1 Taking advantage of the warm temperatures and unfrozen soil, I asked that the vegetable garden be double-dug. Double-digging soil is much more effective than rototilling.
2 Double-digging loosens and improves soil to a depth that rototilling just cannot reach. Basically, you dig down with a shovel, and turn the whole shovel load over, flipping the nutrients at the top down to the bottom.
3 Double-digging also improves drainage, movement of air, and the loosened soil allows roots to grow and extend more easily.
4 You could amend the soil before double-digging, but this soil is already so rich in organic material, and the nutrients at the top are flipped to the bottom.
5 Double-digging loosens and aerates the soil down to a depth of about 16-inches, which is about three times the depth that a rototiller reaches.
6 Perennial plants, such as cardoons, asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb were left undisturbed.
7 You can just imagine that with such uncompacted soil, plant roots have so much freedom to reach out and establish themselves. The soil will be reworked again in the springtime before the beds are formed and planted.
8 Adjacent to the vegetable garden is the berry patch. The canes of these raspberries have recently been thinned out and pruned back, which will allow for new fruit-bearing growth in the spring.
9 Top-dressing all of the perennial beds is another chore that's getting done early this year, thanks to the mild winter.
10 The long daffodil border looks very tidy.
11 The Asiatic lily beds look great.
12 The compost yard is where all of the composted mulch has been coming from. This pile, which was once enormous, is shrinking in size as truckload after truckload is spread on the garden beds.
13 It really is, what gardeners refer to as, 'black gold.'
14 The composted mulch provides lots of nutrients and also acts as an insulating blanket, protecting tender perennials from all of our fluctuating temperatures.
15 This climbing hydrangea caught my eye.
16 It has many swollen buds ready to pop.
17 The azaleas are also showing a lot of growth.
18 No ice on the giant bird bath saucer
19 Billy, Rufus, and Clive were enjoying the warmth of the sun.
20 Oops! Stop growing, daffodils!
21 The allee of linden is beginning to display its russet bud-growth hue.
22 Right next to the allee of linden, towards the bottom of the daffodil border, is the recently planted witch hazel grove. Witch hazel shrubs are very welcome in the landscape, as they bloom during the coldest winter months.
23 This is Hamamaelis Inter. 'Jelena' - This witch hazel has large, fragrant, bright-yellow spidery flowers that are tinged with red in the center.
24 Witch hazel, the astringent, is derived from the leaves and bark of the witch hazel shrub. This plant was widely used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.
25 Hamamelis Vernalis 'Amethyst' my be the only witch hazel having lavender to light purple blooms. It was actually named by my good friend, horticulturist extraordinaire, Don Shadow.
26 Hamamelis x intermedia 'Old Copper' - This hybrid witch hazel bears unusual coppery-red blooms that, upon close inspection, are red with deep orange tips.
27 Hamamelis Intermedia 'Diane' is prized for its coppery red flowers and is considered one of the best of the red flowering varieties.
28 Hamamelis Mollis 'Superba' - These highly fragrant blooms have petals that are red at the base and grade to light orange at the tip. The blooms last well into April.
29 Directly behind the witch hazel bed is a very sunny spot in the daffodil border. These plants are way too tall for February!
30 Looking across the farm towards a stand of weeping willow trees. Like the lindens, the willows have assumed their golden spring hue.
31 Look closely at the unmistakable blue and red plumage of the eastern bluebird. These attractive birds are mostly insectivorous or omnivorous and they appear to be flourishing in the woods this winter.
32 Something else that lends color to the winter landscape are these thorny wild raspberry canes.
33 The bark of these woody canes is almost as pink as the fruit they bear.
34 Every so often, one comes across trees with unusual growth habits, like these maples growing side-by-side.
35 It seems as though the upper tree has formed cushioning bumpers, like puckering lips, keeping the two trunks from constantly hitting each other.
36 The bubble patterns on the surface of this gurgling stream look like brushstrokes on canvas.
37 This is an area of the farm that's seldom seen, located behind my greenhouse along the edge of the wetlands. This is where I have planted several varieties of pussy willows, which, like weeping willows, are members of the Salix family.
38 This is Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa', also referred to as dragon's claw willow and the corkscrew willow. Unlike other pussy willows, its curly stem is the real attraction.
39 And this is the Salix discolor, whose common name is True Pussy Willow. This is the variety that most people know.
40 Its branches are brown and bear familiar gray catkins. When the catkins grow bigger, you can remove the scales from the catkins by running your hand along the branch.
41 This is Salix sachalinensis Sekka, or fantail willow, known for its curiously flattened stems. These are great in floral arrangements.
42 This variety is called Salix Chaenomeloides, commonly known as the Giant Pussy Willow or The Japanese Pussy Willow.
43 The winter bud scales, which are a lustrous reddish-brown, have popped with the recent warm temperatures to expose the soft puffs of velvety gray catkins.
44 And this pussy willow is known as Salix humilis, also called purple heirloom.
45 Salix humilis has blond or light colored bark that bears dark purplish-gray catkins.
46 I want to point out here how easy it is to root pussy willows. Almost all willows take root very readily from cuttings. This little one-year-old tree has grown from a stem cutting, rooted in water and then planted in the ground.