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Winter Gardening Tips from USDA Zone 3

Text by Amy Grisak, from a feature on Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum that appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Horticulture.


Even though their property, Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum, sits in USDA Zone 3 Montana, Richard and Belva Krott successfully grow plants that technically shouldn’t survive in their area. Here are their tips on how you can, too.

“Don’t put too much stock in the zone rating,” Richard says. While the rating gives you an average low wintertime temperature, it’s not the final word on what will, or will not, grow in your area.

Other factors, such as humidity levels and soil pH levels, are equally important. Ask successful gardeners in your area what they recommend before you invest a lot of money in plants or trees, and be sure to seek more than one opinion.

If your soil conditions are conducive to particular plants, and the only thing that’s holding you back is the zone rating, Belva says, “Go ahead, be brave and try a warmer zone. Buy a couple of plants; put one in a protected area and one not. Try covering one in the winter, but not the other one. Lots of plants are inappropriately rated, and you might discover some real gems.”

Belva and Richard share a few additional tips:
Use snow cover as an effective insulator. You can either heap it up on your plants during the winter, or plant more tender varieties in areas that have a tendency to accumulate snow.
Skip the hybrid tea roses. Instead, look to the Canadian shrub roses, such as the Parkland, Morden or Explorer series, that don’t need to be covered with manmade materials to survive brutal winters. Most of the time, snow cover is sufficient to pull them through the cold.
Allow some of your annuals to go to seed and enjoy earlier blooms. Annuals that reseed, such as cosmos, larkspur and clarkia, usually withstand cold better than transplanted annuals.

Image credit: Rosmarie Wirz/Moment/Getty Images