February 2014 Cuttings

"Cuttings" is your source for garden updates and horticultural tips from Reeves-Reed Arboretum's horticulture staff. Check back monthly to find out what's blooming at the Arboretum, get the inside scoop on upcoming events, and learn some timely tips you can put to use in your own garden.

Winter Wonderland

If you live on the east coast you know what a time we've been having with the weather. With back to back winter storms and more on the way, now is a good time to consider taking up arm chair gardening. If you have a real garden, though, this winter weather brings some challenges with it: heavy snow and ice can weigh branches down, causing some to break. If those trees are over power lines, well, you've experienced that before. Better call a certified arborist to take care of that, and stock up on the bread, milk, and eggs.

So what can we do when Old Man Winter is in a sour mood? On the one hand, the view of the garden has a glittery post card or movie set look to it with the clean white snow and trees sparkling with ice which we can appreciate from the warmth and comfort of our living room while sipping a hot, creamy beverage. On the other hand, when the snow stops falling is a really good time to bundle up and trudge outside to inspect your trees and shrubs for broken or damaged limbs.

Where possible, it helps to shake as much snow off laden boughs as you can. Large dense evergreen shrubs such as boxwood, yew, and holly will appreciate a brush off so the accumulated snow and ice doesn't bend the branches out of shape. Deciduous shrubs and small trees have the advantage of less surface area for the snow to cling to but even they will welcome a gentle shake to dislodge the extra weight. Just be sure to do it before the snow turns to ice otherwise you may inadvertently break some branches!

The Hemlocks at RRA look a bit downcast with their branches drooping under layers of snow and ice. When it melts, the branches will spring back up.

This Japanese Maple in our parking lot usually holds itself quite proud but with the recent snow and ice accumulation, the branches are nearly touching the ground.

Larger trees and shrubs benefit from judicious pruning at the right time of year to keep their structure sound and branches healthy so now is a great time to do some of that since their forms are clearly visible. Pruning out any suckers, crossed branches, or previously damaged limbs while the plants are dormant will not only relieve them of excess weight and weak branches that could break in a snow storm, but will allow more light and air through the canopy. Healthy limbs are surprisingly supple and even though they look as if they'll snap any second under all that ice, once it melts they perk right back up. If you have trees near power lines, it's advisable to hire a specially trained arborist to prune them away from the wires as this is a very dangerous job that should only be done a qualified professional.

While most plants and trees are content to sit quietly under their snowy mantles, some shrubs seem to turn their noses up in a snowstorm and give the weather the botanical equivalent of a raspberry. One such is the cheerfully bright parti-colored blooms of Hamamelis (Witch Hazel). With their sunset streamers under a cap of ice, the blooms of Witch Hazel are a welcome splash of color in an otherwise monochromatic landscape. While you're out braving the cold keeping an eye on the garden, don't forget to enjoy these little winter surprises along the way.

Our Hamamelis next to the entrance gate is starting to bloom in spite of the severe winter weather.

For those of you who may be reading from warmer climates, we'll leave you with some photos of our winter wonderland.