Monday, January 7, 2013
A look back...
It always feels like it takes me a while to really accept that it's a new year. Perhaps it's because it's right on the heels of Christmas...perhaps it's because I don't really "celebrate" New Year's Eve. For whatever, reason, I'm a bit late in my END OF YEAR review...but what the heck...here we go!
I wonder what most gardeners will remember 2012 most for. Here in PDX, it was the year without a winter, and then of the summer that wouldn't end. In spite of the unpredictable weather, it was actually a pretty good year in my garden.
January, as usual, was a quiet time for the garden. I know many gardeners loathe winter, but here it Portland, they are blessedly short and mild. Even so, I enjoy the down time it provides. There's something very satisfying about seeing the garden contract inwards and slumber during the darkest days of winter.
I wonder how long I'll have to live in Portland before I won't still be shocked that spring starts in February! It's always thrilling to watch the signs of the garden waking up. Bulbs start to push their way through dark, damp soil...the days grow longer and the season of local Garden Shows arrives!
Sometimes as early as late February, but generally during the first days of March, the first Daffodils and Parrotia will bloom in my garden. This past fall, I actually planted Crocus for the first time...can't wait to see how they do this spring. Every year I rejoice in the Daffodils along our front steps...and every year, after the flowers fade and the foliage flops onto everything, I swear I'm going to move them. Perhaps 2013 will be the year I actually do it.
When April rolled through this year, it felt like we were well and truly in the middle of a lovely spring. It's always nice to know that the wet, muddy hours I spent wedging bulbs into the ground were worth it when hundreds of Tulips start to burst open.
As usual in Portland, May continues our long, leisurely spring. Rain is still ample, but most days have decent periods of sun as well. The garden grew tall and lush. In the middle of May, it's hard to imagine that in a few months I'll be wishing it would rain again!
As is usually the case in my garden, June feels like the month when everything starts to really come together. The plants have filled in most of the bare spots and are still growing at an amazing rate. We can usually still count on pleasantly cool weather and moisture until the end of this month. I do remember that there was a doozy of a rainstorm in June, which snapped many of the blooming stems of my Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'. I still have them in a vase in our kitchen. Let's hope I don't have that many broken stems to use as decorations in 2013.
It's a bit of a local saying in Portland that Summer starts on the 5th of July...and as funny as it sounds, it's almost always right. It's very strange, but the weather really seems to change overnight. The rain stops and the sun holds court for several months. Powered by the heat and light, and still drawing on the remaining moisture in the soil, my garden surges with growth...heading towards its zenith.
Which brings us to August. While each year is different, if I had to choose a month in which my garden peaks (if there is such a thing), it'd be August. Not only are many of my favorite plants blooming (Eutrochium, Echinacea and Agastache), but the grasses are really making themselves known. 2012 was no exception, most of the plants were at their full size by August...and it feels so different than it did just a few months earlier. Whereas in June you could see clear from one end to the next by looking over the plants, in August, several of the large, bulky plants now divide the space more. I love, at this time of year, that it feels as if I'm passing "through" the garden, rather than just "past" it.
While the first part of September is still quite summer-y, the end is generally the start of fall. This past year, however, Summer refused to give up it's grip on us here in Portland. We had some of our hottest weather all year, trying my patience. In spite of that, the light in September was some of the best of the year. There were quite a few spectacular sunsets...due, in no small part, to all the dust in the atmosphere.
Around the middle of October, Portland finally received its first rainfall in months. In the end, it was the longest period without rain since they started keeping records. I'm sure part of it was me projecting my own relief, but the whole garden (indeed, every plant in Portland) seemed to breathe a contented sigh at the returning moisture. Fall progressed at a leisurely pace...which was fine with me, as its my absolute favorite time of year.
November continued a streak of pleasant weather. While many plants start to decline as winter approaches, the grasses are arguably at the finest. Autumn rains returned in force, but any time the sun would break through, the garden sparkled as if encrusted with millions of diamonds. I try to spend as much time outside, enjoying the garden, as I can...before winter frosts cut it down.
Even as the holidays approached, however, December was decidedly mild. Indeed, only recently did we have a few days that were quite chilly. Amazingly, there are still quite a few plants that haven't gone dormant yet. Will we have a repeat of last winter, with no real cold to speak of? Time will tell, I suppose, as January can still hold a few chilly surprises. I know I'm in the minority, but during winter, I look forward to those killing frosts to cut everything down and sweep the garden clean...they give closure to a year in the garden, well, for me :-)
So there you have it, 2012 in a nutshell. I think most gardeners will agree it was a doozy of a year...and with our weather (and, indeed ALL weather) become less and less predictable, who knows what the next few years will bring. Ah...but that's for another post, isn't it ;-)