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In the winter landscape, we don’t see a lot going on in our yards that reminds us to think about the plants. In the summertime, long grass screams out to us when we need to mow it and in the fall, the leaves obviously need to be raked. In the winter, there’s just not much that says “take care of me!” Yet, even in the dormant months, there are a few things we need to check in order to keep our plants healthy. We thank the ALCC for these tips on plant care during winter.
What’s out of place?
Most people prefer to leave dried ornamental grasses standing in the garden for winter interest. Their shape and swaying plumes add seasonal interest. With the heavy snows this year, however, many of these grasses in unprotected locations have been smashed into unattractive mounds from the snow load.
These broken and bent grasses won’t bounce back to their upright shape, so they should be cut back. For a neater look, avoid cutting grasses straight across with every stalk at the same height. Instead, cut grasses below where they are bent and broken at different heights to create a more rounded shape among the stalks.
If grasses are still standing tall, leave them until spring. Make a note to self that last year’s growth will need to be removed prior to this year’s fresh growth emerging.
Many herbaceous shrubs have weak wood and long, pliable branches that make them susceptible to wind and snow damage. Examples include Russian sage, golden elder, sumac, pussy willow, blue mist spirea and dark night spirea.
Any branch that has been broken by the weather – and this includes trees – should be pruned back. Those rips and breaks are an open invitation to pests and disease of all kinds. Protect these plants with timely pruning as a little maintenance now can save more work and treatment costs later.
Upright evergreens and shrub forms of arbor vitae often splay open from the snow. While it’s best to bundle these shrubs before the snow flies, they can still be pulled back together after the fact.
Garden centers have netting and other materials to wrap around evergreens to keep hold them in their natural, upright position. Remember to remove the material in the summer once the plant starts to grow and re-establish its natural form. Binding materials, if not removed, can girdle the plant and eventually kill it.
Photos: Grasses with snow damage