Going For The Record

March-2014.jupgReally?  I didn’t really believe the forecast for 8 inches of fresh snow and 40 mile an hour winds, but that forecast proved dead to right.  The snow started about 7am, and never let up until the afternoon.  Long about 11:30 we were experiencing blizzard conditions.  Then the wind.  Howling winds, for Pete’s sake.  If you live in a northern gardening zone, I am sure this sounds like more of the same.  More of the same winter weather to my mind is just about intolerable, considering this is mid March.

March 12 2014 (8)We had 400 hellebores enroute from the west coast yesterday.  The trucker called an hour after his 8am ETA, to say he was having mechanical problems-he would be late.  Late meant that he and Rob were unloading the truck at 9pm last night.  Neither one of them wanted any part of unloading a truck today.  Though it took until 11:30 pm to get the plants safely stowed away in our greenhouse, we had three more deliveries today-all three at the height of the commotion.  Rob just rolled his eyes at me, as he and Steve were on their way outside for delivery number three.

March 12 2014 (15)The UPS truck in our drive summoned another UPS truck.  A boatload of packages were transferred from one truck to the other. What was up with that-I did not ask. This winter has tried each and every one of us.  I could not imagine being in the delivery business this winter. The weather was the top topic of conversation today.  Detroit is but a few inches short of a record snowfall that has prevailed since 1883.  As long as metro Detroit gardeners have suffered the misery of a vile winter that has gone on much too long, why not go for the gold?  Living through the most vile winter in over 100 years sounds better than a dispirited discussion of more of the same.

March 12 2014 (16)I haven’t been able to much walk my garden in months.  The rose garden has been buried in deep snow.  The staircase up is a snow ramp.  The corgis have been confined to the deck.  Did I mention that it is perilously icy everywhere? These pictures are from the inside looking out the windows.  Looking out from the inside has been a way of life for longer than I would like.

March 12 2014 (27)I do have questions, as this is a winter of a length and a breadth that I have never experienced before.  What will happen with my crocus?  Will they stay below ground until all of the snow is melted and the ground unfrozen?  Will they come up late, and bloom as usual, but late?  Will they pass on making an appearance this year altogether?  Once the winter is by, will they emerge bloom and flop over in one day?  Will the forsythias and magnolias bloom?

March 12 2014 (25)Will my shrub roses have die back from the extreme cold?  Will their blooming season be delayed?  Will the June garden be all the poorer for our extremely cold winter and deep snow?  The garden rarely provides answers in advance.  There will be a garden this spring, the shape of which I cannot predict.

March 12a 2014 (5)I am still interested in the fact that we gardeners in this zone have not experienced a winter with this level of extreme cold and extreme snow in 130 years.  This could mean that weather patterns are much bigger and longer than a human life.  As I have always suspected, nature is at the center of life.  People experience a piece, a chunk, a part – maybe just the second act of a much bigger play featuring five acts.  Maybe the past 20 years in which I have been cultivating my garden happened during an intermission.

March 12a 2014 (7)Late in the day, the storm passed, and the sun came out. The winds moved on.  The clear sky and the still were remarkably beautiful.

March 12 2014 (36)Nature?  It is a cornerstone of my life, no matter what.  There are no promises.  Sometimes the outcomes are not happy. Most times the outcomes are unexpected.  Sometimes the outcomes are deliriously enchanting.  Sometimes the outcomes are dreary and unclear.  Am I along for the ride?  Sure thing.



  1. Hi Deborah, as I read your post here in drought-stricken California amid plans to scale back garden beds and watering, I thought, “What I’d give for just a little bit of that wet, white stuff.”

    Hope your garden pulls through…Thanks for putting it in perspective!

  2. Erica McKoane says

    From my home outside Chicago, I feel Detroit’s pain when I see the tally of snowfall for the season. This winter reminiscent of ones in my childhood started with enthusiasm and laughter, I am now cackling with the frozen grin of the wicked witch. I’m sure the crocus are under there,somewhere, impatiently tapping their watches with annoyance…As you said, “Really?”
    It IS beautiful though, thanks for lovely photos.

  3. Janet grant says

    What a wonderful piece, Deborah- I love your writing, photos and philosophy. Thanks, Janet Grant

  4. Wow! I have a guest room if you need a break from the cold and snow! It is already spring in Houston : )

  5. Here in Chicagoland this winter has been a massive challenge but I have rejoiced. All my end of year tree and shrub plantings have been well insulated, well one can hope

    Even my cardigan corgi has loved it, climbing mountains of snow, scanning the grounds from high above, a first!

  6. Nice post! Once again you articulate perfectly much of what is on my mind this winter. I am assuming the roses I planted last year will not make it, along with many others and if perchance they survive, I will be pleasantly surprised! I appreciate the shots of your yard. Having grown up a stone’s throw away, it always reminds me that while seasons and gardens change, and the years move on, there always remains beauty and grace.

  7. JoyceB in Atlanta says

    Wow! It is nature, and it is fierce! Hang in there – everything will work out fine. The crocus may not bloom as long, but they’re still there. The roses will be stronger, and all the bugs and nasties will be gone for at least a year. Whatever die-back you have will just strengthen you to be able to trim and prune even better than usual. I lived through such a winter in NJ one year when we were shoveling the deck to keep it from collapsing. The yard prospered, though nothing bloomed quite as long as it had before, but everything did live and bloom! In Atlanta, we are also getting gale (for us) winds, and it is still chilly, but hummingbirds have just been spotted, so spring is finally here! Your spring will come soon.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Joyce, spring will come to every gardener in a different way. But every gardener shares similar feelings when spring comes. We will all be happy when the garden opens. Thanks, Deborah

  8. Missy Grenell says

    My heart goes out to you, Deborah. I’ve been following your posts for quite some time and appreciate your beautiful designs. I’m from Minnesota, now living on the west coast, and completely understand the frustration of still being buried in snow in the middle of March. Spring IS coming!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Missy, spring is taking its own sweet time. When spring finally gets here, I will be grateful beyond all belief. Being grateful-that’s a good thing. Thanks, Deborah

  9. Hi Deb-
    I am very curious too about the impact of the long, cold winter on our spring blooms. Hope you answer some of these questions for us in the next few months. At the end of the season I planted a flat of chocolate chip bugleweed. In the few warm days we had I saw leaves peeking thru the snow that looked just fine. I’m hoping that the long, hydrated sleep will have all the spring bulbs well rested and looking better than ever.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Nella, I don’t think damage will be apparent until it warms up. It is too soon to tell. Ajuga is pretty tough-I hope yours comes through fine. Best, Deborah

  10. I am enjoying your blog.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Thanks for your letter Karen. I enjoy the writing. And I like hearing from people who read. Thanks, Deborah

  11. It is an adventure. It sucks, but keeps you guessing….

  12. Starr Foster says

    Actually I think Mother Nature is showing us who’s the real boss! I dug down 2 times to find my snowdrops; first time wrong place, hit grass. A week later, I dug again in the garden: no snowdrops or crocus – they are too smart to come up – but did find fresh-as-summer arum italicum leaves and bright green stems of kerria japonica. Every one of my large thicket of kerria stems above the snow were dead as doornails. So I quickly covered the green ones all back over with snow to leave them in their warm blanket. The worst thing I can do is to uncover them to the harsh, cold, single-digit night temperatures that are forecast for the next week or who knows how long. At least the Great Lakes will be at normal levels this year.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Starr, I am not poking into anything-mostly because I can’t. Sounds like the winter is doing some drastic pruning on your behalf. The cold nights seem like they will linger. What else is there to do except wait it out? Best, Deborah

  13. Hi Deborah,
    I have enjoyed your blog for several years now from PA. We too are having a long, cold winter.. but nothing like yours. My question…where did you get your cow?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Julie, the cow was a gift-a 50th birthday gift. Every spring I restuff those areas that have suffered over the winter. It fits right in with my garden. Best, Deborah

  14. Starr Foster says

    I agree with your last paragraph 100%!

  15. Looking at snow pix from from my cousins in Westfield, NY and my sister in Vt. They are in your boat. When the weather is this bad, one does hope for the record so there will be something to take away other than dead plants. We’re warmer and melting some here in southern WI but it is revealing brown on every evergreen shrub that is now visible. Gonna be a nasty Spring for all of us I’m afraid.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Linda, life and death in the garden is ordinary. Some things thrive. Other things may be done in by this fierce winter. That doesn’t mean I won’t grieve, if I have damage. But I won’t quit. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  16. Cara Kazanowski says

    This long, long winter shows us — once again — that nature is in control, not us mere humans.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cara, you are right. People are a part of a bigger scheme, not every part of which we understand. Tending a garden is a chance to be part of something important. All the gardeners I know tend to be modest and self effacing-they get this. Best, Deborah

  17. Just remembering one of your memorable quotes: nature bats last,

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jinnie, yes, nature is that agency that organizes and puts on all the gardening events. We’ll be happy to attend! Best, Deborah

  18. Pretty, but I guess more acceptable in february than in march. From experience I would say less problems with the roses, as long as they were snowcovered when the real cold hit. Here in Sweden northern gardeners have nearly no frostbites at all, either plants survive or they do not, nothing in between. And yes, the crocus will bloom as soon as they get the chance. In Abisko the crocus can sometimes bloom for midsummer.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Louise, I appreciate hearing from a gardener growing in a really cold place. I would rather have crocus in mid summer than no crocus at all. We’ll see how the winter affects the spring and summer. Thanks, Deborah

  19. Amy Gormaly says

    Deborah! I am so disappointed – I will not be able to make the Helleborus Festivalis event next weekend! Maybe next year……Amy 🙂

  20. It is always amazing to me how similar your weather is to mine as well as your thoughts. I currently live in the very small city of Thorold in Niagara, Ontario. We have an interesting position between 2 Great Lakes and on top of the Niagara escarpment. Normally this allows me to push my zone higher than anyone else around here including my sister who lives 15 minutes away in St Catharines at the bottom of the escarpment. Yesterday, though, yesterday my little town of 118,000 made the weather network as the place with the highest snowfall (31 cm) during yesterday’s storm. We had 10 degree Celsius the day before with the snow almost gone. Now it’s -28 with the windchill. My husband has been out with the snowblower for 2 hours and still
    isn’t done. I fear for my agapanthus. I have no hope for the tuberoses I planted last year.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Dianne, every effort to garden takes equals parts work and and more work. A little dash of of courage and a generous splash of hope doesn’t hurt. Let me know about your agapanthus. Deborah

  21. Originally from Massachusetts I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area for 28 years. It is amazing to me how this year has seen records set everywhere, some for too much and here for too little of the wet stuff. As I would like some of yours I do enjoy the year round gardening here. Hang in there, things will come back to life just a little later. I do enjoy reading your blog very much. You are very creative and descriptive.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Diane, records have indeed been set-some good, and some bad. I feel so terrible that California is not getting the rain it needs. Would that I could could express ship some of our snow to gardeners in California. You hope for spring for me, and I hope for rain for you. Enough said. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  22. Deborah,
    At least we have your blog with beautiful photos and eloquent writing to keep us warm this Winter. The snow allows us to see the wonderful architecture of the trees and hard scape in your garden. And do I detect a bit of a smile about the muzzle of your corgi as he stands chest deep in the snow? Such a solid, Winter-proof dog!
    Stay warm!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Milo is completely weatherproof. Howard has spent the entire winter under my desk.Both of them will be happy when we can go to the rose garden without winter gear!

  23. I share your feelings completely……See you next Friday with some Brighton gardeners for a dose of spring!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Diane, what a rough winter we have had. Come on- we are ready to talk the garden! Thanks, Deborah

  24. Hi Deborah,
    I share your longing for “greener pastures,” but wouldn’t you agree that this was among the most beautiful snowfalls of the season? At least in northern Indiana, the wet snow is sticking heavily to the northern sides of the evergreens — a spectacular site in today’s post-storm full sunshine!

  25. Deborah B says

    About now would be a good time to pull out those books on “winter gardening” for a chuckle or two. They all seem to be written in England and Seattle! Their lists of plants and trees that bloom in January and February make me laugh (or weep, depending on the day).

  26. I do hope your plants can survive. It’s never nice knowing they might die and there’s nothing we can do about it. But we can’t fight mother nature- we battle the opposite problem on the other side of the world, our plants struggling to survive the long, hot, dry summers.
    In the meantime, the snow is so very beautiful!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Ock, plants live and die. This is the ordinary order of events. Some events are more unusual than others-as in our winter. We are within three inches of breaking a record for snow set in 1880. That is unusual. For us, the extreme cold and snow might prove fatal to certain plants. You have a challenge of another sort-=about heat and drought. Though we are worlds apart, we share a lot. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  27. As always, reading your blog is a much-savored treat!

    When I moved to NH from Cleveland more than 30 years ago I was shocked by the harshness of winters where the snow didn’t melt from December until March. This year we are later in emerging from winter than usual. I have learned to be grateful for the insulating blanket snow provides for my plants. As difficult as seeing more snow is, your plants appreciate the insulation. Your roses should be fine below the snow line, though they may be dead above, and the crocus are primed and ready to bloom whenever the snow melts enough for them to emerge. If you have sudden hot weather their bloom may be short, but it won’t bother them in the long run. Unfortunately, your magnolias may skip a second spring, if the weather has killed the flowering buds, but I imagine most of your plants will recover given a bit of time.

    Here’s hoping for spring to arrive in the near future!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Babs, I still can’t tell one thing about what our spring will be like, but for seeing plenty of sunburned yews, boxwood and alberta spruce. As I have 14 magnolias in my yard, I am hoping for some flowers-but like you, I wouldn’t be surprised if they skipped blooming this year. 12 degrees this morning-no spring in sight yet, but for whaat we have blooming in the greenhouse at Detroit Garden Works. Best, Deborah

  28. WOW…how talented you are!!! Do you do any design work for people from out of state? We just purchased a hobby farm and last winter had a pool installed that is now a large slab of concrete. And me with no knowledge or talent in landscaping. I cant find anyone around here that will combine the traditional with English cottage look as you do. Im even thinking of getting certified because I find nobody here with talent like you have. I look forward to hearing from you . BTY I am in TN zone 7a.

    thank you.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Sandra,I am not so great on plants and conditions for your zone. You could google the APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) and see if there is someone in your area. Good luck! Deborah

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