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WHAT IS NORMAL?

Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

It is the middle of January and a local weatherman has just announced that our temperatures have been averaging 15 to 20 degrees above normal. A record, 80 degrees, was set yesterday. What does that mean for the garden dwellers?

Strangely, the warm temperatures have not affected the azaleas or for that matter the edgeworthia, which is in heavy bud. These shrubs are usually some of the first to color.

Some daffodils are open and others are budded. Strange to see them jump up so quickly, especially since I just planted my tulip bulbs, which had been chilling out in the frig.

I expect the Daphne and hellebores to be open in January and they are in full bloom. My young Mahonia bealei is blossoming for the first time. My daughter Kathy named this group of leatherleaf shrubs Grapes of Wrath (it is sometimes called Oregon grape holly in my area of the South) when she was a youngster, because of the nasty thorns on the points of the leaves and the clusters of blue berries that follow the yellow flowers. (Now she calls them a nuisance as they multiply out of control in her Seattle area yard.) The returning robins love the berries so I had to have at least one in my yard.

The tea olives are another welcome January bloomer on warm days. They are in full scent mode today, perfuming the whole garden. These so-called shrubs were here when we took over this garden 8 years ago. They are about 15 feet tall. I limbed them up so I could plant underneath. They make a lovely small evergreen tree, growing in a tight cone without any pruning.

A couple of other trees should not be blossoming today. Although the pink star magnolia is budded all winter, this is still early for it to open, but one flower at the very top has decided to test the air. The neighbor’s red maple is in full blossom. It has done this in past winters during mild spells and has suffered with a sure to come freeze. Still, it lives on with a new set of flowers when the first set dies. It wouldn’t be a huge loss to me if it did pass on since it is next to our fence. It grew up quickly and now its roots fill my raised beds and its leaves shade my vegetable patch.

The winter vegetables are coming along nicely. I am growing some in grow boxes to keep the maple roots away. I hope that the broccoli will be ready soon although it looks dangerously close to flowering. The collard greens are ready for sautéing. The onions are looking great and so is the flat leaf parsley. The red cabbage is pretty, but it hasn’t set its heads yet.

This could be another year of a small Sugar Snap pea harvest. The squirrels had loads of fun digging up the pea seed and have continued their happy digging in the bed, uprooting what few pea vines have managed to emerge. I am hoping to curb their digging with pepper on the ground around the vegetables. Since they also love to dig in pots, I covered the pot tops with black pepper, too. It worked overnight but for how long I don’t know. I did leave them a couple of pots of dirt for their own squirrely use and I purchased a very large container of powdered red hot pepper I intend to use from time to time.

The weatherman forecasts cooler temperatures this weekend. I sure hope so. I would hate to have that broccoli bolt before it fills out completely.

Posted January 18, 2013


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