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Seasonal Transition

November 5, 2018

asters in early snowIn his humorous riff on life in New England, Jeff Foxworthy describes the four seasons as “almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction.” As October has turned into November, we have been transitioning from “road construction” to “almost winter.” Construction crews are scrambling to finish up road projects before it gets too cold to pave. I am scrambling to get my winter wood supply stacked and out of the driveway and to get fall garden chores completed.

October was unseasonably cold and wet, more like our dreary month of November than like New England’s usual cool, crisp and sunny October. On October 15, I woke up to find the water in my bird bath frozen. Three days later, I awoke to a coating of snow. Before October ended, we had another snowfall, this one more than an inch. Fortunately, daytime temperatures have been above freezing and the snow quickly melted, giving me some time to finish getting ready for winter.

patio in early snowwood pile in early snow

Signs of winter are all around me. When I wake up during the night on clear nights, the view out my window is of a winter sky filled with stars. This morning, I realized that I could now look out from my bedroom and see the sun rising through the trees in the southeast.

In the garden, most of the leaves are gone from the trees, and most perennial plants have gone into dormancy. The exceptions are a few exceptionally cold-hardy species in protected micro-climates. The smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) ‘Bluebird’ (shown above)is still blooming by the foundation near the front door, and there are still a few flowers on the tall Rudbeckia x ‘Herbstsonne.’ There are buds on the newly-planted red ‘Knock Out’ rose, but I think these are frozen and will never open. On the fall-blooming witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana), the fringy yellow flowers, which are at their best after the leaves have fallen, are fading.

herbstsonne late flower hammamelis flowers

In the next few weeks, “almost winter” will transition into winter. Before that happens, I need to finish stacking that firewood, getting it out of the driveway before the snow plow needs to get in. I also need to bring in garden furniture and plant supports, and spread the remaining compost on flower beds. Then the garden and I can rest.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2018 10:23 pm

    I was surprised that you characterized it as “almost winter” when you’ve already had snow! Of course, snow is a foreign concept to start with here. Best wishes with the process of putting your garden to bed.

    • November 14, 2018 1:35 pm

      LOL, Kris, we can have snow eight months of the year here — as early as October and as late as May (although November and April are the most common months for first and last snow). The snow that falls in real winter is different from the snow that falls in “almost winter” and “still winter” in at least three ways: (1) the amount that falls — enough that it needs to be plowed and shoveled; (2) the temperature in the days surrounding the snow — below freezing; (3) how long the snow stays around on the ground — weeks or even months.

  2. November 6, 2018 9:52 am

    Hi Jean — I had to chuckle about your seasons. In South Florida, we actually have two seasons: hot and very hot. 🙂 Although you talk about dormancy, that first snowfall on your lovely garden looks so much like cotton. Beautiful even in early winter. Be well!

    • November 14, 2018 1:41 pm

      Kevin, Since I posted this, the temperatures have been very cold (only in the teens today) and all the plants really have gone dormant. But those autumn and spring snows that fall on blooming plants have a special beauty.

  3. November 6, 2018 9:58 am

    Jean, I love the Jeff Foxworthy description of the seasons…very funny. But, seriously, I remember those days and marvel at your ability to find the humor. In SC we actually have four seasons, although spring is hot, summer is hottest and fall is still hot. As usual I enjoy your photos!

    • November 14, 2018 1:57 pm

      Kathy, Yesterday was one of those miserable November days with heavy rain and temperatures just above freezing. I’m convinced that the point of such dreary weather is to make us grateful for snow.

  4. Pat Webster permalink
    November 6, 2018 10:46 am

    In Quebec I’m at ‘almost winter’ as well. We’ve had a dusting of snow, freezing rain and grey skies. I’m determined to finish an art installation before the snow comes for real, so there have been many cold days outside. All worth it, of course!

    • November 14, 2018 1:59 pm

      Pat, After months of record-breaking heat and humidity, this unseasonably cold weather has been a shock. I don’t envy you trying to finish your art installation out in the cold. I finally finished stacking my firewood two days ago, so the driveway is now clear for the plow, which it seems we will need for our first serious snow later this week.

      • Pat Webster permalink
        November 14, 2018 4:04 pm

        Snow yesterday, very cold temperatures today and a heavy snow storm due on Friday. It’s hard to like winter when it comes this early. Jean, let’s hope the temperatures moderate before too much longer.

  5. November 6, 2018 4:21 pm

    And we too have Snovember with a dusting on the mountains. Spring has reversed!

    • November 14, 2018 2:00 pm

      Oh my, that must be very late for snow on your mountains. It would be like snow in May here, which does happen, but only rarely.

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