The center green band of these NOAA charts delimits the 20 year average for each day, the bottom marking the average minimum temp and the top marking the average high temp. The red and blue portions of the chart mark the range of temps between that and their record high and low levels. The dark blue ‘bars’ show the actual recorded temps for those days. This chart shows distinctly the initial cold span with the slight warming to well within normal range, followed by a more irregular cooling. The relative steadiness of these temperatures helped plants maintain their slower, more dormant metabolisms for the month. Typically February has been notable for the stability of its daily temperatures, the relative narrowness of the ‘green, normal, band’ indicates this.
This chart for March again shows the slowly warming/rising light green normal band contrasting with the dark blue bars of our actual temps. The March temps appear colder because they shifted the chart downward. The more extreme minimum temperature swings of Nov., Dec., and Jan. have even out, the lt. blue portion narrowing and showing more consistency.
It’s 41ºF at 5:30am on Mar. 12 as I begin to write this.We appear to have come out of the longest sustained ‘cold’ period of the winter of ’18-’19 which began on February 4 and continued through Mar. 11, a period of 36 days.Over those days we had freezing minimum temps at PDX, the official NOAA reporting station for the Portland area, on 26 of them.On two of those days, Feb. 6 and 7, PDX recorded the winter’s lowest temp, 23ºF, making it a zn 9a winter, mild for us historically and especially so for the temperate US as a whole, much of which was experiencing its own much colder temps.It’s mid-March and our high temps have climbed well above what they were and our forecasts call for milder, more ‘normal’ highs and lows now locally. It looks likely that not only are we going to be on the ‘warm side’ of normal, but that our lows have shifted into a pattern well out of the freezing range. (State ODF meteorologist, Pete Parsons, calls for a pattern of slightly warmer and drier weather than normal over March, April and May with the highest chance of this during May.)
While weather consists of moments, recorded data points, we attempt to make sense of it in its patterns over time…our experience of it.In this we are much like our plants.Plants too have their ‘expectations’ of the weather and those conditions that take them outside of them, outside their familiar patterns, the relatively quick changes and perturbations, as well as the longer sustained patterns, and extremes, are ‘noticed’ and make a difference.How does this winter compare?Continue reading →
I never used to think of the East Coast when I thought of North American geology slowly, placidly, sinking in to the Atlantic as the entire continent moves easterly heaved up along the western edge of the Pacific Plate with our spectacular scenery, but the whole of New York was ground down between the ice sheets of successive Ice Ages leaving massive granite bedrock and ‘erratics’ along the way as they retreated north with the warming. Everywhere you go, like here in the Native Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, there is evidence of this with its thin rocky soils and rock scarred and channeled from the moving ice that once buried this place, much as it did our own Puget Sound area and points north, leaving coastal British Columbia a network of gouged out sounds and fjords, with mountains rising abruptly many thousands of feet from the sea. I wonder how the little island of my own father’s birth, a 12 mile long strip of soft sandstone, survived to today.
Here the board walk follows the recently reworked ponds in the NYBG’s native plant garden Lobelia cardinalis sparking the scene in September…so different than anything you would find in the maritime Northwest, our rain patterns and base rock responsible for bearing very different soils, even where the ice sheets scraped it down…the patterns and diversity are amazing.
A view on Manhattan, just west of the NYBG, this one at the Met’s Cloisters, the museum’s home of much of its religious art and artifacts, sits high along the banks of the picturesque Hudson River. Buildings in Jersey City and the George Washington Bridge are in the Background. When Rockefellar built this he also purchased the forested bank on the other side to preserve the natural view which also serves to block the sprawl of urban development to its west. The Hudson River Valley is another creation of advancing ice, running north/south with the advancing ice sheet.
As gardeners our hands are ‘bloodied’ with the chlorophyll of plants…while it may not stain us as ‘murderers’, we are never the less complicit in their deaths…as much as we are necessary for their lives. Without us, as a group, these garden plants would never would have been propagated and, if not for our ‘selfish’ acts in the garden, choosing, designing and displaying them, many would be passing into obscurity, most of us knowing nothing of them or of their loss, their passages into decline and extinction, even more quiet, unnoticed, as too many already do today. While we may acquire and attempt to grow them with the ‘best’ of intention, eventually, they will all die, ill fit or not, suddenly or after many years in our gardens, as a result of our ignorance, impatience, simple curiosity, our desire for something ‘different’, or even in spite of our best informed efforts. Death comes to all things and our gardens are no exception. Our gardens art artificial after all, creations of our making and they do not comprise a viable population that will out live us, reproducing in place, making the adjustments that they must over time to survive. To do this would take an unprecedented amount of effort and coordination on our part and that of our neighbors. The setting of our gardens are unique to us and their purposes are much narrowed and more intentional than are the places their progenitors come from, the ‘gardens’ of their origination. For many of these plants our relationship with them might best be thought of as student to teacher as nature sacrifices itself in an attempt to teach us of what is being lost, ever since we stepped out of the loop that once put us in daily direct contact with nature and came to embrace this modern world and its expectations of consumption, ‘ease’ and never ceasing growth…so it is not ‘murder’, it is life, an attempt to return and reclaim. There is purpose to be found in our gardens, well beyond surface amusement and distraction in what is too often becoming an ever uglier world, or for some of us our need to impress in a game of one-upmanship. Nature demands more of us, that we accept our role as student and become careful observers, willing acolytes…maybe even crusaders….Too much? no, I don’t think so. Continue reading →