Late spring snows, that occur after plants have sent up flowers or leafed out, generally leaves plant freeze damage or destruction in their wake.
Heavy snows that cling to leaves and weigh down branches cause limbs to break, push tulips to the ground and can force petals to fall off. Shrubs have branches splayed open and some perennial blooms may freeze. It’s not what we want to see as spring comes to life across the landscape.
Nevertheless, in Colorado’s harsh and unpredictable climate, this is what we deal with. Here are some things you need to know – and some steps you might take to undo some of the damage.
Bad news/good news for trees Many ash and honey locust trees may suffer in freezing temps along the Front Range and their leaves may turn brown. The good news is that Mother Nature has a built-in contingency plan. Most of these trees should recover and send out a secondary set of buds and leaves. Expect them to appear in about three weeks.
Pushing out these secondary buds requires a lot of energy within the tree. Be prepared to relieve the stress by providing extra TLC with a tree care program that includes adequate water and fertilization.
Address damaged and hanging branches Branches broken by winds may be hanging in the tree to ready fall at any time and cracked branches could fall in the next wind storm. Falling branches pose serious risks to people and property. If you can’t reach limb damage with an extended saw while standing flat-footed on the ground, bring in a pro who has the equipment and know-how to do the job safely. If you suspect there may be damage, schedule an inspection by a pro who can tell you whether pruning is in order.
Splayed shrubs Heavy snows often leave shrubs splayed open and they may not perk up to their original form on their own. You can help the shrub recover from plant freeze damage by bundling and tying the branches for a couple of months to help it regain its former shape.
Perennials Early-blooming perennials that have sent up flower stalks are also subject to breakage in heavy snows. Sometimes tulips and daffodils perk up after the snow melts, especially if the snow has insulated their blooms from freezing, and other times they are not so lucky. We can only live with the results – and if blooms are bent but not broken, think about cutting the stems for an indoor bouquet.
Remember to leave the foliage from bulbs in place until they turn brown. The green leaves will be busy pulling nutrients into the bulb that will push next season’s growth.
If unsure about peonies, it may be possible to cut off the flower stems and try to force blooming indoors.
Assess damage, do what you can – and get the lawn mower ready to roll. Recent moisture–especially if you fertilized the lawn before the rains–will make your grass grow.