Monday, April 6, 2009

April Snow!

I was all set to post about my traipse around Ann Arbor looking at fairy doors over the weekend, only the power was out. For eight hours. Due to winds and six inches of wet heavy snow that fell overnight. So I decided to show you the winter wonderland instead.

Now, I like shoveling snow and I'm pretty strong, but as I mentioned, it was really heavy and wet snow, and I was surprised how hard it was to lift the shovel. You can see at the base of the solar light above how the bottom layer of snow is mostly slush/almost ice.

The snow clung and piled onto even very narrow areas like the wires of this tomato cage (which is holding leaves in place to shelter my red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), which I fell in love with in Denver but which I think may be a goner anyway).

And you can really see the wetness of the snow, which has melted into ice, on the viburnum buds (which I'm assuming will be OK and still bloom; viburnums are pretty hardy).

I'm not the only one that found the snow heavy and burdensome. This arborvitae was down and droopy this morning.

And this smaller arborvitae in another location wasn't best pleased, either.

And this poor dwarf Alberta spruce's lower branches were hanging down so low it looked like it was wearing a hula skirt with a bare midriff!

But not to worry, the shrubs will be all right. I just gently shook the snow off the individual branches, in a kind of a frisking/bear hug stance (that way the branches don't bend down any farther). I start at the top and work my way down. I have about 20 needle evergreens in my garden and all but three bounced back to their natural shape after the frisking. And I simply tied some thick jute twine loosely around the remaining three, to get them back into shape.

See, the taller arborvitae is tied near the top and now it looks just fine.

The hula dancer was tied lower down and it's hard to even tell which one it was in this "after" view.

The twine expands throughout the season, so I'll tighten as necessary. In fall, I'll really loosen the twine and see how the shape looks, removing the twine altogether if possible. This simple twine technique works for even worse damage to arborvitae, as long as limbs aren't broken, as they naturally want to grow upright. A client had a 12-foot tall and 8-foot wide arborvitae whose limbs were curved down to the ground in all directions, like a banana peel, after an ice storm one year. I tied that one in more than one location, and staked in as well, but it was back to normal after two seasons, with the ties and staking removed. With ice cover, though, you have to wait to frisk the tree until the ice melts or you'll break the branches.

Even though several of my winter-sown seeds have already sprouted, they'll be fine in the snow. In fact, a lot of it has melted already and temperatures are predicted to be back to normal soon. (Hell, this is Michigan. This is normal!)

And, finally, Skeeter had written about a squirrel-proof suet feeder, and I'd left a comment saying that I found high entertainment value in squirrels' Cirque du Soleil-like contortions to reach food. And the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) didn't disappoint today!

The one sitting in dish feeder is a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), which has similar coloring on the head, back, and tail, but whose underside is much paler than a fox squirrel. It also has those big eye rings and is a lot smaller than the fox squirrel. The red squirrel is more the size of an extra large chipmunk and moves more like one (skittish, quick) than a fox squirrel. In my area, we get mostly the larger fox squirrels, with an occasional red and an occasional gray (Scierus carolinensis, which tends to be less red, but which can in fact have a reddish or orange cast to its fur, and which is mid-way in size between the large fox and the small red). Latin names really help here (waves to Frances) because the common names, as you probably noticed, can be a bit confusing — not to mention, black squirrels are in fact gray squirrels. I ask you!

Added early evening: The snow has melted a lot, but some remains. As I was pulling the compostables cart to the backyard, I thought I glimpsed something tiny and pink out of the corner of my eye. This happens to me a lot and it ends up being entirely my imagination or something humdrum like a piece of candy wrapper or other trash blown into my yard. But this time it wasn't! It was a single pulmonaria flower, pink and not quite open, in a cluster of lots and lots of buds ready to burst (and turn blue; the whole plant is almost a foot wide, but this is all that's peaking through the snow at the moment)! Take that, April snowfall!


  1. Wow! That squirrel surely is hungry! A pretty red too. We don't have the red or black ones here in my area, though are not much further north. I hate that kind of wet snow. I too have some arborvitaes. I leave the twine on mine all year. Tacky I know, but it sure helps them stay upright. Glad to know they recover when severely stressed though. ttyl, Hang in there, surely with all the wet the snow will melt fast.

  2. Aaargh - snow!

    I'm interested to hear about the tying with twine to help the conifers.

    The squirrels do look entertaining! We just have grey squirrels here - the only place I have ever seen a red one was in Hamburg many years ago, where they came and ate crumbs off my hand.

  3. Glad to hear that the snow is likely to be short lived. Monica, I am intrigued to know what fairy doors are - we have fairy lights over here but I have never heard of fairy doors :)

  4. Monica....I was going to ask you about the 'spoons". That is really a great essay on what it's like to budget energy. Thank you so much for that, I am going to print that up and take it to my next neurology appointment.....Michelle

  5. You Northerners are hardy stock! April snow is just bizarre to me, and I was born in Ohio. Been down south too long I guess, lol.

  6. We're absolutely taking sides with the pulmonaria!!!

  7. Wow, such a heavy snow in April indeed! The Red Squirrel is a beauty. Are they called Fox Squirrels? All we have are the gray species and they are comical to watch trying to get to the suet cakes. But since we now have our cakes secured from the little critters, they entertain me in other ways. It is fun to watch them trying to break the code and I know one day, they will crack that code and put my mind back to work again. Thanks for the link :-) and keep warm...

  8. Grrr, more snow;-( Yes, you are in MI, but I'd say you guys have had more than your fair share and I am calling for a HALT on further snow. Starting NOW. There, that should do it!

    Squirrels are so entertaining. I do love to watch them; they just bug me when they eat my tulip bulbs:-))

    It is an encouraging sight, your pulmonaria bloom. I just bought a couple to put in the ground. I didn't know they bloom pink before turning blue. How cool. I knew they were blue, so I'll have to see what they do when they first burst open. If they're not pink, I'll know something is wrong!!

  9. That is a lot of heavy wet snow. It looks like your plants will be okay. I tried winter sowing for the first time this year and have been really happy with the results. Looks like you have quite a bit!

  10. There's a whole lotta shaking going on chez Garden Faerie. I see. ;-)

    That's quite a lot of snow you got, over here it was sunny and 20 C but there's no need to hit me ;-) as we are back to our regular programme too: rain and lots of it. ;-)

    It can snow here too in April but it doesn't very often and never that much.

    Hurray for the pink pulmonaria, such an impact that tiny flower has with all that snow around.

    Love the squirrels and their antics, especially as I don't have any in my garden. ;-)

  11. Hi Monica, crikey you got a lot of snow! And there was I (almost) basking in our sunshine!

    I love the squirrel photo - we've only got grey squirrels in out garden and there are only a few spots in the UK where the reds have not been kicked out by the greys, but I can't help loving their antics!

    Thanks for the tip on using twine on the trees - I'll be trying that later on.

  12. Hi Monica, glad to see your evergreens well tended and bouncing back thanks to your bear hugs! And thanks to you for the link love too, although squirrel names weren't really what I had in mind! They are all devils to me. :-) I had to laugh at the candy wrapper being thought a flower, that happens here with old plant tags and other brightly colored bits of plastic detritus.

  13. I am thoroughly tired of these weekly snows. We didn't get as much as you, just a dusting. Our snow is melted but every morning the birdbaths and the dog's water is frozen solid.

    I can't believe your seedlings will survive in this cold.

  14. You and my husband are the only people I have ever heard of who like to shovel snow..LOL.. This is great info for me as I didn't know about tying them up with twine. I have seen it, but didn't know what it was for. I know, I am an infant with regard to plants. I ordered a monarch waystation package and it has seeds for Monarchs. Some should have been started already inside, but some I can plant when it gets warmer. I am so excited about this....Michelle

  15. Wow. You really got hit. We only have a couple inches - and it didn't even stick! My conifers, three skyrocket junipers, were damaged a few years ago during a storm. They come back okay, but they've not been the same.

  16. I think spring followed me south and decided to stay down there when I returned home. Today is the third straight day of snow showers and temps just below freezing. At least it didn't pile up like yours and my snow shovel gets to stay in the garage. As you say - normal weather for the north country.

    I don't believe there is a practical squirrel proof feeder. Anything I can think of would kill all wildlife within 50 ft. and the squirrels would still find a way to get to it.

  17. I used to see an occasional April snow as a child in upstate S.C. But it's been a looong time since then. Brings back memories of childhood romps in the snow.

  18. Oh je, soviel Schnee zu dieser Jahreszeit und dazu noch Stromausfall! Zum Glueck war er ja bald wieder weg. Die Eichhoernchen sind wirklich lustig anzusehen, auch wenn sie manchmal etwas zu gierig werden:)
    LG und frohe Ostern,

  19. Oh je Monica, das ist doch nicht wahr? Soviel Schnee!!! Ich hoffe, dass er inzwischen weggegangen ist und Du doch ein bisschen mehr Ostern und Frühlingsblumen im Garten hast!
    Ich bin gut aus Rom zurückgekommen und total begeistert von dieser Stadt. Es ist wirklich die Wiege der europäischen Kultur!
    Wir konnten jeden Abend mit kurzen Ärmeln draussen essen und auch zuhause hat mich ein warmer Frühlingsgarten mit blühenden Osterglocken erwartet! Du fragtest, was in der Giesskanne blüht: es sind Vergissmeinicht!
    Nun hoffe ich, dass auch Du warme Ostertage hast und grüsse Dich herzlich Wurzerl

  20. Oh, my! You got far more snow than we did! Fortunately, it didn't hang out too long!

    Don't you think (hope) spring is finally here to stay?!

  21. I love how the lungwort blooms are rebelling against the snow. Flower Power!!