Spring is beautiful but it's also the season when winter's toll
becomes apparent. Whether a winter was brutal or mild, a gardener
can stay well ahead of the game by evaluating its effect and acting
as quickly as possible in spring to cut losses, provide critical
help to plants that were hurt but are salvageable, or stop damage
that's still ongoing.
Walk through the landscape with us as we assess the damage after
one of the coldest, snowiest winters ever recorded. We'll help you
...and for answers in those situations where de-icing salt or
snow plowing may have affected plants or soil, jump to our
cross-reference links in Winter Damage to
...and for more vital signs in perennials as well as woody plants,
see Overlook proof of life.
In this section we direct you to look at growth
buds for viability. The growth bud is a
tightly compressed structure on a branch that developed but did not
expand during the latter part of the growing season. Instead, it
covered itself with resin-filled cap and waited through
As an example, inside each bud on this twig from a white fir
(Abies concolor) is a shoot complete with a year's
needles; a bud on a mature limb may also contain an embryonic cone.
All the shoot needs is a cue from lengthening days plus water and
warmth. If it survived winter it will pop its protective scales and
quickly swell to become an 8-inch long branch.
Suddenly in trouble?
During a growing season plants almost always give plenty of
signals when something is not right. An observant gardener has time
to correct trouble before it's too late.
In spring, problems may follow a different schedule. There is
often little time to read the signs and deal with trouble from
winter damage. A plant may appear to "suddenly die" or develop
severe symptoms "overnight."
Other trouble related to winter damage can be subtle and
lingering. For instance, a tree with roots damaged by cold may
exhibit the same symptoms that occur when there are nutrient
deficiencies in the soil. The gardener who didn't take stock after
a tough winter may miss the connection and invest considerable
resources in fertilizing, unaware that it's not the best
This 8-piece chapter in our news helps you assess winter damage
right away and give you the best chance to reverse what's
reversible. Likewise, it will help you recognize the lost causes so
you don't spend time and money trying to save the incurable.