Fallout from our particularly long and cold winter continues. Now that the weather has warmed substantially you can really see which plants were hurt by the weather. For the last two months I have been telling gardeners to wait and see how plants are growing before taking any extreme actions like removal or hard pruning. The time for waiting is now over and it is time to get out the loppers, shovels and chainsaws.
It is interesting to make note of some of the plants that have been set back due to the weather. Some were expected, others are surprises. The peach crop is gone in our region. Flower buds just could not handle the extreme temperatures. The orchard growers knew when they looked at the temperature that those buds had died. The structure—branches and stems—of the peaches were also damaged. Take advantage of the situation and prune back hard to rebuild the structure of the tree. Take a look at some pruning guides and work on getting the peach tree into a good open center for next year’s crop.
Blackberries were killed back to the ground unless they were covered. They are considered “marginally hardy” in our area so this was expected. The new canes are growing well so cut back the dead back to the ground. The new canes will give you a crop in 2015. If you have one of the new “primocane” bearing varieties, they could give you some fruit late this summer. One variety, ‘Illini Hardy’ actually came through winter quite well. However, it is an erect thorny variety and many people don’t like to grow it.
Japanese maples did not do well either. Even those in protected areas died or were severely set back. A hard winter like this really points out the trees we should not be planting in our landscape. Figs have been doing well over the last decade, but were killed to the ground this year. They seem to be coming back from the roots if they were healthy and in a good location.
On the list of surprises is Forsythia. This winter hardy shrub is normally covered with yellow blossom in early spring. Though it was not killed, the blooms were small, damaged and sparse. Some branch dieback is evident though not too bad. Finally, I have seen many weeping cherry that have been substantially frozen back, almost to the graft union. These weepers have an upright trunk with a pinkflowering weeping cherry grafted to the top. The trunk seems to have come through winter in good condition but the grafted weeper was probably only marginally hardy. The result is a nice full head of weeping dead branches with some shoots and leaves beginning to grow—usually closer to the grafted crown.
Hopefully, we have had our severe winter for a while and can get back to gardening as usual.