January 2018 has been one for the books in Raleigh as we broke the record for the most consecutive hours of freezing temperatures. Those weather people will celebrate anything, huh? Last week’s forecasted 1-2 inches of snow was to be the icing on the cake, and someone likes icing as the storm stalled over the area and dumped a whopping 10-12 inches. I hear folks up north laughing, but snow plows are a rare commodity here. People in the south stock up on bread and milk, close everything, hunker down, and pray for the return of warm air to clear the streets. Oh, yes, and we pray even harder that the power stays on.
The garden has much to offer even in chilly weather. I’ve read the advice of garden designers who suggest the inclusion of winter interest in the garden plan. With the gorgeous snow blanketing the garden my lovely wife ventured out to capture some of that winter interest. Thanks, Shawn, for your excellent camera work, and for sharing it with us. Here’s a small part of the wonder Shawn discovered.
The hosta garden is under there somewhere waiting to make its grand entrance later this spring. The assortment of containers gives the snow many stages on which to perform.
The pink dogwood (on the right) struggled mightily in last summer’s furnace but now sports a glistening coat of snow.
The snow-bound hydrangea overlooks the leaf piles. While the centers of these piles may have some heat, the cold temperatures have slowed the composting. After the thaw one of my first workouts will be to turn the piles.
Rhododendron droops under the snow load. Often, if ice comes with the snow, I must gently shake the branches of the garden shrubs to lessen the weight and prevent broken branches. In a few of our significant ice storms I have installed props for young trees to keep them upright until the thaw.
Gus, our garden gnome (on the left by the tree trunk), wears snow goggles or maybe he is just bug-eyed over the frozen pond. In the recent cold snap I measured the ice on the pond at 3” thick! Glad I am not one of the goldfish slumbering down below.
The patio furniture looks inviting but I think I’ll wait for a warmer day to sit and contemplate.
Even the fire pit cover creates its unique winter image.
The hard-working wheelbarrow relaxes for a spell.
Fence pickets have their stylish winter hats on.
The birdbath and obelisk show up nicely against the pristine white backdrop.
Coneflower pods reward the ambitious birds looking for a quick snack. As the snow grows deeper these sentinels mark the locations of the garden beds.
The crepe myrtle looks like someone went wild with a can of whipped cream.
And the driveway is clear as we wait for warmer weather. Shawn’s photos remind me that I can be so busy digging out that I miss the beauty. Snow transforms any landscape, even muddy earth, into a beautiful scene. Snow accentuates the positives and covers the ugly. Perhaps that is the image Isaiah had in mind as he penned this message from God.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”
In a conversation with the Old Testament character, Job, God asked a revealing question.
Have you visited the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail?
Valuable and needed commodities reside in the storehouse until they are needed. Does that apply to snow? The heavy snow clogs the roads and closes the schools, churches and businesses. Can we find value in snow? Are there benefits especially in the garden? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
- Due to the structure of the flakes which includes spaces that trap air, snow is a natural insulator. A blanket of snow, like the comforter on the couch, protects and warms the tender roots of the perennials and shrubs.
- As the flakes form and fall they capture nitrogen from the air and deliver it directly to the garden. While most plants draw this nitrogen from the soil evergreens can absorb it directly from the snow into their needles and leaves. Have you noticed how green the pine tree appears in contrast to the snow or blue sky?
- Snow preserves moisture in the soil during the winter. As the temperature warms and the snow melts, moisture is added to the soil in a slow-release operation rather than the rapid runoff common to a torrential rain. That moisture means the plants can be fully hydrated as the heavy work of budding and blooming happens later in the spring.
- Snow highlights some trees and shrubs with ornamental bark such as paperbark maple or red twig dogwood. Ornamental grasses and spent blooms left from last season decorate the garden in new ways with the pure white canvas behind them. Even the cardinal in the evergreen tree appears especially bright against the snow.
Life slows in a snow storm as our focus shifts from the rat race to the basics. Take that time to behold the wonder and give God thanks for His creation.