Saturday, March 15, 2014

March GBBD and Some Lessons From Winter

It is time once again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and while I expect my gardening friends farther south will be showing lots of colorful spring bloomers, no such luck here.  But there is hope, as you will see later.

I think my little Christmas cactus is feeling sorry for me, because it has put out fresh blooms the past few weeks.  Perhaps it's a Christmas/St. Patrick's Day cactus instead.

As winter winds down and spring approaches--or so the calendar says--it is also time to join in Plant Postings' quarterly meme of lessons learned in the garden each season.  With the garden under a thick blanket of snow most of the past few months, I didn't think I had learned very much this winter,  but the more I thought about it, I realized there were some lessons to be found in spite of the cold weather.

I learned that I really enjoy watching the birds from my window during the winter.  There may not be colorful blooms outside, but is there anything more beautiful than a bright red cardinal on freshly fallen snow?

This winter has certainly taught me patience.  Not only am I anxious to get out and work in the garden again, but I'm anxious to know how a couple of my experiments are going to turn out.  I was worried how my new Encore Azaleas would fare through the winter, since they are marginally hardy here.  I carefully read some tips for overwintering on their website, which included the suggestion for covering them.  I drove stakes into the ground last November and stapled burlap to the stakes as a wind barrier.  I didn't cover the tops, though, which I hope wasn't a mistake.  I added some leaves around them as extra mulch, and then the snow added extra insulation.  I'll have to wait to see if they survived, but I am so glad I took these precautions--this winter would surely have killed them otherwise!

Another experiment whose results won't be known for awhile involved bulb planting.  As usual, I had some extra bulbs leftover from my fall planting, and rather than find one more bare spot to dig up some dirt, I decided to try planting them in a pot.  I had never done this before, and while it sounded simple enough, I thought I'd better check if there were any specific tips for pots.   Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings  had written about just this very topic, so I asked for her advice.  Because of the smaller area of a pot, they should be treated as two zones colder than normal.  In other words, while my garden is in zone 5/6, the bulbs in this pot would feel like they were in zone 3 or 4.  I placed the pot on the back porch, which is usually sheltered from the fierce winds, but Dee suggested adding a layer of bubblewrap for even more protection. I didn't water it, but whenever I shoveled snow off the driveway, I dumped some clean snow on top--one pile sat there for two months before melting! Surely, the worst of winter is over, so this week I'm going to move the pot onto the patio and remove the bubblewrap.  If these tulips are a success, I'm going to try Dee's idea of "lasagna planting" in a pot next year.

This winter has been a reminder of what true winter in the Midwest is like.  We've been spoiled the last two years with mild winters, so this year has been a challenge in many ways.  Plants that have been happy in the garden for a few years may have been so shocked by this year's fierce weather that they won't survive.  I'm especially concerned about a few new plants I planted last fall, including this serviceberry, a tree I have been wanting for a long time.  It's a native, though, and pretty tough, so I am pretty confident in its chances.  I mulched it well after planting, and Frank the pug has made sure it has been well-watered all winter, though that "watering" may have done more damage than winter itself:)

Despite my complaints this year, I really do enjoy winter.  It's just that when it drags on and on, I've had enough.  One of the ways to combat those winter-weary blues is to start some seeds indoors, which I started this week.  With our average last frost date over eight weeks away, I have plenty of time to fill up several more trays in the next couple of weeks.  There's nothing like playing in a little dirt and opening seed packets to chase away the blues and get excited about gardening once again.

Winter has taught me a lot about patience, but the best part of winter for me is that it makes me appreciate spring that much more.  After months of looking at white or brown, finding these green shoots poking through the soil and matted leaves yesterday makes me so excited.  Tulips? Daffodils?  It really doesn't matter, because to me they represent hope and a reassurance that, yes, spring will come after all!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is brought to you the 15th of each month by May Dreams Gardens' Carol, who is probably out getting ready to plant peas this weekend.

Lessons Learned in the Garden is hosted at the end of each season by Beth at Plant Postings.  Check them both out!


  1. Happy Bloom Day, and thanks for sharing your lessons, Rose! I'm going to borrow your burlap trick next year. The rabbits really did a number on my Lilac bushes again this winter--and they aren't even supposed to like Lilacs! I might have to wrap a couple of layers around them. I'll look forward to reading about the results of your other experiments, too!

  2. I didn't know you could plant bulbs at all in pots. I might have to try that next winter, although I'm technically in zone 4, so I'd need bulbs hardy in zone 2 --I'll have to see what there is :-)

    I'm worried about some of my plants as well. I'm hoping that the constant snow cover helped a bit with the incredible cold. I haven't been able to walk around and look for green tips near the house yet, but a few more above-freezing days and I'll bet the snow cover will have receded enough that it'll be possible. I'm always amazed at how the green tips can cut right through those old leaves!

  3. Your cardinal is just beautiful in the snow. I always say that too that there is hardly a prettier winter sight. You have plants breaking ground. My bulbs are still under a foot of snow. The snow never left all winter, so who knows what is under it? I just hope warm, happy plants. I never had a problem with bulbs in pots getting through winter, but one year the rain soaked them and they rotted. My mistake in not getting them in the garage in that wet Spring.

  4. This winter has certainly tested my patience, too, but the end is in sight! Your garden looks as if it is about ready to burst into life once again. Happy Bloom Day.

  5. I feel so sorry for you people with endless snow and I admire your patience. Spring must be there soon. I love your Cardinal sitting in the snow, as good as any flower!

  6. Annie keeps the rabbits at bay here. I will be anxious to see if the burlap works. I gave away my patience this winter. I am sick of it already. Ready for spring. Happy GBBD.

  7. I can understand how you feel when you looked in your garden and saw the new springgreen. So happy you are I think. Overhere the weather was so great last week. I feel rebornd after a week of sunshine.
    Happy springtime Rose and enjoy the new life your garden is bringing.

  8. What a pretty cardinal! I have Encore azaleas and while they looked awful the first winter they bounced back well. They for sure need to be established before winter so I hope you planted them last spring. I get tons of hits on those Encore posts this time of the year when everyone's Encores look awful so I know they have some cold hardy issues at times. But don't be quick to write them off! Spring should be near!

  9. I grew up in Houston with Cardinals and Cedar Waxwings, and really miss them, so it was refreshing to see some on your blog, I'm rather obsessed with them. I was thinking about how hard it was to let go of the growing season last fall, and probably winter does make spring so much more appreciated, I know I do.

  10. Rose, I really hope the bubble wrap works. I put mine up against the greenhouse and blocked the east and west wind with straw bales. We'll see soon if that was successful. I do have a few tulips coming up in those pots now, but I noticed the violas and pansies suffered terribly even with extra protection. The thing about gardening is it is ever changing. Just when you think you have one thing right, the weather tricks you again.

    I loved your lessons from winter. I think they were good ones. We're all trying to learn patiences as another cold blast hit our state this morning. ~~Dee

  11. the cardinal is so beautiful!

    Everything is beginning to spring into life here following a week of sunshine - after all the rain! Hope your spring comes soon.

  12. Would love to see a cardinal hopping about in my garden Rose. I do hope that your recent plantings have survived what your winter has thrown against them. Seed sowing must have bought a big smile to your face. Not long to go now until that white stuff has all gone!

  13. Would love to see a cardinal hopping about in my garden Rose. I do hope that your recent plantings have survived what your winter has thrown against them. Seed sowing must have bought a big smile to your face. Not long to go now until that white stuff has all gone!

  14. Good luck with your experiments and I hope all the plants survive and thrive! We'll see - I'm expecting some losses in my yard after the bitter cold and more browsing deer than usual. Flowers soon, though, really!

  15. It is so barren in your part of the country, bloom wise, Rose! I complained this morning that we got 7" of snow last night, which has all my hellebore and crocus blooms completely covered...but our snow will be gone in a few days, I think. It's been colder than normal, but not like your I know I should not complain! We've had days in the 60s and I see birds every single day...and often, green grass. I hope spring will come to you soon!! I think your pug sounds like a typical! We have 3 of them who water my garden daily...and somehow, the plants always seem to survive ;)

  16. The year that I tried tulips in pots the new puppy ate all the buds. I hope yours turn out simply gorgeous.

    Christmas Cactuses have come a long way since they were all one color and could be depended on to bloom at just the right time. Since they are available in decorator colors and all kinds of hybrids, they tend to do as they please. Rebloom is a bonus.

  17. I'll be very interested to see how your tender plants get on under the sacking and the bubble polythene. Some winters I've done the same with great success though even the harshest of winters in our area would probably not go on as long as yours. (Hopefully anyway........though with global changes you never know what is in store.)

    Love that beautiful red bird.
    Those little shoots bring new hope don't they?

    Had to smile at your comment over at mine..... thinking I'd been bungee jumping!!!
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  18. Winter is indeed challenging Rose, especially when it is so harsh. It always amazes me how much does survive !!

    This winter has been incredibly wet, so like you I am waiting to see what does survives and what does not.

    The Snowdrops and Crocus have finished here but hellebores and daffs are in bloom. These springtime blooms really lift the spirits.

    Hope some warmer weather arrives soon Rose, and you can start your gardening year......

  19. Rose, I'm eager to see how your bulb experiment turned out ... may they be blooming beauties before you know it!

  20. Oh, lucky you having flowers on the Christmas cactus again!
    It will be nice to see the results of your experiments, time will tell.
    Happy GBBD!

  21. Love the exuberant cactus flower! I'm getting impatient with this protracted winter as well. Too long!

  22. This winter has been especially tough, but the new bulb tips breaking through the ground and tree buds give such hope! I hope your plants make it through. Being that we're at a new place, all the plants in my garden are new, so I'm a little worried! Hopefully they will all be alright.

  23. A beautiful picture of the Cardinal! He looks like he is trying hard to keep his feet warm.

    I hope your tulips do well. One year I will remember to start some. Tulips are so festive.

  24. One of the things I most enjoy about blogging is reading about the climate in other areas. I am quite sure that while I envy your landscape in the summer, I really could not survive your winters. Gardening with these extremes in temperature and snow fall is just not anything I've ever had to deal with. We have very cold days and nights. We have snow. We just don't have snow like you have.

    I love the idea of the potted tulips and cannot wait to read how this all turns out.

  25. Hi Rose girl: )
    What a stunning picture of that Cardinal you capture !! against the snow that red really pops .. just gorgeous.
    You are doing what I have wondered about a lot .. planting bulbs in a pot and over wintering them, so I am really curious to see what happens too. I want to do the same thing as well with layered plantings.
    Fingers crossed it all comes up and smiles at you girl! LOL
    Yes .. we had been spoiled by mild winters and not so much snow, which in a way gave us drought problems too. This winter seems to have dragged on FOREVER !! and I am so sick of it .. so when ever Spring decides to arrive it will be a fast transition to summer I bet .. I hate that but you have to work with what you get right ?
    I am just hoping I can get through a garden clean up without killing myself ... that is always a worry, especially since I did not follow through with losing any weight or getting in better shape .. another fantasy goes POOF ! haha
    Fingers crossed we see some better weather girl!
    Joy, from the still, |"great white north!"

  26. Thanks all for visiting! It's been a crazy busy week this past week, and I wish I could respond to every single comment, but I've been trying to visit each of you when I can find a few minutes. Two beautiful days this week, and where was I but stuck at school! This week we're supposed to be back to cold--and even maybe a dusting of snow--but it's not the bitter cold of January or February. Hopefully, spring will be here in another week, and when it does, I have so much to do in the garden! I'll keep you updated on how the azaleas and tulips in the pot do. Looking forward to some REAL blooms in April!

  27. Rose I'm concerned about my roses as well. Although we had no a lot of snow or maybe unfortunately we had no much snow, the plants badly wintered. I hope your favorite tree and experiments are well this spring. We both will see.
    Have a nice week!

  28. This has certainly been a winter that requires patience! I did the same thing and planted my last-minute-deep-discount-bulbs in pots, only I didn't give them any extra special protection. Ups. We will see in a months time if any made it through the deep freeze. I am with you and am more than ready for spring!

  29. Hi Rose, Seeing your Christmas cactus reminded me that I don't think my two bloomed this year. I didn't water them enough, and they are looking pretty sad.

    I enjoyed your lessons learned. That cardinal on the snow sure is pretty!

    Yes, we seem to be a little ahead of you in spring arriving. Still, I am still waiting not so patiently for the warm weather to get here to stay.

  30. Still challenging in Heath. I also am eager to see how the bulb planting turns out.


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