Snow Helped me Design my Garden. Really.


We Easterners are looking at this in our gardens this morning – so frozen and snowed-in that there’s nothing we can do out there but go sledding, right?  Wrong, amigos.  It’s the perfect time to design new borders and paths, with the existing lines obscured and the design slate clean.   

So when you’re snowed in this weekend, seize the opportunity to do some designing.   To try out the look of a new border edge just
walk – or in the case of deep snow, stomp – along the new line, and step back and assess the look.  It’s a great excuse to be out in the snow-covered garden dreaming up new visions for the garden and I’m telling you, it works.

I first designed this dry streambed by stomping in the snow.

On top of which, this method of designing new lines is way more fun than struggling with crinkly old garden hose – you know, the technique that’s so commonly suggested.  No matter how high the temperature, my garden hoses are never, ever flexible enough to do the job.

Or, never mind – just build a snowman.  Me, I’ll be “borrowing” a sled from some unsuspecting kid in the neighborhood and reliving my childhood, if only for a run or two into the woods. 

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Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. If I lived in a snowy climate I wouldn’t be able to resist the idea of designing with outdoor landscape lighting with the snow.
    The thought of sculptural snow mounds ignited below with white and colored lights almost makes me want to fly back east just to do an environmental art installation.

  2. Wonderful idea! except I should have got outside earlier in the season to do this. We now have almost three feet of snow. I’m not going anywhere in my garden except the shovelled paths from my car to the front door and the compost bin 🙂

  3. That’s a wonderful idea since indeed the garden will be a clean slate. Actually my ‘clean slate’ is just starting to arrive now with anoth 10″ expected to follow!

    I like to use the winter downtime in my garden to find places to add more plants with winter interest but I never even thought to use that time to re-design my garden as if I were starting from scratch.


    The way a crow
    Shook down on me
    The dust of snow
    From a hemlock tree
    Has given my heart
    A change of mood
    And saved some part
    Of a day I had rued.

    ~ Robert Frost

  5. I’ve designed by snow stomping, much to the curiousity of the neighbors and the horror of my children. Husband has become numb to my garden ways. He just humors me.

  6. A book once suggested to use lime (in the summertime, of course) in lieu of a garden hose. It’s messy and the “lime line” is not so easily moved — there’s a reason why it’s used in ball fields! Now that the snow has fallen, I’ll give this method a try.

  7. Great idea! Most year, , I have looked on the snow as a negative thing — a visual blanket that blurs my memories of the past year, just when I am starting to think about plans for next year’s garden. Your post makes me realize that all this time I have been looking at it backwards. Cool! Our first big snow has all melted — at the moment we are experiencing the ‘pineapple express’ — but there will be more soon enough. Out I go with my snow-stompin’ boots on my feet. yippeee.


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