Fall gardening: preventative and speculative



My favorite macrophylla: well worth protecting

Along with the unseasonable temps we’ve been whining about,
winter protection rears its troublesome head. My most recent purchases include
seven expensive broadleaf evergreens: three leucothoe (edit) “Rainbow”, three pieris
japonica, and one leatherleaf viburnum (rhytidophyllum). That’s what we
call dicing with death in my neck of the woods. All in prominent positions too,
including the leucanthoe, which have replaced my previous front garden shrubs.

Ah, but then multiple bottles of FreezePruf arrived on my
doorstep shortly after September’s GWA conference. I can’t pretend to
understand completely how Freezepruf works, but according to Liquid Fence, who makes
it, “The FreezePruf formula is a proprietary combination of cryoprotectants, a
surfactant, a cell wall reinforcing compound and an antidessicant.”  The stuff—which seems safe enough; LF
products are good that way—is supposed to take you up half a zone (which is
good because at least 2 of these plants are only marginally in my zone), but it
wears off and must be reapplied. Also, it might be better for protecting plants
against early frost than against sustained cold. Check out the LF
pro site
; it’s loaded with technical info. I’m just applying it and hoping for the best.
There’s nothing more pathetic in the springtime than a tattered broadleaf evergreen.


The leucanthoe

There are other options. I see a lot of needled evergreens
wrapped in burlap over the winter. One assumes these were planted to
provide attractive winter greenery, so to strangle them in burlap seems … dumb.
There is also a premade wrapper—called shrubcoat—that
I use on one of my macrophyllas, but it is not visible from the street. Piles
of leaves? Again, unsightly, and not really effective for these types of

The way to end all this hand-wringing, wrapping, and
spraying? Oh, shrubs that would be hardier in my area, I guess. But I happen to
like the lovely variegation and white flowers of leucanthoe and pieris, and the
viburnum is gorgeous. I need them to live and look good doing it!

 I’ll let you know.

See comments for more on FreezePruf by one of its inventors, Dr. David A. Francko.



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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. We wrap some of the more fragile shrubs up in Lake Tahoe in burlap to prevent the snow load from breaking branches and ruining the shape of the small tree or shrub. Never considered wrapping a tree or shrub in snow country to protect it from frost damage.
    Down here in my snow free zone 9 climate I use frost blankets (from Harmony Farm Supply ) to cover the tender subtropical bromeliads and succulents when a frost is predicted. The landscape looks pretty stupid for the night time but it is in good company when you see the neighbors putting old flannel and wool blankets over their citrus for the night. It’s like Halloween in Dec. and January.

    I’ve never used a anti-dessicant so I’m looking forward to your report on its effectiveness.
    If it really ups the planting zone by a 1/2 margin, then I might be inspired to invest in a bottle, moving bromeliads can be a cutting adventure.

    A link to how I prepared for our zone 9 winter:

  2. As the lead inventor of FreezePruf, let me make a few comments. First, FreezePruf is completely safe, even for veggies and fruit. That’s because everything in the formulation is already a food ingredient or used in food prep/growing. Second, it’s a unique product because it enhances BOTH frost protection (the antifreeze components) AND freeze tolerance. Thus, it will add several degrees to the lethal temp for tomatoes and tender annuals. But because it ALSO protects vital cell structures from ice crystal damage it helps ‘extend the Zone’ for cold-hardy but marginal plants, including evergreens. So, a broadleaf evergreen that is already hardy to, say, 10 F can now be grown to around 5 F with the same results. Finally, we’ve included an antidessicant in the formulation, which not only helps prevent winterburn, but also seals the formulation into the leaves, flowers, and fruits for up to 4 to 6 weeks. For this reason, FreezePruf can be applied just hours before a cold event OR used in seasonal protection for the whole winter. And, if it gets REALLY cold, you can always add other protection if you like – – take that 5 degree cushion that FreezePruf gives you and then add to it.
    In short, FreezePruf is not a ‘miracle’ product – it will not allow you to grow a palm tree in Minneapolis. But it WILL move your home landscape about 200 miles further south in terms of USDA Zone equivalents, and it CAN add a couple weeks each to both the beginning and the end of the growing season for tender vegetation.

  3. Oh, gosh. My new manifesto (for my Grand Simplification, now brewing) is “minimal intervention.” I know me, and planning for me at my worst and most distracted is the goal. All it would take would be one too-busy-to-defrost autumn, and all my pretty plants would be roots-up.

  4. I spent my doctoral research studying cold hardiness in Rhododendron. Thus, I really hoped to read the published research on this product, but was not able to find anything in the plant science databases. Perhaps Dr. Francko could provide information on where the efficacy research is published?

  5. You would be safer planting things that don’t need the coddling, or being smart with siting to take advantage of microclimates within the garden for the less hardy stuff. I don’t think most people will actually be all that impressed with the results, as the few additional degrees of frost protection won’t make that big a difference for most people in most situations. Now if you could actually insure protection in the 10 degree range, I would be singing the product’s praises to high heaven.

    For my money, and also in a rather balmy zone 10a climate garden, I prefer to be smart about where I put the tender things. Always I take advantage of evergreen trees and roof overhangs, wind protected courtyards, south facing masonry walls, single pane sliding glass doors where home heat leaks out like a sieve, etc to spot those plants that don’t like frost.

    In our local conditions, it is often more protective to bring things under cover from the rains, as the wet and cold are more destructive than simple cold temperatures.

    I’d also suggest that wrapping old fashioned christmas tree lights,(not newer LED’s), around plants, and tenting over the shrub with a tarp that doesn’t touch the foliage and extends to the ground, will give you a lot more protection if you really need it.

    The spray on stuff? Probably best if you only need a degree or two of additional protection…

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