Snow and More Snow

February 25, 2015 snow melt 018

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I can remember times, when I was still teaching, when I would lie awake at night wishing for a snow day.  School kids have more in common with their teachers, sometimes, than they may realize!  Everyone needs a break from their routine from time to time.  And everyone I know is wishing now for a break from the snow.

But that break is still down the road and over the weather horizon.  Another storm moves in tonight. We have restocked on the essentials: coffee, cream, and cat litter.

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February 25, 2015 snow melt 025

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Snow remains a welcome sight in the winter garden.  Beyond it’s beauty, it also insulates, hydrates, and provides the extended period of cold so many plants in our region require for spring growth.

We may not think about it, but snow absolutely functions like a blanket on our garden beds and in our pots.  Deep snow protects roots, crowns and leaves from winter’s very dry and extremely cold winds.

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Snow insulates and protects sprouting bulbs and awakening perennials, helping them through these last weeks of winter.  Like mulch, it helps maintain a more even soil temperature so plants don’t ‘heave’ up out of the ground during the freeze/thaw cycle.

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February 25, 2015 snow melt 001

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Our ground water is replenished from melting snow.  But so are our potted plants.  Plants can’t absorb water very well from frozen soil.  But melting snow waters plants and helps thaw out the soil when it melts in the mid-day sun.  Without snow, hardy annuals and perennials living in pots through the winter may dehydrate on sunny days, especially when it is windy.

I often water our pots with warm tap water on wintery days when there is no snow cover, just to give the plants a chance to re-hydrate.  I’ve also applied a dilute solution of Neptune’s Harvest, in warm water, to offer a little boost of minerals to help our pots make it through winter’s last ‘Hurrah.’

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February 25, 2015 snow melt 028

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Snow cover helps certain fruit bearing trees, bulbs, and perennials maintain the periods of extended cold they need in order to grow.   Gardeners in regions with gradually warming climates find that some plants no longer get their required ‘chilling hours.”  This means replacing old reliable plants with different cultivars adapted to the warmer climate and fewer hours of freezing temperatures.  Our extended periods of snow this winter help those plants which need the cold as part of their annual pattern of growth.

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February 25, 2015 snow melt 023

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We humans are extremely adaptable, and stubbornly tough.  We find work-arounds for all sorts of frustrating circumstances.  We will deal with this coming winter storm, and the next, and will learn some useful life lessons in the process.

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May spring find you sane, healthy and soon.

But until this winter passes, please remember to stop to appreciate the beauty of it all.

And keep in mind that snow brings its blessings along with its frustrations.

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“The world as we have created it

is a process of our thinking.

It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

.

Albert Einstein

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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Silent Sunday

February 9, 2015 Rhodie 008 

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“When you have once seen the glow of happiness

on the face of a beloved person,

you know that a man can have no vocation

but to awaken that light

on the faces surrounding him.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned

that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

.

Albert Camus

~

February 7, 2015 micro 039

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

First Signs of Spring

January 16 new growth 023

Mahonia, Oregon Grape Holly beginning its winter bloom.

It began snowing this morning soon after I “got up for good.” 

Yesterday sunrise brought fog and gentle rain, but no snow.  Today the sun hid behind thick clouds as curtains of snow fell across the garden.

Yesterday sunrise brought fog and gentle rain, but no snow. Today the sun hid behind thick clouds as curtains of snow fell across the garden.

It was our first snow of the season, although promises and hints have lingered in our weather forecasts for weeks now.

Lichens growing on a budding Azalea branch.

Lichens growing on a budding Azalea branch.

When I couldn’t sleep in the wee dark early hours, there was no trace of snow yet.  But it looked really cold outside.  The cat didn’t mind; and he ran out, given the opportunity; not suspecting that I was going to fall back to sleep on the couch, leaving him out in the cold.

Heuchera

Heuchera sprouting new leaves

Sure enough, when next I awoke, it was brighter, but a thin mix of snow and rain had begun.  Ollie was parked at the back door, huddled as close to the house as possible, trying desperately to speak loudly enough to summon me.  He shot inside as soon as the door opened a crack, with all the force a very large, frosty cat can muster.

I couldn’t be sure whether the ensuing mewing was in appreciation or complaint.  He eventually settled in sullen silence in his current favorite spot under the table, and pretended to ignore any further conversation about the snow.

Lamb's Ears have begun to grow

Lamb’s Ears have begun to grow

Our first snow of the season soon filled the sky and the garden with beautiful plump snowflakes.

Fingers of Daffodil leaves have begun to push up through the mud.

Fingers of Daffodil leaves have begun to push up through the mud.

It only gathered here and there on leaves, branches, and porch furniture, since it wasn’t frosty enough this morning for snow to stick to the ground or street…  But, it kept falling  in generous curtains as I made coffee and cooked oatmeal, answered phone calls and got dressed for the day.

Buds have finally appeared on the Hellebore.

Buds have finally appeared on the Hellebores.

And in honor of our first snow, we went out to search for signs of spring. 

It is only fitting.  Now that we are deeply into our Virginia winter, past the holidays, and settled into a run of cold damp days and colder nights; I knew that signs of spring had to be lurking for anyone in search of them.

Hellebore

Hellebore

Snowflakes were still falling here and there, much more slowly than they had been, when we finally ventured out.  The snow had already passed us according to the satellite maps on TV, but the truth of it fluttered down around us in brilliant, white puffy flakes.

Buds have appeared on the stalks of last summer's daisy.

Buds have appeared on the stalks of last summer’s daisy.

I’ve been keeping a close eye out looking for Hellebores buds to poke up through the cold Earth, and watching for the first probing green fingers of  green to rise out of the mud where I remember bulbs are planted.

And so I began my rounds of the garden to see what I could see.

Hellebore coming into bud.

Hellebore coming into bud.

It takes a degree of discipline to overlook the stubby chewed off foliage of a savaged Viola, root ball lying exposed on the soil, to rejoice in the bit of Daffodil leaf poking out of the ground nearby.  But I was determined to find and record new beginnings today.

Apple mint begins to grow in its pot.

Apple mint begins to grow in its pot.

Today is a new beginning for our first granddaughter, born last night a little after 7 PM Pacific time.  She came into the world happy, healthy, and absolutely beautiful.  She has an engaging smile right from the beginning.  Her face carries  the contented wisdom of the very very young,  and the very old.   A safe and timely birth, happy parents, loving families; we are so appreciative for all the blessings that come with our newest member of the family.

Mahonia blossoms begin to open their bright yellow flowers.

Mahonia blossoms begin to open their bright yellow flowers.

And in her honor, we are convinced, the sky opened  this morning and greeted us with a fresh snowfall.

Melted snowflakes cling to the lavender.

Melted snowflakes cling to the lavender.

As a new life begins in our family, I went in search of the beginnings of new life in the garden.  And I was greeted with an unexpected richness of beauty.

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Buds are swelling; bulbs are making their appearance; new leaves uncurling here and there; and even Forsythia is tentatively opening a bright yellow flower.  Forsythia blooming in mid-January… imagine that!  Even the moss and lichens, always winter companions, are vibrantly green and alive.  They have been enjoying all the rain.

The first Forsythia blossoms of spring time open tentatively along bare branches.

The first Forsythia blossoms of spring time open tentatively along bare branches.

And so it begins.  The first signs of spring from the depths of winter. 

New leaves sprout on a Heuchera munched by the deer around Christmas time.

New leaves sprout on a Heuchera munched by the deer around Christmas time.

I tucked the root balls of Viola back into the bed, bringing moist Earth up around them.  I covered the exposed Iris rhizomes, with their tiny green leaves poking out around the edges, and made a mental note to bring some garlic cloves out to guard the tiny plants for the rest of winter.  So far garlic cloves are working where I’ve left them in the pots near the house, grazed by deer over the holidays.

A young Hellebore, too young to blooms, thrives in this bed of fern and Daffodils.

A young Hellebore, still too young to bloom, thrives in this bed of fern and Daffodils.

The Violas look like they are beginning to recover, although flowers won’t appear again for another several weeks.  They will be lovely again by March, when spring will be firmly settled all across the garden.

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi look like sculpture growing in the edge of the ravine.

It is wise to honor and take notice of the beginnings of things.  The more we watch, the more we learn.  The more we know, the more we can appreciate the wonder and magic of it all.

Moss, ivy, and lichens grow at the base of an old Beech tree.

Moss, ivy, and lichens grow at the base of an old Beech tree.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

January 16 new growth 032

Do the difficult things while they are easy
and do the great things while they are small.
A journey of a thousand miles
must begin with a single step.
Lao Tzu

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