Sunday, January 7, 2018

What Will 2018 Bring?

The New Year has begun with an arctic blast, bringing cold and snow to much of the United States. I've been housebound most of the past week, venturing out only to pick up a few groceries and return some library books.  It's not that the roads are impassable; it's just that it's too darned cold to go out if I don't have to.  I really don't mind too much--after the whirlwind of the holidays and two trips to Texas in the last month and a half, I'm happy to settle down to a slower pace.  It's a good time to work on those New Year's resolutions and then settle down with a good book in the evenings.  Every year I make the same resolutions like eating healthier and exercising more, but my main goal this year is to purge this house of some the clutter that has been accumulating over the past 13 years in every corner of the house.  Once gardening season begins, I know that will occupy more of my time, so if winter is short, I may not get much done!

The New Year represents a clean slate, a chance to start over and focus on what is really important to us.  For some people, it means a goodbye to a bad year, in hopes that this year will be better.  But 2017 wasn't a bad year for me, other than the political climate in this country, but I'm not going to get into politics here.  For me, 2017 was filled with lots of family celebrations and activities from graduations to baptisms to birthdays to many, many sports events.  Many hours and days were spent with grandchildren, filling my heart with joy.

2017 had its ups and downs in gardening, too, and I'm hoping for an even better gardening season in 2018.  We had a mild--and short--winter.  By late February crocuses were blooming, the earliest in my memory, and I was already working on cleaning up the garden beds in March.

The first crocus blooms appeared on Feb. 22, 2017

The early spring meant that by mid-April the tulips were in all their glory.  Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that spring is my favorite season of the year, and I love, love tulips.  The problem with tulips, of course, is that they are more short-lived than other spring bulbs, so every year I try to take photos of the flower beds so that in October I can remember where I need to plant more.  The photos do help, but I still do a lot of guesswork in planting, which means that every spring brings some surprises.  Last year I noticed so many of the early tulips were yellow, which is strange since I'm not particularly fond of yellow.  But this year I got carried away ordering all different types of orange tulips.  I think I planted nearly 200 tulips this past fall, so I can't wait to see them all come up this spring!

I also planted another 100+ daffodils between the pine trees, in my goal of creating a "river of daffodils" on the edge of our yard.  I'm anxious to see these, too, and a little worried since my husband mowed this area last spring before I gave the okay.  I have my fingers crossed that the older daffodils survived despite the early shearing.

If I could have one wish for 2018, it would be that spring would last longer.  Though we had an early start to the season last year, by May the weather had turned warmer, almost summer-like, and the spring bulbs didn't last long.  There aren't many new blooms in my garden during this transition time, but I'm usually busy for several weeks planting hundreds of annuals in containers and in borders around the flower beds.  I remember telling some friends how excited I was about a shopping trip to a favorite nursery some distance away where I spent $400 on annuals that would have cost at least $600 locally.  They all thought I was crazy to have spent even that much--I think I am now officially the crazy plant lady of the group.

I remember thinking last year that it was time to cut back on the number of containers, especially when August and September rolled around and I was spending all my time watering all of them, trying to keep them alive.  But it's hard to cut back, especially when I find a new container that catches my eye, like this old wheelbarrow that my husband rescued from the neighbor's trash.  I know I'll be planting this one again!  One thing I learned last summer was that petunias don't like this wheelbarrow for some reason.  I wasted time and money planting and re-planting Wave and Supertunias, only to have them die shortly afterwards.  This photo was taken in the fall, when I'd replenished it with small mums and gourds, but I need to find something else besides petunias for the summer months.

Summer brought my favorite flowers, daylilies...

...and my beloved coneflowers.

The daylilies multiplied, and the coneflowers self-seeded, so that by mid-summer every flowerbed was a mass of blooms. Will 2018 finally be the year I get ambitious enough to finally divide and purge so that my garden isn't a jungle? Well, we will have to wait and see, but don't count on it.

By August I had the garden blahs--oh, I enjoyed whatever was blooming at the time, but I had no desire to get out and weed or do much of anything else.  It didn't help that we went for weeks without rain. I remember dragging out hoses every day and rotating sprinklers on all the garden beds, but that just isn't the same as nourishing rain.  I lost some plants, but by September I really didn't care, other than some native seedlings that I should have taken better care of. If it's not too much to ask, Mother Nature, I do hope you'll send us more frequent rainshowers in 2018.

If Spring 2017 was somewhat short, Autumn made up for it.  Warm weather continued through much of October, delaying the changing to fall color, but the leaves finally turned, providing a few weeks of beautiful color, a bit surprising considering the dry conditions.

The front yard, late October 2017

We had a very late frost as well, the first killing frost not arriving until November 8.  

The highlight of Autumn, though, had to be the return of the butterflies.  Through much of the summer I worried about the lack of butterflies.  A few Swallowtails appeared now and then, but it wasn't until late August that Buckeyes and throngs of Painted Ladies appeared.  In late September a few Monarchs made daily flights through the garden.

But one day in late October I experienced something I've never seen before.  My husband urgently called me to come out to the garden--a rare occurrence in itself--and there I saw two dozen or more Monarchs flitting about in the flowerbed, lighting in particular on the zinnias.  I stood there for the longest time, mesmerized and in awe.  My youngest grandson, who loves insects, happened to be there at the time and was impressed as well.  It was an experience I won't soon forget.  I hope this means more Monarchs in 2018!

A few weeks of mild weather after the first frost gave me time to do some clean-up of the garden and eventually do a little outdoor Christmas decorating without freezing my fingers.  The old wheelbarrow was cleaned out and decorated for the season with some dollar store finds and cuttings from around the yard.

The large urn in front of the porch was also decked out--
and then finished off later with a dusting of snow.

The first measurable snow fell on Christmas Eve, just in time to give us a white Christmas and the coneflowers their fluffy white hats.  And now the garden and I are ready for a long winter's nap.

We have no way of knowing what might come in 2018, but I wish you all . . .

Happy Gardening in the New Year!