The Q&A Archives: sand & salt from winter and planting

Question: We are starting to plan a shaded long narrow garden area next to a brick wall for the school. Every year sand and salt gets on this area because of snow blowers. What kinds of shrubs and plants (easy to maintain)would you suggest? My first plans were for Arborvitaes, Mt Laurel, Vinca, Daffodils and Hostas. Do those sound ok? It will be a continual problem and the wall is sooooo ugly, I really wanted to soften it if possible. Thank you.

Answer: Of the plants you mention, only the hostas and vinca would be suitable for a deeply shaded area, along with those you might add ferns and perennials such as Epimedium, Dicentra, Helleborus, Lamium, and Tricyrtis plus native plants such as Solomon's seal and Virginia bluebells. You might also be able to train a vining hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) on the wall.

Be sure to work in ample amounts of compost or other orgnanic matter before planting and then use an organic mulch year round to help feed the soil on an ongoing basis as well as keep down weeds.

The salt is a serious problem. It might be possible to shield the area with fencing or burlap barrier to prevent the snowblowers from sending the salt into the planting bed, or perhaps ask that sand be used instead of salt, or ask them to blow the sidewalk snow onto the opposite side? Otherwise, the salt will damage the plants' roots and possibly kill them.

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