This has been one of the coldest winters in 20 years and it isn’t over yet. Most damage from the “Polar Vortex” cold outbreak won’t be apparent until spring. Michigan State University Extension advises to watch for symptoms including branch die-back, failure to break bud, and even plant death. In some cases, landscapers or homeowners may observe a “snow-line,” indicating the depth of snow at the time of the severe cold. Above the line plants may be damaged; below the line they are alive and healthy.

The plants that are most likely to be damaged are those that are marginally hardy for a given zone. A common example is Japanese maples, which are hardy to zone 5b. Assessing and correcting winter damage to trees and shrubs will be a key component of spring activities for many homeowners and landscapers. Bob Schutski, professor of horticulture at Michigan State and well known lecturer in landscape practices, predicts we will have no magnolia flowers this spring. I hear of peach growers in Michigan talking about total crop loss.

The colder temps and deep snow has brought deer closer than normal to homes. They’ve jumped the picket fence and gobbled down my Yews and Hydrangeas. In addition to deer damage, the sun reflecting off the snow can cause sunburn on evergreen branches. I’ve been mentally done with winter for a few weeks now. Though, I have hope. I can see my concrete driveway for the first time in over 2 months. I have even seen some eager plants starting to come up at sheltered southern foundations. Spring is just around the corner now.