Documents: Container & Small Space Gardening:

Junipers & Pansies in Winter

Protecting evergreen Junipers in most of Canada is overdone; and discussion of protection for winter pansies!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

October 25, 2009

This week, three shots of our Camellia sasanqua ‘Apple Blossom’ with its first two blooms this season. Below, that rose bud that you saw with last week’s article in the background of the Japanese umbrella pine is now a full-blown rose. Not a great specimen for a rose show, but nevertheless not bad for October 25! Author photos.

Two questions again this week; the first from Gordon Hughes of Fenelon Falls, Ontario. “Art, I live in Fenelon Falls, a small community just above Lindsay, Ontario – Kawartha Lakes area. I purchased some [10] small evergreen bushes this spring and planted them and tended to them all summer. Luckily it was a wet summer so they are all doing well. I want to wrap these small [3 foot tall] evergreen bushes in burlap to help them make it through the winter. When should I wrap them? Is there a time or maybe just after the first snowfall? If I leave them I am frightened that they may get ripped apart by an ice storm or heavy snowfall.

When I received Gordon’s note, I wrote him back asking for a little more information; for example, just what type of evergreens they are. His response was follows: “I would categorize these as skyrockets. They are now 3 feet tall but are described as a plant that will grow 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. They are described as being a wind block or privacy plant.”

I also double checked my Ontario map and the Canadian Plant Hardiness Zone Map (1967) and calculated that Fenelon Falls should be considered to be in zone 5a. That means that virtually all of the junipers sold in Ontario garden centres will be hardy there without protection. While there are a few that are only hardy to zone 5 (such as those listed under the species J. squamata, and a few under the species J. chinensis) most of the rest are hardy at least to zone 4, far colder than you would be in Fenelon Falls.

Now if you should have a bad ice storm, that is another matter, but having burlap (or other) covering would not necessarily help as the covering would only make the weighing down of branches worse. As to a heavy snowfall, again, that is best looked after by going out and physically knocking off the snow with the aid of a broom handle (not sweeping it off with the corn end of the broom) as soon after the snow has fallen as possible. If it is a prolonged snow storm, doing it two or three times certainly will help.

One protection you might wish to consider, if the plants are in a row fairly close together, would be to erect a straight screen of burlap or Arbotex on posts just 15 cm (6”) out from the hedge, on the windward side. It could be slightly taller than the plants. That is about as far as I would go with protection, and even next year I would not bother with the screen, once the plants have been in the ground over a year.

Just today, Donna Dawson forwarded a message from Esther and Bo Bonitzke, with this question: “I live in Chesley, Ontario and we planted Icicle Pansies in window boxes, and they bloomed so well, now with winter approaching we are wondering if they can survive over winter in their white, plastic planter boxes. Is there some way we can save them so they will bloom again in the spring? We would so much like your advice on this. Thank you very much.”

The answer to that question is entirely dependent on what the weather is like this winter. You too are in zone 5 (probably 5b) and that could be tough on plants in plastic containers with no additional protection. I would rather see you having the entire containers dug into someone’s garden (or your own!) and then some leaves put over them once the ground is frozen (not before). They should be fine under those conditions. Of course, you could always try leaving them where they are, and once the containers are frozen, wrapping them with some bats of house insulation; or you could take a chance and leave at least one box completely without any additional protection and see what happens. They might very well come through fine. Do let us know what you did, and how they came through next spring.

This item is a little shorter than usual, but I was so late starting it, that I should get it to Tom now, so he can get it up on the site.

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