To many of us there was a rude awakening to a cool spell in May this past weekend. Graduations were a mix of smart summer dresses bundled under warm winter coats! Many in the MidWest had FREEZE warnings on Sunday morning which could spell problems for fruit growers as well as over-eager gardeners.
We were away for a few days and I had left my plants outside – so was a little concerned. Fortunately we didn’t get below low-40s so they were a little miserable but not harmed. The peppers were still in containers but hardened off and outside so could be brought inside, but the little columnar apple tree was out in the open.
My Garden Post with the Peppers already outside
Cold temperatures particularly those close to or below freezing, can kill young blossom and fruit on trees and plants so both the pepper and apple were at risk, but the pepper will continue to put out flowers and fruit through the summer, apple trees are a one-shot blossom in spring then wait until next year if things go wrong.
This little pepper was already in flower when the cold ht
I didn’t think we were getting apples on this little guy because the others didn’t put out flowers and you need a different species for pollination. It looks like the apples were already set and they didn’t get frost on them so are ok – a few degrees can make a difference which is why this one in the open would likely have a degree less than if it were on the deck being sheltered by the house. I think someone else must have a compatible apple tree because I have apples!!!
Mid to late spring is Azalea and peony weather – both in my own garden and in the Rutgers Garden that I visited yesterday.
The main peonies are not quite out yet but the tree peonies – well just look at this one:
The azaleas are in a range of colors but I love the reds and oranges of them. Here are just two we saw yesterday in New Brunswick
Wonderful colors in azaleas
After a few days away we have at least one warm and dry day to play outside. First order of business was to set up the My Garden Post. This was one of those great ideas that I came across last year and it is now in the second year. It holds 5 containers in a neat upright arrangement and even comes with a watering system. The tomato from the last post did not survive the emergency graft but the rest of the plant was fine. It is rather wide though and too tall for the upright system so it is having to spend the summer at the base.
Vertical System for plants
Well this has been a rather dull and dreary week and still it is raining making gardeners in New Jersey and the mid Atlantic a little fed up! Now is the time to plant beans and the lettuce etc should be already in the ground ground but it is still on the deck waiting for some dry weather and much needed sunshine. The deck is getting slowly more cluttered with containers waiting for a more permanent summer home but as no one is sitting out there taking in rays of sun they are left alone for now.
Some of the container plants will stay in containers and either put onto the deck railings – the big red one – or onto the vertical My Garden Post system which holds 5 containers on one upright post. Many of these were used last year and are featured in my The Downsized Veggie Book which is new on the market. If you would like to get one of the My Garden Posts – go to the site and use the code FreeShip1 to get free shipping.
The better news is that the rain was much needed and the cool weather is making the azaleas and lilac blooms last just a little longer albeit that the whole bush looks a little bit droopy and sad in the rain. Even the little Star Magnolia that put out its’ first blooms just before the last major frost event, has persevered and is still putting out blooms – just to the right of the white azalea.
The planting will have to wait a another few days but at least I can admire the blooms from inside and maybe able to dash out between showers to clip a few lilac blooms for indoors.
The mild April weather came to an abrupt hold courtesy a high pressure system in the Mid Atlantic Ocean blocking the low from moving. This gave us a string of cool, dreary, damp weather! No frost was likely but the tomatoes and peppers do not like 40 degree nights so I have been moving them inside at night. Then one tomato caught on the door frame and bent. I tried to resuscitate it with a quick emergency graft – cut the two edges to be even, strapped it up with some cut window slat from window blinds and some tape. Not got much hope for success but if the tomatoes can ripen it would be great! The tomato is too big now to transport to talks though and I don’t want to damage it any more.
a quick graft on a broken tomato stem
These reusable snaps hold the tomato to a stake
This tomato is using the very useful Tomato Snaps that are reusable from year to year and firmly hold the little stems to the post. As the stems get bigger the Snap is unsnapped and re-snapped either further up or just made a little wider.
We are still ahead on the calendar for spring but I love all the spring flowers that are popping out. This hellebore and his neighboring primrose are great for the north side of the house.
This is the more mature of the hellebores but it is still early.
I love spring cottage garden flowers like primroses. So underused in the garden.
Forsythia is one of the early shrubs to flower and this week I spotted an old stand in the empty lot next door! It was shining yellow among the vines and overgrown weeds out there. What more can you want from a shrub when it blooms so profusely in the overgrown woodland decades after it was planted?
Did I mention that the asparagus is coming up in the veggie garden too!
After an almost non- winter, the temperatures are steadily rising and things are moving into spring already. The first crocus was out in February which is almost 2 wks ahead of last year. The past two years the first crocus was March 11th and March 19th. This year it was February 28th! That is a good sign for an early spring. The first little iris are in bloom too.
Along with crocus the early daffodils are up as well and in bloom. Not quite enough to pick some for the home but they look perfect by the front door where they great the postman and guests.
The veggie garden is still predominantly dormant but the rhubarb is just peeping through. I keep an upturned plant pot over them to give them some protection and force them to grow just a little early. In a week or two when frosts are less common I will change the containers for the ‘wall o water’ which allows a little extra heat to promote early stems. The Wall o’ Waters’ then move on to protect peppers and tomato plants in early summer.
Rhubarb is covered with a pottery plant pot to force it into early growth
Two weeks ago I was able to go the the Witch Hazel festival in the nearby Rare Finds Nursery and come home with another 2 witch hazel shrubs. I have always loved the early bloom in yellow one but now there are reds and burnt orange blooms too. Many of these shrubs have great fall color and a more than a few have great scent as well – what more can you want from a shrubs?
Witch Hazel Birgit
So far the trees are not in blossom, but it is early and Blue Jays are just some of the birds that are calling out to each other sensing that spring is round the corner.
10 days ago the weather went from mild to cold, but still no snow then the blizzard arrived! It started Friday evening and we expected under a foot to accumulate over the weekend. Saturday morning we had topped the one foot level and by Sunday morning we had a final total of 21 inches of fluffy white snow. That is taking some digging out from and the landscape is still covered so I don’t know what damage has been done but some signs of heavy snow are already becoming evident.
Blizzard 2016 21-inch snowfall
Where the driveway was cleared – the truck went over the small flower/shrub bed – the crape myrtle dies back to the ground anyway but I am not sure what else was there. At least one azalea is looking like snow has stressed or broken a few branches and the conifers close to the house look like a side has been pushed down. Some will spring back, others will need pruning.
Snow clearing truck tracks didn’t quite miss the buried shrubs
Heavy snow is pulling the branches on this azalea down
All in all though not a bad winter when the bulk of the snow falls on just one Saturday!
Inside I have the peas already growing and the beans have germinated. In the seedling tray there are a few tomatoes, a bunch of marigolds and hopefully a pepper or two but they are still germinating – the soil temperature was probably not quite warm enough. I did sit them on a hot water bottle to hasten things!
Boosting the heat under the peppers
We are all looking forward to spring like weather returning!
I have no problem heading to a public garden in January even if the roses are not out, so last week we were in Brooklyn and took a walk around to see how the plants were doing.
I didn’t take an image of the camellias but they were close to blooming and in a very sheltered spot. Then we came across this Long Leaved Willow (Salix acutifolia). The fuzzy willow flowers shine like silver on the tree and made them look like icicles. The little lenten roses were almost out too – about 3 weeks further than mine at least! This one is ‘Pink Frost’
Willow at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
Christmas rose in January in Brooklyn Botanical Garden
The afternoon was chilly though so we wandered through the greenhouse – the first had a tropical look and orchids and the second had a wonderful display of colorful plants. They even had a few vertical arrangements which seem to be the latest way to grow things.
Tropical plants growing in bright indoor place – lovely display
The tropical look in the greenhouse
The best part of botanical gardens in winter is that there are not many people there – except in the cafe anyway. So a fun couple of hours looking at plants in winter.
So the temperatures are still mild and spring is almost in the air among the Christmas decorations. The garden is reacting by lots of things coming out of dormancy a little too early – by about 2 or 3 months!
This is just a few days before Christmas and the mild, almost unseasonable warmth has brought crocus and early daffodils out of dormancy.
If this mild weather continues we will have crocus in bloom on New Year’s Day – quite a difference to the past 2 years when they didn’t arrive until almost April!