It was a pleasant surprise to get a dusting of snow this week in the garden. No matter how often one appreciates the architectural formalities of a Lord & Schryver garden in the winter, it’s a wonder to see it painted white by nature.

For the birders following this blog, I was treated to a rare sight (for me anyway) this week at Deepwood. A small band of Varied Thrushes were flitting among the the skimmia and chasing worms in the lawn. No doubt they were pushed down into the valley by the snow in the highlands.

Salem has had some historic snowstorms throughout the years, especially in January 1937. The snow arrived early on January 31, continuing for the next 24 hours. When it finally let up, the snow measured 27 inches in downtown Salem, with many outlying areas reporting more than 3 feet of snow!

Many downtown business were shuttered for fear of the roofs collapsing. Residents sprang into action to dig out of the snow. The Statesman Journal reported that a 22,000 square-foot greenhouse near Market and 17th Streets also collapsed. Most likely, this impacted plant availability for Lord & Schryver’s work in the upcoming season. I’m curious…do any of our long time residents or historians know which nursery this was?

Interestingly, Elizabeth Lord, who often remarked on the weather happenings in the garden, makes no reference to this legendary storm. In act, her first 1937 garden journal entry, dated March 1, 1937, only mentions the lateness of the season:

“Season late. Crocus just beginning to bloom. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) & Daphne mezereum in bloom. Forget-me-nots [Myosotis scorpioides]  – Canterbury Bells [Campanula medium] & Sweet William fared badly in Fl. Garden. Tulips beginning to come up.” E. Lord.

An older photo of Deepwood’s Scroll Garden in winter.

As a fanatic backcountry skier, I always welcome a healthy snow pack – especially when it arrives on Jackson Hill right outside my back door. As a gardener however, I fear the damage from heavy, wet powder that can break branches from well trimmed trees and shrubs.

I live in the South Salem hills at 620 feet elevation so can get more snow then the rest of town. A couple of those hills are notoriously hard to navigate in snow storms, including Hylo and Delaney, both of which end in ditches that are constant car eaters. This snow storm was no exception as I came home to find someone had not been able to overcome the force of mass accelerating down the hill covered in the slick stuff.

16″ of snow at Illahe on March 22, 2012

I’ve learned that in Oregon it’s never safe to trust the groundhog. Just because it is 63 degrees and sunny in February doesn’t mean that March won’t fool you. I recall shovelling snow off my greenhouse all night long in March 2012 so it wouldn’t collapse under all the weight.

Hoping you all are staying healthy, safe, and warm.