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For the three odd months of the year where the snow clears away, Vail and its surrounding downs break out a stunning range of biodiversity. According to one University of Wyoming botanist, there are over 600 species, including several ‘rares’, making the valley an ecological wonder. This poses the question, however – how do plants flourish under so much snow? Taking inspiration from flora can help you to create a happy and healthy garden.
The physics of plants
The first thing to bear in mind is the fact that plants are not indestructible. The adaptation of many plants in snowy areas has followed the conical shape, like pine trees. This makes them more resistant to snow packing, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, making surviving the winter more likely once out of the cold. In your garden, try to emulate this. Clear away excess pack snow and keep your roof and gutters free of snow and debris to prevent mini avalanches. This will protect your plants.
Don’t clear off too much
However, don’t be tempted to entirely uncover your plants. Plant supplies website Nature Seed helpfully note that packed snow insulates plants, protecting hardy leaves from wind chill and encroaching, even colder frost. Like an igloo would protect you in the coldest temperatures, the snow acts as a cozy home for the plants to stay out the cold.
Preparing for the snow melt
Mid-June will see the melt fully recede from Vail and its slopes, revealing the landscape underneath. Just as the melting water will bring heaps of trash to the ground left by inconsiderate tourists, it will bring down to earth debris that can impact plants. Furthermore, the hugely elevated levels of water can, if your garden is poorly drained, flood the plants underneath. Prepare for the melt by removing any debris from the top snow on a daily basis and keeping an eye on neighboring properties. Also, ensure your garden is properly draining – you can test this out with a little hot water at key areas of the garden, like beds.
Vail is known for its snow, but the landscape and gardens of the valley have a wonderful range of flora hiding below the white. The snow can do real good if kept in check, whether that’s through loading or during the melt. Keep a vigilant eye over your garden to make the most of natural diversity.