Fake News!

Spring arrived last week.  There it was right in front of me, the thermometer was roaring to the top and everyone was thrilled by the high numbers.  Records keep breaking and coats were thrown aside as ridiculously overcautious and we embraced the sun.  Surely that weak, orange sun was the reason things were so warm.

galanthus potters pride

Galanthus ‘Potters Pride’, typically in bloom for the end of November Thanksgiving table, has only now been coaxed out of the ground.  

The neighborhood was bustling.  Nearly everybody had a job as garages were swept and litter was cleared and the last of the holiday decorations were secured.  It sure looked good.  My brother in Law even pulled out the leaf blower and cleared all the riff-raff which had blown in while our backs were turned.  Back into the woods it went, and a quick round with the lawnmower has everything returned to that bland, uniform, suburban look which all my neighbors seem to love.

lawn mow in january

Nothing like a freshly cut lawn in January.  Mid January.  In Northern Pennsylvania.  For those who have let the 63F (17C) high get to our heads, our normal lows for this time of year should be closer to 17F (-8C).

The last three months have been filled with erratic ups and downs, but the ups are all we care about.  I have snowdrops sprouting and in full bloom outside and it’s the middle of January and that must be good.

galanthus three ships

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ up and blooming last week.  Although ‘Three Ships’ hails from milder climates and is known for its Yuletide arrival, here in the colder zones it struggle to reach port by the end of January in a “normal” winter.

But in spite of the early sprouts and premature color something still feels wrong.  The sun keeps claiming it’s perfect, and he deserves all the credit for this unusual warmth but most everyone else can see it’s near the lowest point of its year.  I wish my plants would check this out, but no they just keep fixating on these temperature numbers.  Who cares about tomorrow.

hamamelis pallida

The first of the witch hazels to open here is Hamamelis ‘pallida’.  Full bloom and it’s about a month early. 

Oh well.  When it gets cold I’ll just shelter in place and ride it out.  As usual the weather will take out the most vulnerable and either kill them outright or set them back for a few years, but it happens and in spite of warnings the plants never learn.

I’ll protect my favorites though.  Some plants just agree with everything I do and even if I’m the most incompetent gardener they always make me either feel good or look like I’m winning.  Right now with colder weather and snow briefly returning it’s the winter garden that’s got all the good stuff.

cyclamen coum

The Cyclamen coum growing under lights are starting their show.  Hardy enough to survive outdoors I just like keeping a few inside to enjoy.  

My winter garden in the garage is a nice escape from the real world.  Under the fluorescent shop lights I have a few plants pretending they’re not part of this Pennsylvania garden and also a few that are just too tender to make it on their own.  This year’s wunderkind is the pot of galanthus seedlings I have coming up.  A friend gave me the seed last winter and although a few sprouted then, the bulk have waited until now to start coming up.  Realistically they would be better off in the garden, but here I can admire them endlessly and imagine the hundreds of blooms which are sure to follow… in three or four years… assuming I don’t kill them… just like I’ve killed all the others…

snowdrop seedlings

Snowdrop seedlings.  They still have a long way to go but just think of the possibilities!

I’ve been off my seed-starting kick for a few years now but stuff like this is still irresistible.  There’s so much variability in these seed grown bulbs that I’m excited just thinking about what could be.  I guess that’s what optimism looks like when the nights are still so long, since there’s still bound to be a three year wait at least.  In the meantime three years can pass quickly, and three years ago I started some narcissus seed, and three years later I have a bloom!

narcissus romieuxii

Some type of hoop petticoat daffodil.  The seed were labeled as narcissus romieuxii something-something but they’re not the pale yellow I was expecting, so I’m not committing to a full name yet.

Non-hardy daffodils growing under lights is practically a gateway drug to greenhouse thoughts, so fortunately I don’t have much access to more seed but in these unsettled times you never know.  An offer for more seeds would be much better news than what usually shows up.

In the meantime this winter could end up anywhere.  History shows that these fake warmups always end up badly but maybe I should just hide out in the winter garden and hope for the best.  Maybe this time we’ll only get the tornado rather than the tornado, hail and lightning storm.

25 comments on “Fake News!

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What ever happens you don’t want tornado. I too have a Galanthus up and blooming, Galanthus nivalis. It usually blooms next month. All the other Galanthus are staying put under ground and a good thing since that big cold front has come down from Canada. Feels like 1F this morning with the 20mph wind blowing. No mowing around here but I did mention to my DB that it could have been done a little earlier. The grass was crunching under foot this morning. Crazy weather. Love seeing those cyclamen and the tiny yellow daffodil. You are most patient waiting the three years for the seedlings to produce. Cheers.

    • bittster says:

      Yes I’m absolutely fine if the tornados skip this part of PA for the next few decades… as they have for as long as I can remember, but 2 in the last five is a bad pattern to get in to. Hail as well, and spring sprouts do not go well with peltings from above!
      I do have a few snowdrops which know better, but for the ones sprouting it seems like once they start growing they’re just determined to make spring happen. Even a nice crust of snow and frigid temps don’t discourage them.
      Hope you’re holding up well in the cold. It reached us yesterday but without nasty wind it’s been tolerable. It even looks like things are set to warm up again going into weekend… which is to be expected since I just bought some new ski equipment for the kids.

  2. Paddy Tobin says:

    I’m delighted to see your interest in snowdrops – one I share! ‘Potter’s Pride’ is a North American cultivar, I think and looks like a good one, a good grower! ‘Three Ships’ has gone over here, reliably flowering before Christmas. We – I am in Waterford, southeast Ireland – have had a very mild autumn/winter but it has been dreadfully wet and the garden is like a quagmire. Nonetheless, the snowdrops are flying ahead at the moment. By way of contrast and context – we have had our coldest nights of the winter this week when the temperatures dropped to -3C overnight, a temperature which would probably not bother you at all but to us is freeeeeezzzzzzing!

    • bittster says:

      “Your interest in snowdrops”. Sadly things have become much worse over the years, and even I cannot deny that it has sunk into an obsession. Fortunately galanthophiles and galanthus event are widely spaced here and I haven’t been able to get into too much trouble, so apparently that’s a good thing.
      Cold weather can be so variable. A blisteringly cold day here with no wind and bright sunshine can be quite nice versus a damp, dark, windy night where the cold goes right through your bones. I also believe you can get used to the weather extremes. I lived in the hot and humid south for two years and for the first two winters back North I suffered terribly. Even the weather report would give me a chill!
      I enjoy following along as your snowdrop season progresses. Here it’s likely ours will be under ice for a few weeks so the news and photos from overseas are especially nice.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        I grow quite a number myself though am not inclined to spend too much of my money on them being happier with swaps between friends instead. I follow a Facebook group of Snowdrops in American Gardens which I find interesting. We are into full-swing snowdrop season here!

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Mowing the lawn in January, oh, my! Yes, the thaw was a nice dream, wasn’t it? Now it is back to our regularly scheduled programming. Carry on, and don’t forget your hat and gloves. 😉

    • bittster says:

      I just bought some new gloves last week so the weather is bound to get warmer again. For as nice as each warm spell sounds it just brings on the spring fever so much faster!

  4. Wow, you mowed the lawn. Good job bringing that narcissus full circle. I only did it once, with my now gigundo lilies. You make growing under lights enticing but I get tired of tending my upstairs houseplants, not sure what I would do with plants under the seed starting lights in the basement.

    • bittster says:

      Just one week of warm weather and I was already neglecting the winter garden! I’d so much rather be outside, but then I get irritated because the cool weather makes everything so sloooooow. I guess there’s a reason I like the tropical things, you can practically watch them grow when August heats up.
      In my opinion seeds are more luck than patience. I kill off so many a few successes here and there are bound to happen as long as I don’t completely abuse them.
      You won’t see a post about it but I have quite a few seedlings in their original winter sown pots on a tray in the shade… for the past two years… They suffer along, make me feel guilty, but not guilty enough to plant them out. Maybe this spring will finally be their chance.

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Love all the photos. Beautiful blooms. The witch hazels are amazing. My grass needs cutting too. Hope all the flowers know what they’re doing.

    • bittster says:

      I think enough of the plants know what they’re doing that it won’t be a complete loss when things get cold. Most will survive although a few will lose their blooms. I think a hard freeze in May is much more damaging…. not that I’m suggesting anything….

  6. NICE! I thought we may sneak through January milder than some, but temps dropped and currently, it is 16° F and will drop to at least 10 by morning. Tomorrow’s high will only be 18. At least the plants aren’t complaining about being inside. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • bittster says:

      I saw you hd snow (again!). Here it’s just at the line and usually edges over to rain, and all of it seems to happen on the weekends. Of course it’s raining now.
      It was down to zero in the mountains last week, but at least ten degrees warmer when I left the house so it’s not anything which stuck around.
      Hang in there, it’s going fast 🙂

  7. Chloris says:

    How lovely for you to enjoy some real spring weather in January. And to be able to enjoy snowdrops and your fabulous Witch Hazel looking so good outside. Lawn mowing so soon? You can’t get across my lawn without sinking into it and leaving your wellies behind. ‘Three Ships’ is a December treat here but I have plenty more snowdrops popping up everywhere.
    I love your little narcissus and from seed too, well done.

    • bittster says:

      For once I was the responsible neighbor who didn’t go to any gardening extremes while others went off the deep end. We had a bit of a cold spell but it was lead off by a blanket of snow, so most everything was insulated and comfortable. That’s probably not as good as it sounds though, since I’ve seen that things have grown under the snow even as temperatures have hovered well below freezing.
      Oh well. Snowdrops are coming so there’s my excuse to begin this year’s garden cleanup!

  8. rusty duck says:

    It’s more like your normal temp than your fake one here tonight, bloomin’ freezing. I can’t remember when I last basked in 17C. I do like the idea of keeping a few choice bulbs under cover. I have Narcissus romieuxii (pale yellow) too but the wretched slugs have pretty much scoffed the lot. I hope they’re shivering more than I am right now..

    • bittster says:

      Oh that fabulous new greenhouse would b perfect for a few bulbs, but I suspect every inch of it will be filled way before your thoughts turn to anything which can survive outside just as well. Your potful of narcissus did inspire me to order a bulb of my own. They’re a little harder to find around here lol.
      Cyclamen coum are very rewarding under glass. They flower during the darkest days and last forever without having to endure the weather.

  9. I am greatly relieved that none of my bulbs have so far emerged during any of the stretches of mild weather. And now there’s a couple of inches of snow on the ground and the temps are supposed to range low to mid 30s so I’m feeling pretty safe. Tender daffodils as a gateway drug – fascinating. I didn’t even know there were tender daffodils in this world.

    • bittster says:

      We just finished up similar weather here. It snowed, it got cold, it warmed up, and now it’s raining again. So far only the snowdrops are growing, most everything else has enough sense to wait it out… but the next round of warmer weather may trick even the most sensible tulip.

  10. We are having another up and down winter but with current snow cover. Hoping it does not disappear. I would be going nuts if I saw grass that green anywhere near me. Just put a sign on our mailbox by the front door asking the mail carrier not to cut through the garden. Hate to think about the little dwarf evergreens I planted last fall that he stepped on since they have snow on them. Always something to complain about. Did not think you got tornadoes where you live. For years we always said that Madison did not get tornados because of our lakes. Wrong. We’ve now had 3-4 touchdowns only a few miles from our house. We take tornadoes seriously here.

    • bittster says:

      We are starting to take tornadoes seriously here as well. The last few years have given us two, and that’s two more than anyone here remembers ever having. They’re not midwestern monsters but enough to cut a swath through the forest and rip a neighborhood apart.
      Our snow cover will wash away today and the next week is mostly hovering above freezing. I keep waiting for winter to start but so far it’s just been chilly or at its worst brisk for a few nights. The ski resorts are suffering.

  11. Cathy says:

    That warm spell sounds wonderful – we had something like that last February and sat in hot sunshine next to a huge pile of cleared snow from the week before! Look forward ti seeing more of your snowdrops. 🙂

  12. I have been thinking about possibly creating a winter garden in the garage next year; is your garage heated? Mine is not. Even though the exterior wall and the ceiling are insulated (the other two walls abut the interior of the house, it still gets pretty cold in there.

    • bittster says:

      My garage is heated, and the workshop where my winter garden is located gets enough escaping heat that it rarely freezes, so it’s probably much warmer than yours. But…. if you’ve ever been on the SRGC’s website and looked through Ian Young’s bulb log he grows many things in a cold greenhouse, even with occasional freezing temperatures. He has those heating cables (for water pipes) buried in the sand under his pots, and these keep the soil warm enough that the bulbs don’t suddenly freeze and die… even if the tops freeze solid.
      So I think it’s do-able, even if it may be a little crazy 🙂

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