The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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It’s Piddling Season

St. Louis weather in February can best be described as variable. We have days that feel like a reprieve from winter–like today’s 70+ degree temps–and we have clear signals that it’s still winter–like last week’s soppy snow shower. So garden time is sporadic at best.

Snow on Grasses (768x1024)

The grasses plumes drape gracefully under the weight of a wet snow.

2016 budding rhodo

The rhododendron will bloom soon, a sure sign that spring is near.

Sunday’s warm weather was accompanied by gusty winds and the ground is very soggy still. I take advantage of these sorts of days to piddle. I rake up a couple of trash cans of sweet gum balls, cut back the tall ornamental grasses and generally enjoy a nice day. Tempting as it was, I resisted raking the leaves out of the beds. I thought about edging some of the beds but it’s too wet. This piddling around allows me to begin to stretch my back and take stock of what really needs to be done once the weather begins to warm in March.

How do you take advantage of a warm day in later winter?

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Attack of the Killer Sweet-Gum

What a cute looking pollen...until it covers the  yard.

What a cute looking pollen…until it covers the yard.

I’m lucky. I don’t really suffer too terribly from seasonal allergies. I notice the car or patio table lightly dusted in a shade of green, but really haven’t given it much thought. There is something in the air in July that makes my nose itch like the dickens but besides that, I really don’t have any problems. And, really, I have not been all that sympathetic to those who do suffer. My daughters will testify to that.

Until now. Wow.

Take a look at the pollen in my yard and on the patio. I came home from work yesterday and–as is my evening habit–went outside to survey the garden beds. Are the astilbe, hosta, heuchera and black eyed Susans I transplanted over the weekend holding up under the nearly 90 degree heat? Are the new ferns I planted adapting to their place beneath the tree? But wait, before I could even begin to answer these compelling questions, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the plethora—and I do mean plethora—of Christmas-tree shaped pollen grains from my neighbor’s sweet-gum (Liquidambar) tree littering my lawn and patio.

swept up pollenThose who know and love me know that I am not a fan of the sweet-gum tree. And Arch City is full of them. The sweet-gum is the tree of choice in my neighborhood. No doubt a builder’s special in the 1950s because they are everywhere in my mid-century-built subdivision. In fact, my backyard neighbors’ has a towering sweet-gum in their yard right next to a 100-foot sycamore. A sweet-gum will grow up to 100 feet and by the looks of it, my neighbor’s tree has accomplished this height. By the way, both trees drop fruit, a spikey gumball in the case of the sweet-gum and one-inch balls in the case of the sycamore.

Sweet-gum trees abound in my neighborhood. This one towers over my yard. At maturity, they can be 100 feet tall. I think this one is mature.

Sweet-gum trees abound in my neighborhood. This one towers over my yard. At maturity, they can be 100 feet tall. I think this one is mature.

I commenced sweeping the Christmas tree pollens up from the patio. And as I did, they began to break down and the patio looked as if it were littered with yeast. I decided to do a little research and visited pollenlibrary.com (who knew?) where they describe this yard menace as a mild allergenic.

To add insult to injury, the two smallish maples in my yard and in the yard of my neighbor to the south, have released a profusion—and I do mean profusion—of winged beans. I know you know what I’m talking about. Don’t ask me what kind of maple these are, because I have no idea. And these winged beans are a moderate allergen.

Winged beans from the nearby maples fill the gutters. Oh joy!

The forecasters warned that we would have a robust pollen season. Clearly they had this forecast spot on. Now that I’m becoming more sensitive to my friends and family with allergies, I can’t help but think I might have the sniffles. Oh, and a little cough too.

How’s your spring shaping up?