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The Wrapture: Goodbye to Burlap

Wed, 04/10/2024 - 13:03


The de-burlapping of the shrubbery has begun in earnest this week. All the crazy, Seuss-ical shapes and figures — cones, mushrooms, poufs, pointy-hatted soldiers standing boozily at attention, Wonderland-size undulating caterpillars — are being systematically dismantled as the warmer weather arrives.

On the one hand, we rather regret the springtime stripping of the burlap. It’s become quite an art form, this stitching-in and stapling, the creation of these temporary outdoor sculptures. If you’ve ever seen a burlap crew at work cutting and hemming seams, well, we’re here to tell you that it can be like watching Dior fit a ball gown. And how whimsical the landscape has become, here in One Percentville-by-the-Sea. The great annual winter Wrapture never fails to amuse, and it only gets more and more outlandish with each passing year.

On the other hand, this whole burlap business has gotten so out of hand. Certain staff members — okay, basically all of us — are old enough to remember when no one, ever, wrapped any boxwood, hydrangeas, camellias, arborvitae, or anything else in burlap. Not ever, for the winter. How is it that 40 and 50 and 100 years ago, when the weather was so much frostier, so cold the men harvesting ice 20 inches thick from local ponds, no one deemed it necessary to bundle the shrubbery up against the cold?

We’re told by experts that burlap wrap isn’t even good for some species, especially evergreens, and that it doesn’t in fact actually keep plants warmer. It’s not like dressing a poodle in a winter jacket: The poodle has body warmth, the privet does not. (Think about it.) Apparently the main reason homeowners need burlap for their shrubbery is because it keeps the hungry deer from defoliating everything. That, at least, makes sense. But, as we said last week in this space, could we spare a thought for the birds? The birds can’t eat the berries and insect bits when everything’s bound in burlap.

There’s also something a bit depressing about how the plants in our neighborhoods have become “objets.” The trees and shrubs are lighted with spotlights like a Brancusi in a museum, and covered in dust cloths when the season ends.

We look forward to the next vogue in chic suburban landscaping: the Great Rewilding. The next big thing, one-percent-wise, is going to be the wild, unruly, mixed-and-mad hedgerow, the kind you see Peter Rabbit, Frog, and Toad hopping in and out of in British children’s stories. A feast for the birds and beasts, and for the earth. You heard it here first.


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