One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Archive for the ‘winter’ Category

Moon Over February


I think there’s something a little magic about this image.

My intension was to show off the new solar powered string of lights our Alberta spruce is wearing these days.   And it seemed like it’d be cool to catch the rising, nearly full moon in the background, but I didn’t anticipate how much like the sun the moon would appear from the long exposure.    Pretty intense reminder that the  light of the moon is only sunlight reflected, eh?

I also like how light the sky was still that evening, since this pic was taken around 5:20 p.m.    Perhaps the best part of February (besides some heart-shaped confection or other…) is the fun of watching the sun set later and later, as our days stretch slowly toward midsummer’s golden evenings.   Which is helpful, since by the middle of February, winter can seem a dreary business, even if one has been wishing and hoping for snowstorms that never quite materialize.

I’m pretty amused, actually, that I’ve gone from being all rah rah about snowstorms to being just about ready for Spring’s warm breezes.  In fact, we’ve had a few momentary tastes of those already.  But then we’ve also had a dusting of snow, too.  Our friend the ocean gives us a little bit of everything, it seems.

But this year, not a lot of snow.   For that, it seemed I’d have to go elsewhere.   Back in December, I’d fled our family Christmas celebrations in Connecticut just a little ahead of schedule in order to get home before the arrival of a big snowstorm.   You may recall that was just the first in a series of such storms that came sweeping across the plains or up the coast with more snow for the northeast this winter.

It seemed every couple of days (although perhaps ’twas once a week) since then, I heard or read the reports of more snow falling there, more piling up.   Another couple of inches one day, another foot another.   It was just crazy the way its kept coming, and ironic that it should mount into snowfall totals to rival the most intense of the Adirondack winters Mom and Dad knew before moving to Connecticut.   Fortunately, they brought with them the experience of those winters, and also their snow rake, so as to remove some of those snow totals from the roof.

By the time I got there, there wasn’t much driveway left.   I was fortunate that there wasn’t any new snow to deal with for the weekend of my visit.   I was, however, met with a solid temperature of nine degrees, making it feel as though I’d made the trip all the way to the Adirondacks, instead of simply northwest Connecticut.

Here’s Mom and Dad’s kitty, Dewey, who’s always very happy to see me.   He and Badum send messages back and forth to one another by rubbing on my sneakers and luggage.   Here he’s a little disdainful that my desire to take his photo is greater than my desire to put more treats in his bowl.

It was cool to see all the snow, or what remained of it.   The white stuff was transforming from snow to snirt by then.   It compressed down a bit by the time I got there, but you could also see actual mountains of snow in public parking lots and such, where snow plow crews just kept piling it higher and higher.    Not a story unique to the region this winter, but still fun to check it out first hand.

Of course, seeing the snow was hardly the point of the weekend’s travel, only a bit of set dressing.   As a Christmas gift, Mom and Dad bought me, Sue and Joe (and themselves) tickets to a local production of RENT, which was going on that particular weekend at the Warner Theatre, the fantastically restored art deco theatre in their city.

It worked out nicely that it was Valentine’s weekend, since it’s always sort of a sweet occasion to get the five of us together, something – to our great pleasure – we’ve been able to do more often in the last few years.   So we had a great family dinner before the show and then coffee and dessert afterwards, and all of that seasoned with plenty of laughs and good times.

As always with these weekends, it went too quickly, and almost before I realized it, I was back on the Cape, where the bare ground and warmer temperatures made all that snow seem like some kind of fever dream.

As the days of February stretched longer, there were a few other signs of spring-ish-ness.    A couple of days when temps rose into the 30s and 40s.    If one looks closely, you can see tiny tips of crocuses and daffodils beginning to push their way up out of the ground.   In fact, I can tell you now that my next post will feature some snowdrops and a few other surprise blooms.

Here’s a particularly lovely sunrise we enjoyed out our living room window early one morning, and just one more shot of that sunny moon rising over the marsh.

February Garden Report

Well, look at that:  it’s almost half-way through February already; two weeks since last I posted.  Groundhog reports suggested only two more weeks of winter tomfoolery, but that seems a smidge optimistic, what with the parade of winter storms and blasts of supercold Canadian air we’ve been enjoying.

As usual, most of those storms have found  us as rain…sometimes LOTS of rain…but we’ve had a little snow, and a some of the seriously cold temps, too.

As for my writing, I’d fall back on the old “what’s a gardener to write about in winter” excuse, but my January flurry of activity belies that condition, as does my silly “March-mas” cactus that blooms every three months.   The latest such display is just winding down now.

I know I’ve held forth about this little plant plenty since making its acquaintance three years ago,  but it feels like such a miracle every time it does.   And lately, each time it blooms, it seems an even better show than the time before.  Check the delightful contrast to the winter scene out the office window.

In the southern sunshine of the living room window, my little pink begonia blooms merrily, a nearly perpetual condition for this particular plant.     There has been a bit of golden sunshine lately, in fact that was probably the only reason we weathered a few of those super-cold days recently passed.

It’s certainly helped, too, to realize that the days are lengthening a little while we’ve been distracted by other things, our skies clouded over with one storm or another.  This past week, P and I realized that there was just enough light when I got home from work to make our favorite walk to the bay and back.   Oh, what a comfort to realize the warm embrace of a summer’s evening isn’t far in the future.

Here’s another sign of the season’s turning:  in one of the front room’s southern windows, I’m sheltering a summer container garden, keeping it watered to see which plants might survive the winter.   This basket is planted with dracaena, geranium and lantana.    Just this week, the lantana has begun flowering.   I didn’t see that coming.

On another front my faith has been rewarded, as my old amaryllis bulb has recently sprung back to life.   If my casual calculations, vague estimations and dim memory serves, it’s doing so about a month later than it did last year, which I now realize was about a month later than the year before that.

By this timetable, I suppose I might get a bloom or two around the start of March, which will be great.   But I only pretend to know anything; they’re plants and they’ll do just what they like.

Last Saturday evening brought us a night of intense storminess with high winds, thunder and lightning and so much rain that it would’ve buried us deep had it fallen as snow.  I was suprised to get this shot out one of those front windows.

It’s a longer exposure setting, so some of the tree blurriness comes from the wind, though the window was pretty drippy, too.   The red light is on a nearby radio tower.   The orange glow is mostly general light pollution, but in this shot, it’s brightened by some lightning, as well.

A few nights after that, they posted a wind advisory, for gusts in the 50 mph range, which isn’t really big news here on the Cape.   Wind’s just something we do pretty regularly, as oft-jangling chimes will attest.   But this storm seemed intense even by our regular standards.  There was no precipitation, just steady, scouring gusting winds that roared and crashed over the house like waves on the shore, making trees creak and dance outside the windows as the house shuddered at the gustiness.  It was a good night to troubleshoot windows for proper insulation.

But then after each of the storms, we’ve enjoyed some sweet sunshine, strong enough to cast crystal-borne rainbows onto a variety of walls at home, something that never fails to tickle me.

In other garden news, on one of our warmer recent afternoons, our Christmas tree Drosselmyer swapped the bright colors of his holiday attire for a new string of LED solar-powered lights.  I think he looks quite handsome, if sometimes ghostly late at night, when the lights are dim.

Tomorrow I head off to Connecticut for the weekend, where I anticipate getting to see some serious snow.  In fact, there was some question about just where I’d park when I arrived there, there’s so much snow, but we’ll address that when I get there.  Fortunately, there appears to be no new precipitation in the weekend forecast.   I’ll keep my fingers crossed for easy traveling and try to bring home some good pictures to share.

And last but not least, Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us.   Even though I generally prefer the production numbers about Abe Lincoln, I do hope you’ll have a sweet weekend, no matter your “relationship status”.

Remember that it’s not about whether you’re single or coupled.  Make it a day to celebrate whom (or what) ever it is that you love:  your family, your friends, your cat.

Have fun and stay warm!

Snowy Day

It started out just the way it always does.

There was the sudden appearance on the long range forecast of the big Snowflake icon…and shortly after that, a Winter Storm Watch was posted.     It was far too warm to snow, it seemed, though the temperature seemed to be teetering back and forth and every now and then, we’d look out the office windows and see that the rain was “thicker”.     And then there were wildly swirling snowflakes the size of our heads.

About that time someone heard the forecast about heavy bands of snow sweeping along the Connecticut coast in our direction with the possibility of four inches of heavy snow by 4 pm and a quiet murmur of panic sounded as the usual suspects began to fret about being able to get home safely.   As darkness fell – earlier under the storm’s cloak – and the Storm Watch upgraded to a Warning, our temperature began to climb.   It was heavy rain through which we made our ways home.

And rain that continued on into the evening, spattering the windows as the howling winds began to mount.   Even in the face of that, there was the possibility that we might…only might…wake up to a world of white.  In bed at a reasonable (for me, anyway) hour and snuggling for a bit with Mister Purrypants, I listened to the rain, loud on the windows, on the roof, on the side of the house, not unlike many nights here on Cape Cod, actually.

I did sleep – it’s actually a comforting sound when one’s accustomed to it, I find – but it wasn’t a quiet night and I was attuned enough to the sounds of the storm that I could tell when the temperature would drop and the rain on the windows would start to freeze and sound harder on impact, no longer quite a liquid.   And then it would change back again.   Then, somewhere around 5 or so, I woke to silence, the sounds of the world muffled…and I managed to raise myself up enough for a glimpse out the window, at a world of snow.

There wasn’t much of it, it seemed, but it was still snowing and it was early enough I could comfortably nestle myself back into the covers for a while more.   At least until the Catsby came bounding in, having discovered my momentary wakefulness and capitalizing on it for a bowl refill before I could settle in.

Very shortly, the precious silence was taken over with plow sounds on the nearby highway, in the courthouse parking lot…and then past the front of our place.   Pavement scraping.  Back-up beepers.   The radio chimed in low with the long list of school closings or delayed openings.  And then came the text that our own office opening was going to be delayed a few hours, owing to the slushy, icy snowy conditions out there.

Fortunately, nothing pre-empts The Catdude’s favorite shows and the birds were singing up a storm of their own as the snowstorm began to wind down.

There’s something about this shot below I’m especially fond of.  I think it’s the way our street remains only a tire track at the early hour this was taken and only barely visible through the trees.   I guess what I love about the snow is the way it changes how everything looks.   The dreary dull of this season is blanketed and everything is soft and undisturbed and unspoiled and new looking.

As seems to be the theme so far this year, we didn’t get much snow, certainly not as much as so many other places, most of which were already trying to figure out what to do with the snows from the last couple of storm.

And while it would’ve been sweet to have the whole day off from a bigger storm, I was content that there was time to take a few pictures, to cook a nice hot breakfast and have an extra cup of coffee before getting out there into the workday.  (After all, as Practical Gardener is keen to remind me, a day’s work is a day’s pay.)

This poor bush (is it a privet? I’ll look more closely later on.) was certainly done no service being planted under the eaves of our office building where it must bear this icy run-off, but it certainly was pretty covered in ice and glittering in the sun.

Naturally, once the storm had passed, our temperature dropped back down into the 20s,  but it was still a pretty day with some nice warm sunshine.  Two of us were brave enough to do our usual lunchtime walking, though slushy and potentially slippery conditions kept our lap count down a bit.

Here’s the view out my office window just before leaving to come home this evening.

With the snowy, ice-laden landscape reminding us that all of February still stretched out before us, it’s always cool to be able to see that our days are lengthening and before we know it, Spring will be here.