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Let It Snow or Winter's Protective Coat

Be careful what you wish for. We need our winter cold and snow to stay the staunch New Englanders that we are!

Why is it that the first snowfall of the season, no matter how insignificant, can create such havoc?  First it was the plumber and then it was my husband who asked this very question of me yesterday.  Now I love a good snowstorm as anyone from Maine would and should, but I also know to respect the tiny snowflakes that gang up on you in some of the most creative ways.  Combined with very cold water and inexperienced or unsuspecting drivers, snow has a way of telling you who is boss.  Ice is great in the skating rink but under those SUV tires it can really ruin your day if you don't drive defensively.

In the gardens and landscapes all over Sudbury and surrounding towns are planted deciduous trees and shrubs and hardy perennials that rely on below freezing temperatures combined with a good coat of snow to send the message to bloom come spring.  These plants live in a zone, typically zone 5, which supports their needs.  When weather conditions change, the plants do not adapt soon enough and can be weakened or die.  Snow is needed as well as consistently subfreezing temperatures to help our zone 5 plants thrive.  Just like New Englanders know to get out the winter coats come Thanksgiving, our native and not so native plants that grow here do the same thing.  While freeing up closet space for fewer winter coats may seem appealing to you, watching the slow demise of certain native species of plants in our historic landscape and the replacement of them by a new, perhaps invasive species will be much less welcome I assure you.

New England is not just a landscape but a particular temperate zone that is part of the whole picture.  Without our winters the spring will be much less of a sight to behold and our ecology will shift to a point of unfamiliarity and create the same havoc that the gang of snowflakes on your windshield does.  Embrace our changing seasons, drive carefully, dress for the elements and know that this, too, shall pass!

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joanne January 13, 2012 at 08:25 PM
My forsythias are very confused-
Kirsten Vandijk January 15, 2012 at 12:32 PM
The early bloomers in our area are definitely having an identity crisis! My heather plant is in full bloom and the red twig dogwood branches I cut and brought inside for a flower arrangement set bloom and now there are leaves on the branches--that usually happens in March....
siobhan hullinger January 17, 2012 at 11:59 AM
I am concerned about my trees that were damaged in the October storm. I had more damage to my gardens during that one storm than in the 22 years I've been in Sudbury. I'm hoping they will survive come Spring.
Kirsten Vandijk January 17, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Mother Nature supplies storms like the October one to naturally thin out the weaker or compromised trees and shrubs. Most hardy perennials will have little trouble bouncing back from the October event and will even be stronger for it--the trees will be replaced by saplings that were being shaded by the big ones that snapped. Careful pruning always goes a long way to ensure strong branching habits. Maintenance is always better than cure!
siobhan hullinger January 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM
My flowering cherry had the center branch snap off - how damaging is that?
Kirsten Vandijk January 17, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Ornamental trees and shrubs are often the first to be damaged. Your center or "leader" branch being damaged is significant--similar to "clubbing" a tree or cutting it flat at the top. If on the younger side of 7 years or so old, it should send out a number of new branches at the base of the original lost branch but will never be as "strong" as pre-storm. In the winter of 2010/2011 my Japanese maple was severely damaged and a landscaper took a look at it making recommendations of wiring and taping together all the splits. I decided to let time determine if the tree could handle the damage and it survived swimmingly during this past year's growing season without intervention. This year's growing season will be more indicative, especially due to the crazy weather patterns. If we keep in mind that the lifespan of the trees is completely different from that of humans then we will have a better understanding of the role time plays.
siobhan hullinger January 17, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Thanks Kirsten - we'll see what Spring brings!

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