by malcolm hatchell
(Ontario canada)

We live in Ontario canada, and have bought a Korean spice vibernum (standard) and were wondering if we have to do anything to protect it during our frigid winter months? Thank You

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Hi Malcolm, winter can be really hard on some plants, especially evergreen shrubs like many Viburnum, and even more so if they’re trained to a standard shape (with a stem and a ball of foliage on top).

Luckily, Viburnum carlesii, the Korean Spice Viburnum, is deciduous and loses its leaves in the fall, making your life a little easier.

Lovely though shrubs trained to the lollipop shape are, they can be challenging to protect through our cold winters here in Canada.

In some cases, wrapping the stem in bubble wrap, burlap, or other insulating type material, and the top with the foliage in burlap so it can still breathe is all that’s required.

The issue with Ontario winters is that sometimes, there are freeze thaw cycles, intermingled with extreme cold snaps, heavy snowfalls and so on. This can cause mechanical damage to a standard (pom pom) shaped tree or shrub by the extra weight of snow or ice, sometimes snapping the trunk completely.

My recommendation is that you completely cover the whole plant with some type of roof, and a wire bin, filled with leaves. I know this may look a little odd, but you can do double duty and make a bird feeder on top to disguise it.

Things to keep in mind: The plant still has to breathe, although its life processes slow to a crawl in cold weather. This means that tight wrappings will probably not do too much good.

Mice and other vermin can do an incredible amount of damage to the bark of shrubs and trees under the cover and protection of mulch, or whatever you use to protect it, so timing is everything.

Leave the plant as long as possible without the cover until you’re sure the mice have already chosen their hibernation nests, at which time you can feel sure that they won’t be moving in to the protection of the trees covering.

Another way to protect them is to move them indoors to an unheated garage or basement. Keep them watered, as they still need some moisture.

This applies to plants in the ground too, a good watering before the ground freezes will enable the plant to survive better.

These types of trained shrubs can add a lot of character to your garden, and their value lies in their unique shape, reminiscent of topiary, so it’s worth making every effort to keep them healthy and happy through the winter months to bloom again in spring.

Happy Gardening,