Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Extreme Weather: Garden Like You Live in Wisconsin

The ice-covered crabapple 'Red Jade' makes beautiful color contrast against the downed limbs from my white pine.
When not grousing about our long winter, I sometimes dream of gardening again in my yard.  Jason (GardenintheCity) from further south admonishes me that someday spring will come for me like a mother telling her wallflower daughter that someday her prince will come, too. Until then, of course, I think he has me on some sort of gardeners' suicide watch.  DebiO (DiaryofaMadArtTeacher) from farther north tells to to hang on, and of course find "joy".  Being EVEN FARTHER north than I and following her blog, I realize she has had even more cold and snow than I; I attempt to woman up and stand shoulder to shoulder, Wisconsin gardener to Wisconsin gardener.

My Austrian black pine that has been attacked by my neighbor towing his ice shanty, pre-fence, and sap-suckers since.  Now, ICE.

My wine grapes which should be pruned at the end of March.  I'm glad I have been waiting.

And then I had a thought.

And, all of you cheerful types out there, already able to get out into your gardens and work in your yards, that thought was this:

This (right here in central Wisconsin) is what gardening looks like for all of us in the future, a future that has global warming on all of our plates.

Stop and think about what I have been talking about over that last year or so.   Read some phenology reports.

Extreme weather events like bona fide spring in February, followed by a year with snow and freezing temperatures in June. Temperature swings of 60, 70, and 80 degrees from one day to the next.  Six or seven months in a row where the red on the thermometer barely creeps above freezing. Strange insects, mass migrations of unusual birds, infestations of fungii suddenly making news.  Follow that with by temperatures in the 80s and 90s and multiple 100 degree plus days in a row, with NO rain.  And when it does rain, HUGE hail stones.

We don't even get hurricanes in Wisconsin, yet.

Last October's tail end of Sandy actually reached Wisconsin.  It made for some good surfing action on the western shore of Lake Michigan, all you Wisconsin surfing clubs take note.

So I sit here in my dining room, and contemplate the bang and rattle, followed by several more, which awakened me (at 4:32 AM) from my weird dreams of alligators who are really tigers who can breath underwater, who have spots like cheetahs, and live in schools, kept by miscreant janitors and/or students on the down low (the allitigertahs, not the janitor/students).  The bang and rattle, not quite earthquake-like, was a huge chunk of my majestic white pine breaking loose and hitting my house to roll down the corner of its steep like a witch's hat roof and land in my front yard carefully missing my quaint front porch and the armillary poised on a stack of bricks.  That's a space of about 9 feet.

Following it were two more additional, equally large limbs between then and now.  (You know I know because Faithful Companion, and ultimate protective dog, Cinnamon,would not let it rest until we went out and surveyed the scene, in the dark, in the wind, and freezing rain, at 5 AM!  Of course, a nagging part of me also thought maybe she had a dog's intuition and thought we should both get out of the house before the whole damn tree fell on it, smishing us flat like the snake who met a car and was found by the Twin Gardeners who along with their Poppa gave it a proper funeral and burial.

And,  now I contemplate cutting down my majestic white pine.  The white pine that has been in marriage with this tiny pink house for about 150 years.  Why?  Because this morning I heard a sound I have never heard in my home before-- the sound of giant scudders brushing back and forth  like my house was moving through the White Pine House Wash.

Now, I will tell you, my white pine is in fine fettle.  It is not like those feral white pine, or white pine allowed out without leashes like so many white pine in our area; many which appear to be dying due to the extreme drought and heat of 2012.  Mine is given adequate water and a bit of compost. Last spring after a similar, although not so severe ice storm, I had a tree trimmer work under my guidance trimming off branches growing out over my home, taking out dead limbs, and cleaning up broken ones. 

There were no branches even close to brushing my house.

So I sit here wondering whether I should ASAP get a tree removal person here to remove my white pine in a preemptive strike ahead of the inches of snow forecast for this evening, or ride it out, hoping the temperatures will moderate during the day, casting off the ice, lightening my tree's load?  Or the weather munchins have it all wrong.

The unusual angle one of my neighbor's cars is parked suggest how they would vote, given a ballot.

In the back of my mind, I think this ice will surely be gone helped along by a warming trend and the venting of my house's heating system by the afternoon.  Surely my house and this tree have co-existed for many decades without severe repercussions.

But my little drama only further illustrates what gardeners should consider and what our landscapes might be like in the Time of Global Warming and Severe Weather Extremes.

I'm afraid to contemplate the condition of this 'Crimson Frost' birch.  Having a bit of pendula in its bloodlines I had it firmly staked until last spring.  So glad, it had starting standing on its own or its staking would have probably caused it to top itself.  I fear, however a return to staking for the summer, if only to allow proper backing up of my vehicle.

Looks innocently beautiful, huh?  The Princess of Ice and Snow is working overtime this year.
Extreme weather will take large trees from our landscapes.  It will make it more difficult for gardeners and homeowner to plant new trees.  It will change what we can plant.

It will change us.

My Handsome Son, always thinking ahead, on drooling trips to stores selling fine hand-forged gardening implements always considers their potential in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse. (He got me a very fine pruner with a nice sharp point to drive into the middle of a zombie's brain should I have such need for my birthday this year.)   I think gardening in the Time of Global Warming and Severe Weather Extremes may hold other challenges.

Please think very warm thoughts today for the sake of my majestic white pine.


  1. Great posting today. The photos and the comments you made were good, especially being on gardener's suicide watch - Loved it. I can relate!

  2. I drove up to Westfield yesterday and it seemed like the White Pine was hit hard across the board. I had a massive Silver Maple branch fall and land about 1 foot from the gas tank here in Montello.

    It seemed like the ice melted fairly off the trees fairly well in the late afternoon yesterday though, so I'm hoping your tree is now safe for the time being.