Monday, December 29, 2014

What Not to Wear for Winter Shrubs -- Burlap Wrap

There's a new fashion trend in the MItten. 2014 was brutal for some marginally tender plants and shrubs.  The unprecedented cold of the great Polar Vortex caused permanent damage to boxwood, hydrangea, white pine and other garden regulars.  Neighbor Ray gave up on his scorched boxwood hedge by June.  Blue hosta plants will now line his driveway in warner months.

Fearing the same chilling prediction for 2015, Michigan yardeners have swaddled their precious perennial bushes in layers of burlap resembling oversized bags of lumpy potatoes. 

Do our plants now require quilted buntings to survive?  Truly not in most cases.  Most structural plants naturally come with coping skills for winter survival.  Spruces turn a smoky blue-grey.  Rhododendron leaves curl up like cigars on especially cold days to avoid transpiration (the loss of water stored during the fall due to icy winds.)

When the rhodos resemble stuffed grape leaves, the down
jacket comes out.

Each fall plants store moisture for the dormant winter months. Unless autumn was especially dry, there's usually enough to last until spring.  We've been blessed with a very wet summer and fall
which has continued into early winter.  Most plants have plenty of moisture reserves to survive drying winter winds.

Buntings do not protect from road salt nor other de-icing sprays, as harmful chemicals
are absorbed via the root system. 

Overzealous commercial maintenance crews, fearful of costly replacement, have swaddled perimeter plantings in ugly armors. \

All probably unnecessary and not worthy of the aesthetic cost. 

One nearby commercial building is now encompassed in a bright green cloth fence for the foreseeable future.

Overprotected plants may not thrive as well as those left to nature's devices.  Scientists have found that staked trees are far less strong compared to those allowed to sway in the wind.  The unfettered grow stronger and more supple in order to survive. Hemlocks respond to the weight of snow by gently curving branches downward. 

Plants which do not die back to the root system still absorb and monitor limited amounts of sunlight in the cold season.

The garden doesn't cease to provide beauty in the cold.

Structural planting  provide form and movement when less hearty growth retreats. 

Soldier-like rows of bandaged shrubs have no aesthetic value.   Removal of covers is messy and lengthens a long task list.

To best prepare the garden for winter, water heavily in the fall if precipitation is light.  Discontinue plant food in late summer to discourage vulnerable late season growth.

Snow collects upon branches in graceful beauty.

Save the wrapping for the presents.

More Chilly Advice:

Avoid Shrubbery Flubbery -- How to Clear Away Snow

No More Bad Haircuts -- How to Trim Bushes