Abundant Sunshine

“Abundant sunshine” is the Yahoo Weather forecast for today. It is 39° this morning but temperatures will rise to an enjoyable 51° by noon before dropping back to 30° tonight. Forecast calls a welcome warming trend with temperatures pushing into the high 60s on one day early next week. There should not be a flake of snow left on the ground then.

Although we see wonderful signs of spring around the neighborhood like my friend’s crocus below, our home lingers in the shade of tall pines.

Crocus

Crocus blooming in the neighborhood

Where there is deep shade, there is snow. Yesterday I took matters into my own hands and helped some of my newly planted treasures see daylight for the first time in many months. I had no idea what I’d find under the crush of snow and ice but I knew there had to be damage. Plants will live but, darn that snow!

This southern gardener is learning about New England winters. Next fall, the holly below will be tied or wrapped in burlap to protect the shape of the upright growth.

Beneath the snowbank (below), I was most worried about three tiny boxwood I found nearby at Rolling Green Nursery. I fell hard for these dwarf Korean boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Tide Hill’) that were described as ‘rugged.’ The weight of snow from the roof and from driveway and sidewalk clearing was severe in this border. I tried shoveling it off early in the season, but eventually I had to give up trying to minimize or prevent damage to stems. The snow came too fast and too often.

snow

Tide Mill BoxwoodOnce I located all three shrubs, of course I found crushing damage to the top of shrubs…which is sad as these plants only grow about a foot in height.

Thankfully, when handed lemons, my philosophy is to make the sweetest lemonade on the block. Box can be propagated! I carefully removed the stems that were broken, removed the bottom leaves, dipped the stems in a hormone solution, and I’m growing them in a potting mix. Instead of three dwarf boxwood, I should end up with 8 or 9 babies in about 8 weeks. Who knows? My new landscape plan is to have a full border of these most attractive dwarf boxwood.

Tide Hill

 

Let it snow, let it snow!

People tell me they can sense subtle signs of spring. My Kentucky daughter tells me that, although they’ve had a very severe winter in Louisville with temperatures that mirror ours, there are signs “spring is right around the corner.” She senses more light during the day, her garden seeds are bought, and her fingers are tingling to get in the soil. Closer to home, Keene, NH blogger at New Hampshire Garden Solutions posted photos of skunk cabbage emerging through the ice and snow, something I didn’t expect to happen for a couple of weeks. The signs are here but I honestly cannot feel spring at all.

Our arctic freeze may tease us with a partial thaw yet refuses to lessen its grip. Snow drifts are waist deep around the house and 10 times that deep at the edge of parking lots…. with more snow in our forecast for this week. We have spent the last couple of weeks trying our best to thoroughly winterize this home. We have sealed the house, added a couple of more feet of insulation in the attic, and cleared the skylights of ice and sealed sealed them well. No, I just can’t feel spring yet.

Jack Frost on skylightAlthough I know nature is preparing for spring, an activity we attended last weekend seemed to confirm winter’s grip. On Saturday, we traveled to Keene NH to visit family and were entertained at the 12th annual Ice and Snow Festival. We could partake of hot cocoa and cotton candy while strolling the streets of downtown Keene watching the ice sculpting artists at work. That’s not all. We could have fun making s’mores over a bonfire, join in the snowball throwing, watch snow sculpting artists at work, jump on a horse drawn wagon, and meet the official Ice Princess!

Click to enlarge:

Spring is certainly on the way in New England, but winter weather is still being celebrated in carnivals and festivals across the state. Hundreds of New England folks bundle up on weekends and enjoy ice skating contests, ice fishing derbies, snow golf, sled dog racing, and horse drawn carriage rides. As a southern transplant, it’s all new to me and I’m having a ball….

When it snows, it pours….

We are hunkered down today watching the snow fall with the blowing and the drifting. We have been told that we officially have just under 2′ of snow on the ground so far. We measured our drifts against the house at over 3′.  Portland ME, just north of us, broke their previous 27.5″ record with 29.3″. Snow will continue to pile up through the day in the area.  Lovely to watch but we’re staying put!

Monster Blizzard or Not?

With Nor’easter Nemo bearing down on us, mister gardener said perhaps I should remove my last blog post entitled, “It’s Snow Wonder I Like New Hampshire.” He said I might feel differently about snow after the weekend. I chuckled at the time but later I considered his suggestion. With predicted amounts changing by the hour for the coastal region of New Hampshire, we are still unsure whether we will have 24″…. or 32″ as we heard one forecaster announce tonight. Cancellations are streaming across the television and on the radio. By 9 pm, schools and colleges, 2,933 flights, businesses, functions and events have been canceled or postponed. The entire area is shutting down for perhaps historical amounts of snow.

The Great Blizzard of ’78, Boston

We shopped today for all the survival necessities found on everyone’s lists, then dined out tonight. Native New Englanders, clerks, checkers, baggers, waiters, with whom we exchanged greetings throughout the day, seemed nervous. These hardy, robust, resilient natives who normally take everything in stride, expressed real concerns about Elmo. The 1978 snow-mageddon was all the talk today…. the storm with 80 mph winds that left 10 foot drifts, flooded homes, stranded motorists, tons of debris, collapsed roofs, and 99 New Englanders dead. We knew about the storm 35 years ago but mister gardener and I were unaware of the extent of damage the storm caused.

With our minds changed about this potentially crippling storm barreling down on us, we nervously decided to re-check our survival to-do list tonight. Water… check.  Batteries…. check. Groceries….. check. Dry firewood…. check. Snow shovel…. check.  iPad, iPhones charged…. check. Bird feeders filled…. check. Laundry washed…. check.  Autos fueled…. check. Blankets…. check.

How will I spend the days secluded at home beneath drifts of snow? I hope to hibernate, keep my toes warm in front of a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate in a mug, a good book on iPad. Whether we have total white-out conditions with hurricane-force winds or not, I’d like to block out the dangers of the storm that twists and turns and howls outside. The drapes might be closed for this snowstorm.

It’s Snow Wonder I like New Hampshire…

As long as I have a nice fire in the fireplace, a good book and a hot drink, I love a snowy day. I love it if I don’t have to clear the driveway, take the trash to the street through deep drifts, traipse out the mailbox, trudge out to get the morning newspaper, or drive on slippery streets. mister gardener did a lot of that today.

In an all-day-winter-storm like we had today, my favorite pastime is putting my feet up in front of a roaring fire, glancing up every now and then to check snow accumulation. However, lest I sound a bit too inert, I do journey outside for walks in the yard with the dog, refill the bird feeders, sweep the steps of snow or take a few photos of snow laden branches. And here are some photos of the fluffy stuff today. Click on them if you want to see the snow falling. It was an especially beautiful snowfall.

Snow on White PineSnow on roadSnow on Feedersnow clearingAs evening approached, our driveway was finally cleared as the storm began to wane. Perfect timing. Snug again by the fire, one final glance out the window at dusk gave me the last hazy view of the meadow and the house lights of our neighbors, just minutes before the curtain of darkness fell over the field.

I love a snowy day!

Snow on Meadow

Sandy ain’t so dandy….

I walked the dog tonight in the light of an almost full moon. No breezes were stirring. Stars twinkled in the skies and the temperature hovered in the high 50′s…. sweater weather. It’s hard to imagine that astronomical high tides due to this beautiful full moon will align with Hurricane Sandy, a wintry weather system from the west, plus a frigid jet stream from Canada to send tropical force winds great distances inland, with significant rainfall and tidal storm surges along the east coast. We are thinking about our friends in Virginia and we are bracing ourselves for what may come to New Hampshire.

Local lobstermen are moving their traps to deeper waters where they fare better in rough seas and others are taking traps out of the waters. Communities have moved Trick or Treat night and schools will be soon closed. Today I jostled grocery carts with other shoppers stocking up on batteries, water, and some non-perishable goods. We will batten down the hatches, fill the bathtubs and pots with water and download a few iBooks to read in case we lose power. We’ve been through enough of these to know what to do. This will a serious storm but weather forecasting is not a perfect science. Perhaps Sandy’s ferocity will wane. We can keep our fingers crossed. Stay safe, friends….

Lots of Snow… or Not?

Our first winter in New Hampshire was mild last year… so mild that we wondered what all the fuss was about severe New England weather.  We’ve been told by locals to ‘brace yourselves’ for a real winter this year.

Weather predictions call for more snow this year. But with our very own barometers in the garden, maybe we can substantiate or dispute that prediction. The Old Farmer’s Almanac states that, according to folklore, that one can predict how much snow and cold the season will have by the ratio of black to orange or brown banding on Woolly Bear caterpillars. The narrower the area of orange, the more snow and winter weather we will have.

This fella is almost all orange! Maybe, just maybe, we can slip by with another mild winter!

The new almanac does call these Woolly Bear weather predictions just legends. It adds that an entomologist states the color bands do tell about a heavy winter or early spring, but it’s for the previous winter. Interesting…..

You’ve Got Snow!

We awoke early to sounds of trucks plowing driveways… forward, reverse, forward reverse… piling mountains of snow in ditches and yards.

The weather forecast seemed to change hourly yesterday. First we heard “All Snow with totals of 3 – 5″,” then “Snow/Rain Mix,” then “Snow turning to Rain,” then it was “Brace yourself. Snow and lots of it.”  And the last forecast was dead right. When it was all said and done tonight, we measured 12″ of snow at this home.

We ventured out for a walk after lunch to see what havoc the heavy snow was causing. It was heartbreaking to see several major limbs torn from the midsection of a number of large white pines. Small birch trees were bent dangerously low in the swirling snowstorm. mister gardener shook the snow from the boughs of the right birch but it seemed frozen in position.

We cleared off a bit of the snow from the feeder for our fine feathered friends.

We lost power for part of the day. Then it was restored. We then lost our cable internet connection. After darkness fell and snow was lighter, a truck found its way to our driveway. Forward, reverse, forward, reverse.  Lickety-split, we had a snow-free driveway.

Tomorrow, with temperatures reaching 40°, the slow melt will begin.

Hot and Dry Weather: Survivors in the Garden

Hot, dry, windy summer weather can be extremely stressful for plants in the garden. Temperatures in Gloucester have hovered near 100º for the last several days, topping out at 102 yesterday. Life seems to be fading from much of the garden. I am usually found hiding inside during intolerably hot weather, however in the late afternoon, I’ll take a stroll to check out heat tolerant plants that shine through the high temps. Several shrubs and perennials are doing well. Here are two that stand out:

The ‘Becky‘ Shasta Daisies, Leucanthemum superbum, that I planted en masse in early spring for our June ‘wedding garden’ are still going strong. I have been rewarded a hundred times over with waves of showy pure white blooms… great for admiring and great for cutting. They’re the 2003 Perennial Plant of the Year and are proving to be heat and drought tolerant. All they ask for is sunshine and a little deadheading.

Becky Shasta Daisy

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

Light: Full sun

Soil: Growth is optimum in moist, but well-drained soil

Bloom: June to September.

Another favorite that I’ve blogged about a couple of years ago is the Blackberry Lily or the Leopard Lily, a plant that is three plants in one.

1. In the spring, we are rewarded with blue green leaves than fan out in an attractive pattern much like an iris. Indeed it is a member of the iris family.  Familiarly known as Belamcanda chinensis, after a DNA analysis, the new classification is Iris domestica.

Iris-like leaves of the blackberry lily

2. In mid-July we are blessed with a multitude of small orange and red lily-like flowers, each blooming for a day then twisting like tiny wrung out rags before dropping from the plant. I’ve not read anything about the nectar of this flower but have observed a variety of insects actually competing over the sweet fluids.

Blackberry Lily and Sweat Bee

Blackberry Lily and red ants

3. In the late summer and fall and winter, the 3-lobed pods that are green and swelling now, split open to reveal the glossy fruit that resemble blackberries. These will fall from the plant and self seed or stems can be used for flower arrangements. I adore all three phases of this colorful summer perennial.

Belamcanda chinensis

Image via Wikipedia

It will reproduce by seed and by rhizomes which may be divided and shared. Plant rhizomes under 1″ of soil and allow to dry between waterings.

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5-10

Light: Full sun, partial sun, partial shade (I moved my plants from full sun to partial sun and they seem less stressed)

Soil: Well-drained; grows taller in fertile soil.

Bloom: July and August

Zones: 5-10.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester