Archive for January, 2011

Why Snow is Good (mostly), and The Art of Driveway Maintenance

Acording to reputable measurements, fifty three inches of snow have fallen – so far –  on our corner of the Hudson Valley. Fine with me, especially because I’m not the one shoveling (see below). But also fine with the gardens, safely insulated beneath a protective blanket that keeps roots from heaving, shelters essential microorganisms, and helps prevent excessive breakdown of nutrients.

None of this is news to long time plant people, but even as a very long time plant person I was amazed at the extent to which snow matters in the larger environment. If you wish to be amazed too, check out Colder Soils in a Warmer World: Snow Depth, Soil Freezing and Nitrogen losses in the Northern Hardwood Forest. We learned about it at Snow is Good, a lecture given by Dr. Peter  Groffman (last Friday, at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies), a lecture we were only able to attend because Bill thinks snow shoveling is good.

snow shoveler and his work

Bill, mover of tons (and tons) of snow. You will notice that he is smiling.

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Ice Damage to Trees

I doubt there's a gardener living who can contemplate an ice storm without deeply mixed emotions. On the one hand, it's beautiful, possibly the most beautiful thing the winter landscape offers. Trees that have been encased in ice, that shimmer and twinkle in the least light and shine with their own cold brilliance are winter trees at their best - line drawings electrified.

ice on viburnum

Iced viburnum

On the other hand, that’s “best” in a strictly visual sense. Unless you count being covered with ice while still in leaf, there’s no greater stress for a tree’s crown than having to bear great weight on frozen, unbendable branches.

Unless you count ice plus wind.

Our friend Eric over at Yale isn’t mentioning any woes that may have befallen Marsh Gardens, but he does have a lot of good advice in the “how to save your trees” department.

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Eeek of the Week – Nuclear Sludge Toxic Waste Chew Bars

This may be another one of those deals like the single cup coffee pods, where everybody knows all about it but me. Nevertheless –  and notwithstanding some reservations about giving the things any more publicity –  I have to say that a candy bar called Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge is just a little too ironic, even without its being manufactured in Pakistan.

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New Year, New Garden and My Perennial Resolution (Bearded Iris Division)

Resolved (year after year, but this year I’m really going to do it): make the garden smarter – not necessarily smaller, but easier to care for – and more stylishly built around shrubs and grasses instead of herbaceous perennials.

For starters, I’m cutting way back on the bearded iris. Not ripping it out root and branch

blue iris blue hosta

The fragrant, impervious-to-snails-so-their-leaves-look-lovely-all-summer blue ones in the blue border are staying, but

 bearded iris and hesperis

the not-fragrant purple ones, whose moment of glory is even briefer than that of the hesperis in the background, after which their snail ravaged leaves look worse and worse until put out of their misery, are destined for removal.

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In Kitchen and Garden in 2011

There will be trees and flowers and food and garden design and some eeks of the week and a great deal more. But as it happens we are starting out with the wild mushrooms that appear here so frequently, because, as Bill said yesterday,

“ A January Thaw: What could be nicer? Today at noon it was 56 F on our front porch.The sun was shining, our  bees were out for their first cleansing flights of the winter, the odd songbird or two could be heard rehearsing spring calls, and on our new year’s walk this shining bit of cheer and promise: ”

Phyllotopsis nidulans, orange mock oyster

No, they’re not edible; just a reminder that there’s always something growing (and always something to share).