A Natural Pause

Last Friday, I had a chance to go to Niagara Falls and see the magical, yet cold beauty winter is possessing on the falls. I am fortunate to live about 15 minutes away from this natural wonder of the world, so I couldn’t wait to go up and take in the frozen beauty that surrounded me. It was -9 degrees (wind chill -20) that sunny and frigid morning. I had to take pictures as quickly as possible, as my fingers were freezing immediately! Enjoy!


It was so cold, the mist from the water was going up in the air, and immediately turning into what felt like little hail stones!


The ice covering everything is absolutely breathtaking.




View of Horseshoe Falls from Goat Island.


View of the Falls from Goat Island.


Winter and the Garden : A Damaging Tale

I don’t know anybody who isn’t ready for spring at this point. I love all seasons, but I am getting really worried about winter and what it’s going to do not only to my house (ice dams) but my plants! I fear that being buried under 4 feet of snow is going to result in some major damage. From what I can still see, I have some major Winter Burn, and I already know I have lost quite a few plants. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I have my work cut out for me as soon as the snow melts!


So, let’s start with the basics so we can get a better understanding of typical damage done to our gardens due to winter, and the approach we should take with each of these perils.

Ice and Breakage:

Depending on what part of the country (or world) you live in, many people are have experience some major icing that has coated the trees and shrubs in your yard. Ice is the most damaging and most dangerous winter peril, in my opinion. So what if you have a tree with broken branches in your yard? Unless it is a major danger to you and your house, DO NOT try to prune it. Pruning a broken branch or shrub with ice on it could cause more damage to the plant than you think. Wait until spring to start cutting it back to stimulate new growth.

Winter Burn:

This has also been referred to as desiccation. Evergreens are the most susceptible to this, including my own Emerald Green Arborvitae, which I have mentioned in my posts before. I had purchased two small arborvitae in the Fall of 2013, and I noticed this fall that the one had turn completely brown, as if it were dead. Winter Burn happens when the plant has not received enough water in the fall to sustain itself through winter. And interestingly enough, your plants don’t stop losing water during the winter, either. You can try to see if it will come back on its own, or you can just remove it during the spring. Even just a regular winter takes a lot out of your plants. I have said this before, I know my biggest weakness with my garden is not watering enough. Another lesson learned! 

Animal Damage:

In the past, I have mentioned my never-ending struggle with my “deer” friends. Deer aren’t the only ones to cause some major damage to your landscape. Rabbits, moles, voles and mice can also do some work on your plants. The only thing you can do with animal damage is just wait let it go and allow for nature to heal itself, and prepare better the following year by covering and fencing in the plants you know animals like to target.


As I have depicted many times, most people in the Eastern US are dealing with historic snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.

This is the coldest I have ever seen it in the Buffalo  Metro area.

This is the coldest I have ever seen it in the Buffalo Metro area.

With over 4 feet of snow in your yard, you cannot do anything to help your plants. In fact, trying to help them with that much snow will only harm them. Your perennials that go dormant every year should not be harmed at all, even if they are buried in snow. It’s really hard to harm a plant that has established itself in your yard. Don’t worry about what you can’t control–it’s not worth it.

For the most part, there isn’t anything that cannot be fixed in your garden without a little time and patience when spring comes. “Live and Learn” comes in to mind when you are experiencing a particularly brutal winter, as most of us are this year. None of us have even come close to dealing with weather like this before, so the more we learn this year, the more we will be prepared for the next bad winter!

What am I going to do with that bloomin’ Amaryllis bulb?!

OK, this post is coming much later than I wanted it to. This ended up being an event filled weekend for me. With more snow and sub-zero temperatures for the past three days, along with being sick, a toddler mishap at an indoor bounce house that included a very bloody nose, and furnace issues that come with too much ice build-up from these crazy temperatures, it has not been the most ideal weekend for me. I was looking forward to a relaxing long weekend, too!

Now, it’s time to regroup and get back to normal. Some what I guess.

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day– between being sick and blizzard conditions, my husband and I elected to stay in and celebrate Valentine’s Day by exchanging cards and eating a heart-shaped pizza. It was good!


This was happening yet again on Saturday for us:

My front yard looks like an overflowing bowl of soup!

My front yard looks like an overflowing bowl of soup!

So, while I sat inside going stir-crazy, I started moving things around as usual. Pictures on walls and plants and other “dust catchers” moved to other places. I bought some pretty tulips to brighten up the bleak white landscape around us.


I then happened upon my pretty Amaryllis that has long withered-away at this point. I then wondered, “Can I still use this bulb?” I hated to just throw it out!


My Amaryllis now after I cut it down.

My Amaryllis now after I cut it down.

So, I did my research, and yes, you can re-bloom your Amaryllis bulbs.

Here’s how:

  • At this point, the bulb is exhausted and needs some rest. Cut down the stalk of the flowering bloom. DO NOT CUT the leaves. They provide the food for the “exhausted” bulb.

*Don’t cut the leaves like I did above. It’s wrong. I got a little cut-crazy and cut my whole stem off. Apparently you aren’t supposed to do that. Just cut down the stem that the blossom was on, not the leaves. Another example of Learning As I Grow!! I am still going to try to salvage this bulb.

  • Put the bulb in a sunny window and fertilize it.
  • Once spring has come and the threat of frost is gone, plant it outdoors in a sunny location.
  • In the fall, wait for the frost to hit the leaves until they are brown and then cut the leaves.
  • Bring the bulb inside and keep it in a cool dry place for 8-10 weeks. And then re-pot the bulb and water it.
  • Don’t water it again until you see new growth.

I hope this helps anybody who is interested in keeping their Amaryllis bulbs instead of getting rid of them.

Has anybody made the mistake that I did and cut all the leaves off, and was still able to salvage the bulb? Please let me know!

A Natural Pause

A couple of weeks ago, before we had 3 feet of snow burying the back yard, I was playing outside with my daughter after work when I saw these icicles on the side of my patio. I loved how the dusky sun in the background looked so nice with it. Enjoy.


Gardening Is In The Books: The Woodbook: The Complete Plates

Ahhhh, February you keep coming and we don’t know what to do with you! At this point I am sounding like a broken record, but we keep getting pounded with more snow and the relentless cold won’t let up. This Thursday the high expected for the day is 8 degrees.

So, I can tell you for a fact that I have my work cut out for me this spring. I have lost both my Emerald Green Arborvitae to winter damage. I would love to show you a picture, but I can’t. They are buried under three feet of snow.

To show you I am not making this up, just look at this comparison:

My backyard in early September 2014. Truly blissful.

My backyard in early September 2014. Truly blissful.

To Saturday, February 7, 2015:

I took this yesterday morning. Can you believe this? That's just accumulation, and not shoveled or piled snow!

I took this yesterday morning. Can you believe this?  That’s just accumulation, and not shoveled or piled snow!

Yes, I am afraid I am going to have a lot more damage from winter and deer this year than I have in the past. Well, a few more lessons will be learned this spring, I will detail them all for you!

So, as you can imagine, I have been laying low. This past week was the worst driving to work week in all the years I have been living in the Buffalo Metro area. So, this weekend has been really subdued for me.

This is my uniform on weekends in bitter cold weather:

I have been on a kick this winter purchasing big, woolly warm boot socks like these from Wigwam.

I have been on a kick this winter purchasing big, woolly warm boot socks like these from Wigwam.

Snuggly socks and blankets leave you wanting to do nothing but read. I have been really stoked lately because a couple of weeks ago, I purchased a book that I have actually been looking for in some way, shape or form for a long time. When I read about it in Outside magazine, I couldn’t help myself. I had to buy it!

Now, this is an encyclopedia of trees that will be loved by everyone from gardeners to woodworkers. I am talking about The Woodbook: The Complete Plates. This is a fantastic undertaking by Romeyn B. Hough in the late 19th century – early 20th century. Hough was a doctor and botanist who between 1888-1913 created a 14 volume series that included actual samples from every tree in North America.


This edition of the book was compiled by Klaus Ulrich Leistikow. It has three different “slices” or cuts each of more than 350 trees neatly laid out. This is a multilingual edition that comes in English, French and German. It can be a little confusing, because some trees are referred to by two or more names sometimes, but it lists the description, habitat, type of wood (hard or soft), and use for each one. Informative, thorough, and wonderfully done. It’s been a joy to look through all the plates and see how beautiful the trees really are. This is, as they say, a truly unparalleled work that keeps blowing my mind!

One of the responsibilities of my day job is that I am a graphics/layout designer (not to be confused with a graphic designer) of sorts, and I am getting a ton of inspiration from looking at this book. I have so much to look at and will continue to enjoy this book while I keep getting snowed in!

A Natural Pause

Winter is not letting up in western New York, we are getting blasted with another weather system. Brrr! A cool (hehe) thing was that last night was a Full Moon, also called the Snow Moon. I was lucky (and crazy) enough to go out in the bitter cold to capture a pretty good picture (for me at least) of the moon with clouds around it. Enjoy.


Winter is for the Birds! No, really, it is.

We made it to February! Yay! Winter is long from over (I just received a Winter Storm Warning alert on my phone). While the cold and snow keep lingering, there is still a few things that keep us entertained during the last of the cold, gray, snow-filled days. One of these things would be viewing our fine, feathered friends, the birds!

February is National Bird Feeding Month. Why? Because we are in the heart of winter, and this is the hardest time for birds to find food. You can get a bird feeder at the store for very little money and can be entertained for hours by the birds that stop by.

These two little guys couldn't get enough of all the little birds that stopped by my feeder earlier this winter.

These two little guys couldn’t get enough of all the little birds that stopped by my feeder earlier this winter.

In fact, you would be surprised at what you might get coming to your feeder. Last winter was when I really wanted to start feeding the birds again. I put my first one up when I was pregnant four years ago now, but then I had a baby and it was the last thing on my mind for a few years! In the fall of 2013, I bought a big feeder that I have in the front yard, and three small tube feeders hanging on my patio in the back.

Last winter, I got a very large red-bellied woodpecker at my feeder! My husband was able to take a few great photos of this bird on our feeder. It was absolutely amazing!

As you can see, the top of my bird feeder is off thanks to our neighborhood squirrels who finished up the last of the bird seed!

As you can see, the top of my bird feeder is off thanks to our neighborhood squirrels who finished up the last of the bird seed!

Red-bellied Woodpecker with no red on its belly!

Red-Bellied Woodpecker with no red on its belly!

What do birds eat?

Black Oil Sunflower Seed– this is the best choice for birds, because it is full of nutritional content. Traditionally, the wild bird mix that is about $7 for a 20lb. bag is not hearty enough for the birds, but it works nonetheless. I usually will use the wild bird mix in the spring, when the snow melts and it’s easier for them to forage for food.

  • What birds like sunflower seed? In my experience, almost all of them. The ones that I can get to come to my feeder in my area, that is.
    • Cardinals
    • Blue Jays
    • Black Capped Chickadees
    • Sparrows (Many varieties)

Assorted High-End Wild Bird Mixes –not all mixes mean they are of less quality. There are plenty of wild bird mixes that are very good nutritionally for birds. Mixes are meant to attract certain groups of birds, but quite honestly, I just get the same old birds all the time!

Thistle Seed — I actually tried this last winter and got nothin’! It’s most likely because I really don’t get a huge variety of birds in my area. The ones that I mentioned above are about it, besides the woodpecker. Thistle is actually supposed to attract different kinds of finches. It’s also on the pricier side, so that’s why I just tried a small bag. If you live in an area that has finches, I would recommend trying thistle seed.

Suet— hard beef fat that usually includes sunflower seeds, peanuts, many other seeds. Because it’s a high-energy food like sunflower seed, it’s really good for birds during the winter.

  • What birds like suet? Here are few more common examples:
    • Woodpeckers– LOVE this stuff. All of my birds come around and eat this, but the woodpeckers seem to be the big favorite.
    • Blue Jays, and other varieties of Jays
    • Chickadees
    • Nuthatches

Peanuts — did you ever wonder why there were peanut shells in your backyard while you were digging up your flower beds? Well, birds (and squirrels) LOVE peanuts, and you will find the shells everywhere! You can purchase a peanut feeder for squirrels as well. This is probably the smartest thing you can do, because then while the squirrels have their own feeder, they won’t bother your bird feeder as much!

*When feeding your birds peanuts, make sure they are raw and unsalted. The salted variety is not that good for them.

Who eats peanuts?

  • Woodpeckers
  • Jays
  • Chickadees
  • Sparrows
  • Finches
  • Cardinals
  • Nuthatches
  • Titmice
  • Magpies

Mealworms— are the larvae of the meal worm beetle. They are more of a dessert for birds, not a meal. They don’t have a lot of nutrition to them.

Birds that like them:

  • Bluebirds
  • Indigo Buntings
  • Catbirds
  • Chickadees

Fruit — birds love fruit! It’s a great source of sugar for them. They enjoy many different kinds of fruit, but the two most common that are the easiest to find are oranges and apples.

Fruit can be put on during the winter and summer, and you will have different birds for each season!

Here are some birds (there are many) that you will most likely find at your feeder that like to eat fruit in the winter:

  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jays
  • Cedar Waxwings
  • Gray Catbird
  • Starlings — they can be a bit of a nuisance
  • Finches
  • Wrens

Here is just an abbreviated list of the birds that you get during the winter months. I focused mainly on the most common birds that are around during the winter. Depending on the area in which you live, you just may have different birds that also come around to your feeders.

Give birding a chance! This is a great time of year to put on a pair snowshoes and take a winter walk through the woods and see all the birds are busy during the winter months. Take advantage should the opportunity arrive!