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.
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.
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.