I went to bed early last night, still trying to recover from a respiratory bug that has dogged me for the last two weeks. The wind that accompanied yesterday’s winter storm repeatedly slammed the branches of the birch (Betula populifolia ‘Whitespire’) and flowering plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Atropurpurea’) into the side of our house. The snow, which hadn’t amounted to more than a couple of inches on the ground, plastered the windward side of nearly every branch in our landscape. By all accounts, the conditions outside seemed miserable, and I fell asleep pessimistic about the photographic opportunities that would await me in the morning.
One could imagine, then, my excitement when the sun was streaming through our eastern windows this morning. The wind remained gusty, but its constancy was diminished. Blue sky stretched to the horizon where it met a gathering of clouds that promised to fulfill the NOAA forecast of grey afternoon skies. As I enjoyed my Saturday morning coffee, the sun peeked over the house to cast its warmth on the plants in our back border, slowly thawing their skin of ice and snow from the top down.
Yesterday’s storm began with a few hours of freezing drizzle, followed by a wet, icy mid-morning snow that lasted most of the day. With the help of driving wind, this freezing mix of precipitation painted itself along virtually every surface.
The east-facing crotches of our trees held snow in ice-encrusted envelopes.
Dried Hydrangea heads drooped wearily from the weight of the snow.
Frozen globules of ice hung in suspended animation from many plants, including our Hamemelis vernalis.
Not even the thin stems of plants like this Clematis ternifolia avoided the coating of ice and snow.
In perhaps the most spectacular display, Sedum heads stand tall against the snow, painted with a think icing.
The candles of Pinus mugo reminded me of frozen popsicle fingers reaching out for the warmth of the sun.
At first, I couldn’t identify the dried bee balm (Monarda didyma) head encapsulated in ice, but a quick sniff of the stem (it has a unique scent somewhere between oregano and mint) confirmed its true identity.
Even as I was surrounded by the visual beauty of the storm’s artistic renderings, it was the sound of the landscape that I remember most. As the wind moved the branches of the trees, shrubs and other plants, a cacophony of frozen snaps, crackles and pops rang through the air. Each time, I looked up fully expecting to see some large object falling down through the branches, but the sound was never more than thousands of tiny fractures in the ice combined in a somewhat intimidating chorus.
I had to smile at the coincidence of it all, when I came back indoors after surveying the garden with my eyes and ears. Waiting for me was my son, who was hungry for breakfast. What was he craving? Rice Krispies, of course.