How to Use Snow to Locate Microclimates

Let’s talk about snow. You’d think the American city famous for distributing the poinsettia wouldn’t have to wait 47 years for a white Christmas! But we did, and since I grew up here it was my very first one.

Photo Caption: Patches of snow after everything else has melted mark the coldest spots.

My Vermont-native boyfriend finds it laughable that southerners get so excited about white stuff on the 25th (especially since it was about 1″ deep… apologies to all of you who are buried in snow up to your rooftops right now). Plus, nearly all of it melted by the next day — but not completely.

For the past two days I’ve driven around witnessing yards bare of snow except for a few stubborn patches. How nice of nature to put obvious markers on all our gardening microclimates! I took photos of these spots for future reference.

Most gardeners have a handful of warmer season plants that they gamble on every year and even some colder season ones that pout in the heat. I’ll be planning to put lemongrass, lantanas, globe artichokes, pomegranates, pineapple guava, and Vietnamese cilantro in the snow-free zones and rhubarb, peonies, and English primroses in the snowy spots.

Or my mom will, because I’m moving gardens this year. I’ll have to wait until next winter for my chance… but maybe I won’t have to wait another 47 years for Christmas snow to map my garden with!

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

35 thoughts on “How to Use Snow to Locate Microclimates”

  1. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens - December 28, 2010 6:46 pm

    I never thought of looking for micro climates that way—great idea. Carolyn
    .-= Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens´s last blog ..New Year’s Resolution to Edit the Garden =-.

  2. Kathleen Scott - December 29, 2010 12:54 am

    Thanks for visiting Hill Country Mysteries and leaving a comment for me to follow back here. I’m tickled to find you!
    .-= Kathleen Scott´s last blog ..Holiday Travelers =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 9:59 am

      I’m very pleased to find you, too!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Find Great Plants 2 =-.

  3. Carolflowerhill
    Twitter: flora
    - December 29, 2010 5:51 am

    Dear Eliza, So glad you all were able to enjoy a bit of snow . . . and how clever to note the coldest zones in a garden this way. Joyous Holidays! Wishing you many blessings for the New Year. Carol
    .-= Carolflowerhill´s last blog ..Christmas in Rustic Simplicity =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:00 am

      Happy New Year! :)
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Find Great Plants 2 =-.

  4. Ali - December 29, 2010 6:35 am

    Oh I love the snow, and I’d be excited by an inch of it too! How wonderful that you can locate microclimates like that, who would have thunk it?
    .-= Ali´s last blog ..Figging Brilliant =-.

  5. fer
    Twitter: mygardeninjapan
    - December 29, 2010 7:10 am

    Very nice way of spotting those micro climates. I have always wanted to see a white christmas, back in my country we didnt have snow at all, and here in japan we only get a couple days of snow in mid winter. Hope one day i will get one too.
    .-= fer´s last blog ..Bauhinia blakeana The Hong Kong orchid tree 香港蘭 =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:01 am

      I hope you do too — with the amount you seem to travel it is very possible!
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Find Great Plants 2 =-.

  6. Anna - December 29, 2010 8:26 am

    I adore this post because Mark and I were just doing that this weekend, but in reverse — any bare spot merited attention because it was the warmest. I need to go out today when this batch of snow starts to melt and make a map.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Anna- Snow on snow =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:11 am

      I can see why you’d be so excited about the bare spots — good luck with the pasture (and hobbit cave?)

  7. tina - December 29, 2010 9:01 am

    How wonderful to have a white Christmas here in the south! So glad you got one. Tell your boyfriend from Vermont (I’m from Maine) that northerners really can’t laugh so much since they could barely handle the blizzard themselves! Don’t know why not because when I was a kid a few feet of snow was no big deal.

    P.S. Would love to hear about your insect ornaments!
    .-= tina´s last blog ..Christmas Memories and Best Wishes to You All =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:13 am

      I was going to do a post with some insect ornament photos but now it feels a little belated. I have mostly German glass style ones with spindly, delicate legs. It’s always terrifying to pack them up each year.

      I hope your well-worn, well-loved Santa is safe in his out-of-season packaging. :)

  8. Janet - December 29, 2010 9:28 am

    Very clever Eliza, I hadn’t thought of doing that to find warmer spots in my garden. Good for you!
    .-= Janet´s last blog ..Christmas Snow in South Carolina =-.

  9. Diana - December 29, 2010 12:25 pm

    Nature has helped you to detect which cold and warm spot in your garden with the hint from snow. Happy New Year.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Cherry Picking さくらんぼ) =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:14 am

      Happy New Year! :)

  10. Greenearth
    Twitter: anewgreenearth
    - December 29, 2010 1:18 pm

    What a great way to find microclimates.
    .-= Greenearth´s last blog ..Community Vegie Patch Ascends Skyward =-.

  11. Curbstone Valley Farm - December 29, 2010 3:50 pm

    Snow here would be wildly rare, but I’ve used ground frost before to take note of parts of the garden that don’t thaw as well. Congrats your snow, and Happy New Year!
    .-= Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog ..Weather Watching =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:16 am

      Happy New Year!

  12. Zoe / pearled earth - December 29, 2010 5:43 pm

    Good tip! Enjoy your snow, if it is still around.
    .-= Zoe / pearled earth´s last blog ..Hibiscus trionum =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:17 am

      My sister managed to make a stunted little snowman, but it disappeared quick.

  13. Elaine - December 29, 2010 11:21 pm

    We don’t get snow here in the valley, but once in a blue moon, so I can certainly understand your excitement to get even an inch! What an interesting post – I never thought about the snow being a marker for a microclimate – nature’s guide post!
    .-= Elaine´s last blog ..Winter Beauties =-.

  14. lostlandscape (James) - December 30, 2010 12:41 am

    Gosh, and I thought northern San Diego County and the Ecke family were responsible for popularizing the pointsettia, so it’s interesting to hear about the plant’s earlier history. It snows even less frequently here, so our pointsettias would be frosted heaps in the snow if it did, though I’ve heard that now, in this globalized world, the bulk of the plants now come from Central America…where it probably NEVER snows…
    .-= lostlandscape (James)´s last blog ..thank you rob! =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:21 am

      I think that you’re right — the Ecke’s and surrounding area probably got more credit for it in the long run.

  15. Kathleen - December 30, 2010 1:07 pm

    Snow on Christmas definitely doesn’t thrill me. I guess I’m like your boyfriend and have seen quite a lot of it. Sometimes by then, I’m totally over it. Like last year, we had had three months of snow cover by the time Dec 25th rolled around. Not this year and that’s okay with me! Glad you enjoyed it. Happy New Year to you too Eliza!
    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..a cold closer =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:23 am

      Well, I’m glad then that you did not have piles of snow on Christmas! I’m sure I wouldn’t be that excited if it was a regular occurrence, I’m not that much of a snow fan.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Find Great Plants 2 =-.

  16. Jen - December 30, 2010 3:08 pm

    Thanks for visiting Nyack Backyard and I’m very excited to have found your blog, too! We had a blizzard here earlier this week and there are crazy snow patterns all over the backyard now. It does make sense that the areas where snow is not accummulating will be better suited to the less hardy plants. I think I’ll go outside and have a look around now with that in mind!

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:30 am

      Good luck with your microclimate hunting! And with your “mom dance.” :)

  17. Sande - December 31, 2010 8:18 am

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m new to yours also and am enjoying the thoroughness of your articles and the excellent photography. I also like the sustainahillbilly definition.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:31 am

      Thanks! I’m still really impressed with your birdhouse gourd harvest. :)

  18. Alistair - December 31, 2010 8:49 am

    Something worth taking note of Eliza, my only concern would be that the snow would possibly first melt at spots where the sun is most intense and at other times of day be the coldest. Possibly my paranoia. Hope your move goes well in Spring. Really is time for us to make a move, but we are to afraid we do the wrong thing. There I go again, what did I tell you. Alistair
    .-= Alistair´s last blog ..Sorbus Cashmiriana =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:32 am

      Haha — well I’ll just hope the intense sun radiated enough heat into the ground that the spot stays relatively warmer throughout the day. Good luck with your move whenever you decide it is time. :)

  19. Corner Garden Sue - January 1, 2011 12:00 pm

    Hi Eliza,
    I never thought to check for microclimates that way. We have just a little snow right now. I’ll have to check that out.

    Oh, and I had to laugh about you losing your toothbrush. Did you find or replace it?

    I have the Rose Bowl Parade on TV. I don’t watch parades often, but did more when the kids were young. I’m kind of having mixed feelings about using flowers and food plants that way. Do you watch it?
    .-= Corner Garden Sue´s last blog ..Last Tomato =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:34 am

      I never found it! I’m totally flummoxed. We didn’t watch the rose bowl this year — slept in uncharacteristically late after our party the night before.
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Find Great Plants 2 =-.

  20. debsgarden - January 2, 2011 10:00 pm

    Our snow stuck around in places for a couple of days. I wished I had paid more attention to where it lasted the longest! I enjoyed our snowy christmas, but now I am ready for spring, though it will be February before we see any signs of it. Who knows, however, we could yet get more snow. Twice in the same year? It could happen!
    .-= debsgarden´s last blog ..2010 Leftovers =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - January 4, 2011 10:35 am

      Yeah, it could! Here’s hoping. :)

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