Winter Flowers and the Promise of Spring

The six weeks from mid-February to the beginning of April are very busy in the yard, but if you are not actively looking for changes, you will probably miss them.

Witch hazel is the first plant to bloom each year, sometime between the end of January and mid-February. It blooms later if early winter is mild than it does if it gets cold early. It seems to need some chill time followed by a few days above freezing in order for the buds to unfurl.

Witch hazel flowers open on warmish winter days—midday is a tiny bit above freezing. Photographed on February 18, 2023.

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Finally, Snow

December toyed with us. Temperatures averaged 2.1° F above normal according to the National Weather Service (NWS), and we had just over half the average snowfall. Snow was predicted for Christmas, which we got, but two days before that, we awoke to temperatures below zero. The windows glittered.

This frost was inside the storm window, fortunately. Photographed on December 23, 2022.

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Signs of Spring and Hungry Rabbits

Looking over the photos on my phone, I begin to understand why I haven’t written much this winter. I have a lot of photographs of my icy sidewalk as I struggled to keep up with it. Several years ago the city required us to replace our sidewalk, and the inspector who came out insisted we lower it. We did. There has been runoff onto our sidewalk after heavy rain ever since, but it was not a problem until last month’s weird storm. The sidewalk was still extremely warm when it hit; I took the last set of icy-sidewalk photographs on February 21, and by the following day it was melted. Finally. All that fretting scraping and chipping gave me a chance to keep an eye on the witch hazel. Continue reading “Signs of Spring and Hungry Rabbits”

The Groundhog Day Slush Storm

Since I had not quite gotten around to posting this although I finished it three weeks ago, I have added datelines so the narrative makes sense.

February 9. Last week was fairly awful weather-wise—following an unpleasantly damp, cold month with very little snow. We got off easy, considering that Monday morning the weather people were saying “3-5 inches of snow,” and by Tuesday morning, it was more like “11-15 inches of snow.” Continue reading “The Groundhog Day Slush Storm”

The Annual Witch Hazel Watch

December and January were pretty warm, relatively speaking, and I was wondering how it would affect the witch hazel. Last year this plant bloomed on January 15; not this year. My guess is that the plant did not know that it was officially winter. The ground was not frozen at this point.

Witch hazel flower buds. Photographed on January 2, 2021.

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Sort of Winter…

I passed a neighbor’s yard on my lunchtime walk, and noticed that the Lenten roses were erupting in flower stalks. I knew I had to check my witch hazel.

Witch hazel. Photographed on January 15, 2020.

It’s blooming. Those are not the only flowers, either. At least a quarter of the buds are open. Those little petals roll up like blow ticklers when the temperature drops below freezing; a cold front is breezing in right now.

This is certainly a little early. Earliest? I am not sure. I will have to check.

Interregnum: December, the Fall Into Winter

After 11 inches of snow on November 11, things got quiet weather-wise. Winter did not quite settle in. We got less than two inches of snow in December, and just a dusting on Monday—not enough to stick to the sidewalks. So what happens in the pause, the interregnum, between fall and winter? Continue reading “Interregnum: December, the Fall Into Winter”

White Pine

I was visiting a client last week and noticed that her white pine, Pinus strobus, was dropping cones. I asked if I could have one—they smell wonderful—and took it back to my office and put it on my desk. Late in the week I noticed  a bunch of little winged seeds scattered under it. The cone looked a little fluffed up—like a chilly bird–it had dried out, the scales had popped open, and the seeds had dropped.

The pinecone still has a few seeds to shed; they are lodged within their scales towards the base of the cone, in the upper lefthand corner.
A white pine cone with seeds it has shed behind it and to the right. If you look carefully at the scales near the base, some seeds are still nestled within. Photographed on March 6, 2019.

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Meditations on Ice, Part 1

I realized as I went through my February photographs that not only am I a little behind on this blog, but February was a pretty icy month. At least it was pretty ice. Since very little else is happening in the garden, I decided to look at ice patterns.

At the beginning of the month, my car acquired winter camouflage, which melted away very quickly.

This freezing rain was wet enough to blob into the patterns you would find in a camouflage hunting outfit, but in white on white.
Warm freezing rain formed very interesting camouflage for my car. Photographed on February 6, 2019.

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