Protecting boxwood in winter

yugoslavaOctober 31, 2012

In the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living she writes about protecting tree peonies and boxwood with burlap in the winter. I have never done that. The 6 tree peonies have grown quite large but never appeared to be damaged. There is an abundance of flowers in the spring. I have a dozen boxwood of various sizes which have never been covered. In the winter after a snow fall I go out and shake the snow off. I have noticed some brown leaves on boxwood in the spring. Ever since I read this article I wonder is that absolutely necessary? What do you think?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

oh yugo ...

so let me get this straight..

you have never had a problem nor worries about those in your garden..

until some nattering nabob ex-FELON suggests you must worry and do something about them??? what.. did she invest in burlap makers????

come on ...

mother nature is a witch ... obviously you are in an area where the plants grow with vigor ...

ignore the she devil.. what more can i say ... lol


ps: and yes.. ma nature might come along and throw a bad winter at you .. she really has no sense of humor about your expectations in your garden.. so be it.. we will deal with it then.. and i suggest.. you dont worry about it in the interim ...

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 8:14AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well put, Ken.

Seriously, if you want your meatballs boxwoods to thrive, try to kill them. They will grow back with nothing but revenge on their minds.

Shaking off the snow is removing nature's protective coating.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 10:34AM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

You already know it isn't aboslutely necessary to cover them, since your shrubs have thrived without being covered.

So, do as you see fit with them.

I am covering the one shrub that I have, mainly because I want to make the best effort I can, and I suppose it makes me feel better.

Some tree and shrub owners have a more hands-off way of dealing with their plants, and that is just fine. I tend to have more of a "helicopter" approach. lol

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 1:23PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well curiosity has got the best of me, would Martha really cover evergreen shrubs with burlap? What did she say, word for word? Apparently, she would, or at least pay someone to do it for her. And to build a bamboo frame to hold the burlap, and hand-sew them in place with special needles. I don't think it's a spoof, she looks serious.

Evergreen plants are usually prized for their winter interest. Don't green leaves need sunshine even if it's cold out? Why else would they stay green and attached to the plant?

Not that everything going on in my yard is pretty at every moment, but I would not want to look at this all winter. But is it really that different from the sheets I threw over some Coleus a few nights ago? How many people drove by and were displeased by that sight? If my neighbor felt it necessary to wrap shrubs, I would support their right to do what they wish with their property and plants. If you want to do this, I hope it pleases you. No doubt there is a good feeling to be obtained from making some kind of effort to be helpful and productive, protecting your investment in your plants, which I'm sure is your goal, as was mine with the sheets.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 2:23PM
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If these are the Martha Stewart boxwoods I know about, she spent a small fortune (yes, a business expense) having them transported from a mature plant nursery in Laytonsville, MD, to one of her houses. They had been moved to the nursery from some estate. Her goal was to produce an instant formal garden which wouldn't be devoured by deer. As a good businesswoman, she really ought to be turning out some sort of magazine or web usage with this investment.

Again, if these are those transplanted boxwood bushes, they probably do need more protection than similar bushes which have grown to that size in place. We, and everyone else I know in this area with large boxwood shrubbery, had major damage two years ago from heavy snows. I'm letting mine grow back, but they still look pretty strange. So Martha has a point.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 5:30PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Wow, thanks for posting that picture. Talk about winter interest, those burlap monsters sure do make for an interesting yard.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 8:31PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

If I had to wrap it, I wouldn't grow it. Too many other options out there.
That looks terrible!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 1:53AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Though I no longer live in an area where wrapping in burlap is necessary, I do know that it was predominantly used to protect a plant against damage from snow load. Shrubs can be susceptible to breakage in a snowstorm that may drop many inches at one time. Major infrastructure damage caused by the weight of a wet snow/ice fall is preventable.

The other reason for wrapping a shrub is to prevent winter dessication. When the soil freezes, so does the available water for the plant. Plant cells, still transpiring in the winter and losing their moisture content, become very susceptible to dessication in the winter. Add a little wind into the equation and the fact that broadleaf evergreens have more surface area from which to lose moisture and tissue damage will be the result. I personally fail to see the problem with protecting valuable plants.

I grew up in a snow belt. We would get enormous volumes of moisture-laden lake effect snow. If you waited until after the snowfall to shake off the snow instead of preemptively protecting them, too sad. Layers of snow protects the root system and crowns of low growing plants. We don't want it collecting on the upper tiers of our broadleaf evergreens.

Whether or not it's a smart idea to protect your boxwood depends upon many factors ; local climate, boxwood species, exposure to prevailing winter winds, and expected annual snowfall

My dad kept a supply of burlap and 1 x 4s stashed in the garage from which he would fashion teepees over his valuable yews to protect against snow load breakage. It was a simple part of routine maintenance attended to every year, much like pruning the roses, dividing the perennials, deadheading the annuals, mulching the beds, etc.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 7:47AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

No idea it was such a complicated issue. Definitely interesting to hear the different opinions and factors I hadn't considered. Good info for those who like this shrub. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 9:30AM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

We used 2x2's and attached burlap around 2 rows of trees in our back/side yard. It looks almost identical to what Martha Stewart did in the picture above. In fact, it was another picture from her blog of what these guys are doing that we got the idea from. We did it to protect the trees from Sunscald.

I was so proud as everything got put up. Truly, I never gave one bit of thought to what the neighbors thought of it. lol They didn't seem to mind though because both men whose properties bump up to our's both came over and talked to dh about what he was doing and they weren't mad at all. They were more curious than anything and one of them even offered condolences when he had to take the burlap down for Hurricane Sandy. It was a lot of work!

Before we ever had our trees/shrub, and I saw people wrapping their plantings I always thought it was cool looking, like they were the kind of people who took good care of their property. It's not like it's Sanford and Son (cue the music!)where it's junk laying around the yard. The burlap serves a purpose.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 11:43AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Good explanation rhizo, but it still doesn't change my mind. I understand the need to protect certain shrubs from winter hazards. My point of view is, don't plant those shrubs.
I'm a low maintenance gardener that wants my garden to look good all year long and not depend on burlap to protect my shrubs. That includes dessication from wind and cold. If a shrub can't handle the climate, why grow it?
A lot of shrubs can be pruned or sheared to reduce the snow and ice load, but it might detract from a preconceived notion as to what looks good. It sure beats that unsightly burlap that seems to be a tradition in the east and midwest.
I think part of why I don't like it is because I never see it here in our NW Zone 8 climate even though some people try to grow Zone 9 and 10 plants. Another reason is that I'm not a formal design gardener with all the problems that ensues. Just not wound that tight.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 1:07PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I have to agree a little with the opinion that wrapped up shrubs look a bit more cared for than your average free range shrubbery. I always place them in the yards where autumn leaves get picked up promptly, gravel gets raked, and hedge trimmers are kept busy.

But on the other hand I have a ton of other stuff I can do first before I start wrapping things for winter. My ice and heavy snow load protection is a loose tying up with twine to keep things from splaying apart. imo Much less work to put on and later put away.

As far as other protection, I can see the burlap protecting some shrubs from deer, and the burlap will provide protection from winter sun damage, but that's about all the good I see. Like Botann said, grow stuff that can handle the climate or site it correctly and it won't be an issue.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 9:33PM
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Hello everybody! I never expected this question to cause so many to respond. Ken Adrian made me laugh. Thank you Ken. As for the article I saw it at my neighbor's and I think the whole thing was so elaborate it does not relate to most of us who garden and putter around in our yards. If there was intent to inform there could have been an article with some illustrations. Instead, what was shown was an estate with hired help. It borders on obscene. This is turning into a social commentary rather than a gardening query. All the same thank you for a useful discussion.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 11:08PM
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