Inconstant February, a most difficult month

John_D(USDA 8b WA)February 10, 2005

February is an odd month in the maritime Pacific Northwest. The days are lengthening, and the coldest nights of winter are behind us, though we can still get frosts and occasional snow. But temperatures rarely fall below 30ºF, and snow does not stay long.

Quite a few flowers bloom in February  camellias, crocuses, ÂDawn viburnum, hellebores, primroses, snow drops, winter-flowering cherries and jasmine  though they may be delayed by uncommonly cold weather. This year, the purple plums (which usually bloom from late February to late March) began to bloom this week, and early daffodils are also up.

What is February like where you garden and write?

[To see photos of my February garden, click on the link below.]

Here is a link that might be useful: February Flowers

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Please do not taunt those of us still seeing snow flying, and barely reaching the freezing point!!!!
My only flowers are those branches that I clipped about 4wks ago and are now blooming!!!
Perhaps next fall, I will taunt you back with picture of pretty spruces in a Christmas postcard like setting!!!!Like the one below that I am looking at right now.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 5:58PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

That's beautiful. I do like the snow, too.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 7:54PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

It looks like I may have gloated too early: Winter is coming back. We had a light fall of sleet this morning, and the weather service predicts temperatures in the mid-twenties for tonight and for the next two nights (though daytime temperatures are supposed to be in the mid to upper forties).

Oh, well. It will give me something to write about. (And if the temps don't drop below twenty, the camellias will lose no flowers.)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2005 at 1:12PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I won't bother gloating about spring being much further along here in northern California, as you well know, in your frequent travels here it is another state of mind altogether here in the SF Bay Area. However, for those who aren't familiar with northern California in February, while it is still a frustrating time of too short days and lots of wet weather, it is brilliantly spring with all the blooms. Magnolias of all types are spectacular now, and it makes Berkeley seem as if this is one of the most commonly planted spring blooming decidous trees.

Less common bulbs such as the first of some new to me South Africans are also blooming, and I have been blown away by the purity and brilliance of Romulea atrandra,(magenta) and Spiloxene capensis,(daffodil yellow). Of course there is also mile after mile of that acid yellow Oxalis pes-caprae in bloom all over California right now. I had the good fortune to be able to see Alcatraz Island while flying over it in a small plane recently, and the whole island is awash in this Oxalis in full bloom, it also lines miles of freeway up and down the state. The Oxalis is just one of the predominant yellows of spring bloom here, the various Acacia trees compete equally in their abundance of bloom and good cheer.

Other treats in late winter include the various Aloes such as A. arborescens, A. striata, A. speciosa, along with other bulbous South Africans such as various Kniphofias, and Bulbinella robusta.

The California natives are not too shabby this time of year either, with many glorius deep blue Ceanothus in full bloom, lots of Manzanitas, and the too rarely seen Garrya elliptica and various Ribes such as R. sanguineum glutinosum.

For pure intensity of color, it is hard to beat the vibrant purple of the vining Hardenbergia violacea 'Happy Wanderer' in late January/early February, or the Acacia baileyana, A. decurrens, A. mearnsii and A. melanoxylon blooming all over the hills here.

So one can't complain about the lack of blooming things this time of year here, but only wish that we had a few more warm sunny days this winter to get out and enjoy them. Our rainfall this season seems more like what one would experience much further north. On the other hand, I have only had to hand water container plants about 3 times this winter, and don't look forward to renewing this routine once the rains finally stop.

For those who might be contemplating a visit to California this spring, the wildflowers should be incredibly abundant and lasting much later in spring this year, throughout the state, due to all the rains. A few of the California natives I planted out in January are already in bloom, with the Baby Blue Eyes/Nemophilia menziesii and the clear yellow blooms of liquid sunshine of Cammisonia bistorta, particularly showy.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 11:19PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

You are usually one month, perhaps two, ahead of us in spring (depending on the severity of our "winter"). When I did a lot of traveling, I was able to enjoy two springs each year for several years in row -- first the northern California spring, which was followed by the Pacific Northwest spring. It was a very pleasant way to spend my time.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2005 at 12:16AM
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live_oak_lady(Zone 9)

Our February has been a roller coaster. We have had temperature in the high 70's one day and plunging to the high 30's the next. This has occurred every four or five days throughout the month. We have had a few beautiful days with blue skies and bright sunshine then a long stretch of white-grey skies. At the moment, everything is grey and it is thundering and lighting. The flowers are confused and are blooming and a freeze will kill them. Some of the waterfowl have already hatched a few clutch of eggs and the cold weather expected at the beginning of next week will affect the babies. February is a strange month--just like the sign Pisces, it doesn't know if it's coming or going. And, I should know, I am a Pisces.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 11:41AM
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I got a reminder in the mail today so I am going out to look for wildflowers next week. The first one I see is often whitlow grass. Sometimes I see wintercress or purple cress. Still a little early here.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 1:36AM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

No wildflowers yet, but Indian plum and red-flowered currant blooms are opening up. The willow catkins are changing from silver to bright yellow. Fruit trees which have escaped to the edge of the wild are also in bloom. The garden is ablaze with camellias, crocuses, daffodils, and plum blossoms. I was worried when nighttime temperatures dropped into the mid-twenties for a week, but it didn't bother the flowers at all. The camellia blossoms "froze" in place, however. Those that were open, half-open, and in bud stayed exactly as they were (I suspect they'll fully open this week as he weather warms).

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 9:19AM
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I went out on my park trail today, no flowers yet, but leaves are peaking out in spite of the fact that we still have a little snow standing. I saw the leaves of purple cress and spring beauty. The naturalist said there were snowdrops blooming but I did not see any, sigh!! I feel like the groundhog looking for my shadow.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 6:18PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

But it should not be long, since we've made it through the first week of March. Spring is just around the corner (it has already arrived on the West Coast).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2005 at 8:15PM
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acp123(14 (Sunset))

"I won't bother gloating about spring being much further along here in northern California"

Me neither, Bahia. ;-)


Here is a link that might be useful: What's blooming in Sacramento, CA

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 3:21PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

You're about two weeks ahead of us -- though our flowering trees and camellias are also in full bloom, as are the crocuses, daffodils, and hyacinhs (and the tulips are about to open).

But remember what it will be like in a few weeks from now when the heat dries up your flowers, while out spring will continue at least until June. (That's one of the reasons I left Davis back in 1976 and moved north to Bellingham.)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 4:19PM
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acp123(14 (Sunset))

"But remember what it will be like in a few weeks from now when the heat dries up your flowers..."

Say what?!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: April color in Sacramento

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 10:46PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Yeah, but that doesn't show the drying up grasses and the star thistles asserting themselves. :-)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 11:36PM
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acp123(14 (Sunset))

Nor does it show dairy cows and jackrabbits... but it does show what the cultivated garden looks like during northern California's loooooong growing season. ;-)

Don't get me wrong, the Pacific Northwest is pretty too... pretty rainy, that is! Ha ha ha.

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 1:17AM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

You almost make me nostalgic for all those tomato trucks . . . . spilling their loads. :-)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 10:03AM
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acp123(14 (Sunset))

I don't have TIME to be nostalgic! I'm too busy entering the great tomato race of 2005. So far, I've got going in the greenhouse (for a few more weeks): 'Celebrity', 'Believe it or Not', 'Black'(heirloom), 'Azoychka' (yellow heirloom), 'Roma', 'Yellow Pear', 'Copia' (a new bicolor), 'Jelly Bean', and the experimental offspring of my mom's favorite grocery store grape tomato.

God only knows what tomato impulse purchases lie ahead!

Take care,

Angela in Sacratomato who should be cleaning her kitchen right now...


    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 7:01PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Tomato Race?

Please tell us more!

Actually, some of my fondest memories are about tomatoes -- like when I was fired from a tractor driver's job for "fraternizing" with the Hispanic sorters (alright, so we laughed a lot and tossed tomatoes at each other), or when I grew the BEST TOMATOES IN THE WORLD in my very own garden (a dozen varieties) and ate them fresh off the vine every day (after snipping the horn worms in half).

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 8:45PM
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acp123(14 (Sunset))

Oh, sorry, the Tomato Race is merely my description for the general tomato tenor around these parts right about now. We like our tomatoes big, amusingly named and EARLY.

Early earlybirds planted their seeds indoors in February. Earlybirds start them in March. Nurseries are already fully stocked with tomato plants, even though you can hear customers muttering, "It's too early for tomatoes" as they walk by the displays. It IS too early... if it weren't for Wall O'Waters and greenhouses and sunny kitchen windowsills. ;-)

Hey, John, what varieties did you grow around here?!!! I'd be curious to compare your favorites to the current favorites.

As for tomato hornworms, I could NEVER cut one in half! Oh, the horror. First of all, it'd probably make me throw up and faint (in that order) and secondly, don't you think they're kind of adorable with their tiny dog-like tails and big round eyes? Besides, there are some neato beneficial insects that parasitize hornworms, putting worm murder on their little consciences, not mine.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 9:55PM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Sorry, I don't recall the varieties (though I may have noted them down somewhere-- but my notebook stacks are six feet high). There were round and oval, golden and red, big, small, and tiny varieties. I remember the small pear-shaped ones as being the tastiest. I grew them against a tall redwood fence that got so hot from the sun it burned up anything else but seemed like heaven to these tomato plants.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2005 at 11:24PM
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