Ask a (local) master gardener about winter planning

For the Gazette
Published: 11/30/2018 10:47:07 AM

Q:  I would like to spruce up my landscaping next spring.  How can I start to get my head around what I should do?  —L.S., Hatfield


A:  Now for the fun stuff — winter dreaming! First, let your mind wander. Think about your outdoor space. What goals do you have for it? How do you envision living in it? How do you want it to make you feel? Do you have a patio, porch, or yard? No space is too small for enjoying plants!

Then, before the next big snow flies, pull out a measuring tape (or phone app), a writing implement, a writing journal, an observant eye and an open mind and take a walk outside.  

Measure out the space you are considering — a grid is helpful to ensure proper scale — and diagram where you want plants to go. It helps to visit the site in the morning and afternoon to note the sun characteristics. Is it shady or sunny? Morning sun or afternoon? Dry or moist shade? Sandy soil or clay? Moist soil or dry? Has it been getting more shady over the years? Neighbors nearby? A driveway or sidewalk? Other notable conditions? How long will you live in your current home? Need fast growing plants or slow?

What is growing there now? Are there plants that will need dividing or tossing? Where will you put the new divisions? What will you put in the new hole? 

Think about your goals. Will the space have the added design layer of drawing in pollinators? Should it be restful for reading or dramatic for hosting gatherings? Would it help to have something structural such as a bird bath, arbor, tuteur or decorative pot to add interest?

Once you have gathered your thoughts and your diagrams, put the two together and start researching plants. Libraries, your local independent garden center, and on-line garden resources are great places to begin. Keep an eye out for local winter/spring workshops at places like the Berkshire Botanical Garden, Hadley Garden Center, and Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association’s spring symposia. Websites such as Landscape for Life  ( have terrific resources for homeowners. Books like Planting in a Post-Wild World help homeowners think about how to design a garden the way nature does. Have fun jumping down the design rabbit hole! 

Enjoy the process and know that there is no perfect “right answer” to garden design. Use what you love.  Thanks for asking a local master gardener! 

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be selected and answered per week.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


© 2018 Daily Hampshire Gazette