Shrubs can be fertilized in early spring and most can be fed again, more lightly, in autumn. But wait about a month after the first fall frost, so you don’t stimulate new growth that will be killed back in cold weather. Shown here: Rhododendron 'Amy Cotta'
Along with their unique attributes, heirloom plants have the power to bring generations together. My grown children learned to make fruit preserves from their great-great-grandmother’s fig bush, and now they each have a “start” of the original tree in their own gardens.
Why we love it: Butterfly bush is a winner in any color with its nectar-rich blooms that bedazzle butterflies. ‘Miss Ruby’ takes the game to a whole new level with her deep pink flowers. Butterfly bush is low maintenance and easy growing. In regions with freezing winters, prune in spring, cutting back to 6 to 12 inches tall.
Pruning causes plants to produce new growth, which is tender and highly vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Wait to prune shrubs, including butterfly bush and caryopteris, until spring, when all danger of frost has passed. At that point you can remove any winter killed branches. In future years, aim to get pruning done by late August, so plants have time to harden off before freezes arrive.
Evergreen shrubs bring a winter landscape to life. When the snow falls, take time to notice plantings around you, noting evergreen forms that you like. A mix of needle types and broadleaf evergreens creates a striking winter scene that also looks good in other seasons.
Take time to wrap shrubs and small trees with a winter coat of burlap for protection against cold temps. Plants at risk include those with borderline hardiness and evergreens prone to winter burn. Spray evergreens with an anti-transpirant before wrapping in burlap. Before adding the burlap, protect trunks against chewing rodents by tossing mouse bait that’s enclosed in a protective container near the base of the plant.
Making late additions to the landscape can result in devastating losses next spring, especially in areas where the ground freezes. Perennials are the most susceptible to late planting, as alternating freezing and thawing of soil literally shoves plants out of soil, exposing crowns. Shrubs and trees can go into the ground later, but for best winter survival rates, you should have all plants in place by six weeks before soil typically freezes.