Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter Gardening

Last winter we had so much snow I hardly did anything in the garden from early December until almost mid-February. I went out periodically and tried to avoid looking at the soggy ground. Snow mixed with mud. Snow mixed with moldy leaves. The mushy places where the snow weighed heavily on the plants. The mashed fuchsias. The sad looking roses. The cracked limbs of the mock orange. The broken screen on my cold frame, where I once caught the cat laying in the sun (which is why it broke in the first place, sigh). It was depressing. Turned out though that all my angst was for naught: I only lost one plant. The snow might only come here when the weather is unusually cold but I always forget that it insulates as well. It's the wet, freezing weather that really kills everything.

This year December was snowless but blessedly rainfree: sunny days; brilliant blue and rose sunsets; crystal clear perfect-for-star-watching night skies. The kids might have groused about the lack of snow but I didn't. I'm okay with no snow. A few years living on the east coast ( and driving beaters with studded snow tires and plug in radiators) cured me of the idea that snow is romantic and picturesque and perfect for Christmas time.

Now it seems that we are back to the usual wet weather. Periods of rain followed by periods of clear skies then more periods of rain. Boring weather in many ways, but great gardening weather, because it's so balmy.

Today saw me finally finishing up the fruit tree pruning. I'm trying to rehabilitate the two old apple trees that were on this property when we moved here. One had been pollarded so many times it looked like one big witch's broom, so I finally gave in and sawed off some of the topmost knots. Now it looks rather tragic. Not in the Jane Austen Heroine Tragic vein, sadly. More in the I Feel Unwell And It Shows vein. And even more sadly, one tree has cankers and the other has some weird scabby bark-splitting problem. I am loathe to do more than prune and spray them with dormant oil though. I might be histrionic but I am not extreme.

I went to the Garden Centre yesterday, with the last of my birthday gift cards. I originally went in for an edger, because I love me a good edge, but when I saw that there were shrubs out in the back lot I abandoned my Quest for the Perfect Edger and concentrated instead on the shrubs. Do I get that Better Than a Mallow Rose of Sharon? (no, said the garden person, they aren't very hardy here, stick with the mallows even if they are invasive and droopy) Do I get the Super Amazing Yellow and No Doubt Highly Fragrant Witchhazel? (no, said Sheila's wallet, it's too bloody expensive) Do I get the Bramley apple tree? (no, said Sheila's Evil Twin, you need another bloody apple tree like you need a hole in the head) Do I get the Allspice Bush? (no, said the garden person, they aren't very hardy here either) Do I dare ask aloud why garden centres stock such unhardy items? (no, said Sheila, you don't want to totally alienate this nice garden person)

So instead I got something called Abeliophyllum distichum. It's also known as White Forsythia but it's not really a forsythia (why do they do this? I'm easily confused at the best of times). Apparently it's wildly, crazily fragrant in the spring, even more so than the witchhazels, and is otherwise a nice blue-green shrub. And now it's sitting next to the ancient already-in-the-yard true forsythia, which is no doubt asking the upstart why it's called a forsythia when it isn't.

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