Winter Disinterest

After what seems like the longest stretch of gloomy weather ever in all recorded time, the sun finally came out.  The cold came along with it, and that’s probably related, but it was worth it to see all that brightness again.  Walking across a frozen lawn with the sun on my face is something I’d been missing for the last few months as I’ve been more used to shuffling in order to keep from slipping in the muddy mess I’ve been calling a yard.  The sun also lifted some of the gloom and anxiety of all the earth-moving thats still going on behind the house.

industrial park

The lights of the industrial park seem to have caused a little state of emergency down at town hall, and apparently the mayor has declared that a wall must be built.  So far the wall is completely ineffective in stopping the lights, but we now have a big beautiful wall of dirt and of course that must be a great thing.  

Before this post turns into what looks like just another ‘woe is me’ update I want to say again I’m over it, and whatever happens happens.  I just want all this mess to be done so I can go back to tending my little plot in peace, and if that doesn’t work out we can always move.  In the meantime I’ll keep myself busy with regular runs into the construction zone to steal even more interesting rocks for the garden 🙂

garden stones

One of the dump trucks was rich in a bunch of relatively flat pieces of Pennsylvania bluestone.  You can never have enough stepping stones so of course I was pleased.  

This afternoon I was inspired by the sunshine and upgraded the little stone accents in the front foundation plantings with some heftier rocks.  It was easy enough to roll them around on the frozen soil, but the problem will come later when some planting I forgot all about sprouts up right where I dropped a 100 pound rock.

garden stones

I’ll move the rocks some once spring arrives, but in the meantime I already like being able to jump from stone to stone rather than step on every important sprout that I forget is there.

Those who like to point out the obvious will note that I should have used stepping stones rather than boulders if I was going to use them as stepping stones.  I’d say that’s a good point.

galanthus three ships

If you notice the big white bucket in the middle of the foundation plantings, and think you’re doing me a favor in cleaning it up, you’ll notice instead two foolishly early snowdrops sheltered underneath.  Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ usually set sails for Christmas, but here in the cold north the end of January is more likely, and I for one am relieved I haven’t killed them yet.

Honestly I was a little bored as I wandered about in the sun.  You can only haul so many rocks, I wasn’t dressed warmly enough to just sit in the sun, and even for me it’s still too early for any serious cleanup so pruning was about all I could think of.  I stood for maybe twenty minutes clipping dead leaves off the witch hazel.  The flower buds were just starting to open and although clipping individual dead leaves off a bush in January is possibly the most pointless thing to do, I did it.

-well actually I only did about half the bush before I got tired of it…

witch hazel pallida

Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’) just starting to open in the warm sun.

When you consider the usual barks and foliage that pass for winter interest in the northern zones I don’t get quite as excited as many gardeners do.  I appreciate them, but I’m more of a flower kind of guy, and the fact that I was able find a few blooms here in NE Pennsylvania in almost the middle of January, while temperatures hovered at just below freezing,  it made me pretty happy.

Of course a greenhouse would probably make me happy too, but for now I’m going to stick with adding more witch hazels.  Have a great week.

18 comments on “Winter Disinterest

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Nice to see your post, Frank. Like a bear, you’ve awakened from hibernation to look around, but I expect you’ll be heading back into your den to await spring. It has been a mild start to winter, despite the wintry weather in Nov. Like you, we have no snow, but lots of frost heaves throughout. Can it really be only 8 weeks until eranthis and galanthus grace us with their presence? Light at the end of the tunnel!

    • bittster says:

      Hah, just a week ago and we were talking about the mild start to winter, and now all of a sudden the truth comes out! Boy is it cold, but it is winter after all and I guess it’s to be expected. Anyone who had a bit of sense would head South for a few days for a couple rejuvenating beach sunsets lol

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I giggled when I read you snipped off dead leaves on a witch hazel. I did that the other day. What a bore. ha… No galanthus abloom here though. I think I told you that a friend of mine had a mine move in right behind their house. They have acreage. There is now a big berm behind their house due to the dust, noise and light. They are used to it now but it was quite a shock when it first happened. I envy you your rocks. I would be out there swiping them too. You could probably collect enough to build a foundation for a green house. 🙂 Just trying to help. 😉

    • bittster says:

      Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s been out there nipping dead leaves off a witch hazel. Maybe it’s therapeutic for a cabin-fever gardener? It’s also cheaper than being online and ordering things because of the cold 😉
      I’m suddenly glad that there’s not a mine back there. We had blasting when they were putting in a retaining pond, but wouldn’t want to deal with that on a regular basis.
      Stay warm!

  3. We have snow along with the bitter cold, and my cold is more bitter than your cold. But I confess I did enjoy the sun pouring in through the windows. Already down to 6F tonight so we might get below zero again. It will be a while before any of my witch hazels bloom.

    • bittster says:

      I can only imagine what the witch hazels are thinking today. My guess is they’re too cold to think, just like you’re probably watching the thermometer drop below zero and thinking ‘real winter’ has arrived. At least the sun is out, but little good that does when the wind is blowing like it is.
      It’s a good soup day.

  4. Peter Herpst says:

    Nice that you have some blooms to enjoy in the middle of winter. It’s hard to get too excited about gardening just yet. Glad that the construction site is giving you some nice rocks to play with. Maybe they’ll plant some fast-growing evergreens to block the light from the new installation.

    • bittster says:

      Yes I think the plan is to put a row of Norway spruce along the back. In the last week they’ve built the berm up several feet, but the weather took a turn and that might be as far as they get until things warm again and the ground thaws.

  5. Pauline says:

    My Witch Hazels aren’t flowering yet, here in the UK, still in tight bud although snowdrops have been flowering for a while. Glad to see that you are making use of some free rocks, there is a plus side to everything!

    • bittster says:

      I’ve been enjoying seeing your snowdrops! Even without blooming witch hazel I think you are still far ahead of me in the winter flowers department. Just a few more weeks and the sun will be noticeably stronger, after that it’s just a matter of time that spring gets here.

  6. I hate it when the leaves on the Witch Hazels are in the way of the flowers. I admit I have stood there and pulled them off as well — until I realized that I was definitely going into nutty gardener behavior. Klehm’s Song Sparrow sells one called Woodland Joy that is supposed to be better about shedding its leaves before flowering. When we re-did out driveway and added huge rocks, I had to move a lot of plants during construction. But Mark and the young man doing the work decided to put a monster rock on top of a Jp. anemone that was not yet up. That plant will be trying to get out from under the rock for the rest of my life. No big rock is going to kill it. We’ve had some warm sunny days but mostly gray and cloudy and cold. I wouldn’t mind if there was snow cover but all those unraked leaves staring at me is too much guilt for January. Will you be able to plant on your side of the dirt wall?

    • bittster says:

      I have a suspicion that retained leaves or not I’m going to need to add a few more witch hazels this year. I guess I’ll just have to ignore the ones that stay on the plant. Perhaps the weather has something to do with it, I recently read that a sudden onset to winter will prevent them from dropping, but then I’ve also heard people say some virus or fungus does it… who knows. Probably the best bet is to just ignore them and focus on the flowers.
      I think the snow has put an end to that ‘unraked leaves’ guilt. Here is much of the same, but I’m sure I can manage to ignore it as well.
      -oh and the slope is not on my property and will likely be behind a chainlink fence. I’m hoping that someday the fence will ‘disappear’ and I can do what I want with the slope, but it’s not my property.

  7. The title of this posting, Frank, definitely sums up me and my garden right now. Can’t wait for spring when you arrive with snowdrops. I’ll have the tea and scones ready. (Although I am embarrassed that I can’t grow snowdrops successfully.) P. x

    • bittster says:

      That sounds great!
      Snowdrops can be trickier to grow than many people let on. I guess it’s because they grow like weeds for many a gardener, but for others…
      Mine used to struggle when I lived in NY.

  8. Well, at least a big wall of dirt can be landscaped. The question is, will Mexico pay for it? At least you can cheer all the free rocks. Rocks, I’ve discovered to my surprise, are not at all cheap. I didn’t realize that a Chinese Witch Hazel blooms in the dead of winter.

    • bittster says:

      Mexico did pay for this wall. I guess that means I’m the one they’re trying to keep out…
      not even witch hazel will dare flower in the weather we’re having now. Time to hunker down until the thermometer moves up a little more!

  9. Cathy says:

    Well, I suppose the earth wall will be planted and at least look better in daytime without the lighting. I was pleased to see a witch hazel flowering for you. I want to plant one in the new garden but as I rarely see them here I assumed they struggle with the cold. We will see! Gardening is out of the question here too, but the seed catalogues have started arriving for me to peruse… 🙂

    • bittster says:

      The tiny bit of yellow on my witch hazel has given me all these dreams of adding groves of them to my yard. January is a dangerous month!
      I think they might seed grass onto the wall, but that will be it. Hopefully the fence will disappear and I can put something nicer there to look at… otherwise it will be a struggle climbing over the fence to do anything 😉

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