Where Have All the Snowflakes Gone?

By Jesse Eastman

Originally Published Dec. 5, 2012

As I sit down to write, the thermometer reads 43 degrees, although it feels much warmer. The sun is shining and the birds are making a ruckus. I’ve already met one customer wearing shorts. What happened to winter?

I think back on my childhood, and specifically, my birthdays. I was born in the heart of December. It was actually so cold outside when I was born that the hospital wouldn’t let my parents leave with me for a few days until it warmed up a little (in the week following my birth, the high temperature was a balmy 16 degrees. The low was -16). I can clearly recall December snowstorms that left more than enough snow for me to simply lie down and disappear, floating on the ground in an icy cloud of white). One year, when I was maybe 7 or 8, there was a picture on the front page of the Coloradoan of a man wearing cutoff jeans and no shirt playing tennis on my birthday, and I can remember the shock, the outrage I felt that nature had somehow cheated me of my usual arctic birthday traditions.

Now, as my birthday approaches once again, it seems ridiculous to hope for snow. I figure if I’m lucky it will at least stay below freezing for more than 12 hours at a time. I’ve been watering my landscape periodically (and you should be, too!) so that my trees, shrubs, and perennials don’t suffer the serious damage that a warm dry winter like this can inflict. I’ve barely even had to scrape frost from my windshield!

Without getting into a political debate on the causes of global warming, it is clear that we are experiencing dramatically decreased precipitation accompanied by dramatically warmer temperatures. Gone are the days of ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ winter landscape care, where we could count on Mother Nature to provide the adequate moisture and sustained cold temperatures our landscapes need to safely survive the winter. We have to monitor soil moisture, especially for newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials. We have to make sure our mulch is generously applied. We have to wrap delicate young tree trunks to protect their bark from our drying winds and brilliant sun.

This may sound like extra work, and to be honest, it is. I promise it will be worth it. You are reading this because you are someone who deeply understands the glory that is a beautiful landscape. You get thrills watching flowers bloom. You know that the tastiest tomato is the one you grew, and the most relaxing shade can be found under the tree you planted. Chances are good your neighbor isn’t as in touch with the awesome power of plants as you are, and you probably won’t see them doing much this winter in terms of outdoor plant care. If only they knew how much better your yard will look in the spring thanks to your small efforts now.

Earlier this week I heard a radio DJ say that anyone who was hoping for snow this winter needed to just “…get over it, it ain’t happening.” As I work through the grieving process, mourning the loss of my glorious December birthdays blanketed in frigid white fluff, I have only one request. For my birthday, I want you to water your landscape. Once or twice a month should do, and run your hose at a trickle – no need to let water runoff into the street. If I can’t feel like a Snow King on my birthday, I should at least be able to enjoy a beautiful spring, despite Mother Nature’s best efforts. That’s not asking too much, right?

Originally published on December 5th, 2012. Updated on December 1st, 2021.