Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I think I have lost my cloche.

I think I have lost my cloche.

The last time I saw it -- well part of it anyway -- was a few days after Christmas when Mars and I returned from a week-plus visit with Monica and Bram (daughter-in-law and son) in Santa Fe, New Mexico . The weather out there was beautiful - high forties, low fifties, sunny, no precipitation. The state of the atmosphere in our hometown of Wethersfield Connecticut, and the rest of the northeast region, was apparently not so nice.

We followed that meteorological mess on the national media -- drivers stranded, roads and highways impassable, flights canceled, windblown reporters ranting, four riders on white, red, black and pale horses.... It was, technically and practically, a blizzard. The snow was six to eight inches in depth if left undisturbed. But the wind, we were told, was blowing the falling and fallen precipitation sideways, creating drifts of a much greater magnitude.

Fortunately we had arranged to have someone plow our driveway and shovel our sidewalks, so we were able to easily get into our residence when we returned home. We did not however request that our perennial garden on the south side of our garage be returned to its pristine, pre-storm condition. And that unfortunately was where the cloche was located -- laid out in an east west direction in an open part of the garden in which we had planted tomatoes this past summer.

The cloche is winter home for some "plugged" baby hosta plants that are to be shared among the members of my men's garden club and sold at our annual plant sale. I had received the "plugs" -- several newbies in each thumbnail-sized plastic compartment -- from another club member who started the whole process. As the tiny plants grew into recognizability I moved them into larger growing pots -- one per -- and kept them watered and otherwise happy until early November when I constructed their winter chalet and tucked them in for the duration.

The structure of the cloche is pre-Quonset hut primitive. The materials are four short wooden sticks with a groove cut into one end of each; some chicken wire to be shaped into a semicircular dome which rests in the aforementioned grooves; a plastic drop-cloth to lay over the aforementioned roof; and some heavy objects (in my case excess paving bricks from our front pathway) to weigh down the edges of the aforementioned polymer sheets and thus create a relatively hermetically sealed structure.

The plan was to thoroughly moisten the plants and the surrounding ground and then place the little suckers into their cold weather hothouse and hope for the best.

Throughout November and the pre-snow part of December all indications were that things were going well. That is to say that moisture was appearing on the inside of the opaque plastic cover and faint shadows of life could be glimpsed inside -- if you looked really, really hard and used your imagination.

Now, several snowstorms later, the white stuff is piled up at least fourfold on the lonely cloche and all hope is, if not lost, then at least doubtful. The goal was to provide an artificial source of light, warmth, and moisture (the "golden trio" of vegetative care) until Mother Nature could take over the nurturing process. Instead I fear the little fellows are getting an overdose of the dark side of life.

I probably should have thought ahead and installed some of those six foot tall orange bicycle flags at each of the four corners of the cloche. Then I could have dug down to the captive little greenhouse and liberated its involuntary occupants from the perpetual shade of their murky cave. But I didn't. So I can't. And shoveling blindly into the pile of precipitation is probably just going to make matters worse.

I fear that the hosta are doomed, and that there will not be any celebratory stogies and beer party in my garden this spring - cloche but no cigar.

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