Friday, March 31, 2023

As March Roars Out

A day of storm: intermittent torrential rain pounding on the metal roof, streaming down the windowpanes. Around noon the electricity jolted off and on several times before staying off for about 45 minutes. I filled two teakettles and set them on the wood stove, found a book and settled close to the grey-green light of an east window. 
It has been a month of fractious weather, not unusual for March and April here, but frustrating, humbling perhaps as we realize yet again that we are at the mercy of whatever comes, be it the unseasonable warmth of early March when magnolias bloomed, rose bushes unfolded crinkled new leaves, or the run of frosty nights that nipped and blighted the new growth.

Determined to save my budding clematis I trudged out on chilly evenings to wrap the trellises in old sheets and towels, using clothes pegs to snug the fabric around the vines. Predictably 'Candida' and 'Duchess of Edinburgh' are showing shriveled buds, while the later blooming shorter varieties appear nearly undamaged.
As for the roses, I may as well wait several weeks and then prune again. Looking over my blog journals for the past several years I note that we've had heavy frost and even light snow in mid-April well into May. It takes only one such brief spell of cold spring weather to undo the effort toward an early garden.

Looking west during a break in the rain around 6 p.m.
With a stint of cooking/baking finished, I slipped on wellies and a rain jacket to trudge out with the little bucket of kitchen scraps. The rain held off long enough for me to stomp up the lane to the mailbox, only to find that the mailman did not make his route today. Mail tucked into the box yesterday afternoon, flag raised; out-going mail still there, the envelopes looking wilted. I tucked them under my coat, brought them back in to flatten on the edge of my desk.
Any threat of inclement weather here closes school, halts mail delivery, postpones scheduled events. We suppose the excuse is the narrow secondary roads that lunge along the ridges and cross the creeks which can so quickly overflow.
I was back inside long enough to kick off my boots and shed my raincoat before the next burst of rain belted down.
With the kitchen tidied I leaned against the front door sampling a small slice of blueberry pie, enjoying the close-up view of a pair of titmice bouncing about on the wet porch, picking bits of kibble from the outdoor cats' dish. 
The titmice are cocky little things, often jigging along the edge of the raised bed or landing on the porch railing, seemingly unfazed by lurking felines.

On warm afternoons I've continued a half-hearted weeding of the south/east wall garden. At the far end you can see the hybrid magnolia, 'Jane' stripped of blossoms first by wind and then by frost. She is making a feeble effort to come into leaf. Beyond are two lilacs; being accustomed to the rigors of a New England spring they have calmly gone about putting out leaves undaunted by frost.

Early morning frost melting away as the sun hits the meadow.

Mayapple unfurling crinkled umbrellas after the frost.

A clump of bloodroot discovered on the half-cleared upper slope of the north ravine.

A few moments of strange green darkness before an early dusk.
Sally and Willis have plodded through soaked grass and then sensibly taken to the wall--coming to inquire if I need their help.
As I type, thunder is rolling in again bringing the threat of another power blip.
The forecast for the night is an uneasy one. 
Lightning is flashing in purple-white streaks through the bare trees across the south ridge.
I'm out of here for now!



  1. More storms seem to keep coming bringing heavy rain then frost. It's disheartening, I'm sure, to see new growth shrivel after a cold night. Hopefully April will bring milder weather.
    I grew a double Bloodroot in a big pot and it survived several winters. Last year it didn't come up. I walk around and watch now to see what didn't make it through this past winter. Granny Marigold

    1. Granny M; Spring is a time of hope and frustration for gardeners. We're always poking about to see what has survived the winter, disappointed with the losses. No life showing on my butterfly bushes and a favorite rose has only one feeble shoot. On the other hand, coneflowers have self-sown about a million seedlings!

  2. Gosh, that sounds some threatening weather. We have had a very grey wet March (after a dry February) - the one day of brilliant sunshine was when I went out to Carmarthen on Monday in search of a bed, and went on to the beach with my lunch. Oh that sea air!

    I hope your garden will recover (especially those lovely Clematis) and the photo of your Magnolia is lovely. I have one of those somewhere on the bank - must go and find it, but it was small so it won't be obvious yet. The M. stellata is putting out blooms anyway.

    Love the cat helpers!

    1. Jennie; Always the cat helpers! The header photo of the hybrid magnolia was taken a day or two before the dreadful wind and then killing frost finished off the blooms.
      With age-diminished stamina I'm pondering how I can focus my gardening efforts on plants that don't require a lot of fuss. But--there's always the weeds!

  3. Even so, after all that weather and plants being struck down, you still have a lovely place to live in Sharon. Either you go down the road of placing dull evergreens everywhere (they do this in this country) or you gamble on the plants you have bought. What about mulching the weeds thickly, or matting the plants you already have. Hardy geraniums (cranesbills) in this country make large plants with impenetrable centres.

    1. Thelma; I wish that mulching would help with the weeds. I've replaced bark mulch a number of times but with our most common weeds staunchly winter hardy [lamium, chickweed, others whose names I forget] they flourish and spread through the colder months, coming into their own again at the first hint of spring. Thick layers of gravel in the driveway and between house and workshop have likewise been invaded. J. once or twice used a spray-on weed killer--which I protested--that merely burns the top growth without affecting the roots.
      I have planted cranesbills several times as garden edging--strangely they didn't colonize and slowly disappeared. Its an on-going battle, one I'm not quite ready to concede.

  4. I planted a few annuals last week, so I am hoping we'll see no more frost. However, I have memories of losing plants to freezing temps as late as April 20th. I am not a fan of strong winds, but strong winds we have had all the week, and tornadoes ripped through the state not far away.

    1. Mary; I haven't started any plants yet--which is unusual. Past springs have brought disappointments even with taking tender annuals into my little greenhouse on a frosty night. Perennials such as coneflower, monarda, phlox, New England asters, are up and thriving.
      Heavy winds and torrential rains are scary at times as damage can be so fickle in where it strikes.
      Gardeners need a strong blending of hope and realism!