A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I've noticed that I begin each post with a brief weather report. As a gardener, weather is very important to me. Too much rain, too little rain, too hot, too cold, a late spring, an early frost, high winds, hail. All of these have a significant impact on my gardens so I tend to view weather differently from most people.

When I started gardening at this house, the Northeast was going through a period of drought. I don't water heavily. I can't afford it. The best I could do was go around the yard with a hose. The lack of rain meant that my seed germination rate was poor. The few seedlings that emerged were then stressed (and many subsequently died) from the hot dry weather. The resulting plants were stunted. Many didn't bloom.

My gardens didn't really come into their own until August when the annuals which love hot dry weather bloomed. I fell in love with cosmos. The airy, ferny foliage. The big daisy-like blossoms in red, pink and white. Some of the plants grew to be over six feet tall. I rediscovered zinnias and marigolds. Who knew there were so many kinds of heirloom zinnias? I had to try them all.

The drought seems to be over. The past few years have been cool and rainy. The perennials have finally started to fill in. I've had spectacular hollyhocks and gorgeous iris. The black-eyed susans have practically taken over one bed. The late spring air is filled with the scent of pinks and sweet william. And my beloved heirloom roses, the "OldRoses", make my backyard into a magical retreat each spring. The downside is that the annuals are now struggling through cool Augusts. The cosmos doesn't grow as big and the zinnias and marigolds have fewer blooms.

Since I didn't begin with my usual weather report, I'll end with one. 60's expected today. Not what the weather forecasters were predicting for this winter. They were expecting a colder than usual rather than a warmer than usual winter. I could have told them it was going to be mild. The oak tree knew.

Some people rely on the Farmer's Almanac, others rely on wooly caterpillars. I rely on my neighbor's oak tree which shades my driveway. Oak trees drop more acorns in the fall when the winter is going to be colder than normal and fewer when it is going to be mild. I moved into this house in August of 1995. It rained acorns all fall. It actually became dangerous to walk in my driveway. It was like walking on marbles. The blizzard of '96 dumped 26" of snow the following January. It wasn't that bad again until last year when we had a colder than normal winter.

This fall, as the forecasters were making dire predictions about an even colder winter, I was puzzled. Then amazed. Something happened I had never seen in the ten years I have lived here.

I didn't see a single acorn.


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