I would never had imagined that I would be longing for snow, much less writing about it-but here I am. Frankly, I feel cheated that the season which I dread the most vaporized. Picture me sputtering! The bitter cold and snow is inconvenient and irritating, but it can be beautiful. I have not one picture of a snowy landscape this winter-much less a picture I liked well enough to save. As it turns out, Better Homes and Gardens is coming back to photograph winter containers of mine-not today, but the very next time it snows. They want snow. We have a dusting of snow now, but that should be gone in just a few days. No snow is forecast in my immediate future. Might they not be able to come at all? The past 6 weeks of near 40 degree temperatures has been unnerving. It is not at all what I am accustomed to. What I am accustomed to in my conscious gardening life-this would be 26 years worth of weather at best. Understand that I have not lived nearly long enough to experience all of the possible variations in weather for my zone. Perhaps we had a winter like this when I was 19-had I any investment or interest in the weather then? No. Or maybe the winter was warm when I was 7. Just because I have no memory of it, it does not mean it didn’t happen. Weather cycles outlast most lifetimes. Weather cycles can unexpectedly vary strikingly more than the norm. This is ordinary, not particularly newsworthy.
Not so many years ago- maybe 8- we had a dramatic and long lived late cold snap which killed the emerging leaves on lots of trees. Old established trees were affected. A client for whom I had planted 21 alders the previous year was very unhappy that his trees were not leafing out. Attributing the death of the newly emerging shoots on his trees on the weather read for all the world like I was handing off trouble to a source that did not take complaints. My client was right-nature does not have a complaint box. There is no number to call, no customer service department in the sky. Some trees recovered-it took 2 years. Others, we replaced. Eventually, we sorted everything out. At the neighborhood gas station, I still see the effect of that late spring hard freeze some 8 years later. No one took an active role in dealing with the damage. Dead branches are still overhead, and lots of branches shooting at the bottom of the main trunk is how those trees represent today. Needless to say, those trees look besieged-not beautiful. They have terrible scars no amount of time will erase. My quick aside? If you don’t mind a few scars, your gardening life will be richly experienced. Should you terribly mind the trouble, your experience will be bumpy, disconcerting-anxious. How silly would this be? Gardening should be fun, challenging, relaxing, and enriching. Nature is not always so friendly or accomodating, but nature is invariably interesting, compelling, and satisfying.. Sign up. Get on the bus. In my opinion, your life will take a turn for the better-even if your magnolia blooms freeze before they open.
I was on the phone with my very good friend Michael today, listening as he chose his words carefully. Will it feel like spring, if we have had no winter?, he asks. He was tentative-quite unlike him. I did want to laugh-no one hates the close of the gardening season more than he does. No one could possibly lament the endless cold, grey and snow more eloquently, and more emphatically than he does. But like me, he was fretting that an utterly bland winter would somehow compromise his joy when spring finally announced itself. Or that what he expects to see in the spring might not happen. Could we have 40 degree weather every day until the 4th of July?? OK, I am exxagerating, so let’s address the issue directly. Should nature dish out a warm winter, does this mean there will be no spring game? If there isn’t, will we unhappy enough to quit gardening? I think not.
Whatever nature dishes out in the form of a winter, every true gardener has the ability to shift and adapt. Michael, I have no idea what this winter will mean for the plants in our zone this spring. This I am sure of. What we both worry about does not necessarily affect the trees. How most gardeners worry about may not affect much of anything. Nature deals the cards, and determines the outcomes. This said, I can safely say that really great gardening is about serious relationships between people, who are not afraid to come face to face with nature. The face to face with nature- Ordinary, for gardeners like you. Just like this winter that is not really a winter. It is more ordinary than we think. I also think we both will welcome and enjoy whatever spring comes our way- whether we have 20 degrees and snow, or 40 degrees and no snow the month before.