Last Saturday morning I was raking leaves, cutting back perennials, grooming beds, putting away lawn furniture-all the things one would expect a gardener to do in October. We hadn’t even seen a frost here in my yard. By 8:00 pm that night I was shoveling snow that was over my boot tops, which is something I’ve never done in October. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, this is the first time since records began in 1860 that an inch or more of snowfall has been recorded during the month of October. But there I was, 2 months before Christmas on a quiet autumn night, shoveling snow and listening to the frequent snap, whoosh, and thud of big branches falling in the woods that surround my house.
The next morning I was thankful that I hadn’t lost power as over a quarter million others in New Hampshire had. A look out any window told me I’d be repeating the shoveling of last night, and a yardstick told me that 15 inches of snow had fallen. A quick survey of the yard revealed several shrubs flattened by the weight of the snow. I shook the snow off the lilacs, azaleas and Forsythia, but summer bloomers like hydrangea, elderberry and weigela I left alone. Since this is their first year in the ground they will be pruned back quite hard in spring, so a few bent branches now won’t matter.
The trees along the perimeter of the forest made it through the storm without losing hardly a twig, but I know that deeper into the woods some major branches are waiting for me. The snow is too deep right now, so they will have to wait until spring. The maple in the front yard, full of pumpkin orange leaves Saturday morning, had shed most of them by Sunday afternoon and they looked an even deeper orange against the white snow.
At least we fared better than they did in Central Park in New York; according to the news they had one thousand trees damaged, which is devastating. A walk around my neighborhood revealed a few bent paper birches, but not much in the way of serious damage. Birches will straighten right up if the snow that pins the top to the ground melts right away, otherwise they may need gentle human intervention and ropes to once again stand straight. I pulled the top of one tree out of the snow and it sprang back quite a bit. In a day or two it should be standing straight up. A drive around town revealed that many neighborhoods weren’t as lucky as mine; I saw some large oak and maple limbs that had broken off one hundred year old trees.
Weather forecasts are something I’m always leery of because they, especially for the first snow storm of the season, always seem to be full of hype. So, when I heard “historic” and “once in a century” about this storm my first thought was that it was just more hype. Wow, was I wrong!