Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

May 19, 2014

Damage from the Winter’s Mood

This past Twin City area winter was a winter of my childhood through teen age years. Cold and long.

Normally a true “test winter’, that is a killer winter in at its worst in our area occurs similar to this past cold and windy winter…..but without snow cover.

We had snow cover this past season and it came before the bitter cold and winds. That which was covered was protected and therefore survived quite well.

I am not a weatherman, but as I remember this past winter we had two occasions of -20F, one a mid-December eve and the other in January. Both nights included strong winds.

There was no January frost this January. The cold remained steady which helped conifer creepers and smaller evergreens from ‘sun-burning’.

The ‘sun-burning’ came in March instead, combining cold and bitter winds with a heating-up Spring sun. Take a look around your grounds and those in your neighborhood. Notice the sunscald on the south and southwest facings of arborvitae, hemlock, Austrian pine in particular and other conifers in general. Boxwood and yew shrubs exposed above the snow line took a major burning.

Many Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and Magnolias flower buds were blasted by the cold.

I have a number of marginally hardy woody plants planted in my 2/3rds of an acre gardened grounds. Redbud, Dawn Redwood, Paperbark Maple lead the list.

Redbud is weedy here on my grounds. Among some of the seedlings I notice there is die-back to the snow line. My nursery-grown redbuds haven’t decided to leaf-out yet. My two Dawn Redwoods are almost as moody. One seems to want to live, the other isn’t sure, yet.

To lose any of my Paperbark Maples would be a disaster of the first degree. I have three celebrating their sixth birthday on my grounds each reaching for their twentieth foot of life. What a beautiful bark with a neat, lovely form! What a disappointment to lose any of them.

I shall relate the following true story about a fourth Paperbark Maple which came to my grounds.

It had been planted in early Spring on a client’s grounds. For some unknown reason it did poorly and by September was 80% dead and ugly as sin, as we used to say.

I ripped it out in October and tossed it onto a graveyard section of my own grounds onto a horizontal position to get rid of it.

The following winter came and went. The Spring following it came and went. Mid summer I noticed some unusual foliage growing handsomely amidst a pile of stored oak leaves in the plant graveyard. The foliage was decidedly Paperbark Maple…but how so?

I brushed away some leaf cover and was shocked to notice the carcas of the tossed 80% dead Paperbark Maple of nearly a year ago. It had withstood winter covered only by snow, but in Spring while lying protrate, apparently decided to take root where its soil ball lay on the ground amongst the fall oak leaves.

Its trunk was dead, but at the soil line a Paperbark Maple shrub apparently was born.

Well, plants 80% per cent dead don’t necessarily die.

I immediately transplanted it into an upright position and favorable location where it has recovered more as a shrub than as a single stemmed tree. It isn’t a beautiful swan as yet and probably won’t be in my lifetime. It’s alive and well….and I am very proud of it.

It has shown signs of leaf life already this Spring.

Be patient with your damaged plants….If the stems are dry and snap briskly when bent, the plant as you have known it is likely already dead…..at least by 80%.

Wait, however. If there is some green somewhere on the woody plant, apply water soluble high nitrogen fertilizer asap as a special tonic to leaf development.

A loss of anyon