Nonwinter Continues

A few days this month have been average, but nearly every other day has been warmer.  From what the forecast shows, early January looks about the same and I guess that’s great if you’re digging foundations and pouring concrete this winter, but I guess it’s also great for fall snowdrops.  Surely one of those should make this gardener happy.

galanthus potters prelude

Galanthus ‘Potter’s Prelude’ looking as if it’s growing in North Carolina or Virginia or anywhere else where winters are more sweatshirts and sneakers rather than parkas and boots.

I guess foundations and snowdrops both make people happy, but I would like to take a moment and note that none of the construction crews have commented on the wonder of December blooming flowers.  Maybe they’re too distracted by the other wonders of the “winter” garden.

garden construction

The gardener continues to forage the construction site for more and more wonderful stones.  Some of the fill has also been moved, but the gardener waits until everyone is gone before using the embarrassingly tiny wheelbarrow and labor-intensive shovel to move ridiculously small amounts of fill.

Other than a group of snowdrops which looks remarkably similar to other groups of snowdrops, the rest of the garden is significantly less inspiring.

garden construction

The foundation rises.  Mortar runoff can only improve the quality of my lawn.

I suspect the bulk of the foundation work will be finished today.  Then it sits for a week curing before even more building goes on top.  I suspect it will take a while before I’m comfortable with this new massiveness rising in the garden but maybe more closet space is really what’s been missing from my life.  All this time I thought it was more snowdrops, so silly me.

fall pasque flower

A surprise pasque flower rising amongst the trash must mean something.  

Who am I kidding?  We are entering Temple Nursery snowdrop catalog season and I can absolutely guarantee that I will again try to fill that void in my life with new snowdrops.  I already called the bank to make sure our line of credit will be available in time.

Have a great week!

Heading into the Holidays

If pushed I think some people would consider it to be early winter around here, but with my newfound ‘fondness’ for the autumn season I’m going to consider it late fall.  Normally even a hard frost is enough to declare the onset of winter, but as of 5:45 pm today I’m still thinking fall is an ok season and not the usual dark, wallowing in self pity, miserable, death to all growing things, slightly depressing time of year that it normal goes by.

fall garden cleanup

The wild enthusiasm of the potager has once again been tamed by cold, and a good portion of the shredded leaves have gone to mulching the cleared out beds.

Even with a good number of chilly mornings and cold nights, there’s still been a lot of gardening going on… well a lot considering how short the days are and how often an employer expects you to be at work each week… the potager took quite some time to rip up tree-like annuals, dig forgotten potatoes, and do all the put-away stuff that growing vegetables requires.  We all know that the amount of vegetables here really isn’t an excuse to make a full workload, but I did plant half a bed of garlic this fall and finally put the diseased, frozen tomato vines out of their misery so that’s kind of legitimate.  Less legitimate are how many beds were then planted with tulips.  They did well last year and I thought I threw away a good amount of smaller bulbs, but I also know I have a weak spot for tulips so if it looked big enough to bloom who am I to deny a plant its destiny?

planting fall bulbs

Only a few tulips were purchased but apparently a few daffodils were purchased as well.  As far as I can recall they were not purchased by myself, so I’m not sure how they got here, but they’re here now so I suppose I should plant them.

I gave away a bunch of daffodils two summers ago, so based on that and the promise to give away even more this summer, I allowed a few new ones to be purchased.  Only about a dozen, and I swear they were interesting things which sell by the single bulb and never (or only a few times) did I ask for multiple bulbs.  Surely you can imagine my disgust when months later a heavy box shows up, filled with bags of three or more bulbs each plus multiple bags of free bulbs.  Unconscionable.  Then a second box shows up.  Ugh.  Those bulbs were so big I was downright intimidated, and of course I never cleared out the spots where these new goodies were supposed to go.  Nearly 100 new bulbs to plant when I was figuring only maybe two dozen, and then inspiration struck.  A sand bed where you only put summer pots can easily take in a few spring bulbs, and they’ll practically disappear by July especially if you plant them along the far edge.  It’s brilliant if you ask me and it almost makes me regret not ordering more.  What if I really did dig up the overcrowded ones?  I shudder to think about the potential gaps in the spring bulb garden which may have been.

galanthus barnes

The fall blooming Galanthus elwesii ‘Barnes’ seems to be doing well in spite of the beating its foliage takes once winter settles in.  Two years ago it was moved around to the East side of the house and he appears to like the spot.   

Ok so there’s a snowdrop photo.  To be honest I’m not always as thrilled to see snowdrops in the fall as I am in spring, so on a scale of 1 to 10 this might only register an 8.5, but considering the historical average of November hovers in the 2 range that’s pretty friggin exciting.  Maybe I need to compliment these fall drops with some late cyclamen, that would probably boost the thrill-meter to 9.0, or come up with another road trip idea.  Word is Nancy Goodwin is opening Montrose Gardens this Sunday for tours of her nearly famous fall snowdrop walk, and the idea of seeing rivers of thousands of snowdrops in full bloom is enough to have me mapping the eight hour drive South to Hillsborough North Carolina.  That’s crazy though.  I’d have to turn off my cell phone tracking and lie about my destination and I suspect that’s a bad sign when you start lying about your plant addictions.  Definitely bad, so no.  And I’m not even considering it any more…. Not at all…

So look at that, I just cancelled a 986 mile round trip drive to go look at snowdrops, and to distract myself from actually taking the trip anyway I’m going to calculate fuel costs.  Giddy-up I just saved $144, plus at least another 20 dollars in tolls and suddenly I have $164 that I can spend elsewhere.  Genius, and when I spend it at a small business that happens to sell snowdrops, I’m also supporting the local economy and am practically a social engineer.

Amazing.  I hope your week is starting off just as productively 😉

Winter Ennui

From Merriam-Webster online; Ennui –  a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction : boredom

On this day after Christmas I’m missing winter.  Winter is a time of year which really needs some good press and I for one enjoy the clean crispness and simplicity of the season.  On the other hand this weather we’ve been having seems like an endless autumn, and those who read this blog may already know my lack of enthusiasm for that season.  If I was forced to rate seasons, autumn wouldn’t even make the top three.

home grown winter decorations

The front door did get some holiday attention this year with a homegrown selection of evergreens and bits from the woods.

Regardless of my feelings of ennui towards the garden, and my wish that the seasons would just move on with it, I have managed to get a few things done.  The Christmas lights and holiday decorations have never gone up as comfortably, and even though they’re a mismatched collection of leftovers and scavenged pieces they suit us just fine.

staghorn sumac winter decoration

Staghorn sumac (rhus typhina) seed heads catching the solstice light.

I often admit to ‘economizing’ my actions in the garden, and some equate this to laziness, but sometimes this leads to a few nice surprises.  Without freezing temperatures it was much easier to push evergreen boughs and branches into the soil of this summer’s planters rather than working out something new.  Imagine my surprise when on the  way out the door for Christmas dinner I was treated to the most perfect gerbera daisy rising up out of the dried debris.

winter gerbera

A single gerbera daisy welcoming Christmas.

I’ll admit a single daisy is not quite as thrilling as a hedge full of blooming camellias or sheets of early snowdrops but it does make the lingering autumn a little more tolerable.  Also making the autumn more tolerable are new bits of winter interest such as my growing evergreens and this nicely colored red-twig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’) which a friend surprised me with.

dogwood cornus midwinter fire

‘Midwinter Fire’ dogwood belongs to the tribe of redtwig dogwoods.  I love how the branches in the inner portion of mature plants get a yellow orange color while the ends turn darker red. 

The long autumn hasn’t been a complete bust.  Between leisurely bulb planting and leaf cleanup I’ve still managed to drag myself out for a few other small projects.  I finally removed the invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus) which anchored the end of the front border.

invasive burning bush

Bright autumn color wasn’t enough to save this wolf in sheep’s clothing.  There are other burning bushes (Euonymus alatus)  planted throughout the neighborhood but I’m not going to let this one contribute to all the invasive seedlings which have begun to show up.   

I can see why the bush did so well in this poor spot.  The roots became a thick fibrous mass in the six years it’s been here and I’m going to be on the lookout for root sprouts in this area over the next year or two.   

removing invasive burning bush

A prime clear spot in the front border. I promptly filled it with daffodils and tulip bulbs, yet will need to watch for burning bush seedlings and other invasives.  One of these is the Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha) which still turns up three years after the mother plant was evicted.

What I should really get done is more bed prep.  Fall mulch and compost are the best things for this but my spirit is slightly broken in this regard.  This fall I did my usual whoring around in neighbor’s gardens, selling myself for far too cheap for the chance to take home some beautifully chopped autumn leaves.  It was all going well until I discovered my haul was missing.  Who had been watching and waiting to steal my treasure?  The six bags of mulch were tucked out of sight behind a large panicum clump next to the driveway just waiting to bless my compost pile with leaf mould goodness.  They were heavy.  I know that because I lugged them out of the neighbor’s backyard and jammed them into the back seat of my car to get them home. 

Long story (and several phone calls around town) ends up with the township yard waste collectors trying to “get ahead” in their collections.  They came up the driveway, found the bags, and hauled them away to the dump.  My only consolation after calling all over to “get my leaf bags back” is that I found out where free mulch is available, and if I can drive, lift, and lug for a few trips I might be able to ease the pain.  

preparing new flower beds in winter

Another bed expansion with a nice edging trench, leftover lawnclipping ready to spread to smother the turf, and a topping with township mulch.  Chopped leaves would have been nicer.  Just saying.

Other beds have been cleaned, other plants have been moved, bulbs are in, weeds are out.  There’s always plenty to do but my heart’s just not in it.  I’m moving into winter garden mode and hopefully between now and New Year’s I can get that set up properly.  Snowdrops are coming after all.

Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis Group ex Montrose

My first snowdrop for this year. I have it on authority it’s a Galanthus elwesii var. monostictus Hiemalis Group ex Montrose… unfortunately the label needs supersizing before I can update.

So that sums December up.  I hope it’s been a merry Christmas and I hope the holidays are going well for all, and here’s for a wonderful start to the new year!  Best wishes 🙂

Wow, winter was quick!

I got to sleep in an extra hour this morning, so the sun was already coming up as I left for work.  Strange things happen when your routine gets a little off.  Apparently while I slept, winter came and went and now we’re looking at the first snowdrop of the year!  Surely this picture must be right out of late march?

Fall blooming snowdrop

Fall blooming snowdrop

Wishful thinking aside, it’s not March and this isn’t the last snowfall.  It’s the first in fact and the snowdrop is my little fall blooming galanthus elwesii (monosticus?) which I thought had died of spite over the summer.  This is the fall blooming variant of the regular spring blooming giant snowdrop (giant being a relative term with drops) and I just love it.  When I saw it sprouting earlier in the week I did a little skip around the yard and then ran to tell my housemate…. She was much less impressed.  Maybe the kids will appreciate it, I’ll just have to remind them it shouldn’t be picked 🙂

Someone thinks it’s winter

I feel like I hit the jackpot!  It’s not often that I get all excited over a plant, but this one has me visiting it as often as I can (ok, so maybe I do get a little too excited about many plants, hence the creation of this blog, and the insulation it provides my friends and family from too much plant talk)

I think this snowdrop is a fall blooming version of one of my springtime favorites.  I bought the bulbs a few weeks ago at my favorite local PA nursery, Perennial Point, and since they were lose bulbs I (of course) poked around in there to pick out the 10 absolute best (they were all in good shape).  One bulb was already sprouting in the box and I knew I had to have that one.  Even though the bulbs were labeled galanthus woronowii I had a suspicion they may be incorrectly labeled as are many snowdrops in cultivation.  I’m sure more photos will follow once my camera returns from Florida, but for now this one off my phone will have to do in showing what I think is galanthus elwesii var. monostictus.  That’s quite a mouthful, but it’s basically the regular giant snowdrop with just one green spot rather than the typical two.  Also it’s a fall/early winter bloomer as opposed to the normal late winter g. elwesii.fall snowdrop

Nothing is guaranteed, but if you look at the label you’ll see I potted the bulbs up Nov 3, and while its potmates are barely breaking the surface this one is already in full bloom.  I wonder what next year (assuming I don’t kill it) will bring 🙂 ! also I wonder what the other bulbs in the pot will turn out to be…

btw, the cyclamen coum is also way out of season, but I bet it’s more due to relief for having survived my neglect this summer than it is to any new and unusual genetic quirk.  In any case my winter garden appears to be off to a great start!