Thursday, 24 January 2013

Snow gardening

Sometimes you are given gifts which you like, but are not sure you will ever find a use for.  Such was my feeling when I was handed a pair of furry boot toppers by my mother-in-law at Christmas.  Any doubts about their usefulness have now been banished and they have proved effective snow excluders atop my walking boots for the past week.  Very useful for sledging and snow digging.

Armed with my spade and sweeping brush, I have just come in from clearing snow from shrubs - just as well I know my garden like the back of my hand so I can identify the lumpy forms of baby ones hidden in the thick snow.  My hydrangea heads have stood well through the winter, but this morning resembled heavy white footballs and threatened imminent snappage to their meagre branches. As I pinged the snow off, you could almost hear the plant sigh with relief as it boinged back into a more upright position.

As for the cold frame, it has taken on a whole new meaning:

It looks more like a cool box for a massive party than a nurturing place for plants.  However, hollyhocks, ammi majus and sweet peas still lurk comfortably within.  I know because I cleared the snow off the top and checked up on them.  I suppose the snow provides insulation against the cold and protects them slightly. I'm so impressed by the durability of these little annuals though, I think they deserve pride of place in the garden come March - maybe I should make a 'snow heroes' border?  I don't think any of their outdoor-sown contemporaries will emerge to keep them company. Indeed, as far as I can see, outdoor September sowings were a complete washout.  This year I'm tempted to stick to autumn sowing only under cover, or perhaps I should experiment with sowing earlier in September than I did in 2012.  Mind you, last year was such a growing disaster that I probably shouldn't use it as a yardstick for judging the efficacy of sowing times.

Snow jobs for now

Clear the glass of the greenhouse and the cold frame to allow more of winter's limited light to penetrate - do your plants a favour and get sweeping (or digging, depending on how much snowfall you got!).

Unburden your shrubs and woody plants, like rosemary and lavender, of snow to stop the branches snapping.

Make hot chocolate with marshmallows as a reward to yourself.


  1. Isn't great great that a gift you thought was going to be stuck in the back of a drawer or the bottom of the wardrobe comes in useful.
    I wouldn't go using last year as a benchmark for anything in the garden if I were you. On saying that,a benchmark for garden/weather disappointment is about all it is useful for!
    Good that your annuals are safe and sound - I bought a little cold frame earlier this year - I've only a few things in it, mainly plants I didn't get round to planting before the weater turned freezing at the tail end of October. I don't want too look inside because if they are dead I will be disappointed and I don't want 2013 to start off the way 2012 went!

    1. It's amazing how little water and attention things seem to need over the winter - it is a good idea to patrol regularly for slugs and snails in the cold frame though - they seem to love the shelter too...

  2. My 48 primroses was just starting to flower the week before we got the snow, now they have been buried under 20cm of snow - hopefully the plants will be OK but all the buds and flowers might just drop off. I haven't got a cold frame so although your cold frame looks like an old fashion cold storage at the moment, your plants might be marginally better off than without it :-)

  3. I'm not yet sure what is going to emerge from the blanket of snow - my verbena bonariensis might never be the same again... Fingers crossed.

  4. Snow is a very good protection for plants especially when it's freezing. I like winter time with frost and snow but on the other hand I'm really looking forward to see snowdrops.

  5. Me too - in the meantime, I just have to keep peeping under the fleece in the greenhouse to see plants growing. Better than nothing.

  6. When it comes to the hot chocolate, I can follow directions very well.

  7. I'll put refreshment instructions on all future posts then!