Unwrapping Evergreens in Spring

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burlap wrapped evergreen

I was driving into town last week and notice quite a few cedar shrubs wrapped tight with burlap for the winter. It was a very sunny day, so spring unwrapping came to mind.

We have had a mild winter with little snow and lots of sunshine. Now that the coldest part of the winter is behind us, you should make a plant to unwrap your evergreens. If the covering is left on too long into spring, foliage can get very warm on a sunny, mild day. The cycle of warm during the cay, and cold as the sun disappears can cause damage to wrapped foliage.

The most important thing to remember when picking a time for unwrapping, is to schedule that task for an overcast day. Foliage has been protected from sun all winter. If you unwrap your evergreens on a sunny day, foliage can scorch.

I have had comments from customers previously in spring about evergreens looking perfectly fine when uncovered but turning totally brown later. That is a sure sign of sun scorch! By choosing an overcast, damp day for the task, foliage has a chance to acclimatize to sun levels.

I was worried that with so little snow cover this winter, susceptible evergreens and broadleaf evergreens may experience winter burn. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence of this.

I have a Bristle Cone pine in my front garden facing southwards. About 5 years ago we had an extended period of very cold, sunny weather with high winds before we received enough snow to insulate the foliage. I lost the top of my pine that year. All the foliage turned orangish brown and fell off in late spring.

I had hoped that the buds were still alive, but the cold had desiccated those too. I ended up cutting off everything that had been above the snow line. It is a unique looking pine now!

That same winter my neighbour’s boxwood shrubs suffered from winter burn. All the foliage above the snow line turned light brown. Tracey had to do a lot of pruning to clean them up, but they did recover nicely.

I looked over at Tracey’s gardens the other day and saw the boxwoods are still green and healthy looking. That is a particularly good sign.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce and yews are other evergreens that are susceptible to damage by cold winter winds. The first think to consider before choosing these evergreens, is to plan a planting spot out of cold northwest winter winds.

Unfortunately, planting evergreens on the south side of your houses can result in winter damage some years too. Snow tends to melt early on the sunny side of a building. Evergreens can be damaged by a repeated cycle of freezing and thawing.

They can also be damaged by that freeze/thaw pattern if they are planted too close to a building on the sunny south or west side. Winter sun can heat up the building walls; the warmth radiates out and warms the foliage on the back side of the shrubs; the sun sets; temperature drops and ice forms on the foliage. The front of the evergreen may look fine, but the back foliage browns and falls off.

To avoid this problem, be sure you plant out far enough that, as the shrubs grow, there is still lots of airspace between the foliage and the building.

We have all been very thankful that the winter has been mild and sunny. So many people have taken advantage of the moderate weather to get out and enjoy walking, snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling. That sure helped to alleviate the lock-down blues!

Now that we are closing in on spring, I sure hope that the worst of winter snow is behind us! I can see the earth in my garden up against the south side of my house. I am looking forward to the first signs of spring growth!

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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