Forward to Spring — The Winter Clean-Up

Happy Spring, Everyone!

What a wild and crazy winter we had here in the Northeast! As someone who lives in between two great lakes and is used to some challenging weather, I can’t remember a more windy, bizarre winter. With winds up to 75 mph, it definitely was a “hunker down and stay warm” kind of winter. This left me longing for spring faster than usual. Fortunately, my daughter kept me busy, and we have some other exciting things in the mix this year, which will allow me to flex my gardening muscle and challenge me in a different way. Stay tuned for more information!

The Doldrums of Winter

While winter kind of let me down this year, (January was OK, but February and after was blizzard central), I got to do something I haven’t really done since my daughter was born– read!

Amazon prime kept me busy– I pretty much bought books all season long!

They were all great reads, and I think I will be posting my other favorite reads in a future post. However, I am recommending this one first, because, it was the first one I purchased and the first one I loved!

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The Atlas of Poetic Botany by Francis Halle is a WONDERFUL read. Honestly, this book was an Instagram Ad on my feed, and I was intrigued. It tells of the unique plants the botanist has encountered in his many years studying the rainforest. The illustrations are delightful. The words flow, making it an engaging and interesting read. It does not get boring and dry like some other informational/reference books on plants can sometimes get, hence the “Poetic” in the name. If you want to learn about the interesting plants of the tropics, including a “walking tree”, I encourage you to read this. There is another book in this series coming out in May called, “The Atlas of Poetic Zoology”, and I can’t wait to get that one!

Spring Things

This morning, I was finally able to survey the perimeter of my yard, to see signs of spring that I have been anxiously awaiting. Just the other day, we had snow burying all the little treasures just waiting to pop out and bloom.

 

From left to right, my alliums, hellebores and tulips are looking good! I guess my leaf mulch helped them get through the sub-zero wind and weather this year! (At least, I’d like to think it did). I am really anxious to get outside and clean up the twigs and other crazy things that blew in and claimed residence to my landscape.

Garden Plans

Yes, it has happened– I have officially become that person who wants to try to grow many varieties of dahlias. I like them because they are just so darn pretty, and they make people happy.  You can take them into work and give them to co-workers who are having a bad day, and they immediately perk up. They bloom well into fall and you can have fresh blooms all the time. I guess that’s why I like them so much. So, I saw one of my fellow gardeners on Instagram have a catalog for Swan Island Dahlias. I quickly requested one myself.

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So, cut flower gardeners, if you are looking for a good selection of dahlias, this one is for you! Or, if you know of another great collection, please feel free to share! I have purchased a few dahlia bulbs from my local store, so it will be nice to try them from the different places.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to enjoy spring and get my hands dirty!

 

It’s “snow” joke, we need winter for spring blooms!

As most of us are sitting inside because the wind chill is sub zero, and the snow keeps coming. We gardeners are daydreaming of spring. I mean, I just received my David Austin® rose catalog, and the 8 degrees that my phone keeps telling me is not making things any better. We are nearing mid-winter, and that means we are ready for it to end!

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One day soon the garden will be green and lush again! 

 

We must keep in mind that cold and snow is an important part of the gardening process. I am not going to ignore the fact that winter can kill a lot of stuff in the garden, and can cause a lot of damage, but when you get right down to it, gardens need winter to get through the growing season.

Here are some quick thoughts to think about on this winter day!

Snow:

  • Gives the necessary moisture to plants, bulbs and a variety of critters that are tucked away for their winter slumber.
  • Helps big organisms (frogs, earthworms, turtles) in their hibernation/life cycle, and small organisms (bacteria, amoeba, fungi) that are working overtime to make your soil rich and nutritional for your plants and trees.
  • Is a great insulator for all of plants and organisms.

Before you know it, the snowdrops and hellebores will be pointing their little heads to the sky, reminding us all why spring is sweeter because of winter!

 

 

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.

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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!