It probably comes to no surprise that in the spring of 2014 we are witnessing the worst winter injury to Mid-Michigan’s plants than we’ve seen in years.
Apart from the obvious broken branches and limbs from the heavy ice, the persistent cold temperatures and winds created a whole kind of hurt of its own.
The damage is a reaffirmation of our concerns about many plants of borderline hardiness. We’ve also seen significant damage to plants considered hardy to our area as well, especially those which were already suffering other stresses.
Many varieties of evergreen shrubs were hard hit. The worst were boxwood, dwarf alberta spruce and many of the ‘exotic’ specimen evergreens. Despite the name, hardy yews were also hard hit, especially those tightly sheared or already damaged by deer foraging.
Of the deciduous shrubs, rose-of-sharon and privit stand out as plants that have been severely damaged or killed.
Of particular note is the loss of many japanese maples, dogwoods and redbuds. Long considered borderline for our zone, these trees have been faring pretty well the last 15 years, but the winter of 2013-14 reminds us there is risk when planting them in our Mid-Michigan climate. Generally, those in more protected areas (north-east exposure) came through better.
We are also noticing that sweetgum trees are looking very rough. A few weeks will tell us more.
What to do?
In most cases, give things a bit more time to fully develop. Premature pruning may be a wasted effort, or even make matters worse. Keep the plants watered and perhaps give them a dose of fertilizer. We think a few more weeks is needed before condemning many of the plants we’ve seen.
Originally published as Smith Tree newsletter on June 4, 2014