The Turning of the Tides

I had a nice surprise Tuesday morning on the way to work.  The normally dark and gloomy ride was brightened up by something I haven’t seen in a while, a sunrise.  To call it a sunrise is giving the event a bunch more credit than it deserves, but it was a pinkish glow spread across the edges of a smattering of clouds and was much nicer than the black abyss I’ve gotten used to over the last few weeks.  It’s a hopeful moment.  There will still be plenty a day before I can walk into work with an actual sun over the horizon, but until then a promising glow in the morning counts for a lot.

hammamelis pallida

With or without morning sun, the first of the witch hazels (Hammamelis x ‘Pallida’) has opened up for a full-bloom show of color in the otherwise bleak landscape.

The promise of seeing daylight again on the ride to work is a nice affirmation that days really are getting longer and spring will someday be more than an idea.  Nice isn’t always good though, since this week typically brings the very coldest days of the season, and getting all sentimental and hopeful weeks too early can be torture when a string of snowstorms rolls through from February to March.  Actually it can get expensive as well.  People get delusional about expanding vegetable gardens and starting viburnum collections and planting new cannas everywhere.  People can also get judgmental toward delusional gardeners, and let me state clearly here that that’s not ok.  You should never be judgmental about people just trying to make the world a better place, and that’s exactly what a February gardener is trying to do with their not-as-well-planned-as-they-could-be new plant decisions.

hammamelis spanish spider

First blooms on a new little witch hazel.  ‘Spanish Spider’ was a totally unplanned and perhaps unnecessary purchase which is proving itself invaluable and essential this week.

For now on I will consider midwinter purchases as brilliant, perhaps genius, foresight.  Leave the bean-counting to accountants and go ahead and buy as many bean seeds as you think your ‘Year of the Bean’ needs.  Tell the naysayers they’re the type who would drive unrecognized genius to cut off an ear, and unless they want to be part of the problem they should instead help choose a nice yellow Romano pole bean to go with the heirloom purple.

pale yellow eranthis

More pale yellow Eranthis hiemalis are hearing the call of spring…. or maybe winter… they are also called winter aconites after all.

So enough with the aimless babbling and back to the garden.  We’re still running a good bit above average temperatures.  Skiing is happening but the ice fishermen are still on the sidelines, and plants are still trying to start growing just a little too early.

peony shoots

Peony shoots always seem to come up too early.  These Peonia daurica buds look awfully exposed but they’re really quite hardy.  At least that’s one thing I won’t have to worry about.

Fingers crossed that the early sprouts mean an early spring, and not a disaster of melted and blackened tender foliage in a month or two’s time.  A few things are still reeling from December’s blast.

freeze damage snowdrop

The fall blooming snowdrops (G. elwesii ‘Barnes’ in this case) did not appreciate going from North Carolina to Newfoundland in 12 hours.  I see new growth though, so I suspect all is not lost.

freeze damaged sternbergia lutea

A Sternbergia lutea (autumn daffodil?) which might be worse than it looks.  All the browned damage is right close to the bulb and the rest of the leaf might follow as the damage works its way down.

freeze damaged sternbergia lutea

Another Sternbergia lutea just a few inches away, further out into the garden which should have been more exposed and therefore damaged, but no, it looks untouched.  The narrower foliage could mean something, and it’s also from a different source.  Maybe it’s just variations in the species, but who knows?  

freeze damaged cyclamen coum

Some of the hardy cyclamen (C. hederifolium and C. coum) were blasted by the cold, but I know they’ll recover, and by the looks of these early buds there’s still a good chance for an excellent spring flowering.

Obviously I can’t leave off on a gardening report with a down note on snowdrops.  They’re inching forward, and hopefully still pace themselves in spite of the continuous above average temperatures.

early snowdrops galanthus ophelia

The double ‘Ophelia’ is moving right along and should make a great show in a few more weeks.  Unlike some, I don’t think she’s ever been bothered by a later freeze.

A few snowdrops are always eager to get started.  Some years it’s cold enough to hold them back to bloom alongside the later varieties, other years they pop up early, hopefully miss the worst weather, and the season is extended that many more weeks:)

galanthus wendys gold

‘Wendy’s Gold’ will bloom during the next nice day, I suspect Sunday or Monday… right before the possibility of two actual winter days… maybe… 

So snowdrops are still good just in case you were worried, and by the way the winter garden is also still good even if winter hasn’t been as healthy as he should be.

Another year of seed cleaning and sorting is finished and now my little coffee table is all tidied up and set for the main round of seed sowing.

It’s all the usual suspects under the lights, plus a few pots of daylily seedlings for the farm. If all goes well this will become a deliciously overgrown mess again by May.

There’s always a few new things. Someone gave me a bromeliad (Neoregelia) last summer and after a billion hours of online bromeliad searching I can proudly say I still only have one and I also haven’t moved to the tropics to grow them better. Go me!

I wish I could say the same for succulents. Who knew 20 bucks on Etsy could get you a tiny box of 10 mixed Echeveria agavoides cuttings!!?? 20 more bucks can get a handful of lithop seedlings to show up at your doorstep!!

So not to brag, I think I’m handling the depths of winter quite well.  Witch hazels on the way, snowdrops in bloom, and exciting things under the grow lights.  I could get used to these non-winters… assuming the two days of cold next week don’t become a habit… but even if they do there’s still always those longer days, the stronger sun, and there’s only so much winter can do against that.

Have a great weekend!


16 comments on “The Turning of the Tides

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    A genius is seldom recognized in his lifetime, alas. Restraint is tough this time of year!

  2. Lisa Rest says:

    I love the blooms on the Spanish Spider witch hazel.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    The weatherman said this January has been the warmest in many years. It is delightful to start realizing that the days are getting longer. Now if we could break out from under all these clouds, soak up some sun. Your lighted plant room looks spectacularly neat and tidy. I have tried to grow lithops so many times. I am a complete failure in all those attempts. I wish you the best of luck with your seedlings.
    I will have to get out to see if my witch hazels are beginning to bloom. Cheers

    • bittster says:

      It was gloomy but warm today. Sunshine makes such a difference since yesterday I was out in the sun all day, today just once or twice.
      I won’t be surprised if all my little lithops end up “returning to the earth”. A mouse attack did in about half, and now the survivors are a weird mix of growing new leaves or looking like they’re going to die. I don’t think I have their soil correct.
      Hope this week’s cold misses you and you just get a sunny winter day to enjoy!

  4. Paddy Tobin says:

    Obviously, you have had some very harsh weather but your snowdrops are at about the same stage of growth as mine here in southeast Ireland, perhaps a week or two behind here. Hamamelis are also in flower here, along with early daffodils. Question: the plants in pot, under lights: are they indoors? In a glasshouse?

    • bittster says:

      It’s somewhat concerning and I was thinking the same thing (that we’re almost at the same points in the season). This is an unusually warm winter and it’s a strange mix of things which won’t be fooled, and others which have decided it’s April. It will be a winter which reminds me that I shouldn’t even consider winter flowers.
      The potted plants are in a cool part of the garage, a sort of workshop, in which I’ve hung several fluorescent lights. It can nearly freeze when we run several windy, single digit nights, but for the most part it’s warm enough for pelargoniums to bloom and do well.

  5. Cathy says:

    It sounds like our winter is progressing very much like yours, but you have your winter garden to retreat to which is such a gem! Perhaps I should take over some of the space in our cellar… 😉 I am noticing the extra minutes of light each day too, although sunrises have barely been visible with all the grey and cloud. I am looking forward to seeing your snowdrops unfold and love your witch hazels. My ‘Diane’ has yet to flower, but it is nearly February so can’t be long now!

    • bittster says:

      ‘Diane’ is still holding back here as well. I didn’t realize they had a range in bloom times, we usually go straight from winter to spring and everything thaws out at the same time!
      I have a few new witch hazels which as slowly gaining size. I think they’re an amazing plant to have and wish they were easier to get a hold of! Good luck with yours 🙂

  6. Looking GREAT! Spring is right around the corner! Thanks for sharing!

  7. That new witch hazel is a beauty. As is your organized garden room. Cold and snowy here, so I am reading mysteries and ignoring the world. It’s been lighter here, but that’s the moon on the snow. Be sure to share pix of that Peony when it blooms.

    • bittster says:

      Cold and snowy isn’t the worst. I almost don’t know what to do with myself when it’s so warm and end up wasting so much time checking and rechecking all the tiniest sprouts and wishing them forward. A good coating of snow puts me back to more productive things 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.