We woke up to a crystal fairyland the morning after late December’s ice storm, but the delicate formations rendered tree branches as breakable as real crystal. All over southern Ontario, where I live, limbs weighed down with ice snapped off and fell to the ground, or over hydro lines and on to cars.
We were lucky–our power was off for only six hours (and while we were asleep) — and it appears that we’ve lost only one small tree: a smoke bush between our deck and the kitchen. A few years ago an arbourist with an anthropomorphic streak likened the tree to a bent but otherwise healthy 80-year-old woman; to hold the tree more upright and give her a few more years, he strapped her main limb to the kitchen roof with a strong leather cable. She was fine, too–until the ice hit and broke the cable. Most of her branches are lying on the ground now, and we’ll have to wait till spring to assess her overall condition.
I don’t know what Eli and Jake will do if we lose her. She’s their highway to the kitchen roof, where they lie on summer days, dreaming of mice and catnip.
Early on I realized that one should never mess with ice-encrusted branches. They’re too vulnerable. You just have to wait till the temperature rises and the ice melts, which took well over a week.
In the meantime, snow fell, copious quantities of it. Snow is a different matter and, pretty as it is, in a heavy fall it’s always better to gently brush the snow off the branches while it’s still coming down–as long as it’s not falling over a layer of ice, of course. You can use a broom to push the branches upward (never down, please) to shake it off. To get to high branches, try poking the broom handle up the tree near the trunk and gently jiggle the limbs to dislodge as much snow as you can. Sometimes it’s a drag to have to get out there in the middle of a storm, but trees that remain straight will be your reward.
Everything was a winter wonderland and as the days wore on I started to enjoy sitting in my green chair gazing out at the garden, especially the low, curving boxwood hedge near the French doors. It looked like a white snake. Then one morning–horrors! –I noticed it was spreading and flattening under the weight of the ice and the snow.
I sprang into action. The broom didn’t budge the underlayer of ice. Cutting out chunks of the hardened snow and the ice, and lifting them off like serving a piece of a giant layer cake, did the job.
Underneath, the hedge had spread like an old woman’s foot, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.
Then came the polar vortex. It made sure the snow stayed around, athough not as pristine as it had been. Now, after a couple of days of slight thawing, just as we are beginning to think it’s safe to go outside, I read that a second vortex is forecast to arrive in a few days.
We’ve never heard of polar vortexes before, and now we’ll never hear the end of them.
The snow, the cold, the short grey lifeless days, have us begging for spring.
But just so you can see what the hedge looks like in real life, and to make us all feel a little better, here’s a picture of it last summer, looking neater and taller. But doesn’t the brightness and the colour, compared to the pictures above, make you want to cry?