Into the New Year

It’s been a bit chilly this weekend, and this morning’s low of 21F (-6C) is about as close to normal as we’ve come this month.  A January thaw isn’t all that unusual for the region, but having the entire month with each and every day at above average temperatures is.  Next weekend the longer range forecast has Friday night going one degree below average, but that might be our only chance for the month.  I was raking last Sunday rather than skiing, and that level of productivity on a day of rest is far less my style than bumming around on a ski lift.

hamamelis pallida

The first of the Asian witch hazels are opening, with Hamamelis x ‘Pallida’ in the lead.  

On the plus side I was able to spread a compost mulch over the last neglected snowdrop bed and start trimming hellebores.  Things are starting to sprout and I’ll take the warm weather as one last chance to finish last autumn’s cleanup and freshen things up for the approaching snowdrop season.  According to my far-less-than-scientific records, this winter has echoes of 2021, which barely tried to get cold until the end of January, and then sat us in snow and cold until March… which sounds complainy but was actually perfect for holding everything back until it could sprout more sensibly.  2021 might have been my best snowdrop season so I apologize if it sounds like I’m wishing for cold to come just so things here develop well 😉

hellebore buds

This double red hellebore is always eager to sprout, and maybe I can trim off the old foliage this afternoon.  The autumn leaves are staying though, I’ve reached the point where nearly every leaf which falls in the garden remains in situ.  

Even if arctic cold never develops (beyond that little try at an ice age in December) I’m 98% sure this winter and spring will be amazing.  I have buds showing on new snowdrops and color developing on new witch hazels and dreams of an astounding 2023.  The only roadblock I see is catalog browsing, which has been a tad addictive the last few weeks.  I blame the long nights and too cold to do anything/ not cold enough to do other things weather, plus some delusion that I need to order obscure bulbs and shrubs which will haunt me all summer waiting to be planted.  The last few years have been fairly restrained as far as buying new plants so maybe I deserve something?  But no!  That kind of thinking is so dangerous during the post-Holiday season when I’m dealing with cookie withdrawal.

galanthus faringdon double

Unlike many of the other early snowdrops, Galanthus ‘Faringdon Double’ lucked out with the December cold, and appears to have settled in well for her second year here.  

I’ll have to retire to the winter garden and do some repotting and watering to get my mind off hardy crinums and early blooming viburnums.  There’s plenty to do in there with budding amaryllis and flowering cyclamen and cuttings which need more room.  I have to see where I’m going with things this year since a casual count of pots is already close to 200 and I haven’t even seriously begun in there.  Oops.

pale yellow eranthis hiemalis moonlight

The first winter aconite.  A pale yellow sort of Eranthis hiemalis which always blooms a few weeks earlier than her brothers.  If the weather stays mild they’re fantastic, if the weather turns harsh they freezer burn.

Actually I should go work on the closet organizers.  That’s honest work which makes me look productive even if I’m about as excited about carpentry as I am for doing my taxes, but at least it’s more rewarding and it keeps me out of the garden (mostly).  Perhaps I need more stain and a run to the box store is in order, and as a reward someone gets to look over their succulent selections for a little carpenter’s treat to take home along with the stain purchase.  Hmmm.  That would be the fourth ‘carpenter’s treat’ this month, and obviously not helping the pot count.

Have a great week and obviously a 4$ succulent on a stain run doesn’t count as a plant purchase and is still a better choice than a 6$ coffee or ice cream… not that I’m really ruling out the icecream…

18 comments on “Into the New Year

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    I love your humor, Frank, always good for a chuckle of self-recognition. I gave up looking at catalogs years ago because of lack of restraint once I got into one. The way I view box store purchases: we are SAVING them! It is a rescue operation. 😉

    • bittster says:

      heh heh, us gardeners are all pretty much the same, eh?
      Let me just say there have been no orders placed yet and for that I’m exceptionally proud of myself. Things change fast though, and a snowy February could be expensive and full of May regrets when all the packages show!

  2. As I’ve said before, you are hilarious, Frank. You say, however, what the gardener (me) is thinking. I have an excuse for buying more this year – preparing for photoshoots for my book. The garden must be perfect this summer. I hope you are correct in believing it will be an exceptionally good year!

    • bittster says:

      You lucky dog, that’s an excellent excuse! I don’t know how you’ll improve on what you have, but new plants and goodies are always fun 🙂
      I can already imagine scenes of soothing shade gardens, mossy glades, delicate fairy villages, and summery breezes across wildflower meadows! Can’t wait

      • Thank you, Frank. I am hopeful for the scenes you describe because the photographer is Rob Cardillo. He can make my garden look good even if it isn’t. Maybe he can make it look like Chanticleer (ha.ha.) since he illustrated those books. I can only hope!

      • bittster says:

        Oh my gosh! How exciting to get a rock-star photographer to work with you, that is going to be awesome… well I think so, between your other celebrity visits and interviews and film crews this might be just another event at the farm 😉 I’m excited for your book, it’s going to be great.

  3. It’s currently 40°F and only rain in the forecast. Has me really worried since I haven’t gone looking for any Xmas trees by the curb to chop up for plant protection. I always feel that if we don’t get snow now, we will get it in spring, which is really frustrating. Perhaps I need a winter garden as I am ordering more plants than I had intended and it’s still only January.

    • bittster says:

      haha, and I thought you were ‘buying ahead’ last year with all the summer projects and new planting schemes, don’t tell me there’s another busy year in store? Someone should sit the two of you down and go over the finer points of ‘slowing down’ since new driveways, front garden construction-renovations, deck replacements, the pond… isn’t that all in just the last five years? I’m embarrassed to look back at my own un-finished addition and a few raised beds over the same amount of time.
      Yes, I was thinking the same thing regarding March blizzards. I guess we’ll cross that icy path when we get there since it’s still two months and a quick review this morning has nearly all my snowdrops showing signs of life.

  4. Currently Qdaffs is giving me trouble. I like to pretend that I’m just looking for heirloom varieties, but before I know it, I’ve extended the criteria to heirloom or fragrant. Or small cup. Or . . . And I’m still emotionally scarred by the year I cut back my hellebores in a mild spell and then they got hammered by subzero temps (https://www.coldclimategardening.com/2017/03/10/yes-you-can-cut-back-dead-plants-too-early/). So I haven’t done any hellebore or epimedium trimming yet.

    • bittster says:

      Honestly Qdaffs always gives me trouble. The photography is superb and the selection is always exciting and I’m tempted to row them out in the vegetable garden as a way of getting around the no-room-for-them issue. I’ve done that before. It doesn’t end well.
      I wish someone would do a legit study on early cleanup vs putting it off for protection. Sometimes I think the debris insulates things and causes them to sprout early while bare soil cools off more, sometimes I think it offers more protection and cooling cover. Regardless I’ve had those same hammered hellebores as well as frozen daffodils and mushy snowdrops. I think it comes with the territory when you’re pushing seasons and want flowers in winter… which I do!!

  5. Cathy says:

    I think you were fortunate that the cold spell you had was so early, probably not harming as much as if it had been now… good to hear the first snowdrops are up! Like Eliza said, those poor plants at the ‘not-proper-garden centre’ shops need us to rescue them, so I wouldn’t have any hesitation there! 😉

    • bittster says:

      You’re right. If that same blast of cold comes now (without snow cover) things will look much worse, so that’s a plus… but of course I’m not ruling out another arctic blast!
      -and for the record I haven’t ‘rescued’ any more plants in the last few days, but I have potted up cuttings and divided things so there’s that 😉

  6. Paddy Tobin says:

    It’s interesting to see you feature the same selection of plants which are currently in flower here in southeast Ireland though our temperature have not dipped quite so low. We have a cold spell this week with night time temperatures forecast to drop to -2C

    • bittster says:

      I was thinking the same when I saw my plants behaving as if they’re growing in Cork! In the last few days you’ve raced ahead though and we likely will not be close again until May. ‘Colossus’ has been thinking about opening for two weeks and ‘Godfrey Owen’ has just dropped a first bloom but also has yet to open. We still have plenty of winter to enjoy.

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    We seem to be running the same weather pattern. It has been 15 degrees above normal. The good thing about this is that there has actually been rain and it is able to soak in. Maybe this next check of the drought map will find my area finally out of the drought area. I have seen no galanthus here as yet. It is a bit worrisome what with the drought. The crazy weather has caused some shrubs to lose their leaves that don’t normally drop. One boxwood, in a pot no less, is dead as a doornail. I didn’t know I could kill a boxwood in a pot. I have reached new lows. The wind bringing the normal low temps is doing a fine job of trimming out all the small dead limbs in the trees. When the wind calms I will have a grand game of pick-up-sticks to carry out.
    I was glad to see you have given yourself a succulent bonus what with all that carpentry taking up precious plant-tending time. Cheers and beers…

    • bittster says:

      Good luck on your drought rating, I think it’s about time you were able to put away the summer of 2022 and start off with a clean slate! But of course you might not know for sure until spring to see how things made out, so fingers crossed. Fortunately spring tends to have a way of wiping all those disappointments away and refueling the optimism!
      Each year I’m getting better at ignoring more and more of the cleanup. If it falls into a bed there’s a pretty good chance it just sits there until the worms get to it, but the twigs and debris on the lawn are still something that I can’t leave!

  8. Pauline says:

    Snowdrops keep coming here, some are now over that were flowering at Christmas, even though we are having a prolonged freeze of usually -4 or -5 C each night. I’ve been tidying the woodland and it is now looking a lot better, I stay out working until my fingers and toes are just too cold and then have to come in. Hope you get your longed for weather, your snowdrops will wait for it!

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