Winter’s grip continues to take its toll

Jun 9, 2014


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.


lunchtime 175

I have noticed some pine trees around Ohio that have died or branches that have died and also the same on some other evergreen varieties, not sure if that is from the cold winter or something else.


It's called "winter burn". Evergreen trees still require water and when it is very sunny yet very cold the evergreens cannot accomplish photosynthesis because of lack of water and the they "burn"

Pterocarya frax...

There is a lot of winter burn around, but the cause of complete death is a combination of several diseases including Diplodia, Dothistroma, and Pine wilt.


Azalias took a big hit too. Even my sweet gum looks dead.

Pterocarya frax...

Sorry to say many sweetgums got whacked around here. A few of my young azaleas died too. Others are severely stunted but are trying to come back.


Looks like not only did all 3 of our full-grown butterfly bushes die over the winter, but our huge 15-yr. old weeping cherry may also be a statistic from it. It's just now getting a handful of flowers & patchy leaves here & there. Guess we'll wait until next spring before we cut it down, just in case, but it doesn't look good.


My neighbors and our weeping cherry tress are struggling too. They did produce some blossoms but nowhere near the usual quantity. Leaves were delayed and stunted. However everything seems to be coming in now and hopefully they will make it. As the article states a weeping cherry is a grafted tree. The trunk is fine but the grafted weeper is struggling. I'm going to prune it back before cold weather and the tree should survive.

Let's hope we don't have another winter like the last one.

Pterocarya frax...

My figs, blackberries, and boysenberries are all coming back from the roots but will have very little fruit this year. I was surprised to see my crapemyrtle coming back from the roots. It is tougher than I thought.

Despite what the author said, many Japanese Maples came through the winter just fine. About 35 of mine didn't miss a beat, but some varieties definitely are more tender than others. I lost several 100%, and several others have substantial dieback.

Julie R.

The ones I was hoping to replace this year are doing fantastic and the ones I wasn't going to replace (like the dwarf alberta spruces) look horrible.