During the spring and summer, one of my biggest worries is windy days. Every time I feel a gusty thunderstorm approaching or we have one of those days where the wind in your face feels like you are standing in front of a blast furnace my thoughts wander to flopped over perennials and withering containers. It can feel like all of your hard work has been for nothing and I must admit it has caused me much frustration over the years. Over the years I’ve tried to encourage more positive thoughts and I think about something my Uncle John once told me; “Make like a palm tree and sway”. I also try to keep in mind what my Dad taught me about golfing on windy days and that you had to learn to “play the wind”.
I think what my Uncle and my Dad were trying to teach me was flexibility. You have to learn to go with the flow rather than fight things. Regardless of whether or not you live in areas with intense winds or frequent breezes, you’re likely to run into two challenges. The first is that the wind can break and even uproot plants and the second is that the wind can cause plants to lose water and dry out quickly. There are several strategies you can employ to create a more wind-resistant garden.
The first strategy to employ is to choose your plants carefully. This would mean that you want to include plants in your landscape that have flexible stems. Ornamental Grasses are one example of this type of plant. You can also choose plants that in addition to having flexibility also have strength in their limbs. Evergreen Trees such as the Blue Spruce or shrubs such as Arborvitae can sway in the wind but their limbs are much less likely to break in an intense storm unlike a tree such as the Bradford Pear.
In addition to focusing on the flexibility factor in your plants, you’ll also want to consider adding plants that can tolerate being dried out by the wind. Lavender and Yarrow are two good choices and don’t forget to include native plants which have already demonstrated they have the ability to adapt to your growing conditions. Low-growing plants such as Succulents and Cactus are also unlikely to be blown over in a wind and they are uniquely suited to soils that are routinely dry.
If you are like me there are plants that you just have to grow in your yard even if they are not the best choices when it comes to growing in windy conditions. For example, Dahlias are one of my favorite flowers but nothing is more disappointing than to come home after a storm and find them bent over or even broken due to the wind. This leads to my second strategy which is if you must grow plants such as this I recommend staking early and tying often. One of the first tasks I tackle in the spring is to get my stakes in place before significant growth has started. Then, as the plants grow I tie them up weekly to keep them in place and provide the support they need.
If you live in a particularly windy part of the country you may want to consider my third strategy which is to plant a windbreak. Strategically planting larger trees and shrubs can help break up the wind when it blows and lessen its intensity. Hemlocks, Douglas Firs, and Cedar trees are often used for this purpose. Finally, due to the drying effect of the wind placing an extra layer of mulch around your plants is a helpful way to assist them in retaining moisture.
If you live in windy areas and have other ideas that you can share with us please post them on our Facebook page. So when the winds blow don’t forget, “Make like a palm tree and sway”.