Conifers Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Winter Protection

Do You Really Need to Wrap Conifers for the Winter?

Mother Nature would cringe if she could see how ugly people make her beautiful conifers!

Over the last 50 years, it seems to have become chic to wrap the conifers up like a mummy for the winter. Certainly this technique is alive and well in my neighborhood: I see it everywhere.

But I don’t get it. I mean, why do we grow conifers, with their evergreen needles, if not for their winter effect? The usual sales pitch is that they’re attractive 12 months a year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find a conifer wrapped in burlap, geotextile or snow fence at all attractive. In fact, it’s downright ugly! And to think they’ll be disfiguring gardens from November to April: that’s 6 months of ugliness!

Just Let Mother Nature Play Her Role

If you feel tempted to get outside and wrap up your plants in order to keep up with the Joneses, I suggest you call on the laidback side of your nature. Tell yourself that it isn’t necessary to spoil the view from your window with visible winter protections, that a true laidback gardener chooses plants that are suitable to his conditions. If a conifer doesn’t give good results in a given location (if it is damaged by drying winds or snow thrown by a snowblower, for example), he tries moving it to a spot where it will thrive… or he replaces it with one that doesn’t need special care. That’s the easy way out.

The great northern forest is largely composed of conifers… and not one is wrapped up for the winter!

If you just can’t believe that conifers could possibly survive a winter as cold as yours without protection, just look at what Mother Nature does. The great northern forest (called the boreal forest or taiga) stretches from Newfoundland to Alaska then from Siberia to Scandinavia, and it is largely composed of conifers. Fir, spruce, pine, larch and arborvitae grow there without any protection whatsoever. And it’s damn cold there in the winter: the forest is largely in hardiness zones 2 and 3. If these plants can grow without protection in nature, why would they need it in your own garden?

As in any aspect of laidback gardening, it’s all a question of planting the right plant in the right spot. Do that and you can “just say no” to winter protection!Bonsai

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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