I have a side yard with a lot of wind and snow exposure in winters. I tried different evergreen trees and shrubs, but they dried or burned during the winter (despite covering them).
What would you recommend that I plant as a deciduous shrub for hedging to survive the Ontario (York Region) winter?
There are a number of factors to consider (beyond hardiness zones : York region ranges from Zones 5-6) when selecting a deciduous tree/shrub for hedging. It is important to identify sun exposure, soil type (sand/loam/clay), drainage, the space you have in your yard and the desired mature height and width of potential plants before deciding on plant material. You might want to discuss these considerations with your local nursery. Planting techniques can also be an issue.
The following website of Pennsylvania State University offers ideas: Using Trees and Shrubs for Privacy and Wind Protection
Depending on the size of your garden, you might also consider planting a hedgerow vs a more formal hedge. The hedgerow can be a mixture of deciduous and evergreen natives of various sizes that, combined, will bring texture, shape, contrast and colour to your garden. It will also provide food and habitat for birds etc.
Some deciduous trees/shrubs to consider are:
‘Flame’ Amur maple (Acer ginnala ‘Flame’): Flame Amur Maple can be grown as a hedge due to its multi- stemmed habit if maintained once a year. It has vibrant fiery red and orange fall colours and is very cold hardy. It grows well in full sun to part shade and, once established, is quite drought tolerant.
Viburnums are often used for privacy. Pollinators are attracted to the blooms and berries provide a consistent food source for birds right into the winter. Ontario native nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) makes a great privacy hedgerow. It provides year round interest, with showy white flowers in spring followed by a rich burgundy fall colour and blue berries in winter.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica): Beech is a popular choice for a deciduous hedge; it can make an excellent formal garden hedge. With green leaves in early spring it often retains the fall coloured golden-brown leaves over the winter. It requires well drained soil. Look for a columnar cultivar like Fagus sylvatica ‘Red Obelisk’.
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus): Hornbeam is a good hedging plant for clay and a variety of soils (though it does not like an overly wet location). With attractive green serrated leaves that brown in fall and are retained over winter it creates an attractive hedge. See: Hornbeam hedge
Lilac (Syringa spp.) or (Syringa vulgaris) can be impressive when planted in small groups as a flowering hedge. They need at least 6 hours of direct sun, good air circulation and well drained soil.
There are many other flowering shrubs that create good “hedges”… such as beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) and forsythia. Native shrubs like red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and other dogwoods and serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) are also good options.
Here is our guide for planting trees and shrubs so you can give them the best possible start. Planting a Tree for Life.