Do I detect a thaw?

Longer days and stronger sunshine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s springtime.  Warmer weather and a lack of snowstorms means spring to me, and since we’re 0-2 on that front, this weekend’s forecast of almost normal weather gives me some hope that the snow may eventually melt.  My fingers are crossed that the receding snow will reveal healthy snowdrop sprouts, and in the front bed along the foundation this might be true.  This bunch has come along since the last time it was uncovered (Jan 13th), but it’s still far behind last year’s bloom date of Jan 31st.  Still it amazes me that even under feet of snow and temperatures down to 0F (-18C) they continue to grow, disregarding the frozen soil and surrounding ice.snowdrops and snow

Indoors is a different story.  The forced snowdrops are at their peak, and I regret giving them the cold shoulder in my last post.forced galanthus

There’s plenty of variation in bloom shape, plant height, and color and pattern of the green markings inside.  I’m quite pleased all over again and it makes me even more excited the ones outside might someday open!forced galanthus elwesii

A better gardener would keep track of their favorites, and carefully plant them out for observation…. but I’m just fine with big patches of anonymous white.  If there are a few real special ones I can separate them out, but we’ll see what happens once they have a chance to grow outside in the real garden.  The pale drops are nice, but the dark green markings such as this one also look interesting once open. snowdrops forced indoors

This one has such a stumpy, stout stem (but small bloom) that it really contrasts with the daintier one to the lower right of this photo.strong stem on galanthus

Having potted up all 200 of my bulbs for growing indoors, there are pots all over.  I might have gone a bit overboard since usually the windowsills are reserved for post-bloom hangout until things warm up enough to go outside.snowdrops on windowsill

I’ve been pollinating away, so hopefully there will be a few snowdrop seeds to start this summer.  My fingers are crossed since it looks like the sprouts I had coming along with so much promise in January all died during the last couple arctic blasts.

There’s a different kind of hope though.  Birds are singing in the sunshine in a way not heard since last spring, and this little guy was spotted rooting around under the feeder.  He’s not a mouse or vole, but a little half-blind shrew.  I’ve never seen one out (alive) but this guy let me take his close-up from about 12 inches away while he burrowed around in the seed hulls looking for bugs and whatnot.  He’s an interesting guy, one of only a few poisonous mammals (their saliva is toxic enough to kill a similar sized animal), and their hyperactive lifestyle has them eating nearly their entire weight in food each day.  They’re also a little stinky, which we discovered last fall when an opening in the foundation let a couple into the basement. shrew at feeder

Stay out by the feeder is all I have to say… that and have a great weekend!

Opening day for the winter garden

There’s only so much I want to do outdoors while the snow is blowing and the temperatures drop.  It looks beautiful and we have plenty of cozy winter gear but unless I have a snow shoveling job to do I’d rather just admire the whiteness from inside the house.  So instead of bundling up, I dusted off the shop light and set up my little winter garden.  These cyclamen coum and cyclamen hederifolium are hardy enough to overwinter outdoors easily but I’m sure I’d miss them too much under the snow, so it’s nice to have them under lights and in the garage.  Plus with blooms starting, it’s time to give them a nicer spot than the dim, dusty windowsill.hardy cyclamen under lightsThe snowdrops also need more light,  I try to keep them back by holding them in the coolest corner of the garage but they have their own growing timetable.  The first of this bunch bloomed in November and now I’m happy to see the rest starting.  My apologies for the mess and dirt and less than attractive cardboard backdrop…. no Martha Stewart gardening here.potted galanthusLast winter’s cyclamen seedlings also appreciate the lighting.  They didn’t sprout until temperatures cooled in the fall but will now grow and reach a decent size for planting out next spring.cyclamen hederifolium seedlings

With the lights on, these cyclamen will get more regular watering and we’re going to pretend it’s spring 🙂  There are new blooms just under the gravel waiting to come up, and if it’s between looking outside and looking at this, I’ll take the flowers.cyclamen coum blossomNot a bad way to start off the new year.  It sure beats the -9F (-23C) I saw on my drive to work the other day.  Stay warm!

Christmas countdown

Just about a week left till the big day and there’s no question it looks like winter here.  The kids are on their third snow day, but even with all the winter weather I just checked the extended forecast and have the feeling there will be no white Christmas.  Rain and 60F (15C) for the weekend.snow on the deck

But it will still look seasonal here.  This year I was finally able to harvest enough evergreens and twigs from the garden to put something together for winter, and although it’s not much, it does make me feel vindicated for not bothering to trim up the yews into their traditional meatball shapes along the foundation.holiday twigsObviously I didn’t invest too much time in this display 🙂  An armful of yew trimmings, a bunch of dogwood twigs, all dropped into an empty pot with a few cheap plastic balls.  For a second smaller pot, same recipe, just with sumac twigs rather than dogwood.sumac and yew for the holidays I really need more winter diversity.  I’m looking forward to the day when I can add holly and fir and maybe a couple golden conifers and rose hips… I need to get planting!

In the meantime snowdrops will have to do.  Here’s the bunch from VanEngelen all ready for covering up.  There are too many for the winter garden so I’ll have to see if things thaw out enough over the weekend to bury them in a leaf pile or something outside.  In the meantime they can begin rooting inside on the cool garage floor.  For those who wonder about these things, out of my 200 clearance bulbs 194 looked perfect for planting.  For a bulb often recommended to be purchased “in the green”, these snowdrops (elwesii) seem to have survived their dry storage just fine.  I think the traditional snowdrops (nivalis) might have more of a problem with drying out.forced snowdropsNow if I can only get moving on a few other things, I’ve been remarkably lazy lately and spend most of my time browsing other cooler blogs!