February fantasy

melissa_thefarm(NItaly)February 12, 2012

Looking outside this morning I see gray skies and a snowy landscape; my husband after stepping outdoors reports a temperature of 21F. Same as for the whole month so far: we've had snow on the ground since the end of January and the temperature has been below freezing most of that time too. Probably it doesn't sound like much if you live in Michigan, but folks, this is Zone 8. Of course, we didn't get the huge snowfalls that hurled much of the eastern half of Italy into chaos: five feet, even ten feet of snow, with schools closed, trains canceled, trucks barred from the interstate (and blocking all the side roads), roof beams collapsing, livestock without feed, water pipes frozen, electricity out. We just got the skirts of the snowfall, perhaps a foot and a half all together, and the temperatures here very likely haven't fallen below 20F, while down in town in the valley bottom it's been 8-10 degrees colder. Cold descends.

We've been lucky, and, well supplied with firewood, water, and food, we've stayed comfortable. Local government has done a good job keeping the roads plowed, and the middle school our daughter attends didn't miss a day.

But I'm really missing the sight of bare ground. I haven't been able to see the garden for two weeks, and I'm developing withdrawal symptoms. I understand better now northern gardeners' passionate wintertime perusal of nursery catalogs. The exciting news is that this cold is going to end this coming week: by Thursday the low should be not much below freezing, and the high in the forties. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, but it just makes me more impatient. I'm dying for a view of wet dark ground, bare canes, the leaves of the earliest bulbs. The garden will even be well watered, at last, after the winter-long drought. The worst of the winter darkness past; the first spring woodland flowers less than a month away.

The "February Fantasy" is the rose order I've been researching and where in the garden the roses will go. I have places for them. The big slide has a double line of roses on its eastern border (just outside the slide itself, I mean), and I can continue that line all the way down to the bottom of the slide area. Roses like this area, improbably as the soil doesn't look particularly good. The slide itself scooped out dirt to a depth of perhaps five feet and carried it down to lie in a spreading jumbled pile below, still on our land. That jumbled area, with a double depth of topsoil, is now mostly rough grass with some baby trees and shrubs in it, and in one spot there's a sketchy path going across to a still-naked pergola on the other side of the slide. I think that sketchy path could be lined with roses, old kinds, especially lanky varieties with climbing propensities, and planted with more shrubs and of course with more trees. The future destination of the slide area is to be a romantic treed ravine. I decided this soon after the slide happened, not being able to think what else to do; and the project has great utility, as the trees will hold the ground and act as a windbreak and give shade. Of course I'll be ninety before the trees are mature, but what are the passing years? Really, I enjoy my plans and their execution.

My fantasy order is about a hundred old roses, and it is realizable. The rest of the roses would line the tractor road up to the end of the garden. The roses I would back up with shrubs, and the shrubs, with trees. Summers are so hot, dry, sunny, and windy here, that almost all roses benefit from some degree of protection. Of course I don't know what the garden is going to look like by the end of summer. I doubt our modest snowfall is going to replenish the groundwater and the reservoir, and who knows what summer will be like. Last year was bad. But if I can keep my courage up, I'll have all summer to dig a hundred planting holes.

So, what's going on in your gardens, and what are you thinking about and planning?


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Well, that's a rough winter when you're not used to it...and quite a bit of snow. Five feet at once would shut our area down, too...but we usually get around five feet over the entire winter. Sometimes more. The only problem is that winter starts in early November and ends end of February. At least in theory. Sometimes it's more like five months.

Even so, what amazes me is that you want to plan 100 roses! Are you really thinking about doing that or is it purely fantasy? The most I ever planted was about 35 and that was in several new beds. Whatever you decide...it sounds like you'll have a long and busy summer :)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 5:14PM
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seil zone 6b MI

You're getting dumped on and here we hardly know it's winter. We've only had a few snowfalls that had any accumulation at all and that was only about 2 inches. And then it goes right back up in to the 40s and it all melts again. It's been up and down like that right through since November. Things are trying to grow out there that shouldn't even be thinking about waking up until April!

Because it has been so warm I am, of course, itching to get out in the garden too. It's really hard to restrain myself but I know it's just too cold, too wet and too soon. So I'm waiting, not so patiently, for at least March. I just love to get down and dirty in the garden!

No big garden plans for this year. We did that last year. A whole new bed and dozens of roses moved and planted. I'm taking a break from that. I want to have the time to pamper, photograph and enjoy my roses this season. I do have some new ones coming in the spring to plant but not a lot and that's a good thing!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 9:42PM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

I feel fortunate that the winter has been so mild that it might as well be spring. Everything is putting out shoots, roses are still blooming and everything I haven't pruned is green. The downside is not enough rain but fortunately a storm front seems to be moving in with I hope lots of rain. As for you Melissa, rain here is more important than anything else.

My garden, unlike yours, is more or less complete, with just three new roses coming in. I've pruned what needs pruning and have about a third of the garden fertilized with alfalfa meal. The biggest excitement of this spring and summer will be seeing the new roses from last year grow and hopefully bloom. I have some rare early hybrid teas that should produce some flowers this year and hopefully grow enough to make an impact in the garden. Mostly I'm just settling back and enjoying the growth and bloom of the roses I have. The craving for more and more new roses is gone and my primary goal is to study the ones I have and help them to flourish and look their best. It's a modest but very fulfilling goal for me at this stage.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 11:24AM
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I have just two new roses coming in the next week, Don Juan and Grandmother's Rose; just as well. These will go in my new flowerbed along with other plants, just want to take a look and see where we're headed and where we need to go now!

I've really gotten on the butterfly kick, we're in the migrating path, so have ordered some Milkweed and will order a Passionflower which will be grown in a pot as well as a Joe Pye Weed. We had a horrible showing this Fall in Texas, our drought and fires really took a toll...

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 4:12PM
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Campanula UK Z8

mmmm, yes, I so approve of grandiose schemes. Of course, you have the wonderful Ninfa and La Mortola for inspiration. Was it a culture shock, moving from Florida to Italy? I only moved 200 miles from the lush, peaty damp of north-west england (a sort of Seattle without Microsoft, but great pies). The ravines of trees were a feature of a vertical childhood spent scrambling up and down around canals, becks, heather and rhodies. Nothing could have prepared me for the bleak flat desolation of the east anglian fenlands - windy, treeless, arid - not an easy landscape to love. Naturally, I wasted many years attempting to recreate the woodland and rock gardens so familiar to me before coming to my senses and finally allowing nature to dictate the terms. So nope, there will never be anything approaching a ravine or even a gentle scree in my garden. It is all prairie perennials, wildling roses and and evergreens now.
100 roses is definately tending towards the epic yet amazingly, will probably cost much less than a new sofa or a month of eating meals out. Simply no comparison in terms of pleasure gained per pound spent. As far as counting blessings, although I whine and moan about the offspring still living at home, my heart is currently breaking, seeing the horrendous poverty and homelessness all around. People are sleeping (and dying) in doorways again and I know that tent cities are sprouting all across Europe and the US. It is an obscene and disusting scenario and I am ashamed that my fellow citizens simply refuse to witness, much less protest against such deeply unfair social disintegration. My daughter starts her masters degree in social work this year and, having spent most of my professional life in similar fields, I am finding it hard to enthuse about the horrible situations in store for her.
Sorry to be a downer (again), am feeling somewhat unmotivated and kinda desperate to get some dirt under my fingernails again.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 4:17PM
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Ah, Campanula, I love your posts and am sorry to see you on a downer... yes, things are not good, for sure, all over and it really is upsetting. It is the grandkids I worry about.
I do what I can to help, like so many of us, and have decided to try to focus on what is good in my life, and there have been many good things for sure!

But...Spring is coming, it's a whole new season filled with hope! Take care, good thoughts coming your way!

Oh - what are becks! :)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 4:57PM
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I had almost finished writing a nice detailed answer to the comments posted, but not quite, and a family member deleted my post. In brief,
lavender lass, our winter is about as long as yours, but far milder, with temperatures rarely falling below 20F. Five feet of snow is a good winter's worth, in warm winters we get less. I'm told that thirty-forty years ago it snowed a lot more. The weather has been erratic since we moved to Italy in 2000.
It will take me some nerve actually to order a hundred roses, but planting them is not a problem, in part because we do a sadly cursory site preparation. We planted several hundred plants this fall. My husband does most of the digging as he's the one with good knees.
Seil, enjoy your garden this year! I may get enough roses to satisfy me one day, I hope before I run out of money, and plan then to spend the rest of my life studying and propagating them. Probably I'll never completely stop adding roses, but it won't be 30-60-100 varieties a year as I'm trying to do in this phase.
Ingrid, I hope you got your rain. Nothing more important for the garden. We have a forecast of rain for Sunday and Monday, and I hope it turns out to be correct, because water levels are still very low here in spite of the snow we got.
Ogrose, I hope you regain the ground lost with last year's horrible weather. You Texans and the Oklahomans sound like you had an awful time: the garden year of nightmares. Good luck with the butterfly garden; I'm all for plantings that are friendly to the nicer insects. I remember great flocks of migrating butterflies in Florida when I was a child: Gulf Fritillaries, with silver spots on the undersides of their wings.
Suzy, yes, it's so much fun gardening on a grand scale; I just hope that in the long run it works, with my limits on money and manpower and water. It's a very big, very long-term bet.
I agree that the world situation is ugly, but on the other hand, here in Italy Berlusconi is GONE!!!!!! and we have Monti, and there's a sense that the government is at last on the side of the decent and the honest. What a huge, what a gigantic relief. So there is at least a possibility of change for the better. All the same I'm pessimistic about the U.S. and world economies.
Actually, I moved from Florida to western Washington state, where I lived and gardened for a decade before moving to Italy. So I had some practice in being flexible by the time I got here, as well as experience with a type of Mediterranean climate. I was lucky, arriving in a wonderful climate to garden (though last year was rough and this year looks worrisome). But yes, you do learn to grow what your conditions allow, and learning what plants those are, and maximizing your gardening environment, is a lot of the fun.
Quite a few gardeners use the cost of a rose as their personal unit of currency. I'm totally in agreement with you about the excellent price/value ratio of roses.
Have you been able to get out in your garden yet? It certainly does make a difference to my mood. Here the snow is still melting and it's muddy, something I haven't seen since November. I've been puttering around close to the house, uncovering my potted plants and pruning a bit. I'm looking forward to complete access to my garden, having still a good deal of pruning and weeding to do. We're in the second half of February! Spring is getting closer!
A beck is a creek or stream, isn't it? (German "Bach", meaning "stream").
Italy's slowly returning to normal after the snow, with plenty of blame for mismanagement to spread around. There is a long-term smoldering anger at Trenitalia that is beginning to flame up both in open wrath (there was one episode in which furious travelers blocked the train tracks) and in court action, and rightly so in my opinion. I do hope the economic liberalization results in competition to this sorry company. Here in Piacenza we had no serious problems, but I notice that the unusual cold means that we're slow warming up; even with a warm sun, we have to have a fire all day long to keep the house temperature above 60F.
I wish you all the weather you need in this season! Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 2:48AM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Gosh, Melissa, how I hope and pray that you are right in saying that Berlusconi is gone; I'll only feel safe when he's escaped to a foreign country,or, far better yet but seems way too optimistic,behind bars for his child molesting and various other crimes. Monti is of course a VAST improvement (but who wouldn't be?), yet I was pretty disgusted to hear that he was blaming young people ,calling them wimpy because they want steady jobs!!! I agree with this article in La Repubblica ,where the author pointed out that the fault for the mess we are in is that of the older-middle-aged,Monti and his generation,and that it's comfortable to blame young people just to pass the hot potato. But still,at least there is some hope, though I think it will be very difficult . Basic attitudes have to change.
Actually I don't think you need to apologize for your "downer", Campanula.What you say in that post is so true. Gardening is such a solace, but shouldn't be just a way of hiding away from reality.I myself never want to become a smug and self-satisfied coward that only thinks of my own derri�re. I think feeling depressed about the sufferings of others ,and being concerned about our future is honourable. (and I, too, am very worried about the future. Young people ARE our future, but this modern society seems to me to be one that practically hates young people and children...) So no need to apologize, IMHO. regards, bart

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 4:03AM
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Campanula UK Z8

well, Monti comes from a banking background, no? Not so surprising that the buck is still being passed around. One of the most depressing things has been the cutting away of apprenticeships - we have raised a generation of young people with immense social awareness but few practical skills when the abilty to feel comfortable with hands and tools will become essential again. Although I cannot give much credence to my children's idea of living in a van, I am very keen for them to get their hands dirty doing it up. Once a bit more pride in what you can do takes precedence over what you can afford, we will be facing in the right direction again. And of course, gardening is an ideal place to begin - it is far more than arranging pretty flowers - there is a learning about the deeper processes of life, a reverence for utility and beauty, a striving to protect, to defend, to increase, the need to stay physically fit and capable and an awareness of our own place in a much greater scheme. All marvellous, life-affirming stuff. Garden on folks, the air is mild and at last, I can feel my sap rising alongside the first tree buds and narcissi flowers.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 8:41AM
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