20 February 2008

Potpourri: A melt, buds, and books

What a difference a few days makes. This was the scene here last Monday--and again on Wednesday. Then the rains began. We had a rain, a freeze, a pause for a couple of days, more rain, and then just a bit of a break.

Hard to believe that five-foot drifts could disappear to almost nothing in spots, but that's the nature of winter these days in my fair province. We could also have those drifts back--or worse--in a few days. It's no wonder we get a bit winterweary, crabby, gloomy at times. Then suddenly the sun comes out, and we're almost giddy with relief, even though we know the respite is brief.

This is also a hard time to get excited about the gardens, because everything looks so messy. Detritus from perennials breaking down, from the dooryard being plowed time and again the past few weeks, stuff that has been hiding in the snow, all emerges and clutters what looked so quietly pristine while wrapped in clean white snow. However, if the weather holds for a day or three, I might make a bit of attempt for pre-spring cleaning. Longsuffering spouse gets to rake the gravel off the grass...but we'll wait til we're surely finished with plowing. April, for sure!

A walk around the yard yielded some surprises, despite the grunge in beds. Normally, a wallflower surrenders by late fall, driven into mush by the frosts, the cold, the snow, the rain...but look at this! Either this plant has become a mutation, or its buds have freezedried...or it's still planning to live and bloom.

Now, today I was doing a bit of catchup reading and was lost in complete and utter hellebore-envy, when I went to Frances of Faire Garden's post about her hellebores. Regular readers have heard my lamentations in the past about my troubles with hellebores; they grow beautifully for me, come through what normal gardeners have for winter, start to wake up--and get slammed by one of our later rain/snow/cold sessions, and turn to mush. I put one more plant in last spring, under my hamamelis 'Diane', and wasn't feeling too optimistic about its survival chances. So imagine my surprise when I found that so far...the plant is alive and well.

And what's this? Can this be...buds? On MY hellebore? Could this be the year? (Hope springs eternal...)
Now, my question to those of you who do well with hellebores: if YOU lived in an eccentric climate where spring plays with our affections until well into May...with wild fluctuations in temperature, all kinds of precipitation, and other crankinesses...would you mulch this plant now with straw or evergreens to protect it from what's coming?

And now for something completely different. Remember in my last post I said I had other authors I wanted to recommend, especially when it comes to colour? Well...lest readers think I'm only crazy about British/European designers, here's a pair from the US I can really get excited about. Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra have collaborated on a few books, and I have two of them. The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer is just how I love my books: a cheery, encouraging, and down-to-earth talk that demystifies the art of planting perennials, whether you're planting for seasons, for problem sites, are a beginner or a perennial addict--or are all of the above! Nan, of course, is one of the great team at Gardening Gone Wild, and also maintains her own site at Hayefield; I don't know Stephanie except from her books, but these are the kind of writers that make you feel like you're sitting at a table, sipping tea and talkin' plants with them, not being talked down at.

And their most recent collaboration is perfect for those of us who love to lengthen the gardening season: Fallscaping! Thanks to this book by Nan and Stephanie, and also thanks to other great writers who inspire like the Netherlands Piet Oudolf, I'm learning all kinds of intriguing ideas for using foliage, late blooming perennials, and other plants and planting combinations for autumn gardening. I haven't finished this book yet--other books are in the queue for reviewing for publications that pay the bills--but if you've ever wondered how to avoid the latesummer meltdown and keep your garden looking terrific well into winter: go buy Fallscaping.

And now...this just in...it's snowing again! The good news is, we were able to get Leggo My Eggo and Jenny the donkey-from-Mars outside today to stretch their legs, after nearly a week in the barn, because the ice finally melted enough that they could go play. We've still got weeks of weird weather to go, but we'll make it. We always do!


  1. Jodi, this post really resonated with me. The weather - same here. Hellebores - same here. Fallscaping - on my list to buy!
    Love, love, love the photo of your horse!

  2. Okay, Jodi! I've done it! I've posted my Geography post, but I can't seem to remember where let you know. However, I did link it to you. ;-)

  3. I've checked out The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer from the library twice already and plan to buy a copy for my personal library. I really enjoyed it.

    I'm so glad you had a meltdown :) and that your beautiful horse could get out and play.

  4. I really need to print out your post and absorb them. I want the books you mentioned but I'm so busy with my new job, keeping up with my blog, and then buiding one house while selling another. Your blog is one so full of information that I need to really sit down and take notes. You are so good at info trading. I enjoy it here with your pics and ponderings. Thank you so much.

  5. In Poland summer is not long - since the beginning of my gardening adventure I was looking for plants that bloom in less popular part of the year - late summer and autumn. Fallscaping is great - recently also I decided to improve it :)

  6. Aaaahhhh it was as wonderful to see Leggo out stretching his legs. It made me feel so uplifted. I was worried about Leggo and Jenny inside as I knew they must be with all the ice and snow there. It is terrible to be cooped up so long.

    I am going to check my library for the books you mentioned. I just love Nan Ondras book FOLIAGE. She writes so well. Not like a tome about foliage but a chat with real good information about her selections for all regions.

  7. So happy you had a respite from the all white all the time out the window, your exquisite horse seems happy too, running with such abandon. I would cover the hellebore with evergreens, more like a tent than mulch, the straw could give too much moisture with the danger of rot. I have ordered Fallscaping and Foliage, and will need to get that Primer as well. Nan's posts are among my favorites, her garden and knowledge are top rate. Thanks for the mention, also.
    Frances at Faire Garden

  8. Hello Jodi,
    I have posted my Geography post under http://guildwood.blogspot.com.
    The Guildwoodgardens.blogspot.com is celebrating tomorrow one year of many happy posts and comments.
    cheers Gisela
    Thanks for a terrific idea..

  9. Jodi,
    Now that I've taken time to read this post, I want to comment again! You're much further north than we are, but we've had such similar weather lately! Rain... and snow... whew! About your hellebores, I know I'd be tempted to take a Blanket outdoors... but the advice using evergreens sounds better! ;-)
    Your book recommendations sound excellent. And your horse is beautiful!

  10. Jodi,

    Your blue arbor is one of the items that I love to see in your garden. All those special touches that you add which reflect your personality. Glorious! Thank goodness we don't have that much snow - I can only imagine.

    Faire Garden and I live fairly close by, so I need to go check out her latest post. My hellebores are living but never bloom. Something amiss, maybe she can advise.

    I see the book you recommended is highlighted - great! How beautiful its cover! Ah, I can't wait to get dirty!

  11. It looks like you're one step closer to spring than I am. We still can not see the ground. I'd love to see the detritus. I'll be kicking up my heels too the day that happens.

    I should buy some new books, mine tend to get a bit dog eared this time of year. They fill my head with dreams and ideas. Too bad I forget everything when I finally get to play outside.

  12. Hooray for Leggo and Jenny getting out for some exercise! With your hellebores, I think I'd keep a flake of straw handy to toss over the clump on very cold nights for the next few weeks. As the plants get older, they have many more leaves, so they provide their own protection. In my experience, anyway.

    Many thanks for the nice mentions of PGDP (how about that pink, huh?) and Fallscaping!

  13. It's amazing, isn't it, how quickly the snow can melt? We had rain on Monday too and a meltdown. I could see that my snowdrops were up, but no blooms yet. More snow yesterday (but not a lot) so winter is white again.
    Leggo is one happy horse! That's good to see :)
    My Hellebore has buds too but this is my first plant, so can't offer any advise. The evergreen mulch sounds like good advise to me too.
    I'm reading Design Primer at the moment and loving it!
    I see your catchildren are back in the sidebar :) Our 3 are in full romper room mode this morning :)

  14. Wasn't yesterday an extraordinary day? I had windows wide open for half the day...it's a day like that that gives one hope that there IS a warm light at the end of that long, winter tunnel. I'm investigating all the books you list, jodi -- your reviews have been very helpful. Kudos on your buds, bud! :)

  15. Hi again, Jodi :-)

    What a transformation in your garden! I am completely new to your garden so I really look forward to seeing it wake up :-D

    Great to see you have hellebore buds at last! I planted some young plants last autumn but it doesn’t look like the will flower this year. However, the day I rescued the crocuses in the garden cantre I also came home with another bargain. It is still in its pot waiting to be planted (so not included in GBBD) but it is a stunning deep coloured double flowering hellebore - with some free seedlings in the pot :-D

    Now, of course, I will need to go and visit Frances to see her hellebores ! Oh yes, and I am also a Piet fan and I was delighted to hear that Nan wrote a book with him – I’ll need to have a look at that now too :-D

  16. Your before and after photos are inspiring! We're still knee-deep in snow with more on the way.

    Your blog adds a lovely bit of colour to an otherwise very grey winter.

    Loved the Be Bold post. If my garden gives you vertigo within five minutes, my job is done.

    Happy gardening.

  17. Jodi: Great post with pictures to prove the points! As for your hellebore...Yay!...I would use an evergreen bough or two to keep the moisture off the new buds. Whatever you do, good luck and can't wait to see them in bloom. I have the 'Fallscaping' book by SC and NO and it is GREAT! I will have to put the other on my list. I am a book whore!

  18. You have a beautiful blog :)

  19. It is snowing here too. Pennsylvania can not make up its mind to either rain, snow, or flood around here... or...
    "All together now!"

    Uugh.. really, I'm not complaining.. just sharing!

    :-) Beth

  20. Jodi,
    Your winter post brought make memories of growing up in upstate New York. They have real winters there too and I remember the desolation of February. However, there is no wild joy like discovering buds as you described. I especially loved pussy willows poking through snow and wayward little crocuses. Thanks for this post.

  21. Garden writers such as yourself and designers such as me are picky, picky, picky when it comes to actually purchasing a book. After discovering The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer I also did a post on it . I feel the same as you do about this very down-to-earth book and it remains one of my favorites in my rather extensive collection.

    I need to check out the Fallscaping.

    Glad to know you had a meltdown and that your horses were able to get out and exercize.

  22. Glad to see you had some relief from the snow. I don't have a wide selection of books, but the two you pointed out. Looks like I'll have to take a trip to my local bookstore.


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