Snow-just what is it? Water, high in the atmosphere freezes, forming very small ice crystals. These ice crystals, in the form of individual snowflakes, fall to earth, blanketing your garden and mine with a white granular substance we call snow. Frozen rain, if you will. Ordinarily, I am not a big fan of the snow. It is cold. It is difficult to walk and drive through. Worst of all, it is a sure sign that the growing season has come to a close. Once the garden goes to sleep, the snow usually comes, and covers all until the weather turns.
Snow can be just the thing-for people who sled or ski. My appreciation is a little less visceral. I love the white of it. Snow makes such a stark and crisp contrast to our relentlessly gray winter skies. Even the softest light will make it sparkle. Fresh heavy snow is visually dramatic in form, texture, and mass.
Snow falling on a windless day emphasizes the shape and configuration of everything it touches. Flat surfaces build up snow collars. A chain link fence catches the snow in a way that beautifully describes its texture. A perennial garden cut back to the ground gets a softly undulating and sleepy shape. The snow will detail every vertical blade of ornamental grass left standing.
In my zone, a winter blanket of snow protects many plants from dessicating winds. Though it is hard to believe that ice crystals could offer any protection, a blanket of snow insulates. The frozen ground will stay frozen. Ground that freezes and thaws can heave plants out of the ground. Insulation is a preventative against all kinds of loss. Heat loss from the roof or the hot water pipes. My down jacket-insulation against the cold. The snow keeps everything uniformly cold.
A winter with no snow cover worries me. I like all of my plants buried in snow. Comforted and protected-this they need. The winter temperatures and winds can kill. As much as I treasure what nature provides, winter can be a formidable enemy to living things without protection.
As for the snow falling today-I welcome it. Our summer was very hot, and very dry. In the back of my mind, a worry about the lack of water. Snow is water in an alternative form. As every living plant depends on water to survive, I welcome this version. Once the ground thaws, a bit of that water delivered via snow will be absorbed into the ground.
Last winter was an anomaly. Warm temperatures throughout-no snow. This weather deprived me of plenty. No flowers on the magnolia trees. Poor bloom on the roses. Garden disappointment-I hope to not have this next spring. Today’s heavy snow comforts me. It is so beautiful. It is so expected.
My good friend MK writes me today that the snow is uplifting his spirits. Discussion not needed- I understand his feeling. The snow feels right. Basic to the psyche of any gardener is instinct to protect. The snow blanket is an essential part of the natural order of things.
Bring on the snow! I am enchanted as much by its beauty as I am by its utility. Though I will never enjoy it to the extent that Milo does, I appreciate this particular season for what it is. Quiet, and beautiful.