Winter at last

melissa_thefarm(NItaly)February 2, 2012

After unseasonably warm and dry weather through most of November, December, and January, reaching in the last month a period of April-like warmth, and drought conditions (my unshaded young bay laurels were suffering from drought and excessive sun exposure), about a week ago the weather started to change. Clouds arrived; the temperature dropped; it began to snow, and continued. At present we have perhaps ten inches to a foot of snow on the ground, the temperature has stayed below freezing for the last couple of days, and tonight the last light snow is forecast to end and the temperature to plunge. According to the forecast temps will probably go into the teens, and they may drop below 10F, a low that I haven't seen since I moved to Italy twelve years ago. I'm mighty glad for the snow, much more than was forecast, both to protect the plants and for desperately needed moisture. It may be too late for my cuttings in pots, which went through one hard freeze before I realized it was time to cover them again; and also we haven't yet put the light bulb in the cold greenhouse, and probably it too is too cold for the health of a good many of its plants, as the weather has been gray and below freezing for a couple of days. In winter we rely a good deal on the compensating effects of sun during freezing weather, and we haven't had the benefit of solar heating lately. In the house the wood stove is roaring during every waking hour. Our oldish house isn't much insulated, except for the windows, but relies on its thick masonry walls to absorb and radiate out warmth. I'm up to two pairs of long johns and five layers of upper body clothing, and have a blanket wrapped around me as I type.

I know, all you Zone 7 and colder folks are laughing at this. But the fact is, the house and the garden are both designed for Zone 8. No doubt I'll have losses in the garden--who knows how many of my cuttings will survive that hard freeze they went through unprotected--and I have grave doubts about my beautiful mature Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'. Ouch. On the other hand the babies planted in the fall ought to be pretty well protected by the snow, and they'll get watered, too. Now, once this extreme cold has passed, if we can only get some serious precipitation before spring comes. Overall I feel better about the weather than I did two weeks ago.


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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Me, too, Melissa. We didn't get as much snow as you guys (maybe 4-5 inches),but here it's still coming down a little bit. If it really does continue to stay consistently below zero (some weather sites are saying that it's going to reamain so for two weeks!!!)that will be sort of a drag,(I won't even be able to get out to my garden until the roads are completely cleared, and here we're talking about remote-ish mountain roads, not major thoroughfares on the plains) but still,all that sun, sun, sun and dryness is just too awful.I, too, am hoping and praying for some serious precipitation ,and am grateful for the protective blanket of snow. regards, bart

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:05AM
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daisyincrete Z10? 905feet/275 metres

Melissa,Don't worry too much about the expected low temperatures. If you have had a good amount of snowfall, it will act as a insulating blanket over the plants. Most of them should be well protected.
We have had a reasonable amount of rainfall so far this winter. 323.6mm or 12.75inches.
Most of the winter has been mixed, with some lovely warm sunny days as well as rainy or windy ones.
However, the last two weeks have been chilly with a strong wind from the north. It has been a faint reminder of the English winters I have left behind!
Even so,the wild anemones are blooming along the roadside and I saw the first asphodel in flower last week. All the almond blossom has been flowering for weeks as well as the Euphorbia wulfenii.
In the garden, the roses, abutilons, cyclamen, antirrhinums,
pansies, gerberas, Erigeron karvinskianus, verbenas, pelargoniums, Morea polystachya, lavenders! nasturtiums, bougainvillea, osteospermums, Sarcoccoca humilis, fucshia and alyssum have been flowering all winter.
The fucshia was given to me as an Irishman's cutting from my neighbour Voula who runs the village shop.
It started flowering whilst very young and has never stopped since.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:20AM
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We are worse off, 10 F today and hardly any snow. Very little snow is predicted but much colder night temps. I have already given up my most tender rose, Secret Garden Musk Climber, unless a miracle happens.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 5:32AM
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I'm happy to hear that at least some of you are getting much-needed moisture, and I hope that the insulation of the snow mitigates the effects of the cold.

Mariannese, to get an especially tender plant through a cold spell you might try what orange growers in Florida do for frost. I've seen it done here in California, too, though living on a slope I have never bothered myself. At nights that are expected to be colder than the plant can endure, run an electric extension cord out to the plant and drape the plant with Christmas tree lights. They give off a bit of heat that raises the temperature slightly. You can use an outdoor 100 watt bulb to the same effect. In addition you can cover the plant with an old sheet or blanket. It's supposed to be better if you to this with a framework so that it doesn't directly touch the tree. This will hold the heat in. Maybe a tripod of poles tied together at the top? Good luck keeping your Secret Garden Musk Rose alive.

Belowis a link I found that might be useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: Protecting citrus from freezing

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Same here - Sweden, Denmark and most of Europe really feel the NorthEastern Siberian cold blast these days - and we finally get some snow - until now the winter has been unsually mild compared to the last 2 long cold winters. The well rooted cuttings (Own root roses and other roses I grow in pots usually make it ... but the last 2 winters were brutal - and most teas and noitsette roses froze to the ground ...

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Best wishes to you, Bart: I hope you get lots of precipitation! At least it's winter now, and what a relief.

Daisy, you do sound like you have a lovely environment for gardening; I don't think I could grow fuchsias here. I like your photos of your garden and those you posted on my winter gardening thread: they're beautiful.
The insulation offered by the snow is one reason I'm so happy about it, but it may have come too late for my potted plants, and is inadequate for the daphne. We also added protection in the form of old sheets, dead leaves, and hay. Now I hope spring will wait till a reasonable time.

You have my sympathies, Marianne. Your situation was what I was afraid would happen here. Gardening does season the gardener, as Henry Mitchell rightly says. Good luck saving your musk, and I hope you get snow!

Rosefolly, good to hear from you, and thanks for advice that a lot of us can profit from. I never did answer your hello from my winter update thread, but I read it and appreciated it. For some reason I couldn't write much for a while. I think I was sulking about the weather.

cupshaped, the last two winters were hard on my warm climate roses too, though they didn't freeze back like yours did. My impression is that Italy gets much the same weather Scandinavia does, in a milder version.

The real cold is supposed to start tonight. We're putting extra blankets on the beds. And we're keeping the bedroom windows closed, which is practically unheard of.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:30PM
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Campanula UK Z8

heigh ho, here too. Had to rush out and stock up on paraffin for the little greenhouse heater. All the pots and beds are frozen solid but I got my last order of roses in the ground before the wintry winds from Siberia hit us in chilly and flat East Anglia. Bring it on though....or we are heading for a nightmare summer of aphid, whitefly, lily beetle, slug and snail infestation.
We have a cold house too - we are permanently in vests and long underwear. I offered to sew Mr.Campanula into his jammies....he seriously considered the possibility -he has been keeping the bottoms on under his trousers! If things get really bad, he may even blag some of my tights.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:07PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

That was funny, Campanula! I love you wicked sense of humor. My hubby drives me nuts hopping around the bed like a bunny with his "Bruno", a massive down comforter.

I plant rhododendrons as outdoor thermometer: if the leaves are withered and shriveled, then it's time for hat and scarf. If the leaves are full, then it's warm. This is our warmest winter in a decade, nice for my Austins planted late in July.

The place where I order my spring bulbs stated, "if you have a blanket of snow, you can plant for one or two zones warmer ... so someone in zone 4 can grow zone 6 plants, if they have a reliable blanket of snow. Moist dirt do the same.

I'm glad to hear Rosefolly and Melissa's confirmations of snow's effectiveness. Hi Niels: our last 2 winters were brutal too, way below 25 F with windchill factor in my Chicagoland.

I need some good Italian recipes for pasta from Melissa and Bart. My cooking is so bad that I offer my family gross choices, just to opt out on cooking, like, "do you want bean soup or spaghetti for dinner?" They hate both and want take-out every time.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 9:31AM
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Be of good cheer. Your Daphne odora marginata should make it. Ours, sited near the west wall of our house, survives -10 F winter lows. I won't say that there is no damage but there is survival and sloooow growth.

Snow is good. We never have reliable snow cover. This year we have had almost none.

This is by far the warmest winter in my memory, having lived most of my life in the Midwest; Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. And I don't even believe in "global warming" although I do believe in the possibility of global warming. At one time wine grape vines (Vitis vinifera) grew in England. About the 13th century? I'm a little fuzzy on the date. So it is possible that we may have to adapt to a long term warming trend and yet we never know. It is as likely to swing back to extra cold next winter just to keep the average in place to compensate for this winter.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 1:49PM
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Suzy, keep warm. Here we're all cozied up close to the wood stove, each with a book in her/his hands. My husband opened up his birthday box from Amazon UK early, thinking there could never be a better time than now for some fresh literature. It's actually not that cold here: -5C, in the low twenties, while down in town temperatures are in the low teens. But there's a foot of snow and ice on the ground, the sky is gray, and the temperature is staying below freezing. Not friendly.

Strawberryhill, actually, being a thrifty vegetarian I live off beans and pasta, and they taste good, too (I like to cook). But if you want to learn how to cook the real Italian way, and excellent food, hunt up Marcella Hazan's cookbook. I have her 'Classic Italian Cooking' and it's great--it taught me what Italian food is really like, and how to prepare it--but that has been superseded by a later book she wrote. Hunt it up. Italy taught me simplicity and respect for primary ingredients, both valuable concepts.

Cath, thank you very much for the words of hope! I love my daphne, it's one of those rather rare plants I have that's in exactly the right place and is both thriving and lovely. I feel considerably better thinking that it's likely to come through this. And as I wrote above, it's considerably warmer here than it is down in town, so there may not be as much cold damage as I feared. This is the time of year when we really appreciate our sheltered southern exposure.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 2:18AM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Sorry, Strawberryhill, I hate cooking, too.One thing I truly miss about my native USA is take-out. I get so tired of always eating the same stuff,but since I hate cooking, I see no way out.
The cold and snow is supposed to last quite a while, here...I wonder when I'll finally be able to get out to my land again? But I can't stress enough how grateful I am for the snow... bart

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 3:59AM
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Campanula UK Z8

yep, a good 10 inches arrived in the night - Mr Camps and I are having a good laugh watching the many skidding vehicles attempting to get down our road. Fortunately, no-one can get faster than about 5 miles per hour so bumps (many) have been fairly gentle and non-threatening - although the 2 lads in their little MG might not feel so sanguine, having been forced to abandon it halfway onto a neighbours grassy verge.
Sadly though, the snow has arrived onto completely frozen ground - I can practically feel my agapanthus shrivelling in horror. The greenhouse is now a black cave - will have to fight my way through the horrid garden (dog pee) and hope the door is not frozen shut - poor little peppers will be having a grisly time, I expect but the onions will simply shrug, unlike the scented leaf geraniums - although I lose these just about every year.
I read a wonderful book by Graham Robb about the French last year - what struck me most forcibly was how the medieval french coped with winter - they basically hibernated. They ate tiny amounts and slept for 22 hours a day. Sounds wonderful. Stay warm, everyone.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 6:29AM
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Sounds like Europe is getting the snow blanket we got last month. This morning's news showed snow in Rome. I didnt know that it snowed there. Every one please stay safe and warm.
Camp... I agree it's a chuckle to watch people drive in the snow.
Sitting around a wood burning stove reading now that sounds nice...
This last winter storm we had an interesting experience. It snowed about 14 inches. The next day an ice storm...yuck. Well fortunately the electric managed to stay on though it flickered. Since we are both retired we did not leave the property for more than three days. Neither did we shovel the driveway or front walk-way. Using the rear door we went to the barn often to visit the horses and clean the stable. So 2 of our neighbors independantly chose to check up on us. A senior check up. First one. We kind of liked it. They liked the oatmeal cookies we made. Neither Gary nor I had thought that it looked deserted at our place. Lucky to have such wonderful neighbors.
Stay warm.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 3:25AM
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