Posts tagged weather

Another snowstorm? Look here for spring

As Iowa braces for what could be another spring snowstorm this weekend, Deb Engmark, head gardener at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, sent the following observations and photos from the historic Brucemore estate:

From the Brucemore Gardens

 

It would have been a glorious first snow fall of the season had the snow fallen sometime between November 27th and December 30th. With four to six

 inches on the ground, my week of vacation coming to an end, and not nearly enough yard work finished, it sure made Sunday hard to take. On the bright side, on Monday morning the little bit of green that was evident in the landscape at the end of last week was much more abundant and vibrant. I also noticed the swelling of the buds on many of the shrubs and some of the trees here at Brucemore have expanded close to the point of explosion. Many buds have popped and the leaves are extended toward the sun.

 

 The honeysuckle bushes along Linden Drive opened sometime between 8:00 a.m. and 12:30p.m.on Monday, as did the first scillas on the property, revealing the sweet essence of  spring along with the reliable blues many visitors associate with older neighborhoods. The snowdrops are always an early sign of winters waning. Shining in the woods for a few weeks already and now many of the white nodding heads have opened to reveal the upside down v-shape of green marking the inside bell and if you are able to get close enough, it too carries a fresh scent of spring.   

 

Out in the formal garden the crocus are blooming and other bulbs are making their presence known as are some of the undesirables dandelions, violas and the creeping charlie seem to have survived the winter just fine, lucky us.

 

Now, before spring has totally sprung, is a great time to take notice of that which is often overlooked – trees. We are fortunate here at Brucemore to have a few grand specimens to appreciate. Across the road from the formal garden, west of the old greenhouse is a mature red maple and a stately old red oak.  Roger Johnson, our building and grounds superintendent, believes they are some of the oldest trees on the property. He estimates that they are well over 100 years old due to their height, trunk diameter, and the texture of the bark.  Oaks are slow growing, long-lived, and require a century to mature, and will often live undisturbed for two to three centuries or more. The red maple upon maturity develops a unique bark texture. Flat gray ridges like fins begin to wave and flake while spiraling up to the multitude of branches. A bit of the oaks’ structural supremacy and the mature maples textured bark is softened after the emergence of the leaf canopy in spring.

 

As I finish this typing Tuesday afternoon, the landscape has changed once again adding more colors, hues and tones in every passing moment.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

 

Deb Engmark                            

Brucemore Head Gardener                     

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

 

 

Blue scilla

Blue scilla

 

Snowdrops at Brucemore

Snowdrops at Brucemore

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March Madness and will this snow kill my plants?

   Sunday’s Homegrown Highlights column in the Gazette shows that a) the only thing predictable about March weather is that it’s unpredictable and b) our columns for Sunday’s newspaper are written in advance.  Hopefully, no one dug under several inches of snow to begin “waking the garden.”

    In fact, the snow acts as insulation for plants from the cold. Ones that have already bloomed might be done for the season after being buried under snow, but those that were just emerging – tulips, daffodils (at least those here in Cedar Rapids that have not blossomed yet) and others should be fine.

     I’ve been able to resist the temptation to begin yard work even on those beautiful, sunny and 70-degree days of March, and I will at least for the first couple weeks in April. Until the ground is fairly dry – much less soggy than what it’s been recently –  it’s really best to stay off the lawns and out of flower beds. I know a few vegetable gardeners who already planted potatoes and onions before this weekend’s snow. Some vegetables are more tolerant of the cold and can survive even in weather like this. Just remember, there’s no reason to jump the gun on yard work. Enjoy each season as it unfolds. There will be plenty of time for outdoor work in the months to come.  

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Happy Anniversary!!

    How could I forget our anniversary? It was Jan. 17, 2008, when the online version of Homegrown started, so this blog has already passed its one-year mark.

 

    With that in mind, I wanted to point out some new features that have been added since then.  First, searches are now easier with the addition of a search button.  If you want to know more about lawns or corn or lady bugs or something else,  just put the word or phrase into that space and click to find more on the topic. The “Your Photos” feature was added last year. Even though I asked for garden or plant photos, since it’s winter in Iowa, feel free to submit your cold weather photos – the ice on your tree branches, birds at the feeder or your child’s tongue stuck to a metal pole. OK, maybe not the last one, but photos you want to share can be emailed to me at: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com and I’ll post them to Your Photos for the world to admire.

 

    The gardening events category is a popular one, but remember to look for the posted dates. Many of those items are from 2008. I’ll try to remember to put 2009 on all the new events to avoid confusion. The farmers markets list is from last year, but I will update the list this spring.

 

    If there are any other additions or changes you’d like to see on Homegrown, please let me know by email (same as above) or by posting a comment below.

 

    Finally, here is the message that kicked off Homegrown just over a year ago. I think it’s still appropriate today.

 

Welcome! I am so excited to be doing this!! Homegrown is the blog version of a gardening column I wrote for The Gazette a few years ago, a reference to locally grown vegetables, fruits and flowers. First off, although I was born in the 1960s, I don’t consider myself a product of the ’60s, so if you’re looking for a less than legal “homegrown” substance, you’ve come to the wrong blog, dude. Everyone else, feel free to come back often – more will be added as we move into growing season – and please, offer your comments. I want to know what your interests are. I’m also thrilled to provide a forum for our Master Gardeners, who will be sharing their expertise, as well. Thanks for checking in. I look forward to hearing from you!

  

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Frightful weather?

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

           

It’s a debatable issue:  is the weather outside really frightful today?  Or, is it all in your perspective?  I was out and about this morning but arrived home in time to sit here at my computer plunking away for this week’s blog and watch the beautiful huge flakes of snow wafting to the ground. There’s just something mesmerizing about an Iowa snowfall.   Right now, right outside a kitchen window, a Cardinal is perched in a lilac bush sheltered in a blanket of white. What a sight!

            Speaking of birds, what will you do with your live tree after the Holidays?   How about, after removing the ornaments (especially the tinsel) propping the tree in your perennial garden?  It will add winter interest as well as shelter for birds that enjoy feeding on the seeds of coneflower, rudbeckia and liatris.  Or use it as mulch by pruning the branches and covering perennial and bulb gardens.  I’ll bet your neighbors would volunteer to let you take their trees, too. 

            Have you observed what wildlife visits your garden?  Their antics can be quite entertaining.  Note which plants helped bring them into the landscape. 

            Brush snow off shrubs and evergreens as the heavy wet stuff will cause breakage and damage. Prune only broken/damaged branches now.  

            Most importantly, investigate environmentally friendly methods of removing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways.  Calcium Chloride is more expensive, but it is easier on your plants. Watch for new plant-friendly products entering the market. 

            And, if you haven’t found the perfect gift for a gardener friend, think about a journal, plant labels, hand pruners, flower scissors, a harvest basket (my second favorite choice), a gift certificate to a favorite garden center, or (my first choice!), a load of well seasoned manure, delivered. Yes! You read correctly!  It will be an inexpensive gift and certain to bring smiles to everyone’s faces. 

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Winter deja vu

    My daily gardening/weather log last winter reads something like this: ice storm; school canceled; snow; more snow; school delayed; more ice; snow; more snow, and on and on. By the end of March, I was actually rooting for a bit more snow so we could reach the top spot for the most snow on record.

   Already, this season feels like a continuation of the last, which culminated in June in the worst flooding we’ve ever seen in Eastern Iowa. While we can’t predict what the rest of the season holds, no matter what, I won’t be cheering for more snow come spring.

   This past winter, with its never-ending snow and ice storms, is one of the candidates for The Gazette’s Top 10 stories of 2008. That the weather still constitutes news is actually a good sign. I’m not looking forward to this becoming typical for Iowa. The flood, obviously, is another choice. You can still cast your votes for the Top 10 stories of the year. Ballots are running in The Gazette.

  

    

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Say it isn’t snow!

imga0285snow.jpgWas it just a bad dream or was this really what we saw falling from the sky last night?

Go ahead, friends in sunny Arizona and balmy California, I give you full permission to gloat. Those of us in Iowa can still look on the bright side after our latest bashing of snow:

1) It’s March, not May. Let Mother Nature get this out of her system, before we get used to 70 degrees and sun. (Please, please don’t let this jinx us in May.)

2) We’re only inches away from setting a snowfall record. After the winter we’ve experienced, don’t we deserve the “I survived the snowiest winter EVER” bragging rights?

3) Drought, shmought.

4) More time for indoor spring cleaning.

5) It will all be gone by tomorrow, right?

6-10) Ok. You come up with the rest. I’m not that much of an optimist.

But just remember, those of you in warm locales, when winter weather finally does retreat in Iowa, you’ll be longing for those picture-perfect, glorious months, or weeks, or at this point, let’s at least hope for a few days of spring in Iowa.

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