Current temperature: 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5.6 C) but feels like 7 degrees F (-13.9 C). Windy and white outside. We are both engrossed in mystery novels and ignoring the weather since Mark went grocery shopping and got home as it was starting to get nasty out.
Seems like everyone in blogland has gone out to report on what's happening in their gardens this month with odd December weather happening in many parts of the world. We've been above normal in temps and rainfall and below normal in snowfall.
When you live someplace that gets quite cold and snowy every winter, a break like this is a pleasant respite. So nice not to have to shovel snow or drive on slippery streets.
From a gardening standpoint, however, it is a mixed blessing. I love looking out and seeing the green foliage of ferns, Hellebores (above) and Epimediums (top photo). But I am getting nervous about some of the other sights I am discovering in my garden. Here's a late December update from Zone 5 in Wisconsin.
We did have one heavy, wet snowfall of about five inches in late November. The weight of it flattened lots of things that are still green, but some like Carex sylvatica (above) and Lizula sylvatica 'Aurea' (below) continue to maintain their mounded silhouette.
A number of ferns are still standing but none look as fresh and sprightly as this ruffled hart's tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium angustifolium). This has been growing in fairly dry shade for seven years but looks as happy as the ones I have growing in a much boggier spot.
This maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum) looks as good in December as it has all year. So delicate looking and so tough in reality.
Arum italicum 'Ghost' goes dormant in the summer so spring and fall are its seasons. But I rarely get to see it like this: a clump full of marbled leaves and not hidden by other plants in the garden.
Heuchera villosa 'Caramel' just keeps on cookin'. I'm still picking Heuchera and Heucherella leaves for small foliage bouquets.
Now for the December down side: Newly planted Grape hyacinths and year-old 'Magnet' snowdrops (below) are visibly pushing up.Since these are early bulbs I am hoping it all works out.
Both my newest and oldest Hellebores have big buds fully above ground. They seem to be waiting to see what happens next and I am doing the same!
Had to snap one more photo of my Thanksgiving Hellebore this afternoon before it's buried in snow. Looks pretty good having been beaten up by wind and rain earlier this week. Sunny, extremely windy and 34 degrees when I was bringing in the last of the pots and watering cans. Weather Bug said it felt like 27 degrees; definitely felt pretty brutal after the great weather we've been having. Mark cleaned up the garage this morning, transforming it from his woodworking shop back into a place with enough space to park the car. So one vehicle will be out of the wintry weather when it hits. Now I'm out to the kitchen to make Spicy Carrot Soup with Harissa.
We've been enjoying such a mild and quiet autumn that it's easy to forget what wild weather we often have at this time of year. But today is the day that those of us who live on the Great Lakes stop and remember the storms of November because it marks the anniversary of the sinking of the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship sank forty years ago today on Lake Superior with the loss of the entire crew of 29 men.
I grew up on two Great Lakes and now live in a state bordered by two others. I've witnesses enough storms to be able to have some experience of fierce November weather on dry land. Picturing such a storm on Lake Superior, however, defies my imagination.
How many ships and lives have been lost on the Great Lakes is anyone's guess since ships were using the lakes long before anyone was keeping records. Estimates range from 6,000 vessels and 30,000 lives lost (Great Lakes Maritime Museum) to more than 25,000 wrecks according to historian and mariner Mark Thompson on Wikipedia.
The weather here in southern Wisconsin continues to be glorious. Beautiful day after beautiful day. Too nice to be indoors at the computer when I could be out in the garden.
I've been tweaking the beds, planting 300 bulbs, picking up fallen twigs and Honey Locust pods, putting down some nice mulch from Olbrich Botanical Gardens and starting general fall clean-up.
Yesterday the temp hit 74 degrees F. (23.33 C.) while I was working, sunny with a light breeze. The Calamintha was still covered with flowers and bees. Astrantia 'Buckland' (below) has been blooming for five months. Toad Lilies are everywhere, including big bouquets in the house, all looking gorgeous. Could not have been a more perfect day.
One of the gardeners who posted a bouquet of roses for the meme, "In a Vase on Monday," said that — despite all the photos of tweeds and woolies in the magazines — the weather was still more summer than fall in her garden. "Bonkers, not conkers" is how she phrased it! I have to agree as I am currently enjoying candelabra primroses, foxgloves and now a bright yellow Caltha palustris aka marsh marigold. October 12 and still no frost and we haven't turned on the heat. No doubt about it, it's been a gorgeous fall!
You can tell this is not blooming in Spring from all the yellowed honey locust leaves that are covering the surface of the pond.
At the end of last week we were sitting in the teahouse with the doors and windows open, reading and drinking coffee. We enjoyed our first margaritas of the season — along with chips and two kinds of salsa — lounging on the deck and enjoying the view.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), it was so wintry I spent the afternoon making beef stew. About 4 p.m., I went out into the garden armed with black plastic plant pots, bamboo stakes, old sheets, clothespins and bricks. Starting last night and going through the rest of the week overnight temps are predicted to be dipping just below or just above freezing, so I covered Martagon lilies, Erythoniums and woodland peonies. All are well up and budded out. I think they would survive but I don't want to learn the hard way that they won't. This kind of weather is pretty typical for April in Wisconsin, yet I always find myself surprised when it happens.
When I came back indoors after spending an hour working in the cold and wind and bits of swirling snow, we opened a bottle of wine and sat in front of the fire before dinner. Looks like my week will be spent alternating between covering/uncovering plants and sitting by the fire.
Two days of rain means that the garden is suddenly starting to pop. With the promise of sun and warmer days to come, it should explode next week. Can't wait.
According to my gauge, we received 1.13 inches (2.87 cm) of rain overnight on Tuesday and 1.04 inches Wednesday night and during the day today (2.64 cm), as of 3 p.m. Luckily no plants are up enough to have been damaged by the hail I heard pelting the house more than once last night.
A friend brought me two big pots of Ajuga 'Catlin's Giant' late yesterday afternoon, along with poppy seeds and a big cutting from a Pelargonium I admired in her garden. She spent the day putting her garden to bed while I spent the day on indoor chores. I quickly planted the Ajugas, watered them in, brought in the last Begonias on the deck and planned to do more watering today. Given this was the scene in the garden when the light came up, I think I will put off the rest of my garden chores until Monday when the high is supposed to climb up to 58 degrees F (14.44 C).
Photo shot through the window at 8:30 a.m. this morning with my phone.
Today is my sister's 36th wedding anniversary. I'll never forget the noontime storm we experienced that day on the way to the service. It got so dark that the streetlights came on. For years afterward I always anticipated a major storm on June 17th. Eventually I forgot about it when the date went by without incident. It all came back to me last night when we were awakened by the tornado sirens going off at 12:01 a.m.
I drive almost daily through the Midvale Heights neighborhood very close to ours, where a tornado went through in 2004. And my brother-in-law and his family lived on Alice Circle, the street that was the epicenter of the 2005 F-3 Stoughton tornado. Luckily they were on vacation out of harm's way.
That's why I got dressed and grabbed the essentials: my purse/phone/flashlight/iPad/rainjacket and went in the cellar last night. I briefly watched the TV news with Mark but could hear the wind rising and the bells by the back door ringing madly. I stayed down there until Mark announced it looked like we were OK and could go back to bed. I have to admit I was a bit frustrated that he exhibited typical guy behavior and stayed upstairs by the TV in a room with huge windows. Especially since we have a TV in the basement to say nothing of laptops and iPads.
This morning the garden is sparkling and water lilies are blooming even though its pretty gray outside and rain is forcast for most of this week. The rain gauge measured 1.49" and there were only a couple of twiglets down here and there in the garden. (The center tube holds one inch and the bigger tube holds the overflow).
Mark just came home from the coffee shop and sheepishly announced that whatever blew through last night did serious damage a mere three streets away from us! According to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal this morning, Mark and I were very lucky. Lots of trees down and at least 23 homes seriously damaged. This side of town is known for its big old trees which is one of the joys of living here.
The story noted that "John Marshall, a public works supervisor who’s worked for the Madison Streets Division since 1977, was on scene and said the damage was the worst he had seen since an F-1 tornado ripped through several West Side neighborhoods, including Midvale Heights in 2004." Way too close for comfort for me. And Mark admitted next time he's turning on the TV news from the basement.