Here we are well into our spring and I am amazed at the wreckage that this past winter has left behind. I’ve never experienced such a wide array of damage. Winter burn on evergreens, die back on tender plants, deer damage, crushed and broken limbs, and even patches of dead lawn. It seems that every garden has been affected in one way or another. The gardens that faced south and had full exposure from winds or had lost snow cover for a short time, seemed to fare the worst. The following is what I’ve been seeing in and around Kalamazoo. Hopefully it will help you understand what to do to recover and prevent damage in the future.
Winter burn happens because plants are losing moisture faster than the roots can keep up with. Of course when the ground is frozen it makes it hard for the plant to get water to replace what is being used in transpiration.
What does winter burn look like?
Usually the outer parts of the evergreen shrub or tree will die back and turn an orange brown color. Beneath the dead foliage should be healthy green foliage that was protected all winter long. Typically it will be evident on the side of the plant exposed to the sun and wind. Winter burn can also occur on Roses, Japanese Maples, Lavender, and Butterfly Bushes, to name a few. See the following picture for an example of winter burn.
Most plants will survive winter burn, but it does depend on how severely they were damaged. Obviously if more than 40% of the plant is showing winter burn, then you may want to consider replacing the plant.
How can I help my plants recover from winter burn?
First, wait to trim in June. Trimming too soon, before they begin to harden up for change in weather, can cause further damage. Make sure to focus on maintaining the shape and not cutting out each little piece of deadwood. Fertilize with a 10-10-10 fertilizer to help encourage new growth and keep existing growth healthy. Evergreens pruned after August 1 show plenty of damage. Late season pruning may look smart, but it is an invitation to trouble. I would advise, if you have formally pruned yews, boxwood or arborvitae, quit cutting August 1. As for my roses, I quit dead heading them in mid August. In the interest that they might so better over the winter, intact. Finally, and most importantly water your evergreens and roses.
I will say the winter devastation to my roses is very tough to take. I know I need to prune every rose down hard. As for my shrub roses, I am warming up the idea that they will need to be replaced. And that I will need to start fresh, and design a new look. I won’t do a new garden tomorrow-I am still in the shock stage
Deer & Rabbit Damage…
There has been significant damage to Arborvitae, Yews, Evergreen Euonymous, and many more varieties. The long & cold winter brought the wild life closer than I’ve ever seen this past winter. Below are some common site I’m sure we’ve all seen around town.
WinterBurn-2 & 3
What can we do to save our plants? Cut our losses and begin spraying to deter them. There are a lot of products available on the market. Some require to be sprayed directly on the plant, while others can be sprayed on the ground around the plant. One of our favorites here is Liquid Fence. It works great, if you don’t mind the smell of rotten eggs. There’s also Systemic Animal Repellents- A concentrated extract of hot chili peppers is absorbed through the roots. Not to be used on plants to be consumed of course. The other option is to replace the damaged plants with native varieties that are deer and rabbit resistant.