Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dwarf Alberta Spruce Winter Damage

Spring daylight, the intense sunshine and cold nights are showing side effects on some evergreens. I am saddened by winter-burn damage on Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca conica).  With the sun's rays bouncing off of snow too and below freezing temps at night, I'm afraid most of these conifers are burned on the sunniest side of exposure.

This is especially true for the south facing specimens shown here.
No matter the size, and situation, all have been burned.
Given some are situated nearest driveways, paved paths or the house, I'm afraid some will bear the burned needles for some time.
What to do now?  At closer examination, you should be able to see lateral buds nestled in the dense needle growth. Buds that should survive, as long as extremes in temperatures don't arise and adequate moisture in the soil is maintained. In May, buds usually unfurl to reveal soft, new needles. The burnt damaged remains eventually will fall off and hopefully if the plant has enough vigor, it will green up. Just be forewarned, in larger examples, evergreen foliage will take many years to plump up the shape and regain its former health. Be patient.

If the buds are unfortunately brown and dry to touch, well, I'm afraid the plant will not easily return to former health and shape.You may try to douse the Dwarf Alberta Spruce with heavy spray of water to loosen any needles and water the base to help it regain new bud growth. If we have a dry spring, this is crucial. You may lose the little conifer otherwise.

I sure hope that some of the largest sizes I saw today will bounce back. It's a shame to see these older specimens die.

How to avoid this: Prevention is key.
 If your garden faces south, please wrap your plant in late November, early December. I'm not a fan of burlap, but if it saves your Dwarf Alberta Spruce from burning, it's better than nothing. 
Other ways to avoid sun-burn:
  • plant in more sheltered locations
  • plant away from paths and driveways
  • erect a screen or something to defuse the sun from shining directly on the plant over winter
  • heap snow under the plant before it all melts, to help retain soil moisture
  • plant alternatives 
 I hope, by June, much of these will have recovered.

Here is a great alternative to the common, unsightly look of burlap: From NuVue Products
Nuvue shrub covers sold at Lowe's Canada


Nuvue's zippered wrap in green, sold at Lowe's Canada.
It is better to protect or plan a re-situation if Dwarf Alberta Spruce are damaged overwinter.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tough Winter on Euonymus - Burned Leaves

This winter has been exceptionally tough on Euonymus foliage. I haven't seen a variety that was unscathed. Not to worry, winter burn and brown leaves will not be left on the shrubs for long.
Sections of this Euonymus, trained as a climber, has burned foliage dotted about.

This is a grouping of Sarcoxie Euonymus. Usually, its dark leafy green foliage is an attraction to plant as an evergreen hedge. Not this winter. Winter burn has caused the majority of leaves to fall off already, leaving this sample quite bare.
Euonymus are rather resilient shrubs and trailers. They will recover given time and adequate conditions. I'm actually quite pleased to see this damage happen. That may sound strange. As a gardener, I see Euonymus scale quite prevalent in the GTA and I believe it's because of our more recent, gentle winters. Scale insects nestle in and fixate tightly on remaining interior foliage and stems over winter and don't die off in large numbers due to protected warmer winter months. Now, I smile in gratitude - for more of these insects will have died off this winter, because of the harsher conditions.

This is Coloratus Euonymus - the ground cover variety. Even with adequate snow coverage, it too has signs of winter burn.

Healthy, soft buds are key to knowing the Euonymus will bounce back. Be sure to water your Euonymus in case we have a dry spring. Watering the plant will ensure the buds stay hydrated and will emerge as leaves during the growing season. In May, buds will unfurl to new leaves and the older burned leaves will eventually fall off. You can aid the process by shaking the bushes, or raking out the worst of the ground cover variety.
If Euonymus is grown as a climber and there's very little growth beneath, simply shake off dead foliage. If it is stubborn to fall off, then prune back to older buds.

Here, you can see healthy buds remain. Not to worry. They will refoliate the plant.
Once the leaves fall off the bush, examine the leaves on their underside. If you see white, flaky residue, it may be scale. Rake as many of the leaves as you can from beneath. It's likely they (not all do) have some overwintering eggs of Euonymus scale insects. Do NOT compost. Remove the leaves from your garden. Add compost or some triple mix to the soil below and be sure to water the plants if we have a dry spring. I caution adding synthetic fertilizers at this point, since scale insects favour stressed plants and love added nutrients. There are only so many healthy leaves to go around. You don't want scale to over-power the plant. For control of this insect, check out my post on Euonymus Scale.
If the leaves are remaining on a ground cover type, or you don't have patience to wait, you can cut back the stems on top, to reveal the green leaves that were protected beneath.Once the buds unfurl to new leaves, the plant should bounce back by June.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Outdoor Winter Urn in March

Well, it's finally March. Yet, it certainly doesn't feel like it.

For those skeptics out there, I just wanted to prove that winter urn designs, made with evergreen boughs and accents can endure the winter and look half decent. These are mine out front. Made early last December, they still look alright.

This one has signs of winter sun burn on the cedar boughs, but apart from that... no needle casts = success!
Problem now: it looks too 'Christmasy' and festive for this time of year. What to do?!

This is where accents can be removed and where others can be inserted.  However, when the weather is still -10 degrees or more out there, you can run into difficulty switching items.

Two options to remove:

1.) Cut the accents out

2.) Bring the container indoors to warm up over a day or two or pour boiling water around the accents and wiggle till they pop out.

Another option: never add accents in the first place that are overly festive. Accents like fruit, vine balls and neutral coloured items have far more longevity in their wear and use beyond Christmas than just red, silver and gold accents.

I usually do this switch over of accents after Valentine's Day, given red still fits the season for February. Although, we had another blast of winter and my urns were covered with snow.
I got these berry stems and pussy willow accents at the dollar store. Adding these and removing the red ornaments is all I need to do to add a touch of spring likeness.  Once the soil thaws and heavy deep freezing weather pass, I'll be making official spring urns. But until then - I think this is sufficient to carry me through.

I'd prefer real forced Pussy Willow stems, but with fluctuating temperatures, many of the catkins will drop and it's not worth the money nor the effort. For now the dollar store items will do and they will last for next year's use too.

What 3 months of winter wear looks like.
Oh, if only the snow were melted and the day-time temperature was marginally higher. ;)

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