Seasons

Aflutter over snow

More than half way through the winter of 2015-2016 and we have yet to measure a full inch of snow. This weekend’s forecast, however, has everyone’s attention from the mid-Atlantic states to New England. The first snow-producing nor’easter of the season appears headed this way. Everyone is aflutter over snow.

A bit of snow contrasts with winter browns, grays, and winterberry red.

A bit of snow contrasts with winter browns, grays, and winterberry red.

We had a taste of snow a few days ago … enough to whiten the ground, contrast against the browns and grays of dormant plantings, and give winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’) berries a brighter glow.  But, small amount of snow is not enough to give garden beds an insulating blanket from harsh temperature swings that can be so damaging to surface roots and the crowns of plants. For this we need real snow. It’s time.

Looking back at my snowfall records since the winter of 2008/2009, we usually get one decent, blanketing snowfall during January. The exception years were 2010 when our January total was 12″, accrued in little one- to three-inch snowfalls, and 2013 when the heaviest snowfalls occurred just before 2012 ended (12″ on 12/29) and later during the 2012/2013 winter (36″ over 2/8 and 2/9). Otherwise January is a snowy month, totaling 13.5″ in 2009, 54″ in 2011, 17″ in 2012, 31.75″ in 2014, and 26.5″ in 2015.

We’re due.

Winter snow, in general, is good for gardens. Besides blanketing soils from temperature swings, snow brings moisture and nutrients, and replenishes waterways as it melts. Snow cover gives a different view of gardens and landscapes, often highlighting areas where more winter interest (a conifer or small tree) would add structure or cover for overwintering birds.

Snowflakes form fascinating designs and have brief, but interesting, lives. Starting as a single droplet of water that freezes around a speck of dust, they can go through riming, become a grauple, or aggregate … all explained in this video from the National Science Foundation.

I’m aflutter over snow … anxious to experience winter as it is meant to be in my region. I feel my younger self bubbling to the surface as I watch snowflakes fall. There’s magic in the sight of each tiny work of art settling gently to the ground; how snowflakes team up to transform every surface into a sculpture-in-white.

Others are more negatively aflutter over snow … dreading the need to shovel and clear. But since we cannot stop snow, why not embrace it and see snow for the wonder it is.

 

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December warmth, confused plants

Yesterday I wandered around outside to see how plantings are reacting to the December warmth blanketing Connecticut. December has been unusually warm; yesterday’s daytime temperature reached the low 60’s, today’s is forecast to possibly reach 70 degrees F. The soil remains workable, plants are confused.

lilac buds swelling in Connecticut's December 2015 warmth

lilac buds swelling in Connecticut’s December 2015 warmth

Though no spring-blooming bulbs are peeking out of the ground, lilac buds are greening and swelling as if preparing to open.

Leaf tips on the young serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis ‘Rainbow Pillar’) tree show hints of opening.

leatherleaf viburnum, December 2015

leatherleaf viburnum, December 2015

 

Leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) leaves are still fresh and full, holding a spring-green hue rather than the darker green they take on during winter’s cold.

swelling buds of star magnolia, December 2015

swelling buds of star magnolia, December 2015

swelled bud of star magnolia, December 2015

swelled bud of star magnolia, December 2015

 

Buds of the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) have likewise swelled, looking more like they should in early spring than early winter.

And this December warmth has enticed area cherry trees into bloom. It’s very strange to see a pink cherry tree in December in Connecticut.

 

 

 

Perennials are also confused …

fresh daylily growth, December 2015

fresh daylily growth, December 2015

Fresh daylily leaves are peeking through the leftover, browned foliage of this year’s growth.

 

early winter, 2015, scabiosa bloom

early winter, 2015, scabiosa bloom

 

 

 

 

 

And, this type-a personality scabiosa is still forcing out fresh blooms.

How will all this December warmth affect future blooms? The clocks of the perennials will reset once real winter weather blows in, but bud and leaf tip swelling of spring-blooming shrubs and small trees is disturbing.

Will the small flowers hiding inside these buds become damaged by this false start once cold temperatures hit? Many early spring-blooming shrubs form next season’s flowers before going into dormancy. Flower buds can be damaged when rapid temperature drops follow early warm weather that entices early-blooming shrubs to break dormancy.

The December warmth of the last few days is forecast to turn to more normal temperatures early next week. I’m hoping for a gradual cool-down, and cold that lasts until March. This gives perennials, shrubs, and trees the chance to rest before the spring awakening. But, if early spring flowers are sparse in 2016, I will think back to this December warmth and my confused plants.

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Joene Hendry