A Stroll Through Fickle February

– Posted in: The Secret Garden

Fickle February. That’s what I’m calling it, mostly because it has better alliteration than Roller Coaster February. A roller coaster of weather is what it’s been. Every time it’s gotten mild, I’ve been outside walking the trails I’ve made and taking pictures. Then it gets cold and I hunker back inside. These photos are a compilation of several walks and give you an idea of what I look at–and look for–when “nothing’s growing.”

the falls from branches bench

Mild weather plus rain coming down melted the snow.

We started off February with some mild temperatures (51F; 10.5C) and about an inch of rain, which melted our skimpy snow pack. The photo above shows the view from the viewing area at the entrance to the Secret Garden. One of the goals I listed for the Secret Garden to place a bench to enjoy a long view of the creek and waterfall (roughly point E on the map at the bottom of this page). I am happy to say I accomplished that goal and this was the view from that bench after the heavy rain plus snow melt:
waterfall from below and back

You can enjoy the sound of cascading water from this vantage point.

Walking back from this bench there is a place to view the back creek (but no bench yet).
back creek

This creek joins the previous one a little further down stream.

In this area I noticed two kinds of ferns.
Can you see the two kinds of ferns? (Click to enlarge)

Can you see the two kinds of ferns? (Click to enlarge)

I don’t know which ferns they are, but I’m sure they’re common. I was pleased to see that the woodland phlox I transplanted here last fall appears to be thriving.
Phlox divaricata Blue Moon

Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’ should brighten this area come spring.

And it looks like the hobblebush I planted is surviving.
hobblebush bud

Looks like a healthy bud on this hobblebush.

I also checked up on the fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)I planted here.
hole near shrub

The skinny arrow points to the shrub, the big arrow points to the hole.

The chicken wire cage I erected to protect this shrublet from deer did not deter a burrowing creature. I see no sign of gnawing so I wonder if the roots have been eaten, or if said burrowing animal was merely surprised to see he had made a tunnel into jail instead of out of it.

Wild Apple Woods

Leaving the Secret Garden and the north side of the property, I walk across the lawn to the wild area on the south. I have decided to call this area Wild Apple Woods, although in my mind I often just think of it as the other side of the lawn. Before we come to the woods proper, we walk through a small meadow that my son laboriously cleared brush from so that you could see the pond from the screened porch. (He’s not done yet.) This is a very wet area, so he also dug little channels so the water wouldn’t just ooze all over.

runnel in field

This small channel directs water from the road down to the back creek.

However, this is still a pretty wet area where moss thrives.
mossy field

In the summer pasture grasses and native plants grow here, and you don’t notice the moss as much.

mossy bank

Here’s another mossy area, deeper into the woods.

I am still clearing paths in this area, and that’s mostly what I do on this side. I haven’t planted anything so there’s nothing to check up on.

Back to civilization

But returning back to the house a different way from which I came, I see that the tuteur in the Slope Garden has fallen over.

fallen tuteur

No vine will be tutored to grow upwards when the tuteur is in that position.

I placed it over a wild clematis vine that was already growing there, and because the slope is so steep, only the two back legs are firmly in the ground. I will have to right it when the ground thaws and I can stick the legs back in, but there must be a better way.

Snowdrops sheltered by a weeping Japanese maple are on the verge of blooming.

I’ve mentioned several other nearly blooming plants in this post, so will only show the snowdrops here. These are Galanthus ‘Sam Arnott’, my earliest blooming snowdrop, deliberately sited in a sheltered location. One of my tricks to make spring come sooner is to plant the earliest blooming flowers in the warmest spots. You should try it yourself.

What I mean by roller coaster weather

February 3: 51°F (10.5°C)
February 14: -24°F (-31°C)
February 20: 61°F (16°C)

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Barbarapc March 8, 2016, 12:11 pm

Kathy, If you’d had us guess what month we were looking at, I would have never guessed February, unless of course I’d lived through this mild winter. Just when you think you can start washing the wooly hats and mitts, we get hammered. I guess it is one of those winters we’ll remember for years to come. (Can’t believe that little creature dug under your fence. Doesn’t seem sporting at all!)

Matt Sayle March 2, 2016, 8:42 am

Here in Saint Louis, MO – we tend to get all 4 seasons in a single week.

Josh February 28, 2016, 5:57 pm

It was a beautiful day out here in PA where I’ve been visiting. Went out for a hike and saw much of the same early budding you’ve shown here too!

Frank February 27, 2016, 8:57 pm

I don’t think I’ve seen such a thorough tour of your gardens yet, thanks! I love all the paths and special areas you have carved out.
Tomorrow looks like it might be warmer. Maybe a few more things will pop up and you’ll be enjoying your cabin fever bed before you know it!

Kathy Purdy February 27, 2016, 10:02 pm

This stroll was primarily through the wilder parts of our acreage, which I’m not actually trying to tame but just make more traversable. Did you see the map at the bottom of the Secret Garden post? (It was linked to in this one.) Or the first post about the new gardens? I forget exactly when you started commenting here.

Les February 27, 2016, 8:09 pm

-24 and no snow on the ground. Something seems out of whack.

Kathy Purdy February 27, 2016, 9:58 pm

Actually, I think we had a dusting at that point. Then after that we got more rain. I think.

Pat Webster www.siteandinsight.com February 26, 2016, 11:39 am

The temperature fluctuations are amazing, Kathy. I hope this isn’t a forecast of the years to come. I loved walking through the woods with you. A great idea for a post, particularly at this time of year.

Joanne Toft February 26, 2016, 11:11 am

Minneapolis, Mn. is still frozen although you can see the grass in places. The creek a few blocks away has a bit of water on the top but not completely thawed. That may change this weekend as we are suppose to be in the 50’s. We will see if it happens.
Love taking the picture walk through your woods. Thanks for sharing the start to your spring.

Donna@Gardens Eye View February 26, 2016, 10:20 am

Beautiful walks! Similar roller coaster here but a bit more wintery and cold…we are getting snow today again and temps in the 20s…similar roller coaster predicted. My poor bulbs are so confused. Seems March winter weather will continue here in CNY for a couple more weeks…hoping for a melt and constant temps in March. I have planted early bulbs in those warm spots. Now if we can get some warm, snowless weather so I can enjoy them.

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:43 am

We are also getting temps in the 20s and snow–and then 50+ on the weekend. I know you are a bit colder than me–sending warm thoughts your way.

Patty February 26, 2016, 9:51 am

You have a lovely property. Our ‘creek’ is managed by Halton region and is no longer a natural waterway. I am glad to see I am not alone in the use of chicken wire as plant protection. Sometimes it looks like that is all I grow in my garden 🙂

gail eichelberger February 26, 2016, 8:20 am

That was a lovely tour. Your garden/property is beautiful.

Layanee February 26, 2016, 8:02 am

We have experienced temperature fluctuations much like yours here in RI, Kathy. I do see the snowdrops and the winter aconites blooming so the worst is over.

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:41 am

Yes, you’re a little ahead of me.

Betsy February 26, 2016, 7:39 am

I loved your walk through of the woods. I miss doing that in the winter and can’t wait until spring to do it again, so it was a fun hike, vicariously!

Judy February 26, 2016, 7:23 am

My winter aconites are blooming on the south side! Zone 5

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:40 am

Good for you!

Laura ~ RYG February 26, 2016, 7:21 am

Live pretty close to you so I totally see your vantage point weather-wise. One day….I’m out riding bikes with my daughter cause it was almost 60 degrees!!! The next, tubing down the hill because of a huge amount of snow. Silliness!

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:40 am

Buffalo tends to get more snow but milder temps because of that big body of water just to the west of you. But the general trends are the same, I agree. It’s been crazy!

Alex February 26, 2016, 3:57 am

Thanks for such a wonderful walk! I have truly enjoyed looking at your first signs of spring when in central Kazakhstan we’ve been slightly above zero just for the last 2 days, which is unusually warm for here. I love reading your blog, thanks for sharing!

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:37 am

I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. This has not been a typical February for us, either, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Adam February 26, 2016, 3:35 am

We’re just coming out of another dry summer in Australia.. Looking forward to seeing even half as much moisture as you’re receiving. I belive it was 45oC last week.. 🙂

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:36 am

Thanks for reading! What Australia calls a cold climate would be warm for me. And 45C would be record-breaking!

Leslie February 25, 2016, 10:43 pm

So much water and moisture and wetness! I hope the burrowed-under plant survives.

Kathy Purdy February 26, 2016, 10:41 am

It must be really strange to someone who has to ration it.

Carol February 25, 2016, 9:58 pm

We are on a similar roller coaster ride here in Indiana, too. Thanks for the walk through yours!