Snowdrops and bees

It is mid February. We have had some cold days, some quite warm days, some rain and a little snow.

Snowdrops in the morning sun

When it is warm and sunny, our bees are coming out of their hive and clean house. They drag various detritus, including dead colony members out and drop it on the ground in front of the hive. This is important to keep the colony healthy. Sara took a little video last week.

Today, I saw some workers that were busy collecting pollen. They visit snow drops, the only flowers that they can find at this time in our garden. I have seen flowering witch hazel nearby, but these plants are pollinated by moths. Winter aconites are still small buds. But in a few days, they should open up, adding variety to the bee’s buffet.

This bee has collected bright yellow pollen into the basket on her leg.

We are very glad that the bees have survived the truly arctic weeks in late December and early January and seem happy and healthy. Perhaps, we will get spring honey this year!

Harbingers of spring

Today, we got some more snow. Nothing much, but enough to cast a light blanket over the sleeping garden. Almost everything underneath is still dormant. However, right next to the entrance to the garden grow our earliest snowdrops, and these show the first flowers! A closer look under the leaves of a Helleborus reveal some swelling buds. A few more sunny days, and they will open, too.
It is almost February. Two more months and we should see daffodils and tulips. Until then, we keep studying our plant catalogs and dream of spring.

Snowy snowdrops


A Helleborus bud

2018 starts with snow

Maybe you have heard that we just got hit by something, which meteorologists call a “bomb cyclone”: A rotating storm with a cold center that is combined with a very strong dip in atmospheric pressure. Whatever it was called, it brought us the first snow of 2018. Here in New York City, it was less dramatic than the name might suggest. We had worse blizzards. Nevertheless, it snowed from morning until afternoon, and our snow team braved the elements five times to clear the sidewalk.

Shoveling while the snow still comes down hard. The garden got a nice thick blanket.

From a gardener’s perspective, all that snow is great. This is because next in the forecast are several days of particularly cold temperatures (down to 3ºF) and strong winds. But our garden has now a warm blanket that will protect it from this bitter weather.

Meanwhile, some “sissy” plants enjoy a vacation indoors. Hibiscus, coleus, plumbagos, pelargoniums and begonias would be long dead otherwise. They are looking forward to spring, just like us!

This hibiscus likes it warm and got droopy when the temperature in its winter home temporarily dropped below 50ºF. It perked up when it got warm again.

As the year ends

Yesterday, after a first week of unusually cold temperatures, we got a dusting of snow. It was not enough to merit shoveling. My snow-duty partner had already spread a little salt on the sidewalk, enough to eliminate any danger of slipping. I therefore had time to take a walk around the garden with my camera.

A little snow makes everything look prettier. But it also makes it harder for our winged winter residents to find something to eat. Yesterday, a friendly neighbor had scattered some bird seeds through the fence onto the garden path. Sparrows, mourning doves and a robin were visibly thankful.

Sparrows eating seeds.

Our patio table with a white table cloth and a white-throated sparrow.

White-throated sparrows can be seen in New York year-round, but in winter they are a lot more numerous. Indeed, the appearance of many white-throated sparrows in fall is a clear sign that winter will arrive soon. White-throated sparrows are a regular and welcome guest in our garden. On a sunny day, one can hear their song “O-oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” even in the middle of winter. Yesterday, though, all birds were busy eating and apparently not in the mood for singing.

Seed pods of hibiscus and tree peonies with white bonnets, more white-throated sparrows.

House sparrows and mourning doves are permanent residents in the garden. The sparrows breed in the bird houses that we hang up for them. Where the mourning doves build their nests, we still have to observe. Yesterday, month away from breeding season, both birds joined the white-throated sparrows at the feeding site. They flew up when I approached with my camera and took perch on the grape vine nearby. Their fluffed-up feathers show how cold it was.

On the perch

Brr, it is cold!

The forecast tells us that it will be very cold for another week with temperatures in the single digits during some nights. Good that our birds have warm feathers and also a little shelter in the garden, and the plants are dormant and safe from the frost.

On this lasts day of 2017, I wish gardeners, garden-lovers and their friends here and everywhere a happy and peaceful new year!

Before winter arrives

The forecast is telling us that winter will take its first swipe at our region tomorrow afternoon. The night is predicted to be bitterly cold with temperatures in the 20s. The National Weather Service warns: “These conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation, ending the growing season for 2017.” By this weekend, our basil, coleus and nasturtiums will be dead.

Late fall clematis in the morning sunlight.

This would have been pretty hard to believe just a couple of days ago. Some summer flowers were still doing really well. Even the sunflower was standing tall and did not look like it wanted to stop blooming yet. The roses, by the way, had a particularly nice fall bloom this year and are not done yet either.

A really tall sunflower and morning glories.

On the other hand, it is time to make some room for planting tulip and daffodil bulbs, and many plants and animals in our region need the winter break to remain healthy.

We brought the hibiscus and begonias indoors, donated the red wiggler worms to an elementary school and gave our bees a warm blanket.

Winter you may come, we are (almost) ready!

Here are some photos as a farewell to the growing season 2017.

Cleome, Nasturtium, Echinacea and Phlox are all still doing well.

“Onion grass” and hollyhock.

And then there are the roses! Chicago Peace, Souvenir de la Malmaison, Happy Chappy and Capitaine Dyel de Graville. The roses will survive the frost and may keep blooming into December.

Some of the last tomatoes (orange cherry tomatoes that are still quite sweet); the flower of a toad lily and the berries of lily of the valley; Kirengeshoma palmata, a Japanese plant that flowers late in fall.