Winter is the perfect time to plan for spring planting and for the
many years ahead. The bare branches allow you to see the “skeleton” of
your landscape and where you need to flesh it out with new plants or
perform a little surgery with pruning shears or shovel.
Get outside and do a little landscape maintenance, picking up fallen
tree limbs for instance, and at the same time you can look for any
damage to arbors, trellises or fencing that you might not have noticed
when they were hidden by abundant foliage.
During winter, specific problems can become apparent, as this chilly
QUESTION: “Today the temperature is 7 degrees and winds were 50 mph.
We have a new home in rural northwest OH and I'm looking for ideas for
trees and shrubs that can withstand that wind. Thanks for any help you
can provide.” – Carolyn
ANSWER: You might want to look at creating a windbreak, which
generally consists of two to three layers of trees planted to
literally break the wind away from the house and other structures.
Generally, there is a row of evergreen trees (firs, junipers, pines,
spruces) and up to two rows of deciduous trees and shrubs. For the
deciduous trees, consider fast growers such as green ash, tulip
poplar, sycamore and elms.
Here is a link from the NRCS which used to be referred to as the
Conservation District Office. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/TECHNICAL/ECS/forest/wind/windbreaks.html
This describes the benefits and how to go about planting a windbreak
on your property. As it is a long address, you can click on a direct
link when you find this column at my Web site www.landsteward.org
The fast growing hybrid willow and hybrid poplar trees are great and
will gain a lot of height quickly. However, they should not be
considered as long term trees where there are constantly heavy winds.
Their lifespan is generally limited to about 10 to 18 years in such
By the way, Carolyn’s question and the response (by my wife Cheryl)
first appeared in our free weekly e-mailed newsletter. If you’d like
to join the mailing list, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
QUESTION “I have a problem: a postage-stamp sized garden plot behind
my apartment with crappy, gooey clay soil and about 3-4 hours of
morning sunlight, half filtered by large growth deciduous trees.
“I have a good start on a decent garden with some hostas, sedums and
lamb's ear. Columbines, spiderwort, lilies-of-the-valley and vincas
give me a little color, but are there any other shade-loving plants
that actually bloom?
“How about some variegated foliage plants to add interest? (Coleus
seems quite unhappy here). Since I rent, I won't be building any
raised beds. Last year, I added some peat moss, sand and soil
conditioner to the ground. We'll see if that helped. There's no room
to compost. Any other enrichments that you recommend?” – Bridget
ANSWER: As for soil enrichments, I would recommend a product called
Soft Soil. It breaks down the ionization of the soil to keep it from
running together. You might also use pine bark mulch. It will add
organic matter into your soil and break it up a bit. You may want to
till it into the soil to start then use more as a dressing around your
As far as what to plant in the wet shady areas, look at variegated
hostas, ferns and astilbes.
When it comes to trees: Dogwoods like semi-shade. Low growing trees
such as redbud, Japanese maples, flowering cherries. You could add
ornamental grasses in different heights for background and even for
You say you are renting your home. I’m guessing this is a long-term
rental based on your planting plans. However, consider some plants in
large pots for a container garden that can go with you if you move.
Beautiful gardens can be framed and accented with plants used in
Similarly, portable fountains, glass gazing balls, concrete formed
items will add interest and texture to your garden and can be loaded
on to a moving truck in the future.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org