March 20, 2012

‘The most unusual weather event’

The only “season” I haven’t experienced in the past 2 ½ weeks is autumn. As I write this “Lessons Learned” wrap-up of the past winter, I feel like it has all been part of a strange dream.

Most of the winter was mild and light on snow.

Then on March 2, we had one of the biggest, prettiest snowstorms of the season (normal March weather), followed by a short stretch of drizzly, cold, windy yuck (normal early April weather). Next up was about two days of mild, perfect sunny weather (normal May weather).

And then summer hit with a blast of hot air. Madison sweated through five record-breaking highs in a row (and today is another record-breaker at 81 degrees). Kids were running through sprinklers on Sunday! And it wasn’t even spring yet!

I can’t even come up with words to describe this phenomenon. Jonathon Martin, chairman of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UW-Madison, said it best: “This is to me the most unusual weather event I've witnessed in my lifetime.”

The parkas are off, the shorts are on, and everything is blooming all of a sudden and very early. And we’re just now starting the official season of spring. Wow!

So, to accompany our Lessons Learned, I’m posting photos I haven’t shared until now from the beautiful blizzard of March 2, along with photos of blooms that followed just two weeks later.



Lessons Learned from fellow bloggers:

1. Karin at Southern Meadows posts a combined “Seasonal Celebrations” and Lessons Learned post. She starts out describing and sharing photos of upcoming festivals in her community. She follows with excellent lessons learned about structural elements in her northeast Georgia garden, and about the unpredictability of the past winter.

2. Donna at Garden Walk, Garden Talk offers a thorough lesson in tree bark. She includes great shots of Sycamore, Tamarack, and Oak trees, among others, along with information on how to identify trees by their bark. Her post is a virtual “walk in the park,” complete with history and data about each tree species.

3. Lyn at The Amateur Weeder gardens “down under” in New South Wales, Australia. Her summer weather was rainier than usual, and she admits one can’t assume the weather will be normal in any season. A grouping of Coleus plants surprised her, thriving in the hot, wet conditions. She shares excellent shots of her garden, along with plans for next year.



4. Donna at Gardens Eye View has launched her wonderful “Seasonal Celebrations” meme as a partner to “Lessons Learned. Donna shares several practical lessons that all gardeners can follow. Among them—capture shots when you can (before the critters eat your Crocuses) and plant more native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs for birds in winter.

5. TS at Casa Mariposa steps back in time and shares a December post about the previous growing season. These words of wisdom can be applied to any garden in any season: “The problem with mistakes is that we become so used to seeing them, we simply stop seeing them at all. They blend like leaves into the landscape until we only see the completed scene, not the individual leaf.”

6. Sheila at Green Place takes us on a walk through the woods near Chapel Hill, N.C. She’s fortunate to live in a place where spring ephemerals commonly make an appearance in February. Trout Lily, Hepatica, and Windflower brighten the path along the tree-lined creeks. Sheila reminds us to look closely at the ground for new life as we hike, and to take more walks in the woods.



7. Holley at Roses and Other Gardening Joys shares a secret. A garden magazine photographer once told her that every garden he ever photographed had weeds—every one! Holley admits to skimping on mulch, which means there’s always a lot of weeding to do in her Texas garden in late winter. But she finds joy in the weeding because it’s an excuse to get outside when the weather is pleasant.

8. Michelle at The Sage Butterfly offers the most comprehensive lesson on voles that I have ever read. She includes a picture of a cute vole and even lists the benefits of voles (I admit, it was hard for me to appreciate this part). Her post offers a very helpful list of vole deterrents, many of which I use and others I plan to try (for example, Rosemary, vitamin D3, and castor oil).

9. MO at Gardening Not Landscaping takes us along for a dinner with the Milwaukee Rosarian Society. The theme: Roses as herbs. On the menu, among other tasty treats: Rose Pavlova with fresh fruit and Rose hip mixed herbal tea. MO shares her notes about the event, including information about various Rose species and international destinations to visit for viewing Roses in their glory.



10. Diana at Elephant’s Eye also combined a “Seasonal Celebrations” post with her “Lessons Learned.” She learned that, because of the extreme heat in her Porterville, South Africa, garden, succulents are a better choice than shade plants—even under trees, because those trees and their leaves get hot when highs stretch beyond 100 degrees! She also admits to letting some of her garden beds become overgrown. It’s much easier to trim them a bit each season than to wait five years for a bigger project.

11. Christine at The Gardening Blog, also located in South Africa, lists eight practical lessons she plans to incorporate in her garden next year. I found myself nodding in agreement with each one. It’s hard to imagine from her photos that her garden is anything but gorgeous, but she assures us that she needs more flowers, wider spaces between plants, and blooms that attract beneficial insects.

All these gardeners put me to shame with their lessons this season. I didn’t want to look back at winter, and my lessons were rather blasé. I’d encourage anyone who wants good advice about gardening to check out these bloggers’ excellent posts. Thanks to all who participated!

But I must say, the verse I used at the start of my “Lessons Learned” post on March 1 was rather clairvoyant for the end of this strange winter in the Midwest:

'First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus—
Crocus.'

~Lija Rogers

22 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your quote from Casa Mariposa. Part of it is self defence - I can't 'see that mess' or I'll have to sort it out!

    (found this post when checking in at IceRocket, your rank is roaring up in the 23 thousands)

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    1. Yes, I agree Diana. It's so easy to avoid facing the messy parts because the successful parts of the garden shine, plus we have to deal with messes when we see them. Thanks for the info on IceRocket--I need to check it out one of these days.

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  2. Impressive lessons from everyone! Your snow photos are great! You really did get dumped on. When I lived in Michigan I remember weeks were there would be snow one day and we would be wearing shorts the next. You have to wonder sometimes what Mother Nature is thinking!

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    1. Thanks, Karin! Yes, that is so true--but usually it happens in April or May. And it's normally a day-to-day change. This extended spell of warmth in March is so unusual. I can't believe the Magnolias are in full bloom. Weird, but certainly beautiful.

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  3. What a beautiful post, Beth! Your photos say it all--we went from winter to spring in a blink of an eye. I'm sorry I didn't have time to participate this time, but if I had, I suppose the lesson I've learned is to take advantage of the time you have. I had planned to paint my bathroom and do some other home projects this March, thinking it would be a typical cold, rainy month. Instead, I'm rushing outside every chance I get to work in the garden and see what new bloom has popped up today.

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    1. Thank you, Rose. That's fine--just join in when you can. :) Thanks for sharing your lesson in your comment. I had similar plans for March and April, but being a gardener, I will always choose projects outside whenever I can. I guess I'll have to wait for a rainy day to clean my messy house.

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  4. A fabulous post with such beautifully written summations on all our lessons! I love this meme - long may it continue.

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    1. Thank you, Christine, for your kind comment! It's so much fun to do this one--I love to compare notes regarding climates and seasons with people in different locales. Especially during the winter. Your bright posts keep me cheery when the weather is gray here.

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  5. Interesting weather! I've been wondering what Mother Nature has in store for us in the next few years. Seems like the weather is a surprise almost every day! And that quote really does fit! All very good lessons.

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Holley! I know you were pretty busy with your book review meme, too. I have a lot of garden books that I just skim and place on the shelf for reference. Is it OK to include that type of book in a review? Most of the books I read thoroughly are fiction.

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  6. You do this so well, and I am very grateful for all the hard work you put into this meme. I enjoy the seasons, and it is always interesting to look back and contemplate the lessons. In addition, I enjoy reading what others learn. Thanks for hosting!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. It's a fun meme to host. In addition to being very interested in the subject matter, I find a quarterly meme pretty easy to maintain. And thanks for participating!

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  7. Beth I couldn't get over the quote and how appropriate...this weather is crazy scary with extreme temps...my poor early bulbs don't like it...I just love this meme because I learn so much...great lessons once again!! Only 91 days until Summer...

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    1. My Crocuses actually "croaked" for the season a few days ago. They didn't like the heat. I'm actually glad we'll have a little cool down on the weekend to hold some of the blooms. I learn a lot, too. Thanks, Donna, for participating and collaborating!

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  8. Thank you for all the work you put into your post, Beth. Thank you for linking back and noting a summery of our posts. This is such an unexpected pleasure. You are right about experiencing the weather in an an odd fashion. Spring skipped us here with record 80° days this past week. You snow images are so pretty and are what we should be having in March. I think this year coming,(as well as last), will be filled with lessons learned.

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    1. Sure thing, Donna. I appreciate the quality content from all these great bloggers, including you! I agree, it's likely the summer will be different, too. Hopefully, we won't have a hard frost or freeze before true summer hits. Thank you for your support and kind words.

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  9. I am hoping to find time soon to read all of the blogs linked to your meme and Donna's. I had hoped to participate but my time for blogging has been really limited for several months now. Thanks so much for hosting "Lessons Learned". The weather her has been really unusual, too, and I fear that after several weeks of summer-like temps we'll be hit with a hard freeze.

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    1. I know how it goes, Ginny. No problem--please join in the meme when you can! I have the same fears you do. And I'm also worried about all the strange bugs that will make an appearance this summer.

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  10. Thanks for including me! I'm constantly learning from my garden. It has so much to teach. Our weather has been bizarre, too. It was 85 the other day. I actually had to water parts of my garden because we've had barely any rain and too much heat. This was a great idea for a post and I now I have new blogs to discover. :o)

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    1. But of course! I really appreciate your humor and fun posts, TS. Fortunately we've had enough rain, but the early spring bloomers are fading as fast as they appear. I can't believe the Redbuds are about to bloom, and the Mayapples are pushing up through the forest floor! Stay cool!

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  11. Beth, thanks for a great summary of the lessons and for hosting this feature. I'm enjoying the spring but am at the same time disturbed by all the unusual and very warm weather being reported all over the country. Spring is usually a slow unfolding in NC, and it seems to be on fast-forward. They're predicting a high of 88 degrees today! My big concern is - if it's in the high 80s in April, what on earth does summer hold? Thank God for the dogwoods that manage to hold their blossoms for a long time despite hail the other night.

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    1. After our extended summer weather during a good chunk of March, the temps took a nosedive last week. I was in New Orleans, so it didn't matter much to me. Actually, the cooler weather helped to hold the blooms in place. I worry, too, about what's ahead--especially the bugs. :(

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