It’s winter in New England, and the cold has seriously settled in. Shortly after I’m chilled to the bone, my thoughts go out to all the plants we’ve installed around the Boston metro and I worry about how they will endure the winter. The warm temperatures this fall prevented plants from receiving their seasonal message to induce dormancy, so when the cold temperatures hit, they won’t be hardened off and ready to take the hit. Newly planted plants are the most vulnerable, but even well established landscapes, as well as native woodlands, can lose the battle when temperatures take extreme swings. Coastal areas get beaten up by the desiccating winds off of the ocean, and evergreens take the brunt of the punishment.
The best way to protect evergreens throughout the winter is to wrap them in burlap, which protects them against frost, heavy snowfall, windburn and deer browsing. Even the New York Times has an article on the practice, especially in the Hamptons, where entire landscapes wrapped for protection begin to look like works of art.
The article features “Antonio Sanches, a landscape contractor some consider as much artist as gardener. For the last month, Mr. Sanches and his crew have leapfrogged from modest backyards to multi-million-dollar estates throughout the Hamptons, unspooling and cutting $200 rolls of burlap and stitching them into slipcovers for virtually anything green.”
Although Mr. Sanches estimates that the cost of winter-proofing an average manicured backyard is roughly $1,000 a season, most moderately sized properties cost closer to $500-$700 per season.
When spring comes and the Rhododendrons are blooming amongst lush foliage, the boxwoods look healthy and the arborvitae’s have retained their columnar shape, putting up with a bit of burlap for the winter seems a small price to pay.