No blizzard but thunder and lightning

The snowstorm “Stella” moved further inland, and instead of one foot of snow, we got several inches of sleet. In the morning, it was accompanied by thunder and lightning. Hopefully, this is how winter is making its final exit.

Stinging ice pellets instead of fluffy snowflakes

Once again, we shoveled the sidewalk around the garden. Doing this in 5 shifts made the work less strenuous. The day is not yet over, but we hope that the worst is behind us. For now, the shovels are put aside.

 

Before the storm

Spring has come early this year. The first quince bud opened three weeks ago, and Iris reticulata, Helleborus and even the first daffodils began to flower.

Then, winter came back with a vengeance. It brought bitterly cold nights and days on which the temperature rose barely above freezing. This morning, the ground was solidly frozen and the daffodils were hanging their pretty heads. They will recover, but this is not what they expected– or we.

And now, a blizzard is coming! The forecast is for up to a foot of snow. We’ll see. We got the shovels out again and are prepared. Stay tuned.

Airlayering

This following post has been in the making for a few months now. It is finally time to publish it. Remember the pretty tree peonies that bloomed in May?

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The striped tree peony at the entrance to our garden.

We have three mature plants, which were all in need of some trimming. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could propagate these lovely plants at the same time? That is what we attempted at the beginning of June of last year.

The method of choice is called airlayering. We had tried it previously successfully with our peach tree. The idea is to encourage roots to grow on a branch while it is still on the tree. With the new roots, this branch can be cut off and planted into soil. For the peach tree, it worked really well.

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New roots that grew among peat moss on a peach branch over three months in 2015.

Airlayering begins with cutting the bark on a branch all the way around in two places so that a ring of bark can be peeled off completely. This is where the new roots will sprout. To encourage root growth, we also applied some rooting hormone. Now, this branch is wrapped with wet peat moss. The peat moss is antiseptic and prevents bacterial growth in addition to providing a moist environment. To keep everything moist, the branch is wrapped in a sheet of plastic, applying a butcher’s fold. The plastic is carefully tied at both ends. Then it is time to wait.

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Airlayering. Top row: peeling a ring of bark off a branch; applying rooting hormone; surrounding the branch with moist peat moss. Bottom row: wrapping the peat moss on the branch with a plastic sheet; tying a string tightly on both ends; the final package.

What should happen is this: by cutting the bark, we interrupted the flow of nutrients from the leaves to the roots. Water still flows on the inside of the stem from the roots to the leaves; therefore, the branch will not dry out. The leaves continue to perform photosynthesis and make organic nutrients, which can now fuel root growth at the cut site.

In September, we decided to check on our roots. We wanted to give the new plants a chance to establish themselves in soil before winter arrived.

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Here is me with two cuttings. One branch after removal of the peat moss.

The root growth was not as vigorous as we had wished, but the method clearly worked. We potted our new cuttings and hoped for the best.

Now, in February 2017, we know that we were successful. One of our cuttings looks really good and is starting to grow. The mild winter may have helped us here. Seeing these swelling buds is very encouraging. We will try again this year and start a bit earlier in the season to give the roots more time to grow. We can also use this method to propagate roses and other shrubs. Pretty cool, right?

The same plant on February 23. It is still alive and the buds are opening.

 

Early spring

There is no more snow and spring is here early. We are expecting another day with possible record temperatures. The garden is feeling it. Here are some pictures from this morning:

Winter aconites

The snow drops are almost done flowering.

A pansy from last year is blooming, too.

Pretty soon, the quince will be flowering. And we really need to get to our roses. They want to to be pruned now, at least two weeks earlier than normal.

Quince and rose buds are swelling.

 

 

 

Another snow storm

Yesterday, we got about 10 inches of snow. This came almost as a surprise after a spring-like day with a high of 60ºF.

In the morning, the snow was coming down pretty hard, but three gardeners got busy with the shovels and the salt-spreader.

Clearing the path

The heavy snow weighed down a cypress to the ground

Let’s hope that our bees survive this capricious weather. Photo: Sara Jones.

Looks like the birds are fine. There are still some rosehips and berries for the robins and starlings, and the sparrows are resourceful city birds. There was a large flock near the fence, dashing back and forth between the safety of the garden and a trash can where someone had tossed some bread. And pretty soon, all of this snow will be gone again. Rain is in the forecast for the weekend.