Current Enviromental Conditions
Never underestimate the limitations of how weather can affect your experience. Or in this case the livability of plant material here in Southeastern Wisconsin. In 2012 we saw a drought that had an impact on plant varieties that was harsh, predictable and avoidable. Now we look at the harsh cold of the winter of 2014, which is also predictable, and sadly unavoidable, and we ignored weathers imposed limitations.
In the drought of 2012 the lack of natural rain could be overcome by metered watering to save the plant material. But the winter of 2014 had no defenses that could salvage plant tissue from the killing cold air driven by wind. We learned that late season trimming of evergreens goes beyond livability limitations, as does late season fertilizer.
And then after many years of mild winters we pushed the envelope of plant varieties and placement, and now must pay the toll. Boxwood, Japanese Maples, Azaleas, Smokebush, Holly, even durables like Yews and Alberta Spruce have fallen victim to minus twenty degree air temps of 2014. Some plants will recover if you factor livability, but their landscape value will be greatly diminished to the point of replacement.
The current recommendation is no trimming of any sort until the stock is fully leafed or new evergreen growth has hardened. This trimming will reduce the new growth extension and further stress the plant. Watering the plant material will push new growth faster, as will fertilizing to any degree. The truth is you won't know the extent of the damage until the new leaf is fully formed and hardened, same with evergreens.
The limitations of salinasation were easily meet this winter, plants and lawns are affected. Client reports of salt free winter maintenance on site with salt-scared lawns are testament to the gross overuse of municipal salt applications. Also snow doming was prevalent this year, even in very cold air! Sunlight reflecting and heating the snow covered plants acted like a greenhouse (ironically in single digit temps) and contributed to much of the burned plants you see.
We must pay closer attention to the limitations that we as stewards of our landscapes have hereto fore ignored. The demand of exotic plants and the desire for something different is not always conducive to Wisconsin’s unpredictable climate.
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