Welcome February … the month I’d like to settle into winter suspended animation. Tucked nicely into my house-cocoon I’d immerse my thoughts deeply into my gardens, visualizing, creating, and revising ideas for improved soils, better perennial combinations, new shrubs, and fresh-picked sun-drenched vegetables and berries.
But, just outside my walls, reality is falling in the form of millions of unique snowflakes. When these little guys get together and have a party they invariably beckon me outward for a little snowflake management. This season, snowflakes have had an ongoing bacchanal – they’re drunk on moisture and are having so much fun that every few days more of their kind arrive to join the merry-making.
‘Here we go again,’ is the quote repeated by those trying to manage the seemingly never-ending snowflake merriment. And, in true winter fashion, this month’s Gardening Oops – GOOPs for short – is snow-related.
Regular visitors here know that on the first of each month I confess one of the gardening mistakes or missteps I’ve made during the many years I’ve worked the soils and greenery in south-central Connecticut. Anyone can join this confessional. Just admit a GOOPs in a comment below or post a GOOPs on your own blog and leave a teaser comment below.
My February 2011 GOOPs is a combination of my own neglect and unpredictable factors.
I planted small boxwood shrubs along the edge of a covered porch, one on each side of the front steps and others equally spaced along the porch-front planting beds. In doing so I forgot to allow for the typical icicle formation and dripping that occurs along the gutter edges during snow melt. The two boxwood on either side of the steps are directly below the drip line. Each year we have heavy snow, these little guys become encased in ice. Each year I mean to ask my hubby to build an inverted v-shaped cover to protect the shrubs so the covers – instead of my little shrubs – bear the weight of the ice and snow.
Each year I forget.
Thankfully, in previous years, my boxwoods have forgiven winter onslaughts. When not bumped or piled under shoveled snow, the small shrubs have recouped quite well. If they were larger this, likely, would not have been the case.
This year’s record snowfall – about 4 feet fell in January with most still on the ground – may be more than my boxwoods can stand. Before they were completely invisible under mounds of drifted snow, each was totally encased in at least an inch of ice.
Yes, there are shrubs buried in the photo here.
I have no idea how they will fair once their winter tomb melts but, with no protection from the weight of the ice and snow, they are apt to have some significant damage.
The lesson? Protect any shrubs planted under the drip-line of your house from potential ice formation during the winter. We have no way of knowing if current weather patterns will continue. If we go back to having really tough winters – like the current one – this may be the only way to prevent serious shrub damage.
The bright side?
I don’t have to worry about deer getting at the buried shrubs.
I do, however, wonder whether my rhododendrons will survive the season unscathed by deer browsing. The 5-foot chicken wire fencing installed around the rhodos will not stop any determined deer. Look closely – there’s chicken wire peeking up out of the snow drift. Really hungry deer may try to navigate even these drifts to reach a nice green meal.