Winter at last
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.