We've had the coldest January in Connecticut since 1994 (15 years). Now the calendar flips to February and I can see the daylight glow in the horizon sky after 5 o'clock when I leave the office. Hello, sunshine! Welcome back!
After two months with the onset of darkness between 4 and 5 pm, the incremental difference in day length is more noticeable at this time of year, especially on Monday's when you come outside at your normal departure time after two days away and suddenly there's the Sun, or the hint of it. Ya-hoo!! The days are getting longer and warmer temperatures will follow. The promise is palpable.
December is the darkest month here at 41° 45? 57? N, 72° 41? 0? W and after the 21st, when sunset happens at about 4:15 pm and the globe turns the corner, there's not much noticeable change in day length until the last week of January. Last night I drove the first part of my commute home in a "brilliant dusk", a fading glow of skylight that progressed from a warm, golden color to Robin's Egg Blue, to cobalt to black. Soon I will leave my office building to be greeted by a Sun that is hovering above the horizon! Then, after a few more weeks, it will follow me all the way home.
This "promise" is the fuel that fires a gardener's passion and keeps one hopeful during the winter dormant season. Seed catalogs arrive in the mail and thoughts of this year's planting selection and layout fill our minds with sunshine daydreams of green and yellow and orange and red. The longer days promise to melt the stark and frozen landscape and reveal the rich, workable soil once again. Which leads me to specifics here at Sleepy Bee Lavender Farm where a foot of frozen slush has cemented everything in place since New Year's Day.
A permanent snow cover during winter is desirable for lavender plants because it insulates them from severe cold and dessication. We've had single-digit temperatures and some mornings below zero so the cover of snow (well, ...cement) has been a welcome natural mulch for us during the coldest January we've had in 15 years. Without it, the plants can be stressed beyond the limit of their hardiness tolerance and the leaves could dry out or freeze causing lethal damage. Nature didn't intend for lavender to live in Connecticut but it does, with human intervention, if all goes well, according to plan, if we're lucky.
I'm feeling lucky. My CT Grown lavender is tucked away under cover of.... "snow".... and we've made it out of January. The Sun is on its way back but we're not out of the woods yet. February and March are full of Nor'easters, if not sub-zero temps, and disaster is a breath away and comes in the form of heavy rain. Lavender hates rain. But, with any luck, we'll dodge the storms and the gardens will green up slowly. 2009 is promising to be a good year.