To Burlap Or Not To Burlap… That Is The Question!

November 7th, 2013

burlapI feel strongly that evergreens are an integral part of every garden. As a landscape designer I use evergreens in many ways, to provide structure in a garden with a hedge or to provide a focal point at the corner of the garden to name a few but in all situations the most important thing about the evergreens I use is that they are in fact ….EVERGREEN!

So it really breaks my heart to see gardens everywhere scattered with burlap.

Winter damage

Winter damage

The thinking behind this popular practice is to protect the evergreens from winter sun and drying winter winds. This can sometimes be an important thing to do for young evergreens, especially ones planted late in the season but it should only be done for the first season. Also in many cases it’s not necessarily the winter wind but the evergreens inability to draw water from the frozen ground. The winter landscape can replicate desert conditions making the plants susceptible to winterburn. Properly watering the evergreens in the fall and all the way up to the ground freezing will help prevent the winterburn from happening.

Wrapped with twine

Wrapped with twine

Another reason many burlap evergreens, especially cedars, is to prevent the winter snow and ice from splitting them as any branches bent by snow and ice will not return to normal in the spring. The best way to prevent that from happening is to wrap the cedars with twine (see photo) or I prefer fishing line. It’s almost invisible, keeps the evergreen tight to prevent the snow from weighing on the branches and allows you to still have winter interest.

Evergreens aside, the one ornamental tree that should be protected with burlap in the winter is the  Japanese Maple. The best way to protect this tender tree is to water well into the fall and after its leaves have dropped, put 4 wooden stakes in the ground around the perimeter of the tree and then wrap the stakes with burlap to create a screen. The stakes should be about 1.5′ to 2′ away from the trunk.  Waterfall Japanese MapleKudos to my customer Kevin from Pickering for doing such a good job protecting his Waterfall Japanese Maple (pictured left)!

We still want the tree to get the snow cover but want to protect the tree from the winter wind until it is established. This should only be done for the first 2 years until the tree is established. Another case where location matters due to the winter wind patterns. I am still sad that I cannot have a Japanese Maple in my front yard due to its North East exposure. Note I have yews planted instead of cedars for that very same reason.

Simply put, plant the right tree in the right spot, water well into December and use fishing line to wrap evergreens.  All my secrets to a burlap free garden!

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8 Responses to To Burlap Or Not To Burlap… That Is The Question!

  1. […] Wrap newly planted Japanese Maple for winter […]

  2. Glen says:

    I live in Winnipeg and find not wrapping my cedar trees a big mistake, not so much because the sun may hurt them, but more the deer will eat them till there is only the tops left, so I stake and wrap them and don’t have problems from deer or rabbits, works for me.

  3. Helen says:

    Please do not advocate stringing fishing line around cedars. It is deadly to birds..

  4. Ozz says:

    I just planted 10 Cedar Trees in my backyard around 5″ tall (August 25th, 2020), and wonder if I should cover them for the winter or just use a fishing line?

    • Robert Lefebvre says:

      I live in Sutton Qc ( skying region ) with lots of deer the best way to protect your cedars, first plant a post beside your cedar and wrap a plastic nylon fence ( with openings ) start by attaching both the post and nylon fence with nylon ties than wrap both the post and cedar together starting at the bottom working your way up ( wrap semi tight ) attach with ties

  5. Robert Lefebvre says:

    I forgot to mention , if your cedars were devastated by deers cut the top part of the head off a minimum of two inches, the side of your cedar will replenish itself back to where it was! Make sure you cover them for the next winter or this time you will loose them

  6. Desiz says:

    Can you please let me know what type/brand/specs of fishing line to use? I have young cedars that were recently purchased in 9 inch pots that were planted late summer in my back yard in Mississauga. Can you please advise how best to protect this for the winter. I was not prepared for the snowfall yesterday which had quite an impact on all the 10 cedars I planted and had to continuously brush of the show from the plants that were weighing down the branches. If you recommend burlap for the first winter or two, how do I cover the plant with burlap?

    Thank you,
    Nikhil

    • blogadmin says:

      Hi there,

      I assume with such a small pot size that these cedars are also small? Under 2 feet?
      If so there is no need for wire or burlap. The snow is melting and the cedars will be fine,
      it is good to toughen them up at this young age. If there are in a windy area or an area that
      may involve salt then I would create a screen with burlap. The most important thing is that the were
      well watered after planting. Hope that helps.