Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Activities 2012

Yes, that's a sprinkler on in the Conifer Garden north of the Visitor Center.  Our snow drought has meant a real drought now as rainfall has just been spits and drizzles too.  6 days in January 2012 have had a temperature above 60F! 

Cabbages and Lettuce at the end of January?  Almost unheard of for "up here" but with just a bit of cold damage and lows hovering around 10F in protected places, it is the new normal this year.
Even the Kale looks pretty darn gorgeous for the end of January.  Usually its a mush pile by now but many still have their gorgeous foliage colors as kale is generally hardy down to 10F.
This Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera) bush in the Heartland Harvest Garden's Apple Celebration Court shows us where the mockingbirds nested last summer.  The great songster on top of the greenhouse actually had 3 family broods in the roses around the apples last year and all 3 nests are now visible in the winter landscape.  Most songbirds build a new nest for each brood to avoid both predators and parasitic pests.
The bare trees and shrubs and the January thaw make it the ideal time to prune fruit and nut crops as you can see the branching structure well and your hands don't go numb!  HHG Horticulturist Matt Bunch is busy pruning our nice collection of Hazelnuts and Filberts (Corylus spp.).  Hazelnuts are one of our first shrubs to bloom in spring with very unique flowers: the female flowers look like tiny red spiders and the male flowers are dangling catkins that release pollen into the wind.
Heartland Harvest Garden Gardener Barbara Fetchenhier is busy pruning the peach trees.  The peaches in the Peach Plaza are really starting to show great form and the potential for a phenomenal crop of peaches.  We all are worried how the mild weather is affecting our fruit and nut crops but so far these plants are remaining dormant.  The dry weather has been a benefit and a warm, spring-like rain would not be a good thing now as it would force plants flower buds to emerge too early!
Oregon Grape-Holly (Mahonia aquifolium) shows beautiful red-purple winter foliage right now in the Menu Garden.  This evergreen shrub has beautiful and nectar-rich yellow flowers in early spring followed by blue, tart berries in summer that can be made into delicious preserves.  This shrub adds some variety to an edible landscape as a welcome evergreen.

The Encore(R) Azaleas are a new evergreen shrub added to the Powell Gardens landscape this year.  These repeat-flowering azaleas are gaining immense popularity.  I photographed our 10 hardy varieties now to voucher what their foliage looks like in winter and this is the cultivar 'Royalty' which has large, royal fuchsia flowers produced sporadically all summer and into fall (in addition to springtime bloom!). 
 The sky on Monday, January 30th was crystal clear but the jet contrails created a very unique pattern of clouds that stuck through the day.  Yep, there is "global dimming" researched by scientists as a result of these conditions.  I won't explain that now but it does lower daytime temperatures and increase nighttime temperatures.  At any rate, staff and visitors to the garden couldn't help but notice the fabulous sky yesterday.

So yes, it's time to water any new plantings or evergreens whose soil around them feels dry to the touch.  It's also time to prune fruit trees for a bumper crop next year.  Most of all this mild winter weather offers no excuse to experience the beauty of the winter landscape from evergreens to sky!

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