Snow Storm: June 2, 2014

I had plans for today, really I did, and they did not include watching snow fall then watching snow melt. Snow hasn’t been on the agenda since April. But sometimes plans don’t work out.

The day began a little after 5 a.m. I woke to soft “whump” noises and the metallic clanking of the fuel oil line. These are familiar sounds.

I was instantly alert: Bump or Spike—the young bull moose hanging about lately—was probably munching on the fireweed just out the back door. It’s a great moosey snack spot.

I sat up in bed and saw nothing but white outside the loft window. Yesterday, everything outside that window was green.

Snow on the hillside.

The hill out back.

My heart sank. Snow—and no mere dusting. Whump! That was snow sliding off the house roof onto the shed roof. Clank! That was snow falling from a willow onto the fuel line.

At another time of year—say, anytime from October through March—my heart might leap with joy at the beauty of it. But not today. Just a few days ago, I planted out the seedlings I’d been growing in my house for the past 4–6 weeks. I’d just moved the pots and buckets with annuals out to the deck. Was this snow in the weather forecast? Should I have known? Beats me. I rarely look at weather forecasts. It’s been 50–60+ degrees all through May. I felt late getting things outside because I waited as long as I did. June 1 is the standard for-sure-safe-to-plant-now date. That was yesterday.

Snow on deck and flowers pots.

I moved the buckets and containers with annuals outside only a few days ago.

It snowed for the next four or five hours, sometimes lightly, sometimes with giant, wet blobs. Despite the weather, I heard one of the neighbor robins singing. A pair nests here year after year, rearing their young in our strawberry/raspberry patch, where they eat berries and insects and peck at the soaker hose to open larger holes and get more water. This year’s nest is under the deck.

Robin perched in a snowy aspen.

And still the robin sings.

Green leaves drooped and looked glassy. Willows bent—more than a few broke—under the weight of the wet snow.

Willows bent under the weight of snow.

Not weeping willows, but perhaps willows weeping.

I was distracted all day, wondering how the seedlings in the garden were faring—especially the zucs, squash, and pumpkins in the (not so) warm beds, and marveling at the drama and spectacle of it all. It really is a wonder that plants and animals survive the sometimes extreme conditions here: A fire is burning up the Kenai Peninsula; a volcano is erupting on the Alaska Peninsula, and we’ve got snow on June 2nd, after an unusually warm month, during which plants flowered early. (I’ll take the snow over the fire and volcano, thankyouverymuch.)

Several days ago, I walked through the tundra noting the gazillion tiny blueberry flowers and the white buds of Labrador tea ready to burst open. Now what? Will we have blueberries this year? I wanted to go out and see if the blueberry flowers had all been knocked off the plants or frozen, but there was still too much snow to know.

By midday, the snow stopped falling. That’s when I stopped watching it fall and began to watch it melt. Gradually, the pots of annuals on the deck became exposed. The plants were flattened, but still vibrant green, not dead. Not nipped as they get in the fall when it frosts. They looked better than the leaves on the willows and aspens.

Annuals under snow.

Annuals flattened, but not dead. I don’t think.

Several times, I ventured out to the garden and yard to see what I could see. I had forgotten that yesterday, after working in the strawberries, I noted how cold it was and put plastic down over the plants in the warm beds. Hooray! I wish I’d remembered that at 5:30 this morning.

Plastic on a raised garden bed

Not the right plastic, not well placed–but it’s there!

It seems to have done some good! Oh, plants are flattened, and not everything survived, but some plants did.

Tiny surviving zuccini plant

It lives!

On the other hand, the broccoli, kale, cabbage, collards, bok choi, etc. don’t look so good. Given the rebounding I’ve watched today, I won’t write them off entirely just yet, but they weren’t protected, and things don’t look good in that bed. On the bright side of this, however, is the fact that I have a good many spares, warm, snug, and growing strong here in the house. As usual, I never thinned the starts, and when it came time to plant out, I carefully separated the partners that shared a container, and I have a bunch of leftovers.

The native wildflowers that I’ve been cultivating for several years were, like everything else, flattened, but they’re not dead, and every time I check, they’ve perked up a bit more. Just Friday, I explained to my mother that this is the first year this flower bed really looked nice. Figures, eh?

Lupines and other wildflower recover from heavy snow.

Many of the blooms are still there, and some of the arnica stalks are starting to stand up. Go, flowers!

And perhaps best of all, when I was finally able to survey the damage to the blueberries on the tundra, I discovered this:

Tiny pink blueberry flowers.

Hooray! Blueberry flowers survived!

I had a hard time getting a picture of the blueberry flowers: The sun was shining, and the snow was melting fast. Tiny branches sprang up as snow fell away, and the pictures had blurry streaks.

How’s that for bouncing back?

Categories: Alaska, Gardening

12 replies »

  1. the snow is so beautiful, but this time of year!?!? So disheartening to see your plants damaged. The worst I’ve seen here is with deer; then you can’t blame them, but aargh! Glad to see that some of your plants survived!

  2. I admire your gardening skills and the fantastic photos, especially of that puffed up robin. Hope your harvest is a bountiful as your creativity.

  3. Isn’t it amazing how many of those little things manage to survive such harsh circumstances! I always wonder how so many of my plantings survive over the winter — with absolutely no help from me!

  4. Thanks, Linda, Robin, and Lena! The recovery just gets better and better. I’m watching and cheering for the plants like some people watch sports.

  5. I wish I were there to watch it snow in June. Believe it or not, snow actually will insulate your plants from freezing temps. It’s very strange. Ah, Alaska, land of the unexpected, I really miss it now that it is 108+ in Arizona.

  6. Sorry to see you got snow so late in the year – that really stinks but the weather has been extra crazy this year! Hope the plants survive and it warms up for you soon!

  7. Our temps are back to normal now, and the plants are bouncing back–far better than I dared hope. They look scrawny and sorry, but most didn’t give up, and so I won’t give up on them! The starts in the house look bigger and stronger, and I’ll fill in holes with them.

  8. Hi, Kathy! We were in the upper 60s today, too. It was just a freak storm. I understand it wasn’t in the forecast, either, so it seems no one expected it.

  9. Glad to hear the plants are rebounding after your June 2, 2014 Alaska snowstorm! Your photos were great & I loved the one with the robin.

    FYI – Lake Superior still has icebergs as of June 6, 2014, according to the Wisconsin DNR (Department of Natural Resources). Temps were in the low 80s (F) but seagulls are perched on icebergs in Lake Superior above Wisconsin, USA.

    Here’s a link to the website & story:
    “Seagull-a-palooza: DNR Marine Wardens and the June 6 icebergs”, published June 6, 2014 in Wardens in Action by Joanne M. Haas / Bureau of Law Enforcement.

  10. Wow, Debbie! You guys had a doozy of a winter while we hit 50 degrees in January. There’s just no predicting the weather. Icebergs aside, I hope you’re having a pleasant summer.