WELCOME to the New Year.
PLANTS ARE BLOOMING IN DECEMBER?
The warm temperatures we experienced in November and December has certainly confused a lot of plants. I heard that the Yoshino Cherry trees in the Tidal Basin bloomed. Many of the Forsythia are in flower. Hellebores, H. foetidus and H. hybridus have bloomed. Someone spied a Weeping Willow almost completely yellow with young new foliage, and some of the Hydrangea macrophylla have started to push out new foliage as well. What will this mean for our plants?
I decided to poll some of our local experts in the field. Everyone agrees that this is unprecedented, and we really don’t know what to expect. Much will depend upon what happens during the rest of the winter. The plants used a tremendous amount of energy to produce these new flowers or leaves, which may leave them with less available energy for growth in the spring. If we have a sudden freeze while the sap is still up in the trees, then we may see some bark split, especially in some of the young, small branches. Some experts are expecting to see some die back from the tips.
Early spring bloomers are at the greatest risk. Spring blooms may not produce the spectacular show of normal years. We should not expect plants that have already flowered to bloom again in the spring, but hopefully the leaf buds yet to break will still leaf out properly. The young leaves that have started to emerge will be killed by freezing temperatures. Theoretically, these plants will still want to produce new leaves in the spring, but don’t expect them to emerge on time. Fortunately, the consensus is that most of the perennials should bounce back pretty well.
Though it’s risky to have hose bibs turned on this time of year, it was highly recommended that we provide some extra water when it’s cold and dry in order to keep the soil damp. Evergreen plants lose a lot of moisture during the winter. I won’t be turning on my hose bibs any time soon, but I will make sure to keep a layer of mulch or leaves on top of root systems in order to keep moisture in the soil. A nice layer of snow on the ground would be a big help.
SNOW & ICE
Try to brush heavy snow off of evergreen trees and shrubs. If allowed to stay, the snow could cause abnormal spreading between branches. Such damage is frequently seen in Boxwoods, Arborvitae and Upright Junipers and ‘Sky Pencil’ Japanese Holly. If desired, you can bind the plants with twine before the first snowfall. Though unsightly, it will protect the plants without your help. The twine can easily be removed in the spring.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about ice. If you attempt to break off the ice, you are likely to damage the plant even more. Just hope the ice melts as quickly as possible. In the spring, careful pruning can fix most of the winter damage. New spring growth will take care of the rest.
DO YOUR PRUNING SHEARS NEED HELP?
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