Anyone paying attention to the news this past week knows that the Midwest was hit by a large weather system that brought ice, sleet, snow and high winds from the Great Plains to Lake Erie. As this storm gathered steam and garnered an onslaught of media attention, it gained the monikers Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, and even — in Chicago — Snowprah.
In our little slice of Central Illinois along the I-72 corridor, we were treated to 6-8 inches of sleet, topped with another half-foot of snow. Throw in 40 mph wind gusts and we got the equivalent of standing in a wind tunnel while someone tossed birdseed in the air. After the storm was over and blue skies emerged, the garden could only be described as buried. The hard pack of sleet was impenetrable even by a large adult walking over it. This provided for an odd sensation walking through the garden, about a foot taller than normal while the plants retained their previous height. Stepping over the garden gates was easier than opening them in the drifts.
The garden borders that line the driveway take the brunt of our snowstorms. As we shovel, the plants on the periphery slowly disappear into the snowbanks. The last of the standing Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ barely showed their snow-laden seedheads. We tried to avoid them as we shoveled. We’re still weeks away from any new growth on these plants, and burying them completely would be akin to killing off a character in this 52-week story of the garden.
|Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’|
Many of our new shrubs lost a foot or more of height in the snow. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ looks even more spindly than normal with a buried base. Even half-buried, its golden-brown stems look showy in the early morning sun. The bud-break that seemed to start a couple of weeks ago has subsided; the vegetative buds seem to be growing at a much slower pace now.
Wildlife was invisible during the blizzard. As I watched our blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’) whip in the wind, I wondered if there was any safe place for the birds and other critters to wait out the storm. If the most dense evergreen in our landscape was helpless in the wind, where could the wildlife hide? But soon after the snow and wind stopped, wildlife returned. Walking around the garden after the storm, I heard a tap-tap-tapping in the top of our Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Nearly invisible against the grey bark and white snow was a woodpecker, whose species appears to be the Downy Woodpecker (Piccoides pubescens). The woodpecker didn’t seem to mind my presence at the base of the redbud. It went about pecking the bark of a young branch as if I weren’t even there. I now suspect that the bark damage I saw earlier this year is from this woodpecker, rather than a squirrel.
The garden weathered the storm without injury. Aside from a ripped screen in our gazebo, all the precipitation and wind has left us unscathed. It may be several weeks before we see some of the smaller shrubs and dried perennials that were in plain view before the storm, but it appears that the “Great Blizzard of 2011” will leave little physical evidence once the snow melts into the ground and gives our landscape a much welcome winter drink.