This is the last one of these you will see this year. It is recap time and a time to look back.

The Year of Our Lord 2018 has gone down in my daily log book as better than most years, but a little worse than others. So it gets about a B-minus at the end of the day. 

January came in with frozen ground and frigid temperatures. The remainder of the month yo-yoed upward to a day or two in the 60s and then back down again to 4 below zero in mid-month with a four-day total of 14 inches of snow and ice.

Despite that, a few snowdrops managed to peek above the frozen soil when the snow melted. The extreme cold caused more plant damage than I would have thought. 

On Feb. 1, I planted a nice ‘Blue Star’ juniper on a two-foot standard with a substantial trunk. It was a dead as the proverbial doornail by July, the first real and very substantial disappointment of the year.

The groundhog did not see his shadow the next day, and the rest of February was its gloomy self, but with moderating temperatures.

It hit 75 degrees on the 15th, the first real “spring” day of the year. Precipitation was plentiful, maybe too plentiful.

I stayed busy top-dressing beds with composted horse manure, a gift from friends.

The first  of March saw the first spring snowflakes (not snowdrops) out and flowering. This is Lycojum vernum (vernal–spring) which flowers at least a month before the far more common summer snowflakes.

Why the spring ones are so hard to find, I can’t fathom. The bulbs multiply prodigiously. I’ve given away hundreds.

My better half and I suffered through a case of flu each, even with flu shots, which cut a hole in work days. The shots did, however, make the flu less severe than it could have been. 

March was its usual whirlwind of activity, and early bloom was rampant. No severe freezes or storms sullied the month.

Most of my complaining was at the hand of our “lawn,” aka sea of mud. Spring wended its way through the month accompanied by hundreds of daffodils and even some early shrub flowering (i.e. quinces).

March precipitation was just about right, with something like 4 inches. 

Well, April. What can you say? One of our gaudiest months of the year fulfilled expectations.

No matter how fond our memories of previous Aprils are, when it comes around again, it seems brighter than ever, given an absence of late freezes.

A dribble of late snow on the seventh was more an attraction than a bane. The second disappointment of the year was a red Encore azalea set in our red border that turned up dead within three weeks. Wha?

May arrived with our annual trip to Brimfield, Ill., to visit our friends, Ron and Donna Dieter. It was 85 degrees there, very unusual.

The rest of our month was spent in a flurry of planting, woody plants from hereabouts and herbaceous things brought home from our generous friends.

Our ancient foe, who doth work us extreme woe in the form of the detested mulberry weed, made its debut in late month. May was also one of the hottest on record. Rain was adequate. 

A famous Englishman said summer afternoon were the two most beautiful words in the English language. That was there, not here.

A summer afternoon here can bring near 100-degree temperatures, to say nothing of mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks and other assorted vermin to wrack the human body in places unmentionable.

June is our first summer month, and she wasted no time in making us miserable, with the 90s early on. A tour to some great gardens in Indianapolis proved almost as hot, but very entertaining. 

July presented its usual miserable self with fiery temperatures and sauna bath humidity.

A break in late month coincided with a trip to Florida to visit my sisters and other kin. It was cooler there, believe it or not. 

August came in hot as usual, but showed some mercy with a bit of cooling. On the 21st, the high was in the 70s and nights had become noticeably cooler.

The cooling coincided with abundant rain that was needed. The few weeks of dryness was the nearest thing we had to a drought in 2018.

Planting of woody things increased. Ditto September. Hot, hot, but with cooling and abundant rain (maybe too much) late in the month. Fall planting continued. 

Of all the months of the year, October is more likely than any other to provide pleasant weather. Early October was a bit of an exception with some hot weather; but by the 11th, the high was in the 60s.

We had the first fire in our fireplace on Oct. 16 with a cold drizzle outside. Our Illinois friends arrived just in time for our first frost on the 21st, though there was no damage. 

November, the month of Thanksgiving and thanks giving, treated us well enough to truly be thankful, and planting continued apace. On the 13th, a few spits of snow fell.

With a lot of leaves down, some pruning on hardy things started. Firewood cutting and hauling was one order of the month.

Thanksgiving day featured sun and temperatures in the 50s. I made hay while the sun shined with more planting. 

December has, to this point, provided no severe weather, mostly just about average temperatures and somewhat normal rainfall, a microcosm of the year just passing.

Somehow, I managed to plant 70 more woody specimens in our garden in 2018. I could get somewhere if stuff would just quit dying. 

On reflection, I think the B-minus grade for the year I mentioned was just about right.


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

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