There were quite a few weather stories last year, including extreme cold, heat and rain, lots of rain. In January, we had a five day hard freeze, with three consecutive lows of 20 F, followed by a week of record or near records highs, then five days of rain, totalling nearly 2". February saw more unsettled weather, including two more days of subfreezing lows and on the 20th we experienced graupel, a first for me. March started the same way February ended, with more unsettled weather. On the 8th we got nearly 1.5" of rain and damaging winds, then a week later, highs were in the 90's. Other than some wind in early April, the weather that month was unremarkably average, as was May. June was HOT and dry; daily highs were consistently over 105, with much of the month experiencing highs of 110+. On June 28, the high was 121 F, something I hope not to experience again anytime soon. July saw the first rains in over two months and cooler temps to go along with them; the total rainfall for the month was only .81" and it looked like we were going to have another year of drought. August saw a return to above average temps and dry weather, which continued through mid-September, when we finally got more rain and over the next several days we received 1.15" of rain, followed by seasonally average temps. October's weather was thankfully, just average, except for a slight cold spell just in time for Halloween. November continued the trend of average weather until the middle of the month, when we got some rare November rain, and lots of it. The storm lasted several days and dumped 2.87" of the wet stuff on us. Early December saw more freeze warnings, then a return to normal temps and ended with above normal temps. We saw record lows and highs and received 10.25" of rain, just over 1.5" more than average, but the rain didn't follow the usual pattern, with very little during the "rainy season" and lots in months that are usually dry.
The feeders continued to attract huge crowds of the usual suspects, but a few new birds were recorded in 2013, including a Cooper's Hawk, Abert's Towhees, Gila Woodpeckers and an American Kestrel.
More and more gnomes sought sanctuary at Dove Manor and the population nearly doubled, with eight showing up in January, including the first female. It wasn't until the end of March before anyone else showed up, followed by one on 4/1. May saw a total of seventeen new arrivals, then four more in June and one each in July, August, September and October. Two more showed up under the tree at Christmas, for a total of 37 new additions!
2013 was a fairly good year for flowers here at Mr. B's, with some first time bloomers and lots of old standbys providing color in every month of the year. Despite the freezes in January and February which froze the cannas to the ground, they came back with a vengeance, blooming profusely and spreading to the point that I had to thin them to keep them in check. Most of the roses did well, including the new addition, Climbing Don Juan. I also added what were labelled "Climbing Pink Peace" but turned out to be "Climbing Iceberg" and although only one of the two survived, it is doing well. After replacing Climbing Golden Showers with another yellow climber, Ive been disappointed with it as well and am going to replace it with a yellow floribunda, even if it's not a climbing rose. The day lily bloomed for the first time this year and it's looking well, so I'm expecting more blooms this year. Despite planting over 200 gladioli, they weren't nearly as showy as expected, possibly because they weren't planted until Spring. The hollyhocks bloomed profusely for several months and surprised me by producing both single and double blooms; they overwintered well and I'm expecting another good year from them. The irises bloomed and have multiplied. I received three plumerias during the Spring Swap and one of them bloomed, while the one I bought tried to but was thwarted by the cold weather in December.
Fruits and Veggies:
The Anna apple tree produced a bumper crop of nearly three bushels and I wound up making two gallons of apple sauce. The Ein Shemer didn't produce and edible size fruit, but that was to be expected, since it was only planted in January of 2012. It bloomed a whole month later than the Anna and so there wasn't any chance for cross-pollination, which would have benefited both trees, so hopefully this year they'll be in sync. The lemon tree got hit hard by the freeze, which happened in the middle of blooming season, so between the loss of blooms and new growth, I only got a dozen or so lemons this year. The winds were fairly calm this Spring and the nectarine set quite a few fruit, but for some reason, none of them reached maturity; another year like that and the tree is history. I added Hollywood apple tree and this year all I expect is for it to grow enough for me to train it as an espalier. I also didn't get any fruit from the dwarf calamondin, but considering it didn't have a permanent home, it's surprising it survived at all. The habanero peppers produced abundantly, despite losing 90% of their plant structure during the freezes. I also had a lot of success with the escarole, lemon grass (which I started from some I bought at an Oriental market) and large cherry tomatoes, but the rest of the tomatoes failed to produce any edible fruits. I did add a few new peppers to the gardens with limited success, but overall, veggies were not as successful as hoped.
Stapelias and Other Succulents:
I added eighteen new Stapelias or Stapeliads to my collection last year, all but four of which survived being potted. Two of them bloomed, proving themselves to have been mislabeled by the grower or the nursery, which is somewhat understandable, since it's hard to identify many of them except by the flower. Several of them are showing new growth and a couple may even bloom soon. The freezes killed about half the plants in the wheelbarrow garden, despite being covered, so it gave me the opportunity to try some new plants and add a male and female Euphorbia obesa, and overall, I'm pleased with the current plant selection. The elephhant food plant cutting that I decided to turn into a bonsai is looking good and I've done some trimming to shape it the way I want. The cactus piece I got from my neighbor has grown a fourth arm and will need to be repotted soon so that it won't get knocked over by the wind, as it's almost 4' tall now; I'm not looking forward to that transplant operation. I created a succulent gnome garden in an old light fixture, since I like the idea of fairy gardens, but I'm not the fairy type.
Overall, I'd give the 2013 gardening experience a grade of B+ and am hoping 2014 will turn out to be an A+ year.