In the February Garden

A wintry storm with bitter cold temperatures is headed our way, though whether it actually arrives is another matter. Forecasters tend to get excited and talk for days about any sort of ice or snow, but often it fizzles out and we all end up with extra milk and bread for no good reason. (The grocers in our area must be thrilled whenever winter precipitation is predicted, as everyone is obligated to stock up for blizzard conditions, even if only a dusting of snow is forecast. This is tradition.)

Yesterday, while Lou went to the store for emergency milk and bread, I went for a walk around the garden. There are a few flowers blooming in anticipation of spring, which, winter storm or not, should be here in a few weeks.

Flowering quince, Chaenomales, is one of the earliest signs of spring and will continue to bloom profusely for weeks:

Hellebores also are early bloomers, and their flowers will persist for months, all of them eventually shading to pale green:Fortunately, most of my daffodils are not yet blooming and should do OK through the winter storm, but a few are flowering. I am glad I got to see them before they got zapped:Here are some more scenes around the February garden:

You may note the Nandina domestica, growing above. This has proven to be terribly invasive, and I have pulled hundreds of these plants out of my woodland garden. The area shown here is a wild area immediately adjacent to the garden. I have given up trying to eradicate them all, and I am now content to keep them under control. My neighbors love these, and one can still find them for sale. Sigh. At least they are pretty.

I will end with a few pot shots, focusing on details, since most of these containers are empty, waiting for spring:



The Hunter and the Hunted

There were three different types of birds in the dogwood tree near our patio this morning, all at the same time, devouring the berries: bluebirds, cardinals, and titmice. When they were done, there were no berries left.We have many types of birds in our garden including, clockwise from top left: bluebirds, cardinals, titmice, and Cooper's hawks.

I am especially happy to see bluebirds setting up housekeeping in the bluebird house by the arbor garden again. (Click on the link for tips on attracting bluebirds.) This is a  newly refurbished house, and it should provide them with a secure, safe home, as safe as it can be out in the wild. The Cooper's hawks have returned to our garden, and, unfortunately, songbirds are on their menu. Today I watched one swoop down for a kill. I think he got a vole, which is fine by me. Just leave the bluebirds alone. 

Voles are on my hit list, because they consume plant roots. I have lost so many hostas to them that I hesitate to plant these beautiful shade-lovers, except in pots. The hawks will have competition for this particular tasty meal. Autumn, our cat, is extremely affectionate and outgoing toward humans, but she is a fierce tiger at heart. She loves to hunt. She will catch chipmunks and play with them, carrying them around in her mouth like a kitten, them setting them free in heavy foliage for seek and chase. She will repeatedly catch and release the same chipmunk until she grows tired of the game. The poor chipmunk, if he doesn't die of fright, has a good chance of escaping in the end.

Not so a vole. This creature is dead meat within moments after she catches it, and she will consume it in just a few bites. We feed her well, but understand, this is a delicacy she will never forgo. Autumn was in hunter mode when I took this photo.

This vole would be a tasty meal to either our cat, Autumn, or to the Cooper's hawks who live in our garden.Our weather continues to see-saw between pleasant sixty to seventy degree temps one day, down to upper twenties the next, but the increased activity of birds and other wild creatures, both the hunter and the hunted, is one of the signs of approaching spring. Every day more bulbs emerge. Flowering quince and hellebores are blooming. Surely spring will be here in just a few weeks!