Alan Branhagen, director of operations for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, offers some sage advice for keeping plants and trees healthy throughout the winter.
1. Protect fruit trees, flowering crabs, serviceberries and other related ornamental trees and shrubs from vole damage by wrapping something like hardware cloth around their bases to prevent critter from girdling the plant.
2. Wrap trunks of young trees with tree paper or spiral tree guards to prevent rabbit damage (which also helps with frost cracking and sunscald).
3. Place light plastic deer fencing or spray deer deterrents on evergreens: Arborvitae, hemlock and pine are deer favorites. Boxwood and chamaecyparis are usually left alone.
Make sure plants are going into winter well-watered.
4. Don’t be too tidy with cleanup—leave some leaves and stems for winter cover. This free mulch helps prevent freeze-thaw and provides habitat and food for beneficial insects and other garden-friendly wildlife. Many perennial plants show increased hardiness if left uncut until early spring.
5. Plant bulbs and only the hardiest plants to insure they root in before soil temperatures become too cold and the ground freezes.
6. Save or compost summer tropical plants as indoor and overwintering space allows. Dig up and store gladiolus and cannas after their tops freeze.