A Garden Blog About Saying Goodbye

I'm a gardener in Chicago, IL, and I'm leaving my garden behind at the end of the year - The Last Garden is about my garden's final year. Share & Enjoy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Praise of Snow

Aftermath of the February 1, 2011 blizzard in our garden.

Since here in Chicago we won't have to deal with snow after this week, I feel less evil posting this now.

I haven't righted that chair yet because it's behind a four foot snowbank.

If you've been gardening in the cold for more than three years, you've probably noticed how plants die off over the winter. Some die from rot, from rodents chewing on their roots and crowns during the lean winter, from their roots and crowns heaving out of the ground, from drying out and from being compacted and crushed while dormant. For a long time you don't realize quite why they're dying, and then suddenly there are all these winter issues to deal with, and lots of problems and hassle.

In summer, this shot would be of a vigorously flowering garden bed.
Instead, snow.

Chill out. (That was completely accidental, by the way.) The fact is that you're going to have to deal with some plant losses. There are ways to minimize winter plant losses, which I'll go over when the time comes again, so I have pretty pictures to show you. In winter, the best remedy for plant death is, in fact, snow. Not crazy copious quantities of snow, but a nice, steady blanket of it, all over your beds, all winter long. It works pretty similarly to mulch. It keeps wind off of your plants' crowns and exposed roots, keeps them moist, and insulates their exposed crowns and roots when they've been heaved out of the ground by freezing and thawing.

You can almost hear the clouds saying, "Well, a few more feet won't
do any more harm..."

Don't worry about snow. You can't do anything about its presence (or lack thereof), so don't stress about it. If dumps a foot of snow, or three feet of snow, don't worry about it. If it goes through repeated freeze/thaw cycles throughout winter, well, always put down winter mulch in late fall anyway. The plants that come back are the plants that come back. If a plant repeatedly fails to come back in the spring for me, I won't bother with it. Other people become fond of plants that happen to not be hardy, and other people take lack of hardiness as a challenge. "If it works, keep doing it," as the old gardening maxim goes.

This was my favorite snow effect from this month's blizzard. That's
a beebalm in the foreground, with snow-capped flowerheads.

I'll do a longer post about plants that don't come back in spring once I've got some spring pictures for you. In the meantime, just watch that snow melt.

Or, you know, not.

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