A week ago, both my garden and I were laid low by nature’s icy grip. Steady rains over several days and declining temperatures resulted in a rare late December ice storm. My garden was spared the worst of the storm, which mostly laid waste to landscapes north of us. I was not so fortunate. I woke up a week ago Monday with a miserably bad cold. How could something so ordinary be so utterly debilitating?
Frozen is a word that routinely characterizes the winter landscape. But ice that accumulates on plants in the landscape can result in terrible damage to life and limb. Water is very heavy. Water that is glued fast to small branches can break them. Ice on evergreens can bring their boughs down to the ground. An ice storm last March broke a major branch on one of my dogwoods. That branch, with only a little wood and the bark on the bottom side still intact, bloomed normally, and had a full compliment of leaves all summer. It is loaded with flower buds for the spring. Every few hours I would check out the window to see if the weight of the ice would break that branch off altogether. Obviously the will to live is a strong one; the branch survived the ice.
All that night and into the next morning, I could hear the sounds of branches crashing to the ground. I only hoped that none of them were in my yard. I do prune my trees and shrubs regularly, in the hopes that they will successfully weather wind, snow and ice. But our street trees are not kept up by the city forestry department. All of the pruning to the trees is done, on an irregular basis – and in a very messy way – by a stormy weather event. Dead, diseased or damaged branches weighted by ice did break loose from the trees. Nature can be benign, beautiful, and violently destructive. If you are a gardener, you have seem all of the aforementioned.
Only the icy weather could create this swooping shape from materials known for their stiff and inflexible habit. Bowing to the force of nature creates all kinds of unexpected shapes in the landscape. Trees whose mature shapes are dictated by a windswept or otherwise hostile environment are a marvel to behold. The marvel of the common cold is that the day finally comes when that virus loosens its grip, and you feel you might be able to breathe, eat and sleep again.