Snow Warnings and Care of Landscape Plants

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March Snowstorm

The seasons have been shifting in the northeast, leaving many homeowners in much dismay when it comes to winter garden maintenance. Winter storms can hit late winter into early spring, causing more distress to plantings once they have experienced warmer than normal temperatures. As we await another winter storm, there are some precautions you can take to ensure the vitality of your landscape plants and protect them from possible damage.

SNOW WEIGHTED TREE BRANCHES: Most evergreen trees and shrubs can handle snow build-up on their branches, but in the instance of a heavy snow, the branches may become weighted down. Certain Arborvitae are susceptible to the weight of snow pulling down on them and may have already experienced sagging branches. Further damage can easily be avoided by wrapping the branches together with arbor tie. The cloth tie cannot be seen from the outside, will prevent future damage from another snow, and the tree will look unscathed.

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Arborvitae and Snow Care

BROKEN OR DAMAGED TREE BRANCHES: Before an approaching storm, try to walk outside and inspect trees and shrubs on your property for any broken or damaged branches. If you do spot a damaged branch, tie the two split halves together by wrapping them tightly together with arbor tie. Start by wrapping the two halves tightly together and continue wrapping above and below the crack for extra support. If caught in time, the cambium (or growing layer) of the plant will repair itself and fuse the two parts of the damaged branch together. I have personally saved split branches on holly, azalea and arborvitae using this technique and the plants have recovered beautifully. Identifying these issues now and tending to them prior to the snow can mean the survival of your plant.

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Arbor Tied Split Branch on Holly

SNOW REMOVAL: While it is tempting to go outside and start removing snow from weighted branches it is also a good time to exercise caution. Under the snow-covered branches could also be a frozen layer of ice.  Any manipulating of the frozen branches could result in easy breakage and permanent damage to your tree.  A helpful tip is to very carefully dig snow from around trapped branches and allow them to spring back up on their own. Never shake branches with ice.  It is best to let nature take its course and allow thawing to occur. The branches will gradually regain their shape as the ice melts preventing any harm to your landscaping.

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Snow Removal From Branches

SPRING BULBS AND SNOW:  Just as your spring bulbs are emerging, a late winter snow storm in March can cause much distress and uncertainty. Besides having to tend with the snow, there is some reassuring news!  While mulch protects dormant bulbs from cold, once they start blooming, a covering of snow will act as an insulator. The snow will help to hold in the natural warmth from the soil and provide protection. Once the snow is gone, you can continue to enjoy your bulbs!

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Spring Bulbs and Snow Cover

As mentioned previously, plants are very resilient, and with a little care can bounce back and recover nicely after a major snow. With a March snow on the way, warmer days may not look promising at the moment, but Spring is right around the corner!

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A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer

Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2017. All Rights Reserved.page-divider-autumn

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Snowy March Garden Thoughts: The Garden Endures another Harsh Winter

4Spring weather is certainly delayed for a second year in a row here on Long Island and only time will tell how the gardens have endured the long and record cold winter.  Memories come back from last season as I awaited spring to come in full force once the temperatures warmed to find later that the unusually cold and snowy winter had done some short-term damage to the garden.  Of course there was concern and anticipation at the time as to whether or not the plants would survive at all. It did take some patience and tender loving care to undo the damage, but the plants did revive and were pretty much back to normal by mid-summer. Unfortunately I had met several new clients last year that had given up hope and taken their plants for dead when they could have possibly recovered, so I am passing on some information that may be of some value.

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Hydrangea March Stalks and Buds

After the snow thaws and new spring sprouts appear on your hydrangea you may notice that the leaves are only coming from the bottom of the plant.  If this is the case, do not immediately cut the stalks back.  Give them some time to see if new growth will appear.  If the buds on your hydrangea are dried and brown rather than green in late April/ May it means that the flower buds are dead and will produce no blooms for the season.  If by mid-spring the stalks remain brown and dry with so sign of growth, then it is time to cut them all the way down to where new leaves appear.  Your hydrangea will then form new stalks and recover. This is what had occurred on many of my hydrangea last year, both the types that bloom on new wood as well as old. I certainly missed the beautiful blooms they produce, but felt fortunate to have new green growth, and was pleased that the plants were spared.

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Crape Myrtle March

Crape Myrtle was another plant that suffered the brutal temperatures but did recover nicely with some care.  My arborist and work companion urged me to give the trees time and patience until the first of July to see how much damage was actually done and to see if the branches would slowly recover with new growth.  Some of the branches were definitely dead so I removed them and awaited nature to take its course.  The method to tell if a branch is dead or viable is to flex it or gently scrape the outside.  Generally, if a branch is flexible and appears green inside it is alive.  If the branch is dried, does not flex and appears brown under the bark then likely it is dead. I had my co-worker/arborist deep root feed the suffering plants to give their root systems a boost and by the end of June/beginning of July, my prized Crape Myrtle had recovered and were producing new stalks.   Throughout the months of July through September they formed their buds and bloomed beautifully…which certainly was a relief.

Winter Garden So while waiting for spring to arrive in just a couple short weeks, I am hoping the garden endured and will be showing all its glory in the not too distant future.  One thing for sure…it has been a bit of a learning experience after last winters record snowfall and this years’ record cold.  I am hoping that passing this information along will spare readers from some unwanted stress once back into the garden.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.

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Got Snow? – Winter Garden Maintenance

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Snow Covered Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

While winter is here and I look out at my evergreens buried under a blanket of snow, it is a good time to review some basic maintenance tips to prevent possible damage to your landscape plants.

SNOW REMOVAL:  While it is tempting to go outside and start removing snow from weighted branches it is also a good time to exercise caution.  Under the snow-covered branches could also be a frozen layer of ice.  Any manipulating of the frozen branches could result in easy breakage and permanent damage to your tree.  A helpful tip is to very carefully dig snow from around trapped branches and allow them to spring back up on their own. Never shake branches with ice.  It is best to let nature take its course and allow thawing to occur.  The branches will gradually regain their shape as the ice melts preventing any harm to your landscaping.

BROWNING OF EVERGREENS: You may be noticing browning on some of your evergreen trees. Browning in the center is perfectly normal and is how a tree sheds old needles to allow for new growth in spring.  Needle shedding usually happens in the fall but is frequently much more noticeable once the snow arrives.  Browning anywhere else on the tree such as on a leader or outside branches can be cause for concern.  If an entire branch turns brown it could be that the branch is broken and should be removed when the weather allows to avoid stress and disease to the plant. Browning could also be the result of “winter burn” which I will discuss below.

WINTER BURN:   Winter burn is the drying effect of winter winds which can cause evergreens to appear brown. I have been getting a lot of questions this winter season regarding winter burn on evergreens such as Arborvitae, weeping and upright Blue Atlas Cedar, Cryptomeria and Golden Oriental Spruce.  The narrow needles/foliage on these evergreens are even more susceptible to this effect.  The abundant snow and reflection of rays from the sun also serves to magnify this phenomenon.  This browning of the needles or “winter burn” should correct itself once the weather starts to warm and water is able to get to the cells of the plant and once again activate the chlorophyll within.  If the tree is well established it should most likely fully recover and start to push out new growth as the temperatures rise. As an extra note, your broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendron, cherry and skip laurel, boxwood and holly (to mention a few) should be sprayed with an anti-desiccant spray before winter arrives.  See Anti-Desiccant on Broad-leaved Evergreens in November for more information.

Stay warm…winter is almost over.

As Always…Happy Gardening!

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Long Island Blizzard Tree Care Tip

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Well we finally got that snow we’ve been lacking and a lot of it!  We officially got 19.8 inches of snow here on parts of the south shore and more elsewhere on the Island.  If you have ventured out you will notice tree limbs drooping due to being over weighted with snow and the first reaction is to brush them off… but beware.

For the best care of your trees with snow-covered branches first allow the sun to start melting the snow and the branches will gradually start to pop back up.   If you are able to gently brush off the snow do so but if the snow is frozen on the branches let it melt naturally in order to avoid tree breakage.   The tree branches are very fragile right now and can be damaged easily.

Stay warm.  Spring is on its way!

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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Preventing Tree Damage from Snow & Ice

WinterAs winter progresses there is an increased threat of snow and ice build up on the branches of trees and shrubs in the landscape. If snow piles up on your evergreens try to carefully brush it away as soon as possible before freezing to remove the excess weight from the branches. If the snow does not remove easily do not shake the branches. This can cause breakage and damage. If the tree or shrub is covered with ice permit nature to take its course and allow the ice to melt naturally. If your landscape does suffer any damage from winter storms it is recommended to remove any broken limbs to avoid stress and disease to the plant. This can be done when the weather allows.  Preventive measures that can be taken to avoid winter ice damage include keeping your trees properly pruned throughout the year.  Fast growing trees and trees with horizontal branching such as ‘Bradford’ Pear are more prone to damage from excess weight.   Prune away any weakened or overweight branches in fall before snow arrives.

Frost Heaving: In freezing temperatures soil around your plants may be subject to frost heaving. This is when ice forms underneath the soil and expands upwards from the ground causing plants such as perennials to push upwards exposing the crown. Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Liriope are especially prone to this type of damage. As a preventive measure apply mulch finishing to your garden beds. To remedy, slightly tap the soil back down, and brush the mulch back around the exposed crown of the plant to protect it. Following these few simple steps will help to prevent any unwanted winter damage to your landscape plantings.

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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