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.