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(OT) Hey, it's almost February! Garden report

The sun rose at 8 a.m. this morning. I got up a little before 7 a.m., a noteworthy change after weeks of late rising; it may be due in part to finally being over the grim cold I caught shortly before Christmas, but the lengthening days certainly count as well. We're entering the annual period, in fact, when my SAD-affected body perceives the increasing light and starts to lift toward spring.

It's dry: we've had no rain for weeks, and no snow this winter at all. The low precipitation is now entering its fourth year, with no end in sight. There's a high-pressure system sitting over our area, bringing air pollution and humidity but no rain; DH and I went out yesterday and did a big watering of the plants we put in the ground in the fall, enough to keep them going for a while. The weather system brings notably different effects at different elevations. At our south-facing perch in the hills two days ago the morning was sunny and 50F, a mild springlike day; when DD and I got down to the train station in the plain, twenty miles or so away, the temperature had dropped twenty degrees, and we huddled deeper in our clothes in the freezing polluted fog. This raw weather lasted the entire morning we were out; our return home brought us back up to the morning's beautiful mild weather. However, in the last two days the smog has crept up here as well.

Yesterday while watering I spotted some rootstock suckers I must dig out; that will be today's task I suppose, and further, endless cleanup. I've been tidying along the northern boundary down in the big garden, just below the neighbors' hayfield. There certainly is a contrast between its meager winter growth and the wild clumps of grass, roses, shrubs, and Italian cypresses on our side of the line: soil still poor, but improving. As I go further up the boundary I see that the ground is slumping, running from an old slide on our property and propagating up into the neighboring field. This has been going on for many years, but I think the slump is currently active, which suggests the need for intervention. More trees to plant: sturdy indomitable flowering ashes, nice-looking, quick to grow, long-lived, capable of growing in rock, as I've seen. Actually, this unstable soil is part of the reason for my planting along the property line, along with aesthetics and environmentalism: I don't want the neighbors' hillside to slide down and bury our garden. It's a lot of hillside. It does seem to be piling up here and there.

We are firmly set in winter, but with the relatively mild temperatures and the sun, the warm climate roses have set new growth and buds. 'Crépuscule' has been trying to flower through the winter, and 'Sanguinea' has a vivid bloom or two. I'm enjoying the roses' fresh foliage, for all it's untimely. Winter is our season of green grass, of course, and with the silvery olives and the dark Italian cypresses and some growing evergreen oaks and a few pines, there's quite a bit of green in the garden. Few flowers, though the winter jasmine is coming into bloom, and the winter-flowering cherry, and, in shady places, the native and cultivated hellebores. Oh, and Eleagnus x ebbingei, a fine shrub, its fragrance wafting in clove-scented waves; and the rosemary is coming into bloom. Not so little happening, after all.

The garden is a lot of smaller gardens within the big garden. This fall we mainly worked on hedging. We finished planting the hedges of what we call the Dutch Bed--now to see whether the plants survive this year--and the hedges backing up the Serbian Beds, or nearly; and we've almost finished planting the Small Triangle. This last is important, as it's nearly complete (hurray!), and because it's an important part of the bulwark holding back the hill above it, or perhaps I'm flattering myself. I don't know for sure. The threat of land slumps and slides is very real, though.

For tall hedges I use a lot of photinia and small-leaved privet, some winter honeysuckle and Symphoricarpos, an occasional plant of forsythia or Cotoneaster lacteus, native Viburnum lantana, lilac, hazelnut where I can get it to grow, Oregon grape for lower growth. It's a matter of what I can easily and cheaply find in local nurseries--that will GROW FOR ME--or propagate for myself. I want to continue hedge and tree planting next fall, though this may get derailed, as my plans so often do. I want to plant more Eleagnus x ebbingei, but must order it from a nursery that sells liner plants, and lentisk, a plant not much known this far north, so will have to order it from a different nursery. Our elevation, about 1400 ft, southwest orientation, and steep slope, mean that our garden is drier and warmer than much of the surrounding area. This makes it possible, as well as desirable, to plant plants that are more widely grown in central and southern Italy than here. Climate change also suggest that this is prudent.

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