In the midwest, January doesn’t always feel like a very lively month, at least not in the outdoor garden department. The fall leaves have dried out and plants from last season are sadly drooping under the cold and wet blanket of winter. We are in the thick of hibernation season, but that doesn’t mean that things have completely shut down in the plant world. In fact, this January has been unusually mild and rainy. When I stepped outside to capture these images, I was without a coat wearing sandals, comfortably enjoying the sun and observing the state of the yard. This is not the same January I have grown up to know in the midwest. It’s a little strange that we are seeing some very early signals from spring already, some colorful sites in a generally gray time of year.
There are a variety of bulbs scattered all over the yard, the first to emerge in early spring are always the crocuses, which generally make their first appearance in early March. I’m not entirely certain what these bulbs are, but somehow they have surfaced above the soil and have begun to sprout over a month early. Hmmm. We may be seeing our first flowers before Valentine’s Day this year.
A few steps over from these unearthed sprouting bulbs are the Lilac bushes. With a quick glance, you’ll notice little buds forming at the tips of most branches. I’m not sure when the Lilac bush generally starts to bud, but this seems a bit sooner than usual. The day I snapped these pictures, Chicago was 60° and sunny- 10° and icy tends to be more typical of January weather in the midwest.
A closer look reveals a new development growing on the branches of the Lilac bushes- Lichen! I have been noticing this new growth flourishing since the end of fall, and have been curious to see if it would continue through winter. This would be the first year I have ever seen any form of Lichen in the yard and by now it has really started to take off!
I’ve always been fascinated by Lichen, but don’t know a ton about it. It is a form of fungus or algae that forms on rocks and branches, as far as I know it is not generally harmful to tress, but I will be researching more about it to see if it’s something we need to try to prevent from growing here or if it is perhaps a sign of an ill tree. Hopefully not though, it’s so pretty!
Below the Lichen Lilac branches, you can see our patio moss peaking through. It has been thriving all winter, actually it seems to be generally happier in the cooler months than in the scorching hot summer days. Check out that Ivy too! Lots of luscious green this January.
You can also find random patches of moss growing in other areas around the yard. I tend to move it around and encourage it to grow in the shadier sections of the yard throughout the gardening season. Glad to see that it seems to be going strong, it’s easy to cultivate moss initially, but unless the conditions are right, it can be tough to get it to thrive and stick around throughout the seasons. I love to see the bright patches of green while most of the other plants around are still sleeping.
The last notable growth in the yard at the moment is the Autumn Joy Sedum. This Stonecrop emerged with new sprouts basically immediately after the fall flowers died off. The sprouts have been surviving the winter, but not growing too much. They don’t look super happy at this point, but they are definitely alive and ready to go.
January, 2017 is already off to a vibrant start in this yard. Fired up, ready to go! Looking forward to the bright year ahead.