February 9, 2014 (1)

Freezing is a state (presumably,  a transitory state) to which I am reluctantly becoming accustomed.  Freezing temperatures are the order of the day.   Freezing-what is that, exactly?  Water which is subjected to temperatures below 32 degrees transforms from a liquid state to a solid.  We commonly call frozen water ice.  We have ice just about everywhere.  Icy is an adjective that describes relationships gone bad, cold color schemes, the mini stalactites hanging from my gutters, the surface of my driveway, my windshield, and just about every street surface between me and work.  Icy means I need to dress in multiple layers-this takes a lot of time, and doesn’t always work so well. Well  below zero ice means I need to cover my face, lest my eyelashes freeze.   As I am a gardener, and not a scientist, I would define freezing as that state when the world more or less comes to an end.

ice.jpgThis section of the roof is always in shade, and the gutter stops up with little or no provocation.  Snow fills the gutter, and when subjected to extreme cold, we have ice filled gutters.  Once it overflows, icicles form.  Understanding the process makes it no less aggravating.  The lower part of the roof is laced with heat tape-no matter.  The snow has been heavy, the freezing has been severe, and long standing.

ice.jpgPlants have a mechanism for dealing with freezing that is much more efficient than mine.  Spring flowering hardy bulbs, for example, cannot be frozen through and through.  The usual cause for the failure of potted spring bulbs is a complete freeze.  The soil temperature is always higher than the air temperature.  Soil which is insulated with a thick layer of snow is less likely to freeze deep.

February 9, 2014 (11)Cold winter temperatures trigger a biochemical response in the bulb, which converts the starch in the bulb to glucose (sugar).  That glucose lowers the temperature at which the cells of the bulb will freeze.  Salting a walk does just about the same thing.  Salty water requires temperatures below freezing to freeze.  The ice on my street is a result of air temperatures that have been so low that even the salty water and snow freezes solid.

February 9, 2014 (13)Even small bulbs that are only planted a few inches below the soil surface are rarely bothered by extremely low temperatures.  When they are completely frozen and rot, there is usually a lack of snow cover.  The frost can penetrate the soil in Michigan as deep as 4 feet, but in a year with lots of snow, the frost is not near that deep.  Down below the frost line, the soil is a uniform 55 degrees, year round.

icicles.jpgThe technology exists to harness the ambient heat in the ground to heat cold buildings in the winter, and and cool hot buildings in the summer. Such a system transfers heat and cold, rather than producing it. 50 degree air on a below zero day is a lot of heat.  50 degree air on a 95 degree day is a lot of cooling.  The upfront cost of such a system is considerable.  I am sure someday that the technology will be simpler, and less expensive to install.

February-snow-in-Michigan.jpgIn the meantime, a 6 foot tall person walking down my sidewalk today would be completely hidden from view.  This frozen snow will need warmer air temperatures to melt.  A good bit of it will sublime, meaning it will pass from a solid to a gas without that intermediary melting stage.

old-and-new-snow.jpgThe snow plow did heave a lot of dirty frozen snow up over the curb. At least last night’s new snow freshened up the look.

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgI am sure all of the tulips are safe and sound underneath our mountains of frozen snow.  It’s February, through and through.



  1. Nancy Kang says


    You are amazing. I really enjoy your blog and I was able to visit your garden shop for the first time last summer.

    Your garden shop is the finest I have ever seen. Your garden designs are fantastic.

    I live in AZ around 7 months of the year and (gorgeous) Michigan around 5 months of the year. Sounds like this has been a rough winter in Michigan. The crocus will be in bloom before you know it. Hang in there.

    Nancy Kang
    Paradise Valley, AZ
    Jackson, Michigan

  2. Joyce Voyt says

    Yuck! I’m not coming back to Michigan until our house sitters tell us Muskegon Lake is soft water again and the spring bulbs are daring to peek through the residual snow!!

  3. Love how you find something to write about gardening even in this cold, icy and snowy season.

  4. We took our rain chain down last fall at the first sign of a freeze. I think the heavy ice would have pulled our gutter down by now if we hadn’t

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jen, I think you did the right thing. I have a gutter at the shop that looks like it might come down any minute! Deborah

  5. Time for a vacation !☀️

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Christine-you may be right! But we are full bore on trying to get Detroit Garden Works ready to reopen for the season March 1. Deborah

  6. Starr Foster says

    Brainy and insightful as always, Deborah. Thank you for teaching us gardeners more about weather. I’ve been cheered recently – in spite of this incredible winter with its Arctic cold and bad news on the media – since watching the Olympics, from the beautiful opening ceremony thru the Slopestye snowboarding with its crazy, happy kids doing death-defying somersaults in the air.

  7. Talked to an ice fisherman today who said the ice on Madison lakes is about 2 feet thick instead of the more typical 10-12 inches. When it’s this cold for this long not much we can do but keep warm!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Linda, it will be quite something to see the melt, and how that happens. Does it not look today like we will have snow until July? It will be below zero for us tonight-and tomorrow night. Keeping warm is quite the job. We have had sun the past 2 days. It’s amazing how much better a little sun can make everything seem. Deborah

  8. Paula Venti says

    I am in New England and not as snow covered as you, yet I enjoy your valuable advice every day. We may be in different zones, however a gardener is a gardener. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your blog and would someday LOVE to visit your shop. So stay warm and enjoy the sun every chance you get.
    Boston, Ma

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