Happy New Year and welcome to A Guide to Northeastern Gardening’s Year in Review! Looking back to 2018, it was a memorable and eventful year. January started off with the first blizzard of the winter season with Winter Storm Grayson on the 4th, with 14.6 inches of snow for our area. We’ve had some of the coldest days on record with temperatures in the teens, with a slight relief on the 9th with temperatures that actually got above freezing! The nice thing about the colder months is that the cone bearing evergreens and trees known for their decorative bark, such as such as Skylands Oriental Spruce and Coral Bark Maple appear even more majestic. Even the Magnolia gave hope for a new season with its buds already forming.
February brought slight indication of the seasons changing as daylight hours gradually become longer and temperatures rose up into the 30’s and 40’s. After winter storm Kalani on the 30th of January with 4.4 inches of snowfall, it was a relatively quiet time as the garden rested for winter. Cones on Skylands Spruce had grown more pronounced and Holly berries gleamed red against the blue sky.
Saying that the month of March was unpredictable would be an understatement. March came in like a lion on the 2nd. with one of the worst storms we have had in a while, bringing in high winds and torrential rains for the northeast. The rains brought renewal to the garden and with temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s, the landscape started to become alive. On the 7th, our first thunder snow in years brought thunder, lightening and 6 inches of snow, followed by sunshine, blue skies and melting on the 8th. As the snow quickly melted, Hellebores were in full bloom and bulbs of hyacinth started to emerge.
April arrived and it was springtime at last. This year had resulted as one of the most roller coaster journeys I can remember. A freezing start to winter was followed by one of the mildest months of February on record. It was the calm before the storm as spring arrived with strong winds, freezing cold temperatures in the 30’s and four snow storms within three weeks. The storms continued into April, with the last covering of white occurring on April 2nd. Finally, as mid-April had arrived, blooms appeared everywhere including crocus, daffodils and hyacinths with Weeping pussy Willow catkins exploding with pollen.
The garden came alive with a succession of new growth, buds and blooms daily as the merry month of May rolled in. After one of the coldest April’s on record, May brought temperatures in the 70’s with blue skies, accompanied by occasional spring showers to help the flowers grow. The Kwanzan Cherry in its second year had already gotten larger and was loaded with beautiful pink blooms, which I could not get enough of, while the fragrance of viburnum blossoms filled the air. Sedum foliage emerged into full form and ajuga blooms displayed an array of color with their deep purple-blue blooms. A favorite, May Night Salvia was also starting its bloom by the end of the month.
The month of June was glorious with clear skies for the most part, temperatures in the 70’s and lots of blooms everywhere. It was a busy milestone month, as my gardens were selected by the Sayville Garden Club to be one of six private gardens on display to be visited by the public. I had been prepping away getting ready for the big event on the 16th, which was a huge success! Visitors observed blooms of Peony Bartella, Allium Globemaster, Salvia May Night, Nepeta, Coreopsis, Daylily, Kousa Dogwood and Double Knock Out Roses as they walked among my gardens. As one of the participants, I also got to see the other five gardens on the tour, each unique and all so beautiful.
The month of July arrived with a week long heat wave of extensive humidity and temperatures in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s. This is typical for July here in the zone 7a garden, but I must say that the cold front following with clear skies and comfortable temperatures brought much relief. The heat did bring on continued blooms to enjoy, including those of astilbe, coneflowers, hydrangea, daylily, coreopsis and nepeta. The garden was in all its glory!
With temperatures in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s, humidity and frequent thunderstorms, the “dog days of summer” had officially arrived by the month of August. It had been an unusual August weather wise with almost daily torrential rains and flooding for the eastern seaboard, so I had to run out in between showers to tend to the garden. With all the rain, the landscape was indeed green, filled with blooms of butterfly bush, Black Eyed Susan, Lillium Stargazer, Astilbe Sprite, roses, coneflowers, sedum and Crape Myrtle.
After a hot and humid start to September with several days in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s, a cold front had set in bringing showers and cooler temperatures. The garden had started looking more autumn-like as late summer blooms of Sedum Brilliant, Hydrangea Tardivia, Stella D’ Oro Daylily and butterfly bush set in, along with a few lingering raindrops on roses. Hurricane season was underway with hurricane Florence impacting the lower eastern seaboard on the 14th.
Towards the beginning of October, temperatures were still hovering in the low to mid-70’s. Overnight on the 11th, the rumbling of thunder could be heard with what was the last thunderstorm of the season. The cold front accompanied by torrential rains brought in the true feeling that the fall season had arrived. The days following became cool and crisp with temperatures in the upper 50’s and lower 60’s, and the foliage started to turn color.
With daytime temperatures in the 50’s and a good amount of rainfall, the November garden transitioned into an array of color. This year ended up as having one of the most beautiful fall foliage changes I have seen in years. The rains and cooler temperatures had created the perfect conditions for a colorful show. By mid-November the temperatures plummeted into the 30’s and on November 15th, the first surprise snow of the season came in late day bringing four inches of snow, which quickly melted by the next day. I cannot recall the last time we had snow that early. Could this be a sign of the winter ahead?
After the garden tour on June 16th, the month of December brought in yet another milestone with the publishing of my third book, Dream, Garden, Grow! The book was supposed to keep me busy during the winter months, but moved along a lot quicker than expected and made its debut on December 3rd. By then, the gardening season had ended with daytime temperatures dropping into the 30’s and 40’s, accompanied by some rains and the first few snow flurries of the season on the 13th. Upon the official arrival of winter, torrential rains pounded the northeast with temperatures reaching 60 degrees, quickly returning back to the typical 30’s to 40’s for December. The garden had officially gone into its winter hibernation only to await its renewal in spring. For now, this gardener will continue to take walks in the garden on those milder days to see what nature has to offer and dream of spring with blooms to come. I hope you had a wonderful 2018 gardening season (and please do share!) and wish you all the best for a very Happy 2019 with gardens that thrive!
~As Always…Happy Gardening ~