Our Back Yard During
A Snowy Week in January


Snowy BenchThe bench in our back yard gives a good impression of the depth the snow reached in January 2004. It hadn't yet stopped snowing until way after dark when I could no longer take pictures, so it was finally a little deeper than this first photo conveys. In Seattle they had a warm rain that turned it all to slush, which then froze & caused considerable difficulty for automobiles. But for us on the West Sound there was no rainfall for four days, & those of us who live on steep hills were snowed in for three days, which was actually kind of lovely.

Our previous snow storm was a couple years ago & amounted to perhaps eight inches that lasted no more than two days before a warm rain eradicated all of it. That year rain added so much weight to the snow that a large-enough-to-walk-under snow-covered cotoneaster was weighted nearly to the ground & had afterward to have an arbor built under it in order to restore its height, & there's a spiffy snowy-day page about that event on the page entitled Adventures of a Cotoneaster Arbor. That was quite a lovely snowfall, but the next year there was no more than a disappointing dusting of snow that barely even stuck to the ground.

Never being certain of much snowfall in any given year means that when it happens, it's much more a surprise & a joy than ever it is a burden. It also means no one's quite used to it & our schools, bus system, & pretty much the whole town, shuts down for the duration, which always seems amusing to me since I've driven about in multiple feet of snow rather than mere inches, in Idaho & Wisconsin, & life would not come to a hault in these places over the mere inches we experience along Puget Sound.


Back YardFor January 2004, immediately after New Years, we initially had about four inches of shortlived snow, but that was followed within the week by a whopping eleven inches & no warm rain to melt it until four days later. We drove nowhere, but stayed home & enjoyed watching children sledding down the steep road in front of our house.

In many parts of the country this amount of snow would be regarded as nothing much. But in our hilly region eleven inches is a once-a-decade storm, twice what is usually expected, every other year or so, & enough to shut down schools & paralyze the cities & towns. For whoever gets to stay home & play, it is of course quite a joyous change of winter's pace, & it never lasts a great long while.

The second photo shows the back yard viewed facing north from atop the high deck-porch. The photo was snapped through limbs of a vine maple, & showing the triple-leadered top of the Cedar of Lebanon further along the gardens. The small tree-like shrub near the small wooden bench is a winter-blooming Dawn Viburnum, but the photo didn't bring out the pink flowers all over it. If you follow the links to the vine maple, cedar, & viburnum, you will see more photos of snowy days.


Back YardHere's an edge of the back yard, shot about a week earlier, the day after the first minor snowfall which was a mere foretaste of the stormier snowfall that would follow. The vine maple is just outside the picture & several other shrubs are also just outside the left side of the frame, including the Black Swan Beech & a Butternut Winterhazel against the house.

The photo was snapped from the opposite direction of the photo immediately above, this time facing south toward the deck. Beside the wooden stairs to the deck is an "Sea Shell" Abutilon which has not only proven itself hardy & evergreen in our yard, but blooms right through winter, & doesn't get scruffy until the start of spring. The twiggy bush in the shadows of the foreground is Whitethroat deciduous azalea, & the Cedar of Lebanon is immediately behind that. Whether it's the the abutilon & dawn viburnum abloom in winter, or the twiggy leafless beauty of the Whitethroat azalea & the Winterhazel & amp twisty branches of the Black Swan Beech, we've attempted to include in this gardened yard things that keep it exciting even in the winter.


Passionflower VineThe passionflower vine isn't always fully evergreen in our zone, but some specimens are more winter-rugged than others, & we got lucky getting one that blooms until deep into autumn then loses hardly any leaves through winter. Its trellis held a lot of the snowfall in a very attractive manner, thick over the top of the vines' deep sea-green leaves. Much more can be read about this vine on the Passiflora caerulea page,

Along the foot of this fence (below the frame of the photo) are several small-sized azaleas, snowdrops, a groundcover of evergreen ornamental strawberry, & suchlike, most of it buried under a thick blanket of snow.


Alaska cedarHere's another view of the back yard, from further back & facing north. The main tree shown is the Alaska Cedar. The small tree shown in part at the front-right edge is a Formosan Juniper.

The tree-like shrub to its left is the same Dawn Viburnum in the second photo above. Neither of these photos capture the fact that this Viburnum is in full bloom this time of year, but if you take a quick look at the Dawn Viburnum Page along the Garden Walk of Winter Bark, you'll see the last two photos just of this shrub in full pink blossom with snow upon the otherwise naked branches, a choice shrub for the winter-garden.

An interesting feature of the Alaska Cedar is how little snow ever adheres to it. The weeping limbs are draped with slippery fans of needled branches, evolved for life in mountainous snow-country of Washington, British Columbia, & Alaska. Because snow slides off the branches so easily, there is rarely so much weight as to cause the kind of "self-pruning" that snowfall causes many other trees in the wild.


JuniperThis shot of just the south end of the back yard's fenceline shows in the foreground the Formosan Juniper, which we lovingly call The Sasquatch in the Yard. As a small tree that lives very high in the mountains of Taiwan, it is perfectly comfortable gathering snowfall on its limbs.

Because the needles are a bit sharp, we're training the juniper to grow as close to the fence as possible, & away from the path, which is why you can spot of a length of twine binding back one of the snow-covered limbs.

Beyond the juniper further along the garden is the same Alaska Cedar shown immediately above. There are of course a large number of short plants around the foot of the juniper completely hidden under snow.


Cedar of LebanonUnlike the Alaska Cedar whose slippery draping limbs cast off snow, the Cedar of Lebanon does hold snow upon its branches quite easily, not excluding our semi-weeping cultivar. So too by comparison to the Alaska Cedar when seen in the wild with very little self-pruning throughout their long lives, Cedars of Lebanon are known to lose limbs as they age, really old ones in the wild presenting intriguing uneven appearances.

If you link to the main Cedar of Lebanon page you can see two portraits of this cedar after snowstorms in two different years, showing also how much it grew in the meantime. We do worry that this tree will in some future decade be so big it'll be a danger to our house or the house next door, & so have to be professionally taken down & turned into firewood. However, it's a weeping cultivar that would never under any circumstances be as big as the wild tree, & though it's putting on well over a foot of height each year right now during its youth, it'll slow down eventually, & probably not be too big for the yard in what remains of my lifetime.

There is another full page of snowstorm photos on the page about The Front & Side Gardens during a Snowy January.

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