Plants grow under the snow

by Kathy Purdy on February 20, 2008 · 14 comments

in Weather, What's up/blooming

Image of snowdrop leaves emerging from the earth
A couple of days ago, Mr. McGregor’s Daughter was speculating that my snowdrops might be blooming under the snow. I was pretty sure they weren’t, but I took advantage of Monday’s thaw to confirm my suspicions (photo above). There were quite a few more patches of snowdrops visible now, but none are near blooming yet. (For some spectacular snowdrop photos, visit Shirl’s blog.)

But Mr. McGregor’s Daughter wasn’t out of line to suggest that I check. Most gardeners with twelve months worth of gardening under their belts have discovered that weeds, at the very least, grow under the snow. (That is, if they garden in a place where it snows.) Northern gardeners tend to take this phenomenon for granted, but if you felt how rock-hard frozen the ground was under my feet as I walked around on Monday, you might also feel some amazement for the plants that manage to grow in such circumstances, even if they are weeds–but not all of them are.

Image of dormant peony bed in FebruaryFor example, here’s what my peony bed looked like Monday. Doesn’t look very promising–especially those weeds at the bottom of the photo. But there are encouraging signs of life, for those who know where to look, and how to look. (If you lean over and look across the bed, your vision running parallel to the ground, you can see plants in profile that you might not see looking straight down.) Hover your cursor over each photo for a brief description, and click on the thumbnails below to see what I saw.

Image of emerging crocusImage of emerging snowdropsImage of small poppy seedlingImage of small hole in earth

Of course, not everything busy under the snow is benevolent. When you click on that last thumbnail, you should see a vole tunnel-path going diagonally from upper-right to lower-left, with an additional hole in the lower right quadrant. Voles don’t like snowdrops, but I guess I won’t have as many crocus blooming as I did last year.

This time of year, the weather is nothing if not changeable. Three pictures of the same driveway, taken over the course of six days, illustrate my point:
Image of icy drivewayImage of muddy drivewayImage of snowy driveway

Roller coaster weather, Don calls it. It’s been worse, overall, by him this winter than by me, but it still puts me on an emotional roller coaster. Keep those flower photos coming!

About

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy's been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

All who believe that there is a higher part of our nature that is worth cultivating will recognize the aesthetic side of gardening as one of its most beautiful influences.
Editors of Scientific American, 1897

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Layanee March 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm

My hellebore was blooming under the snow!

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Catherine, MyGardenTravels February 25, 2008 at 10:42 am

Your post just reminded me, I better get over to this woodland area where thousands of aconites should be showing their pretty yellow heads right about now. It’s amazing how a little plant can make your heart sing this time of year.

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Carol, May Dreams Gardens February 21, 2008 at 8:52 pm

There are always some nice surprises to find once the snow melts. We are getting snow now, so all the little crocuses and daffs that were starting to poke up through the ground are going to be covered again for awhile.

I agree, bring on those flower pictures, all you bloggers who have them now!

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wiseacre February 21, 2008 at 10:42 am

I uncovered some vinca while digging through the snow to recover the last pieces of firewood. It was heartning to just see the green when I’m still hoping to see the driveway. The only thing now showing are the perennials that the deer considerd to be in “bad taste”. At one time I considered them beautiful poking through the snow but now they’re just reminders that spring is still a long way off.

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Apple February 21, 2008 at 8:22 am

Being new to gardening I was surprised last year that my perennials were green and healthy looking in the spring. My first crocus came up through the snow. Yesterday’s storm stayed to my north but I still have 3′ covering the garden.

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Genie February 21, 2008 at 6:46 am

I know there’s stuff growing under all the snow, but I’m with you — focusing on flower photos, wishing for spring. Sigh.

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Kathy Purdy February 20, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Kerri, I saw hellebore buds, too!

Kate, I am glad that you do love it there, despite the heavy snow. Does it enable you to grow less hardy plants?

Jane Marie, I just wait for thaws. I’d be afraid I’d damage emerging plants if I dug through the snow.

Sherry, look where the snow melts first this spring, and try to plant your snowdrops there. The elwesii do bloom earlier.

Jim, a lot of grasses do indeed grow under the snow. Tell us the names of your miniature grasses.

MMD, they were passalongs, but I later came to think they were nivalis. They do well where they are, but I need to get more elwesii I think.

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Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 20, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Your snowdrops must be Galanthus nivalis, which bloom later than my G. elwesii. In any event, it is cheering to see plants growing, especially that crocus. I hope the voles leave you some!

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Jim February 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Maybe it’s not just me.

I’ve noticed some of the “stepables” miniature grasses I put in mid-summer last year spreading just a little bit more every time the snow melted this winter. by the time springs hits, it will have covered the area I intended it to.

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sherry February 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I need to plant some of those so that in late winter, I have some hope that spring will come.

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Jane Marie FKA Piana Nanna February 20, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I’d like to go and check on mine but I’d have to put on the boots and walk through the snow up to my knees or more. No thanks, I’ll let them do their thing and surprise me later on.

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kate February 20, 2008 at 2:49 pm

The other day I was imagining that my plants were noticing the longer and sunny days and there was movement afoot. Then we were hit with another -20c patch and I am imagining that all my plants are back into deep hibernation. The snow is far too deep to do much checking.

I hope your weather starts warming up!!

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kerri February 20, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Kathy, I did exactly as you did and checked to see what was happening while the ground was bare on Monday. My results were the same as yours :) I did see buds on the Helleborus which made me happy. The ice has been treacherous this winter!
Those naughty little voles are active here too.

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