Friday, June 14, 2024

2024 is half over... Post #1


Greetings! I cannot believe that it's already mid-June in 2024--where has the year gone? I took pictures of my gardens intending to write a post in spring, but I got distracted finishing some writing projects and then working in the gardens, and ended up putting off posting until now.

I'll show a few highlights from this year in two posts: this one will show some scenes from winter and spring. Then I'll make another post for summer to date.

Heap Big Snow

This past winter really wasn't bad as far as Iowa winters go--with the exception of one horrendously big snow and unusually cold temperatures in January. But December and February were exceptionally mild months, and spring arrived early this year.

We got nearly two feet of snow in a few days during mid-January (several days before the Iowa political caucuses, when it would maximally inconvenience and even threaten the safety of the unprepared candidates and journalists traveling here).

Unfortunately, my neighbor who has plowed our driveway for the past 15 years retired from his snowplowing work last fall. He assured me back in November that he would be happy to still plow our driveway because he lives so close and we're never in a hurry to need it done--but then he suddenly decided the 24" was just too much, leaving us in the lurch because we hadn't arranged anyone else in advance.

I desperately asked him for a recommendation for someone else and happened to get hold of the guy he knew on his cell phone while he was plowing the church parking lot near our property. He agreed to plow it the one time (very sadly, as he had been in his truck plowing for about 16 hrs straight at that point), but he told me he couldn't accept any new clients going forward, despite my generous payment out of gratitude.

He was able to plow most of our driveway--except the highest-drifted part between our front fence and our windmill, which was too big for his truck plow. It had drifted up to my chin, and because my husband was away, I had to shovel most of it myself by hand.

Here are a few photos from our Heap Big Snow in January:

A view from our front porch right after the storm. I was pretty worried about the yew tree against the garage wall, which is usually an upright V-shaped tree nearly as tall as the garage roof. I waded through 30" of snowdrift to use a broom to laboriously knock off most of the snow, but it was bowed down like this for several days. Thankfully it returned to its usual shape within a few weeks. 

You can see the chin-high drift outside the fence. That was a lot of work to shovel....

Brrr! And the wind chill factor was even colder than what our thermometer read. Those poor journalists visiting Iowa had a pretty hard time of it.

But there was a cool solar halo due to the snow crystals in the air.

An Early Springtime

Thankfully, the snow didn't last long. It mostly melted within a week or so, and then the temperatures were marvelously warm. I sat outside on our porch numerous times during February, and the winter aconites bloomed nearly a month earlier than usual:

The winter aconites bloomed by the 10th of February this year.

We had some tree work done in February, on an Ash tree that is slowly succumbing the Emerald Ash Borer and will likely need to be completely removed in a few years, and also for some evergreen trees in our windbreak that have listed against other trees. This work is too dangerous for my husband to do, so we called a pro:

You can see the dead limbs on the ash tree on this 2022 photo.

Our ash tree is now limbed up quite a bit. I had removed the collection of tree peonies behind that tree last fall, and moved them to our west terrace, so the falling limbs didn't damage anything there.

Another interesting incident involved the white pergola that had been on the west terrace for more than a decade. Last spring, we removed it and the two supposedly white-blooming wisteria that were growing on it, because they never once bloomed and made the area dark and gloomy by mid-summer every year.

I also cut down and moved some of the boxwoods on the west terrace (this rather looked like total carnage last spring).

The west terrace now has fewer boxwoods outlining only the outer edge, and features the tree peonies from behind the ash tree. I think it looks much tidier now, and I can enjoy the peony blooms close-up, followed by some annual blue salvias.

We also had the small side steps to our house replaced because they were completely rotten, and I had my son use some leftover pavers from a project last year to make a small paved area for a bench on either side of the steps. We sit here much more often now and can enjoy the view to the west--and it's no longer gloomy!

We moved the white pergola to the edge of the driveway last year because I thought I might sell it on Craigslist, but then I realized it would exactly fit inside the entrance to the pond garden area. This is the only photo I could find of it there last fall. I was just getting used to seeing it there this spring, when Something Happened....

Big Wind

On April 16 of this year, Iowa experienced a major severe weather event: there were tornadoes near Des Moines, and we had 50-60 mph winds here. I was home when the worst of it hit, and even though I usually ignore most weather warnings, the wind became so intense for a few minutes, with the rain driven sideways from west to east so furiously, that even I went down to our basement for a couple of minutes, until it lessened. The fierce intensity of that wind was pretty scary, I have to say.

I looked outside afterwards and didn't see too many limbs down, so I thought we'd mostly escaped. But when my husband got home from work he noticed this:

This is the windbreak shown behind the windmill at left in the last photo, on the east edge of our property. Apparently the wind was so fierce that it picked up the entire pergola and hurled it into the windbreak, crumpling it irreparably. I didn't stake it down because I thought it might be safe from wind because there was no fabric canopy or anything on the top to act as a sail, and the bottom was much heavier than the top. But I was wrong.

(I did have the gazebo at the end of yard shown in the last picture tethered down by having pressure-treated lumber posts sunk into the ground and bolting the frame to the lumber--precisely to avoid the roof catching the wind like an umbrella and sadly finding pieces shattered over the next three fields.)

Here's a closeup of some of the tender new growth on a herbaceous peony in our west yard. The wind hacked off the growth like a machete. I've never seen anything like this before.

I guess I was right to seek cover in the basement during that storm....

There goes the pergola to the landfill. Our old pickup truck
looks like something from "Sanford & Son." :-)

Pretty Springtime

Lest you think that Iowa is just one weather catastrophe after another, I'll end by showing a few pictures taken on the usual calmer, nicer days:

Grape hyacinths (muscari) and Basket-of-gold (Aurinia saxatilis) in the front border along the driveway and fence (pre-weeding).

Some early pink tulips, more grape hyacinths and some bachelor button or cornflower foliage (Centaurea cyanus) that have seeded all around my garden and look great now that they're blooming.

These grape hyacinths show a gradation of color from deep blue to pale blue. I don't remember planting this different kind, but I must have done so.

Stripey "Carnaval de Rio" tulips.

That's some pictures from winter and spring that I meant to post back in April. I'll post again with more recent photos of the progress I've made in getting my gardens ready for a group visiting later this summer.

I hope you are enjoying lovely days in your own gardens. Thanks for reading! -Beth


  1. Just gorgeous! The spring flowers and the snow! Snow fascinates me. I don’t get to see it - only from a distance on the mountains. Can’t wait to see more photos!

    1. I'm sure snow seems different to a Californian. Thanks for reading, Debby! -Beth

  2. I always enjoy your posts. Sorry for your damage, Beth. Your spring garden looks beautiful! Can't wait to see your summer garden. I removed most of my tulips this spring and am re-planting, to be sure I have some since, as you know, tulips don't last forever. I ordered 400 from Colorblends-'Banja Luka' and a mix of white, lavender, orange, red and yellow. I am growing flowering tobacco since you wrote about it. Not thick yet by any means, maybe I need to be more diligent about letting it self sow. We had tornado on 4/26. We had some damage to our siding, gutters, soffits and fascia, garage door and fence. We lost 4 trees too and two of our small trees have major bark damage so am concerned we may lose them too. That being said, the garden looks lush and beautiful here.

    1. Hi Beth, I'm so glad to hear from you. I'm sorry to hear about your tornado damage, especially the trees, which take so long to grow into mature size. :-( But I'm glad you and your family are all right. And I'm sure your gardens are looking beautiful this time of year--glad you've added a few tobacco--and that your tulips will be lovely next spring. Thanks for stopping by! Best, -Beth