snow

View looking north east from Mt Erskine area, Salt Spring Island, March 5, 2019 near hydro transmission line

Finding “Mossy Mountain”

“This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,” whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. “Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!”
Kenneth Grahame The Wind in the Willows

A while ago, I wrote a post about a special place that made a big impression on me when I was a kid. My name for this place at the time was “Mossy Mountain,” because of the (you guessed it) mosses that grew all over the rocks and added a kind of magic to the area. I still love moss.

On a cold and sunny day early in March, the Spouse, the Dog, and I took a delightful day trip to Salt Spring Island. Right after getting off the ferry, we drove the island’s narrow, winding roads to a nursery that sells rare and unusual plants, where I bought three hellebores and two blue poppies. Then we turned southward, toward the quasi-urban central part of the island, where I lived in the late 1960s. In many ways, the place hasn’t changed that much. The school I attended is still there, and the layout of the streets was familiar.

We followed roads I had noted on my virtual visit via Google Maps and Street Views, aiming for a major electrical transmission line I remembered. (It’s visible in the image at the top of the post, a view looking northeast across the north half of Salt Spring Island toward the distant Coast Mountains on the B.C. mainland.) There was only one problem — the snow that fell in mid-February hadn’t left this area. In fact, there was still close to a foot of it hanging around — hard, icy, crystalline snow. It certainly made the place look different from my memories, which were of sunny May or June weekends.

Salt Spring Island near Mt Erskine, March 5, 2019
No walking up this hill!

Nelly Salt Spring Island snow March 2019
Nelly the Newf thought the snow was just fine.

But the topography and vegetation were much the same. So was the conglomerate bedrock, which I had forgotten all about, until I recognized it underfoot in spots where the snow had melted. The mosses were still there too, as well as the arbutus and fir trees, the ocean spray shrubs, and the leathery leaves of salal. I heard hummingbirds making their sizzling sounds and other birds singing. In an encounter with a fellow who lives nearby (now that’s new — in the ’60s, there were no houses up there), we heard a cougar had recently killed a deer, a chicken, and a duck. I actually thought this was encouraging. Even though development has crept up the mountain, at least there is enough natural environment left to support a cougar, deer, and wild birds.

Mossy bluffs and arbutus near Mt Erskine, Salt Spring Island, March 5, 2019
Moss-covered rocks and arbutus trees.
Salt Spring Island near Mt Erskine March 5, 2019, Holodiscus, Salal, Arbutus
Typical vegetation: salal (evergreens in foreground) and ocean spray (Holodiscus) bushes, with arbutus and firs in the background.
Conglomerate rock and mosses near Mt Erskine, Salt Spring Island, March 5, 2019
Conglomerate bedrock and mosses.
Arbutus trunk peeling bark, Salt Spring Island March 2019
Arbutus (A. menziesii) trunk showing typical peeling bark.

Because of the snow, it wasn’t possible to explore beyond the road, but a return visit is in order, most likely in May or June.

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miniature daffodils

After the Snow, Spring?

Our recent snowfall is almost a memory. We’ve gone from this…

front garden, snow, Christmas 2017
A previous year’s snow; I tried to ignore the latest one so didn’t take any pictures, but it looked just like this here a couple of weeks ago.

To this…

The last remnant of a giant Pooh Bear made of snow that turned up on the boulevard. It was five feet tall! Sad, isn’t it? Note the dandelion.

It’s still unseasonably cool. The therapeutic effect of warm temperatures and sun hasn’t arrived, although the patient plants are trying to pick up where they left off in January.
The garden has that battered and squashed look produced by two bouts of strong northeast winds, days of below freezing temperatures, and almost a foot of the white stuff.

Today I went looking for photo-worthy sights in the garden and didn’t manage to find much. The old stuff looks tired and beaten-up, and the new stuff hasn’t really started.

oriental hellebore, snowdrop foliage
Dark purple hellebore flowers amid flattened old foliage and gone-over snowdrops. Not pretty.

tulip foliage, green and white striped ribbon grass,
Ribbon grass (Phalaris) amid sprouting tulips (Tulipa saxatilis), which will have nice pink and yellow flowers… someday.

Iris reticulata, tulip foliage, dalylily foliage, sprouting, black mondo grass
Iris reticulata with sprouting daylilies and more T. saxatilis. Also some black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus), which is really resilient and cool but not flashy.

Now back to making lists of things to do: cut down old stalks, tidy up beds, prepare mulch, distribute mulch, seed tomatoes, foxgloves, and verbena, set out new plants, work on the soaker hose revival project, finish pruning… Rush to get it all done before summer arrives.

February 2019 snow in back garden, on lilac and white climbing rose

Oh no! Snow!

I suppose it had to happen. After my post listing everything in bloom in my garden, winter made an unmistakable appearance here this week.

Snow in back garden February 2019
Unmistakably snow

We’ve had a few below freezing days (just below, but for us that’s cold) and icy winds. I’ve been pouring hot water into the bird bath and keeping the hummingbird feeder from freezing.

Winter honeysuckle with snow February 2019
Winter honeysuckle + snow


There isn’t much you can do about weather. The bird feeders are topped up, some tender plants covered up, and there’s a fire in the fireplace. Spring is on hold.

snow, Christmas 2017, magnolia

White Christmas in Victoria, BC

Apparently the chance of a white Christmas here is 15%, but on Christmas morning, we awoke to a couple of inches (4 cm) of white. It was a nice, polite snowfall, starting late evening Christmas Eve, and mostly gone by Boxing Day.

front garden, snow, Christmas 2017

The view from my front door about 8 a.m. December 25th

front garden, snow, Christmas 2017

Looking the other way…

back garden, snow, Christmas 2017

And around the back.

Can’t complain, really.

Corsican hellebore foliage and flowers under snow

A Real Winter

After a run of wimpy winters, we are having a real one, with cold temperatures — all the way down to -2C (28F) — and snow. Snow that sticks around for more than a day. And then more snow!

Most years, I think of February as ‘early spring.’ Not this year! After the indecently mild El Nino winter of 2015-2016, this one must have been brought to us by La Nina, El Nino’s mischievous sister.

Fresh snow dresses up the garden and makes it look wonderful. Even drab or ugly scenes take on a new interest, as though the dead stalks were placed there intentionally to support snow.

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Magnolia looking elegant in snow

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Iris unguicularis keeps trying to bloom

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Ornamental grass “Little Bunny”

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Even a mess of dead stalks looks good under snow!

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Standard privet in pot (25 years old)

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Favourite scene of bench by pond — yet again

 

Slush Day!

For the past several days, news media have been preoccupied with Preparing for the Big Snow Storm, amplifying weather forecasts into a news story. A lot was made of a shortage of domestic salt and “ice melt” in local stores. It’s true that after a fall of ice pellets, rain and snow a few days ago, an inch of ice resulted. A few hardy souls (moi included) got out on Tuesday to crack and shovel. No salt needed, and a good workout to boot.

But there was no Big Snow Storm last night, not where I live, anyway. An inch or two of snow fell overnight, followed by rain. By daylight, it was a pretty typical West Coast snow scene, as exemplified by this 3-foot tall snowman across the street from me.

It looks as though someone roughed up the little guy and stole his carrot nose. One of our urban deer, perhaps?

It looks as though someone roughed up the little guy and stole his carrot nose. One of our urban deer, perhaps?

This morning, I dutifully went out and shovelled the slush off the sidewalk in front of my place, making sure there was a slush-free canal along the gutter so the water from melting snow would flow to the drain. Melting may be short-lived, however. Environment Canada is predicting low temperatures of -8 degrees C (18 F) for next week. I’ve noticed that they tend to err on the dramatic side, so have my doubts whether it will be this bad, but…

But perhaps I should lug my pots of pelargoniums (non-hardy geraniums) inside. I’ve resisted doing that so far, because they are a nuisance indoors all winter, taking up too much space, getting leggy, catching aphids (from where, I ask), and generally looking terrible by spring.

So I muffled the pots with old bath mats and toilet garments (those sets of fuzzy fabric designed to be wrapped around toilet tanks and seats for some mysterious reason*), and draped a sheet over all. With luck, it won’t prove to be a pall for dead pelargoniums.

Will the sheet protect the pelargoniums from Jack Frost?

Will the sheet protect the pelargoniums from Jack Frost?

Otherwise, the only plants whose survival I worry about, should temps drop as low as predicted, are Convolvulus sabatius, a nice little blue cousin of the evil bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, and, strangely enough, Gaura lindheimeri. I’ve had a hard time wintering that one over, even though it’s said to be hardy to Zone 6.

White Christmases are rare here, so the predictions of continued cold weather (due to an outflow of arctic air along the valley of the Fraser River) have some (but not all) hopeful that this might be one of those years.

A snow of yesteryear -- not at Christmas, unfortunately, but February 2011.

A snow of yesteryear — not at Christmas, unfortunately, but February 2011.

 

*I’m thinking I could write a blog post about this.

Old Man Winter Revisits Paradise

Earlier this week I was planning to write a post about the arrival of spring. I mowed the lawn last weekend for the first time this year. There were crocuses, hellebores and even a precocious daffodil in bloom. Even though it was a month until calendar spring, it seemed to be under way here on southern Vancouver Island.

February 19, 2011

Then, four days later, this happened:

February 23, 2011

Between 20 and 30 cm. (almost a foot) of snow fell on Wednesday, February 23. Last night the temperature fell to -7 degrees C (19 degrees F), with a significant wind chill factor.

I admit it — we’re spoiled here. We think of “wind chill” as something that happens somewhere else. Many of us resent snow, especially in spring, already. The annual Flower Count is scheduled for next week! Snow isn’t supposed to happen.

But it did. And it’s hanging around, despite some melting during the sunny afternoon we had today, when the temperature actually approached 0 degrees C (32 degrees F). Tonight it’s predicted to go back down to -6. We won’t be back to normal (rain) until Sunday, and even then snow flurries are still in the forecast.

That daffodil? Like many in our slice of paradise, it’s not very happy right now.

February 25, 2011

Then there are the hellebores — a sad sight.

Before

After

Fortunately, they are hardy creatures that recover once things warm up, but in the meantime, I avert my eyes.