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What?!?!

October 30, 2011

Fall was slow to arrive in south central Pennsylvania this year. Throughout September, we experienced week after week of above average temperatures and record-breaking rainfall. In October, the rain finally slowed down, but temperatures remained above average. I have been longing for the crisp, cool blue and gold days of fall. And then, this week, the weather forecasters started talking about snow. What?!?! What happened to fall? Fall foliage in snow, Gettysburg PA, Oct. 29 2011 (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

October snow is not new to me. In my native New England, it is unusual but not rare – probably about one October snowfall in a decade. But I am hundreds of miles south of New England, on the Mason-Dixon line. In this part of Pennsylvania, the last time measurable snow fell in October was in 1972. And the three October snowfalls on record, like the October snowfalls I remember in New England, were all in the range of about 1-2”. When I went to bed on Friday night, the weather forecasters were predicting 4-8” here; and by the time I woke up Saturday morning, that estimate had been revised upward to 6-10”. Yikes!**

Despite my grumpiness at being robbed of fall, I love winter and I love snow, and I couldn’t help being thrilled by the winter scene I awoke to yesterday morning. Because we haven’t had frost yet here, flowers were still trying to bloom through the snow in my garden. So the scene outside was reminiscent of spring snowfalls.

Morning glories blooming in the snow (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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The morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor) were still blooming on the fence. How strange to see this juxtaposition of snow and tropical flowers. Morning Glory flowers in snow (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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Sedum blooming in snow (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) In the front garden, the deep red blooms of Sedum spectabile ‘Neon’ were poking up through the snow,
… and I was charmed by the lovely pink and white composition of dianthus and annual geranium (Pelargonium) blooming in a snow-covered container. Annuals blooming in snow-covered container (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
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I had planned to get out this weekend and mow the grass one last time before winter. Oops; I guess not!

**These estimates turned out to be wildly exaggerated; we ended up with about 2.5” of snow; but even 2-3” of heavy, wet snow was enough to knock out my electrical service and internet for most of the afternoon and evening.

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. sequoiagardens permalink
    October 30, 2011 6:59 am

    Fascinating,Jean, and about as foreign to me as would be hippos in the garden to you… However I could wryly relate to being without power and was surprised to hear it happens too in urban USA. When we are powerless for hours after an electric storm I always say it’s part of rural life in a 3rd world country!

    • November 2, 2011 10:26 pm

      Jack, Power outages are actually fairly common in the United States, because power lines are mostly strung from pole to pole above ground and run for long distances. In the mid-1970s, I lived in a house that was the second to the last one on an 8-mile power run out of a nearby city; whenever anything went wrong anywhere along those 8 miles, we lost power. The most common causes of outages are cars crashing into the power poles and storms (high wind in summer and fall; snow and ice in winter) that bring trees down on top of power lines. Winter storms are particularly difficult because it is so hard to repair the wires in snow and ice; as of this evening, several days after the storm, there were still over a million households spread across 7 states who were without power.

  2. October 30, 2011 8:16 am

    Jean how beautiful to look at but I am glad the storm did not come as far west so I could escape it. Too much planting going on in the garden still for me even with the below freezing temps at night. Glad to see you have power back (I hope)!!

  3. October 30, 2011 9:29 am

    Guessing you are well organised for power failures. Strange how lost we feel, when the power fails. We are also having a chilly week. But not SNOW chilly!

    • November 2, 2011 10:29 pm

      Donna, It was pretty to look at, but too early! I was glad that my power came back on after only about 8 hours. I’m also happy that the snow has mostly melted, I still have a few flowers in bloom (even after a couple of frosty nights), and we’re now having some nice fall weather.

      Diana, I am well-prepared for power failures in Maine, but not here in Gettysburg. I didn’t even have a flashlight in the house. I did have lots of candles, but had trouble finding matches to light them. (Fortunately I still had a few hours of daylight after the power failed to get myself organized.)

  4. October 30, 2011 10:05 am

    Oh-la-la! Incredible! The weather always has some surprises for us. It is sad to see all the flowers under the snow. You stay warm Jean!

  5. Jess permalink
    October 30, 2011 10:12 am

    No fall for you? That is the only bad part about this story, because its the BEST season, IMO. What are great about these kind of snows (If I can recall) is that they are beautiful, and everything goes quiet, then 2 days later its like nothing ever happened, and you get to skip all the grey sludge mushiness.

    • November 2, 2011 10:33 pm

      Tatyana, This was certainly a surprise! Surprisingly, some of my flowers (sedum and dianthus) have survived the snow and cold temps and are still blooming — not the morning glories, though; they got zapped by frost the night after the snowfall.

      Jess, I may have been premature in claiming to have been robbed of fall. The past couple days have featured sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures in the fifties. Fall is definitely my favorite season — probably overdetermined by being a kid who loved school and grew up in New England. .

  6. October 30, 2011 12:56 pm

    We had heavy snow come in on Wednesday, but it’s Colorado and practically required for October. I love that you were able still to catch some blooms.

  7. October 30, 2011 6:52 pm

    Glad you have your power back. Your scenes are lovely!

  8. October 30, 2011 7:28 pm

    I have memories of October snowfalls of substantial amounts in Cleveland, courtesy of Lake Erie. It is kind of a nice thing, even though I am not a winter fan.

    • November 2, 2011 10:35 pm

      Patricia and Jim, I do realize that there are places where October snowfalls are routine; but this is not one of them. I like winter, but I was caught totally off-guard by this!

      Jayne, It was lovely — but I’m hoping the snow will go away for a while and come back in a month or two.

  9. October 30, 2011 8:54 pm

    I’m so glad you received less than forecasted! We just ended up with a day of freezing temps and nonstop rain and sleet. You wrote in a post a long while back that you view your gardens as rough drafts to be edited and not the final copy. That had a huge impact on me! THANKS!!!

  10. October 31, 2011 1:36 pm

    Well although Autumn has passed you by at least you are one of the Lucky ones who likes Winter. I am looking to add one of your garden pictures and a link to your blog on my Your Gardens page. Let me know if you would rather have it removed. alistair

    • November 2, 2011 10:36 pm

      Tammy, What a nice thing for you to say! I’m a teacher, so the idea that something I’ve said or written has been helpful to someone else means a lot to me.

      Alistair, I’d be honored to be added to your “Your Gardens” page. What nice company to be in!

  11. Mary Murphy permalink
    October 31, 2011 3:09 pm

    Hello Jean: I recently discovered your site via May Dreams Gardens, and am glad that I did. At home in Westchester County, NY (Zone 6), we also had an October snowstorm on Saturday, receiving over 8 inches of wet, heavy snow that caused large branches of nearby trees to come crashing down – one of which took out my beautiful “Summer Snowflake” Viburnum – 😦 I was so enjoying the recent beautiful Fall weather and was so happy that all of my Dragon Wing Begonias were still in full bloom since we had not yet had any killing frost. Alas, they are not blooming any longer since being crushed by the heavy snow and zapped by the below freezizng temps at night. But, we were lucky that we didn’t lose power or heat, just lost the cable tv (which is still out). Sunday was very sunny and mild, so a lot of the snow melted and my husband and I were outside with brooms brushing off as much wet snow as we could from various shrubs. Well, let’s hope for more Autumnal
    weather before the real Winter begins.

    • November 2, 2011 10:41 pm

      Mary, Welcome and thanks so much for visiting! It sounds as though you got hit by this storm much worse than we did here. I’m trying to wrap my head around the irony of your snowflake viburnum having been wiped out by snow. :-~. We have been getting some Autumnal weather this week, which has been an extra-special reprieve from wnter; I hope the nice weather has appeared in your area, too.

  12. October 31, 2011 6:53 pm

    I hadn’t been paying attention to east coast weather, and when I saw the news about the tremendous snowfall this weekend, I was quite shocked! I agree, it’s quite interesting seeing late summer flowers blanketed in white. I hope everything is starting to return to normal for you there, I know power was knocked out for some of my family living in New England for quite some time. I think it caught a lot of people off guard.

  13. October 31, 2011 10:41 pm

    Wow, this was quite a storm! I do love the interesting look of the morning glories in the snow though. So unusual. Glad you have power!

    • November 7, 2011 1:18 pm

      Clare, Everyone was shocked. It’s now more than a week after the storm, and there are still tens of thousands of people in Connecticut without electricity; so it seems as though Connecticut Light and Power was caught off guard. Amazingly, the power never went out at my house in Maine. When I was there this past weekend, there were almost no signs of the big storm a week earlier.

      Indie, I did enjoy the sight of the morning glories in the snow. The night after the snow, we finally had frost, so the vines are now hanging blackened on the fence (but I know by late October that their days are numbered).

  14. November 1, 2011 1:27 pm

    ((It looks more like – Start again from the beginning. VERY quiet at Blotanical.))

  15. November 1, 2011 4:52 pm

    Snow is definitely a surprise in October. We were supposed to get a dusting, but it never came. Although I love snow, I am not sure I was ready for it now. Maybe next month we will get some. Your beauties seem to stand up to the snow as if to say, “Nope, not now.”

  16. November 1, 2011 6:15 pm

    Isn’t it just like mother nature to throw a curve ball like this? Your photos depict a beautiful setting even if it is on the very early side. 🙂

  17. November 1, 2011 7:48 pm

    It’s amazing how the snow came down in so many places in such significant amounts and so early. We were one of the lucky ones, just a rain storm here, but I was shaking in my boots anyway. It’s only a matter of time before we get ours. Love the photo of the morning glories in their snowy attire.

    • November 7, 2011 1:23 pm

      Michelle, I think this is one snow storm you can count yourself lucky to have missed. Like you, I love winter snow — but October is not winter!

      Grace, It was pretty. When I look at that photo of the fence full of morning glories, though, my mind has trouble accepting the fact that the white in the background is snow.

      Marguerite, I’m amazed that you escaped with rain only; it looked like the storm was headed straight for the Maritimes after it left New England. I’m glad I was able to capture the image of the snow-covered morning glories — especially because it’s a sight I hope never to see again :-).

  18. November 2, 2011 3:41 pm

    Wow! crazy weather! We were to have had snow last night, but the ground is so warm from a previous 72 degree day that it melted as it fell. We needed the moisture. Keep warm. Jean, do you have a favorite reblooming red rose. I have a spot for one. Thanks

  19. November 3, 2011 11:54 am

    I was thinking of you because Michael and I were in Maine for the storm. Out on the island it was a true nor’easter and rivaled Irene with 50 mph winds–a little scary. The funny thing was, although it snowed all night, when we woke up there was no snow on our island. We could see snow covering the islands inland from us by just 1/2 mile. But the warm ocean surrounding our island melted the snow. There was more snow closer and closer to the coast and then on the coast with 6″ in Freeport and 22″ in Concord NH. Probably a lot of snow at your house.

  20. November 6, 2011 11:35 pm

    For anyone from the NE part of the US, “Nor’ Easter” is all that has to be said. It’s not ‘snow’ – it’s a wallop! Winter is always a treat – around Christmas; October – maybe not so much! (The pictures are beautiful!)

    • November 7, 2011 1:31 pm

      Gloria, Crazy weather, indeed! Both here in PA and at my house in Maine, most traces of the snow are gone. I still have some patches in my front yard in Gettysburg, which is on the north side of the house and where the icy slush shoveled from the parking area got piled. Alas, I don’t have a favorite rose because, while I love roses, I have always been too intimidated to try growing them.

      Carolyn, What a time to be on the island! I was almost in Maine for the storm. When I didn’t finish all my fall chores over Columbus day weekend, I decided to come back in a few weeks to get the rest done. My choices were the weekend of Oct. 29 and the weekend of Nov. 5; thank goodness the airfares were much less for the weekend of Nov. 5! When I got home this weekend, there was little sign of the storm left at my house — a few little patches of snow, and the small birch tree that got uprooted by Irene and was hung up in a pine tree came down in the serenity garden (happily missing all the shrubs and just falling on perennials).

      Shyrlene, I think there should be a law that snow can’t fall until after Thanksgiving but must come before Christmas — kind of like Camelot.

  21. November 15, 2011 11:43 am

    Jean, I do not recall snow in October here in the thirty plus years I have lived here. Maybe a few flurries but not real snowfall. You have a lovely dusting there (or did) your morning glories look really beautiful wearing a white mantle. I wonder what your Maine garden looked like. We had over two feet here! But luckily it is all gone now.

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  1. Not Yet Winter: GBBD, November 2011 « Jean's Garden

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