How to Build a Winter Shrub Shelter

Commercial shrub shelter consisting of an A-frame roofed with plywood

The Spruce / David Beaulieu

Overview
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Unlike evergreens, which retain their foliage year-round, most deciduous flowering shrubs drop their leaves and provide no visual interest in the winter. Thus, you won't be missing anything by providing them with a winter shelter to ensure that they return healthy and beautiful in the spring. You can make a shrub shelter to help your plant withstand winter's snow and ice out of natural materials. It's a fairly quick project that ideally requires some experience in wood cutting. This tutorial creates a shelter for an average 5 foot-by-5 foot shrub. Adjust the pole measurements if you need larger or smaller shelter.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Protective eyewear and clothing
  • Tape measure
  • Bow saw, hatchet, or chainsaw
  • Shovel

Materials

  • 4 8-foot wood poles
  • 7 6-foot wood poles
  • Evergreen boughs

Instructions

  1. Create the Vertical Poles for the Shelter

    Young saplings make ideal poles for a shrub shelter. Many properties, even in the suburbs, have unwanted trees sprouting up. If you don't have any yourself, check with a neighbor or someone you know with more expansive land to see whether they have some saplings they'd like cleared. It doesn't matter what kinds of trees are available; all you need is some wood that will hold up through the winter.

    Having located a wood source, look for a straight sapling (a tree about 3 to 4 inches in diameter) with a sturdy branch that's 8 feet or more above the ground. Cut the tree down. Then, with the felled tree in a horizontal position, fashion your pole by making three cuts:

    1. Measure 8 feet from where the branch you chose meets the trunk down toward the base of the tree. Cut off the excess wood on either side.
    2. Go back to that branch (which will be forming the "fork"), measure from where it meets the trunk out 8 inches, and trim the branch there.
    3. Roughly across from cut No. 2, cut off the rest of the trunk.

    Repeat this operation on three more trees to make a total of four vertical poles.

    Pole being measured for shrub shelter
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  2. Fashion the Horizontal Crosspieces

    Fashion the seven crosspieces for your shelter. These should be simple and relatively straight lengths of wood at about 6 feet long each. (Precision is not required.) Cut off any branches. Rather than cutting separate saplings to fashion these, you might be able to derive them from the scrap wood left over from the previous step.

    Poles needed to place around bush
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  3. Prepare for Excavating

    Lay out four of your 6-foot crosspieces to form a temporary square around your bush. This will serve as a guide for digging the four holes into which you'll be placing the four vertical poles. You'll dig on the inner side of each of the four corners of your guide.

    Poles being used as excavating guideline
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  4. Dig the Holes for the Vertical Poles

    Excavate the four holes to a depth of about 2 feet. Going down this deep will give your structure good support.

    Holes dug for the shrub shelter poles
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  5. Optional: Whittle the Vertical Poles to a Sharp Point

    If excavating in rocky soil, you might find it difficult to go as deep as 2 feet. You can make your work a bit easier by whittling the bottoms of your four vertical forked poles to a sharp point. A pointed pole can easily be driven a few extra inches into the ground if necessary.

    For this optional whittling operation, there is no good substitute for a hatchet. However, it's advisable to skip this step if you have no experience in wielding a hatchet. Hatchets can be dangerous if not used correctly and carefully. Note that a sharpened hatchet is less dangerous than one with a blunt blade. The latter is more likely to careen wildly off the object being cut and strike your body.

    Pole whittled to a point
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  6. Install the Vertical Forked Poles

    Place the four forked poles in their holes. Line up the fork of one pole with the fork of the one across from it, and do the same for the poles on the other side. Fill in the holes with dirt, tamping it down firmly to support the poles.

    forked poles lined up
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  7. Add Crosspieces to the Vertical Poles

    Lay a 6-foot crosspiece into two of the aligned forks. Do the same for the other pair of vertical poles.

    Crosspiece in vertical poles
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  8. Complete the Grid

    Those first two crosspieces will now serve as horizontal supports for the remaining five. Lay the remaining five crosspieces on top, equidistant from each other and perpendicular to the first two crosspieces. This completes a grid.

    Perpendicular crosspiece poles
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu
  9. Finish the Shrub Shelter

    Lay "roofing" over the crosspieces, such as pine or other evergreen boughs. This roofing will bear the brunt of winter's ice and snow instead of the branches of your shrub.

    Completed shrub shelter
    The Spruce / David Beaulieu