November is the time for Midwesterners to protect their vulnerable shrubs from winter damage. A little protection from cold winds and snow is all that many cold-sensitive shrubs require. There are several methods available to provide shelter.
Smaller shrubs like rhododendrons, will benefit from using fresh cut branches of conifers [spruce, pine]. Direct the thick end into the ground near the crown of the plant, and intermingle the branches together. This will provide a windbreak and help stop branch breakage from the weight of snow. If the shrub is taller than the conifer branches, tie them together at different heights to protect the whole shrub.
Another method of providing protection is to use horticultural fleece, plastic, wind-break netting or commercially made covers like below. This method should be used on all late-season planted evergreens, as they may not have developed an adequate root system yet, and can dry out from harsh winds.
To wrap shrubs, insert three stout canes or rods around the shrub and wrap with several layers of protective fabric. Be sure to secure the fabric to the ground. Do not fill the area with leaves, this will promote fungus growth and other problems.
Smaller alpines or plants such as helibores, can be protected using bricks and a piece of glass or clear plastic. Place bricks on the sides of the plant, place glass on top with some type of weight on top to prevent glass from moving. Another idea is to use a spare cloche, but prop-up an end for some circulation.
Some evergreens don’t need wind protection as much as they need to be protected from heavy snowfalls. One heavy snow can break branches and permanently disfigure the plant. Tie shrubs branches loosely in an upright position.
For established or larger shrubs that don’t need wind protection, remove heavy snows with a broom. Be sure to hit the branches swinging upward to pop the snow up, as pushing down may break the branches.
© Ilex Farrell ~ Midwestern Plant Girl