It has happened to me before, but it isn’t going to happen again. That is, I have planted shrubs in places that seemed far out of reach of the snow plow, but yet they got plowed over and killed.

I lost a number of shrubs and plants in my former location. My buddy who plowed my driveway liked to push the snow back as far as possible after the first snowstorm, in order to allow space to push future snow. Perfectly understandable. However, his idea of where to stop plowing and mine differed greatly.

One winter, the plow broke a shrub that was 40 feet from the driveway. This surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. During another winter, one of my raised beds fell to the plow. I spoke to my friend about it, but he insisted on plowing half my lawn “just in case” we had back-to-back blizzards.

My only solution was to site gardens and shrubs well out of the way of the plow, which in this case was a considerable distance from the driveway. One year I was compelled to erect an electric fence to save my gardens from marauding deer and it quickly became apparent this might pose a problem. While I removed the wire from the fence for the winter, I decided to let the fence posts remain in situ.

My reasoning was simple. The posts were on the very edge of my gardens and, fence or not, I didn’t want them plowed to kingdom come. Besides, the plow blade dropped great amounts of gravel in the beds, creating extra work the following spring, removing the stones.

So I tied orange flagging on each posts, to the point they became almost garish-looking. Then I showed my friend and he thought he might be able to work around it. As it turned out, he still pushed snow between the posts and into the gardens, but at least he didn’t knock down the posts or destroy the wooden framework for the raised beds.

This was, of course, an extreme situation. Most people who plow snow will never take the liberties my friend did. But still, you can’t be too careful.

Like a Scythe

About one year ago, I bought a beautiful, white-flowering rhododendron and planted it far enough away from the driveway I was sure it would be safe from the plow. And sure enough, the winter nearly passed and the rhody remained unscathed.

And then an early spring storm walloped us and after the plow man left, I noticed he plowed snow over my shrub. However, it didn’t appear it did much harm and I didn’t worry. Then, when the snow finally melted, I learned the rest of the story.

The plow neatly sheared the shrub just at ground level. Someone with a sharp scythe could not have done better. The snow, however, had kept the now-severed shrub upright, so it seemed it was only a little bent. The real extent of the damage only became visible upon all the snow melting.

The moral of my story? Never plant anything of value, except for perhaps spring-flowering bulbs, which have no top growth in winter, anywhere near where the snow plow may destroy them.

It works both ways, of course. The person plowing does need a reasonable amount of space in order to push snow back and also allow for future storms. So don’t push the boundary on getting too close to the driveway because if you lose a planting or plantings, it will then be your own fault.

If you have a spacious yard and can afford to leave enough space for the plow person to push snow as far as his wildest dreams may allow, all the better. But if you have limited space, use my newly minted rule of thumb. Find a place where you cannot imagine the snow plow going any further and then double it. Now your valuable shrubbery and garden beds should be safe.

It’s May, and time to plant everything, including shrubs. But take care when siting them, so you won’t need to replant next season.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.