February 28, 2014

Garden lessons learned: winter 2014

boots
The snow/ice is so crunchy, I can walk on top of it without snowshoes.

It's time once again to share garden lessons learned in the season just ending--winter for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and summer for gardeners in the Southern Hemisphere.

arbor
Lots of snow to melt before "spring."

We'll have to wait a while before the winter weather ends here in the Northern U.S., though, and I have to admit: I haven't learned much in the garden during the past three months.

Notice I said "IN the garden."

ice
Icy patches on the patio and the driveway are making even short walks treacherous.

Oh, I've learned plenty "about gardening" and "about plants." But it has been too cold and too treacherous to spend much time actually in the garden. There's even a Wikipedia entry now for the "Early 2014 North American Cold Wave."

So, what have I learned? Here are a few items:

Plans
The start of some new garden plans.

Excel is a great tool for plotting a garden plan. I've always hand-drawn sloppy plans in the past--plans that only I could understand. So it's fun to try this new (for me) way of doing it.

cyclamen
Success with reblooming a Cyclamen plant!

I'm not an expert on florists' Cyclamen plants, but now I know what works for me to keep them alive through the summer and bloom again the next spring. (Maybe I'll write a post about it.)

yardstick
The snow has accumulated, melted, refrozen, and accumulated again.
Meanwhile, I forgot to pull out the yardstick at the beginning of the winter.

Next winter, I'll have to remember to pull the yardstick out of the snow before several layers of ice form around it. Oops.

pond
Four little goldfish are still alive and kicking in this heated pond.
I'd show you, but it's too cold to lift up the lid!

Goldfish in a heated pond can survive even the coldest winters--as long as the heater keeps working. So far, so good--two winters now!

fertilizer
Wow, look at all that great "poor man's (woman's) fertilizer"!

I'm learning to accept the mess of dirty snow--realizing it's full of nutrients for the plants underneath it.

wildlife
Lots of evidence of wildlife here (birds, squirrels, rabbits, etc.).
Will we see some new perennials poking through the Hostas?

There may be a lesson in the snow under the bird feeders. I placed Echinacea and Rudbeckia seed heads here for the birds. I wonder if I'll have any new perennials here later this spring?

What about you? What garden lessons have you learned during the past three months?

To join the Lessons Learned meme, share a new or a previous post you've written regarding your own lessons during the past season. No Linkys necessary: Simply add your link to your comment. And please also join Donna at Gardens Eye View for her Seasonal Celebrations meme. Posts that cover both memes offer a chance to reflect on the past season and look ahead to the next at the same time. Both memes will be active until the equinox, when we'll post the wrap-ups.

viburnum
I was surprised to see berries still on the Viburnum bush.
Maybe they're too frozen solid even for the birds to enjoy?!

63 comments:

  1. Beautiful cyclamen. I have no idea about growing goldfish on the heated pond. Sounds so strange for me. I hope the snow will melt soon, and I can see your beautiful garden.

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    1. Yes, isn't the Cyclamen pretty? I'm sure a heated pond would seem unusual for you. ;-) I'm envious of your climate! I'm expecting to have snow around here for at least another month. But it's OK--we're getting warmer, so we're moving in the right direction!

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  2. I learned PATIENCE this winter and will apply it to my gardening.

    I pondered the pros and cons of deadheading my Rhodies . . . time will tell regarding my decision . . .

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    1. Ah, yes! Patience. I need a little more of that! I'll look forward to reading about the results of your decision regarding your Rhododendrons.

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  3. Do you know what the best part of seeing this post is, Beth? It means that spring must be near! That's comforting, because we're in for another 10 inches of snow this weekend--how about you? I chuckled at the yardstick in the snow; when one batch of snow melted last week, I noticed I had forgotten a gnome in the arbor bed all winter. I hope he isn't too bad at me for leaving him out all winter and brings me bad luck this spring:) I'm not very good at using Excel other than the basics, but that sounds like a great idea for planning. Most of the garden lessons I've learned this winter have been from books, though I'm wondering about the results of a few new things I tried this winter--once it warms up, I might have some answers.

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    1. Oh, good! Yes, I know--just thinking that it's time to "look back" at winter is encouraging (even if we're still experiencing it)! I think you're getting more snow than we are, believe it or not. Just about 4-6 inches here--just enough to brighten up the "poor man's fertilizer." I'm sure your gnome will forgive you. ;-) I agree--I think I'll have more "answers" after the snow melts. Stay warm and safe, Rose!

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  4. You haven't half learned some lessons Beth - I'll be interest in reading about those Cyclamen. I was given some as a gift last year and they did not survive, I'm hoping I can learn where I went wrong. I hope the thaw isn't too far away.
    I'll be joining in just as soon as I can get my EOMV done!!

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    1. Good point, Angie. ;-) Yeah, I'll do a post about the Cyclamen. Although, maybe I just lucked out with it. Looking forward to your post--I know your winter has been much nicer than mine. Although we're moving in the right direction now, too.

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  5. I think the biggest lesson I have learned especially this long cold winter is - patience. Hard sitting here and not being able to do anything out there in the snow!

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    1. It's fascinating that most gardeners in the U.S. are saying that was a big lesson this season. I still need to work on that virtue, myself. ;-)

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  6. Your cyclamen is beautiful! I would say the lesson I learned was patience, but I learned and have re-learned and re-learned that long ago! What I have learned just recently is that I love carex! I just planted seventeen of an assortment of these sedges in my woodland garden, and I want more!

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    1. Thanks--yes, they're beautiful blooms aren't they? Patience is hard for North Americans, I think, so maybe this was a good time for that lesson. And it's also hard for gardeners. ;-) Deb, I'm looking forward to seeing if my Sedges will take, too. Then we can compare notes.

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  7. I have never thought about using Excel for free-hand drawing- great idea, I must admit it is the program on my computer I know the least. I use Fireworks for all sorts of drawing.

    I have learned a lot this winter, mainly related to the weather. For example: plants can take an enormous amount of water if it comes as steady rain. I was sure many of my plants and bulbs would have rotted but I have not yet found one dead.

    And since we never know what kind of winter we get I am certainly going to prepare for ANY kind of winter in the future, also a frost free one. I almost chucked all my tender geraniums last autumn because I knew they would not survive the winter outdoors and I had nowhere to put them indoors. But since the frosty weather was reluctant to arrive I decided to keep the geraniums until they were no longer alive. Now, first week of March we still haven’t had any frost and the tender geraniums are all looking great and making new shoots like crazy. In March!

    Thanks for hosting the ‘Lessons Learned’ again, I hope spring is coming to your garden soon!

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    1. Wow, you learned some good garden lessons. So happy you've been able to spend quality time in the garden nearly all winter. And it's good to hear that your plants are doing well, even with all that rain! I'm not expecting spring to really settle in until May. But that happens sometimes here. I prefer a slow progression through spring, but usually it happens quite fast here, and then it's summer!

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  8. You've had a productive winter, I'd say! I haven't planned a garden using Excel either. Sounds like something I'd like to try too. You definitely should write a post about cyclamen! This is certainly a winter to do things other than garden, isn't it?. We're all going to appreciate spring even more this year. Your goldfish are also so lucky to have the protection of a cover. Mine survived five years (using a heater in winter as well) until a raccoon got to them. :(
    p.s. the paph orchid I posted about isn't a miniature ~ I haven't seen many of those but I'm sure I'd like them!! I haven't met an orchid I didn't!!!!

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    1. Yeah, I guess it's been OK. I can see how winter weather keeps office workers more motivated and productive. Since I telecommute now, I had to fight the urge all summer to head out to the garden or to "play" outside. Now, I'm satisfied to sit by my computer and get all my projects done ASAP. ;-) We'll have to watch out for raccoons. We have them here, but the pond is quite deep and the goldfish have several places to hide, so maybe that helps. Thanks for the info about the Orchids--I do enjoy viewing them, and of course viewing your amazing photos!

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  9. Hi Beth! I am also curious if there will be any new perennials under the bird feeder! As for me, I learned how to overwinter burro tail succulents: do not water it!

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    1. Ha! We're thinking the same way. I'm curious (still learning) about container gardening with succulents. Basically, I put my three succulent pots on the back porch and forgot about them. They're out of the wind, but I didn't protect them at all from the arctic cold this winter. I wonder if any of them will survive?!

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  10. I am walking around my garden on top of the snow, too. When will it end? Six inches on Monday and more single digits!

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    1. Your weather is exactly like ours this week--just delayed by 2-3 days. Not fun. I'm seriously considering jumping in the car and driving south for a few days!

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  11. Dobry pomysł z wykorzystaniem Excel . Śniegu u Was sporo i jeszcze trochę może potrwać zanim zobaczysz ziemię. Cieszę się, że rybki żyją i będą Cię cieszyć dalej. Ja nie mam szczęścia do pięknego kwitnienia cyclamenów, więc napisz jak to robisz. Pozdrawiam.
    Good idea using Excel. Snow at you a lot and then some can take before you see the ground. I am glad that the fish live and you will enjoy further. I do not have luck to the beautiful flowering cyclamen, so write how you do it. Yours.

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    1. Yeah, Excel is working pretty well for this purpose. OK, I'll plan to do a post about it. I may have simply lucked out, but I can write about what worked, anyway. ;-)

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  12. Spring must be on the way, but a fresh new layer of snow came again last night. It will be nice to see the flowers again, but when? No berries on my Viburnum, last summer's drought did not let them form. It really makes one wonder what this summer will bring. New lessons to be learned?

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    1. Flowers...hmmmmm. That's an interesting concept. Well, I guess I have some indoors (and you do, too) so that's helping a little bit. Outdoor flowers: Now, I'm trying not to get too optimistic about that. Maybe in April? Yes, I imagine the spring and summer will be interesting, too. Each season is bizarre in its own way. ;-)

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  13. Fun post Beth and what have I learned this winter...PATIENCE and lots of it! I am hoping the winter wasn't too harsh on my plants and am looking forward to new growth once spring arrives. With more snow on the way for this evening I am looking forward to warmer weather more than ever. It is fun to read and write about gardens in the meantime!

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    1. Thank you, Lee. The entire winter has been so strange--so it's causing most of us to choose to either crab about it or chuckle at the strangeness of it. Patience--now, you are better than me on that one. I am not very patient this time of year! Yes, I agree--reading about and seeing pictures of gardens in other parts of the world helps!

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  14. I learned that "winter interest" does matter a lot to me. I'm willing to accept a plant not looking great in wintertime, but then it better look amazing the rest of the year or have something special to offer bees, beneficial insects, butterflies, birds or humans.

    I learned that many of my plants were not quite as tough as I thought they were. A real zone 6b/7a winter with lots of wind and not much snow cover has helped separate the contenders from the pretenders.

    I learned that generally speaking there are few broadleaf evergreens that can take a winter like the one we've had -- and even fewer that will look good in the process (some hollies, some magnolias and Aucuba seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule, so far).

    Out with the old and in with the new. Looking forward to trialing some allegedly tougher plants in the garden in 2014!

    Thank you for sharing the lessons learned in your garden. I'm sure once the ice melts, beauty will spring forth!!

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    1. That "winter interest" thing is funny. Most of my plants are covered with snow, so all I have to rely on is tree and shrub and geography structure. So, I guess I should appreciate snow because it does brighten the landscape. ;)

      Wow, I would have guessed that you were in a solid zone 7! And as you say, without the snow for insulation that can really make a difference. I guess your thoughts about broadleaf evergreens help explain why people in northern climates include conifers in their landscaping. I can't imagine my garden without them this time of year! We do have some species of Magnolias even this far north, but they lose all their leaves. The buds are crazy puffy all winter, though! Love em! Thanks for joining in, Aaron! Here's to a successful growing season for both of us!

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  15. I didn't know you could use Excel that way. This winter I took a class on drafting for garden designers where I learned a lot - starting pretty much at zero in terms of my ability. This class often made me thing, Oh, THAT'S how they do it. I'll try to do a post about it.

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    1. I'll look forward to that post, Jason! I've always been so informal about my garden plans. But now I have a few projects that I'm working on with other people, so it has to be a little more organized. ;-)

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  16. OMG you are still at the very cold winter, when we here just above the equator are already starting to feel the very hot climate again. We just experienced just 2 colder months, and that means we are already very happy for the 19°C, our coldest, in the morning before the sun rises! Don't laugh Beth, but that already makes us so very happy to get at least a semblance of the cold season. And that is only courtesy, or spillover effects of the cold winters from Russia and North China. I wish some more big blowers will push the cold winds here so we will be more comfortable.

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    1. Yes, it's still cold here and will be for a while, I'm afraid. We're likely to have a very short spring. Oh well, nothing we can do about it. Maybe I'll drive south for a little bit. I won't laugh--actually, I'm jealous. ;-)

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  17. Hmm I should try to use Excel for garden planning, although if there's one thing I've learned is that planning does me little good. lol The weather and the voles have other ideas.

    This winter I was looking back at some of my old blog posts and learned that I have lost more plants than I realized. Yowza.

    We had the most beautiful spring like day today in NC, up to at least 70 degrees -- tomorrow, temps will fall into the mid 20's by the afternoon, with sleet. The winter roller coaster ride continues..

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    1. Yeah, I know. Planning only goes so far before nature takes over. I keep watching the weather patterns in the southeast and believe it or not, I'm kind of glad to live here right now. Constant winter is better than going back and forth between seasons every other day. I guess. Actually, the best thing would be to live in Florida or South Texas during January, February, and March. ;0)

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  18. Is amazing that your fish can survive under these conditions, they will be really happy to welcome spring when it finally arrives, hopefully soon!

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    1. Yes, it is amazing! Only with the help of the heater, though. Actually, they're probably pretty contented to have open water all season. I'll look forward to seeing them come spring, though.

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  19. I found your blog through Donna and thus also participating in the lesson learned meme. Just like you, I have also learned the importance of having a garden plan :-). Do you have goldfish in that wooden tank? Wow! it would be nice to see them swimming around especially in this harsh winter.

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    1. Great! Welcome! Yes, we have four goldfish in the pond. It's covered with a translucent cover that lets some light in, but blocks some of the cold air. It has air vents on the side and a heater inside to keep the water from freezing. My husband developed the system. He's lifted the lid a few times to check on them throughout the winter. I didn't want to open it for a photo because I don't want to shock the fish more than necessary.

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  20. So if dirty snow is good for the garden, what about yellow snow? LOL.

    Great lessons, I love to look out the window at the snow covered mounds that are my plants, and plan.

    Jen

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    1. Ha! Yes, I suppose that could serve a purpose, too. I know--I'm starting to daydream and dream about this year's garden, too! It's time to get serious about it!

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  21. I've learned that winter is a great time to solve garden problems that plagued me last year. I can ponder the problem, create a solution, source anything needed and then begin the fix as soon as the weather cooperates. By giving myself time away from the problem I can create a solution that is more thoughtful than an immediate emotional response borne of frustration or anger. Plus, it makes me feel like I'm gardening which I need to feel balanced.

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    1. Good point! I need to think of it that way, too. Often I put the garden on the back burner (even in my mind) during the winter. But as both you and Jen mentioned, it's a good time plan and dream about the wonderful weeks ahead!

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  22. I learned (the hard way) that moving potted plants onto the front porch does not provide adequate protection in a winter like we have had. Nothing like yours, though. Stay warm.

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    1. Thanks, Ricki. I did the same thing--onto my back porch. Most of the plants there are rated hardy to USDA zone 5, but they're in pots ... so it will be interesting which, if any, of them make it through.

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  23. Dear Beth, I just wish I could plan in advance using excel, I seem to need to see the messiness, then after lots of re-arranging, a pattern (sometimes, eventually) emerges. Your garden under snow and ice is a strange, alien, but beautiful and exciting world for me to see. And the bit about the goldfish is amazing! I'm so pleased you kept their lid on, and that the electricity stayed on. So what did I learn? Just now I learned I'm not a planner, and unlikely to change.

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    1. I know what you mean about organizing--that's usually what happens to me, too. It's interesting to hear your thoughts about a winter landscape--it's so boring and standard for me--this time of year at least. The goldfish will have a warm lid until late spring. I'm amazed that they survive our extreme weather conditions! I have spontaneous tendencies, too, so I know what you mean. ;-)

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  24. Your thoughtful learnings certainly show that even when the garden is down, as many were this winter, it still teaches. The dirty snow – indeed any snow – as fertilizer was a favorite of mine when I lived in Connecticut.

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    1. Thank you, Lee. We just got a fresh layer of frosty fertilizer today, and it just keeps coming. I hear we'll have some warmer weather this weekend. Yay! Hope you're enjoying the warmer weather now in Georgia!

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  25. We haven't got any dirty snow, we get too much new stuff to cover up the old, and I still can't walk on top of any of the snowbanks. I don't think we've had snow like this in decades, so light and fluffy. And I learned I should have covered the conifers, especially the Dwarf Albertas, against sun scald. I'm glad I wrapped all the young hardwood tree trunks, though. We've got a lot of trees showing damage from winter dessication burn, it's going to be a not-so-lovely spring and summer ahead. I know they'll recover, but it takes time. We leave the goldfish out in the quarry over the winter, so far, they've always pulled through, but this has been a tough year. My hens have been kept as cozy as possible with a heat lamp on the bitterest nights, but they're hoping for Spring and some fresh dirt to play in, too.

    Now, if we can get through the Ice Season without a bad fall, I'll be happy!

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    1. PlantPostingsMarch 5, 2014 at 9:43 PM
      We've had quite a mix of winter weather lately. The snow started to melt and formed ice, and then during the past couple of days, we've had several inches of new snow. I'm a bit worried about the dessication issue, too. Only time will tell. :( If we had a quarry or a big pond, we wouldn't heat it, but this one is small and above ground, so I'm sure it would freeze solid without the heater. Be careful during your outings on the snow and ice!

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  26. Garden view in winter is most beautiful view.
    site

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    1. Thank you, Maxie! And thanks for stopping by.

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  27. I am amazed that your fish can live through the winter. But I guess they do it in nature! Yours are probably more comfortable than the ones in a "real" pond! I love the look of the plans on Excel. Very motivating!

    I'm joining in with my post here:
    http://dreamingofroses.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-are-odds.html

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    1. Yes, I guess ponds and lakes that don't freeze solid don't need a heater. ;) Of course, ours is tiny and entirely a "pet" artifact--so it needs the heater. I keep finding new uses for Excel, and this is my favorite one to-date! Thanks for joining in the meme!

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  28. Beth - here's my Lessons Learned post - I hope you don't mind my take on the theme. :)
    http://mygardenblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/when-not-to-move.html

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Angie. Actually, I think it's a perfect example and perfectly fine for the meme. As you mention, it's a lesson and it's a lesson you learned in winter. :)

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  29. Thanks for reminding me to link my post to this wonderful meme. My lesson learned over our hot dry southern hemisphere summer was which plants survived without supplementary watering from me, but with lots of smiles and encouragement and love. Here's the link: http://slowgardener.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/a-bit-of-end-of-summer-audit.html

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Sue! Those are the best plants--the ones that don't need coddling but keep coming back and performing year-to-year!

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  30. Spring is being held back again with the storm we just had. I love the idea of the spreadsheet for garden plans too. Glad some goldfish are surviving.

    Here is my post for Lessons Learned.

    http://gardenseyeview.com/2014/03/13/the-freedom-to-thrive/

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Donna. I loved your post--I'm so glad you're enjoying retirement. You deserve it!

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  31. Just posted my lessons from the winter. I combined it with my Bloom Day post--I hope you don't mind, but blooms were scarce this month anyway:)

    Here's the link: http://www.prairierosesgarden.blogspot.com/2014/03/march-GBBD-and-some-lessons-from winter.html

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  32. Oops, I think I made a mistake in my link--this is it:

    http://www.prairierosesgarden.blogspot.com/2014/03/march-gbbd-and-some-lessons-from-winter.html

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    1. Got it. Thanks, Rose! Combination posts are fine. I only have Cyclamens blooming this month, but I have a feeling April bloom day will be a little more exciting around here. We're warming up!

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