Is it Green yet?

Although winter is far from over in New England, there are a few indications that spring is around the corner. One sign occurred yesterday when I attended a lecture on Native Plants given by Peter Van Berkum of Van Berkum Wholesale Nursery in Deerfield NH. A packed room welcomed the speaker to Churchill’s Gardens in Exeter NH.

Peter Van Berkum

Peter Van Berkum

He began by asking the audience, “What is a native plant?”  There were no shout outs but I heard a few different answers quietly spoken around me. “There is no wrong answer,” he said. Some define native plants as Continental, as belonging to a continent. Others interpret natives as Far-Regional, or as Near-Regional, and some limit the ecoregion to County. The definition from the website of the New England Wild Flower Society is simply “…plants growing in North America before European settlement.”

An interesting talk about native plants accompanied by a colorful PowerPoint presentation entertained the knowledgeable listeners. Whenever a question was posed, this group was not stumped. Although there were natives such as wild cranberry and delphinium and marsh marigold and an array of asters that were not easily grown in my Virginia zone 8 gardens, it was good to hear so many natives in Virginia were also New England natives. There was my good friend, Joe Pye, and the familiar Bee Balm, False Solomon’s Seal,  native ferns, ironweed, native sedge and many more.

If I would like to further my education on New England natives, the book he recommended is Flora of the Northeast, A Manual of the Vascular Flora of New England and Adjacent New York by Dennis Magee and Harry E. Ahles.

Check out the website for Van Berkum Nursery where propagation is the name of the game. The story behind this dynamic multi-talented husband/wife team is inspiring….. and don’t miss the charming video with Peter Van Berkum supplying the foot-tapping background music. The nursery specializes in shade plants that are indigenous to New England. They have 4 interesting collections: New England Woodlanders, Appalachian Woodlanders, New England Meadows, and Wicked Ruggeds.

When it snows, it pours….

We are hunkered down today watching the snow fall with the blowing and the drifting. We have been told that we officially have just under 2′ of snow on the ground so far. We measured our drifts against the house at over 3′.  Portland ME, just north of us, broke their previous 27.5″ record with 29.3″. Snow will continue to pile up through the day in the area.  Lovely to watch but we’re staying put!

Birds of All Feathers Flock to the Feeders

With the storm on the horizon, we made sure we fed our birds well today with a variety of nuts, seeds, fruit, and suet.  Even the pesky house finches were welcome. Eat up little one. I hope you have safe shelter during the nor’easter tomorrow.

Click the photo for a close look at a house finch puffing feathers to trap warmer air closer to his body. It provides great insulation against the bitter cold.

house finch

Monster Blizzard or Not?

With Nor’easter Nemo bearing down on us, mister gardener said perhaps I should remove my last blog post entitled, “It’s Snow Wonder I Like New Hampshire.” He said I might feel differently about snow after the weekend. I chuckled at the time but later I considered his suggestion. With predicted amounts changing by the hour for the coastal region of New Hampshire, we are still unsure whether we will have 24″…. or 32″ as we heard one forecaster announce tonight. Cancellations are streaming across the television and on the radio. By 9 pm, schools and colleges, 2,933 flights, businesses, functions and events have been canceled or postponed. The entire area is shutting down for perhaps historical amounts of snow.

The Great Blizzard of ’78, Boston

We shopped today for all the survival necessities found on everyone’s lists, then dined out tonight. Native New Englanders, clerks, checkers, baggers, waiters, with whom we exchanged greetings throughout the day, seemed nervous. These hardy, robust, resilient natives who normally take everything in stride, expressed real concerns about Elmo. The 1978 snow-mageddon was all the talk today…. the storm with 80 mph winds that left 10 foot drifts, flooded homes, stranded motorists, tons of debris, collapsed roofs, and 99 New Englanders dead. We knew about the storm 35 years ago but mister gardener and I were unaware of the extent of damage the storm caused.

With our minds changed about this potentially crippling storm barreling down on us, we nervously decided to re-check our survival to-do list tonight. Water… check.  Batteries…. check. Groceries….. check. Dry firewood…. check. Snow shovel…. check.  iPad, iPhones charged…. check. Bird feeders filled…. check. Laundry washed…. check.  Autos fueled…. check. Blankets…. check.

How will I spend the days secluded at home beneath drifts of snow? I hope to hibernate, keep my toes warm in front of a fire in the fireplace, hot chocolate in a mug, a good book on iPad. Whether we have total white-out conditions with hurricane-force winds or not, I’d like to block out the dangers of the storm that twists and turns and howls outside. The drapes might be closed for this snowstorm.