Tropical storm Isaias roared through Connecticut late afternoon on Tuesday. I had hoped for some beneficial rain since we are in moderate drought. And I really hoped for moderate winds since we live in a heavily treed state and heavy winds with the trees in full leaf is a recipe for disaster.
Of course by now you know what happened but you probably don’t know the exact details. At my house, I had exactly .2″ of rain–so hardly a drought buster. I had to go out the next day with my hose to water.
And then there was this. Branches and leaves everywhere. This is the small stuff.
It was a little worse out back by my hydrangeas. I pulled this out of them, in fact.
And then there’s our pines. They regularly make a mess. This was no exception.
At the time all of this occurred, there was a tornado warning. There was no tornado, but the winds reached 60 mph or more. So we were very lucky–especially since one of our neighbors wasn’t quite so lucky. A pine similar to ours wound up on their house.
About one third of the state still has no power 36 hours later (nevermind no internet, cable or cell service in these work from home days). We are told that it will be “multiple” days until power is back.
2020 is certainly turning into quite a year.
I am not sure that I have ever talked about this before but this is an idea that I used when I worked in retail gardening and I still use it for myself as a handy “marker” to remember important things. I often talk about it in my lectures.
What am I talking about? Well, I key important things in the garden to regional or national holidays. And of course, this is not original to me.
The famous fertilizer company “4-step plan” is based on something similar–the concept of phenology, of when plants bloom.
I found, however, that folks had no idea when plants bloom (or in some instances, what the blooming plants referenced by the fertilizer company were!)
So I changed it up a bit. Here in the United States, everyone knows when Income Tax day is (April 15) or that Mother’s Day is the second weekend in May. Memorial Day is the last weekend in May.
For us here in Connecticut, the lilacs (above) bloom at Mother’s Day. It’s true even in this exceptionally cold spring. So that’s a good marker for folks.
There are some particularly nasty sawfly larva that come out some time between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, depending on temperatures. One skelatonizes rose leaves; the other attacks mugo pine. If I were to say “watch for these in May,” that’s pretty vague. But to say, “keep your eyes open between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day,” now folks have some idea of the timeframe to check their plants.
I even use it to remember that one of my favorite migratory birds, the catbird, usually returns around Mother’s Day. This year it returned May 6.
So “holiday gardening” can be helpful for reminders. And who doesn’t need reminders now and again?
This rather unappealing photo is a cluster of small oak leaves and flowers. Why is it important?
Every year I post some sort of similar photo with the same caption. The saying is an old farmer’s saying an it goes “when the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, you have had the last frost.”
This year will be quite the test because the forecast for this evening is for rain, changing to snow before it ends.
Interestingly enough, the last time we got snow, the temperature was 39 degrees Fahrenheit (which is why we weren’t buried in it, thank goodness!). So perhaps the oaks are correct. They have never steered me wrong yet.
This is my later blooming magnolia, Elizabeth. I got it from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in a one quart pot in the year 2000. It’s done quite nicely for me, despite being topped in 2011 by an ice storm.
This year, however, it’s in a state of suspension. Its beautiful yellow buds are swelling but they refuse to open. Here’s why.
This was a week ago. Despite this, the following day, it was 60 degrees.
And then, 2 days later, there was thunder, lightning and hail.
The rest of the week has been in the low 40s. We should be in the 60s at least. Ah well. This is why I always say we only have winter and July in this state!
It is a strange time in our country and our world. For those of you who have family who have been affected by this virus, you are in my prayers. I know that that may seem to be small comfort, but I am not a medical professional. It’s all I can offer.
I have seen so many posts about getting out in nature and getting out and gardening and undoubtedly I will offer some of my own in the coming weeks and months. Those who remain unaffected still have that as a hope, thank goodness.
One of the very last things I was able to do before most of my state shut down was to pick up a pair of prism glasses. I have not spoken about my 9 month odyssey with double vision here but I know it must have shown up in some of my photographs.
It started last August after vertigo (when I temporarily lost all vision). When I regained,my sight, I could tell it wasn’t “right,” but it took a little while to figure out how.
Once I decided that there were 2 of everything–at a distance mostly–I began the odyssey of trying to fix it. I am still doing vision therapy (and no, I never knew there was such a thing either) but until it helps–if it’s even going to–I need to see so I got the prism glasses.
So ideally now that the world is clearer–and now that I am on forced leave from my job just in time for spring–I will have some interesting things to share.
Now it just needs to stop snowing.
This photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day, the day this year which, at my latitude, happens to also be the equinox, or day when we have equal day and night lengths.
The actual equinox is 2 days later (St. Joseph’s Day this year, and about as early as it can fall).
Nevertheless, in my state, it’s snowing, it’s predicted to snow again on the equinox and it can snow well into May.
This is what my old-fashioned hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ looks like right now. It’s been very warm, despite the late season snow nuisance. In fact, by the weekend, it will rocket up to 70 degrees, before falling back to something more seasonable.
But the warmth, and then the snow on top of the emerging buds, kills the flowers off of these old-fashioned hydrangeas every year.
Newer varieties, or varieties that bloom on new wood, are not killed by late freezes. Luckily I grow both kinds in my yard.
As of yesterday, March 1, we welcomed spring in the northern hemisphere. For those of you scratching your heads because you thought spring began with the vernal equinox on March 19, you’re not mistaken. We’re just talking about 2 different ways to measure when “spring” begins.
Most folks think it begins on the vernal equinox, which is somewhere between March 19–22 each year.
I use the meteorological way of calculating and thus spring begins March 1, summer begins June 1, autumn begins September 1 and winter begins December 1.
In any event, your house plants aren’t waiting for mid-March to know that spring has arrived. They are already responding to the longer daylight and warmer sun.
What does this mean for you? First, you will need to check your plants more frequently to see if they need water, particularly those in bright southern windows.
Next, you will want to make sure that plants that have been fine all winter in an east or west window are suddenly not getting too much sun. This happens to me every year (and unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of moving many of those plants–they just have to tough it out until my trees leaf out).
Finally, as your plants start to wake up, so do little insects. Be alert for this and catch infestations early, before they spread beyond the infested plant.
If you live in a cold climate–even in one that hasn’t had a particularly bad winter–it may be tempting to get outside as soon as you get a nice day. There’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t forget to check on your house plants too. They need you more than ever this time of year.
While we are still above average in snowfall this winter, it has been unusually warm as well. January averaged over 7 degrees above normal. That’s hugely ridiculous in terms of warm (although much of that had to do with warm evenings. Very much of our warming here in New England has to do with nights not getting as cold as they should. In January, the nights were as warm as the days!)
So unfortunately when we have precipitation, what’s falling is falling as rain (if we’re lucky) or freezing rain if we’re not. Either way, there hasn’t been much significant snow since early December.
What then do we see during all this rain and ice?
I am lucky. I have a lot of moss. So there is a significant amount of green around my property.
Of course many of us plant evergreens so that we have something to look at in the winter as well.
The above house, with the betula nigra and the evergreens, is especially nice. It’s a great landscape for a non-snowy winter. There’s lots of color and winter interest.
Here’s a better look at just the evergreens from that same landscape.
For my long time readers, if you remember the gingko tree from last fall, with the pool of golden leaves all over the ground–this is that same landscape. It’s really first class.
And the structure of bare branches is sometimes more beautiful than trees with leaves.
But otherwise, a winter landscape with no snow is sort of dead and brown. As a gardener, it just seems to be resting, waiting for spring.