Friday, February 15, 2013

The Harvest is In!

Day 255
The Daily DuBrule

I have been glued to my computer screen for the past few days. I have two gardening classes to teach tomorrow and I have been creating my Powerpoint presentations all week. This means that I pour through all of the digital photographs that I have taken in the past year and attempt to update my slide shows. It is really easy to get lost in this process as the pictures bring back so many wonderful garden memories and inspire dreaming about the growing season that is just around the corner. 

I finally took a break, pulled on my knee-high rubber boots, and ventured out into the yard with my pruners and loppers in hand. It was time to harvest some pussywillows for the CT Flower Show next week. I could see from the kitchen window that they were starting to open. 

Imagine my surprise to find my purple witch hazel (Hammamelis vernalis 'Purpurea'). in FULL BLOOM. How did that happen in a week so filled with snow and winter chaos? I spent nearly fifteen minutes carefully picking off the dried brown leaves that clung to the plant. Why does this happen some years and not others? Does anyone know? Anyway, I really didn't mind as it gave me a chance to be outside in the sunshine on this surprisingly mild day. I cut many branches of this native tree. With every cut I considered how this plant had completely split apart in the October snowstorm of 2011. My cuts were guided towards creating a stronger woody structure with wide angled crotches.

Next I turned to the Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'. What a display this has been putting on for me all winter long. It is perfectly located to catch the rays of the setting sun. I cut an armload of the most colorful branches and made a note to continue to do so all month and into late March. Cutting these colored twiggy dogwoods encourages lots of young new growth that has the brightest color. If it is allowed to get to woody, the color fades.

I hadn't yet made it over to the pussywillows. I slowly trudged to the border, sinking above my boots in the very wet snow. The black pussywillows (Salix melanostachys) were starting to crack. The fasciated pussywillows were already opening. I cut off lots and lots of long, architectural branches. 

As I headed back to the deck and the only outdoor spot free of snow where I could arrange my bounty, I passed my 'Arnold's Promise' witch hazel. I could see the color in the cracking buds. I cut a bunch of branches, again with an eye on building a strong framework for this tree that also split wide open a couple of years ago. (I successfully bolted it back together.)

One more item to harvest-winter jasmine (Jasmine nudiflorum). I have been cutting this all winter and the yellow flowers unfold within a day in the house. It's on the south side and I figured the snow would be lower, but no. More snow in my boots, but it was totally worth it to see the flowers showing color on this February afternoon.

My husband was surprised to come to the back door and find me sitting in the sun, surrounded by vases filled with branches I had just cut. "The harvest is in" I told him, holding up a bouquet of purple witch hazel. He shook his head in wonder. Who knew so much bounty could exist in the winter landscape? You just have to be determined enough to wade through the deep snow to get to it.