Mother’s Day, 2014

rose-garden-in-May.jpgWe have had enough warm weather for any gardener to begin to sort out the landscape disaster at hand, courtesy of our 2013-2014 winter.  As the weather warms, it becomes clearer what is surviving, and what will not.  Evergreens pruned after August 1 show plenty of damage.  Late season pruning may look smart, but it is an invitation to trouble.  I would advise, if you have formally pruned yews, boxwood or arborvitae, quit cutting August 1.   As for my roses, I quit dead heading them in mid August.  In the interest that they might so better over the winter, intact.

winter-damage-on-roses.jpgThe spring version of the state of the roses was alarming.  The cold came so quick they did not shed their leaves in November. But I had hope. Even though I know that there is no negotiating with nature.  The winter was what it was.  No matter what I hoped it would be.  \winter-2014.jpgIn February, I was buried in snow, and enduring below zero temperatures-for days on end. Now I really understand the winter we just had was incredibly hard. The damage to the landscape is impossible to ignore. I am still worried about my parrotias, and my dogwoods. Given a certain level and length of cold, treasured plants can fail.  The end of a hundred miles of really bad garden road-devastating.

carefree-beauty-roses.jpgMy rose garden is not large or elaborate. It is not perfectly maintained.  In a good year, it delivers thousands of blooms.  The perfume is exquisite.  It has taken 7 years to get the climbers to represent high on my south facing wall.  Never mind the time it took to attach each cane to that wall.  I was living large, given my wall of roses.  My shrub roses were 7 feet tall.  Not so shapely, but beautiful in bloom.  I treasured them.

rose-garden.jpgEvery night in June Buck and I go to the rose garden.  To talk about the day, and to admire the roses. This is a ritual that helps bring order to my busy work life. For the past week, I have been studying the current situation.  Today I am quite sure most of my roses are dead.  The climbing roses are leafing out 8 inches above ground level. The Sally Holmes shrub roses are all dead, but for 2 lone shrubs who have shoots emerging from the bottom. The tops of the Carefree Beauty roses are leafing only intermittently. All of their 7 feet of height has died back to within 6 inches of the ground.

rose-garden.jpgI will say the winter devastation to my roses is very tough to take.  I know I need to prune every rose down hard.  I hope the climbers will respond to my pruning call with gusto, and grow like crazy. As for my shrub roses, I am warming up the idea that they will need to be replaced.  And that I will need to start fresh, and design a new garden. I won’t do a new garden tomorrow-I am still in the shock stage.

garden-roses.jpgI lost my Mom in 2002.  I think about her most every day.  If she were still here, she would encourage me to get over my troubles, and move on. She would never dream of making fun of my disaster.  She would feel for my loss-genuinely.   That’s what Mom’s do.  They help make their children grow.  But she would nudge me in a new direction.  I know I would be so grateful for her concern and counsel.  A Mom-there is no one else quite like her.

garden-roses.jpgMy good friend Joey Randall posted on her facebook page this week that a Mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go. Her words are so much comfort to me today.  If you have had treasured plants that have disaster written all over them, call on your heart.  If your Mom had a lot to do with the length, width, breadth and capacity of your heart, consider yourself blessed. Consult her in any way you can. I cannot really explain this, but my memory of Julia will make my loss of the roses easier.  A Mom is a delight, and a steadfast and most dear friend. A Mom is an ally of the most important sort.

Thinking of you today, Julia.

 

 

Going For The Record

March-2014.jupgReally?  I didn’t really believe the forecast for 8 inches of fresh snow and 40 mile an hour winds, but that forecast proved dead to right.  The snow started about 7am, and never let up until the afternoon.  Long about 11:30 we were experiencing blizzard conditions.  Then the wind.  Howling winds, for Pete’s sake.  If you live in a northern gardening zone, I am sure this sounds like more of the same.  More of the same winter weather to my mind is just about intolerable, considering this is mid March.

March 12 2014 (8)We had 400 hellebores enroute from the west coast yesterday.  The trucker called an hour after his 8am ETA, to say he was having mechanical problems-he would be late.  Late meant that he and Rob were unloading the truck at 9pm last night.  Neither one of them wanted any part of unloading a truck today.  Though it took until 11:30 pm to get the plants safely stowed away in our greenhouse, we had three more deliveries today-all three at the height of the commotion.  Rob just rolled his eyes at me, as he and Steve were on their way outside for delivery number three.

March 12 2014 (15)The UPS truck in our drive summoned another UPS truck.  A boatload of packages were transferred from one truck to the other. What was up with that-I did not ask. This winter has tried each and every one of us.  I could not imagine being in the delivery business this winter. The weather was the top topic of conversation today.  Detroit is but a few inches short of a record snowfall that has prevailed since 1883.  As long as metro Detroit gardeners have suffered the misery of a vile winter that has gone on much too long, why not go for the gold?  Living through the most vile winter in over 100 years sounds better than a dispirited discussion of more of the same.

March 12 2014 (16)I haven’t been able to much walk my garden in months.  The rose garden has been buried in deep snow.  The staircase up is a snow ramp.  The corgis have been confined to the deck.  Did I mention that it is perilously icy everywhere? These pictures are from the inside looking out the windows.  Looking out from the inside has been a way of life for longer than I would like.

March 12 2014 (27)I do have questions, as this is a winter of a length and a breadth that I have never experienced before.  What will happen with my crocus?  Will they stay below ground until all of the snow is melted and the ground unfrozen?  Will they come up late, and bloom as usual, but late?  Will they pass on making an appearance this year altogether?  Once the winter is by, will they emerge bloom and flop over in one day?  Will the forsythias and magnolias bloom?

March 12 2014 (25)Will my shrub roses have die back from the extreme cold?  Will their blooming season be delayed?  Will the June garden be all the poorer for our extremely cold winter and deep snow?  The garden rarely provides answers in advance.  There will be a garden this spring, the shape of which I cannot predict.

March 12a 2014 (5)I am still interested in the fact that we gardeners in this zone have not experienced a winter with this level of extreme cold and extreme snow in 130 years.  This could mean that weather patterns are much bigger and longer than a human life.  As I have always suspected, nature is at the center of life.  People experience a piece, a chunk, a part – maybe just the second act of a much bigger play featuring five acts.  Maybe the past 20 years in which I have been cultivating my garden happened during an intermission.

March 12a 2014 (7)Late in the day, the storm passed, and the sun came out. The winds moved on.  The clear sky and the still were remarkably beautiful.

March 12 2014 (36)Nature?  It is a cornerstone of my life, no matter what.  There are no promises.  Sometimes the outcomes are not happy. Most times the outcomes are unexpected.  Sometimes the outcomes are deliriously enchanting.  Sometimes the outcomes are dreary and unclear.  Am I along for the ride?  Sure thing.

 

At A Glance: And To All A Good Night

new-years-night.jpgNew Years evening, January 1, 2014.

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The 2013 Garden

January-garden.jpgIt doesn’t seem possible that almost 365 days have gone by since I took this picture in January of 2012.  I recollect that we had almost nothing in the way of snow cover last winter; this modest January snow was a welcome relief from the winter grays.  But what interested me most was how the snow illustrated the pruning practices of this particular gardener.  This privet hedge has been sheared flat, and just above the previous year’s growth, for at least the past 3 years.  It is a paradox, or at the least ironic, that pruning  a branch results in a proliferation of growth via multiple shoots at the site of the cut. Eventually this yearly shearing will result in a mass of shoots on top so dense that light and air cannot penetrate to the interior.  A hedge deprived of light and air to the interior will decline.  I try to prune my deciduous hedges to look like a slice of swiss cheese.  In and out, low and high-plenty of places for light to penetrate.  Although I shouldn’t presume a gardener is in charge here, even the most experienced gardener makes pruning cuts that they wish they hadn’t.  A slight snow in January will tell all.

February-garden.jpgFebruary is typically a very snowy month in my zone. That snow cover is insulation against temperature extremes that can heave plants out of the ground .  A February with no snow is a worry.  Plants go dormant for the winter, in order to avoid injury. A cover of snow keeps my plants snugly dormant.  No unwanted mid winter wake up.  Given how brutal our winters can be, I favor plants that are tolerant of a wide range of winter conditions.  I save my lust for plants not hardy in my zone for my containers-so much less heartbreak.

March-garden.jpgThis March I did some major pruning.  Jack from Guardian Tree in Ann Arbor headed back my out of control Princeton Gold maples. He topped my arborvitae at 14 feet.  And he removed an old maple in serious decline from girdling roots. Years ago I planted parrotias and magnolias around this maple, knowing the day would come when it would no longer be viable.  I was glad not to have to watch large portions of the the tree fail to leaf out.  The understory trees will thrive, given more light, and better access to water and nutrients.

April-garden.jpgApril is all about the spring light. Not so warm, this light, but there is the promise of the gardening season to come. The maples leafed out with abandon. Jack had cut the maples back so hard I was worried it would be years before they looked good.  My worries were unfounded.  He will be back this coming March.  The maintenance of a hedge of trees requires a regular commitment.  In April I was glad I had gone ahead and had the trees pruned.

early-May-garden.jpgLate April belongs to the magnolias.  The bark, the sculptural habit, and large glossy leaves would be enough to include them in any small garden, but the flowers are swoon worthy.  This April day, the green maple flowers and magnolia petals peppered the driveway.  I parked in the street. This was a perfect early spring moment.

late-May.jpgIn May, the garden sings.  Every plant is covered with fresh new growth.  The grass is green beyond green.  A pair of old Palabin lilacs on standard flower as if they were young bucks. The gorgeous shades of green is the story of the May garden.  There is no garden marvel quite like the spring.  All of that will to grow that results in so much fresh growth is energizing.  Spring is the best tonic any gardener could hope for.  Late May-the peony buds swell and open-operatic.

mid-June-garden.jpgJune is the time that the roses hold forth.  I would not do without them, no matter how small my garden.  Some years are better than others, but they always enchant me.  The color and the perfume-heavenly. My roses have grown in this spot for 15 years or better.  The most I do is to prune in April, and July, and I dead head until mid-August.  I do not mind the fussing.  They reward me many times over.  My little urban garden-infused with romance in mid June.

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In July, the roses are still representing.  The big pot has been planted, and the boxwood has been pruned.  Every day the four of us go to the rose garden.  The corgis know exactly what I mean when I say “Let’s go see the roses”.  They get there long before I do.  I treasure the late day in this garden.  The temperature has cooled off.  The arborvitae shield the hot summer sun.  I am done working for the day.  This is my idea of a garden which is a sanctuary.

late-August-garden.jpgIn late July, the Limelight hydrangeas come into bloom.  Though we had a cold and rainy summer that was not so friendly to my container plantings, the hydrangeas were stellar.  They were laden with flowers.  The foliage was a very healthy green.  The herniaria carpeting the ground plane of this garden loved the cool and rainy summer.

September-garden.jpgAugust was notable for the street trees that were cut down by the city.  They were rotted and hollow-I worried they would fall and hurt someone.  As sure as I was that they needed to come down, I regretted their demise.  Big trees are a treasure-their loss is not to be taken lightly.

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September was a great month for my garden. My container gardens finally picked up speed.  The weather cooled.  The grass grew like crazy.

October-garden.jpgOctober-one realizes the garden is waning.  The season will come to a close.  Parting from the garden is hard..  Buck shut down the fountain in mid October-over my protests.  I did not want to let go.  He knows when it is time to say goodby.   How the moss grew in the still water!

November-garden.jpgEarly December-an ice storm.  The ice coating every surface is beautiful, and alarming.  There was nothing to be done, except to hope for the best, and endure.  No matter my worries, plants do a good job of protecting themselves from harm.  They have lots of coping mechanisms for which I am grateful. So many things that govern a garden are out of my hands.  But in the end, the will to live and prosper is a powerful force indeed.

December-garden.jpgThis gardening year may not have been my most favorite ever, but I appreciate what I had.  There is much to learn and live by, via the garden.