Two years ago November 13, a Saturday, my landscape grounds was buried under 32 inches of heavy, icy snow. Damage to white pines and arborvitaes accompanied the event..

I cannot remember last year’s advent of winter. It was uneventful.

Usually, the first snowfall is among the most beautiful, here in Vikingland. Especially if it is a dry one of about five inches of snow for a good white topping causing no tipping of pyramidal conifers.

Most Twin Citians don’t notice the winter of their garden……there is no winter garden to look at. They have never thought of a winter garden. On the contrary they, like the lawns covering their grounds, both the good and the bad, go dormant. Out of sight out of mind so other more important activities can occupy their winter weeks and months. Your guess regarding what they are is as good as mine.

Our first snow fluff here in the western Twin City suburbs arrived this past Monday, November 12. The covering lasted nearly the entire day. The gardened grounds here were spectacular. Each day’s sun since has reversed the calendar for awhile. Perennial bachelor buttons have opened a few blooms, fireworks solidago and garden phlox have done the same. My eight by eight foot Golden Carousel is totally ruby loaded with its bright red berries.
But the mainstay of any beautiful Minnesota winter garden comes from the upright conifers.
My landscape garden occupies a bit over a third of an acre in ‘garden’. I have a small pavered driveway and 7 minutes of lawn mowing. The rest is in gardened ‘design’.

But that design begins with a careful selection and location of the upright evergreen conifers.

The lawn is part of the design, of course. Lawn is just another ground cover which separates the statuesque of the grounds. It requires sun….and weekly maintenance when in its noticed season. Ideally, I should like to have had a bit more lawn than I actually have, but it didn’t work out that way.

Yesterday and the day before I pruned and cleaned. I pruned out what I thought was disorderly….only the twiggy, nothing major, which ideally should not be done with the onslaught of winter ahead. I clean up most of the hostas and many selected perennials……nearly all of the garden perennials which appear disorderly and ugly, primarily. The primary force always driving my removal decisions is whether or not the herbaceous perennial has any beauty duty left on the grounds. Secondly I consider whether the plant has any bird food or shelter value for the winter.

Early snows of the heavier kind keep the grounds from freezing. If not too wet they do not pummel the taller perennials such as hotlips turtlehead, fireworks solidago, Vernonia and some of the garden phlox. Occasionally, a single or two blooms appear above the snow….and in the case of the turtlehead, the plant occasionally remains standing stately, with all of its leaves still vibrant dark green to bright purplish-maroon rising above the snow line….all winter long.

Fireworks solidago is the best of them, however. Twice, they were still in golden bloom and green foliage dress above the snow line until mid January.

I sweep my garden paths throughout the winter, by the way. A winter landscape garden is a beautiful place to be…..even in a snowstorm.

Sometime the golden arborvitae uprights are more golden than other winters. Most of the chamaecyparis trees here usually remain bright yellow throughout the year….but only if they are growing in full sunlight.

Remember, when ‘cleaning up’ in late fall. give a good reason why the beautiful oak, red and sugar maple leaves, the Grace or Velvet cloak Smokebush leaves, or the leaves of any of the colorful sweeps you see at your feet in your landscape garden should be cleared away.