|COLD GARDENING: WINTER PLANT PROTECTION
I just finished protecting the plants in all of my gardens against the cold that will surely arrive in the coming months. There are only a few that I protect every year. And some others I cover only if a deep freeze is forecast. I begin to worry if the thermometer drops into the teens, especially if it is unusually early or late.
Every year in the late fall, I gather dry fern fronds and conifer branches and get to work. For plants that are not deciduous, such as phormium, I make a necklace of dried fern fronds and keep it in place with boughs of cedar or fir. If the cut end of the conifer branch is secured in the ground, it will help to keep it in place when it’s windy. If an artic freeze is threatening from the north, I will tie the leaves together and wrap with burlap or plastic, just until the threat is past.
The hardy fuchsias are treated similarly except the stems are deciduous and do not need to be wrapped. I leave them through the winter for extra protection from the cold and wait until late spring to cut them near the ground.
Plants like Lobelia tupa and agapanthus which loose their leaves can be covered completely after first cutting back the old foliage. Simply place a layer of fern fronds or other dry and light material on top and secure with branches. I leave dahlia tubers in the ground and treat in the same manner.
Tea roses should have their long stems shortened to a couple of feet to prevent the roots from being rocked in the wind. Then treat as for the hardy fuchsia.
Gunnera is fun to do and end up looking rather sculptural. First I cut down all of the leaves with a pocket saw, cutting the stems near the base of the plant. Setting these aside, I work dry fern fronds around the base of the plant and the growing points of next years leaves. Starting with the smallest leaves, I drape them over the plant starting with the outside and working in a circle, finishing with the largest leaves on the top. The leaves are incredibly durable, but they also shrink around the plant as they age, making a nicely form fitting cover to protect the vulnerable parts of the plant from the cold.
Let’s hope we are spared a real deep freeze this year, but if we are warned of an artic blast coming our way, I will try to protect of few other plants whose leaves or growing tips might be damaged. This year I am going to use a combination of black plastic and large black garbage bags to cover plants such as nandina, fatsia and Camelia sasanqua.