Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Going back to my (snow) roots

Snow - arntcha sick of it? Apologies to those living in climes where 6 months of snow is de rigeur. Us Brits are whining about the weather again. Soon it will start melting, and plants will (mostly) start growing. Spring is almost around the corner.

In a couple of months time, we'll have a good idea of what has survived the cold snap and what has succumbed to the hardest winter we've had for a while. I think we might have a few gaps developing in our borders, but I like to see them as opportunites to shoehorn yet more plants into the garden. Nigel over at Silvertreedaze is to blame for this, with his list of must-haves.

Some plants, however, relish the snow. It can act as insulation against the harshness of alpine living, protecting the plant from the fluctuations of temperature and extreme cold above the snow.

Scientists have recently discovered that some specialist alpine plants can gain more than insulation from the snow - they can gain nutrients. It took a while for anyone to realise that these snow roots existed, as they die off in the summer when the snow disappears, but during the snow season they form a network running through the snow. As most botanists probably tend to go out once the snow melts, I suppose it's understandable that they've been missed until now. The roots take up nitrogen from the snow, giving the plants a head start over other species in the area which have to wait for the snow to melt to take advantage of the nitrogen.

No pictures of snow will accompany this post. I have become a snow denier - if I cease to acknowledge its existence, it will cease to exist. (I'm still having to work a little on this philosophy, as it is snowing persistently here at the moment). Instead, a photograph of something to look forward to.


Anonymous said...

I share your view completely. Snow is, however, less of a problem here in London but getting about is still something of a trial. But, as I posted on my blog today, my Iris reticulata are showing signs of life and promise of spring. Still, all this bad weather gives us a wonderful excuse to catch up with our gardening reading.

Unknown said...

Those of us in the Southeastern US (Atlanta) can completely relate. We tend to have similar weather to England, including this year, with crazy cold and snow....I'm definitely ready for a break! I like your idea of becoming a "snow denier".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not showing more snow pics, but rather the cheering crocus in the color of sunshine. Interesting about the snow roots. Never heard of such a thing, but it makes sense. No snow here, but bitter cold for day after day...

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

It's amazing how quickly we have become snow tired. Not all that long ago we were over the moon because it snowed. Oh how the snow has fallen!

chaiselongue said...

The crocuses have really cheered me up - and we haven't even had any snow here, I'm just fed up with winter! But even some Mediterranean plants need a cold winter of dormancy. I've sown some caper seeds sent to me by Michelle of From seed to table in California and they need to be cold in the earth for a few months before they will germinate ... which I hope they will soon.

VP said...

I'm about a week behind everyone else because I missed experiencing last week's snow and so ventured out into the world of white this morning like a little kid :)

That research is most interesting. When I blathered on about snow this time last year, I found out that late snowfall in some parts is called 'poor man's fertiliser'. Apparently the nitrogen and mineral content can be sufficient to give plants a boost. With or without snow roots I wonder?

James A-S said...

Excellent Crocus shot.
I have found that it always a good idea to blame Nigel for almost everything.
This snow, for example, all his fault.

Liz said...

Snow... Baaaaaaaaah. Had enough.


Lovely Crocus shots, I can't wait for mine to flower, they've been teasing me for months now just snowing their leaves... soon... soon.

Bay Area Tendrils said...

Paperwhites blooming outside my local library ;~]

Ms B said...

I will ignore making comments about that stuff but I wanted to say that I love the photo at the top of your blog.

Anna said...

Interesting post HM. Thanks for reminding us that spring is only weeks away :)

HappyMouffetard said...

Edith, hope the iris come out soon - something to look forward to.

Tim - hope it warms up soon for you. It's supposed to become warmer and rainier here on Friday.

Frances - it will be warmer soon. Spring is on its way.

Chaiselongue - glad you enjoyed the crocuses. Growing capers sounds exciting!

VP - ah yes, I remember reading that now. It makes sense - most plants presumably can't access the nutrients until the snow melts.

James - thank you. Can I blame Nigel for my car failing its MOT today and our burst water pipe on Monday too?

Alice - how lovely :)

Ms B - thank you. Let the 'S' word be mentioned no more.

Anna - here's hoping! At least we're heading in the right direction.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Really, we in Chicagoland have only 4 months of snow - the bit of snow we get in April doesn't count, and we haven't had snow in November in years.
Plants are amazing. I should plant more alpines, I've got the snow & I've got the drainage.

Nutty Gnome said...

Thanks for the crocus HM - I'm really starting to crave colour now!

Even I am getting fed up of the snow - nightmare black ice yesterday, freezing fog today, heavy rain forecast for Sunday, so floods threatened!

I did manage to find one lone hellebore poking its head up through the snow the other day - but it's covered over again now! I hope I've not lost too many plants to the extreme cold. I hope they all grew snow roots - a fascinating fact there, thanks!

Joanne said...

It's to early to check the plants but I noticed some of my pots have been damaged.

Plant Mad Nige said...

I agree about the snow - can't wait to get back on my bike. I'm even beginning to feel sorry for the snowdrop bores, who still haven't much in the way of flowers to argue about - there treasures being buried, still, or not yet brave enough to pop up.

But come March, and we'll all be heaving a little nostalgic sigh at how properly wintry the winter was.

And JAMES - the snow is one thing you can't blame me for!

Plant Mad Nige said...

Whoops - I wrote there when I intended the possessivd pronoun 'their' SO SORRY. I I employed me, I'd have sacked me year ago!