Record-breaking temperatures marked 2015: A look back at the year in gardening

Proven Winners garden in autumn at Buffalo Erie County Botanical Gardens
The Proven Winners Signature Garden was installed in 2015. This is a view from October. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Yesterday I turned off the heat and opened the windows– and the temperature in my house went up a degree!

Yesterday’s high of 71 set a record for Dec. 14. The previous record for that date, set in 1901, was only 64.

Another record is our lack of measurable snow so far this season. The previous record was set in 1899, when we went until Dec. 3 with no snow to speak of. Here it is Dec. 15 and still there’s no snow!

While technically autumn lasts until the winter solstice on Dec. 21, the warm, sunny weather usually retreats long before this. We expected a milder winter due to El Nino, but this weather has been amazing. In some years, snow is dumped on autumn leaves before we’ve had time to rake them up, but this year, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to do all those late autumn chores.

waterfall in Hamburg NY garden
During the Snowvember Storm of 2014, this Hamburg yard was buried under about seven feet of snow, but by the time the garden walks rolled around, the gardens had bounced back. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

What a difference from last winter, which started for many Western New Yorkers with the Snowvember Storm of 2014, dumping seven feet of snow before Thanksgiving.

When the calendar turned to 2015, everybody in Western New York got lots of snow, coupled with below-zero temperatures. It was pretty, though.

Gardeners spent the winter planning for spring. We gave you tips on rotating vegetable plants in the garden and told you about a plant database for trees and shrubs.

We gave you ideas for things to do inside, such as making the ‘My Suzie’ floral arrangement.

There were many great talks and workshops, and fun events such as Lumagination at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. It was a treat to see the spectacular lighting inside the warm Botanical Gardens on a cold winter night.

When Plantasia rolled around in March, people were delighted to see entire gardens in bloom, knowing that spring was on its way.

As summer drew closer, we talked about some new plants to try and again made suggestions for alternatives to impatiens in your shade garden.

By April we had a balmy day that made us feel as if spring was here to stay, even though we gardeners weren’t fooled. There were frosts in late May.

The summer was on the cool side, but that was great weather for all the garden walks, Open Gardens and other activities of Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara (formerly known as the National Garden Festival), the umbrella organization for this collection of garden activities unique to Western New York.

evening sun on gauzy tent in backyard in Buffalo
This gardener on the Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk shared tips on how to create an elegant landscape on a budget. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

While Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest garden walk in the entire nation, is the most well known, there were 15 garden walks in Western New York this year. Fifteen! Plus Open Gardens! Other parts of the country have nothing like this, or if they do, you must pay for a ticket and there are just a few gardens to visit. This is not only a highlight of the summer for us local gardeners, it’s a tourist attraction.

When people see me taking photos in a yard on one of the garden walks, they often ask me if I visit all the gardens. I wish! On some weekends, there are so many garden walks, I can’t even go to one garden on every walk– I have to visit some gardens ahead of time. What a wonderful problem to have. It’s a joy to get to as many gardens as I can and to share these wonderful gardens with you.

The summer also brought the Celebration of Coleus and Color at the Botanical Gardens, and was again proud to sponsor the exhibit. We told you why you should consider using coleus in your garden.

This year there was so much going on at the Botanical Gardens, it was hard to keep up. Major developments and activities included the new Proven Winners Garden at the entrance, the exhibit and residency of artist Shayne Dark, the dedication of the outdoor healing garden, renovations and work on a master plan to take the institution to a new level.

We kept you up to date on plant diseases and new pests in our area.

Throughout the year, my readers were wonderful. They helped spread the word about and encouraged their friends to subscribe. They shared their experiences and tips by leaving comments. And when people sent me questions ranging from how what’s a good perennial for sun to how to keep squirrels from eating your tomatoes, my readers came through and offered great advice.

So what do you think were the memorable moments in gardening for 2015? Please leave a comment.

I’m taking a short respite, and I look forward to bringing you more gardening news, tips, photos and videos when I resume publishing on Jan. 19.

Have a happy new year!

6 Comments on “Record-breaking temperatures marked 2015: A look back at the year in gardening

  1. We did not get to 70° but it was a warm week. Hope your holiday was wonderful. Say hi to your husband and sister(s) for me.

  2. Stephanie, you mentioned you planted tomatoes in totes? Like the ones you can get at Walmart? And you put 5 plants in each one?

  3. Stephanie, you are proof that everyone has room to garden! You have tough growing conditions, too. But you were able to harvest tomatoes from 30 plants? Amazing! I have been thinking that I will do tomatoes in containers instead of in the ground, and you make me think that is the way to go. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This was my first year planting heirloom tomatoes in clear plastic totes and it was a huge success! I live on a very small, very shady corner lot, and the only bit of sun comes early morning till mid-afternoon on a tiny spot on my front lawn. I tried 6 different varieties of seeds from Baker’s Creek — I started them in April on my windowsill and transplanted first weekend in July. I planted 5 to each tote, with a total of 6 totes. I had a beautiful, fat harvest — hardly any split, all came to full maturity, and were just as delicious as they were gorgeous! Had no leaf blight, no insect problems — as if I had an invisible bubble around them! I saved the seeds and am looking forward to starting another batch in April. I can only hope I’ll be just as lucky again…

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