We 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.
The 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. In 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.
My 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.
Every 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.
I 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.
I 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.
My 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.
Really? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.