These Trees Cut Winter’s Bitter Cold Winds

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 some 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 reader discovered:

QUESTION: “Today the temperature is 7 degrees and winds were 50 mph. We have a new home in rural northwest Ohio 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.

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

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 areas.

By the way, Carolyn’s question and the response (by my wife Cheryl) first appeared in our free weekly e-mailed newsletter. If you’sd like to join the mailing list, drop me a line at [email protected]

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 plants.

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 specimen planting.

You say you are renting your home. I’sm 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 attractive pots.

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 protected] and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit

Steve Jones

Steve Jones, The Plantman, is a professional gardener and landscaper. His advice is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm. JonesGardening TipsGardeningThese Trees Cut Winter's Bitter Cold Winds 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...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids