Monday, 3 December 2012

Time to wrap hydrangeas for the winter.

Last week, one of my clients presented me with a pile of horticultural fleece and a bag of pegs.

Well, I can take a hint.

So off I went to what we call the Left Hand Shrubbery, to wrap up the Hydrangeas for the winter. We do this every year, regardless of the weather forecast, as my client has quite a large collection of them.

The job is very simple:

  1. Take a length of fleece.
  2. Fold in half to get a double thickness.
  3. Wrap around the plant in question.
  4. Use pegs to hold it together.
There, that wasn't exactly rocket science, was it?

Pegs, by the way, are an excellent method of holding fleece in place - so much better than trying to get string to stay in place, without crushing the plant below.

I don't prune the hydrangeas before wrapping: the principle is to use the fleece as frost-protection, to keep as much of the plant as possible safe over the winter. Then in spring, we cut back to nice fat buds, choosing well-placed ones, at whatever height we want.

"So why bother to wrap them up?"  you ask.

Well, if we didn't, the frost would spoil a lot of the buds, and we would not have as many to choose from, the following year. 

Here's the Left Hand Shrubbery, partly done:

Hydrangeas wrapped in fleece for the winter
As you can see, I don't worry too much if a bit of the plant sticks out the top - in the case of those three skinny ones, it's H. arborescens 'Annabelle' which sends up new shoots from the base in spring. So we will probably remove most of this year's shoots next year - but we like to keep them protected until spring, just in case. Especially as these three are newly planted - hence their tiny size  - and will benefit from a little extra cossetting.

On the subject of anti-frost wrapping, don't use bubble-wrap! It's plastic and nasty, as when the sun shines, the plant will "sweat" inside the wrapping, and by spring you will have lots of mould and other unpleasantness.

Horticultural fleece is the best stuff, as it is light and doesn't squash the plant. It also does not soak up the water (as hessian does, weighs a ton when wet) and it lets a certain amount of light through, which keeps the plant in tune with the, errr, what's it called? Circadian rhythm? *rushes off to google it*  Yes, that's the one, the 24hour rhythm of light and day which tells plants and animals when to grow, and when not to.

Bubble-wrap is best kept for wrapping up pots, to protect the terracotta: or in the case of plastic pots,  to protect the roots of the plants within. A good double layer, tied around with string, and make sure you cover up all of the pot, right down to the ground. If you can, raise the pot up on "feet" or on blocks of some sort, as another way to protect them from frost. "Ground Frost" is called that for a reason, it forms at ground level, so if you can raise the pots, you give them a little extra protection.

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