About this time every year folks begin grumbling about winter and wishing for spring to arrive early. Not landscaping professionals.
Snow has innumerable benefits to forest, parks, and landscapes.
Big picture, snow is important for earth’s climate system. Snowcover helps regulate the temperature of the planet’s surface, and once that melts, it fills rivers, reservoirs, and watersheds (especially important in the arid western United States).
Snow is earth’s energy balance, regulating the exchange of heat between us and the atmosphere above. It is, of course, water. Essential, but not a guaranteed renewable resource.
In the landscape snow gives us the sunshine and water needed to grow multi-hued trees, plants, flowers, and herbs. It makes for excellent winter mulch, insulates soil and plants, and delivers a steady soak of moisture and nitrogen to the soil and plant roots (unlike a downpour in the spring or summer which dumps so much rain at once the soil can’t take it all in, causing runoff and erosion).
Without snow, milder temperatures wreak havoc on the soil through ‘soil heaving’ – more extreme freeze/flaw fluctuations – which can break roots and dry out plants.
Snow is beautiful. And meditative (if you take pause to watch it fall from the sky). It brings vast white snowfields, puffs of snow floating on pine tree branches and then melting, drip by drip, off the tips of pine needles.
Snow changes light, shadows, and contrast. Think golden ornamental grasses against a sky blue background; the foreground lit with millions of pure white ice crystals. Or evergreens silhouetted on a full moon night, light reflecting up into the tree from the snowy ground below it.
Enjoy these final months of winter – spring will be here soon enough.