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How to Survive a ‘Surprise’ Winter Snowstorm

Every year like clockwork, amateur and expert garden designers alike share the same reactions to the first signs of snowfall. First comes the surprise, followed by the enchantment of it all, ultimately rounding off with something of a reality check. That being, the way in which snow has the potential to do a real number on your garden.

When the snow begins doing its business – however brief said business may be – there are basically two approaches you can take. You can leave things to their own devices, or you can do as the very best garden designers out there do and take a more proactive approach. After all, just because you cannot stop the snow from falling doesn’t mean you can’t take various measures to minimise potential damage to your garden.

Of course, even with little to no intervention whatsoever you might be surprised as to just how many plants and blooms around your garden weather the worst of the weather quite impressively. But at the same time, taking proactive steps to minimise death and damage represents a sensible course of action. At least for savvy garden designers looking to minimise both their expenses and their workload come spring.

So with this in mind, what follows is a brief overview of just a few helpful tips from leading garden designers on how to cope with the annual snowfall your garden can’t realistically avoid entirely:

1. First up, always remember that as snow accumulates, it becomes extremely heavy. Meaning that when snow begins to build up on the branches of your trees, shrubs, plants and bushes, it has the potential to add the kind of weight that can lead to damaged or broken branches. When the snow begins to fall therefore, make the effort to regularly brush snow off the branches with a broom or your hands, to protect them from damage.

2. Interestingly, snow has the potential to act as a relatively effective insulator.  Meaning that if there is a blanket of snow covering your garden and temperatures are expected to plummet even further, you might want to leave the snow exactly where it is for the time being. The snow serving as a barrier from the extreme temperature lows, keeping things below the surface a little warmer than they may otherwise have been.

3. Many garden designers swear by specially designed frost fabric, which is essentially a protective breathable cloth designed to do exactly as its name suggests. Suitability and requirements will of course come down to the specific plants you choose to grow, but it is definitely worth considering if you haven’t done so already.

4. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your potted plants and specimens in containers are any more resilient to the cold weather than the rest of your plants.  In fact, given that they don’t benefit from the additional insulation that comes with being planted below ground, they can actually be significantly more vulnerable to the cold. Of course, the obvious trick with pots and plants is to bring them indoors, or perhaps wrap them in a blanket or sheet if preferred.

5. Minimise the risk of flooding and other difficulties when the thaw comes around by turning off (and ideally draining) any water features, sprinkler systems, irrigation systems and so on that you may have up and running.  Alternatively, you could go the way of many leading garden designers and install the necessary water heaters instead, in order to keep things safe and sound throughout the season.

6. If you come across any particularly large branches or tree trunks that have been clearly damaged by the snow, think twice about tackling them manually. Trees have a rather nasty habit of behaving in ways that cannot be predicted at the best of times when hacked at with conventional tools. Rather than taking chances, consider speaking to a local tree surgeon.

7. Don’t automatically think that frost burn indicates a dead plant that needs disposing of.  In some instances, by the time spring rolls around you can simply prune away the dead foliage and the rest of the plant will be back on top-form once again.

8. Last but not least, when it comes to frozen groundcover like grass, do your best to avoid walking on it until it thaws. As countless garden designers have discovered the hard way, walking on frozen groundcover can kill it.





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