Are you taking precautions?

Hydrangea Cityline 'Mars'
 From frost, I mean. I have a trio of Hydrangeas that are not quite hardy, and I'm taking a trio of precautions to keep their flower buds from becoming damaged by frost. They're all located on the east side of my house between the house and a row of yews and Thuja.

I didn't bother protecting Hydrangea Cityline 'Mars' last winter. It grew beautifully during the summer, reaching just over two feet tall.

This item, called the Zone-Up frost
protection blanket, doesn't seem to be
available any longer.
I used an item I'd gotten from Gardener's Supply a few years ago. If I can remember correctly it was called the "Zone-up." It's made of a tarp-like material with an insulation so it's good and thick.  

I stretched the material around stakes I'd placed around the plant and cinched the top. There was a bit of an overlap, which is a good thing. The key with any covering is to keep it from rubbing on the flower buds, or you'll lose them anyway. The stakes I used prevent this from happening by stretching the fabric away from the stems.

Hydrangea 'Gertrude Glahn'

Meanwhile, 'Gertrude Glahn', another macrophylla that blooms on the previous year's growth, will benefit from a double-bagging system using two large Guard 'n Fleece bags. I'd started out with just one but when I realized the weight of snow would damage the buds inside, I placed three of those spiral tomato stakes around the plant and stretched a second bag around them. This way, the snow won't have a place to congregate on top of the plant and its cover.

My third method of protection looks better than the other two by virtue of its natural construction. Hydrangea m. 'Taube' aka ('Teller Red') is intolerant of late frosts, but it's actually located to the south of the Zone-up cover over 'Cityline Mars', so it's somewhat protected. In order to give it some extra cover, I took evergreen boughs I'd used to decorate for the holidays and imbedded them in an upright position around the plant.
Hydrangea m. 'Taube', aka Teller Red
It's hard to think about our plants needing protection from the cold when we've had temperatures in the 50s during the daytime, and barely below freezing overnight. But no matter how long we've been gardening our tendency seems to be reactive rather than proactive. (Oh, wait... that's my tendency, so I guess I've used the royal "we.") 

Hydrangea 'Teller Red' cover-up.

Whether working on deadline, preparing for a visit from the in-laws, or looking ahead to the next big thing, it's not a bad idea to think ahead. And in the case of helping your plants through the winter, it sure beats trying to get some kind of cover on a plant when the wind's blowing a gale and the snow's already on the ground.

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