Ice on the pumpkin

These days it’s dark when we wake up in the morning and dark when we sit down for dinner. Alas….winter weather has arrived and we’ve had a few nights of very cold temperatures. It seems too early for freezing weather but, yes, it’s here. Overnight last week I lost my annuals.  I don’t plant many but ‘Hawaii Blue’ ageratum is a must. It’s a dependable plant that flowers all summer and carries the color of my lavender through other areas of the garden. I always buy two flats of seedlings at a local nursery.

This was a couple of weeks ago:

ageratum Blue Hawaii

This is after the first hard freeze:

ageratum Blue Hawaii

Oh well.  It’s all in the life of an annual. The cleome or spider flower that was glorious and fed the monarchs and bees not long ago melted into a heap of green and brown slime overnight.

cleome 2018

Not all is lost. In with the cold weather arrived our delightful winter birds! Juncos and white-throated sparrows blew down from the northern climes with one of the coastal storms. Flocks of bluebirds have stopped for a visit for the last two weeks. Some might venture south. Some might stay with us for the winter.

Grasses in the garden are giving us a show… especially my favorite native switchgrass, ‘Northwind,’ upright and 5′ tall in full bloom right now. Soon the blades will turn a golden shade and be glorious in the winter garden.

'Northwind' switchgrass 2018

I added some ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass to another area of the garden this fall and anticipate the winter foliage will turn a lovely burgundy as promised. It’s not as tall and not as upright as ‘Northwind’ but just as hardy. Let’s hope it does not disappoint.

And so we seem to have more overcast days, more wet weather, snow in parts of the state but we are ready. The furnace is working. The fireplace is clean. Wood is stacked…. and our new addition is finished and furnished.  Life is good.

From NICE to ICE

“Welcome home,” said Old Man Winter. After a much warmer and dryer stay south of the Mason-Dixon line, we were greeted in New Hampshire by a snowstorm followed by freezing rain, sleet, and a thick coating of ice. It was not much of a warm welcome home.

dragonfly icicle

Multi-car accidents yesterday and pedestrian falls on the ice caused our local emergency room to fill with the injured last night. We can handle the snow. It’s the ice. Always the ice.

ice

bird feeder ice

We’ve decided we will stay home today, fire in the fireplace, music on, and I will start on my needlepoint. I have had the canvas of a Japanese Imari design for a year and finally picked out the wool in a wonderful needlepoint shop on Hilton Head Island. It arrived by post yesterday. How divine….

 

Bringing the outdoors in…

On a snowy day like today with dangerous roads, we decided to stay home rather than continue holiday errands, a very wise decision. Hot chocolate and a fire in the fireplace was the theme of the day. But, we were also warmed by wonderful  blooms of an outdoor plant brought indoors several weeks ago.  In Virginia, I’d just stick geranium pots in the garage to overwinter but that doesn’t work in our New England climate. Brrrr…!

A year ago, encouraged a couple of years ago by Judy over at NewEnglandGardenAndThread, I brought my favorite annual geranium indoors as an experiment. The first year it stayed in the original large clay pot until spring. It did fine, never got leggy, and bloomed regularly. Outdoors it happily went in the spring, but at summer’s end, it had grown too huge for our windowsill.

So I cut that mammoth geranium down to small nubs, dipped each in a rooting hormone and stuck them in a soilless mix in a trough that now sits in my sunny kitchen window. I thought I’d lose most but, no…. the results really surprised me!  Every wee plant rooted quickly and flourished. Blooms seem to multiply overnight even on the tiniest plants. As soon as one fades, there are 4 or 5 blooms waiting to take its place. It’s our winter flower garden on the windowsill and those sweet blooms warmed us on this wintry day.

img_1767

I don’t mind winter but I hate ICE

I don’t mind winter. I don’t mind cold weather. I rather like snow. I don’t mind doing a little shoveling of the white stuff. Cold winds don’t bother me.  But I simply hate ice. I’m terrified of driving on it, walking on it, and hate scraping it off sidewalks and windshields. The Northeast has had a lot of snow followed by fast thawing, then freezing sleet and rain with more of it expected overnight tonight.  Even my cute little deck snowman has shrunk into a solid block of ice.IMG_7490We didn’t see icicles when we moved in March of last year but the ice stalactites we now see around Exeter, including our house, could be a scene from Virginia’s Luray Caverns. Take a look at the similarity of structures…

English: An image of the Drapery or Flowstone in Luray Caverns known as "Saracen's Tent". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia: Luray Cavern stalactites

icicle stalactites

Our icicle stalactites

When you have a freezing and thawing and freezing pattern, you can easily develop ice dams. This is all new to me but evidently our home inspector was wrong when he said our attic insulation was just fine and dandy. We developed ice dams that trapped water melted by escaping attic heat. Ice dams can destroy gutters and force water into a home. When we saw a drip inside, we knew we had to take action. We have now contracted to have the attic insulated much MUCH better but we found a trick from This Old Home that temporarily saved us.

We filled a stocking with a calcium chloride de-icer and laid it over the ice dam. It melted a channel to the gutter to help water to flow. We also sprinkled it on the ice along the gutter. It worked like a charm! All clear now and we know a lot more about New England ICE.