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How To Winterize Shrubs

Shrubs are a unique way of adding depth and character to any garden and are prominent in vast numbers of landscapes. Because aesthetics often play a larger role than habitat suitability in shrub selection, winterizing your shrubs is an important step in keeping them healthy and beautiful year after year. Inclement winter weather, such as snow, wind, rain, and ice can be harsh enemies of delicate shrubs. There are, luckily, several elementary steps every homeowner can take to protect their bushes from the elements.

1 Prune the Branches

In autumn, pruning the branches of your shrubs is an excellent preventative measure. Accumulation of snow or ice throughout the winter months can cause stress and strain on your plants and result in breakage. Start by removing the smaller, weaker branches. The thicker your branches are at the point where they attach to the trunk, the more likely they are to withstand the weight of winter conditions.

2 Build a Tepee

You can augment the strength of your shrubs by building a tepee over them.

Start with thin, flexible wood - bamboo rods work well -- and erect them over your shrubs in a pyramid shape. More rods, running under the branches of the bushes and tied to the main tepee structure, can offer additional support against heavy snow and ice.

If you have a row of shrubs or a hedge, you can use two thin pieces of plywood to build a 'tent; shaped structure over them. This measure is especially useful in place where shrubs may be subject to snow run-off, or dripping water from icicles.

3 Gather some Mulch

Piling mulch around the base of your bushes will prevent the loss of moisture during frosty weather. Loss of moisture during the winter months - when shrubs rely mostly on stored water supplies - can cause browning of evergreen plants, and reduction of foliage. As well, mulch will help control rapid temperature fluctuations. Change in temperature is demanding on shrubs. During the daytime the soil around a plant can expand due to higher temperatures, contracting again when the sun sets and the mercury falls. Such variations in temperature can cause a raising motion in the soil and disturb your plant's root system.

4 Wrap it Up

Use specially designed tree wrap to protect your shrubs. It is the most versatile tool available in the battle against winter weather.

A screen can be erected, stretched between wooden stakes, to shield plants from harsh sunlight and strong gales.  A tree-wrap can also avert frost cracks from damaging the trunks of your bushes. Winter sun can cause expansion of the wood, prompting splits and cracks to form.

As well, tree wraps can also be placed over a wood-framed tepee to further protect your tender shrubs.