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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Now It's The "Half-Hardies Two-Step"

     There's something about temperatures below zero Fahrenheit: for many of us in the USA, a psychological threshold is crossed when we refer to temperatures "below zero." Don't ask me why. We know that the gap between 1° and -1° is no different than the gap between 12° and 10° -- but it feels different just the same.

(For any who may not know, 0° F. is not quite -18° C. The scale based on Daniel Fahrenheit's work places the freezing point of water at 32° and its boiling point at 212°. Mr. Fahrenheit is no longer around to ask why he did his work the way he did.)

The US Department of Agriculture's climate zone map places Warsaw, Indiana, in Zone 5a; this means that in an average winter, we should expect to see the thermometer between -10° F and -15° F at least once. But we haven't seen readings that low for at least 15 years. In a few recent winters, in fact, the temperature has never gotten down to 0° F at all. (Prompting some comments about global warming.)

Three weeks ago, that sort of cold -- which is really only to be expected here -- returned with a vengeance. A Siberian air mass slid across the pole and moved down into the USA, bringing us below-zero-Fahrenheit temperatures several days in a row. Here's what weather.com showed at 1:50 PM on January 6.

Conditions in Warsaw, IN.  -13° F is exactly -25° C.
A daily high that's below zero F is of course even less common, and even more attention-getting. The last time that happened here was back in the first half of the 1980's.

My hardy trees were all already under shelter and/or buried in snow to above the container rims; they required no extra attention. My tropical trees of course are in the Crate. But my half-hardy trees1 were (and are) another matter.

Half-hardy bonsai-in-the making.
I keep them in our unheated mudroom, along with hardy mame and seedlings (like hybrid yew and Scots pine,) and new acquisitions in their first winter with me. In the mudroom, night temperatures stay consistently 10° F above those outside. Even so, some species can't take the cold that has obtained there on some recent nites. That has necessitated what I've labeled the "Half-Hardies Two-Step:" moving the tree(s) of a given species into a milder spot for the nite (or longer) whenever I expect the temperature in the mudroom to fall below what I consider safe for them. (My wife and daughter respond with aplomb to serissas on the washer or a leafless trident maple on the cover of the coffeemaker.)

Cold hardiness varies, of course, among the mudroom trees: I protect species serissas below 25° F, but leave bald cypress and Japanese black pine until I expect mudroom temperatures to go below -- you guessed it -- 0° F.

Bald cypress, Korean hornbeam (still with its tag from Meehan's,) and Japanese black pine.
The same Siberian air mass also brought us a one-day blizzard. (As defined by the US Weather Service, a blizzard involves sustained winds of at least 35 mph (about 56 kph) and enough blowing snow to reduce visibility to 1/4 of a mile (about 400 meters) or less, all for a minimum of 3 hours.) Here are a few pictures of the storm and its aftermath.

This picture doesn't do the storm full justice, but gives you some idea. I'm afraid our neighbor's brave effort was futile.
(I used Photoshop minimally on this picture.)
Another neighbor's crabapple. (This photo and the next were "cleaned up" more in Photoshop.)
The trees' structure stands out against the snowy sky;
yet another neighbor and her two children build a snow fort.

Next morning. There's actually a sidewalk under there (blue lines.)
Now to free the cars!

Meanwhile, down in the Bonsai Crate ...

"Blizzard? What blizzard?"

As I write, the temperature is falling toward a forecast low of 2° F, which will also be tomorrow's high. Tomorrow nite's low is expected to be -17° F (about -27° C.) The Half-Hardies Two-Step will continue!

1. For the definition of "half-hardy," see the Glossary.

:-)  :-)  :-)

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