Snow Shoveling and Shaking

Winter is a beautiful time of year and a necessary period of rest and renewal for plants and people alike. Snow has a lot to do with the beauty of winter’s serene stature. As a gardener or garden enthusiast, snow can help to capture a different scene than is possible during any other season. It contrasts beautifully as it rests on stone or tree branches, and it can really make your evergreens

pop, and make them into more than just the backbone border of the garden. It’s that play of snow and plants that is also a worrisome mix for the person tending the trees and shrubs.

I entered the garden today knowing that I’d need to shovel way too many inches of snow than I want to talk about in March, in order to prep the site for our weekend programs. What I wasn’t 100% sure about was the extent of the snow’s wrath on plant material. Hearing the forecast of heavy, wet, sticky snow, I knew that it would be incredibly picturesque until it became too heavy, and really just a huge burden. You really need to make sure that you’re monitoring your plants after heavy snow storms, or even just during cold spells, or how about regularly no matter what time of year? Let me tell you, walking up to a plant thinking, “please only be bent, don’t be broken” is a terrifying feeling.

Most of the plants in Shofuso’s garden are pretty resilient. If we didn’t have our garden plants get completely destroyed during last year’s ice storm followed by wind storm, then seven inches of heavy snow can’t be that frightening, right? Honestly, I wish I’d been like one of those people shoveling their walkway during the snowstorm. I know many onlookers scoff at them thinking they’ll just need to shovel again, but I’d like to give them a high five. I would have felt so much better removing snow from tree limbs and shrubs in shifts, rather than one (big and heavy) time. Seeing the plants struggle is a little despairing for me. Removing the snow in shifts makes it so your plants don’t have to hold all of that weight until you finally get to them. Granted, some plant material will be completely fine under hundreds of pounds of stress, but if you have some more delicate plants with thin stems/trunks, or long leggy limbs, you might want to take heed. Removing the snow will also prevent it from partially melting and refreezing onto leaves or needles if the temperatures dip. That’s especially important on plants that are prone to getting winter burn. I’m really not suggesting that you remove all of the snow from all of your plants after every snow event. But, big heavy snows that test the tensile strength of limbs, or cakes of snow that may end up enhancing your winter burn? I am definitely suggesting that you remove those if you can do so safety.

If you’re a little squeamish, you may not want to look at the photos from the garden today. The least of my worries, although it’s always very noticeable, is the ache of the bamboo. Bamboo cries wolf though, bending even when it’s only wet from rain. I’m mostly concerned about the bend of azaleas, and that of the Japanese red and black pines. If your black pines are bending, you definitely have issues. I’m even concerned about the towering eastern white pines because they are prone to breaking and will crush whatever is down below. There’s not much I can really do about that except hope that it doesn’t happen. I mainly use my gloved hands or a broom to remove snow from trees and shrubs that are reachable. I’m also decked out in snow pants and make sure that the hood of my coat is on and secure. Snow dumping on your head and into your coat is not fun. Spring starts in 15 days. Who else is ready?