After a very cold start to January, the pond had a thick layer of ice on it. I can't really say how thick it was (at least 6"/15cm), but it lasted for most of the month. It thawed a bit once and got over an inch of rain on it, then another cold snap froze that.
By the last day of the month though, most of the ice was gone and I was able to take a good look.
Right away I noticed something weird (not the bamboo culm -- I have no idea how that got into the water)...
It was these little floating clumps of... I didn't know what. Something that fell from the trees? A kind of dirt? Some remnant of the ice?
The stuff was everywhere:
Half of the pond was still covered by ice...
...but the part that wasn't had these clumps of "stuff"on it. Hmmm.
I finally put down the camera (love those winter tree reflections!) and satisfied my curiosity:
Bugs! Tiny insects!
But wait... some research (several attempted Google searches, the key was including the word "winter") finally revealed that these are springtails (in the order Collembola). Some species of springtails are aquatic (check!) and are primarily active in very cold weather (check!).
Hey, I only just realized that I never did a "best of 2016" post last March! Here it is, only 351 days late!
According to Blogger I made my first blog post on March 5, 2010 which means today is my seven-year anniversary! One of the main reasons for creating this blog was so I'd document everything I did in the garden, and I have to admit I've done a pretty good job of that. Did I list every detail of every task I did? No, certainly not. I missed lots of stuff, including some important details such as what exact varieties of veggies I planted, spacings, fertilization schedules, etc. but I also shared a lot of things that I would normally have just observed and enjoyed for myself, and have hopefully given some entertainment and knowledge to you, my readers.
Today, as I've done every March 5 since I started, I'm going to take a look back over the past year and list my favorite posts in chronological order. If you haven't seen them before please take a look. If you have seen them already, then take another look -- it's still fun! I did this type of post on my previous anniversaries too, and I really like the way they turned out. Expect it every year.
This is an "index" of my favorite posts from the last twelve months (March 2016 - February 2017). This, like the previous "best of" posts, is a great page to start -- if you want to send somebody a link to show them what this site is all about, this is a great one to send. Click the titles/dates to get to the full posts.
(Please let me know in the comments if I listed any of your favorites here)
So that's my selection of the "best" posts from the 7th year of It's Not Work, It's Gardening! I'm certain that I've missed some great posts -- it's sometimes difficult to pick just a few from each month.
Please browse the site and find more -- I know you'll enjoy yourself. Also use the "Best Of..." buttons near the top of the right column of every page to get to the "best" posts of every year.
Thanks for reading and commenting -- I really appreciate it!
By the way, if you've not commented before I'd love to hear from you! .
We're approaching the time when the garden starts changing pretty quickly (wishful thoughts of Spring?) so I thought I better post what things looked like on January 19th. I went out there intending to take photos of the bamboo for comparison with the "before" photos taken earlier.
I did get a few of those, but instead I was distracted by how pretty things were, in a relative way. The browns of the winter garden really make the other colors pop, and the blue, blue sky doesn't hurt. I love the pergola shadows in that first photo!
There is green left in the bamboos, and the maypop vines are holding a rich, golden color:
Good thing I'm a bit lazy and just let those cedar pergola boards weather naturally instead of staining them again (as I've intended to do for at least the last two years).
You can see that some of the bamboo leaves do look a bit strange, sort of greyish:
Those will eventually be turning brown, then will fall to add to the carpet of bamboo leaves already on the ground. I like how bamboos create their own color contrasts!
I'm a big fan of brown winter grasses...
...which look even better when some greenery is nearby! (I could not solve the shadow issues in that photo -- sorry!)
Speaking of bamboo contrast, those dark green culms really stand out when the leaves are freeze-dried nearly white:
Almost all of the bamboos have a frosting of those whitish leaves, but they were still hanging on to their green tint:
At least on January 19th that is. (He says, hinting at what might be to come...) .
Worst Foliage Followup ever? The "cold snap" (that's a friendlier, happier way to say it I think) we had to welcome the new year did what I expected to the bamboos: fried them.
Some of these groundcover bamboos get fried every year so no real harm done -- they provide a good way to ease into this post though.
That was Sasaella masamuneana 'Albostriata' above. This one is Pleioblastus viridistriatus:
Nice and golden, earlier than everybody else. A hint of the yellowish brilliance of the newly-emerged foliage to come in the spring?
...but those don't bother me too much. Things are as expected, which is why they get mowed down.
The big bamboos though, the Phyllostachys...
...they're another story altogether.
That's the top of Ph. aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis' (or however we're supposed to write it these days, maybe Ph. aureosulcata f. aureocaulis, for the aureocaulis form?). However it's written it's my garden centerpiece, so I want it to do well.
That's the south side of it, and you can see how the leaves don't look right. Too light in color and rolled up -- that's desiccation for you.
The interesting thing about bamboo leaves is they can still absorb water even though they're dead. A nice rain like we had a week or so ago and they all unroll and green up again, a trick played upon the overly optimistic grower. They'll start turning brown over the next few weeks, rather pretty as I've shown you before.
The plant is still looking good though...
...and the inner leaves appear to be undamaged so far.
Ph. bissetii looks similar, with a mixture of good and bad leaves...
...although I can't see the north side of it, and that may show much more damage.
Way in back the Ph. rubromarginata and Ph. aureosulcata f. spectabilis...
...are showing lots of light green (desiccation) too.
Nothing as bad as Ph. virella though:
That one looks to be in bad shape. I have high hopes of it leafing out again though, as it's reported to be quite hardy. We'll see.
I didn't have the energy to bundle up and actually go outside to check on the new transplants. Better not to know for certain on those yet I think. Another update on all of the bamboos once they brown up. .
I realized recently that in my flurry of pre-freeze activity last month I never posted about my banana overwintering preparations. I let my Musa basjoo do whatever it will until a really hard freeze is forecast -- usually that means a low temperature below 25ºF (-4ºC) or so.
This year that condition was not forecast until December 6, so that's when I had to get moving on this. (Note that there had been a few nights of below freezing temperatures so the foliage was already fried, but the thick pseudostems can handle those temps without damage.)
A closer look at the foliage, one last time:
The tool of choice for this task is a machete:
With a good swing it slices right through in one go, even when they are several inches in diameter:
So satisfying! (The fun part of the process)
I always like seeing the structure of the pseudostem:
Almost all cut now -- there were so many this year! (over 2 dozen):
I left this one to last...
...because it contained the flower...
...which snapped off when the pseudostem fell. I tried to slow its fall but those things are pretty heavy!
Plus great macro details:
The cut parts oxidize so quickly, in order to protect the wound I suppose?
This is why banana "juice" (sap?) stains clothes so readily I think.
It's all cut down now, with just some cleanup remaining:
I usually don't have so many dried leaves, but there was so much time between the first freeze and the first hard freeze that those big, beautiful things had a chance to dry out. That's to my advantage since I can use them as mulch now!
The "trunks" got chopped into manageable sizes to make transport easier (and it's so much fun!):
Here's the pre-mulched shot:
And here's after mulching:
I didn't want to mess with the fencing and deep leaf pile this year, so I went minimal. I covered the outermost stumps with nursery pots. If those survived our long, hard cold spell I will be surprised (but will have learned that minimal protection is fine).
In case you're feeling down that the magnificent banana greenery is gone now, here's a wider view showing that as far as winter greenery goes, I'm doing pretty well:
So that's it for the banana overwintering procedure, 2017 version. I wonder how the plant will respond in 2018?
Need a reminder of what this plant looked like before the first freeze? Click here. .
...but as I got closer I realized that would probably not be possible.
The ice was so thick -- at least 6" (15cm) and could have been several inches more. It looks like it was in turmoil when freezing, with areas somewhat clear and the edges cloudy... as if a hurricane had been captured in the ice, or a ship-swallowing vortex had been frozen. (Seen best in the wide view of the first image)
The bubbles and ripples and cloud banks made it impossible to see through to the water, but just because I couldn't see the fish didn't mean that there was nothing to look at. A clear ice layer had formed above the milky patches, encapsulating some of the remaining anacharis, an impermanent Lucite paperweight for the pond.
The patterns and textures are just what my wintering eyes needed -- find beauty everywhere around you!
It looks to me that as the pond froze water was pushed out through a crack, freezing as it flowed. I think it's the only explanation for the bumpy surface:
The weather has really warmed up now and we had a decent rain, so maybe this will be melted enough that I'll be able to check on the fish soon?
Growing up near Chicago there was a pond at the park that we would skate on (and play hockey of course) every winter. One thing I learned is that smooth, skate-friendly ice is not as common as you might think -- bumps and ripples and waves can really ruin your pond-based fun! .
Not to me! Although I wouldn't blame you for jumping to that conclusion based on the frequency (low) at which I've been posting lately. No, I mean say goodbye...
...to my wonderful green bamboos! At least for a few months. Shall I explain?
Almost universally, those of us bitten by the bamboo bug (a.k.a. "crazy bamboo growers") want one thing from the plants they love so much: size. We want those huge, thick culms that are so impressive. The only way to get that when you live in a cold climate is to have the plant keep as many green leaves over the winter as possible.
In my zone 6b (probably? changing?) St. Louis garden, this means I hope like crazy for a mild winter each year.
Up until a week ago, I thought we were going to have one. The low temperature for December has been about 10ºF (-12ºC) for one night, and has always climbed back up above normal after dipping down. Just last week it was nearly 60ºF (15ºC). That seems pretty mild to me!
Then they started mentioning those two words that make us bamboo growers start to worry: polar vortex.
Yesterday we hit a record low of 1ºF (-17ºC), although I think it was a couple of degrees F warmer in my garden -- which is a bit protected and usually just a touch warmer. Even 1ºF for a single night wouldn't worry me too much, as it was not very windy (wind plays a big factor in killing those leaves and leaf buds). Today it's "warmer" again, as the low should be 15ºF (-9ºC).
Crisis averted, right? Nope.
New Year's Eve revelers in St. Louis will need to bundle up, as -4ºF (-20ºC) is forecast. New Year's Day is only slightly better with a low of 1ºF (-17ºC). Those 48 hours of cold-cold will mean not only dead bamboo leaves, but quite possibly topkill -- all existing culms dead too -- at least on some of the plants.
Therefore I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the greenery now, before it starts turning brown -- although that usually takes a couple months. (Images taken today, 12/28/2017)
The smaller bamboos in the front yard are already showing various amounts of damage:
That's to be expected, as I cut these down or at least remove all of the foliage each spring.
Those along the driveway though...
...I'll be missing their big, strappy foliage for sure! That Phyllostachys bissetii I made the support for -- that one will be hard to see turn brown too:
Incidentally, the Sasa veitchii between the driveway and the house is best when it does start to turn brown a little:
It will soon be more brown than green though.
This one is probably going to hurt the most, as it's such a beauty:
That's them at the left edge of the image, Ph. dulcis and Ph. heteroclada. The bushy one in the middle of the image is Indocalamus sp. 'Solidus' -- so cold hardy -- and the big mass of green way in back is Ph. rubromarginata and Ph. aureosulcata 'Spectabilis'. It's so easy to spot the bamboos at this time of year, isn't it?
Back at the other side of the yard (just behind the deck) there's Ph. virella in the planter box -- it may be the most cold-hardy bamboo I grow. We'll see soon.
Ph. atrovaginata is at the right of the image, behind the remnants of the castor beans. I'm a bit concerned about that one as it's a favorite, but it is also plenty cold hardy so there might not be too much reason to worry.
There are others too, but I won't bother naming them all:
I really just included that (blurry, terrible) photo so I'd have a "before" image, thinking that the "after" will be much uglier.
I'm hoping either the forecast is wrong or I am, but I still think it's best to say "goodbye" to these now. Sigh. .
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