Ups and Downs

One drawback of living at 7,100 feet is that spring drags its feet. I see the blue sky outside and assume warm sunshine to go with it. Yet, I step one foot out the door and my teeth start to chatter—as much because of the icy winds as the frigid temperatures. We may have two or more months of snow yet to endure, but I’m ready for spring. There’s only one solution.

Go down.

I can’t afford a plane ticket to Cancún, or even a road trip to San Diego, but I can drive to a (relatively) lower elevation. While the eastern states’ climate zones are determined by latitude, ours are determined by altitude. It’s amazing how much impact a couple thousand feet can have on the arrival of spring. Continue reading

Signs of Spring

Rabbit @ Big Johnson Res. 2008apr17 LAH 016There’s still plenty of cold and snow to go around, but the faintest signs of spring are beginning to appear. Gazing out a friend’s  window this week, I was enjoying the view when I noticed that the uppermost branches of the nearby ash trees didn’t appear quite smooth. A few weeks ago they looked as if they were tightly hugging themselves. Now—could those be buds swelling?

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My Annual Mid-winter Attitude Check

Hoar frost_LaVeta-CO_LAH_2371

I love wintertime. I love the snow, the icicles, and even the subzero temperatures (probably because we so seldom get them). Having grown up in the monotonous weather of southern California, I think winter is amazing, even after 25 years in Colorado.

However… sometimes we just get too much winter. Not in quality—Colorado winters are milder than one might suspect—but in the quantity of days when winter is likely. We’ve experienced a hard frost and snow as early as September 8 and as late as mid-June. I like winter—but I like summer too!

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Volunteer Park Conservatory

Conservatory - VolunteerPark-Seattle-WA_LAH_0443I just spent two weeks in western Washington visiting my daughter and her family—two weeks of giggles, bedtime stories, and stomping in the puddles left by Seattle’s incessant rain. While my focus was on our granddaughters, I couldn’t help but feast my soul on all the green—in mid-winter! Broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons, still-verdant lawns, even the emerald moss on the roof were all a welcome respite from Colorado’s winter browns. The only problem was that I had to get wet to enjoy it all. That’s why we planned a visit to the Volunteer Park Conservatory, located on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

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Moth Orchids

Orchid_2943_filt_rel

With the holidays behind us, winter seems to stretch out as far as we can see. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for a tropical vacation! We can’t afford tickets to a balmy beach or verdant rainforest, but I can manage to plunk down a mere $19.95—or less—for a blooming orchid. My imagination will have to supply the rest.

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Anticipating Spring

Seed catalogs_LAH_2733Sometimes I think January is my favorite month of the gardening calendar. Temperatures plummet and the ground is frozen solid. Anything at all frost-tender succumbed to the cold months ago. My raised beds look suspiciously like burial vaults covered in mulch. Yet, in my mind’s eye, my 2018 veggie garden is flourishing.

You see, I’ve been reading seed catalogs.

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Persistent Perennials

Lychnis coronaria - Rose Campion @DBG LAH 033We had our first hard freeze over a month ago. Most of the deciduous plants and perennials in my yard are now dormant—some with dry brown leaves still attached, others with bare stems. But remarkably, not everything looks dead. In fact, a surprising number of plants still sport green foliage.

I’ve often chosen or rejected a plant for my garden based on when it leafs out in the spring. Too early and the tender new leaves are withered by a late snow. Too late, and half the season is gone before the yard looks complete. But I never considered the other end of the season—how long will the plant stay green before going to sleep for the winter?

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