Clean-Up After the Polar Vortex #springgardening

This is not a pretty post. But it can become one.
Here in Zone 7B (Suwanee, GA) we had a wicked winter, like much of the country. Temperatures were well below normal, and the wind-chill factor hovered around zero on more than one occasion. All this has taken its toll on our plant materials, but with spring on the horizon, it's somewhat amazing to see how little permanent damage was actually done.
The worst problems for some of my clients seemed to be with plant materials that (1) were installed in the late fall (November 2013), just a couple of weeks before temperatures dropped dramatically, and (2) with a few established broad-leaf evergreen trees and shrubs - in the way of "leaf burn," aka desiccation. Desiccation occurs when harsh winds and cold temperatures remove the moisture from plant foliage, faster than the root systems can replace lost moisture. (That's why it is a good idea to water around the root systems of newly installed materials several hours before a freeze: this allows the roots to pass moisture to the foliage before the foliage is disturbed by frigid temperatures.)
Below are examples of plants with desiccated foliage, and some suggestions to help them recover.
As a general rule: wait until all danger of frost has passed before attempting any pruning on trees and shrubs. Plants that look dead may actually be alive, and begin to push out new foliage from bare branches once spring growth resumes. Allow burned foliage to fall naturally from the branches of broad leaf evergreens, and wait to see if new growth emerges.
Newly planted trees may experience "frost cracks" along the trunks. This is caused by an unseasonable and sudden drop in temperature. The moisture within the trunk can freeze, causing a split along the trunk. The tree will heal itself, if the frost crack is not too severe.
More Info:
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/weather/coldprotect-shrubs.html
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, The first polar vortex arrived in early January 2014 and was followed by a 2nd polar vortex and then a snow storm and then an ice storm More than some of our plants could manage
The first polar vortex arrived in early January 2014, and was followed by a 2nd polar vortex, and then a snow storm, and then an ice storm. More than some of our plants could manage...
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, I wrapped some of my client s more valuable and vulnerable container gardens This saved the lives of a number of tender items like this tree ivy masquerading here as a Bandit lurking on my client s back porch
I wrapped some of my client's more valuable and vulnerable container gardens. This saved the lives of a number of tender items like this tree ivy, masquerading here as a Bandit lurking on my client's back porch.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Two newly planted Camellia japonica shrubs I covered as many of these as physically possible not just once but twice to protect them against the sudden temperature drop
Two newly planted Camellia japonica shrubs - I covered as many of these as physically possible, not just once, but twice, to protect them against the sudden temperature drop.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, The unveiling of the flannel sheets newly installed Camellias remained fully covered for two days in the first polar vortex
The unveiling of the flannel sheets: newly installed Camellias remained fully covered for two days in the first polar vortex.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, The pretty pink photo is just the plant tag of a newly installed Camellia japonica Pearl Maxwell This is the unveiling after a second polar vortex in early 2014 The foliage and the bugs are still in tact
The pretty pink photo is just the plant tag of a newly installed Camellia japonica 'Pearl Maxwell.' This is the unveiling after a second polar vortex in early 2014. The foliage and the bugs are still in tact.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, These established rhododendrons curled in upon themselves as a defense against the winter chill Remarkably they recovered fully after looking so terribly sad
These established rhododendrons curled in upon themselves as a defense against the winter chill. Remarkably, they recovered fully after looking so terribly sad.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Here we have a newly installed Camellia japonica This is one of the plants that wasn t covered The obvious leaf burn is apparent
Here we have a newly installed Camellia japonica. This is one of the plants that wasn't covered. The obvious leaf burn is apparent.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Even though these newly installed Camellias have been damaged by the winter weather the branches remain flexible and green underneath We will wait until mid April to see if they will recover on their own
Even though these newly installed Camellias have been damaged by the winter weather, the branches remain flexible and "green" underneath. We will wait until mid-April to see if they will recover on their own.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, These fully established Camellia japonicas came through the polar vortex with flying colors buds and foliage in tact no covers necessary
These fully established Camellia japonicas came through the polar vortex with flying colors, buds and foliage in tact, no covers necessary.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Evergreen ferns like this Holly Fern or Autumn Ferns and Christmas Ferns need a little TLC Just cut the burned branches down at the base This will encourage lots of new growth in the spring
Evergreen ferns, like this Holly Fern (or Autumn Ferns and Christmas Ferns) need a little TLC. Just cut the burned branches down at the base. This will encourage lots of new growth in the spring.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Evergreen perennials like this Epimedium were badly burned this year Just cut the foliage down to the ground and this plant will bounce back in no time
Evergreen perennials, like this Epimedium, were badly burned this year. Just cut the foliage down to the ground, and this plant will bounce back in no time.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Another evergreen perennial Lenten Roses took quite a hit this year The clean up is quick and easy Cut the burned leaves down at the base of each plant Then take a look at the next photo
Another evergreen perennial: Lenten Roses took quite a hit this year. The clean-up is quick and easy. Cut the burned leaves down at the base of each plant. Then take a look at the next photo!
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Lenten Roses cutting off all the burned foliage allows the plants to show off without the distraction of last winter s weather damage Can you see all the new babies coming up from the base These plants are tough as nails
Lenten Roses: cutting off all the burned foliage allows the plants to show off without the distraction of last winter's weather damage. Can you see all the new babies coming up from the base? These plants are tough as nails.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Alas this newly installed Camellia japonica which was not covered will probably not recover Branches are brittle and show no signs of life
Alas, this newly installed Camellia japonica, which was not covered, will probably not recover. Branches are brittle, and show no signs of life.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Most of the hydrangeas I installed last year are making a come back just fine I couldn t cover all of them but so far they are all in good shape See the new growth coming out of the dormant stems
Most of the hydrangeas I installed last year are making a come-back just fine. I couldn't cover all of them, but so far, they are all in good shape. See the new growth coming out of the dormant stems?
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, This evergreen Gardenia Crown Jewell has some leaf burn Wait until mid April to prune away the damaged branches
This evergreen Gardenia 'Crown Jewell' has some leaf burn. Wait until mid-April to prune away the damaged branches.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, Many evergreen Azaleas newly installed and established suffered frost bite Again wait until mid April before removing the damaged branches
Many evergreen Azaleas, newly installed and established, suffered frost bite. Again, wait until mid-April before removing the damaged branches.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, More leaf damage on this Gardenia Radicans Gardenias have a particularly hard time with unusually cold winters but they will be fine after the damaged branches are trimmed away
More leaf damage on this Gardenia 'Radicans.' Gardenias have a particularly hard time with unusually cold winters, but they will be fine, after the damaged branches are trimmed away.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, A newly installed Anise Florida Sunshine evergreen shrub suffered only minor leaf burn Once spring gets underway a little fine tuning and this shrub will bounce back with vigor
A newly installed Anise 'Florida Sunshine' (evergreen shrub) suffered only minor leaf burn. Once spring gets underway, a little fine-tuning and this shrub will bounce back with vigor.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, This established evergreen understory Magnolia took quite a hit Lots of leaf burn Take a look at the next photo to see how you can assess the health of your trees and shrubs by scratching a branch with your fingernail
This established evergreen understory Magnolia took quite a hit. Lots of leaf burn. Take a look at the next photo to see how you can assess the health of your trees and shrubs, by scratching a branch with your fingernail.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, This is the branch from the winter damaged evergreen Magnolia That little fingernail scratch reveals a bright green patch that tells us a lot about the health of both the tree and the branch Wait to prune till mid April
This is the branch from the winter-damaged evergreen Magnolia. That little fingernail scratch reveals a bright green patch - that tells us a lot about the health of both the tree and the branch. Wait to prune till mid-April.
clean up after the polar vortex springgardening, container gardening, flowers, gardening, landscape, perennial, You may notice a lot of scorched leaves on Boxwoods Wait until mid April to give them a prune The warmer weather will promote new and healthy growth
You may notice a lot of scorched leaves on Boxwoods. Wait until mid-April to give them a prune. The warmer weather will promote new and healthy growth.

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