Winter makes an appearance — finally!

Prunus mume 'Peggy Clarke' presides over the floodplain just after sunrise.

Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’ presides over the floodplain just after sunrise.

I was beginning to think we were going to have another winter like last winter, which was no winter at all. Finally, last Friday, the Arctic Express, as the weather seers call the Canadian air delivery mechanism, chugged into North Carolina.

What began as cold rain morphed by nightfall into water-laden snowflakes. The ground was so warm from the 70-degree weather preceding this event that we knew the snow wouldn’t survive long, prompting Wonder Spouse to set out with his camera as soon as it was light enough for photo-documentation. We got about an inch, but by the time the above photo was taken, about a half-inch on the ground had already disappeared.

As I had described previously, my flowering apricots began blooming about a month ago. The snow arrived just as they approached peak bloom. It will mar open flowers, but the buds still tightly closed might live to bloom another day — maybe. Here’s a close-up of the snow on Peggy Clarke:

Very pretty, but flower petals aren't fans of direct ice contact.

Very pretty, but flower petals aren’t fans of direct ice contact.

Snow does a fabulous job of highlighting the cascading branches of the January Jasmine I wrote about here.

Draped branches make excellent snow platforms.

Draped branches make excellent snow platforms.

But like the flowering apricots, snow-on-petal contact does damage open flowers. Unopened buds should likely be fine.

Sunshine petals accentuate the snow.

Sunshine petals accentuate the snow.

Evergreen plants don’t enjoy heavy, wet snow. The Florida Anise-trees seem especially prone to collapsing under the weight of even such a light snow event:

This bush was back to its normal shape as soon as the snow melted.

This bush was back to its normal shape as soon as the snow melted.

Snow does a wonderful job of accentuating the shapes of bare tree branches. Weeping and cascading forms look especially lovely. Our Chinese Redbud demonstrates what snow can do for a plant:

Cercis chinensis dramatized by snow.

Cercis chinensis dramatized by snow.

This was an ideal snow event — small amounts on warm ground, thereby minimizing road hazards and cabin fever duration. However, it seems that once the gate to the Arctic Express is opened, closing it may prove somewhat difficult. Here in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina, we are in for the first bitter cold week we’ve had in almost two years. And now the weather seers are threatening us with a sleet event for this coming Friday.

Unlike snow, sleet is never good for a garden. Its weight is too much for branches almost immediately, and if the temperature line dances between sleet and freezing rain, ice cocoons everything. Branches break, power outages abound, winter earns its reputation as least-favored season.

But if the ice comes, we gardeners will deal with it, as we do with every challenge thrown at our plant charges. And if I end up huddled with Wonder Spouse in a chilly, dark house, I will try to focus on the benefits of the cold outbreak: fewer spring ticks, mosquitoes, and garden diseases.

Spring’s sure arrival will seem all the sweeter after winter’s cold embrace.

Will winter soon bring us more significant snow, like this one?

Will winter soon bring us more significant snow, like this one?

 

 

 

 

 

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