Tulsa and the surrounding areas experienced record-breaking sub-zero temperatures this February.
How that affects the vigor of gardens and landscapes across the area remains to be determined, but being proactive will increase your odds of minimizing potential losses.
Let’s take a closer look at what you can do now and how to best prepare for future frigid winters
Trust Nature’s Intelligence
Landscape plantings have built-in systems for staying healthy throughout winter under normal conditions. If plants enter winter adequately hydrated and protected with a layer of mulch their biological systems have a fighting chance, especially for subzero conditions.
In Oklahoma, it is not uncommon for winters to be drier than other seasons. This is a minor problem when temperatures are mild, but when they drop below freezing it takes a toll on ornamental plantings.
Plants that are well-hydrated are protected when the temperatures dip below freezing because that frozen state locks in moisture. Whereas, drier soils allow ambient air to further desiccate plant tissue to the point of burning them.
There are other contributing factors such as snow cover. It can provide a protective layer that acts as a mulch until warmer temperatures arrive.
Keep in mind that plants have an innate will to survive. They have ways of compartmentalizing winter damage in order to save the plant as a whole.
Now that temperatures are warming, you can start assessing the condition of your landscape plants to determine the next steps. Let’s take a closer look so that you can make a proper evaluation.
Work The Natural Recovery Process
It’s natural for some plants to be budding in early spring while others seemingly refusing to cooperate.
Give them time because every year is different.
When necessary carbohydrate reserves are compromised from a frigid winter the plant may be too weak to open in a timely fashion. This has been likened to trying to blow up a balloon without success. The buds partially open and then collapse.
Plants do not follow our calendar. They have built-in intelligence that informs them when it’s appropriate to begin a new cycle. It’s mostly a function of the weather and the characteristics of the respective plant family.
An easy way to assess the health of a woody tree or shrub is lightly scratching the bark of a young, terminal branch with your fingernail. If it’s soft and light green then it is healthy.
If a plant is not leafing out as expected, test another branch closer to its base. If it’s healthy, light pruning should be a sufficient remedy. You will need to prune down below the wood that has turned gray or light brown to encourage the growth of new buds.
It may be necessary to consult an arborist or horticulturist. He or she will know how and where to prune off the damaged limbs to contain the damage. This makes the tree or shrub’s reserves available to branches that are healthy enough to make use of them.
If you still wish to make a self-assessment, look around for your plantings in other gardens and compare. It’s possible your plants are in a shady area and may leaf out a week or two later than others in sunny environments.
Once again, be patient. Nature often surprises us.
Choose Plants Tolerant To Your Conditions
Losing plants in urban and suburban environments is going to happen. Soils become compacted and depleted of organic matter over time and general overuse.
Cultivated plants such as tender perennials and roses are usually most sensitive to frigid winters. Broadleaf evergreens in particular are expected to be the hardest hit this winter.
- Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum)
We also expect Crepe Myrtles and Abelias to have problems too.
Whether you are tasked with replacing a treasured tree that was the focal point of your garden or a group of foundation plantings, approach this as an opportunity to improve the overall design.
Assembling functionally attractive plant groupings is part art and part science. It’s no different than choosing talented players to round out a sports team. You rely on data but ultimately trust your intuition to find what is uniquely suitable.
When replacing plants, you’ll want to consider what may have caused the plant to decline.
- Was the soil poorly drained?
- Does the site receive too much exposure?
- Are the plantings competing with each other?
- Is there sufficient sunlight?
Fixing those problems is your first step. If it’s a partial solution, to drainage let’s say, then select plants more tolerant of that condition.
We are hoping all turns out well, that the extra layer of snow cover was enough protection.
We Can Help
If you need ideas or have a vision and want help fulfilling that vision, the Proactive Landscaping team can help turn your property into a private oasis for your entire family to enjoy.
When it comes to your landscaping, we always try to work with Nature’s intelligence to give you the most beautiful outcome possible, one that gets better as it matures. We’d love you to contact us to further discuss how.