New England is well into the snowiest month on record. Talk has moved on from complaining about the amount of snow (over 100 inches!) to measuring the human misery caused by the snow.
My garden is blanketed in snow, like the rest of the region. The snow cover has erased almost all definition. The garden aspects of winter interest I so carefully designed are invisible, irrelevant and some are vulnerable because of the snow.
This winter, none of that matters to me. The snow itself is a wizard of interest. Because of the snow, my garden changes without any input or effort on my part. I don’t touch it but everyday there are changes. Some would look out over my garden and see only white. I like to look and see what only the snow can show. Depending on the time of day and the light conditions I can – or cannot – see shadows. Ephemerals themselves they change moment by moment. If there is wind there will be wind patterns on the snow. Changes in temperature will stiffen or soften the snow, causing it to change shape. Animals will continue their migratory habits creating footprints, which allows me to play the guessing game: which animal was it? Where is she going? What is she eating in my garden? Fresh snow collects on tree branches and fence posts maintaining a miraculous balancing act. Icicles may hang from deciduous branches, or encase evergreen leaves. Sound is impacted by snow – open the door to your garden during a snowfall – there is a unique stillness only ever heard during a snowfall. The elements of wind temperature light – create subtle but constant changes every moment of the day and night. We as gardeners strive to maintain some control over the appearance of our garden, but once again nature, this winter it is the snow, which eliminates all illusions that we can control our garden environment. More so than wind, or rain or drought – each of which we can attempt to influence with wind guards, or drainage or irrigation, there is nothing we can do to challenge the snow. We must let it fall and, mostly, let it lay where it falls. With time it will disappear, causing as much havoc in its departure as it did with its arrival. But, while it is here it is a marvel to behold. Snow is the greatest garden ephemeral. We cannot buy it, plant it, or schedule it. We cannot foresee it; we cannot influence its behavior. Many winters it does not visit. We can only marvel at it. With the passage of time and the seasons, the snow will go and our planned, purchased, manipulated and groomed gardens will reemerge. Come spring I will be reanimated by the re – growth of my garden, and all the hard work it represents. I will feel rewarded. And I will appreciate the miracle of rebirth more this spring because of this historic snowfall. I will try to miss the snow when it’s gone, but I won’t. I will appreciate it while it’s here, and enjoy its myriad personalities. And remember that like everything in a garden, it will have its time, and then be gone.