Sudden Snow

What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours.

Also: years.

Yesterday, spouse & I hit the local nurseries and bought two weeping trees to replace two trees that died over the winter. In some ways, it seems fitting to shed tears over their loss and to memorialise them with weeping trees, and in other ways, these is no loss, no need to weep, because life and death merge.


Actually, the Nishiki willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki‘) had been dying for four or five years, since it was attacked by some kind of borer, possibly in 2012, definitely by July 2013.

Here’s the story of its short life, since it came into ours.

26 June 2011 – Planted.

In May 2012, it started losing leaves and we sprayed it with Bonide.

8 Oct 2012 – Looking good, nice and pink.
16 June 2013 – Colour and shape lovely.
20 July 2013 – evidence of the attack.
11 June 2015 – Hacked to try to help it.
29 Sept 2015 – Growing like crazy, though not very Nishiki-ish anymore. Leaves are willow but not with the pinkish tinge they should have.
9 June 2016 – cut way back, all dead limbs removed

After this past winter, it had quite a few catkins, or flowers, but only two branches with leaves. We made the difficult decision to pull it out and replace it with another “specimen” tree.

Here it is in its new spot, in the rock wall, with as much sun as possible. I don’t expect much, but nature is resilient.


We dug up maybe half the tap root … I pulled out another 4 feet or so (and still hadn’t hit bottom) after the tree was moved:


— but willows are very good at rooting. In fact, I have rooted some cuttings from this willow around the yard over the years and they are all growing. Here’s one from Oct. 2015:


The Nishiki willow will be replaced in the next day or so by a weeping white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Pendula’), which we bought yesterday. It’s hardy to zone 2, which may matter as this spot gets some winter wind, and I don’t think it’s susceptible to many diseases. In fact, the waxy coating on the needles that makes it “white” (or bluish) protects them from strong sun and the desiccation of drying winds, which should help it stay strong.



By contrast, the ‘Tina’ crabapple (Malus sargenti ‘Tina’) looked fabulous in the fall but never leafed out this spring, and on inspection all its branches were dead. In fact, instead of digging it out, I simply pushed the trunk and it tipped over. I guess it rotted? The roots were harder to remove.

Here is her story. She was planted in Sept. 2010.





May 2012






May 2016
Oct. 2016

And this year, after nurturing pollinators and birds, and us — she’s gone. Here she is ready to return to the earth from whence she came.


In her spot, yesterday a weeping larch (Larix decidua ‘Pendula) was planted. I’ve wondered if Tina’s trunk rotted due to drainage issues in the spot, so decided on a tree that thrives in a bog nearby and is very hardy (zone 3-6; we are 4b or 5a).

And here we come to the sudden snow in this post’s title, the difference a day makes:  When planted, the larch enjoyed temps in the 50s and no snow. This morning, she (Tamara, for tamarack, another name for larch) woke to a couple of inches of slushy snow and temps in the 30s.



Figurative sidebar concerning the dead trees: The only two things the Nishiki willow and Tina crabapple had in common that come to mind are that they were both Monrovia products and were both sold by the same NH nursery; but I bought many other plants — including a thriving weeping ‘Red Jade’ crabapple, a weeping Norway spruce, two junipers that have spread incredibly, three lilacs of different varieties, two hydrangea, several leucothoe, an andromeda, and a Fine Line — from the same nursery in 2010 and 2011, and they all seem healthy and happy. I did lose a pagoda dogwood last year that I bought there in 2010, due to fungus, and replaced it last week with a ‘Wintergreen’ umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata ‘Wintergreen’).

I’m sure I have other Monrovia products that have survived for years, though I don’t keep that info. I only know these were because it’s noted online. I hope Monrovia is not the problem, as both the new trees are theirs as well.

Their conditions in the yard were quite different: The willow was planted in the front yard, near the driveway in rather sandy, poor (but amended) soil, with good drainage, some northwest winds, an east-northeast location (perhaps not enough sun?). The crabapple was planted in the back, near the patio, in somewhat clay soil that might have a drainage problem, protected from wind through at the bottom of a bit of a slope (too chilly?), in a west-southwest location.

RIP Tina. And sorry to have to move you, Nishiki. I’m sad that you didn’t thrive. May the larch and white spruce fare better, and may the Nishiki be resurrected.

“It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn’t a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing.” ~ Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts, 1981


As you can see in a couple of the photos, above, and as I have briefly mentioned, yesterday it was in the 50s and our last snow was a distance memory. This morning we were awakened by the snow plow or sand truck and looked out to see a couple of inches of snow on the ground, covering the peas, weighing down tree and shrub branches that have started to leaf out, showcasing the peach, lilac, and crabapple blooms.


pea trellis and peas
honeysuckle branches

Peach blossoms:


lilac buds
crabapple buds

Some mourning doves fluffed up and waited it out on the pea trellis:



Now the snow has mostly melted again, at 2 p.m. And by Wednesday, we may have temps in the low 80s for the first time since last summer. Life on Earth continues for now, even for the Tina crab, returning to it.


“There are souls, he thought, whose umbilicus has never been cut. They never got weaned from the universe. They do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed






  1. How interesting that both did fine for a while, and then just died. But, I guess that’s how it goes. We had an unusually cold winter here in Oregon too, and several times, I was surprised about what didn’t make it, and what did. Nature has her ways… Love your new additions – I hope they are everything you hoped for, and more!

    1. Thank you! Our winter was not especially cold this year, sort of average with good snowfall (which protects roots) so I don’t think hardiness was the problem but I really don’t know. Life and death is a mystery, isn’t it?

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