Surviving Winter – Stay Garden Safe During Winter Storms 

After a long mild Autumn it appears that Winter is finally showing it’s ice teeth and taking a bite at the UK and across much of North America. First snowfall of the season is a wake-up call for many as the festive season is well under-way.

Gardener’s adding another layer and thermals to battle the cold chilling winds is similar to how the plants benefit from a layer of snowfall protecting there dormant roots or bulbs. It is however a different story for the shrubs and trees that have above ground stems and branches that are exposed to the full force of the winter.

Snow is heavy, believe me I have moved enough snow over the years to know, once the pathway’s are cleared and ice treated we can assume it’s relatively safe to get around the garden without incidence. The weight of the snow can quickly accumulate on stems but particularly on large leaves evergreen shrubs, brush the snow with a besom or soft kitchen broom to avoid further damage.

Large conical Conifer’s are best tied up with garden wire to stop them from opening up like a flower from the middle under the weight of snow and damaging the branches. Many stately gardens specimen Yew Trees are often wound up in this way to prevent damage.

Safety precautions should be adhered to when checking for deciduous trees with broken limbs or damaged branches in-case they fall from high trees. As long as they are safe and not going to cause further damage. These trees can generally be left until another day and cleaned and and cut-free once the weather has improved.

Fruit cages and arches are often vulnerable during heavy snowfall and will benefit from having any gathered snow shakes from the fruit cage netting.

Soft growth is often damaged by snowfall and a cold breeze any plants in pots that are sensitive to frost should be stored in a cool shed or garage until the snow begins to melt. Frost fleece is used on in-ground shrubs and climbers to protect the delicate stems or evergreen leaves from the wind-chill which is often several degrees colder.

Watering should not be carried out during cold weather and large planters would benefit from pot feet to lift them from the frozen ground.


Ever seen those nasty black footprints that look so unsightly on a pristine lawn? That is caused by a) Walking on the lawn when a feed has been applied or b) When the grass and sward is frozen! So keep off the grass.


Plants respond differently to frost hardy plants remain dormant and provide frozen structure of a garden in winter, the tender frost sensitive plants will often look black and withered as there delicate cell structure implodes. Plants that have been caught by frost are unlikely to recover, however there are exceptions some perennials benefit from a light frost before there delicate tubers or roots are lifted and stored for a few wintery months. i.e Dahlia’s and Chrysanthemum’s.

Some gardener’s choose to grow only hardy plants, perennials, trees and shrubs, avoiding the extra cost and subsequent loss of brightly colored annuals or frost sensitive perennials.

A Snow-day in the garden is usually spent ensuring the garden can still be accessed by clearing snow from pathways, gates and car parks, salting the pathways to prevent a sheet of black ice forming. Once your shrubs are s]checked and trees made safe until fairer weather arrives it’s time to head to the tool-shed to organize those tools that you never have time to repair this Summer.

Professional gardeners have already lifted perennials for dividing, storing them in cool, dark and dry locations these  plants are divided during the dormant season, potted on and grown in a cold-frame to develop roots during the winter enabling new growth in Spring.

Seed catalogue’s at the ready once your done outdoors it’s time to check on your (indoor micro greens) before settling down with a warm cup of your favorite beverage and visualize your garden during warmer times, a kind of time-travel for gardeners as we plan, re-call and remember our garden through the season’s over the years.

Grow with me on


Stephen Pryce-Lea

Head Gardener and International Horticultural Consulatant




“It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, when you find it in a Garden it’s like finding Paradise“

iGrowHort – A Head Gardener’s Horticultural Journey of love, life and learning.




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About Head Gardener 290 Articles
Award winning, 40 something year old professional plantsman and horticulturalist with National Trust, private parks and estate management background. My vast plant knowledge and hands on techinical experience, afforded me the opportunity to work in various horticultural landscapes, in the UK, USA & Eastern Europe. Having worked in both garden retail & the design service industry gave me the practical diversity and managerial skill set, required for running a large prestigious gardens and stately homes. I strongly believe knowledge is to be shared and have worked closely with people and staff of all ages and abilities keen to develop their passion for gardening, including groups of children, special needs and adults. I have hosted guided walks, talks and tours for those keen to learn about cultivated and wild plants, garden development, history and design. As an member of the NNCPG and National Trust, I am actively involved in the preservation of several important plant collections both in public and private gardens throughout the UK. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion grow together, in a garden it’s paradise” Follow @IGrowHort on GardenTags. Stephen is passionate about gardening as Head Gardener with a team of ten staff he manages a prestigious Cheshire country estate of 55 acres, inc wild flower meadows, woodland, organic kitchen and formal gardens. Follow Stephen today”

1 Comment

  1. I love snow and never thought about its effect on plants. Though I have seen many small herbs turning black and even dry when they come out of the snow on pines I never noticed any effect of snow.
    Snow is a symbol of quietness for me and peace. It takes white color showing peace.
    Thanks for share.

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