Saturday, January 9, 2010

BRRR!!! It's---Actually Not That Bad

We've been all abuzz for the past week about the miserable cold weather we were supposed to get this weekend. And DID get, for that matter: it was 13F when we woke up this morning. Ick. I dislike the cold. And Matt entirely loathes it.

But weirdly enough, we finally ventured out, nervous and blinking, around 12:30, and it wasn't really all that cold. The sun was brightly shining, there wasn't any wind, and it really was almost kind of pleasant, in a brisk, 38-degree kind of way. All I had on was a long-sleeved shirt, a microfleece pullover, and (look, it keeps my ears warm, all right!?) a snood. And it was fine. More than fine--it got up to 52 degrees, believe it or not. A temperature swing of 40 degrees!

So--why the heck not?--I started burning that big old pile of abelia twigs from our transplant project. And then--it really needed to be done--I started cracking those pecans we picked up from our old pecan tree back in Oct/Nov. And then--because, really, when you get down to it and approach it in an unprejudiced fashion, it's actually a positively lovely day--we grilled out.

So, completely contrary to all my expectations, I was mildly productive today. And the whole fire-in-the-firepit-while-cracking-pecans thing was so homey and cozy. Mind you, by 5pm, we scarpered. The mercury plummeted and we took our hamburgers inside (to watch Our Man in Havana--damn, that was neither fun nor funny. Netflix led me to understand that it was a madcap spy caper starring Alec Guiness--well, that sounds fun. But it wasn't. It wasn't madcap. It wasn't a caper. It was limpingly plotted, insipidly peopled, and since when did Alec Guiness look like John Mahoney [see right]?) But for a little while, we were productive. And now we're back down to 26F.

Nevertheless, we were out long enough to collect a little garden news.

First, here's the former home of those pruned and transplanted abelias. Looks like a demilitarized zone, doesn't it? Grow little 'Mutabilis' roses, grow!

Former site of 4 big abelias, moved to make way for the 'Mutabilis' roses

And here they are in their new home, where they will give the shade patio a more private ambiance. The abelias are looking okay at the moment--not too shell-shocked, fortunately. They were huge and very established--I was a bit afraid that the move would simply kill them.

Newly transplanted abelias in the shade garden

About those pecans, by the way. You may remember that they were weirdly lightweight and bendy when I first harvested them. Then the internet told me to let them cure for a few weeks. Nasty weather and late nights at work combined to stretch that into two months. Anyway, they're a pretty seedy crop--wizened, discolored, and fungal. Even the better ones look kind of like the pecan version of raisins--sort of shrunken and dessicated. And there aren't many of those--I get one "good" pecan for every 10-15 toxic ones. And it takes a lot of time. I'm only about 1/9 of the way through our whole stash. I have to keep reminding myself that I love pecans, and they cost about $8 per pound at the grocery store. While these are free.

Dessication: Good for grapes; not so good for nuts.

Interestingly, each rose seems to respond a little differently to the freezes we've been having. Mystery Leggy rose promptly dropped every last one of its leaves. 'Duchesse de Brabant' (top right corner) is hanging on to all of hers, even though they look droopy, sickly, and mostly dead. 'Comtesse du Cayla' looks healthier and more dense than I've ever seen her look. 'Autumn Damask' looks badly drought stressed and crispy. 'Knockout' turned dark burgundy on top. 'Graham Thomas' looks--well, much as he ever does. Chlorotic, thin, and blackspotty. He's lucky his flowers are so awesome.

The dark burgundy foliage of my rose nemesis, 'Knockout'

And finally, some ominous news: that chitalpa that we bought last spring, that was doing so astonishingly well and blooming so plentifully is cracking at the base of the trunk and has weird blackish streaks at every crotch angle.

Split bark at the base of our chitalpa

It seemed so happy--and now it looks like death. I don't know if it's freeze damage, if the plant will come back from the roots, if it's some horrible parasite... I just have no idea. I did find this bit of information on the subject "Chitalpa tree bark splitting: Splitting bark is a common occurrence with chitalpa trees. Experts believe the lack of water causes the splitting. Pull back the split bark, and you'll find new growth forming to cover the wound. Immediately after splitting, trees set up defense mechanisms to wall off damaged areas to prevent pathogen entry. The tree will heal itself." On the other hand, another source points out, "There is also a 'Bacterial Wetwood Disease' that causes slime flux."

Slime flux. Not sure what that is, but am pretty sure I don't want it.

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