Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Monday, January 30, 2006
Weather, Bees, and ... Snowdrops
Remarkable weather, once again. 64 degrees at Dulles at 12:52pm. Astonishing to me is the fact that the record for today is 70 degrees and was set in 2002. Could it really have been that warm just 4 years ago? All the winters in recent memory have seemed cold and snowy to me.
Saturday was warm enough that bees were flying. There was one working on the snowdrops in early afternoon. By the time I got the camera it was gone, so no proof, but I promise I'm not making this up.
The snowdrops, which began blooming about the 19th or 20th of the month are now looking like genuine flowers instead of timid buds.
I received my catalog from Temple Nursery and have been rationalizing like mad (contradiction?) so I can spend $15 or so for a single blooming snowdrop plant/bulb. Reasons for: Lots of choices. Nowhere else can I get snowdrops "in the green". Reasons against: $15 (or $35!) for a single snowdrop. Plus shipping.
Several days ago there was no sign of my early narcissus, but just this morning I found the shoots pushing up and showing a few flower buds. Last fall I planted some Rijnveld's Early Sensation, but so far I don't see any evidence that I planted anything.
UPDATE, from this afternoon's forecast discussion from the NWS in Sterling:
WHAT HAPPENED TO JANUARY? SO FAR THIS MONTH THE AVE TEMP AT DCA IS 42.7F AND AT BWI 41.6F. THAT IS THE TENTH WARMEST JAN ON RECORD FOR BOTH LOCATIONS OUT OF 135 YEARS. THE AVE TEMP AT IAD IS 41.4F WHICH IS THE WARMEST ON RECORD OF 45 YEARS. FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SAYING "IT FEELS LIKE MARCH" YOU ARE RIGHT! THE AVE HIGH TEMP THIS JAN AT DCA IS 50.8F AND THE LOW 34.5F...WHICH ARE THE AVE HIGH AND LOW FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF MAR. WITH TEMPS TOPPING OUT IN THE MID 60S THIS AFT... AND MID 40S TMRW... IT APPEARS LIKELY THAT THIS WILL END UP THE NINTH WARMEST JAN ON RECORD AT DCA... AND MAY TIE IN EIGHTH WITH 1974. THE MOST RECENT WARMER JAN WAS 1998 WHEN THE AVE TEMP WAS 43.0F.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
I found the snowdrop reference I was thinking of yesterday. In Garden Open Today by Beverly Nichols, he quotes from a letter he received from a snowdrop merchant:
It cannot be too strongly advocated, writes this learned person, that the vast majority of snowdrops should be planted in the Spring, in the green...Snowdrops should not remain out of the ground a moment longer than is necessary...We earnestly hope that you will use your influence to drive this point home to your many readers.
Well, I thought, these sound like the words of a fanatic. I always bought snowdrop bulbs in the fall because that is the only way I ever knew of acquiring them. When only a few of them came up and bloomed, I assumed it was my fault somehow. Now I'm eagerly awaiting my catalog from Temple Nursery, so I can conduct my own experiments with snowdrops planted "in the green".
The Nichols book has another bit of advice which I don't remember reading and don't think I had heard before. He says that Galanthus elwesii is one snowdrop which can be successfully planted in the fall, and that:
...even this obliging and exquisite flower is not foolproof if it is wrongly treated. The vital thing to remember is that it should be planted in full sunshine. So many people, associating snowdrops with the white drifts that they have seen in our own woodlands, assume that all snowdrops are creatures of the shade. But elwesii is definitely a creature of the sun and if you put it in the shade it will die.
Hmmm. The ones I have blooming now are somewhat in the sun. In fact it might be one of the sunniest places I planted them - on the edge of the woods where it gets the hot afternoon sun. So, I'm going to have to try these in an even sunnier spot.
Back to the snowdrop merchant mentioned earlier. Although Nichols doesn't say exactly who his correspondent is, he goes on to say:
The brutal commercial details, together with the rather intimidating Latin names, will be found in the appendix.
And in the appendix, we find:
The Giant Snowdrop Co., Hyde, Chalford, Gloucestershire
Monday, January 23, 2006
Spring is coming! The snowdrops are in bloom! Last week I was poking around the spot where they first bloomed last year, hoping to uncover a hidden flower. I could see they were coming, but having already lost the First Snowdrop Contest, I didn't bother to take a picture. But by yesterday they were undeniably flowering. I'm a little surprised that they're later than last year, given the warm weather we've been having. Must have been the colder December that slowed them down.
I was very sloppy in labeling and taking notes when I planted these, and so I don't have a proper record of which species they are. Have I written that before? Sounds familiar. Anyway, I planted carefully labeled reference groups of Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii last fall, but those aren't sprouted yet.
I remember reading some time ago the advice to plant snowdrops "in the green" (Henry Mitchell?, Beverly Nichols?), but never knew where to get them that way. I'll be sending my catalog request off to Mr. Hitch Lyman tomorrow.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
The Squirrels and Me
Or "You never miss your kitchen table 'til it's gone"
After a few false starts, we are now in the thick of our home renovation project, and it's playing serious havoc with my gardening (and everything else). My winter gardening activities consist of sipping tea, reading garden catalogs and books, and watching birds in the backyard. A lot of this takes place at the kitchen table, but the kitchen table is now in the family room and covered in drywall dust. The refrigerator and stove are in the dining room and covered in drywall dust. I'm not sure where anything else is, but I'm sure it's covered in drywall dust.
Last weekend, I watched a squirrel renovating a nest. Up the tree with a mouthful of leaves and down and up and down and up and down....so simple, and no drywall dust. But I expect we wouldn't be happy with walls made of leaves. What is drywall made of anyway?
So one night this week when I was lying awake wondering about windows, I tried to imagine how nice it will be when everything is finished and I'm sitting in my shiny new kitchen sipping tea and watching the birds and admiring the crocus and snowdrops and early narcissus.