Winter’s mostly gone, spring is mostly arrived, but typically in late March, neither is firmly in charge. As we bide our time until we can start some planting, it’s an opportune time for making some plans for planting with winter shovelling in mind.
Any remaining traces of snow piles, or the memory of where they were, give you an idea of where it was convenient to pile the snow as you shovelled. There’ll be a couple of places, and usually that’s all that’s needed. Make sure you designate them as snow piling areas, and keep them in mind when you do any planting in or around those areas.
If there’s existing lawn under those spots, keeping it as lawn is probably the easiest option.
With regular aerating and overseeding, the lawn will pop back to life with good resilience.
Places that receive salt and gravel are best left to lawn.
A bed can also do just fine under a snow pile, but you’ll need to give some thought to the planting.
Most perennials will survive, as they’ve gone to ground leaving nothing but lifeless stalks behind. Daylilies, iris, Back-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida) are good choices. Their spring growth may be a bit delayed depending on how quickly the snow over them melts.
If you’re growing ornamental grasses and perennials that produce snazzy seedheads, put them well away from the designated snow piling area so they can strut their stuff freely all winter.
Some shrubs will put up with having light loose freshly fallen snow thrown their way. Heavy chunks will break their branches.
The low junipers (Juniperus horizontalis) will quickly become completely covered, while the sturdy Savin juniper (J. sabina) will persevere much longer. Smaller vigorous shrubs such as alpine currant (Ribes alpinum), dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’), and the smaller spireas are also good choices.
As always, select the plant to suit the growing conditions. In addition, a snow pile in a shady spot is going to be very slow to melt. Locating one in a low-lying area is going to add to the moisture and possibly slow drainage from it.
Another option as you bide your time? Steep yourself in everything gardening at The fifth annual Gardening Saturday on March 31 at the Canadian Mennonite University (http://www.gardensmanitoba.com/GardeningSaturday.cfm). I’ll be presenting a workshop on low maintenance gardening and would enjoy meeting you there.
Carla Keast has a masters degree in landscape architecture and is a Winnipeg-based freelance landscape designer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.