Summer’s Last Hurrah and Winter’s Sneak Preview

– Posted in: Weather

There comes a time in the life of every cold climate gardener when a certain fact must be faced: the first frost of autumn is nigh. When this event occurs more than halfway through October–as it did this year, on the night of the 16th–I don’t grieve overmuch. It certainly could have happened much sooner and I have been enjoying every day of the reprieve.

I have a “Before Frost” checklist and on it is cut frost-tender flowers. I can enjoy them up to a week longer in the house, so why let the weather ruin their beauty prematurely? It is Summer’s last hurrah and a way to ease myself into the second half of autumn, the leafless half that my children tell me is called stick season.

Flowers cut before frost

Cosmos, dahlias, cannas, zinnias, and more cosmos, all cut before frost cut them down. Not shown is another vase of dahlias in bud.

I’ve often found that flowers in full bud will open in the house, though I’ve never tried it with dahlias or cannas before. If this experiment is successful, they will open after the currently blooming flowers have gone by.

I’ve already said goodbye to these plants. I know there will still be blooms of more hardy plants after this. The gardening season won’t be over for another month, or until the last bulb is planted, and by then I will be ready for housecleaning season. But what I wasn’t expecting is that the first taste of winter would come so soon after the first frost. Sure, we have flurries in October, but really, snow that sticks on October 18th?

Yes, snow. Yes, really.

snow on deck rail

You can see by the deck railing that it wasn’t a significant accumulation, but for October it was plenty.

The weather forecasters had predicted a 40% chance of snow last night, but I had gone to bed confident that if snow fell, it certainly wouldn’t stick. Boy, was I wrong! If I had known it was going to snow…
Colchicums unplanted

…I would have tried harder to get the last of these colchicums planted.

snow on roses

…I would have cut these roses for the house…


…and I would have cut the heterotheca, instead of leaving it to see how it weathered the frost.

holy moly calibrachoa

…I might have even brought the ‘Holy Moly’ million bells in–just for these two nights.

Because after tonight’s low of 24°F(-4.4°C), we may not have frost for a week, even longer. This may be a foretaste of winter, but autumn is by no means over.

P.S. The snow was mostly melted by nightfall, even though more snow fell during the day.

snow falling in October

It’s rather incredible to see snow falling hard and fast in October, even if you’re certain it won’t last.

About the Author

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.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

~Albert Camus in Albert Camus quotations

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donna@Gardens Eye View October 25, 2015, 11:20 am

Oh no….we had some wet snow but it didn’t stick although we were away and so I never saw it. Almost a foot a half hour away. Good thing you picked all those vases worth to keep you company. I brought in some geraniums and coleus I hope will keep growing and flowering indoors.

Cadie October 22, 2015, 8:57 pm

Good pictures!

Emily October 21, 2015, 12:43 pm

Flurries in October wouldn’t be that surprising to me (as a Hoosier) but wow, that accumulation! Hopefully the snow goes away and stays away until after Halloween so the kids can have their fun trick or treating. Last year was horrible weather-wise!

Layanee DeMerchant October 20, 2015, 7:27 am

Too soon for sure! I hope you don’t see snow again for at least six weeks.

Peter/Outlaw October 19, 2015, 9:36 am

My family in Alaska sent pictures of their early snow and now this post. Yikes! It’s sad to bid farewell to the growing season! While I love the look of snow, I don’t miss having it cover the garden for months at a time. Your light snow is about as much accumulation as we get in the winter and it usually only lasts a day or two. Of course, every few years we get a big storm bringing a foot of snow that persists for a bit longer. Here’s to bulb planting and dreaming of spring!

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern October 19, 2015, 9:22 am

Now that is a Halloween scare! We had some flurries and we had our first hard frost last night, but the snow didn’t stick well except for in Parish and the Tug Hill area. I have never been so thankful to leave winter behind. I have about one more month to enjoy what I hope, is mostly Autumn weather. I will be planting bulbs today – thanks for the motivation! LOVE all your savoring bouquets!

Barbara October 19, 2015, 8:34 am

Oh Kathy, you really did get a little dump didn’t you! Just a few bits of sleet here that you could notice landing on the roof. Like you I’m cherishing my “last ofs” – Dahlias on the table in a bud vase. Bring on that frost-chilled kale! Can the seed catalogues be so far away?

Donalyn@The Creekside Cook October 19, 2015, 7:10 am

Love those vases of blooms, Kathy – the cannas are so striking! Hope the buds open for you – I’ve had good luck with dahlias before.

Charlie@Seattle Trekker October 19, 2015, 12:48 am

Wow, the first photo of snow from the blogging community I’ve seen. Everyone is reporting frost and cold nights, but not snow. I have a bit more time until it arrives in my garden, but it is now definitely coming.

Jane Rutkowski October 18, 2015, 7:45 pm

I was a bit stunned when I read your post just now. We had our first hard frost (in the low 20’s this morning) and light snow today. I now have a few garden beds with shriveled up cosmos, marigolds, cleome, and zinnias. I knew a heavy frost was predicted, but didn’t get around to cutting and bringing any of the flowers inside to enjoy a bit longer. It was the unexpected snow though that really caught me off guard. Although the snowcover looked pretty, today looked more like a day in early March. Supposed to warm to the mid-sixties later in the week though.

In a way, I consider this a good sign. In October 2011, it had been bitterly cold around Columbus Day for a few days, and then warmed up nicely later that same week. The warming pattern continued into 2012 with milder temperatures and less snowfall then in past winters. I sure hope this will be the same kind of pattern for 2016!

Kathy Purdy October 18, 2015, 7:50 pm

Jane, I remember that, too! It was an extraordinarily mild winter, but we did have a snow that stuck in October.

Beth October 18, 2015, 7:39 pm

Oh, my gosh, Kathy! The “S-word” already…. We had frost Friday night, but Snow!?! Oh well, we gardeners take what Mother Nature gives us. Enjoy the rest of your autumn! -Beth

Kathy Purdy October 18, 2015, 7:50 pm

Beth, when you don’t want to take it seriously, the proper spelling is sneaux.