Shivering through late winter

A fresh coating of snow covers the few remaining piles in the neighborhood left behind from the recent blizzard, but much of this shaded garden has remained snow covered for weeks. Daphnes and many hellebores are buried, and with afternoon temperatures in the low twenties, spring seems more than a few weeks off. With a shiver inducing breeze, it’s unlikely that I’ll venture out for more than a few minutes.

Yellow flowers on Leatherleaf mahonia peek out from beneath a cover of snow.

Yellow flowers on Leatherleaf mahonia peek out from beneath a cover of snow.

Some years, a stretch of mild February temperatures allows me to get a start tidying up the garden, but not this year. Once the snow has melted I’m certain the crop of winter weeds, that was off to a prodigious start with a warm December, will require several weeks of catch up. Then, I’ll move on to cutting back perennials and pruning the scattered broken branches from the recent blizzard. There aren’t many, and except for the weeds, I don’t expect an out of the ordinary spring clean up.

I half hoped that the dead hornbeam by the driveway would be blown over in the high winds that accompanied the heavy snow, but it’s still standing, and probably fortunately so. There is only a single direction that the tree could fall without causing significant damage to other parts of the garden, and what are the chances? I was hoping to avoid the cost of having the tree removed, but that seems unavoidable.

Diane witch hazel displays a few blooms in mid February, which is its typical time for flowering. Arnold Promise and Jelena have swelling buds, but no flowers yet.

Diane witch hazel displays a few blooms in mid February, which is its typical time for flowering. Arnold Promise and Jelena have swelling buds, but no flowers yet.

So, removing the tree will be at the top of the spring project list, and with numerous obstacles in its path this is a job that will be handed over to professionals. The tree will be cut at the ground and the stump left to rot, and branches will be chipped and spread over this part of the garden.

I’m planning an upright evergreen to fill this space, but certainly not anything that will grow taller than fifteen or twenty feet. I have a few choices in mind, but it will depend on what catches my eye, and with the garden grown up around it, I cannot start with something that needs years to grow. I am anxious to get past this chilly weather and back out into the garden.

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