a lot on house plants too!) would be “right plant, right place.” How often have we heard that one in our gardening years?

But really, it works. What am I telling you? Am I saying only grow native plants? Oh dear, no! I’d be a terrible hypocrite if I did that! Natives are wonderful, but so are many other types of plants.

What you need to do is to learn what works for you, in your soil and on your site. I have horrible, wet clay that remains wet long into the spring–way too long into the spring. I can rarely work in it before May unless we have an unusually warm spring (and that too is problematic for other reasons). I have learned this over many years of gardening in the same place.

This presents challenges–no early spring pruning or weeding–and opportunities–the beneficial insects and native bees always get their chance to over-winter and emerge from my gardens without being disturbed.

But one thing I don’t do–and never do–is give my plants any “extras” after they get established. Yes, when a plant is first planted, it needs water to help it get settled in. That’s all it needs–water (and that is a post for another day–how to water–and why you don’t want to over-amend your soil.)

But once that plant is established, you’re all set. Some of my plants have been in my gardens for 10, 15 or 25 years or more. Some are original to when the house was built, so that’s almost 60 years. Do you think I run out and water those? Or feed them? Why on earth would I?

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It’s the same thing with roses. Look at this plant. Can you tell where it’s growing? I’ll bet you can. It’s literally a foot away from the road. We’ve had a lot of heavy snow and ice this winter. You can see what the plows have done to it. What am I going to do about it? Nothing, except prune off anything that’s broken in the spring.

Can you see why I am calling this post “don’t kill a plant with kindness?” This rose garden has been here for 22 years. It once got plowed into oblivion when my snow plow guy didn’t realize there was anything around the mailbox. These are own-root roses so it’s all good (but you can imagine my anguish when I came home from work and saw my rose canes dragged down the street by the plow-that’s a little too much tough love, even for me!)

Over-feeding and over-watering encourages insects and disease. As we inch ever closer to spring in the northern hemisphere, why not try a little “tough love” (otherwise known as “sustainable gardening”) this year? See if your plants can do with a little less fertilizer and supplemental watering. You might be pleasantly surprised!