Snow is all important to bringing the ornamental garden - and its gardener - through winter. I’ll give you five reasons why we should appreciate snow.
Snow is a great insulator. A good blanket of snow provides a layer of insulation that prevents the ground from freezing and thawing as winter temperatures and weather conditions fluctuate.
Without a protective layer of snow, when temperatures dip low, the ground freezes deeply. This can damage root cells and, if it’s severe and prolonged, even kill ornamental plants and shrubs.
But it’s the freeze-thaw cycle (FTC) that stresses plants most. As temperatures rise during a thaw, root cells are activated. When a freeze follows, the active cells cool and become dormant again. A continued cycle of freeze and thaw is a stress that many plants can’t survive.
A layer of leaves mulched over beds in the fall is a good way to ensure your plants are protected, but always hope for snow. It’s Mother Nature’s cozy duvet.
In the northwest part of Ontario, spring can bring hot days that dry the soil in no time. I always hope the snow will melt slowly so that plants, trees and the water table will receive maximum benefit.
According to the annual precipitation averages I viewed, my community of Thunder Bay receives an average of 73.9 in/187.6 cm of snow each year (based on data gathered by Environment Canada from 1971-2000). I tend to think the snowfall average is dropping; only time and climate change research will tell us. Each winter the snow banks melt into the precious moisture that nurtures new growth.
For that alone, snow is worth appreciating.
3. Nutrient delivery
Okay, maybe you have to be an AVID gardener to get excited about this reason. As it melts, snow delivers the nutrients from that compost you layered on your beds so lovingly last fall – and there’s no delivery fee!
Soil-enriching nitrogen moves easily in the soil. Getting it down into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil is key to boosting early plant growth. Other nutrients and minerals strengthen root and stem growth. Rich soil is essential for healthy plants.
Who knew snow was so marvelous?
Will you allow that the winter garden has its own character? It’s stark, yet filled with intriguing blue shadows. And when the snow falls fresh, it lies like a blank canvas. Garden designers count on snow to show their winter plantings to best effect.
Trees, vines and grasses stand in relief against its whiteness. Their structure is revealed as if by a sculptor’s careful hand. The thinnest flower remnants can arrange themselves in a perfect vignette. Who can dismiss these snowy visual effects?
A good snowfall brings surprises. Everyday objects are transformed; even little things seem to take on new significance. Snow tells them to challenge our inner poet.
Ah, that’s my favorite part.