Here at my Bedford, New York farm, the outdoor grounds crew is busy "burlapping".
One of the first signs winter is just around the corner is the sight of burlap being wrapped around various shrubs and hedges. Burlap covers protect the tender branches from splaying and breaking from the weight of snow, while shielding the foliage from freezing windburn. It is a practice I've followed for many years, and I think it also provides a cozy and pretty look to the winter landscape. This season, we've been very fortunate - milder autumn temperatures allowed us to get a good start on this great "burlapping" project. Yesterday, however, we woke up to a coating of snow, so winter is fast approaching.
Here are some photos.
Rolls and rolls of burlap are needed to cover my hedges and shrubs each winter. After every season, any burlap still in good condition is saved for use the following year. Here, Chhiring brings out the first roll.
Because the burlap covers are custom fitted for each hedge and shrub, any burlap cover from past seasons is labeled, so it can be reused in the same exact location the following year.
This roll of burlap is for the hedge on the east side of the peony garden. A drawing is added to make it clear.
The burlap is unrolled so it can be placed over the hedge.
The frames are built at least one foot above the hedge so even the heaviest snow doesn’t weigh the burlap down and crush the tender foliage.
The heavy burlap is placed by hand over the frames, one section at a time.
Chhiring carefully covers the end of the hedge and makes sure it is covered equally on all sides.
Shorter stakes are placed at the foot of the row. The burlap will be wrapped on the outside of these stakes, so the entire section is straight and secure.
To make it taut, the burlap is pulled down and attached to the ground stakes with screws, sandwiched between the stake and a wooden strip.
Pete screws strips every two or three feet along the bottom of the hedge.
All the wooden stakes, strips and shims were milled at the farm, and get reused from year to year whenever possible. Even scraps of wood can be repurposed for various projects.
The strips are about six to eight inches long – just long enough to accommodate two or three screws that will keep the burlap secure for the season.
The project also requires rolls and rolls of jute twine.
The needles are specially designed for sewing jute. These five-inch long needles have large eyes and bent tips.
At each end of the hedge, Phurba pulls the extra burlap snug and sews it together, so it is neat and tidy.
Everyone on the crew has developed very good sewing skills.
Here, Chhiring also sews together any areas that appear too loose because of the shape of the hedge.
Here is a view of one of the hedges of the peony bed. Because the hedges are wide, long pieces of burlap are sewn together to accommodate them properly.
Chhiring starts to unroll another section of burlap. Each roll lasts about three seasons. Since this is the second season for this supply of fabric, the covers are already made – making the process a lot easier for the crew.
Chhiring carefully places the burlap over the next hedge.
Pete secures more strips at the base.
More sewing is done to make the burlap structure taut.
Here is another side of the hedge border surrounding my herbaceous peony bed.
As you can see, the burlap still allows the boxwood to “breathe”, and get sunlight, which is important even during the colder months.
Here is the inside of the peony bed after all the burlap is secured.
I’ve been burlapping for many years and find that it is really the most reliable way to protect my hedges and shrubs. With this area complete, the crew can move on to the next one.