As we say goodbye to our North Country Gardens for the 2015 season, I ended the season by trying out a new winterizing strategy during my garden shutdowns. The practice has generated much dialog both positive and negative over the years. Let me first say that I read and absorb a variety of garden practice material. My common go to sources include my local cooperative or those in comparable climate states, as well as trusted nationally known educators and gardeners who write on their experiences. I use that collective information to arrive at my own conclusions and decisions to apply to my local garden environments.
Armed with my resources of pros and cons on the subject……I decided to apply a “zip tie and cover” approach to what I consider my vulnerable garden shrubs. Over the past 2 winters I have seen an extraordinary amount of winter damage to my boxwoods, holly (especially pencil hollies) and shrub roses. I selected shrubs that tend to be planted in”high vulnerability areas”, those that are in large open areas subject to winds, roadside salt spray, or shrubs that just hover in the 5b cold tolerant zone. The massive dieback and full shrub losses challenged my sense of sustainability and forced me into rethinking my previous practice of not covering.
So this year I am experimenting with covers of burlap and zip tie fasteners. Instead of the usual jute rope fastening, I opted for taking rolled burlap, loosely wrapping the shrubs, ground staking the burlap edges and zip tying the overlapping tops. By using this method I am able to secure the covering, yet keep it loose enough to breath and adjust to snow accumulation and wind.
To be sure, this does not trump the “right plant right place rule! The environment and shrub characteristics should be clearly assessed before installing. But in many of my gardens I inherit the plant material on the site and have to make the best of what I have while helping the customer save their investments. Watering practices well into the fall also contribute to shrub survival. So this basic premise of making sure the ground is well watered before the frost line develops is also very important. I drive this point home with folks who choose late season shrubbery and perennial installations. Late season watering was also important this year given our incredibly dry summer conditions.
And there are also some shrub specimens that inevitably experience some degree of winter injury, but their value in show and texture in a given garden display make the additional care well worth the time and effort. Some of the anchor shrubs in the holly family will benefit from this extra care . This season I fell in love with the pencil holly for certain small space Victorian applications. I would definitely choose to be proactive with this shrub, Apply the ziptie and cover practice for the winter in addition to selective environments for it’s home.
There is never just ONE solution to resolve a garden issue. Trial and error has been a huge part of developing my skill sets over the years. So this winter, I add zipties and covers to my trial and error tool chest. I will revisit this in a blog come the spring comparing overall winter weather and my loses in 2015 to assess overall success. Lets see if “zip ties and covers” are worth the investment. As always…keeping gardens sensible and sustainable!