hello spring, goodbye nervous breakdowns

VbadwinterMAN, THAT WAS a bad winter is right. Technically it ended tonight—March 20, 2015 at 6:45 PM EDT—though I’m not so sure. My account of its aftermath, in a few representative words and photos:

You’ve heard the stats: lots of storms, and records for cold temperatures. At my place, it was a record for nervous breakdowns.

busted broom 2I BRUSHED snow off the car so many times, the broom had a nervous breakdown.

yaktrax broken 3EVEN MY YAKTRAX crampon-like grippers finally said: not one more step! Boing went one once-stretchy, wire-covered front strap. Boing; gasket popped.

cracked wall 3THE LIVING-ROOM plaster had already let go and cracked up, remember? (I guess after keeping it together since 1880ish, you get to fall apart, right?)

paint chipped by blue jayAND THE female blue jays, anticipating calcium needs for egg-producing season, had chipped patterns of paint off the front and back porch. My paint job? All cracked up. (I’d show you a newer photo of their expanded handiwork, except there’s too still much ice to get near the spots, and the front door remains frozen shut.) I’m going to skip how I feel about the 21 gray squirrels–count ’em!–who think the back porch tastes delicious, OK?

slab of roof iceAS MOURNING DOVES and a cardinal and the drumming woodpeckers tuned up the first warm days, another voice chimed in. Giant slabs of ice like the one above, longer and thicker than surfboards and many inches thick, descended from on high at will. Incoming! Each unexpected bombshell gave me a you-know-what.

burnt rhodiesI’VE NEVER SEEN more winterburn on evergreens, especially the broad-leaf ones like rhododendrons. (You’d have a freakout, too, if you’d stood out there all winter in the minus-whatever without a blanket.)

I know; it’s over, right? (Well, except it will snow today, and it was 11F and windy yesterday morning.)

jelena hamamelisTHERE’S HOPE for recovery, though: The intermediate witch-hazels are trying valiantly to do their thing (albeit a month or so late).

luis in the appleLET THE HEALING BEGIN: My longtime friends from nearby Windy Hill Farm and nursery came to prune the too-big-for-me trees yesterday, including the old apples. (See two brave climber-pruners at work?)

Forward progress, at last, even if still under 6 or 8 inches of 100 percent snow cover, with more approaching. My kingdom for a snowdrop—genus Galanthus, I mean, not one falling from the sky.

(Top-of-page garden doodle by Andre Jordan for A Way to Garden.)

  1. Joan. Weed says:

    Margaret, my Timhop photos of this date show active garden clean-up going on and snowdrops galore! What’s happened? BTW. Broke my wrist on dratted ice this winter so did marathon listening to RobinHood podcasts while having bed rest. Thanks for your company and inspiration.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Joan, and so sorry about the spill on the ice. I swear I rarely go out in winter. :) You are very kind to send greetings, and I am glad you enjoyed the podcasts.

  2. Heidi says:

    i feel your pain! I recently wrote (okay, maybe ranted) about winter in our 102 year old country store that we are renovating and converting to our home. Our snow is gone though and my wattle fence is in progress! I’m doubling the size of my garden this year and truly appreciate the info on your blog. Here’s hoping the snowflakes pass you by!

    1. margaret says:

      So nice to “meet” you, Heidi, and hear of wattle-fence adventures and Manifest Destiny in the veg garden. Hope to see you here again soon.

  3. Sharon B. says:

    Even here in warmer Virginia, my hollies suffered winter damage for the first time. Although dare I complain about the winter burn suffered by my camellias and sweet osmanthus, something I’m sure you can’t grow up there?

  4. Susan Corlies says:

    AT least you haven’t lost your delightful sense of humor!! This was fun to read and the photos are super. Garden on, Margaret!!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Susan, and welcome. Yes, I love to laugh. I see about 6 square inches of grass today in one spot and I am so excited. (Of course it and the ground beneath it are solid rock-hard.)

  5. Margit Van Schaick says:

    Don’t despair. Pretty soon, we will have the wonder of real Spring. I can well imagine the tremendously hard work this Winter brought for you, and without the companionship of Jack. Between Christmas and New Year, I adopted two cats from the local shelter, after more than a year since my tuxedo cat’s fatal illness. Margaret, I’m so enjoying Echo and Olive’s presence! Come real Spring, I’ll show them the outdoor world, to visit.

  6. ellen says:

    I still have so much snow I am not sure what’s going on under there. I don’t know whether being completely covered is an advantage for hydrangeas, but I guess we will find out. It’s snowing right now.

  7. Peg Wolfe says:

    We had a lot of snow and cold this winter in Chicagoland, too, but a two-week period of 50, 60, and even a tiny bit of 70 degree weather this month erased nearly every trace of it. Mid-40s up to upper 50s this week. Great to have a normal spring here this year, as I’m putting in a brand-new garden, and want to get my lilies in ASAP – hopefully by mid-April at the latest.

    All will be well. Carry on!

  8. Dale says:

    My kingdom for a snowdrop indeed
    Still so much compacted ice here who knows what going on . Lots of limb damage… major roof repairs but the sun does have some power and the birds are singing their new spring tunes so won’t be long now… Thanks

  9. Ray says:

    I got my pond up and running yesterday after waiting about 4 days for the ice to melt in the line. It finally did and the stream was running 5 minutes before the vernal equinox. Hurrah! The fish and frogs are now rejoicing in the oxygenated water despite the 37 degree temperature.

    1. margaret says:

      Woo-hoo, Ray. You are weeks ahead of me — I keep the ice open on the surface all winter, but wow, no way I can get the plumbing going for quite some time over here! I tell the fish I will be there soon. :)

  10. Leah Kinder says:

    Hope you are starting to recover from your nervous breakdowns, Margaret! All you’ve been through this winter would be just about enough to make me give up entirely, but I’m sure you will persevere.
    It has been such a crazy winter, that it really makes me wonder when I can get out there and really get started. Even here in northern VA, we still had snowflakes yesterday morning, the so-called first day of Spring. And, if it’s not snowing, it’s raining once or twice a week, keeping the ground too wet to do much of anything!
    However, the daffs, the hyacinths, the tulips and crocus are up now…..so now the deer have decided that they can have a nice salad from the tulips, especially.
    I had a roll of garden fencing that I decided to cut into 2 foot or so lengths, which I left in a half-circle or dome shape and have laid over the tulips and tried to anchor them down, hoping that will thwart them. I don’t know yet if they will figure out how to push it out of their way, but I have my fingers crossed. I’m also considering sprinkling cayenne pepper on or around the tulips…..do you think that would harm the plants?
    Wishing you good weather to look forward to, and no more big headaches or problems to contend with this gardening season!

  11. bavaria says:

    Well, from the glass half full perspective, a hard winter does kill off a lot of pests that generally plague the gardener.

  12. Marcia says:

    We had one warm day…last Monday. I’ve never seen so many bugs. Even though it was a tough winter, I don’t think it was cold long enough to kill them. Seems like it was harder on the plants than on the bugs. My holly is not a happy camper either.

  13. Dahlink says:

    Margaret, I just picked the very first snowdrops this morning. We sometimes see them as early as January here in Baltimore, so these are very late. Yesterday we fished 7 or 8 dead fish from our little pond, which has been covered with ice for 3 months, and found the dead body of my favorite frog. I am very sad over those losses, but if previous patterns hold, there will be lots of baby fish this summer, and frogs always seem to find us somehow.

  14. Donna says:

    Would this be the right time of year to do a heavy pruning on a giant Norway Maple Tree?? Not myself but rather a licensed Arborist. To me, it would seem like the best time where you’re able to best see the branches before the leaves are here. Your thoughts, Margaret?
    I live in the Buffalo NY area.

  15. Mary Sullivan says:

    The tops of my shrubs are beginning to peek out from the snow . They are green and leaning towards the sun!
    Can’t wait for more green to appear in the next few weeks.
    Mary Sullivan

  16. joan packer says:

    I moved here to CT in 1970 from Texas and do not remember a winter as bad as this one, starting with snow mid-November and with below normal temperatures at least early Feb, maybe before, and so late in the season. This is the worst March ever. My yard is still mostly block hard snow cover. I have gotten out on warmer days to do a bit of pruning, but wish I had your yaktrax. I did escape to SW New Mexico in Feb. for a week, which helped with the incipient nervous breakdown.

  17. Georgia says:

    Margaret, until I subscribed to A Way to Garden I never appreciated the difficulties you experience gardening in the northern hemisphere. As I read about snow and ice, fractured humans and frost bitten plants, it helps me to appreciate in a different way what it is like to cultivate flowers and shrubs in a sub tropical city in Australia. Here it is about long hot summers, humidity, sunburned plants and heatstroke for humans. Hailstorms and cyclones shred and punish the garden too. Winter is tantalisingly brief, but even here I love to grow the beautiful Erlicheer daffodils for a glimpse of another climate during the cooler season that is savoured by all keen gardeners down here.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Georgia. We each have our advantages, and our handicaps, I guess! I am probably more suited to cool than hot, so even though I occasionally complain, it’s especially good to have water (part of what winter does is provide some of it), first and foremost. I would wilt in a hot climate! :)

  18. Matt says:

    Here outside of Boston the deer have wiped out everything that wasn’t buried under snow. I think everyone will be bust this spring, or might be summer by the time the snows gone.

  19. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    I’m almost ashamed to say this was the best winter I ever had! Only because I spent it in Florida. Our house faired well (built in 1876). But my houseplant experiment has mixed results. I believe it would have worked better had it not froze below our frost line in upstate NY – I didn’t account for THAT. It still hasn’t warmed up. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

  20. suzanne says:

    Is it too early to prune wisteria? I live in Massachusetts on Cape Cod, similar zone as you but we still have snow on the ground in most places. I usually prune them the end of February/early March but….. Thanks!

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