Sunday, February 18, 2018

February is not my favorite month

Cold and stunted hemlock near Flattop mountain

Not least because I am on a very restrictive diet per my doctor’s orders. (Something about a strict diet makes me grouchy.) No sweets on Valentine’s Day was a blow, and no chocolate on my anniversary in a few days will be tough. And every morning looking at the bread and bagels and muffins and turning away…let’s say I’m getting rather sick of grapes and nuts and water for breakfast. No, February is brutal because it is cold and dark.

This year seems especially cold. I wear a coat and sometimes a hat in my house. This is in addition to the sweater and slippers and wool socks. With that kind of indoor getup, I feel like I should be chopping wood, hollering at the kids to put the kettle on, and calling my husband “Pa.”

We have chickens, so going outside is mandatory, especially on those really cold mornings to check on their water to make sure it’s not frozen, heated waterer notwithstanding. In 6 degrees, it’s no joke to pull gloves off to collect eggs and chisel ice off the chicken water. I’m very happy to run back to the heated house after that, in fact, in my haste once or twice, I have fallen.

I really wanted to attend the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle this month for a dose of green sights and smells (and heat), but that didn’t happen. So I’ve had to settle for green fantasies on the internet. Googling “new American prairie” or my favorite nurseries has become a lifeline. Also, making a to-do list has helped distract me. Nothing like a long list of chores to dispel gloomy thoughts…hmm, maybe not.

So here we go. My list of things to do this spring (if spring ever does come to this forsaken wilderness that is Alaska):

1. Get a potting table built by the resident engineer. He has assured me this is possible, but demands dimensions. I say “about this big by this big” (gesturing with my hands) but that is not (I report from years of experience) the way an engineer’s brain works. Exact dimensions for computer-aided rendering are required. I suck on my teeth and muse whether a chalk outline on the driveway will be sufficient.

Deschampsia, a parent of thousands

2. Pot up all that rubbish growing in the gravel walkway through the garden. I’m looking at you Deschampsia seedlings. And you too, precious, wonderful Elymus magellanicus sprouts. I think I have some Penstemon that has seeded around I could pot up as well. Which justifies all those black plastic pots I have stacked up, I guess.

Less to mow

3. Sod ripping. I regret to say this is on the list. I am tired of trying to mow the turf up a tricky steep patch in the front lawn. No more, it’s coming out. For a run down from the last sod ripping debacle, see here. I wish I could say “been there, done that” with finality, but it seems we will be doing that again. Big sigh and mental note to remember to wear back belt for support this time. This is a task that helps a gardener remember their advancing age. Phooey.

Hummingbirds love Lamium

4. Attract as many hummingbirds as possible. I have become the crazy garden lady with a fetish. I think I’ve gotten the same hummer stopping by the last day or two of July and first few days of August for the last two years. I figure it’s filling up the tank before starting on the big migration back southward to Arizona or Mexico or wherever it hangs out most of the year. Step one, plant a bunch of things hummers like. Check. Step two, hang a sugar water feeder, check. Step three, for this summer, plant even more things hummingbirds like. Which aligns nicely with number 5.

Shopping: gardener's edition

5. Buy more plants. I know I don’t have to explain this to most gardeners. On the list, a rose (request from my daughter, who asked for a “real rose,” not the rugosa types I have planted now. Explaining the realities of moose a ’munching hasn’t convinced her that this request is unreasonable), more Penstemon (I can never have too many), another try at Monarda (while uttering a prayer to banish mildew), and maybe a blue poppy (Meconopsis).

I wonder how many of these items I will accomplish and how many will be banished/procrastinated to another year or season. I still have many weeks to think about it. Spring arrives late here: April in a good year. So here’s to internet garden dreams and doodling on a sketch pad until then.

Got any black plastic nursery pots stacked up in a corner? What’s on your spring to-do list?


  1. Good luck with the rose. They are fickle little buggers. I totally understand about tearing up so so mowing is safer. I am not sure about hummingbird plants after mine would not leave last fall. Can't wait to see some garden photos.

  2. Being also married to an engineer I know exactly what you mean. Mine needs measurements in millimetres! Look for a mildew resistant variety of monarda. Ours is Gardenview Scarlet and so far out the three years it has been planted it has been mildew free. I’ll probably wash that I hadn’t said that!

  3. @Bonnie K,

    Instead of hummers that won't leave, I have moose that won't leave. Drat!

    @Sue Garret,

    I will give Gardenview Scarlet a try if I can get my hands on it. Thanks for the tip. Those engineers are very exacting with measurements, but very handy to have around when something needs needs building.

    Christine in Alaska

  4. Now that I think about it, I'll take the hummingbird.

  5. It's good February is the shortest month I can't stand any more days! You can keep your moose, I have enough free manure here with my herd of deer. Have you really limited yourself to black pots? I wish I had your self control. My spring to so list is down to just 1. Do what you can! Seriously it is great to see a new post from you. Reading your blog makes me feel warmer and happier!

    1. Hi Becky. Won't you please take my moose in trade for your deer?



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