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Vermont Garden Journal: Protecting Evergreens

AP Photo/Jeff Gentner

Friday, November 22, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. I'm Charlie Nardozziand this is the Vermont Garden Journal. We've all seen it happen. A beautiful, broad-leaved rhododendron looks great going into winter. But in spring the leaves have browned and curled, turning our beautiful specimen into a deposit for the compost pile. So how do we get our broad-leaved evergreens such as rhodis, mountain laurel and pieris shrubs to make it through winter? It's all about protection.

Broad-leaved evergreens continue to transpire moisture through their leaves in winter. If the ground is too dry or their roots aren't firmly established, then enough moisture can't get to the leaves and they shrivel and die. Winter winds also dry out the leaves compounding the problem.

To protect your broadleaved evergreens, mulch the base of the plants well with bark mulch or wood chips now to insulate the roots. Give your shrubs a deep watering and block the winter winds with burlap. The key with burlap is to not wrap your shrubs, but to create a wind screen. If the burlap touches the leaves, it can wick moisture away from them and cause even more damage. Instead, drive 4 stakes around your plant, run chicken wire around the stakes and attached burlap to the wire.

Now if you planted your evergreens specifically to look at them in winter when little else is green, wrapping them defeats the purpose. Another solution is to apply an anti-desiccant spray. These sprays create a non-toxic, waxy layer that coats the leaves and reduces the amount of drying. Spray when air temperatures are above 40F, now and again in mid winter during a warm spell, to insure protection.

And now for this week's tip, to protect hybrid tea, floribunda, and sensitive landscape roses, pile a 1 foot deep layer of bark mulch or wood chips over the crown of the shrub. Don't prune until spring when you can see where the canes have died back. As long as you protect the graft union and base of the plant, it will survive and flourish next year.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about amaryllis. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Protecting Plants from Wind Damage in Winter
How to Wrap Evergreens In Winter

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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