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blog post - snow in the garden



As I write this, warm in my office, Doris is busy outside covering my world in a freezing blanket of bright white snowflakes. It never ceases to amaze me how snow and rain doesn't seem to really fall in the west of Scotland. ‘Fall’ implies it descends vertically under the force of gravity but in Scotland, it sweeps in ferociously on a horizontal axis. Anyway, I’m digressing. Where was I? Yes - snow in the garden.

A layer of snow on some plants, such as evergreens and hedges, can cause branches to break under the surprising weight of the white stuff. However, snow in the garden can actually be a good thing. Most of the temperate plants in your garden are well adapted to the cold. Deciduous shrubs and trees shed their leaves in autumn and root growth is restricted to the bare minimum required for survival. While most herbaceous perennials aren’t bothered if the ground freezes or they are covered in a few inches of snow - they aren’t actively growing at this time of year. In fact a thick layer of snow insulates plants and protects their roots from a further drop in temperature and as it melts it provides much needed moisture for plants.

Some plants, such as primroses, need a cold spell to trigger growth in the spring - a process known as vernalisation. Somewhat surprisingly, problems can arise with plants that are from colder regions as well as those from warmer ones. Our often mild winters and late spring frosts can wreak havoc on plants that are programmed to come into growth at the first sign of warm weather. Although the plant in its mature state can handle the differences in temperature, the new growth can’t.

I mentioned earlier that a layer of snow on some plants can cause problems and perhaps the most overlooked of these is the lawn. Walking on snow covered or frozen grass compacts the snow and can cause leaf damage at a cellular level causing the lawn to turn greyish black in places, like a bruise. So if you’re lawn is your pride and joy, you’ll need to find another spot for the snowman.

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