Stop work, it's snowing!

It has just this minute started snowing.

The best part of it is that it’s just so beautiful. So wildly charming.  So emphatically silent.  It’s also (in this climate, at least), a universal stop-work whistle.  On the day these pics were taken, back in 2007, the house was crawling with electricians.  The moment it started to snow, we all just stood on the verandah, transfixed, oohing and aahing and telling old snow stories.  I don’t know whether they charged me for that time or not, and I don’t really care.

One of the under-appreciated advantages of the occasional snow is that it allows you to see your garden in a whole new way.  These opportunities are rare and precious.  We get so used to seeing our surroundings in a particular way, or through a particular lens, that we kind of stop looking.

You’ll get up on your roof to clear the guttering, or climb a ladder and look down, and suddenly see things differently – sometimes so differently that you see solutions or possibilities that you’ve never seen before.

Tweddle Lane. Yep, that’s honestly the name of our road..

It’s a bit like that with snow.  Everything is suddenly under-lit as if with up-lights, and looks – however briefly – entirely different.  That alone dismantles a whole lot of filters through which you normally see.  The snow also means that you lose the separation of garden bed and path, and wonder whether the placement of the path, and all the divisions that result, could be better done.  There’s all sorts of ways in which it makes you look – and think – again.

Of course there’s other ways of forcing a new view.  There’s the ladder-method, as above.  You can take a whole lot of pics of your garden, and convert them to black and white on the computer.  You’ll see faults (and opportunities) that had until then escaped you.  You can walk around with a small mirror, and see everything in reverse.  The result is always looks more enticing and engaging, just because you’re not desensitized to it.

But my favourite way of seeing things afresh is a good blanket of snow.

Bring it on.

The paddock across the road. You’d think that these images were B & W, but check out the orange marker, far left.


  1. Given that the Sydney equivalent of white obliteration is a liberal dose of medium-sized hail, I’ll opt for the alternative methods suggested! I’m a big fan of the black and white photograph. I think if a particular plant picture just doesn’t work, and you don’t really know why, it’s a good way to remove the ‘colour blindness’ and see the likely problem, such as a lack of variety of form, texture or tone.

    1. We gardeners suffer from all sorts of blindnesses, don’t we? colour blindness (of the form you describe), rarity blindness, tricksy-features blindness (and dare I sneak it in…. rose-blindness)

    2. as a Canadian, albeit in a part of the country (southern Vancouver Island) that does not get much snow, I have to admit total surprise and ignorance about snow in Australia (other than the “Snowy Mountains”) !

      I always like the silence that accompanies snowfall – it sort of compliments the visual muting that enables us to do some valuable “black and white” editing and analysis of our gardens.

    3. And I admit total ignorance as to why anyone in their right mind would live in a country like Australia, and then choose to live in one of the coldest places there…
      Gotta say, I just love it when someone frames a concept so perfectly with words – that very notion of ‘visual muting’ that goes along with that other worldly – almost eerie – silence that accompanies snow-fall.

  2. Hey, Michael,
    you can’t be serious!? Let me remind you: the reason you live in one of the colder parts of Australia is so that you can be in love with snowdrops, in awe of the brief illumination of the Heavenly Blue, and at the same time appreciate the incredible extremes to which our climate exposes us – which makes you marvel at the secret strength of plants. I have a funny feeling you would be bored in the tropics… Do you remember the scent of the lily of the valley, last October? – not long to go…

  3. In Bathurst, we only get snow actually settling on the ground about once every ten years, so it’s very special, and as you say, everyone stops to admire it, although out of town they are luckier and usually get one or two snow days every year. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to settle in one of the coldest places in one of the warmest countries – we get all the pleasures of four distinct seasons, but without an extremely long, extremely cold winter. We can grow cold-climate spring bulbs and subtropical plants for summer and autumn – the best of both worlds.

  4. Hi Michael,
    I just flew back from Bathurst today and was marvelling at the diligent farmers spreading their fertilizer when hey, a right hemisphere intuition- it was snow!!
    A black and white landscape under a clear blue sky and then suddenly it was all green again- Sydney on the horizon ,and back to earth. The daffodils and maroon hellebores were blooming their socks off in Bathurst though under a very black sky. The colours of winter – what joy!

  5. White out! Certainly does mix things up. All the old cues turned on their head and the mind struggles with making sense of it. Then delight, a sort of serendipitous rediscovery of things familiar but not quite the same. A tree stump becomes a wheel of white, the road a ribbon of light and green is all but dissolved.
    I too enjoy the silence of it. Especially when it is an unexpected visitor. You step out into a world that wasn’t there just a little while before and will be gone just as silently as it came.
    We have had a bitter day in Hobart but the wind rather than the snow has been our ever present companion.

  6. Dear Michael, congratulations on your site, which I have recently discovered. I lived in Melbourne many years ago (I now live in France and garden in Bordeaux) and spent a great deal of time in your neck of the woods, mostly riding through the bush on back roads and fire trails from a stable just outside Woodend. It may seem cruel, but a similarly dramatic new lens was presented after the Ash Wednesday fires when all undergrowth had been burned out and all that remained were the larger trees. Landscapes I thought I knew intimately were almost unrecognizable as they presented what must have been a negative of your snow-clad vision. Gullies I had ridden down were entirely transformed without planting, rocks and slopes smoothed by a coating of fine ash and charcoal; black and grey where yours was white and grey. The only relief from this monotone were the silver green shoots that sprouted within weeks.

    1. What a perfect, if tragic, example of the total re-frame! Unlike the snow, in which everything returns to normal within a few hours, your example is mixed with such grief at the loss of the old lens – that ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til you lose it’ thing.

      That’s one lens change that Bordeaux is unlikely to dish up! (though gardening itself, in a different climate, is a lens change of sorts)

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