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Connecticut Garden Journal: Get your plants ready for winter now

Shrubs protection from frost in garden.
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Burlap wrapped shrubs protected from frost in a winter garden.

The sudden temperature dip has got us scrambling to finish up our winter plant protection projects. We got lulled into a false sense of eternal fall by warm weather in early November, but now we've got to get going.

Our young trees are the first plants to protect. We add tree wrap around the trunks to keep rabbits, mice and voles from munching on the tender bark. This also prevents the bark from splitting due to sun scald. That's when the winter sun heats up the bark on the south side of the trunk on a cold day and when the sun sets the temperatures plummet causing the bark to split and crack. You can also paint the trunk with a diluted, white latex paint to reduce this heating effect. Of course, for any trees and shrubs that deer like, we erect plastic or metal cages around them.

For tender roses, such as hybrid teas, we bury the base of the plant with a 1-foot deep pile of wood chips. In spring we simply prune out dead growth and the new growth arises from the protected crown of the plant. You can also use rose cones to protect your rose babies.

Also, if you have broadleaf evergreens, such as rhododendron, pieris and mountain laurel, in a windy, exposed area, consider driving 4 stakes around the shrubs and wrapping burlap around the stakes. This will cut the biting cold winds that cause the evergreen leaves to dry out and die in winter. Try not to allow the burlap to touch the leaves or it will wick moisture away from the plant.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.