The Dead of Winter

Our first snow of the season arrived this weekend. Only five or so inches fell, but it was enough to coat the world in white and to add an icy layer to sidewalks and roads. I want to say that it came late this year, but after many years of gardening and weather watching, one thing I have come to understand, is that no two winters are ever the same here on Long Island. Last winter was one of the snowiest on record, with the white stuff on the ground in some form or another from before Thanksgiving until into early spring. This year is the polar opposite, with mild temperatures and no snow until now. We have had only a few days of very cold weather to challenge outdoor plants and to keep the furnace going. No complaints there.
With so many factors in the mix, the tracking of Arctic air masses, moisture from the Gulf, the moderating effect of the Atlantic ocean, the positioning of the jet stream, it is rare that any two winters resemble one another. It is hard to reliably use weather 'averages' in anything but a very general way. A killing frost may strike early one year, taking out all but the toughest annuals, and then be followed by weeks of frost free weather. In other years, I have had annuals blooming well into December. This year many of the landscape rose varieties were in flower right up until Christmas.
It would be great if this pattern of mild temps were to continue, but you never know. Many winters have done a complete 360 and there is still plenty of time at this point to get more than our share of nasty weather. At least abundant snowfall acts to insulate and protect garden plants, as opposed to a precipitation free, yet bitter cold weather pattern that can really test even the toughest landscape residents. Only time will tell. Until the arrival of spring, I'll have to get my 'plant fix' from my job in a wholesale greenhouse, my indoor collection at home and reading blogs of gardens in warmer climates.


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