Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
Over my many years of dealing with winter damage, I have experienced just about every kind under the sun—or snow, I should say. From an evergreen shrub’s burned leaves to the total death of flower and leaf buds, winter can be a devastating season for our gardens.
Across the United States, the types of damage vary, due to differences in climate and plant species, but winter-weather damage is difficult to avoid. Some damage, such as a late frost turning early flowers on magnolias to mush, is chronic; with a little anticipation, you can do something about it. What is hard to predict—and almost impossible to avoid—is sudden, severe damage that forces plants to use stored food reserves to replace or repair damaged parts. This damage usually occurs just as spring arrives, when the plant normally uses reserves to produce new growth. The effect of this damage, especially if it occurs over multiple growing seasons, can reduce a plant’s sustainability, making it weaker and more susceptible to disease.
With the common types of winter damage, it’s important to know why they happen, how to deal with them, and, most important, what you can do to protect your plants from falling victim in the future.