February is Pruning Season?

February is… Pruning Season?

“Oh, I saw a Robin this morning. Spring must be just about here!”

Did I just say that?

No, it is an “old wives tale,” or a commonly believed myth that Robins fly south for the winter and then return for the spring. It simply is not true yet most people choose to believe it. I walk in the woods every day with my dog, Mitchell. In the stillness of the woods, we listen and hear the Robins melodious, lyrical songs. These lovely red breasted birds are still here but you have to be aware of them and listen for them. You will hear them and see them but you have to be where they are. If you stay inside the house, you’ll miss them. Blog_2015_PHOTO_RobininSnow

Robins are resident birds in western Pennsylvania. I see them all winter long.  It is true that some Robins do head south, but certainly not most of them. When the snow melts down to expose the ground, you will find the Robins feeding.   I live beside a winding creek  and the Robins stay right here where they have shelter in the woods, fresh water to drink, and food in abundance on the floor of the meadows and woods. Yes, I know, there are always those announcements in the local newspaper that some man or woman has reported that the Robins have returned because they saw one.  Chances are that person was not out walking in the snow and woods on winter days; therefore never heard the Robin music floating in the breeze.

***

By mid-February, we begin to have thoughts of spring.  By now, we have had quite a bit of snow, zero temperatures, blustery winds, hours of shoveling snow, and we might begin to have “cabin fever.”  I concentrate during winter months on doing activities such as knitting, or beadwork, or listening to books which I get from the National Library of Congress program for blind and handicapped people. It’s a cozy time of year, if you think about it. While the winter winds sweep the landscape, I am in my special place where it is warm and comfortable. What do you do on such winter days?

***

Personally, Bob and I have been traveling through a pruning season in our life.  The past year has been a season of cutting out the frivolous and inessential things from life because Bob was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Every day is a battle as we work together to meet challenges that seem to face the cutting edge of the gardener’s pruning knife.   We begin to feel like God has been pruning us in so many ways.   God is like a loving gardener who knows the trees and shrubs will be stronger, flourish better and bloom profusely after the pruning time. But, oh, the pain of it! The bleeding, the rearranging of the tender leaves on the vines.

***

Another famous myth is that Groundhogs are associated with the forecasting or arrival of spring here in western Pennsylvania.  I know you have heard of “Punxsutawney Phil,” the world famous groundhog who comes out to greet the thousands of fans on February 2. He has done this for the past 129 years. Phil’s handlers carry him out of his burrow at 7:28 am, where he “sees his shadow” or not.   Phil’s predictions depend on sightings of his shadow. The town of Punxsutawney, PA has made this location a favorite tourist attraction on a frigid mid-winter day.  Visitors come from all over the world every year on Groundhog Day.  The President of the Groundhog Day Organization holds Phil up in the air for all to see. Phil’s prediction this year, because he did see his shadow, was that there will be 6 more weeks of winter.  Well, all we have to do is look at the calendar and we will see that for you!    blog_2015_Photo_Groundhoginburro

You can read more about Phil by visiting this link:

http://www.groundhog.org/

***

One of the things I have been thinking about is how Nature prunes the vegetation outside, much like God prunes us because he loves us and wants us to flourish.  There are a number of examples in the ancient texts of the Bible that indicate God prunes his beloved children.

John 15:2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

I was astonished today when I learned that the Greek word for pruning means to clean. And, now I can see that a vine must have branches cleaned from it so that it will flourish.  I said, “Ah, yes, we are being cleaned!  God, himself, is cleaning us right now as we walk in the season of deep, uncomfortable, late winter.”

***

Are you aware that February is a time of pruning?

Many trees and shrubs need to be pruned during February for the best results.  Pruning is when the vegetation is cut back so that the plant can become sturdier during the forthcoming growth season of spring and summer.

Right now, the temperature is hovering around zero, and snow covers the ground. It’s hard to imagine that anything is actually happening in this frigid weather, beneath the ground, or in the bare branches that would induce growth. But it is!  Life is surging under frozen ground, and gaining strength from the water that is melting down through the snow.  Those bare skeleton branches are hiding secrets that will explode in a few weeks into buds that will become leaves.

***

According to Richard Jauron, Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University, mid-February is the best time to begin pruning a number of trees and shrubs.   The plants will be healthy and productive if you know when to do the job.  That would be mid-February!

I am delighted each spring when the Lilac and Forsythia bloom!

Lilac and forsythia are deciduous shrubs.  My lilac shrub was growing very tall and willowy – getting away from me and I realized last summer it needed to be pruned.  The plant grew so fast that the flowers were so high in the air that it pulled the branches downwards. Lilac is my favorite spring flowering shrub and I wait through the harsh winter for the first signs of growth on my plant.

Our Forsythia shrub is old and overgrown. This year, it will be pruned back extensively to give it a chance to be renewed and rejuvenated.  This shrub was planted in our yard over forty years ago.  If you take care of your shrubs and trees you can enjoy them for a lifetime.

For additional information about pruning in mid-February, visit this link:

http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2000/2-11-2000/prunetime.html

“In Which I Find Color in Late Winter”

 

“In Which I Find Color in Late Winter”

It was late this  morning when  I opened the bedroom blind. My husband, Bob, was still in bed.  We were so happy to see that the entire winter landscape and sky appeared to have a bright blue hue washed all over it.  I thought of a watercolor painter who mixed up a Blog_Photo_FullSnowMoonOverWoodsvery thin wash of color and brushed it all over the blank canvas.    It looked like someone had painted this brilliant landscape and put the shades of blue everywhere! Turquoise, Cerulean, Azure, Caribbean, Sapphire, and Cobalt – every shade of blue was overlaid on the picture we viewed from our window.  The delicate colors of the morning gave us a feeling of celebration in the early morning light today!

Since we just completed the first week of February, I decided to write about it today!  I thought about what to call this time of year. I know so many people begin to complain and lament the weather and dread the daily forecasts of storms and low temperatures. We seem to be in a deep freeze some days, with winter snow storms and squalls moving over the land like waves on an angry, stormy ocean.  The official designation of February is labeled, “Late Winter.”  That’s because it will be awhile before spring is here.  Spring will arrive on March 21st – and right now, we often feel like that is a long way off. However, that is exactly why I want to speak of the glorious colors of winter and its beauty today.  Maybe you will join me in appreciation of February this year. We still have a lot of time to do that because spring is still quite a distance away for us.

Blog_Photo_FullSnowMoonSmiling

Another unusual aspect of February is that is can be cunning and tricky with the environment. In particular, February days often warm up so much in the afternoons that it seems like spring arrived. Often in the first week of February, flower bulbs that are sleeping in the cold soil are tricked into thinking it’s time to wake up, push up some leaves, and bloom!   The ancient Celts thought that the earth wakes up in early February.  They believed the earth goes into a deep winter sleep during Halloween time.

Have you noticed the beauty of the wide range of colors at the beginning of February yet?

Winter colors, sensitive and subtle, or stark and vivid, are all around us in the month of February. Sometimes, if we focus on the harshness of winter’s storms or the labor of shoveling snow from sidewalks and streets, we might overlook the full palette of winter colors that surround us every day.  February’s landscape can go unnoticed if we are focused only on the challenges of Late Winter.

There is far more magic to find in the white snow or crystal ice outside our windows these days.  I recently stopped, looked around slowly at the winter landscape. I wanted to see what more there was beyond the snow and ice.  During the first week of February, I was outside with my dogs in the early morning, before daylight.  When I looked up into the pre-dawn sky, I saw that the moon was full.

Blog_Photo_FullSnowMoonwithTree

This February moon is called the “Full Snow Moon.” That’s because February is the month when the heaviest snows fall on the earth.  Hunters are out trying to find wildlife to shoot but it is difficult to find animals in the deep snowfall.  Because of this, Native Americans called the moon, “Hunger Moon.”

As I watched the sky, light from the moon illuminated the night sky in every direction.  The stillness of the celestial scene mingled with the thrusting branches of the stark winter trees in the woods below.  I became aware that I had to observe this glorious scene through the many bare branches of an ancient maple tree. From my vantage point on the ground beside the maple tree, it seems like I viewed the sky through the loose warp and weft of a tapestry that was created by the tree as it reached upwards and spread its arms like an enormous fan between me and the “Full Snow Moon.”   The entire tree appeared to be made from the darkest, deepest shade of sapphire blue.   The softest shade of indigo appeared to be painted across the entire sky in every direction from the east to the west where the moon was descending.  Liquid sky color mingled through the negative spaces of the branches.  The color reminded me of my own grade school days, in the 1950s, when I wrote my alphabet letters on a lined paper.  I dipped my  pen,  in and out, of the  bluish ink in the  well cut into the wooden  desk  This  sky was the  hue  that would be created  if I  mixed  a drop of the India Ink into a small cup of water.

The full moon seemed to hover beyond the tree branches, above the woods, and seemed to quiver with anticipation because it was about to disappear forever

Look for the colors of February this month!  They signal that in the heart of deep, frigid Late Winter t there is glory and a sense of the divine.  Take a deeper look;   see the hand of the Master Artist.   There is a full range of values in the February palette Take your time, and see what you will find in your own little place on this earth, this month.

Whatever time of day it is when  you read this message, will be the perfect time to see the colors of February! The dazzling Late Winter show is a gift from God and it is  free for everyone to discover if you live in a place where you have a real old-fashioned winter time.  If you do, I say,  “Give February a chance!”