Moments in the Garden-Winter Begins


“Is not January the hardest month to get through?  When you have weathered that, you get into the gulf stream of winter, nearer the shore of spring.”  ~Henry David Thoreau



I usually don’t feel like I have to get through January, most winters.  In fact, February can be the cruelest month here with record snows and cold temps.  And with winter finally beginning in January, I am content to let winter unfold.

For me, winter means a time for contemplation, reflection and changes.  And with this new year, I am making a couple of changes to my blog.  Instead of a Garden Journal post at the beginning of each month, I am trying to focus on views and events in my garden that I want to highlight.  I am calling these posts, Moments In The Garden

Some months will have a theme, and others a compilation of different scenes.  For this first post, I thought I would highlight our winter so far.  And since I have been getting some interesting questions about our winter, I thought I would give you some highlights of a typical winter here in Central New York State.



front garden collage

Winter started around the New Year with a few inches of fresh, clean snow brightening the garden, and giving it a new winter sparkle.   This is the front garden (clockwise starting top left) with forsythia, boxwood and lavender looking wintry.





As we enter the back garden, you can see the snow is pristine and no critter has walked on it yet.  





Looking back toward the pond, the spent flowers, I didn’t cut down, glisten as they catch the snow.




pond collage

The pond finally froze, and the frogs are hibernating.  





And the meadow is covered in snow, looking like a winter wonderland as the sun blazes and sparkles off each plant.  We usually see our first small snow (a dusting to a few inches) in mid November to give us a taste of what is to come.  And then we see snow storms increasing in frequency in December.  How strange it was to have our first snow in January.





I love this view looking in on this serene winter scene from the other side of the fence.  

I live SE off Lake Ontario, one of our Great Lakes, just about an hour away inland.  And we are just a 10 minute walk from the south shore of Oneida Lake (see my winter views of this lake Feb. 11th).  Each of these lakes affect our snowy weather.  And it is usually very snowy…averaging 12 feet or at least 150 inches of snow each winter.




snowy back garden

So where does all this snow come from?

  • Our snows come mostly from storms off Lake Ontario called, ‘lake effect’ snow.  
  • They are caused by very cold winds blowing west across long expanses of the warmer lake water.  This warms the lower layer of air and picks up water vapor from the lake, which rises up through the colder air above.  It freezes as snow, and is dumped in large quantities on the downwind shores, and keeps dumping snow picking up steam as it moves inland.

I thought you’d like to see one of our lake effect storms that happened in mid January.  This one brought 2 feet of snow.

  • The storms blow off the lake in long, narrow bands and then lay over an area dumping snow at a rate of 1-3 inches an hour.  The world closes in, and all you see is a wall of white.  Visibility is so poor, you can’t even see much around you.  Roads are hazardous leading to white knuckle driving.
  • The bands can move north and south or just sit over one spot for hours.  They really are fascinating to watch on radar and out your window.  





Most storms bring us a foot or more of snow.  This is considered a blizzard in most other places, but for those of us living near the Great Lakes, they are called lake effect storms.

  • When these storms hit, schools may close for the day, or just delay a couple of hours or close early depending on the long-range forecast.  
  • But businesses stay open, and people drive to work.  The last time I saw businesses and highways close was the blizzard of ’93, when a nor’easter came up the east coast and spread far enough inland to hit us with over 4 feet of snow.





We have loads of snow removal equipment here, so once the snow starts the snow plows come out, and try to keep main roads plowed the best they can as the heavy snow falls.

  •  Our airport rarely closes.  They boast the best snow removal in the US, and have won awards for how quickly they plow runways.
  • Once the snow fall slows down, all roads are cleared quickly, and we dig out our driveways (we have a snowblower).  Life gets back to normal within a few hours or so.  




snowy joe pye

I garden in zone 5b, where plants have to be very hardy to live in winter temps down to -20.  In winter our temps are usually in the teens and 20s.  There are spells where we reach zero and below throughout January and February.

  • My plants do better when they are buried by the insulating snow, keeping the harsh frigid winds away.  I have had many plants succumb to our winter weather never to appear again, or wait a few years before they are brave enough to bloom.  
  • Hydrangeas and roses do not always bloom because of frigid temps that hit in late winter and spring, when the plants are no longer protected by snow.  It is one of the reasons I finally started planting more natives who love this weather, like this native Joe Pye.




Jan critters

Critters somehow weather our winter here.  The suet feeders we have up are quite busy before a snow storm.  You can see all the critters here puffing up against the cold.  Left is a White-breasted Nuthatch.  Top right is a new rabbit in the neighborhood.  Center is a Cooper’s hawk that is making the rounds of the feeders getting his fill of unsuspecting birds.  And the doves are hanging around the feeders, in groups on nearby trees.





We will see snow and ice well into March where we can get socked with lake effect snow still, and the occasional blizzard.  Our last snow can come in April or even in mid-May around Mother’s Day.  Every year is a new adventure with winter, and this year should be no exception as they continue to say we will have a warm February through April.



Have you had some wonderful moments or unusual weather in your garden this season?





The latest issue of the on-line magazine, Rural, is out.  It is aptly named, Winter Love. rural winterlove An except of my poem, Blanket of Cotton, and a short essay, In Winter Play In The Garden, are included in this amazing publication.  I am honored to be included with so many creative writers and photographers.

The magazine is the creation of Jen@ The Light Laughed.  I hope you will check out the latest issue of this free online magazine.  You can sign up to read the new issue of Rural here.





In A Vase On Monday 



I had wanted to purchase Helleborous niger for a while now, and missed my chance this past fall.  So when I saw these plants for sale, in a grocery store over the holidays, I decided to buy one after the new year.




hellebore collage

I cut a few of the blooms for this week’s vase.  I floated them in 3 cordial glasses, inherited by my husband from his father.  The glass cups are removable for easy cleaning.  I put the glasses in a candle holder dish, and placed a few dried hydrangeas, from my pink Invincibelle Spirit® Hydrangea, around the base of the glasses.  It made a lovely display.


I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare these vases:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday, Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles 2016 and Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.


Next up on the blog:  

Monday, I will profiling a favorite annual flower I love to grow each summer.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday. 



I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2016.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only. 

108 Replies to “Moments in the Garden-Winter Begins”

  1. Beautiful winter photos! I love the critters and the hellebores. We’ve had warmer weather again with rain so most of our snow is gone. Enjoy your week!

  2. all your white cotton photos and collages are beautiful Donna, I am surprised at how quiet the video is, I imagine you were filming through a window, here storms are so noisy, when you have snow regularly then it is worth buying all the equipment and storing it through summer, I am not talking about individuals I mean local authorities, in areas where such weather is occasional the money is needed for more relevant things,
    with so much snow and clay holding onto moisture I can see how many of your plants survive the hot summers, the silhouettes in the snow look nice, as you commented when you had the warmer wet weather, in a wet garden they look miserable,
    unusual weather yes but wonderful no, we are having so many wet and windy storms this winter, there has been very little break, it is blowing out there now and apparently could reach 90mph by this evening, but like you are prepared for snow here we are prepared for wind speed, sometimes the schools close but mostly life goes on, I have been amazed are the wonderful bus drivers we have that get people home and manage to keep the bus on the road in 80-90mph winds, in an open landscape with no trees or buildings for wind shield, leaves me feeling how cushy most of the UK and other places without extreme weather have it, though over here this year, some other parts of the UK are experiencing the 80-100mph wind effect,
    sorry I seem to have wrote a book, your post touched me, take care, Frances xx

    1. Frances I was filming through a window, but the snow is still quiet even in a storm. And yes it is worth buying all the equipment when snow is so regular and when we have so many big storms.

      And you are very observant Frances….yes with all the snow and clay, my plants can handle a long, hot, dry summer with little water. I enjoyed your comment as always my friend. And I cannot even fathom the storms you deal with.

  3. It looks so pretty but it is good to know that you can still get out and about because the roads are cleared. Travelling around Norway was relatively easy because there too the authorities are well practiced in dealing with it. Unlike here where 1cm of snow brings the country to its knees!

  4. It was lovely to see all your snow. I can’t imagine 12 feet of snow falling in one winter! We measure our snow in inches not feet! There has been no sign of any snow so far this winter so maybe my early prediction that we would have a cold, snowy winter were wrong. There is still time for it to snow but if you were here today you would think it was mid spring; it is bright sunshine and there is real warmth in the sun today so I’m going outside to prune the wisteria.

  5. Well, It was 70+ degrees in Georgia this weekend. Crazy for the last day of January. I worked in the kitchen garden and cleared some more privet from the woods. I can hardly move this morning, I’m so sore. I think all that snow looks lovely. I don’t miss those arctic winds though.

    1. No the winds are brutal…and I wish we had a bit more snow left as it melted this past week…the cold is coming again, and the tender plants are bare.

  6. Hello, I love the Thoreau quote. We seem to have storms in Jan, Feb and March. Usually by March 17th I feel like spring is here. Your garden and birds and lovely. I like the fence shot looking toward your gazebo. Just beautiful. Lovely post! Happy February, enjoy your new week!

  7. What beautiful snow moments you have, Donna. I didn’t know you lived near Syracuse — my gr-gr-grandfather was an early settler in Syracuse, in the Tipperary Hill area (he was Irish). There’s still a street named after him (a very short one). You get a lot of snow, much more than we get in the Midwest. Thanks for sharing the views! -Beth

  8. Nice way to display the pretty hellebores. Fascinating to read about your snow. We are much less prepared here in NC so even a small snow cancels school and causes a run on milk and bread.

  9. Beautiful snow pix, Donna!

    Here in Nashville, 8 inches of snow is enough (more than enough really) to shut the city down for days. 😛

    Did I see that you grow… lavender?!

    1. Wow I would say so Aaron…and yes lavender does nicely here if I site it properly…..area that doesn’t sit in water, close to tarvia or brick in full sun….and zone 5.

  10. Thanks for telling us about your particular sort of snow – I have always been fascinated by weather in in all its forms. And your group of glasses with the hellebores is charming – sometimes things as simple as this just can’t be improved on.

  11. (Moments in the garden) yes, I like that. Exciting Winter shots and the movie clip brings it home. Nothing very dramatic here, better watch what I wish for.

  12. So beautiful to see your winter photos. It was 83 here yesterday and today is the warmest Feb 1st in history. Another front comes through tonight, but still we’ve been very mild and dry. Love the bird shots!

  13. Precious cordial glasses with the hellebore, very pretty.
    I love your matter of fact words about snow and its removal. Folks in your neck of the woods take it in stride and are well adapted to it. No hysteria over a few inches – a welcome relief! 🙂

  14. Your snowy scenes are wonderful, Donna. Seeing views like those always makes me wistful for a winter like that but then I’ve never had to live through one, which I suspect might made me appreciate my version of winter all the more. Your hellebore stems are just perfect in the cordial glasses and reminiscent in their way of the snowy conditions outside.

  15. This post is strangely both familiar and unfamiliar to me. Our average annual snowfall here in the Madison area is about 50 inches, and the snowiest single day was 17.3 inches on an early day in December 1990. We don’t really get the lake-effect snows because we’re on the west side (about 80 miles west) of Lake Michigan. We do live a couple of blocks east of a smaller lake, so I think that affects us in smaller ways. Our biggest snows come from storms like this week’s “Kayla” that barrel across the plains and into the Midwest. But like Central NY State, most Wisconsin cities (and some medium-size towns) have plenty of snow-removal/de-icing equipment. Schools very rarely close, and things get back to normal quickly. I’m in zone 5A, but perhaps part of the reason is that we often don’t have the amounts of insulating snow you do, though our coldest days and frost-free days are rather similar. Stunning photos and video, Donna!

    1. I figured you did not get lake snows as you were not east of a great lake….but oh those mid-section storms are definitely hard storms….as you said, Beth, familiar and unfamiliar!

  16. I hope you have good weather this week. I hate the high winds when it’s so cold. Love seeing the sun shining on the snow though. Enjoy your week sweet friend. Hugs, Diane

  17. We’ve been hearing a lot about “lake effect” snowstorms on the nightly news. They cloak you in beauty (something the pundits rarely mention, so thanks for sharing). The cordial glasses are divine…such a beautiful arrangement.

    1. Without the snow cover now, as it melted this last warm week, the current cold weather is freezing the landscape nightly.

  18. I agree with you that January is not the hardest month. In December and January, I welcome the beauties of winter. February can be hard if it’s very cold and snowy (like last year) and I can’t see the end in sight. Some years, I find March the most difficult winter month, because I am just heartily sick of snow by then — and we can get some very big storms in March. Today felt not like February, but like a late March harbinger of spring, with temperatures in the fifties and melting snow and mud everywhere.

    1. I agree Jean…March can be brutal if the snow lingers or adds on more. I am feeling like it is March now with the warmer weather, but we are getting a polar plunge of frigid air in a week.

  19. Hi Donna
    Your photos look like what I am seeing here the past few days–lots of blowing snow. We are having a storm that will last through Tuesday. Happily, my area is not getting as deep a snowfall as predicted–there was warnings of over 14 inches or more, but then the storm is not over. I do enjoy the beauty and quiet of the snow however, as long as I don’t have to drive in it. March is Colorado’s snowiest month so we will have many more storms ahead. The moisture is good and all the creeks will be running well with spring melt, like last year. That helps the wild animals thrive. There is a good reason for it all and it makes the spring blooms even more welcomed sight!

  20. Beautiful winter landscapes Donna.
    I’m surprised how any roses and shrubs survive those icy cold winter temperatures – it’s a miracle.
    I adore the puffed up little birds – it’s amazing they survive the cold too – it’s thanks to you and other bird lovers who supplement their sparse diet during the lean months.
    Shane at Roses Lace and Brocante

  21. Your snow scenes are spectacular, Donna, better to look at than to shovel, but I know we get a lot better crops of fruit after some heavy snows. You are maybe 200 miles from my sister who lives in Highland near Poughkeepsie. One year she fell on the ice shoveling snow and broke her wrist, then they had to take off for the west coast to visit relatives until the snows were gone. Your cordial glass scene actually makes my mouth water, it looks good enough to eat. Some of my Hellebores are making buds and close to blooming, that will be fun.

    1. Oh boy that is too bad about your sister….we call where she lives more downstate, while others call them upstate. A lovely area.

  22. Beautiful snow pictures. It is amazing how everything carries on through such weather. Here everything comes to a standstill after an inch or two.
    I was wondering what on earth you would find to put in a vase under all that snow. Your lovely hellebore flowers are a delight.

  23. Beautiful photos, Donna! What a nice garden you have. I know it brings you much joy. 🙂
    Do you have fish in the pond? I am wondering because I don’t see you have a heater. A pond guy told me my 3 goldfish would likely go to the bottom of the pond, go dormant, and survive without a heater/open water. We’ll see. Hope he’s right. I WILL have a heater next winter.

    1. Thanks Beth… we do not have fish in the pond. We have had too many visitors who would eat the fish and have taken the frogs, so we just decided to keep it natural with no fish….so that is why we have no heater. It is already thawing here so the frogs will be OK.

  24. Do you still have as much snow? I’m a bit north of you, just over the Vermont border in Quebec, and the last few days have been so warm that even the ice on the lake (a big one… 9 miles long) is starting to soften, turning that dark colour it turns in spring, just before it finally melts. It’s been a very odd winter so far… I miss the regular snow cover and wonder what will happen to some of my more tender plants, without the insulation.

    1. We have about half a foot left here and there with bare patches all over. And the pond is melting. We are due for more warm weather in the 40s this week, but they say the cooler weather will return with soft snows of less than an inch….much like the weather we had for most of this winter. I too wonder about the lack of snow cover on tender plants. And if birds will be returning sooner. I already see snow crocus peeking up through the soil here and there. So wonderful to have you visiting from Quebec, Pat!

        1. Thanks so much Pat…and I took a peek at yours too. I can’t wait to explore more. And yes let’s keep our fingers crossed. I know Mother Nature can be fickle sometimes; giving us a cold spring after a warm winter.

  25. Donna, Winter is sure well on it’s way in your neck of the woods. Great shots of snow, dried plants, birds. I enjoyed them a lot. Sylvia D.

  26. I am sure you live in Narnia Donna. Your pictures are just stunning. Learning about your weather has been fascinating and as someone who works at an airport I know just how impressive those guys work. Not that we have the same amount/kind of snow you have but nonetheless they do a grand job.
    That’s a pretty hellebore. I added this one to my garden last year but it decided it didn’t like living here and died! I think I may have been a bit neglectful in watering it and take all the blame.
    Looking forward to your moments in the garden posts – your posts are always interesting.

  27. Everything is lovely Donna, incredible photos and am very appreciative that you link with Today’s Flowers. Thank you so much and have a great week 🙂

  28. Your snow-covered garden is so pretty Donna. I love your nuthatch! Ours are quite different, with striking colours but an ugly flat head/beak! I miss the snow this year, as we have only had a little that got blown into drifts leaving bare patches, and now it is looking very green, although the ground is still too cold for my snowdrops to open. Your hellebores in glasses are absolutely gorgeous – a lovely way to display them. Thanks for such an uplifting post Donna – winter can be so charming!

  29. Hello Donna, your post today brought back memories for me, I lived the first 35 years of my life in Norway so most of this is very familiar to me. We don’t use the hardiness zone system, but the place I lived before moving to London was probably zone 4 or possible even 3 – and in the summer it always had the country’s heat records, very hot for few weeks! Like Jessica from Rusty Duck is saying, in Norway they also know how to clear the roads from snow, but I get the feeling that most places in America are better than here in Britain – they are absolute rubbish here! After 17 years here I have hardly seen snow, but when it comes no one knows what to do 🙂
    Thanks for all the lovely photos and the video Donna!

  30. All our lake effect snow melted this week, and spring weather is back. Not sure for how long as you well know. I do hope it holds out a bit longer since like you said February is usually a brutal month, but March has been pretty bad as well. I so like the new snow fall though. Everything is quiet and fresh.

    1. I expect our lake effect will fully melt tomorrow as temps go into the 50s and it is supposed to rain buckets. But the long range forecast is showing 30s and bits of snow. It looks like we may have an early spring…but no guarantee it will be warm.

  31. Brrr Donna, you have reminded me of our Northern winters. It’s been two years now that I have escaped. I remember looking out the windows (a constant winter pastime) thinking how can anything survive? You have also reminded me of how beautiful the snow is – especially when its caught upon the evergreens and seed heads of perennials. That snowy blanket of silence is the perfect time to contemplate all things. I do miss that especially quiet time. But I have found a new spot to contemplate – the beach!

  32. I like the view of your gazebo over the fence Donna. Problems leaving comments so I’m being brief as I have to check every blog I read and see if my comment went through from yesterday.

  33. We certainly have had plenty of unusual weather – these days is there any other kind? We are going through a warm spell now that has melted all the snow. Actually, it has been gray and rainy for some time. On Sunday it is supposed to be seriously cold again.

  34. Love your first ‘Moments in the Garden’ posting, Donna. Your pictures of snow scenes are beautiful. We had only one major snowfall so far this winter, and that snow’s almost gone now — a most unusual year. I found a snowdrop this morning, six weeks early! P. x

    1. Thanks Pam! Amazing you have had so little snow. And it is gone uncovering a few snowdrops. But we will have cold and snow again.

  35. I feel rather chilly after reading your post and gazing at those beautiful snowy photos Donna 🙂 We don’t often see significant amounts of snow where we are as we are on a coastal estuary. When we do get snow in the UK it doesn’t take much to cause absolute chaos with our transport networks. Here the winter so far has been memorable for the sheer amount of rain that’s fallen.

  36. Really interesting to get a thorough overview of a “typical” winter for you Donna, so different from mine. We get snow on the mountains on the mainland, which we can see if we take a short walk, but I have only seen snow here once since we moved here, and we rarely get hard frosts that linger past dawn. It is a warm, maritime climate, though this year it has been extremely wet too. I love seeing your blankets of snow, I do miss the magic that it weaved on seed heads and shrub skeletons.

    1. It sounds so lovely there even in winter Janet. Glad you enjoyed the winter overview. It has turned spring-like already altho I am sure we are not done even with birds returning.

  37. I loved this post! Your snow scenes are so lovely! It was fun to experience your lake effect storm.That same storm in ’93 affected us, too. We also experienced high winds and white-out conditions. We had over a foot of snow accumulation, with drifts up to three feet in our yard, quite an event here in Alabama!

  38. Your garden is beautiful – makes me really want to check it out in the spring. Thanks for sharing.

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