Sunday, March 17, 2019

A St. Patrick's Day Surprise!

This was the scene last week: heaps of snow... not very interesting -- or very spring-like!

Hello! Spring is progressing here in Iowa, more or less. In order to get rid of winter and usher in springtime, there are specific steps that need to happen:

  1. Temperatures above freezing (sunshine nice too)
  2. Get rid of snow
  3. Warm the soil
  4. Life stirs within the soil, and plant growth begins!
We've finally been making some progress in these steps, after a long, cold winter in which we still had the same snow on the ground for at least six weeks. Temperatures just never got warm enough to melt it entirely, so we still had large piles of snow everywhere, like the pile in the first picture.

This past week was finally warm and sunny, and also very windy for a few days, which really helped melt the snow and dry up the soggy ground. 

Time lapse photography:

Friday, March 8 (this is how my Paradise Garden has looked pretty much all winter).

Monday, March 11 (Things are looking promising!)
Tuesday, March 12 (A good day's progress...)
Wednesday March 13 (Almost there...)
Thursday, March 14 (Yay!)

Friday, March 15 (The wind has even dried things off.)

It was lovely to watch the daily progress of getting rid of the snow and ice, after living with them for so long. We all sat on the sunny front porch yesterday in our bare feet (a literal rite of spring that we look forward to every winter), and talked about how much we loved a St. Patrick's Day that was warm, sunny and NOT snowy. The 10-day forecast called for NO snow in the next week and a half.

But what greeted me this morning??


Back to the drawing board..... (The sidewalks were too warm already for the snow to stick, though.)
Yes, it's beautiful.
In fact, it doesn't even look like real snow, but more like Hollywood studio snow. The phrase "magic snow" came to my mind as I walked around seeing how it coated everything with such picturesque clumps.

The new snow is already melting as soon as the sun shines on it. It'll probably be gone by tomorrow or the next day, as the temps are forecast to be in the mid-forties today and the fifties for the rest of the week. And sunny every day! (We'll see if those weathermen redeem themselves with some accurate forecasts....)

Spring is coming, despite our brief, and quite picturesque, setback. The bulbs are poking up in a few warmest spots. I hear birds chirping once again. And the sunshine is so lovely and warm. I'm so enjoying this beginning of springtime.

I hope you also are enjoying the unfolding of spring in your own gardens. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Monday, February 25, 2019

The End of February - At Last!

Hard to believe this was the scene in my Paradise Garden last September....

Greetings! It's been several months since I last posted, since there's not much new to see in my gardens -- just more of the white stuff, and ominously, the clear stuff. This has been a hard winter in terms of snow, ice and severe cold.

We got down to -28°F (-33.3°C) on January 31, which is pretty cold even for Iowa (not quite a record low for my southeast area of Iowa, but only warmer by a few degrees -- northern parts of the state have gotten down to all-time lows of -47°F in the past, which is a temperature not fit for human habitation, in my opinion). The local schools have been closed so often that the school year will need to be extended for two weeks.

I haven't had to go outside on the very coldest days, thank goodness, but the driving still hasn't been easy. We had an ice storm a couple of weeks ago, which turned my driveway into a 200-yard-long, solid sheet of ice -- ending with a large ditch on the other side of the road at the bottom, which is pretty scary to be sliding toward. My husband had to park his car on the road several times and trudge up the 200 yards to the house, because it was too icy to drive up and he got stuck.

I got stuck on our low-priority gravel road after a snowstorm last month. I got only halfway up the hill on our road, and then had to reverse all the way back to our driveway -- half a mile in reverse, which took almost 10 minutes, before I could turn around and try going the other direction. That wasn't a very fun day.

But at least the heavy snowfalls have provided insulation during our extreme low temps, which probably helped with plant survival -- we'll see in April if this is actually true....

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the snow and ice -- taken from inside my house, of course. Some of them are undeniably pretty:

This has been what the Paradise Garden has looked like during most of this winter.
Then we got the snow and the Big Ice a couple weeks ago.
A closeup of the fascinating icicles that formed on the pergola in the PG.
The West Terrace, every branch outlined in ice.
Looking out across the fields, everything covered in ice.

I'll certainly be glad when some warmer temperatures arrive and bulbs start poking out from the solidly frozen ground, in that always-welcome sign of spring. I thought I heard a bird chip the other day -- I sort of hope not, poor thing -- it's back too early!

But being closed in for the winter has allowed me to work on finishing up and publishing my book about Iowa garden history -- it will be more difficult to do this once nice temperatures arrive and I want to do some work outside. March is only a few days away, and springtime can't be far off then, can it?

Hope you are seeing signs of impending spring in your own gardens. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Still sunny and tropical in my sunroom, thank goodness!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The White Stuff Has Arrived!

The grayscale view across the Pond Gardens this morning.

The First Snow fell last night and we woke this morning to a light layer of white covering everything. This is the snow that most people, even including myself, can be enthusiastic about: a novelty that changes the entire look of the landscape overnight, and which will likely be gone in a couple of days.

Snow at this time of year is fun. Hardly any shoveling needed, and it goes away quickly on its own. (Not the snow of February, which keeps piling on the snows of January, forming sharp ice layers between batches, becoming a gray, dirty mess that's so hard to shovel that people die of heart attacks trying to clear their front walks.) This is the fun sort of snow, just enough of it to look picturesque.

A view to the gazebo on the south end of our property.

White on white on white....

I've just about finished the last garden tasks that need to be done this year -- with the exception of planting a few last bulbs in my Front Border. The ground isn't frozen yet, so I hope to be able to do that in the next week or so.

Yesterday I finally drained, disassembled and stored away the fountain in my Paradise Garden -- I was waiting until the last decent moment to do it, because doing it symbolically meant the end of the gardening season. I know that it's actually it's been ending in stages, like bringing in the potted tropical plants, pulling out the annuals cut down by the first frost and planting bulbs for spring.

But the heart of any Paradise Garden is the water, and now the center of my favorite garden is gone. My husband suggested putting a Christmas tree in a pot there, and I wondered about a fire ring instead of a fountain -- but none of our ideas seemed right for such a garden. Better to wait for spring when it can be reborn to what it's meant to be.

The Fountain, the heart of the Paradise Garden, has gone to its winter storage.

Winter is definitely here.

It's probably time to pull out the mounds of petunias that improbably have stayed green all the way up to this point, far after our hard frosts. Oh, and to make my kids put away the patio furniture and grill.

Soon I'll put up the icicle lights across my front sunroom windows, which always looks cozy. My teenage daughter pointedly informed me this week that there are only six weeks until Christmas. It's fun to get ready for Christmas and stay warm and hygge inside with wood-burning fires, fuzzy blankets and purring cats.

Winter can be nice for a while -- I really don't mind it in December and January. I just wish it wouldn't go on for so long -- it would seem more special if it finished up in February, instead of March (or even April, like last winter). But I'll try to make the most of the enjoyable part of winter, and not think about the rest of it. Here's to an early spring!

I hope you are enjoying a cozy transition from autumn to winter in your own gardens and home this season, and that spring will come early for you too. Thanks for reading! -Beth