A-minus year exits with a blue moon
Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 8:01 pm
By JIMMY WILLIAMS
Special to The Messenger
Grading on the curve puts 2009 at about an A-minus for gardeners. This following two straight drought years with scores of no better than a C.
The closest thing we had to drought this time around was some four weeks without rain at a bad time in the heat of summer. It almost became serious, and a few new woody plants that had no root purchase succumbed. It was nothing, however, to compare with the three-month true droughts of 2008 and 2007 that reduced to stubble new and old plants alike.
The year crept into history with cold January temperatures, but not devastating sub-zero readings. There was not enough cold to kill any fully hardy plants. It continued a pattern from late 2008 that had already seen a colder than normal December.
Snowdrops, witch hazel, early daffodils (to wit: Rejnfeld’s Early Sensation), the tough tommie crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) and pink, purple and white hellebores held forth in a month that was remarkably open. Snow of any substance has just about disappeared from around here, it seems. (Famous last words.)
Snow was conspicuously absent in January, but ice wasn’t. We escaped by the skin of our teeth from an ice storm late in the month, but our friends barely to the north and west didn’t, suffering historic damage that caused loss of power for weeks. Damage to trees there won’t be mended for years to come.
February stayed below normal, for the most part, but it didn’t keep more of the same bloom from continuing, joined by other daffodils, crocuses and even spring snowflakes. Mostly cold days were interspersed with a few balmy ones.
March blew in like a lion, right on order, with historic snows all around us but only an inch here. Jackson got a record 13 inches on March 1. By the sixth of the month, it was 75 degrees here. Typical March vagary.
Woody plant setting went like a house afire in March, with more trees and shrubs set than in any other month. Tree deaths kept showing up from the past two droughts, and a number of large red oaks in our woodland ended up in hearth fires late in this year. With abundant bulb bloom and early native plants and perennials, our borders were probably the best ever for March.
A diary note two weeks later, April 15, claimed the April garden was the best ever. Either it was or I am losing my memory, a distinct possibility.
Amenable weather continued, but for a mini heat wave in late April, not too uncommon here. It was broken quickly, and on May 2 we were huddled before yet another fire in our den with the outside temperature in the 50s, global warming notwithstanding.
Later in May, on the 15th, the month and year was hurt beyond repair with the death of my friend of 50 years or more, Jim Cox. I miss him as we speak.
Spring morphed into summer in June and, again, global warming was nowhere to be found as we had the coolest summer since the 1970s. That stat hasn’t been fed into the computer gene pool as yet, I dare say, and, if it has, the green freaks in London have deleted it.
Ditto July, but for a brief time in the “normal” 90s. Another great void since July 23 for me and countless others has been the absence of my Uncle Bryant Williams, who left us after a long and productive time on this earth. A great gardener as well.
August was dry, but not severely so, and grass mowing on our acres became a bore. I’ll take that over burned up turf any day. Meanwhile, ornamental plantings continued one of the best performances in the 35 years at our place.
By late September, fall rains had the ground in shape to resume heavy woody plant installation, and on into a cooler than normal October (that global warming again) the work went on, as well as excellent fall flower and foliage color. A big effort included setting a few hundred pansies and 1,000 or so bulbs.
November was actually no colder than October, and a hard frost was not experienced until the 27th. Even then, late mums and other toughies weren’t affected.
December has been a bit colder, on average, than normal. Despite that, we had the usual group of daffodils on the table at Christmas, comprised of the indispensible Rejnfeld’s Early Sensation. Wood cutting and hauling have taken up most of our effort and here on the cusp of a new year we can stop, “set a spell and count our blessings,” as the farm wife said one day after 14 hours of work cooking and cleaning.
Meanwhile, the year has exited under the light of a blue moon. A blue moon only occurs once in a blue moon, of course, when there is a second full moon within a single calendar month. With a full moon occurring every 29.5 days, there is little wiggle room for a second full moon between the first and 31st of any given month. February can never have one. Why? Because 28 or 29 are less than 29.5. Get it?
Happy New Year, and good gardening.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams writes this column for The Paris Post-Intelligencer.
Published in The Messenger 1.5.10