Is It Winter Yet?

Cedars along upper field at the farm Dec 16 07

Icy branches in woods at farm Dec 16 07Ok, now–this is getting a little old. Technically, it’s not even winter yet, but we’ve already had an entire winter’s worth of wicked weather. It’s one thing to get ice, sleet, and snow in February and March, because spring is near, but right now, spring seems a mighty long way away. Still, our neighborhood can be grateful to have survived the worst of the recent wild weather with relatively minimal damage.

Storm damage at farm Dec 16 07

Liquidambar Rotundiloba ice damage Dec 16 07In my garden, the trees are mostly less than head-high, so I don’t have to worry about broken branches. However, at my parents’ farm, which adjoins my place, their house is surrounded by large silver maples (Acer saccharinum), and ice plus wind is a dangerous combination. (Silver maples may have their place somewhere, but it’s not anywhere near a house! Besides dropping branches everywhere, they produce what appear to be millions of seeds, and the practically 100-percent germination makes for a weeding nightmare in gardens.) When Mom and I went for our afternoon walk yesterday, trying to navigate around the fallen limbs and shattered ice chunks was a challenge. Above, Mom checks out a silver-maple branch that fortunately fell neatly between the stable and her vegetable garden, causing virtually no damage. At left, my poor round-lobed sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Rotundiloba’) split drastically. It was only 2 feet tall when I planted it at the farm in 1992, and it was finally starting to look really good. Oh, well. It still has one leader left, and maybe this unplanned pruning will help develop a stronger framework for the future.

Viburnum setigerum at farm Dec 16 07

Other plants nearby were unscathed, fortunately; above is tea viburnum (Viburnum setigerum). Back at my place, the multiple layers of ice have flattened many of the herbaceous plants, but there’s still some structure of interest. Below, Stipa tenuissima in front of the yellow twigs of Cornus ‘Silver and Gold’.

Stipa tenuissima and Cornus Silver and Gold Dec 16 07

Path to barn Dec 16 07

Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ Dec 16 07

Above left, the path to the barn—essentially impassable, so now I have to take a slightly longer route. (I’ve tried to explain to my alpacas that they really don’t require fresh buckets of warm water multiple times a day, but they think differently, and that makes it two against one. So, I spend a lot of time schlepping warm water out and ice back in.) At right above, contorted hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’). What a fantastic plant for the winter garden, with those twisted green stems and wicked spines.

Ice-Covered Bunny and Lavender Dec 17 07

Well, that’s enough of almost-winter in Pennsylvania. When being outdoors is unpleasant or even downright dangerous, catching up with everyone else’s garden blogs is a great way to pass the time. As many of you know, trying to keep up just with your favorites can easily become a full-time (though sadly, non-paying) job. Still, it’s fun to run across new bloggers, so if you have a few extra minutes, why not stop by and give a warm welcome to these newer members of the garden-blogging community?

Dave at The Home Garden (Tennessee)
Frances at Faire Garden (Tennessee)
Christine at Kansas Cottage Garden
Heirloom Gardener (New Jersey)
Savannah Garden

Welcome to you all; we’re glad to have you around! Any other new garden bloggers out there who’d like to say hi?

In a totally unrelated note, I’m guessing that many of you also received your 2008 Bluestone Perennials catalog today. Their plants are terrific, and they’ve been great to do business with, but I must say that their description of Coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’ really threw me for a loop: “Although we like the idea of rock stars as gardeners, this cheery tickseed was probably named for the famed English agricultural pioneer of the same name (b. 1674).” Um, hello? Jethro Tull = Ian Anderson = flute. The plant has fluted petals. The connection seems obvious. I’m all for promoting agronomists, but I’m guessing that the original Mr. Tull is not who the folks at Itsaul Plants had in mind when they named this plant. I could be wrong, though.

About Nancy J. Ondra

Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.

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7 Responses to Is It Winter Yet?

  1. Dave December 18, 2007 at 12:25 am #

    I’m sorry to hear about your sweetgum. I’ve always liked them because of their spectacular fall color. We’re fortunate to have missed that weather down here in the south. What usually gets us is freezing rain which causes all kinds of damage like what you have now.

    Thanks for the mention in your post! Thank you also for pointing out some other bloggers to visit! It’s always interesting to see what other people are working on in their gardens .

    You’re most welcome, Dave. You’ve obviously put a lot of work into your blog, and I hope you get a lot of new visitors.
    -Nan

  2. Frances December 18, 2007 at 6:06 am #

    What a pleasant surprise to be reading your post and thinking what beautiful pictures the icy layer allows, when a link to Faire Garden appears. Many, many thanks, for the pix and the plug!

    My pleasure, Frances!
    -Nan

  3. Kris at Blithewold December 18, 2007 at 7:06 am #

    Hello from an older blogger to you and all the newbies! Nan, your pictures are gorgeous. It’s too bad the most beautiful weather events can also be the most destructive – sorry your sweetgum was so rudely pruned. I bet it will be a beauty still. I love love love that orange! – How hardy is it? And I think you’re right about Jethro!

    Thanks, Kris. Yes, we’ve only been around for about five months, so we’re still relatively new too! I think Zone 5 is considered the northern range for the hardy orange. It’s a very cool plant!
    -Nan

  4. Mr. McGregor's Daughter December 18, 2007 at 10:57 am #

    Sorry about your tree damage. It does seem as if winter has kicked in earlier & harder than usual.
    I’d always assumed that Coreopsis was named after the band & I think I read in the Plant Delights catalogue that was the origin of the name. There seem to be a lot of rock ‘n roll plants introduced recently. I had started to make a list, but I don’t think I can keep up with them all. In my garden, I have (or had) Tiarella ‘Iron Butterfly,’ Coreopsis ‘Sunshine Superman,’ and Polemium ‘Stairway to Heaven.’

    And, of course, Ajuga ‘Metallica’ and Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’. And Carex ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Beatlemania’. Buddleia ‘Santana’. Aster lateriflorus ‘Prince’. Hemerocallis ‘Midnight Oil’. Sambucus nigra ‘Madonna’. And so many other band names that could be great for plants: Simply Red, Blues Traveler, Moody Blues, King Crimson, Quiet Riot. Wouldn’t ‘Megadeth’ be a fantastic cultivar name for a castor bean, or maybe a monkshood?
    -Nan

  5. Pam/Digging December 18, 2007 at 12:27 pm #

    Though it can wreak havoc on plants, ice surely does create a beautiful scene to photograph. I like that hardy orange too. I’ve seen one growing in Austin at Big Red Sun. I wish I had room for it in my garden.

    Yeah, hardy orange isn’t the kind of plant you squeeze into a small garden, or into any place that kids or pets might run into the wicked spines. I remember it being one of the first plants I learned on my college’s campus: It had been planted to prevent students from cutting through one area, and it was superbly effective.
    -Nan

  6. Elly Phillips December 19, 2007 at 8:17 am #

    Poor Ian Anderson! Even in the plant world, he gets no respect. Thanks for providing the list of rock plants–I’ve always wanted to have my own “rock garden”! I’ve been enjoying your blog and, of course, your photos. And I sympathize about the wretched silver maple seedlings–but it could be worse. There’s nothing like pulling up bazillion Norway maple seedlings each year while cursing the previous owners, who thought they were planting sugar maples (!). Thanks, guys. Speaking of guys, how are the alpacas handling the great outdoor ice rink?–Elly

    Hey there, Elly! You’re quite right, Norway maple seedlings are worse than silver maples; at least the silver maples are native, so if some escape weeding, it’s not such a big deal. Duncan and Daniel are still upright, but it’s obvious that alpacas are not designed to handle ice well.
    -Nan

  7. Phillip December 20, 2007 at 12:58 am #

    Beautiful photographs! How exciting to see that you grow the poncirus. Do you have any suggestions on pruning it? Mine is getting out of hand and boy are those thorns lethal!

    Thanks, Phillip! Yes, pruning the poncirus is not a fun task. I try to do it as little as possible, but when I must interact with it, I wear the heaviest jacket, jeans, boots, and gloves that I have. In the past, I tried snipping off the stem tips to shape it up a bit, but the side branching made the stems look very twiggy and the overall form was not as attractive. Plus, trying to remove those woven-in twiggy stems later was a nightmare. So now, I mostly make thinning cuts, removing one or two of the tallest stems at the base. That seems to be doing a good job in keeping the shrub a manageable size, and the more-open form makes the individual stems more visible. If I had a really overgrown hardy orange, I think I’d be tempted to whack the whole thing at the base with a chain saw and hope that it would resprout, rather than try to thin it out. But then, the question becomes: How would you ever dispose of the debris? For that, I have no answer!
    -Nan