Winter Protection

 This time of year there's always a lot of conversation about over-wintering Hydrangea macrophyllas that form flower buds in late summer. Left unprotected, these tender morsels often dry up and die, preventing the shrub from flowering the following summer. This group of hydrangeas includes lacecaps, mopheads and the popular "Endless Summer."

Eric Grant, tropical manager and plant guru at Telly's Nursery in Troy, says he's had good success getting his "Nikko Blue" Hydrangea macrophylla to bloom by using the anti-transpirant Wilt Pruf to protect the tender flower buds over the winter. One secret to his success is timing. Grant waits until the shrub has gone dormant to apply the protective spray. When the leaves shrivel and drop, usually around Thanksgiving, Grant applies the spray. Just be sure the temperature reaches at least 40 degrees for a minimum of 4 hours when the application is made.

To take winter protection a step further, wrap the shrubs in burlap. A cage surround made of metal fencing or hardware cloth, available at hardware stores, makes a good support frame and also prevents rabbits and deer from damaging the shrubs. Stuffing the cage with fall leaves adds another layer of protection. Another good protective covering is a large gray garbage can with its top cut off. Three or four long steel rebar rods stuck into the ground and extending a couple of feet in the air will hold the garbage can in place.

Those who don't care to fiddle with these DIY mechanics might find the new Shrub Guard winter jacket, (800) 605-3769, the perfect answer for winter shrub protection. Made of the same strong breathable nonwoven synthetic material found in eco bags, the ShrubGuard wraps are dyed sage-green with an overall leaf pattern to help blend in with the landscape. They protect plants from salt spray, and deer and rabbits, as well as wind and frost damage. Starting at 2 feet square, the ShrubGuards are available in sizes small, medium and large as well as 5- by 7-foot sheets. Prices start at $7.99. They're available at English Gardens and Bordine's in the Metro Detroit area, Romence Garden Center in Grand Rapids and Garden Goods in Traverse City. You can also buy it online at

To protect the tender hydrangea flower buds from late spring frosts, reapply the Wilt-Pruf after the protective covering has been removed.

To keep deer from sticking their heads down into the openings of the protective coverings and eating those tender tips, I spray the exposed area of the shrubs with Plantskydd deer repellant,

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