Finally … winter snow

Snow has been rare in my south-central Connecticut garden so far this winter so I more than welcome this morning’s measly three inch snowfall. Finally … winter snow has arrived.

At this time last year we already had good snow cover and I was checking animal tracks to see which creatures were active around the house and gardens. More animal track observations may be possible if the wind remains still and the snow cover doesn’t melt away due to one of the broad temperature swings that, so far, have highlighted our 2014-2015 winter.

But, this morning’s creature watching was all about birds. A junco perched for a photo atop the branch of a white lilac and, on the main trunk, a downy woodpecker seems to be listening for insect activity.

Junco and downy woodpecker in a January 2015 snow

Junco and downy woodpecker in a January 2015 snow

Both await their turn at the nearby feeder, but the woodpecker’s actions capture more of my interest. This lilac was host to some sort of borer last year. I pruned out damaged trunks and branches, and dug out as much of the damaged root section as possible, then waited and watched for new insect holes in the woody branches. If woodpeckers remain interested in the trunk sections of this shrub I know to keep watching it closely for further borer damage.

In the meantime, activity at the feeder shows it’s time to refill the suet and thistle seed.

Juncos and downy woodpeckers on a snowy morning.

Juncos and downy woodpeckers on a snowy morning.

They’ll get their wish later, when it’s time clear the walkways. For now, I’ll just continue to enjoy the view, and hope my woodpecker friends visit the lilac as a resting spot, rather than a place for food.

 

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Re-purpose your Christmas tree

If you decorate with a fresh-cut Christmas tree you also face the annual question of what to do with it after the holiday. Here are some ideas, updated from a January 2011 post, to help you re-purpose your Christmas tree, rather than casting it off as trash.

1. After dragging the tree outside, trim still-green branches off its trunk and use these to mulch dormant perennials. The branches from our tree become winter mulch for spring-blooming bulbs, while any evergreen boughs used in outdoor decorations – such as those in the photo below from 2011- help protect dormant perennials from frost heaving.

evergreen-boughs-as-mulch.jpg

2. Turn your tree into an outdoor shelter for feathered friends.  It’s relatively easy to either lean the tree against a bird feeder pole, an outside deck railing, or some other vertical support near where birds feed during the winter. (If a snow pile is handy you can simply pound the base of the trunk into the pile and pack the snow tightly around the trunk. If it stays cold the tree can stand in this spot for quite a while.) Birds waiting their turn at the feeding station can find refuge in the tree, as can those seeking a roosting place while they ingest seed. To provide even more feeding stations hang stale bread, suet-filled pine cones, or orange or apple slices from the tree.

Christmas-tree-repurposed.jpg

3. Use some cut evergreen boughs as the base layer for a new compost pile. The natural form of the branches allow for air circulation at the base of the pile, which encourages the compost process. Cut branches can also be placed atop a full compost bin or pile. They might discourage winter rummaging by local animal residents. In the spring these same branches could become the base of a new compost pile.

4. If you have wooded areas on your property, use your discarded tree as part of a small bird and animal shelter by mounding fallen branches over your no-longer-needed tree.

5. If you cut boughs off the trunk, the trunk can be used as a bird feeder or bird house post, or be cut into smaller sections for use in an outdoor fire pit.

But before turning your tree into a wildlife shelter or mulch mound, consider enlisting some help moving the tree to locations in your yard and gardens that might look better planted with an evergreen or conifer shrub. Granted, you might not want to try this with a large tree, but one that’s about 5 feet tall could act as a nice stand in for any future planting. While your helper holds the tree in place you can view it from different vantage points to get an idea of how a permanently planted tree /shrub will look.

 

A Tinge of Frost

A tinge of frost adds a unique beauty to plants. It’s a fleeting beauty. Once the temperature rises the tinge of frost becomes a memory, unless drawn outside to digitally capture frost-kissed plants in the garden.

These views greeted me this morning, urging me to grab the camera and head into my Connecticut garden, even before sipping my first cup of coffee.

Leaving seed heads standing through the colder months adds garden interest even without blooms. Sedum seed heads catch the eye when viewed in front of an evergreen shrub.

Sedum seed head contrasts nicely with Ilex compacts

Sedum seed head contrasts nicely with Ilex compacta

But the beauty of Ilex compacta leaves stand on their own, particularly when kissed by frost, giving  them a variegated look.

Frost-tinged Ilex compacta

Frost-tinged Ilex compacta

Adjacently-planted rose and lavender complement each other in every season.

Frost-tinged rose bud

Frost-tinged rose bud backed by a lavender shrub

But lavender, too, is lovely on its own.

Frost-tinged lavender

Frost-tinged lavender

The holly and the ivy take on a special glow when covered in frost. Holly berries are a perennial favorite.

Frost-tinged holly berries

Frost-tinged holly berries

Frost highlights the details of ivy leaves.

Frost-tinged ivy

Frost-tinged ivy

Even lifeless leaves and buds look special draped in frost’s silvery glow. Frost transforms browning bayberry leaves,

Frost-kissed bayberry leaves

Frost-kissed bayberry leaves

and adorns a common coneflower seed head.

Frost-kissed echinacea

Frost-kissed echinacea

A reddish glow gives holiday flare to azalea leaves,

Frost-tinged azalea leaves

Frost-tinged azalea leaves

and turns pieris buds into Mother Nature’s holiday decorations.

Frost-tinged pieris buds

Frost-tinged pieris buds

 

 

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry