Saturday, May 3, 2014

Winter Burn

On a recent nursery visit to southern Wisconsin, I rode with a grower through field after field of plants that were the wrong color, off color, or two different colors.  We were viewing their inventory of evergreens, and the grower was lamenting the loss of acres of shrubs damaged by our cold winter.  This was winter burn, and according to the grower, it was the worst he’d seen in over 25 years.

By now we’ve likely seen it:  evergreen plants that have turned orange, yellow, or pale khaki.  The species displaying the worst damage include Yew, Boxwood, and Arborvitae, but just like what I’d seen in the Wisconsin nursery, the impact of the cold weather seemed sporadic, damaging some plants, while sparing others of the same variety close by.

Repairing damage to a garden can take one of three approaches.  They are:

1.  Remove.  If the affected plant is in a high profile place (front door, container plant, or a spot you’ll see or drive by every day) or damaged beyond recovery, one option is to remove the plant, and replace it.  This can be the most costly, but can be the quickest way to return a garden to good condition. In “people-terms”, think of this as a surgical transplant.

2.  Repair.  For moderately damaged plants, or plants that may be in a less noticeable location, a combination of pruning, feeding, and patience can help, but the plant may be less than perfect-looking for a time.  Again, in “people-terms”, this is rehab after breaking a limb.

3.  Recover.  Some species with very light damage only need a light touch, and will recover on their own with minimal impact.  And again, in “people-terms”, think of this as a band-aid and Neosporin on a scratch.

To read more about winter burn, take a look at this great post from the Chicago Botanic Garden’s blog.