Farewell, February!

Damaged Stewartia

Damaged Stewartia

Is is just me, or has February been a strange month? Folks in the Midwest are still covered in ice and snow. Here in the southeast, it was mostly rain — rain we really needed. But weather always seems to have pros and cons, doesn’t it? The Stewartia above — a lovely little non-native ornamental I adore — grows beneath giant, aging River Birches. River Birches usually only last about 100 years, and my enormous, gorgeous specimen trees are most decidedly declining. They drop small branches routinely. After the last rain, however, the giant nearest my Stewartia decided to blow its top.

Broken top of River Birch

Broken top of River Birch

Here’s a closer view of the topless branch.

We think the darker areas were rotten.

We think the darker areas were rotten.

And here’s more of the River Birch to provide a sense of scale.

This tree is part of a group of River Birches, all 80 feet or taller.

This tree is part of a group of River Birches, all 80 feet or taller.

Fortuitously for those growing beneath this forest giant, its top fragmented as it fell to the ground.

Clean-up will be fun -- not!

Clean-up will be fun — not!

The large piece in back partially crushed part of our deer fence, but Ace Wonder Spouse was able to roll away the large chunk enough to free the fence, which he then tacked back into position — at least well enough to thwart hungry deer, we hope.

The green shrub in front is a Titi -- a native that would be eaten to the ground if not for the fence inside which it grows.

The green shrub in front is a Titi — a native that would be eaten to the ground if not for the fence inside which it grows.

The poor Stewartia really got the worst of it. A number of branches were ripped from its trunk. Wonder Spouse will prune the damaged areas as much as possible soon.

A chunk of River Birch sits smugly in the crotch of the Stewartia -- just out of my reach.

A chunk of River Birch sits smugly in the crotch of the Stewartia — just out of my reach.

All in all, it could have been much worse, and I wouldn’t trade a drop of the rain that fell for the damage done. The rain had an immediate impact on plants and animals. Buds are swelling, birds and frogs sing more loudly every day. Despite below-normal temperatures and snow flurries promised for this weekend, Spring will have its way with us soon enough. I offer abundant proof:

Cornus mas in full bloom.

Cornus mas in full bloom.

Witch Hazel 'Aurora' smells even lovelier than it looks.

Witch Hazel ‘Aurora’ smells even lovelier than it looks.

More sunny daffodils open every day.

More sunny daffodils open every day.

Coming attractions: Abundant flowers on many deciduous azaleas.

Coming attractions: Abundant flowers on many deciduous azaleas.

Cardinals already battle for territory. The Purple Finch female with them must be very hungry to brave their grouchy company.

Cardinals already battle for territory. The Purple Finch female with them must be very hungry to brave their grouchy company.

The rain brought down many branches, but the creek never quite flooded. That’s how dry we’ve been. Today’s drought monitor update from the weather seers has FINALLY moved us from the Moderate Drought category to Abnormally Dry. Not great, but better.

Personally, I’m hoping March lives up to its advertised lion-like entrance, keeping us chilly and wet until I have time to clean up the yard, finish the pruning, weed and mulch the front beds, prepare the vegetable garden …  The list of chores grows exponentially with every passing hour.

So, February, bon voyage. It’s been — interesting. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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