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Friday, January 3, 2014

The 2013 garden - a look back

Another gardening year is over! I really love the winter months and like to take this time to look back at photos of the garden from the previous year. It really does re-charge the batteries and renew enthusiasm for the garden. For me, the change of seasons and winter downtime is essential. I don't think I'd be happy in southern California or Florida where the weather stays the same all the time. I like change, get bored easily, and the transition of the seasons is just enough to keep me interested.

Winters here in northwest Alabama are relatively brief (2-3 months) and usually mild. The 2013-2014 winter is looking to be colder with single digits predicted next week. I don't think we had single digits last winter. This can be good - perhaps it will kill some of those dreaded mosquitoes.

By the time late February rolls around, the gray skies start lending themselves over to a sunnier, crisp, crystal blue. Buds on trees and shrubs begin to swell and you can feel spring right around the corner. One of the first trees to bloom in our garden is Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana "Rustic Rubra"). The tree is located along the circular drive-way behind our house and at an optimal spot. A narrow planting strip resides under a line of huge hackberry trees whose roots clutter and dry up the ground. Not a good place to garden but I learned that camellias, oakleaf hydrangeas and small trees like this one do well. Massives of daffodils, kerria japonica and late camellias make this spot a colorful one in March.

 

Despite the blooms, the garden still looks a bit stark in March with the absence of leaves and greenery.  Evergreens, like the spectacular Armand's Clematis (below) help remedy that problem. It took 3 years for this somewhat persnickety vine to get established but it has been well worth the wait. Blooms started appearing in early March last year and it continued to bloom until late April. This is an attractive vine even when not in bloom.



April brings warmer temperatures and spring showers and the garden really begins to take off. Things start popping up all over - bulbs, like Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) (below), tulips and daffodils carpet the ground with color. Newly developed leaves on plants project a vivid green that is quite spectacular after a rain shower. It is truly a tremendous time to be alive and enjoy the garden but April also is a busy month and the list of things to do is unrelenting. Fertilizing, planting, mowing, etc. etc. and as soon as the threat of frost is over, it is time to plant pots with annuals and get the vegetables planted.





Another sure sign of spring is the white wisteria that blooms in the "secret garden". The vine always sneaks up on me and seems to bloom overnight. I usually notice it from the opposite side of the garden wall where is rises above it. You can often smell it before you see it!


  
As lovely as April is, the peak time for our garden in is May. That is when the roses are blooming and the garden is like a fairyland. In late May, the hydrangeas begin blooming (we have about 50 varieties) and later the Oakleaf hydrangeas remain in bloom throughout the remainder of the garden year.

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

As the heat of summer increases, the blooms take a back seat and the garden becomes a study in greens. 2013 was a good year in that we had plenty of rain. Drought years are especially hard on both the garden and me.

 
The heat of summer often lasts well into October but signs of autumn begin to creep in. Sometimes the fiery hues of fall don't show up until November (as was the case this year) and when it happens, it seems to take place virtually overnight. I love the fall season in the garden. The Japanese maples, oakleaf hydrangeas, and other colorful shrubs provide a kaleidoscope of vivid colors. Long colorful autumns are nice but sometimes an early frost ends the show. Winter settles in and the garden goes into a deep sleep. Another year has ended, a new one begins!





Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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