Winter Interesting

A warm day, a storm, and now it’s cold again.  That should bring this blog mostly up to date, and I don’t think anyone will be poorer for the summary.  There are blogs with much more inspiring garden and snowdrop photos and Paddy’s ‘An Irish Gardener’ comes to mind immediately, and you may wish to pay him a visit before I get started since today’s tale of gloom and doom will not involve even the hardiest winter flowers flowering.

galanthus godfrey owens ice

Golly Godfrey, you’ve been through snow and frigid below 0F temperatures, and now it’s an ice storm?   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I surprised both myself and the dog when the camera was grabbed and the door was opened and we all headed out for a tour of the sleety garden.  It was still all gloom and precipitation but I do like the look of an ice storm so off we went to see how things were holding up.

sedum winter ice

I’m not much for dead stalks as ‘winter interest’ but a nice bunch of sedum can hold its own all winter.

Overall it looked nice.  Not good, because no ice storm is ever a good thing, but as long as we’re not losing power and can stay off the roads and not have to endure the cracking and snapping of falling trees, I can see the beauty in it.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and promises to bring out the sparkle of the ice, but with wind and temperatures maybe barely out of the single digits you won’t see me out there.

ice cardoon stalk winter

Possibly the most photographed Cardoon stalk of all time, this thing still fascinates me.  I also love the russet hues of the ‘Dallas Blues’ Panicum as a backdrop.

I really can’t complain about the cold.  All the sprouting things are locked up in frozen soil, just like they should be, and will now wait at least until late February.  It’s almost a normal winter and of course that has me suspiciously waiting for the next shoe to drop.

ice storm midwinter fire

‘Midwinter Fire’ is an excellent dogwood for winter color.  I wouldn’t mind a few other colors but this one by itself puts on quite the show.

One down side to a ‘normal’ winter is that I’ve been banking on global warming and planted a bunch of stuff which doesn’t appreciate ‘normal’ lows.  I guess we’ll see what happens this spring.  Maybe the cold hasn’t penetrated too deeply yet.  It was a very warm December after all.

ice storm southern magnolia

A Magnolia grandiflora seedling of a hardier (I hope) sort.  The leaves don’t look too bad, but March has a way of bringing out the damage and it’s likely all the leaves will drop by April.

Besides Crinum lilies, Agapanthus, and palmetto palms, there are the “hardy” camellias.  I can almost feel them glaring at me as I walk around, and I know they must be thinking winter in Charleston would have been a lot cozier.

ice hardy camellia

This ‘Survivor’ seedling still looks pretty good, in spite of the icing.  Let’s hope it looks just a good thawed out again.

As long as it’s cold, I wouldn’t mind a good snowstorm to top off the ski runs and keep me out of the garden a little more.  The slopes are all ice right now and that’s not fun.  Also not fun is going into the winter garden and chasing boredom with pruners and potting soil.  I confess I’m taking cuttings of succulents again, and if February doesn’t warm up soon I’ll be up to my ears in baby plants, none of which this garden needs.


Evergreens on the berm are slowly growing in to cover up the view of our industrial park neighbor.  

Speaking of things the garden and gardener didn’t need: (1)the yard is still ripped up with bulldozer ruts and construction debris, (2) The under-construction sewer lines froze up, and sewer lines don’t drain when they’re frozen, and (3) Covid has come to visit our corner of suburbia.  Everyone is in recovery and cases were mostly mild, but still it’s something we didn’t want added on the to-do list.

ice blueberry winter

The promise of better days.  Blueberry buds which will hopefully bring blueberries and fill a few pancakes this summer.

So now it’s down to reminding myself each evening that I don’t need new plants ordered when half the garden is in need of leveling and cleaning up.  I’ve ruthlessly crushed dreams of more caladiums, dahlia gardens, bean fields, onion plantations, tender bulb experiments, begonia collections, mini conifer forests, sunflower fields… and that’s just last week.  I’d still drop everything to drive an hour to pull terra cotta pots out of someone’s trash, but as of 11pm Friday, February 4th I have not ordered any new plants or seeds.

flowering dogwood winter buds ice

Hard to imagine now, but in just three months the dogwoods will be covered in bloom again.

Btw seed exchange seeds don’t count.  They’re practically an obligation if you belong to a society and I would be selfish to not support the Rock garden or Hardy Plant or American Primrose or the Magnolia Society’s work.  It would be like walking past a church bake sale just because you’re on a diet.

Hope everyone is going into the weekend safe and healthy.  The cold won’t last forever and even here the snowdrops will bloom again.

24 comments on “Winter Interesting

  1. Pauline says:

    Hopefully Godfrey will be ok when he thaws out, I’ve only ever known one ice storm here so don’t envy you at all at the moment. I hope your thaw arrives but then thawing and freezing again can’t be good for anyone. Stay safe and warm!

    • bittster says:

      Yes, those repeated freezes and thaws are worse than any amount of ice!
      I think if I can just get enough sun onto the walk to melt the ice there I’ll be beyond bother. There’s no point in chipping at it, even the salt is taking a while, but I’m sure by March it will all be fine!

  2. Paddy Tobin says:

    A day or two of light snow per year would be the most we get here in Ireland and that would be enough to bring the country to a standstill. Our coldest temperature here so far this winter has been -1C, an overnight frost with a little thin ice on our small pond. On the other hand, we wouldn’t consider growing caladiums here in summer as we wouldn’t have weather hot enough for them. Ours is a mild climate, never especially hot and never especially cold, and, it suits the snowdrops! I am feeling lazy about writing an update, lacking enthusiasm, and, then again, I hope to see two of our grandchildren today and watch an international rugby game in the afternoon, Ireland V Wales. These might lift my spirits and move my fingers to the keyboard! I hope you have a thaw soon; I really don’t envy you those conditions.

    • bittster says:

      You’ve done so well this year with the updates, my fingers are crossed that your fingers find their way to the keyboard this weekend!
      Just be careful the hellebores don’t become too distracting. They look absolutely wonderful already and I’m afraid they might overshadow the wee white things.
      The sun was strong today. Even with temperatures well below freezing I was able to walk about (carefully for all the ice) with a cup of coffee and dream about what lies under the snow. Hopefully things don’t warm up too quickly, I’d prefer at least two weeks of snowdrop season before going straight to tomato planting! 😉

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        This is a rugby weekend – three international games on television so….there may be a delay in writing!

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Sorry to hear that the Covid bug invaded. No wonder you haven’t ordered any new plants yet. I think I will be able to tell when you are fully recovered. It sounds like your area is experiencing the same weather we have had, ice then a 4″ layer of snow. Not bad since people further North of here had up to 12″ of snow. Luckily I don’t have to go anyplace. I can sit at home and watch the snow eventually melt. My snowdrops are buried. Those dogwood stems are brilliant against the snow. Cheers…

    • bittster says:

      There has been so much Covid around I’m surprised we avoided it for so long. I hope this is it for the winter!
      I was watching a neighbor chipping away tirelessly at the ice up and down his driveway. Chipping and salting and then more chipping. God bless him. Someone should tell him that July will take care of that and I’m sure there are better things he could be doing. I can only imagine what he thinks to look over at my walk.

  4. testmariemaz says:

    Hi Katob,

    The color on your Midwinter Fire is fantastic! Do you hard-prune yours every year? And is the upper half yellow? I planted 6 last year, even though they’re a zone 5 and I’m in zone 3. Can’t wait for all the snow to melt and see if they made it! 🙂


    • bittster says:

      Hi! I hope your Midwinter Fire does as well as this one because I love it.
      I do not hard prune each spring since it doesn’t seem to sprout up and recover like the other red-twigged dogwoods do, but maybe now that it’s established I should try again. Also for some reason there’s very little yellow this winter and nearly all the plant is red. I do prefer the mix, but I guess I can’t complain about all the color.
      Last spring I pruned out all the smaller lower branches so I could grow things underneath, and left much of the top. It’s possibly too big for the spot now, but I might do this one more year just to see what it does. I hope yours do as well!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Sorry to read you got Covid, but glad that your symptoms were manageable. I really hope this thing peters out for good come spring. At least you’ll be completely recovered in time for spring chores. 😉
    And a frozen septic line, too? That might be worst than Covid! How does a family of four (plus pets) deal with that? Oh, dear, I don’t even want to imagine. When is the renovation due to be complete?
    Your poor snowdrops look so sad covered in ice, I hope they aren’t lost. Everything else looks like it will survive. It might even offer some bud protection from super cold temps as it stays a (cosy?) 32º in there.
    Feb. is the home stretch… if you can just hang in there another month without ordering more plants, you’ll be home free. (I always say that Feb. is the longest month of the year! 😉 )
    Take care, hope things are a bit less ‘exciting’ for you these next few weeks.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks! I think I was very lucky and am already recovered enough to face spring, I just wish others were as lucky. It’s still fairly rampant around here and to be honest I’m surprised I didn’t get it sooner considering how many times I’ve been exposed.
      We were extremely lucky with the sewer. A couple hours with the torpedo heater on it and things were running again before too many inconveniences were forced upon my poor children. Actually I don’t think they were effected at all. I told dramatic broken sewer stories to everyone in this house and they all just kind of looked at me and seemed to just expect it to fix itself. I wish that would work for me every now and then.
      When is the renovation due to be complete? I can’t even guess. My wife thinks three weeks, the contractor says a month and a half, and I expect at least two and a half more months. The only thing going fast around here is the money.
      Luckily I have a few dollars stuffed into a jar for plant buying emergencies. You can never be too safe!

  6. Hope you are all on the road to recovery. What a nightmare Covid continues to be. Glad your ice was no worse. It can look so beautiful on plants (that Cardoon and Panicum!) but be so scary on any level. Luckily we’ve avoided that so far this winter. Don’t worry about not ordering anything. The rest of us are taking up the slack.

    • bittster says:

      Thank you. I feel much better that others are doing their part to support unique independent plant growers when others have to take a break. Hopefully by May I can run to the garden center again and make up for lost time 😉
      and yes, we are all well along to recovery.

  7. Cathy says:

    It does look pretty coated in ice, but I know how my garden hates that kind of weather too. So hope it is warmer now. I wonder if you succumbed to quarantine boredom at the weekend and did some online shopping after all… 😉 Hope you are all fit again.

    • bittster says:

      It did get a little warmer here the last few days and I’m looking forward to being able to poke around again this weekend. Nothing big, just a look to see what survived 😉
      I did not break down and order! I redirected myself to repotting things and taking cuttings. None of that was necessary, but at least it’s cheaper 🙂

  8. Chloris says:

    What a pity you can’t hibernate and wake up when its all over; ice, Covid, sewers and ongoing building must be a nightmare combination. I haven’t bought any plants for ages either, I think I might break out soon as I really need some more snowdrops. And I’m sure you do.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks for the concern, but it’s never quite the nightmare I make it out to be. Working with teenagers trains me to be overly dramatic with just about everything, and if you wanted an honest opinion I’m actually enjoying the winter. Having all the mud and debris covered in snow brings on bliss and today’s cold is just a good excuse to sneak out onto the ski slopes again.

  9. Pamela Hubbard says:

    I’m not liking this winter, Frank, and yours sounds worse than mine. But you are right that it does seem more ‘normal’ for the plants under all that ice. Spring will be wonderful! Hope you and your family are now fully recovered from Covid. P. x

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Pam!
      Spring is on my mind this weekend, and I’m loving the strong sunshine… plus we’re all healthy again and a day of warmth last week has snowdrops sprouting in all the warmer corners. we will get there, only a few more weeks 🙂

  10. Mary Jo says:

    Aww poor babies…. I hope the frost doesn’t hurt them too bad 😦 god bless you and your garden frank!!

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