The winter’s worklist


Sleep, sleep, and cut back foliage on the hellebores. That’s it, that’s all I plan to accomplish  between now and spring.

Perhaps I’ll manage to work in a bit of time to continue to cut up the trunk of the tall maple  that toppled over into the garden in last week’s ice storm. The top third of the tree and smaller branches have been cut into sections and piled at the garden’s edge, and sooner than later these will need to be moved (or burned) or wildlife will be encouraged to nest in the debris pile a little too close to the house.

Over the weekend my wife and I watched a coyote leisurely trot along the garden’s border, and footprints in the snow that has lingered for the past two weeks show evidence of raccoons (or possibly skunks), and deer right up to the house. We have no objection to sharing the garden, but prefer that wildlife set up living quarters a little further from the house.Maple damaged in ice storm

When the huge maple fell it crushed a redbud I planted twenty-some years ago, and several spring flowering camellias were damaged. Two Oakleaf hydrangeas were mostly broken to the ground, but unlike the redbud these should be fine in the spring (but much smaller). Some pruning will be required to cut back the few tall stems that weren’t damaged to bring back some symmetry (though there wasn’t much to start with), but this will wait until spring when the hydrangeas show the first signs of growth.

Fortunately, the deep piles of leaves that fell through the autumn at the edge of the forest were cleaned up, shredded, and spread over much of the garden several weeks ago. If the project had been delayed (as is often the case), the leaves would now be wet and matted, the chore would be more difficult, and I would be unlikely to get back to it until early in March. This time, I’m rather pleased with myself.Snow on Winter's Joy camellia

While cutting up the maple I was as careful as I could be not to trample on the hellebores that are scattered between the camellias and hydrangeas. I’ve little doubt that dozens of tiny seedlings were stomped into the mud, but I don’t believe there is damage to the larger plants. A few hellebores were flattened, and here is where I saw that the fat flower buds that will bloom sometime in mid to late winter have already developed.Hellebore flower buds in early January

Some newer varieties of hellebore set buds just above the foliage, but most flowers stand just at the level of the leaves. If the old foliage is cut off the blooms are more prominent, and this seems like a good project for the warmer weather that is expected next weekend. And after that exhausting task is complete, I’ll take a nap.

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