snow, Christmas 2017, magnolia

The Midwinter Garden and Plans for Spring

I heard somewhere recently that we’ve hit the midpoint of winter. Quite appropriately, a foot of snow fell last week.

front garden, snow, Christmas 2017
front garden, snow, Christmas 2017

Full disclosure: these photos are from 2017. Somehow I didn’t get around to taking pictures of this year’s snow. But trust me, it looked just like this!

It’s all melted now, and there are hints of spring. I saw a couple of crocuses budding up today. Yellow ones; they’re always first. I heard a Bewick’s wren trying out his spring song. The Algerian iris, whose first two flowers were buried in snow, is sending up more bloom stalks.

When I lived in a place with real winter, snow came in November and didn’t melt until March. During those months, the garden didn’t exist, except as a memory and a future hope. The only garden-related things to do were read books about gardening, peruse seed and plant catalogues, make plans and lists, and dream.

In the mild climate of my present garden, winter comes and goes. Or rather, it takes different forms, from mild and wet to cold and snowy. The ground is almost always bare of snow. It’s not possible to disengage from the garden entirely, but a kind of not-caring sets in, especially when the weather is cold, wet, and/or windy.

Mild winter days are perfect for certain types of garden work, however. Pruning can and should be done while shrubs and trees are dormant. Today I finally got around to cutting down last summer’s long (20 feet/3 metres) growths of Clematis vitalba, otherwise known as “old man’s beard.” It’s another of my self-inflicted semi-weeds that’s made itself at home here. By now I can recognize its seedlings and pull them out, but there are still three vigorous specimens in different spots. I diligently cut down each summer’s growth in fall or winter, but this year I left it too late and ripe seeds have been distributed far and wide. (On the plus side, I’ve seen dark-eyed juncos eating them.)

Every year I end up growing (or trying to) a few plants from seed. This year it’s the blue camas, a prized native plant of our region, and Lomatium nudicaule (known as wild celery, bare-stem desert parsley, and several other common names). And, of course, my final attempt to grow meconopsis, the captivating and capricious Himalayan blue poppy. Their little seed pot spent a couple of weeks on top of the hot water tank and is now in the garden shed, where it should experience a variety of temperatures over the next couple of months. I’ve had success with this technique in the past. With luck, a few or maybe more than a few (!) plants will result, giving me something to fret get excited about for a season or two.

42 comments

  1. I love those pictures of the snowy garden, ours has been mainly grey and damp, but we had a few days of glorious frost and one day when the bird bath was frozen solid. After melting the bird bath in my dressing gown I got my phone and took a lovely picture of a pink primula with frost on every petal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frost can be beautiful, even though not good for some plants. We’ve had a lot of rain recently, including one heavy shower followed by bright sunshine. Bare trees looked like they were full of little crystal ornaments. Thanks for reading and commenting, Janet!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Snow doesn’t stay very long here. Although I’ve noticed you have to get out and take pictures of fresh snow pretty fast, before it falls off the trees, even in places where it doesn’t melt soon.

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  2. If I recall from news accounts I think you got more snow than us Audrey? I’d love a huge dump of snow and than the next mornings sunrise is when I’d go shooting! If It looked really good I’d charter a plane! Really cold when you take the door off. I always tell the pilot to put the heater on full blast!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We got about a foot 3 weeks ago, but it lasted only a few days before melting. Since then we’ve had rain and more rain. The sun finally came out today. I guess snow is as fleeting where you are as in Victoria, so you have to make the most of it when it’s there. Can’t say I’d want to be leaning out of a plane with no door, though!

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      1. oh a foot would of been wonderful! I heard you guys got more than us on that storm. I felt short changed. Mother Nature teased me.
        Oh I do not go near the door when its off. The turbulence from the wind shakes the camera. I have to lean back a bit towards the pilot. Its also not as cold.
        The upside is that I can great shots with zero plexiglass in between!

        Liked by 1 person

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