Snow plants

by Kate Bradbury

Oh snow, where were you in London on Christmas day? Why are you here now, hampering our efforts to burn off mince pies through brisk gardening?

Snowy mespilusOh snow, where were you in London on Christmas day? Why are you here now, hampering our efforts to burn off mince pies through brisk gardening? There's nothing I can do in my garden, except ponder when the compost heap will start breaking down again.

But look how many plants are named after snow! Snow-themed cultivars include Alyssum 'Snowdrift'; Incarvillea delavayi 'Snowtop' and Leucanthemum x superbum 'Snowcap', though ironically, they all bloom in the summer. We've all heard of the snowdrop and snowberry, but what about the Mexican snowball, Echeveria elegans? It needs a sunny spot in well-drained soil and should be kept dry in winter. And it doesn't like very low temperatures. Hmm ... does anyone have one that's still alive?

I now realise how lucky I am not to have any plants yet in my garden. While a thick layer of snow can insulate plants from extremely low temperatures, its weight can cause branches to break. Then frozen ground prevents roots from taking up water, and plants can die from lack of moisture.

If you're worried about branches breaking or becoming disfigured on your shrubs and trees, shake excess snow from them. You can support branches too - you're probably not using your washing line prop this week, so place it under a laden branch (you may need to wrap it first to prevent it rubbing against bark). It's worth knocking snow off roofs, greenhouses and cold frames too. This lets light in and prevents any unnecessary breakages.

If temperatures are freezing, lift terracotta pots off the ground to prevent waterlogging and cracking, or wrap them in bubblewrap. But it's best to leave snow on the ground - it will be keeping the soil warm and will give emerging plants a good drink when it melts.

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Gardeners' World Web User 08/01/2010 at 16:42

What will happen to my winter pansies under 6 inch of snow will I have to start again after the snow has gone.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/01/2010 at 17:56

This is very nice flower and very strong

Gardeners' World Web User 09/01/2010 at 09:48

Having planted cauliflowers on my new allotment in Autumn, so they overwinter, will they survive the snow/arctic weather? They are in mesh tunnels and are about 6" in height? I also have onions and garlic in the ground - again - will the weather kill them and should I clear snow or just leave it all be? I also inherited a rhubarb on the plot - but wasn't able to get it covered up with fleece before the cold snap. Will it survive?

Gardeners' World Web User 09/01/2010 at 13:18

The good news is that pansies under 6 inches of snow do not need regular deadheading! Cauliflower, onions, garlic and rhubarb will all start into growth again when the snow melts, so leave them alone. Take some time out to relax and build up your strenth because as soon as the snow has gone there will be so much work to do you probably won't get another rest until this time next year!

Gardeners' World Web User 10/01/2010 at 14:10

Does anyone have trouble seeing the Gardeners World Weather forecast? We use it all the time in the Spring, but at the moment, we can't seem to get it - only the page - but with no details!

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