by Connie Oswald Stofko
I got a question from a reader that I thought might interest a lot of people:
“I planted three baby boxwood shrubs in my front flower bed this spring (in West Seneca/South Buffalo). They are still very small, but have started sprouting new growth and I’m concerned about the cold and snow affecting them.
“I was thinking of putting milk crates over them and covering them with the frost blanket that I have. That area of our yard has multiple feet of snow all winter. It’s one of those postage-stamp sized yards that you see often in South Buffalo.
“Is this the right thing to do? Or would you suggest something else? I don’t have a green thumb, so any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!”
Since I’m not an expert gardener, I turned to a gardening expert for help.
There are two things you need to be concerned about with boxwoods, said Teresa Buchanan, garden center manager at at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark St., Hamburg.
The first concern is winter winds and the second is heavy snow.
Any broadleaf evergreen like boxwood can become dried out by winter winds. Once the ground is frozen, the plants can’t pull moisture up out of the soil. When wind blows across the leaves, it dries them out and the leaves turn brown.
It’s worse when the boxwood is on the west side; it’s better if you site the shrub on the east or north side, she said.
With the cold weather and blizzards we had last winter, “A lot of people lost boxwoods,” Buchanan said.
If you’ve sited the plant correctly, you don’t have to do a lot of extra work, but given what happened last year, you might want to protect the plant.
You can cover it as long as you have air circulation. Without air circulation, mold can build up and the plant could rot. Don’t use a regular blanket, but burlap is good.
Lockwood’s sells a locally made product called Shrub Covers. They come in different sizes and are made of a breathable, sturdy material. They also protect the plant from deer and rabbits.
The second concern is heavy snow, especially under gutters or along driveways, which can split the shrub open or break branches.
Since the milk crate has openings for air to move through, that would work, Buchanan said. Again, if the frost blanket is a breathable material, that could go over the top of the milk crate.
Lockwood’s also sells another product from the same local manufacturer called Shrub Coats. These are tepee-like structures that will protect plants and shrubs from a heavy snow load. They, too, will protect the plant from deer or rabbits.
If you have questions about gardening and want a quick answer, stop in to locally owned garden centers. They have knowledgeable staff who can help you. See local businesses under our Gardening Directory.
You can also contact the Master Gardeners from Cornell Cooperative Extension in your county.