February 10, 2016

Life Under the Arctic Blast

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Rabbits, rabbits, everwhere! Did you notice (above) the rabbit-sized impression at the base of the sled?

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I'm thinking a rabbit was resting here on a warmer day when the snow was slushy.

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Evidence is everywhere in the garden--rabbit tracks, scat, chewed branches, and telltale angular bite marks on the shrubs.

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I had to cage the Dwarf Dogwoods (Cornus pumila), because rabbits were chewing them down to the ground.

But, enough about rabbits. Rabbits will always live here.

In other news, it's bitter cold this week in the Midwest, with highs and lows hovering near 0F/-18C. But before the Arctic blast, I wandered around the garden on a mild day, taking stock.

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Fortunately, the Hellebores, Epimediums, Roses, and other plants in the stone wall garden are covered in a toasty blanket of snow. They'll be fine. They've survived much worse.

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The toad sundial greets me as if to say, "Really? You left me out here all winter?"

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Spotted Deadnettles (Lamium maculatum) are confused--alternately greening and browning with the waves of warm and cold weather. They'll bounce right back in a few days. They may even flower later this month if we get a dramatic thaw.

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Among my favorite discoveries in the winter garden: areas where moss meets ice meets rock meets lichen. Interesting that rodents seem to choose these spots to store their winter food.

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Apologies for this is a horribly bright photo of Cranberrybush Viburnum (V. trilobum) berries. The flash went off, and it's too cold today to venture out for a better image. Anyway, a few berries remain, although birds have eaten most of them by now.

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The fishman roped up the Christmas tree in the woods, to serve as wildlife cover. I haven't noticed much activity here, but a few animal prints weave around the area. The tree looks pretty, and I'm sure birds fly in and out of it for cover, even if I can't see them from the house or through the binoculars.

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However, I can see this chewed log from my kitchen window. On closer inspection, I'm wondering what animals have been gnawing here? Squirrels, raccoons? The elevation above the ground is a little too high for rabbits. Chipmunks are hibernating.

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In some of the areas where the log is chewed and decaying, fungi are forming. They're so beautiful.

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I noticed this one latched on the end of a small branch.

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OK, so it's cold this week. So what? Miniature Daffodils (Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete') are waiting patiently for warmer weather. It's only a matter of time.

What's happening in your garden this week?

59 comments:

  1. Hi Beth, gosh, as annoying the damage of the rabbits might be I guess the poor chaps are just hungry!
    Your temperatures are really extremely cold and it must be hard to life with them or through them for human and wildlife as well.
    I enjoyed looking at your photos, many showing the beautiful side of winter...
    Here in San Diego we have exactly the opposite going on. We suffer from a heatwave caused by Santa Ana Winds and our temperatures sore up to 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Fahrenheit) today! The heatwave is about to last until next Wednesday. I am rushing to get the roses fertilized as they have leaved out already forced by these warm temperatures, but I don't seem to be able to keep up with my garden. Oh well, I just do what I can...
    Take good care and hope you stay warm through these challenging temperatures!
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina: I'm sure the rabbits are hungry, yes. There are too many of them competing for the same resources! ;) The unfortunate/fortunate thing is that I am on the edge of a small wild area. It's fabulous for bird-watching, but we don't have enough high-end predators here. I welcome the owls and hawks when they visit (and the occasional coyote or fox). Wow, 88F is hot even for you, especially in February! Actually, overall, our winter has been mild, and even this recent cold snap is common for this time of year. But I hope this will be the end of the brutal cold for the winter. It makes 20s & 30S F seem pleasant!

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  2. I was looking at footprints in the snow from the window. Not going to walk around until it's warmer. Hoping the damage will not be bad. I caged a lot last fall.

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    1. I know, I won't walk around this week. I was glad to get out a bit last week for these photos. It always amazes me there's so much life happening under the snow. The rabbits are a huge issue here. It's getting to the point where I'm having to cage every new plant, except the ones that are toxic to rabbits!

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  3. It's been awhile since I've seen rabbits here. I suspect the Bobcats, but I don't know for sure. We still have six deer that hang out here to keep us alert. Very nice photos. Here I'm staying inside until it warms up again.

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    1. You are fortunate, Becky! Although, Bobcats! Wow! We are not quite that wild here, being in the suburbs, on the edge of a small forest. I've only ever seen one deer here, but way too many rabbits. I welcome the owls and hawks when they visit! Yes, I'm staying inside this week, too. There's a huge difference between single-digits and 20s/30s!

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  4. Eeek. That's cold. Our mild winter is taking a bit of a holiday, there was frost on the ground this morning, but nothing too serious as yet. Lovely to see those green shoots poking through. It will be Spring before we know it.

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    1. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of this brutal stuff. The milder parts of winter are OK. Fortunately, we benefit from gulf surges of warmer, humid air in the springtime, so things change pretty quickly starting in March. That doesn't mean it gets hot, but it's much more pleasant. And we often get snow in March, but it doesn't last as long. You're right--spring will be here, soon!

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  5. Rabbits and other rodents do damage, it is true, but they have to eat to survive. We need to somehow survive. For me it is not cold and small garden begins to live. Regards.

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    1. Yes, I agree, Giga. Poor little creatures. I can't say I like rabbits, but you're right--they're only trying to survive. So, I find ways to cope with the rabbits. They will always be here. I'm glad your garden is starting to warm up! Soon that will happen here, too. :)

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  6. Wow! That is cold! I feel chilly just reading your post! It's nice to think of all those sleeping plants, safe under a blanket of snow , just waiting for Spring!

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    1. Yes, it's very cold this week. A good week to stay inside and visit blogs. ;-) It does amaze me how much life goes on under the mulch, snow, ice, and soil. Crazy that so many plants and animals can survive our winters!

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  7. Much of the same as here. It is cold and we have very light snow on the ground. It snowed for two days here. It went from the largest flakes I have ever seen to slush to small fluffy snow. All that accumulated was about an inch. Amazing. It was pretty to watch. We are to get more. If it stays this cold I hope we get it to protect plants. Rabbits live here to despite Annie's daily patrols. Rabbits can hop up into my foot high raised bed to munch on things so I wouldn't put it past them to gnaw on a log full of mushrooms. The rotten buggers have been eating my liaropes.

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    1. Hi Lisa: Your description of the large snowflakes and the changing conditions sounds beautiful! We don't have much snow on the ground either--about three to four inches remains, and that's good with this bitter cold! Yeah, you're right--I guess it could be the rabbits up on that log, too. Sorry about the plant damage! I feel your pain!

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  8. I can't imagine seasons and snow, in your photographs it is so pretty. It will be 81 here in Houston today...I am not anxious for what is to come. Thankfully we have had a pleasant winter : )

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    1. Thank you, Laurin. 81—wow! I'm so jealous! Although, as you say, that could foreshadow a very hot summer! I'm trying to look on the bright side of this bitter cold--fewer mosquitoes and ticks, a more "normal" progression for the plants, etc. Anyway, Houston seems like a great spring-break destination!

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  9. Just...brrr. I love the fungi, so gorgeous. Winter, such as it usually is here in Central Texas, never showed up. Hope the warm winter is not a harbinger of summer to come!

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    1. Yeah, it's not fun. Although it's not out of the realm of "normal" for us this time of year. I would miss winter if I didn't experience it at all, but my opinion is that February is the best month to skip out of the Midwest. Like you, I hope that the mild winter won't bring a terribly hot, dry summer -- for any of us!

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  10. I wonder if the food cache is stored where it will be easier to find and retrieve in a mild thaw?

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    1. Yes, I was thinking the same thing, Diana--almost like those little spots are chosen for that purpose. It's fun to find little caches of stored protein here and there. ;-)

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  11. We're practically overrun with rabbits now too! I've been very lucky that they mostly eat grass and clover, although they did chew my young Prunus mume. They've gotten quite used to us.

    Ever since Christmas it's run hot and cold here. Currently cold.

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    1. Argh—sorry to hear you deal with some of the same rabbit challenges. Often, I figure on some winter shrub damage, and then I simply prune around it. But the Cornus shrubs are taking entirely too long to get established, thanks to the rabbits.

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  12. I don't really think of Spring as being forceful but, seeing all the Spring plants pushing through the earth and waiting for just the right time to be the center of attention, I need to rethink this! Thank you for going out in the cold to share with us! Your weather is making it's way east. We are in for it this weekend!

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    1. I agree! It's incredible what goes on under the snow in late winter/early spring! If we could watch it, we'd be amazed. The sun is very strong now, so all my plants in the sunroom are perking up like crazy! It was my pleasure to get outside for these photos last week. This week, I'm staying inside writing about it and visiting blogs! Stay warm!

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  13. We don't have rabbits but the deer are voracious. Last winter they even chewed newly planted juniper -- and I thought juniper was safe. The snow cover has been spotty all season; it came late and hasn't been deep, so I worry about how the plants will survive without their insulating blanket of snow. As for what's going on in the garden now: frozen ground, snow and temperatures that are too low to mention!

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    1. Oh, I know deer can be as bothersome or more so than rabbits. Taller fences are required. ;-) It's so frustrating when deer or rabbits completely devour plants. If they would only nip and move on, but no ... they have to eat plants down to nothing! I hope the cold blast doesn't last too long for you. We have switched gears to a mild weather trend. Yay.

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  14. Beth, You have a way of noticing all the little things and photographing them to show off their beauty/interest. I'm afraid I haven't been outside much other than to get from the car and back. But I did notice the other day some daffodils starting to appear. The deep freeze and the snow this week probably made them realize they had better hold off awhile on their plans to bloom.

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    1. Thank you, Rose. I would go out more in the winter, but I don't handle the cold very well. I hope our Daffodils will be OK. I'll look forward to seeing photos of yours, because then I'll know it won't be too long for spring in my garden, too. :)

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  15. After an extremely warm December, we've had a normal to perhaps slightly-chillier-than-normal January and February.

    The past week saw cold and more snow here in Tennessee...but we picked a good week to be visiting family in Florida! Although it was even relatively chilly there - highs 'only' in the 60s. And Red Tide on the Gulf Coast! :O

    Now back in Tennessee with some snow still on the ground and temps expected to fall into the teens tonight. But I can't complain to you about it! ;-)

    Anyway, it looks like the long range forecast has us in the 60s by next weekend. If any of the tulips have survived our freeze and thaw cycles, maybe they'll start blooming then :)

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    1. Hi Aaron: Lucky you to vacation in Florida. Even when it's cool there it feels so refreshing to those of us from the north. I'd heard you folks in the east were getting a cold snap now. It sounds like our snow here will be melting with milder weather later this week. I wonder if I'll find any surprise blooms under the snow? Enjoy the milder weather when it heads your way!

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  16. Snow covered and cold, cold, cold...memories of last winter! But only for a few days - temperatures are supposed to go back up by Monday. Hopefully they stay below zero for at least a few more weeks - I think my plants have had enough confusion already :) And yes, the bunnies are out - there was one munching away under our birdfeeders just this morning.

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    1. Oh yes, I remember you saying Toronto had a very cold winter last year. Well, it sound like this cold snap will be brief--enough to reduce the tick and mosquito population for the summer maybe? So many rabbits! What can I say? Oh well, I guess I simply need to continue planting rabbit-repellent plants. Stay warm, Margaret!

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  17. Your 'Tete-a-Tete' greenery is a nice sign. Hope the rabbits don't do too much damage. Voles have become my nemesis--very difficult to control.

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    1. Yes, the 'Tete-a-Tetes' have been above ground for weeks now--covered with snow off and on over time, but above the soil level, waiting patiently for spring. Fortunately, rabbits don't eat Daffodils, so they're safe. Voles can be pesky, too -- sorry about your vole challenges!

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  18. I haven't seen any here....I wonder what ate them..

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    1. Oh good. Sounds like you have enough high-end predators. A rabbit now and then would be OK, but we have way too many of them. And, of course, they have a way of multiplying...

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  19. Rabbits do a lot of damage here, not so much in the city but in the countryside. They're not native, the early European settlers brought them here for food and they multiplied and multiplied and ... Ironically, if the settlers had talked to the local Aboriginals, they would have learned the bush is full of food, but they didn't realize that. The snow gives great photo ops. I especially love the photo of the little green shoot among the brown. So heartwarming to see that.

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    1. I had heard that rabbits are a big problem in Australia. In fact, I remember seeing a scary video with herds of rabbits hopping down the road. Was that real? Yes, the snow can be stunningly beautiful, but it's too cold. ;-) I rarely go out with the camera in the winter because I don't tolerate cold well. And, yes, the Daffodils will be primed and ready to bloom when spring hits! Yay!

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  20. You know how I feel about rabbits. Yes, there was a very sudden turn to the frigid here as well. I admire your hardiness in going out to document the garden in this weather.

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    1. Yes, we have similar feelings about rabbits. Actually, I did my rounds before last week's polar event, and now we've turned the corner (as have you) toward milder conditions. Yay! I'm looking forward to doing the garden rounds again next weekend.

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  21. Good grief, that is very, very cold... Beautiful images, and so much to enjoy if you have the eye for the beauty in the corners, as you do. Moss against rock and snow is magical. Rabbit damage? Not so much... Stay warm, and I look forward to watching all those hellebores, epimediums, bulbs and shrubs shrug off the cold and burst into life again.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. Yes, it was cold last week. All within the realm of "normal" for us, but cold compared with the milder weather we'd had earlier this winter. The little "corners" and nooks are fascinating, aren't they? So much life going on below the surface of winter.

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  22. Winter is in a full rage this weekend with high winds and temps in the single digits. All my daffs that popped up green tops are probably regretting it! I rarely document my garden in the winter. It's just so blah and dormant. I've mostly been on the lookout for heaving due to the wild temp fluctuations. I'm sure the wildlife appreciate that tree even if they're hiding the evidence. :o)

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    1. I must agree it's tough for me to be motivated to blog about outdoor happenings during the winter. The chewed tree is fascinating--I could see it from the house and had to go out there and investigate. Soon the Daffodils and Cherry trees will be blooming in DC--before you know it!

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  23. Lovely winter images! This may sound crazy, but the photo of the Christmas tree looks like there is a wooden man diving into the middle of it! I am tired of our up and down temperatures. Every time it warms up, more flower buds open, only to be zapped by freezing temps a couple of nights later.

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    1. Thanks, Deb. Ah, yes, I see what you mean--I hadn't noticed the "tree man" before, but now I see it. Ya, the back-and-forth weather is a drag, but much better than having endless polar vortexes all winter long, like the winter of 2013-2014! Oh, of course the plants ... I must consider the plants!

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  24. Thankfully we had 3 ft of snow come before the arctic blast....now the garden is snug again against the -20F. Nothing much happening.

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    1. Good. Yes, your plants are safe and warm under their winter blanket. And before you know it, spring will be here. I can sense it now with the days getting longer!

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  25. It is fun to hunt outside for interesting finds during the winter months despite the cold. And especially challenging to photograph with gloves or cold hands. Peter rabbit was probably just trying to hunker down against a nice blanket of fir. Hopefully they won't do too much damage to your garden.

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    1. Yes, it is fun when the weather is warm enough (like this week!). You're right, Karin. Poor Peter. ;-) And Patricia ... and Penny ... and Patrick ...

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  26. We've had lots of cold lately, too, after such mild January where my tulips were trying to come up. Thankfully the snow is insulating everything! It is so much fun to see all the signs of wildlife - as long as they are behaving themselves and not getting into mischief! We used to have rabbits when I first moved here, but I haven't seen any in a while. I have, however, seen a large snake around and heard tell of a couple behind my neighbor's house... Thankfully we don't see much of them during winter!

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    1. A snake! That is a good creature to have in the garden and the ecosystem. :) I've been pleased to see several hawks in the area lately. I don't want them to eat the songbirds, but they are welcome to lunch on the overpopulating rabbits!

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  27. We too have winter in forward mode here. I like the sundial little toad peeking out. This week is going to be a killer here in the east. Glad to be flying westward if the plane even gets off the ground.

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    1. Have a wonderful trip, Donna. Maui in February sounds perfect! Yes, that little toad keeps mocking me every time the snow melts a little bit. ;-)

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  28. With warm rain yesterday, my garden looks much like yours. Emergence although it is slow and there could be more snow. Let's hope the worst is over as these days lengthen.

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    1. How things have changed in just a few days! Now you're seeing your first flowers, and I'm watching the lakes melt with temps in the 50s over the weekend! I would be thrilled if the worst of winter is done. Bah-bye. ;-)

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  29. Here's hoping we've seen the last of those fridid temps, and more sun and above freezing temperatures!

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    1. Yes, that would be fabulous. The birds seem happy lately. I haven't seen any migrators yet, but people around town are reporting more robin activity. I still have Juncos in my backyard, but soon they'll be heading north and the "snowbirds" will be migrating back to Wisconsin. Yay!

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  30. Nature at its best in cold conditions! I love the images, I know it must be really cold, but wow! how beautiful is the snow and how much life is there below the white cover!

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