There are certain weather-related events that I won't ever forget:
The drought of 1988 when I had just started to garden and to give the the weather my full attention.
Or Madison's 100 inches of snow the winter of 2007/08 (below)
Or the year the big Austrian pine twisted in a winter storm and came down on Mark's beautiful fence without damaging it all.
This will be the year when we got 10+ inches of rain in one day and 14 inches in a month.
While these numbers are memorable I'd already forgotten that it rained to a greater or lesser degree on 23 out of 29 days in May of 2017.
These stats seem to suggest that when it rains it's heavier and more frequent. Whether these numbers are just fluke occurrences or the harbingers of climate change, only time will tell — a very long time. But these numbers also suggest that I need to pay more attention to what's happening in my own back yard and to keep better records of these weather events than just random blog entries.
October's rainfall total as of Monday, Oct. 8th, 2018: 4.46 inches (11.32 cm.) — or a month's typical amount in a matter of days. At the moment, this seems to be our new normal. I'm worried that the new plants I put in the garden this fall may rot before they've had a chance to root.
I'm still waiting and watching to determine the final count of lost plants after our wicked winter. The snow totals at the end of April showed that we were only a few inches shy of our normal seasonal snowfall. But we had extremely cold temperatures before we had any significant snow cover to protect plants.
Most of our snow came very late in the season in March and April, the point in the year when snow is usually on its way out for us. We never had the deep snow cover needed to bury shrubs susceptible to winter burn. At this point it is pretty obvious what's gone and what will recover.
. . .
This dwarf Chamaecyparis, planted in a southern exposure, came through the winter beautifully.
Dwarf Chamaecyparis, 3 yrs. old, purchased as one of a group of three with the plants above and below. This one was on the north side of the house to protect against winter burn. It seems to have two green bits left but I don't think I am going to try to save it.
I thought this one was in the most protected spot and yet it fared the worst.
Abies balsamea 'Jamy', 6 yrs. old
Taxus baccata 'Beanpole', 16 yrs. old from Heronswood. Each year this suffers dieback and it is going out this year.
Chamaecyparis 'Green Arrow', 12 yrs. old and about 7 feet tall. It is one of three I planted in 2006 and now I will be down to one. The remaining one suffered some damage but not like this. This plant is supposed to be extremely hardy and is Zone 4, so go figure.
I know from other bad winters that the ivy will come back but it will take at least three years to begin to fill the space it occupies and not be an eyesore. This time I am pulling it out.
This ivy and a patch of equally sad Vinca came from my parent's house when my Dad went into a nursing home because of his Alzheimer's. My grandparents had lived there before my parents bought the house from them. So these unpopular and environmentally problematic plants will no longer live in my garden. I'll keep the memories but ditch these groundcovers.
In a snowy winter, this clumping bamboo gets mostly buried and emerges green in the spring with just minor browning on top. That quickly disappears as new growth emerges. In a bad winter like the one we just had, the bamboo dies back to the ground and will take at least 3 years to fill in and look good again.
The clump was getting big enough that it needed to be cut back but now we are going to dig it out entirely. Its brown appearance rather detracts from my Iris river. I've already bought a shrub to potentially fill the space.
Lots of my Carex plants, which barely turn brown at all during the winter, suffered badly this year. This one is starting to come back and should provide enough greenery to make a statement even if it is not quite as dramatic as before.
Serious damage on our 15-yr.-old Russian Cypress (center back). Have never had this happen before! Everyone I've talked to has mentioned their variegated Carexes died back or died out this winter. Though some of this survived, this is not a plant that is pulling its weight so out it goes.
Chamaecyparis 'Heather Bun', 18 yrs. old. Most winters this is buried under snow including everything blown off the driveway. It grows so abundantly that I usually prune it on and off all season. The evergreen in front of it had been struggling and gave up the ghost.
Mark has probably pruned off 2/3 of Heather Bun including these big yellowed clumps. I think this will recover but it may take a while.
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Compacta', a 16-yr.-old treasure from Heronswood that suffered major damage for the fist time ever. We'll cut the dead off and hope it recovers. It's always been one of my favorites and I'd hate to see it go.
Last, but certainly not least, the Arborvitae hedge that separates our front garden from our neighbor's parking area. This usually suffers some broken branches from the weight of the snow but not this kind of dieback.
This hedge is so old that I was not keeping plant records when we put it in. It is likely that we will have to remove some of the shrubs and decide exactly how we are going to deal with these unexpected gaps.
A five year old Caroline Silverbell tree still has not leafed out or flowered and appears to be dead along with a nice little 3 year old Heather and probably other things that I've already pulled out and forgotten.
Three other plants that I just put in last year and were listed as hardy to Zone 5 did not survive. I knew I was taking a chance when a new introduction announces that a plant we never could grow now has a Zone 5 option. But who would say no to being able to grow an Alstroemeria or a Sarcococca in our zone. As for the Pieris (above), one survived and one did not. The one pictured is P. japonica 'Angel Falls' and was photographed from above as it is currently caged for rabbit protection.
I am taking the lessons of this winter to heart and thinking carefully about replacements. Despite warmer winters as one of the potential effects of climate change, I am going to stick with Zone 5 — or preferably colder — for new shrubs. And I am also going to get things that need less attention from this aging gardener.
Today's high is supposed to be 46 degrees F. (7.77 C.) with daily highs for the next ten days between 50 (10 C.) and 60 degrees F. (15.55 C.). That means this snow should disappear fairly quickly. Despite being frustrated by such an unseasonably late storm, it may have been the prettiest snowfall of the season as these photos of Mark's show. But it definitely had better be the last one as well!
These are all views of the back garden from the east to the west side taken during the storm late yesterday afternoon.
UPDATE AT 10:30 AM: According to a news story I just saw, this was the biggest snowfall of the season at 7.2 inches!!! It also set a record for snowfall for the date and for the coldest high temperature for that date as well at only 33 degrees F.
It started snowing around noon and has not stopped. We both keep saying how lovely the garden looks. And it does. It's the weather and there is nothing we can do but sit here and wait until it changes.
Lest we think we are somehow alone in our misery and complaining, the Washington Post had a front page weather story today, whose headline declared: 'It's the coldest and snowiest April on record near the Great Lakes, and residents are 'fuming'.
According to the WP story, "the average temperature in Madison so far this month of 31.1 degrees, is the coldest on record, and about 13 degrees below normal." As Mark said, it's not our imagination that it is unusually cold.
But my sister and other relatives live in Erie, PA and get this: That city "is within 1.5 inches of becoming the first big city (with a population of at least 100,000) to receive 200 inches of snow in a season. Accumulating snow is in the forecast on Thursday" for them. Frankly I would want to get that last little bit to break the record and then hope this year is an aberration and not the beginning of what climate change is going to bring us.
Richard Hawke of the Chicago Botanic Garden was going to be in town for a presentation tonight to the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society on 30 years of plant evaluations at CBG. Hawke is always worth hearing so we are all hoping he can be rescheduled. Who would have believed his talk would get cancelled on April 18 by a serious snow storm?
I really should say first "poor little Iris," given that it is trying to bloom in below freezing temps and snow. Despite the temperature never getting out of the mid-30s F. yesterday, Sunday's snow started to melt on all our stonework. Ethel made an appearance last night around dinner time, making a landing in a very small amount of open water. The slushy, frozen pond was so dark that her own dark brown plumage was barely visible against it. Another storm is on the way and is supposed to begin around 10 a.m. this morning and continue until 4 a.m. Thursday, bringing 4-6 more inches of snow.
The good news is they appear to have lifted the freezing rain warning. The bad news — other than the snow itself — is that my first shipment of plants arrive on Friday. I only ordered spring shipments from two nurseries online. I didn't want them all to come at the same time so I indicated shipping dates of the end of this week and the end of next week, just the way I usually do. Oops, not the right move this year. Temperatures are supposed to significantly warm up by the weekend and continue that way for at least the next ten days. But all that potential snow means a soggy garden that I won't be able to work in until who knows when.
The flower in the photo is Iris reticulata but I am not sure which variety. I planted a few new ones last fall and won't be able to id them until I see the full spectrum of flowers.
Friday's rain turned into Saturday's freezing rain, then ice pellets and finally, snow. Still snowing on Sunday. Windy, cold, and totally miserable weather for the middle of April. Nothing from the garden to bring into the interior for display. But the patterns in the snow on the deck made for an attractive exterior decor yesterday morning before more snow covered them up.
Indoors, I decided to stick to the black and white graphic theme with this sculptural African mask. If you look closely you can see the rounded base that is the part that goes over the face.
If I don't have actual flowers in my garden — something, anything — by next Monday, I may have to move a warmer climate. Getting really tired of this endless wintry spring, but looking forward to seeing what other gardeners have put together today, along with Cathy who hosts this meme: In a Vase on Monday.
Tuesday gave us rain, freezing rain and significant snowfall. But who cares about the weather now? The day ended with the first time a liberal candidate won an open seat on the State Supreme Court since 1995. Rebecca Dallet handily defeated the candidate backed by the GOP-NRA-Koch Brothers trifecta 56% to 44%. And statewide, citizens voted down a GOP-supported referendum that would have consolidated gubernatorial power and reduced accountability 61% to 39%.
This was the view out the living room window at 10:30 p.m. just before we turned in for the night. That glowing circle just may be the light at the end of the tunnel of eight years of ghastly Republican power in Wisconsin. Lots of work still to do but we hope these are the first steps in the Badger state turning blue again. As for the weather, here's the view out the windows this morning: winter wonderland back again.
The view of the garden looking out the living room windows at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, April 3rd. A day of rain, freezing rain and snow. We're sitting in front of the fire with our backs to the weather awaiting local election returns.