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!

Informational Links:

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A Guide to Northeastern Gardening Blog

NEGardening on Twitter

My Published Books: 

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

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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February Garden Maintenance Tips

Winter Garden

February Gardening Tips

As we head into the second half of winter in zone 7 there are a number of outdoor tasks that can be performed in order to ensure the health and vitality of your landscape plants.

Frost Heaving:  A usual occurrence in winter is frost heaving.   Soil around your perennials freezes and thaws causing your plants to heave up out of the ground.  This causes the plant to dry out and become more exposed to the cold, usually leading to the demise of the perennial.  An easy remedy is to lightly step on the soil around the plant and add a thin layer of mulch to protect it the roots. 

Winter Pruning:  Prune ornamental flowering and fruit bearing trees in need of shaping while they are still dormant.   Generally, trees that flower after June set their buds in spring and can be pruned while dormant.  Early spring-flowering trees set their buds in winter and should be pruned after flowering.  In cases where the tree is in desperate need of pruning it is more beneficial to lose a few blooms and prune when the branch structure of the tree is visible and easier to see.  Prune out any damaged or crossing branches that could cause injury and jeopardize the health of your tree.  Additionally, it is good for the aesthetics, structure and continued flowering of  your ornamental trees to give them a good shaping on a regular basis.  This task can also be performed in the late winter.

Winter Drying (Desiccation):  Check your evergreens for signs of winter drying.  If a period of warming and thawing has occurred in mid winter it may be time to apply a second round of anti-desiccant to your broadleaf evergreens such as Holly, Rhododendron, Acuba, Cherry and Skip Laurel, Boxwood and Euonymus.  Perform this procedure only if the temperature is going to be above freezing for 24 hours.

As March and April approach there will be more tips on maintaining the garden.  For now performing these simple mid-winter procedures will help to ensure the success of your landscape plants.

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

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