Winter is here and before we get into the thick of it, we should do some last minute preparations to protect our plants. This is especially true of our evergreens.
While many needled evergreen shrubs, rhododendrons, Pieris and mountain laurel varieties are hardy in our mostly zone 5 and 6 climate, there may be special situations when you need to protect them. If you're growing unusual varieties that are stretching the hardiness zones in Connecticut or growing in an exposed area, consider wrapping them with burlap. The cold, winter winds can dry out the leaves or needles quickly causing them to brown and die. It's important to water the the plant before the ground freezes, mulch well and then drive four stakes in around the shrub. Wrap chicken wire around the stakes and then wrap burlap around the chicken wire. The wire creates the form and the burlap blocks the cold winter. Don't place the burlap right on the leaves or needles. This will cause more moisture to be wicked away from the foliage and potentially dry it out.
Another way to protect evergreens is with anti-desiccant sprays. Brands such as Wilt Pruf and Cloud Cover create a waxy layer on the foliage preserving the moisture. Apply on a calm day when temperatures are above 40F. You may need to reapply it in late February.
Also, if you live along the shore or you have evergreens growing close to a road, protect them from ocean and road salt spray with the same burlap screen. Wash the salts out of the soil in spring with a drench of water.