As my son and I left his Cub Scout meeting on Friday night, I could only describe the weather as pouring ice. Steady waves of icy pellets fell noisily on the sidewalk outside the school. We were on the southern edge of a storm system that dumped several inches of snow along the Great Lakes, but left us with a few hours of sleet. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was expecting a crunchy crust on the garden. Instead, the grass was already peeking out from a patchy coating of what looked like snow.
By early afternoon when I walked through the garden with my camera, the bright sun had melted even more of the covering. In one of the front porch containers, the bird nest that came in our Christmas tree held a bit of ice.
Around back, Zefr sat waist deep in ice with the first signs of frost damage appearing on his glazed surface. When I first bought this piece of garden art, I knew it would be a wonderful symbol to welcome visitors to my backyard gardens. Even up to his elbows in ice, he maintains his “what will be, will be” attitude.
|Salix integra ‘Hikuro Nishiki’|
We haven’t had many blue sky days this winter, so I took the time to stand beneath the dappled willow and look up through its cross-cutting branches. The kaleidoscope of red and gray against the deep blue sky is among my favorite textures in the winter garden.
|Prunus ceracus ‘North Star’|
Mahogany buds on the North Star Cherry have begun to stand out against the waxy brown twigs. Along with nearby lilac and serviceberry, this tree holds the promise of early spring in a tight embrace.
Last year’s Hellebore foliage remains a deep green, if a little wilted by the frigid temperatures we had this week. It’s one of the few evergreen plants in the back border. I won’t cut back this foliage until well after the new flowers and foliage emerge in February and March.
As I worked my way around to the front yard, the calls of a large flock of geese called my attention upward. I’m not sure which way they were headed, north or south. Perhaps they’re as confused by our mild winter as the rest of us are.
I noticed earlier this week that only one of the three sweet gum lining our driveway is covered with seed pods. There are a large number of seedpods on the ground around the other two, but I can’t figure out why one tree would still hold onto them while the others dropped.
Looking at the trees, I noticed quick flashes of movement. With a closer look, I saw several goldfinches plucking seed from the dried seed pods hanging from the branches. I returned inside for my zoom lens so I could capture them up close.
At one point, six of them gathered in one section of the tree, hanging every which way to stick their beaks into the openings. For every beak-full they retrieved, a shower of seed would rain out of the pod. Every so often, the finches would flutter over to the neighbor’s roof to get a drink from the melting ice.
Getting outside was a good antidote to being cooped up by winter this week. The plants may have been visibly retracting from the frigid air, but a morning of sunshine allowed the critters to come out from hiding and bring some much-needed life to the garden.