With winter coming up on December 21st, gardening tasks are officially over, right? You can kick-back, relax, and forget about the flowers. Well...as gardener, I have to say that couldn't be further from the truth. I choose to look at winter as a gift; a time to do a variety of tasks and activities I was too busy for during the growing season.
Here's a list of some gardening 'stuff' I usually do in winter:
What better time than February to reminisce about last summer. Looking outside today, these photos hardly seem real! So far this winter we haven't had all that much snow in western Wisconsin (not complaining--just stating a fact). In 2019 our bloom season was a bit shorter than usual because of the excessively cold spring weather and the sudden 85 degree temperatures that followed. Nonetheless, the daylilies did quite well with the abundant rain we had.
Last year's photos will keep me going for the next couple of months as I dream about the upcoming 2020 daylily bloom season.
Daylilies pictured: 'New Series,' 'Firestorm,' 'Heavenly Curls,' ' Patty in Pinstripes,' 'Lotus Position,' 'Shores of Time,' 'Sharky's Revenge,' 'Frances Joiner'
I saw my first robin last Friday! In fact I saw an entire flock of about 25 robins sitting in a tree by our front yard. Despite the three-plus feet of snow remaining after a week of rain and freezing rain, this gives me hope that warmer weather is just around the corner.
Still, I can't help but worry about these little robins and wondered how they manage in the 30 degree temperatures. Apparently, if food is abundant, robins can thrive in surprisingly cold temperatures if there is not too much snow. In the north, ornamental fruit tees can sustain robins during the cold weather (crabapples, hollies, and mountain ash) in both urban and suburban areas.
We put out some dried cranberries and raisins for them, but unfortunately, the mice got to them before the birds. Robins also like dried blueberries, apple slices, fresh grapes, meal worms, and suet pellets. And for the robin spa experience, they especially enjoy a heated bird bath. Hang in there robins!
These two photos illustrate why I place protective tomato cages in my flower garden over the winter. On this occasion there happened to be only one deer foraging for food, but it's not unusual to have a herd of them roaming around. This whitetail scrounged up some dried up marigolds, but thankfully the tomato cages kept my precious daylilies safe.
We've experienced some crazy Wisconsin temperature variances in the past three days (from minus 39 degrees last Thursday to plus 39 degrees on Saturday). The cold weather inspired me to explore the topic of winterscaping. Winterscaping is creating visual interest in your yard or landscaping for enjoyment during the dark and dreary months of the year.
As I watched TV in the evening, I visited numerous websites on my laptop and got lots of ideas for winterscaping. Many gardeners use perennial grasses for visual interest. Shrubs with brightly colored berries or colorful stems are used as well. Some individuals craft seasonal planters to create a bright spot of color. A great variety of lighting can be used in the landscape -- from home-made ice candle holders to large spotlights that accentuate unusual shapes (a Corkscrew Willow , for instance) at night. Different lighting colors can create a variety of moods in the landscape. My sister-in-law, Sandra, placed twinkle lights on a large trellis by her deck. While sitting in her dining room, the trellis lights are very warm and comforting in the evening.
Decorative ice spheres can be created (of any size) and back lit with colorful lights. The spheres can be made by filling a balloon with water, placing it outside, and letting it freeze. The next day the balloon covering can be removed and you have a frozen decorative sphere. This could be a fun project for your kiddos or grands.
At any rate, I'm armed with lots of ideas and I've got a list! Next winter I will be thinking about winterscaping my yard come November instead of February.
Lately I've been obsessed with metal art. I've always liked it in my garden, but this year I found a way to incorporate it into my Christmas decorations. I bought an antiqued galvanized metal snowflake wreath, but it needed a little something more to make it pop. So I wired in some greenery and added a red and green Christmas bow. Now I really like the look. After Christmas the bow can be changed out to another color so the wreath can be used throughout the winter season.
I also bought a large metal snowflake which I have hanging by my kitchen sink. I cleared out some of my older decorations and replaced them with more current ones. And as always, more clearing out and less replacing (except for the daylilies, that is). Okay Christmas...I'm ready!
Now that May has arrived, spring is finally back on track after the brutal April that we had. It was one for the record books in western Wisconsin. We had a total of 19" of snow, which was 17.3" more than normal! We also had a 69 degree temperature spread, winding up with an 84 degree day on April 30th. Go figure.
Quite a few of my daylilies did not fare well over the winter. Many of them died or had rotted crowns. I think much of the damage happened during the three-day rain/ice/snow storm we had in mid-April. The poor plants were covered with thick sheets of ice.
I get so disappointed when I have a huge, beautiful daylily clump that dies back to only one wimpy scape after a bad winter. Then I end up coddling the plant along for three more years, only to have it happen again. For the daylilies pictured, this wasn't the first time they had a near-death experience. So I made a difficult decision....as beautiful as these flowers are, it was time to say goodbye. These daylilies had never thrived like my other plants did. For this reason I discarded them in the field. Wisconsin was clearly not their happy place.
The good news? This ultimately makes my downsizing effort easier and I have space for a new daylily or two.
Pictured: Four of my recently discarded daylilies: 'Mountains Bow Down' (lavender-mauve), 'Fashion Police' (yellow with mahogany-red eye) and 'Off Beat' (cream with purple eye), and 'Before Night Falls' (Cream-lavender with a black-red eyezone)
Go ahead and laugh but notice, if you will, that there are no deer tracks in my precious flower bed. All my daylilies are protected not only by the snow cover, but by this crazy maze of wire. This seems to do the trick until spring when I can resume regularly spraying deer deterrent. Come spring, all the tomato cages will be collected and stored in the rafters of our garage. Aesthetically not so great, but check in with me next summer; beautiful is guaranteed!
Aside from lots of frigid temperatures, icy roads and sometimes scary driving, winter can be a really good thing. Here's why:
Western Wisconsin has been crazy cold this winter. As of February 4th, this winter was tied for the 14th coldest in La Crosse history with the most below zero days since the late 1970s. We've endured frequent snowfalls and week-after-week of below zero weather. Even my car battery hates this weather. It reminded me just how much on the -45 degree day in January that it didn't start my car.
How will my daylilies fare over the winter? I have some southern belles (like Sabine Baur) that have acclimated to our northern climate, but when it gets this cold I can't help but worry about them. Luckily there is a nice snow cover over all the plants. So I'll cross my fingers, hope for the best and continue dreaming about spring.
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