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Winter damage to plants continues to show


The hot topic in the garden and landscape right now has to do with winter damage to our plants. As spring progresses and plants begin to leaf out, I am seeing the results of the cold weather in my garden. I am also hearing complaints and questions from others.

The most devastating to me has been the death of my prized Japanese maples. I am crushed each time I go outside and look at them. I keep hoping something will change day to day, and it’s not working.

Every single Japanese maple in my landscape except for the cultivar ‘Full Moon’ is either dead or has very little new growth. Two cultivars are growing from the base, below the graft. This is not a good sign.

The interesting thing to me is that ‘Full Moon’ is the most exposed tree in the garden. It’s on the west side of my perennial bed, open to wind and cold temperatures. All of the others are near the house and somewhat protected.

Let me know if you are seeing any issues with your Japanese maples (e-mail bennett.27@osu.edu ). I am curious as to the extent of the damage.

My colleagues and I are also tracking other plant damage for historical purposes. For instance, back in the winter of 1994, we noted winter injury to forsythia blooms. They bloomed only at the snow line.

This year, I noticed that forsythia blooms were either spars, non-existent, or just below the snow line. I was in Akron last week and noticed that their forsythia in some places were in full glorious bloom.

The other plant I am getting quite a few calls about is English ivy. This has suffered quite a bit of dieback in some areas of the state. Jim Chatfield, OSU Extension horticulture specialist, saw a planting in southeastern Ohio that was in perfect condition.

English ivy in the Miami Valley took a hit and is pretty much brown back to the ground. The best thing to do is wait to see what new growth emerges and then cut the plant back to the new growth. The old leaves will eventually die off.

You can also cut it back to the crown and it should come back. If you have a big landscape planting of ground cover, the easiest is to put the lawn mower on the highest setting and mow the entire area. You may have to sharpen the blade after doing this, but it’s quick and easy.

I mentioned earlier in the season the damage to boxwood. I cut mine back about 3-4 inches and haven’t seen new growth yet; I am still watching to determine the extent of the damage. You can check the stems down in the middle of the plant and also see the extent of the damage.

Roses took a beating, as well.

On all of these plants, the best advice is watch and see what happens. Don’t give up now, as we are still early in the season and many plants aren’t supposed to leaf out in early May. Be patient. We’ll talk more about winter damage as the season progresses, I am sure.


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