The biggest snowstorm that I recall was in December of 1974. I was 24, and living in Ann Arbor. Some 20 inches fell December 1 and 2. Just like any other 24 year old, I was determined that no weather event would put a crimp in my plans. I still remember that drive on I-94 towards home that took 7 hours instead of an hour. Once I got home, I stayed put for a week. The 16 inches we have on the ground now is not nearly so daunting, nor am I so foolish. Nature is nothing to fool with. That said, I appreciate how unusual and beautiful this snowfall is.
The pictures recovered from my iphone of the rose garden in June a few days ago were indeed a pleasant interlude. However, the winter season is all over my garden. Buck says we have 10-12 inches already on the ground, and our heaviest snowfall is yet to come. Overnight, another 6 inches. I have not one problem in the world with that. Due to arrive shortly-zero and below temperatures. I told Buck it was at least 20 years ago that I remember temperatures this cold. Given an extremely low air temperature, I am glad that all of my plants have roots buried in the ground. With the temperature set to drop to zero, I am further comforted by the insulation provided by all of this snow.
Winter hardiness is an exact science, provided you factor in each and every one of the mitigating circumstances. OK, it is an inexact science. Plants reputedly hardy in my zone that are planted in poorly draining clay soil die out regularly. Perennials and shrubs planted so late in the season that there is no time for any rooting to take place can be heaved out of the ground in a freeze/thaw/freeze period. Marginally hardy plants placed in protected locations, and mulched for the winter stand a better chance of survival.
Plants have an extraordinary will to live. They will suffer my careless planting and indifferent siting, my over watering, my thoughtless pruning and wrong headed culture without so much as a peep. But once the insults reach a critical mass, a plant will die. My garden starting slowing down this past August, and we have had fairly cold and snowy weather since November. The garden couldn’t be more ready for the cold. I doubt that anything in my garden will be damaged by the brief but extreme cold to come. Dormant is dormant. The insulation that will result from all of this snow is a bonus.
Heavy snow does not keep any plant warmer. The snow is an insulator. It protects against any response to a rapid change in conditions. With mulching, or insulation from snow, a plant that is frozen will most likely stay frozen until the time is right to grow. Our temperature today was 29 degrees. It has dropped precipitously to 9 degrees. It is forecast to drop again to zero on Tuesday. Once a plant has gone dormant, it is the hope that the dormancy will be maintained. Up and down, freeze and thaw-big changes are not good changes. If I have a mind to mulch a tender perennial for the winter, I do not apply the mulch until the ground is frozen. The mulch will help frozen ground stay that way.
I dress in lots of layers in weather like this. A turtle neck, a fleece jacket, a down vest and a down coat keeps me comfortable outside in cold weather. Warm air is trapped by all of the layers. My sheepskin winter boots, warmed by the radiator, will stay warm for several hours outdoors-the sheepskin holds the heat. I am not looking for my winter gear to warm me up. I only ask that it help me maintain a comfortable temperature outdoors.
I have been in and out all day today with my camera. A snowfall of this magnitude is not an every day garden event. Piling on the clothes prior to a garden visit is an event the corgis notice. They know something is about to happen. I have had them outside on and off all day today. Though they are not equipped to handle really deep snow, they have been game. Milo plows, and Howard follows in his tracks.
My winter pots-pretty fazed. This is a moment when I am glad that we take such trouble to insure that the winter arrangements are secure. The centerpieces go deep into the soil in the pots. As that soil is frozen solid, it would take a lot to dislodge them. The eucalyptus is preserved, and will bend before it breaks.
It was 9 degrees below zero when I drove to work this morning. I could tell. The crunch of the snow underfoot was deafening. I had to keep blinking to keep my eyelashes from freezing to my face. Though I had all manner of winter gear piled on, my face stung from the cold. The corgis always dawdle in the driveway before they pony up to be loaded into the Suburban. I am ordinarily very patient about this. I like that they have a happy life-and their happy life means a minimum of interference from me. I am ok with hanging out until they are ready to be loaded up for work. Loaded up? Corgis have really short legs. I give the both of them a big leg up. I tell myself that loading and unloading two fifty pound dogs twice every day helps keep me in good shape. I treasure this illusion! This morning, their dawdling annoyed me. It was too cold to be outside.
Over the course of the day I downloaded scads of pictures on my Iphone to my computer. A day when it is really too cold to be outdoors is a really rare day. A day confined to the inside is not my most favorite day, but confining circumstances can make for some unexpected pleasure. Pictures that I took in June of this past year-I was looking at them for the first time. The roses-how beautiful they were.
There are those gardeners who would choose to pass by a planting of roses. Too much trouble to grow. Too much a symbol of the history of gardens. No doubt rose bushes are just about the most ungainly and unattractive shrubs ever to grace the earth. But I would not want my garden to do without them.
I only grow a few roses. Carefree Beauty, and Earthsong, bred by Griffith Buck. Jeannie Le Joie-a miniature climbing rose. Eden-a large flowered climbing rose. And the English bred shrub rose Sally Holmes.
The most of the month of June is a delight to this gardener. The roses play no small part in this. I love the flowers and the fragrance. On a freezing January day that keeps me inside, the memory of the roses comfort me.