Whew, last 4 weeks out in the gardens has left me no time to sit @ my desk and write! What a spring! Cannot remember seeing this much in the way of winter damage out in my gardens. This brutal winter resulted in many garden casualties this year. The broad leaf evergreens, rhododendron, boxwoods and holly were especially hard hit. My usually reliable knock out rose shrubs were also hit hard. Many of these shrubs have spent years in their places, not necessarily new transplants last season.
So the next question: Where do you go from here? In many cases the entire shrub is not lost…but you need to determine that. The easiest way is to do a trunk “scratch test”. I usually just take my thumb nail and scratch a bit of the bark surface. If you see green..it is viable.
Then comes the element of patience. I wait a few weeks to see what degree of leaf out will transpire on the deciduous (those that drop their leaves in winter) shrubs. I then begin some restorative pruning (reference my past blog on these practices) to get rid of the dead wood. This will often mean some odd shaping and dealing with “ugly” for a while…but you can bring shrubs back with this practice. This is also a good time to apply your general plant and shrub fertilizer. I use a granular slow release 1010-10 this time of year to bring the plants back into good health and support growth. Also keep in mind that watering with this fertilizer is a necessary partnership.
The evergreen plants can be addressed in the same manner. In many cases I am finding large portions of these shrubs brown and dead. Pruning the dead material out opens the shrub for new vitality and growth. but again…you will be dealing with misshapes and “ugly” in the landscape. These too will need fertilizer and watering to get them back to health. I routinely use the Epsoma Holly Tone on all my evergreen shrubs this time of year..
In both cases a good application of organic mulch will help protect the root system, retain moisture after watering and through slow decomposition, feed the plant with natural nutrients. (will talk more about mulch in my next blog) So apply that now before the summer heat arrives. Good luck, the winter has been hard on our garden friends. But patience, pruning and good care practices can help you bring some of them back as healthy members in your gardens.
And on this 2014 Memorial Day, please take time to remember our fallen soldiers who have died for our freedom. The liberties we enjoy today are granted by these men and women who have sacrificed in service to our country. Take a moment to remember, thank a soldier and raise the American Flag with pride!