Archives for January 2012

New USDA Plant Hardiness Map

Now, for the first time since 1990, gardeners have an updated, comprehensive climate zone guide for plant hardiness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just released a new interactive map based on weather data gathered from 1976 to 2005. The map proves what gardeners have long suspected: there has been a warming trend in many parts of the country, affecting plant variety, range, and adaptability.

Since the average minimum temperature has gone up in many areas, spring comes sooner, fall lasts longer, and winters are often milder. Many parts of the country have gone up half  a zone, based on 10 degrees Farenheit for each latitudinal zone.  My zone, for example, had been 6b; now it’s 7a.

You can enter your zip code here at the new USDA map to find which zone you’re in, and to learn more about the USDA’s research process.

Amazon Lily

You’d think I’d remember that my Amazon lily (Eucharis grandiflora) blooms about this time every year. I never do — instead, I’m taken aback (in a good way) when the large, fragrant flowers cross my line of vision amidst the swath of greenery I usually see when watering the indoor plants in January.

Amazon lilies are dramatic: flowers are 4″ wide and look like very large daffodils. The leaves are dark green and shiny; they resemble those of hosta . The plant has its own Facebook page, although the description “It produces a bunch of white flowers ” is not exactly inspiring. Nevertheless, You can go to the page and “like” this plant or ask it to be your friend!

I don’t recall where I got my lily, but I’ve had it a long time. Last year, in a simplicity- seeking frenzy, I gave it and some other plants to my son. The light conditions at his house were challenging and the lily languished. I brought it back home, cleaned the bulbs with soap and water and a bit of clorox, then re-planted them in fresh dirt and a new pot. This year: rewards in the form of  blooms and robust foliage. If this is clutter, I’ll take it.

The Creek

Behind the house: creek basin

The creek behind our house is not what you’d call pastoral. It’s recessed fifteen or twenty feet below the back yard and its banks are steep and hard to navigate. It’s normally about five feet wide, unless it rains all day like it did today. The water drops from a culvert near the road, then flows to a basin below the hemlocks before it narrows along the back of the property. There are no ferns or other wildflowers nearby — just privet and honeysuckle shrubs and spindly stands of ivy.

Once an old dog in the neighborhood walked (or fell) down to the creek and couldn’t climb out. Inside the house, I kept hearing the weak cries of what sounded like an animal in distress. It took a while to realize that the muffled sounds, distorted by the bank and water, were coming from a sweet old dog that had expended most of his energy trying to get back to safety. I was able to find the animal’s owner, who came and rescued him.  I never saw either of them again.

My creek may not be iconically beautiful, but it sounds as wonderful as any vernal, pristine one in the mountains. If I sleep with the windows open or work outside in the yard, I can easily pretend I’m beside one of those more picturesque ones, taking off my shoes to wade in and look for tadpoles.


From New Hampshire Friends: Icicles and Sun

One of my mother’s favorite sayings is, “If wishes were horses, we’d all ride”. Growing up, I heard that phrase often, though I mostly ignored it — my wishes seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I didn’t crave material things like clothes and gadgets. Instead, I wished for experiences: a puppy, more visits to the bookmobile, or just one day of having a bedroom of my own. As I got older, I wished for bigger things, like a trip to France to see my high school pen pal, or a chance to study literature in England with my college class. Some wishes came true. Some did not.

Last winter, I was missing good friends in New Hampshire and wished I could sit down in their cozy home for a long afternoon of conversation and tea. Instead, I settled for emails, and photos they sent of views from the windows of their newly-built house.

My wish for today and the new year: less wishing and more contentment with things the way they are.

Wishing You the Grace of the World

Male Mallard in December

                    THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS          by Wendell Berry 

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound 

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, 

          and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought 

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Oregon Time Lapse Video


(New Year’s resolution: Move to Oregon.)