Overwintering small trees and shrubs

Carol Bray
Isanti County Master Gardener

Fall is when the garden starts to shut down and when some of us forget we even have gardens or trees and shrubs that still need our attention. Some of us have taken advantage of the fall markdowns on ornamental trees and shrubs recognizing we do need to baby these plants their first couple of years. Winter will come and if we don’t properly prepare this year’s plantings the plants will get stressed and may die. Probably, the biggest error we make is quitting watering our plants too early: water once or twice a week through the fall—until the ground stays frozen.  (Isanti County is notorious for having drought-type conditions in the autumn season.)

After lusting for an Abies koreana (Korean fir) ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ for several years, I did breakdown and buy this beautiful tree this summer. But “alas,” this tree is Zone 5. I’m rarely willing to push the Zone envelope but after conferring with some fellow gardeners, I took the plunge knowing I would need to protect this tree—especially since it is not in a protected location. I watered diligently and I have now wrapped the tree to protect it from sun scald and the drying out of its needles during the harsh winter. A teepee of sorts was made out of fence posts and positioned over the tree. Then, the teepee was covered with burlap. With the help of bungee cords and ties, the tree should be snug as a bug. Another protection method is to make a small “fence” or barrier around the tree or shrub and fill the space with leaves. I will let you know next spring how my beautiful tree managed the winter.

For more information, visit the U of M Extension website at www.extension.umn.edu or call the Isanti County Master Gardeners at 763-689-1810. You can also visit us on Facebook: Isanti County Master Gardeners.