Garden Photo of the Day

Winter Damage and Spring Recovery

Growing after a heartbreaking winter

Today Karla Roady in Roseburg, Oregon, is sharing some highs and lows from her garden. It is a good reminder that not everything in the garden is always perfect, but plants can recover from a lot.

As in most of the country, weird weather hit this February in southwest Oregon. Here in Roseburg, we occasionally get 4 inches of snow, which is gone by noon. Now, don’t laugh, but this year we got 16 to 18 inches—not much, but it came as wet, heavy snow that stuck on the trees for five days. And those trees, beautiful oaks, madrones, and evergreens, broke under the weight. But then spring came, the most beautiful spring we’ve had in years, reacting to all the snow and rain seeping deep into the ground.

One of the many split oaks damaged by the weight of the snow. This one is awaiting removal.

Sambucus nigra (black elderberry, Zones 5–8) in full flower this spring, looking perfect and unharmed by the snow.

The same plant in the previous photo is the bare stems in the back of this image. It was severely pruned just before the snow, sparing it serious damage.

Coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’, Zones 5–8) before the snow damage, in full autumnal glory.

Here is the same tree, broken by the weight of heavy, wet snow.

The coral bark maple afterward, with the damaged branches cut off. Will it pull through? Plants are tough and often pull through things you’d never think they could survive.

The coral bark maple a little later. It has leafed out profusely, so there are grounds to be cautiously optimistic!

Rhododendron ‘Lem’s Monarch’ (Zones 6–8)

Rhododendron ‘Hallelujah’ (Zones 5–8)

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View Comments


  1. mainer59 05/20/2019

    Thank you for sharing your recovery, but the most striking image to me is the gorgeous interplay of colors in the bed near your walk and stairs. That blue is so vivid! Could you share plant identifications front to back? Is this a normally dry bed? Thank you!

    1. KarlaRoady 05/20/2019

      I'd be happy to tell all! The blue is lithodora and marching up the embankment are three colors of santolina. Next to the little heron is a euphorbia. The heron is overlooking a dry stream bed so yes, this Garden Room is meant to be a drier scene. Out of the picture to the left is more santolina and yarrow.

      1. mainer59 05/21/2019

        I am a day late replying, but thank you so much for the identifications. Alas, lithodora is not hardy enough for me. I hope your summer season is as lovely as your spring.

  2. garden1953 05/20/2019

    I understand how difficult it is to see our wonderful trees weighted down with ice and snow. It's snowing here right now, May 20th! But not the first time we've had snow this late in the season. I love your Black Lace elderberry and hope mine will look that good someday.

  3. KarlaRoady 05/20/2019

    I was totally shocked as the elderberry got that tall. It is now leafing out everywhere. I had pruned it early this winter as it was threatening the roof shingles!

  4. btucker9675 05/20/2019

    In NJ, I had two long wooden poles that I Gorilla taped together to make 1 really long pole used to knock heavy snow from our very large trees. Neighbors thought I was crazy, but we lost very few limbs! : ) . That elderberry is glorious and it sure looks like the Japanese maple is doing it's best to make a full recovery. You have a lovely garden!

  5. User avater
    simplesue 05/20/2019

    I found your garden story interesting about the rare heavy snow and then the extra amazing spring due to all the extra moisture, and also how you are giving the trees a chance to recover is nice. The huge natural boulder with moss is really pretty in your landscaping next to the Coral Bark Maple, and your choices of perennials are a great combination of colors and textures! Thanks for an interesting garden story from another part of the USA in which I was not so familiar with on how the weather there affects the garden.

  6. Cenepk10 05/20/2019

    That was an interesting post & beautiful garden by the way. I’m in Ga- not much snow- but 23• lows for 3 days after a warm spell seemed to kill my variegated Hydrangeas... As it turned out- they put back out at the base. I removed the dead wood to reveal the beautiful ferns, astilbe, ladies mantle & hostas that had been covered up . Was actually beautifying in the end. These things out of our control can actually work to our advantage!

  7. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/20/2019

    My goodness, your coral bark maple was certainly a stunning showstopper in its full undamaged glory. We're all rooting for its full recovery. You will probably be treated to many branches of vibrant coloration this winter since it's the newest growth that has the strongest color...a little bit of silver lining.

  8. [email protected] 05/20/2019

    Thanks for sharing- Love the area where you garden, often pass through there heading up or down the west coast. My elderberry hasn't bloomed yet, but will soon- but I'm wondering if I have it planted too close to the house. Looks like yours is fairly close, with no problem. You have inspired me to for sure prune mine back this winter!

    1. KarlaRoady 05/21/2019

      Oh no I had it planted way too close to the side of the garage - one of the reasons for the severe pruning. I will now watch it more closely and not allow it to grow back that direction. I planted it 18" from the garage. A friend bought one at the same time; hers is planted in the clear and has a most beautiful shape to it.

  9. cheryl_c 05/20/2019

    Gardening is so often a metaphor for life. We have seasons that deal us some pretty tough blows, and sometimes that trauma is what brings us to a better state of being. Some wounds end up teaching us important things, and we become more beautiful because of them. All that said, our Black lace elderberry started to leaf out, then appeared to have died. Only after I'd tried to figure out if I really wanted to replace it, did it put out new soft growth from the base. The lilies it had grown large enough to shade are blooming the most beautiful they ever have. I did lose a caryopteris because of the severe temperature swings. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

    1. KarlaRoady 05/21/2019

      To extend your metaphor: did you see that the bottom 8" or so of the maple was not split. I'm hoping that gives it enough strength to stay alive. One of my large oaks split down the middle 20 years ago. Its bark is beginning to curve around that split and maybe in another 10 years will completely cover that wound. That's what I'm hoping for with the maple - although maybe far quicker than the oak! Thanks for your comments.

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