Will this winter ever end?

Charlie Metz
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

I'm beginning to think we will never see the lawn again. For weeks, the cold and snow have been a part of our lives. It is so hard to think about our gardens and landscapes when we are overwhelmed with how we are going to get warm, and how we are going to manage around the snow drifts. I usually love snow, but enough is enough.

Spring is just around the corner, and these cold, wintry days will be only a conversation. Soon, the crocus will bloom, last years pansies will flower, and the sun will warm our bodies. It will be time to plan our gardening and landscape projects for the coming year.

The first thing we will have to do is assess the damage from this winter. Ice storms often leave many trees and branches broken. Because of the cold and snow, most of this mess has not been cleaned up. So if you have damage, the first order of business is to clean those dead branches. If some of the branches are still hung up in the tree, you will need to be very careful, because a falling branch can bounce unpredictably your way, causing injury. If possible, use a pruning saw to evenly cut each place where the branch was torn. Failure to do so could expose your tree to diseases this year.

Another result of winter damage will probably show up on your broadleaf evergreens, especially hollies and azaleas. The leaves will appear scorched or may fall off entirely. Usually the plant will recover later in the spring. Don't be quick to pronounce your plant dead and remove it until you have given your plant a chance to show you how hardy it really is.

Some of your shrubs and trees may leaf out later this year. This year's deep freeze will keep many plants dormant longer in the spring. Crape myrtle and spruce are two that I have experienced having a later bud break after a cold winter. Azaleas and rhododendrons may bloom later, but might catch up with a long period of warm weather.

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