First Snow

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We were just into meteorological winter–which began December 1–when the snow started falling.

We were lucky. We just got the tail end of the storm that began out West the day before Thanksgiving.

Still, it started snowing about 1 PM Sunday and snowed, sleeted, and maybe poured down a little freezing rain until Tuesday morning. That’s why there’s actually so little snow. The sleet and freezing rain packed down a lot of what fell Sunday into Monday morning.

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This, however, is becoming a perpetual problem. This is all snow, on a Japanese maple. Because the tree loses its leaves so late, it bows down under the weight of the snow. I need to find a different place for my car. It hasn’t been damaged yet, but this is about the third time this has happened. I can’t keep taking chances.

It probably saves the tree though.

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When we have this much snow, I run out of places to pile it when I am shoveling. I sure hope we have some melting before the next storms!

A Digression for a Really Cool Tree

I know I said that it would be all house plants all the time henceforth, but something happened this past weekend that only happens once a year and I think it’s cool enough to post about.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get the “before” photo, but on Saturday morning, when I walked the dog, this tree was in full leaf.

On Sunday when I walked her, it was completely bare.

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Even prettier, the ground is covered in this puddle of gold leaves. The tree literally defoliated overnight. And it does this every year. I’ve been watching for this because I know that it happens. It usually happens right around this date–November 15th.

This year it was slightly earlier–overnight November 9th. I can only think it’s because we are having such unreasonably chilly weather. It was 22 degrees on Saturday November 8th for a low–so that probably caused the early leaf drop.

What tree does this? It’s the gingko biloba. And yes, this is a female tree, so it makes fruits. I have heard all sorts of things about how one should only plant male trees because the females are incredibly stinky but as someone who has walked dogs around and under this trees for 25 years, I’ve never noticed an unpleasant odor–even when the fruits are all over the ground and crushed. Supposedly it is the butyric acid in the rotting, crushed fruit that makes these trees smell.

I can’t say that I have ever noticed that–but I can say that the fruit is uncommonly attractive to schnauzers. Most of mine have eaten it with no trouble. The current one loves the fruit as well but it doesn’t agree with her. Must be that pesky acid. And yes, I recognize that it is NOT a recommended dog treat.

So I try to give the tree a wide berth and admire it from across the street with this particular dog–but I do admire the tree.

Polar Vortex Ahead?

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If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I am quite the believer in using squirrels nests to predict the severity of the winter.

This may sound silly or strange to some, but it’s just a different version of those old farmer’s tales. This is how it works.

Supposedly the higher up in a tree a squirrel builds its nest, the colder the winter will be. You have to know, of course, that squirrels always build at least halfway up the tree or higher–so it helps to know a little bit about squirrels to start.

So a nest at about the mid-point of the tree–or even slightly higher–would mean a very mild winter.

Conversely, a nest very near the top means a cold winter.

I will weigh in here with the objective observation that I have never completely understood why this is true. It would seem to me that if I were a gray furry mammal and I thought it was going to be cold, I would like to be nearer to the ground than way up in the air.

But my nearly decade long survey of squirrels and their nesting habits has shown that they seem to know what the heck they are doing. It just proves that I would never survive in the wild!

So based on past predictions, my squirrels are calling for the polar vortex. Don’t say they didn’t warn you!

Holiday Cactus?

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This may look like the same photo from Wednesday. It is the same plant. But I took the photo so that the tag was visible and readable in the photo. It says “Holiday Cheer Christmas Cactus.”

Hmm. I am not sure about you, but with the exception of our Canadian friends who celebrated their Thanksgiving on Monday, I am not quite ready for holiday cheer. And I am sure not ready for winter!

So what’s happened to my zygocactus? Nothing, really. Sadly, they’re not terribly good at flowering for any particular holiday. They tend to flower on their own schedule and their own time. In fact, an article that I just wrote about using plants for holiday entertaining suggests that one doesn’t try to use these particular plants if one needs them in bloom for a party–they can be terribly unpredictable.

What I did differently this year was I put them outside for the summer (or what passes for summer here in the frozen north:they were outside from about mid-June until just past Labor Day). After that, they came directly into the house.

The one that’s in flower is in a northeast window. But lest you think that this is an anomaly, here are two that are in a northwest window. As you can see, they are not far behind the first.

Still, I am not planning to use them for any holiday parties and I have numerous plants, some of which show no signs of budding. I am hopeful that this means a long bloom season for these plants!

The Good and Bad of Autumn

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I suspect that if you live anywhere where autumn leaves are changing, this is as common a sight for you as it is for me. I can scarcely go anywhere without seeing masses of mums, either for sale or in some display somewhere.

If you have followed me for awhile, you know that I absolutely hate mums. There are just 2 things that I reserve the word “hate” for: winter and mums.

It’s pretty obvious why I hate winter–I won’t waste time on that now. But oddly, even I can’t decide why I hate mums. It may go back to my time in retail gardening (although if that were the case, I should hate violas and pelargonium too and I don’t). So I really am stumped.

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And it’s not a question of hating all things autumn. I am fine with pumpkins and squash. I love these funky pumpkins. I don’t decorate with them. It’s a Spoiler thing. He doesn’t want to have to blow leaves around them.

And I am amazed by gourds and squash. This acorn squash, with its fluted shape, is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Does anyone else have an irrational hatred of something that they can’t figure out?

The Great House Plant Migration

It’s that time of year again. Night time temperatures have dropped into the 50s (farenheit) so it’s time for any house plants (and at my house, that’s a good number of them) to return indoors for the long winter’s nap, so to speak.

Whenever I lecture on house plants, I get the question about bringing “things” in with my plants. For those of you who have been following this blog for long time, you may remember the time that I brought a bird in inside a very dense hanging basket!

That’s the only “thing” that’s ever come in that was unwanted–and thank goodness, it cooperated by remaining in the basket while I took it back outside!

So, with that out of the way, what do I do to bring in the plants? Generally, I wash off the pots–and sometimes the plants, if I have had an issue with insects when the plants went outside–then I will set their saucers or trays in place and bring them in.

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What that means is that windows that once looked open and airy all summer now look like this. And I can no longer water with a hose. Ah well. Only 9 months until they can go back outside.

Gardening–or Not–Again This Year

On Monday I had some photos of a few annuals and herbs, and a couple of tomato plants that I hope to get planted in the next few weeks. When (or maybe if) it warms up, I will get a couple more warm weather herbs and plant green beans as well. Ideally, the weather will cooperate on one of the days of Memorial Day weekend to allow me to do this.

It’s been a crazy spring. It’s been raining just about every weekend–the professional weather folks just announced that we had our 6th rainy weekend in a row.

To top that off, a colleague–my only co-worker–abruptly left our office so I am getting by currently with a part time volunteer. When my colleague announced that she was leaving, I went home and announced to the Spoiler, “well, there goes the summer.”

The next week, my right arm was biopsied and at the end of June I have to go back for another “excision.” It’s not more melanoma so it’s all good but it will put a dent in the gardening, of course. I just need to find a way to get my pond cleaned between now and then.

So whatever gardening gets done, gets done. And that’s really the least thing I have to stress about. Because when gardening becomes a stressor, that’s a problem!

Almost Ready to Plant

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Although the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, we are still going to get some very cool weather this week. Our average high this time of year should be 70 degrees. Today it won’t reach 60 and tomorrow it might not reach 45.

It’s a bit easier to understand why I joke about “winter and July” being the 2 seasons in Connecticut. Or, as Mark Twain used to say, the coldest winter he ever spent was his summer in Connecticut.

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These lovely looking tomatoes are now indoors on my glassed in sun porch. No point in setting them back who knows how long by keeping them out in 40 degrees!

Memorial Day is usually warm enough to plant around here–although the way things are going this year, I may have to wait until July 4th!