I just read an interview with Piet Oudolf in the New York Times about designing a garden for winter. I was glad to see he was asked, “What do you do if you live in an area with much snow?” His answer was less than satisfying.
When the snow comes down dry, it doesn’t flatten your plants; perennials that are more than 2 or 3 feet tall will stick out of the snow and still look good. But sometimes the plants will break. This is the moment to remember that spring is coming.
I don’t know about you, but we rarely get dry snow. And when we do, it’s usually after a month or two of wet snows. Somehow remembering that spring is coming is not much consolation. It is true, as he says, you need good structure in a garden, substantial shapes and sinuous curves that will only be made more beautiful by a layer of snow accenting their forms. But saying that snow won’t knock down the dried remains of perennials is just wishful thinking in my climate.
If you want to read a book that really understands what a snowy winter is like, get yourself a copy of Prairie Winterscape: Creative Gardening for the Forgotten Season. I reviewed Prairie Winterscapes here. It may be too late to design your garden for this winter, but it’s the perfect time to plan changes for next winter’s garden.