Thursday, February 15, 2007

Snow on the roof, record in the books

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Vermont Flower Farm sign is barely visible now but in our hearts, our gardens are always open. One degree below zero tonight but the wind speed brings the temperature to 10 below. It takes only seconds outside with Karl the wonder dog to know that this is not the night to do much sniffing around. This storm's record has been well publicized and the cold wil not leave.

I plowed three times yesterday and got out at 4:30 this morning to do everything again before heading out to work. From the last time I plowed last night until this morning, another foot dropped. The real trouble was the wind which drifted snow five feet high in places along the drive that I had in pretty good shape before going to bed. Tonight after work I got out the snow rake to approach the roof but the wind and blowing snow drove me back inside after less than half an hour. There is 4 feet of snow on the roof and although it's a standing seam metal roof, it's been cold for over a month and the snow has been holding on since a mid-January rain storm. My work is cut out for me over the next couple days. Once I pull the snow off the roof I have to dig out the windows and doors again. Such is winter.

In fall I leave many of the plant stalks standing tall in wait for a blanket of white to accentuate their unseen beauty and interest. The new snow has covered everything now and only a few rudbeckias stand above the drifts on the bank outside my office window. In their absence I try to visualize the beauty of waves of red, purple and maroon bee balm, busy with honey and bumble bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

I short while back I included a picture of a very tall clump of Empress Orienpet lilies surrounded by monarda. The picture drew a comment on the interest of the combination. Monarda is seen as a rough plant by many but I rate it as a people pleaser because visitors are regularly entertained by the insects and birds which frequent it. It can get out of hand, a trait from it's mint-like origins but its shallow roots make eradication or relocation as easy as bending over and selectively pulling out some extras here and there.

The so-called roughness can easily be tempered by bordering it front and back with larger and taller flowers. Much by accident we have used lilies and daylilies and are pleased with the outcome. The dark reds and maroons of Asiatic lilies such as Black Jack or America work well with the monarda reds and even though the monarda is a continuous flow of color, the size and smoothness of the lily petals catches your eye.

Several years back, lilies known as LA Hybrids were released. These are crosses between the longiflorums of Easter lily fame and Asiatic lilies, the fragrance-free, dependable, inexpensive, quick-to-multiply lily now common in many gardens. The LAs have large flowers, thicker petals, a mild fragrance of sorts, if any fragrance at all. They are strong lilies which can hold up against late July-early August thunderstorms and they work well as standouts within the bee balm.

And as a finishing touch, you can add some Lilium superbum standing in the back and swaying with the wind. These are 7-8-9 foot tall lilies over time and they make great perches for hummingbirds tired from flight and in need of a breather.

The daylily world has some terrific varieties now and I am developing an interest in tall varieties 36" and over. The liliums I have suggested are just that, suggestions to get you thinking about color, height and texture. Daylilies can replace the bulb lilies or other pernenials for that matter. The result will be a mass of color which will offer enjoyment for a long time. On a night like tonight when it's bitter cold and very white outside, I can close my eyes and see the bee balms,see the colors. Think about your gardens....see the colors????

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the wind pounds the house but can't come in and where this gardener-plowman-snow shoveler-roof cleaner thinks it's time for bed. But not before that last piece of cherry pie and a glass of milk--a homemade Valentines Day gift from my Valentine, Gail.

With garden thoughts in winter,

George Africa

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