Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wearing the Snow

We’ve had lots and lots of snow this winter at the Arboretum. As I walked through the Conifer Collection today, I was delighted to see all of the amazing pines, spruces and firs frosted by our most recent snowstorm. This walk reminded me of an article written by May Theilgaard Watts describing and illustrating the way various plants wear the snow. Written in January of 1945, Watts in her inimitable style and with her keen observation skills shares how different plants hold the snow.

They Wear the Snow with a Difference

“Weather is the Master of Ceremonies under whose showmanship plants take their turns in the spotlight. Each changing mood points out a specialist. The best performer in the dew is probably a lupine leaf; in hoar frost, it is ironwood; and in sleet, the beaded curtain of weeping willow twigs. In the wind the best performer is the white pine; but in a breeze it is the trembling aspen, or silver poplar; while in the thirsty wind of summer drought it is cottonwood, making the sound of rain on the roof. The place on which prevailing westerlies write their permanent record most plainly is a row of willows. A slow spring train makes the best blue-gray setting for the pale yellow of hazel catkins, but a fall rain achieves its triumph when it blackens the trunks of red oak in contrast with the brilliance of fall foliage.
But these are passing moods of weather compared to snow. In this winter of much snow we realize that it is well to be surrounded by those good companions that meet the winter with charm, as well as those that offer spring, summer, or fall display.”

-- by May T. Watts
Bulletin of Popular Information, v. 20, no. 1
January 1945

63 years later, the words and drawings of May T. Watts still resonate with us! Before you head out for your next snowy adventure at the Arboretum, be sure to savor Watts' complete text and illustrations at: To view other issues of the Bulletin of Popular Information, stop by the Sterling Morton Library and peruse our collection!

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