How To Protect New Gardenias And Tea Olives During Winter?

Q: I have an area in the yard that I call my “healing area” where I keep plants I’ve purchased before I decide where I’ll plant them. I now have some little gardenias and tea olives that are not ready to be planted. How should I protect my spot during winter? 

A: One solution would be to make a mini hoop house. Drive several 2-foot long pieces of half-inch rebar on opposite sides of the planting area, angled 45 degrees toward the bed. Space them 18 inches apart down each side of the bed.

Go to a hardware store and buy some three-fourth inch diameter black flexible plastic plumbing pipe. Cut the pipe to lengths that will go over two opposing rebar pieces so each piece curves over the top of your bed. This makes the “ribs” of the hoop house. Put chicken wire over the ribs and use plastic zip-ties to attach it to the plastic pipe.

Over this you can put sheet plastic or polyester floating row cover, depending on how cold you predict it will be. Leave the ends of your hoop house open or closed, again depending on your weather forecast. This should protect the small cuttings easily during winter. If you cover with plastic, you’ll need to water them occasionally. Next spring, you can remove the covering system and store it to put in place next fall.