Winter Protection: Post-Holiday in the Garden


The best use of your holiday tree is to cut up the branches and use them to mulch your garden, especially for your tender plants such as roses. I insert the evergreen branches upright into the soil in a circular manner around each plant so that the roots and stems of the rose are completely protected. This is especially important during the freezing and thawing periods of the winter months when plants tend to lift, exposing the crowns and roots to freezing conditions. Securing them with evergreen branches keeps them better protected and in a dormant state all winter.

We were all disappointed by no hydrangeas flowers last summer. Rather than leave them exposed to the whims of this winter and the potential of deep cold in early Spring, I suggest spraying your hydrangeas (along with other fussier shrubs such as boxwood, roses, rhododendrons etc.) with an anti-desiccant spray such as WiltPruf or Transfilm. These sprays help plants retain moisture, sealing moisture in from the drying bitter cold winds of winter. It is important to reapply these sprays every 3-4 weeks during the winter season. Always apply when the daytime temperature is above 40 degrees. But don’t be fooled by those warmer temperatures— March 2016 was warming nicely and then we were hit with three nights of below 20 degrees in April killing all the emerging hydrangea buds.

For extra insurance, I am wrap my hydrangea shrubs in burlap early this January. I will first spray the bud tips with WiltPruf and then will wrap each shrub with burlap securing the entire plant with hemp twine to keep the burlap in place all winter. Generally, I remove this wrapping in late March when the weather starts to gradually warm. But after last years unexpected April fiasco, I may wait until Easter.

Winter Container Garden How-To

To create a holiday container, select a container that complements your garden style. Fill with a lightweight mixture of soil which will make the container more portable.

Select cut evergreens that have a cascading form and place them around the rim of the pot.

Create a focal point with a contrasting evergreen especially one that holds its shape and will provide verticality. Southern Magnolia is especially good for strong textural look and with shiny leaves that have an under leaf of golden brown.

Insert cut stems of sparkleberry commonly called native holly (Ilex verticillata) this adds the final touch to a four-layered container that will look festive and inviting for the holidays.

Stem lights are optional but they do make the container come alive at night—adding sparkle and pizazz to your front door

Winter and Holiday Containers

Holiday container at front steps makes for an inviting entrance.

Holiday container at front steps makes for an inviting entrance.

Most gardeners don’t consider using planted containers for the winter months—but with the proper selection of hardy plants you can have a welcoming, colorful container flanking your front door.

The first consideration is to select a frost proof pot that has good drainage. Fiberglass, cement, lead and stone are all weather-resistant —selecting ones that are architecturally interesting as well as being compatible with the style of your home is crucial. Avoid using plastic and terra cotta as they will not hold up to the freezing and thawing that occurs during the cold months of the season.

Many small trees and shrubs with interesting bark and colorful stems can be used as strong focal points especially if the container is rather large. My preference is to use a range of interesting evergreens that have wonderful texture with varied colors—silvery blue, gold and chartreuse, grey green along with deep greens blend well and play well against each other—they can be especially wonderful covered with snow and ice. Heathers, heaths, ornamental grasses and some sedums enhance the base of the evergreens and can cascade beautifully. Consider the contrast of using tall vertical evergreens surrounded and skirted by a differing colored conifer spilling from the pot. Winter containers can be astonishing in their simplicity as well as complex in the use of contrasting and varied plants.

The overall winter landscape can be bland and devoid of color, but with some time and effort you can infuse your walkways and doorways with wonderful potted creations that enliven your home reflecting your personality and making winter a little bit more exciting.