Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Winter, Bunnies & Ice - Not So Nice

I wish I had never ended the last post with, "Here's hoping the spring thaw brings you a garden unfazed by winter weather." Talk about a jinx- geez! If your garden escaped without burned evergreens, a moldy lawn, broken branches, shrubs girdled by rabbits, roses that appear dead... Well, run and get a lottery ticket, 'cause you're one of the lucky ones.

Let's not dwell on how our plants got in this fix. We know how it happened. Let's get to solutions. There are some symptoms that we can be proactive about. Other damage is going to require patience and a wait-and-see-what-happens attitude.

Burned Evergreens - The Falsecypress damage pictured below is fairly typical. Lots of evergreens are showing bronzing of foliage. In particular, damage can be expected on south or west-facing sides that get the brutal combination of winter sun and wind. Patience, please. Most evergreens' growing points are on branch tips and can still be alive, even if the rest of the branch looks dead. If every needle is brown or orange the plant MAY be dead.

Fried Falsecypress

Is there any way to predict dead or alive? One way to get a better idea of your plant's future is to break off a bud at the end of any branch. If the bud is soft and pliable, and both of the break points (bud and stem that it came from) are moist and green, there is hope. The question is: If all of the buds grow out in May, what will the tree look like when the growth from previous years is dead? Time will tell.   

Moldy Lawns - Many consecutive days of grass being buried under snow caused some lawns to show snow mold. As soon as melt occured the grayish-white fungus showed up on the dormant grass. Some lawns were completely covered with it. Warm temperatures, perhaps a very light raking to remove leaf debris (if present), and an application of fertilizer and it should be gone. Do not dethatch!  

Branches broken by ice or snow? Get out the Felcos and make clean cuts. One thing that may show up later on deciduous branches is "canker". Canker is a symptom, a discoloration on branches or trunks. They might be described as black, purple or brown lesions, large or small. They may or may not have distinct margins that contrast with the normal bark color. They are secondary bacterial or fungal invaders due to plant stress. This warrants removal of the diseased stems. A perfect example would be the blackening of stems often seen on older Redtwig dogwood stems.

Did the Easter bunny visit your landscape prematurely? I wish he'd just left the milk chocolate eggs rather than the chewed up bark of crabapples and fruit trees! Where the bark has been completely removed (girdled) the branch will die. It may try to leaf out and then will collapse and die later. Arborvitae missing branches 3' off the ground now? In that case stems with no foliage will never produce leaves on those branch "stumps". Start pruning, but you may not like what you're left with.

Branches girdled by rabbits

Roses are looking baa-a-a-a-ddd, lots of dieback to the ground. If you're itching to get out and work you could start with a "rought cut". That is, prune out the tallest dead canes down to roughly the point where you see green. With so many people using "own root" roses, like the "Knockouts", they MAY completely regrow from the crown and make perfectly fine plants. You can go in later after they leaf out (about the time you make the first fertilizer application) and prune out any stems that are dead.

Dead rose canes

Is it alive or is it dead? That's the $64,000 garden question this year. Time and nature will bring answers in the coming weeks.