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Archive for the ‘Winter Snow’ Category

A bright red cardinal sits atop a snowy honeysuckle
With the impending nor’easter heading toward the mid-Atlantic and southern New England, homeowners have been stocking up on supplies in preparation. Many may also be thinking about ways to prevent damage to their trees and shrubs that may be caused by a heavy snow burden.

A rhododendron droops under the weight of the snow.

A rhododendron droops under
the weight of the snow.

Here are some tips:

With snow accumulation, if it’s not too wet and heavy, you can sometimes take a broom or a leaf rake and gently brush the snow from the branches. If you keep up with this throughout the storm, you can prevent a heavy buildup. It is best not to shake the branches as this can cause breakage.

In the case of an accumulation of ice or heavy, wet snow, it is better to just wait and let it melt off naturally. If you try to knock it off you will usually do more damage to your trees and shrubs. It’s also very dangerous! Most trees and shrubs will bounce back after the snow or ice melts off so it is usually safer to be patient and wait until they thaw out.

Boxwood nearly flattened by a heavy load of snow

Boxwood nearly flattened by
a heavy load of snow

Snow damage is usually worse on evergreens because the foliage can hold the snow on the branches. Sometimes, the outer branches of shrubs like boxwood, yew, and azalea become weighed down with snow, separated from the center, and pinned to the ground. If you try to remove the snow, you can do more damage to the shrub. Let the snow melt off naturally! Once everything melts, you will be able to see if any permanent damage was done.

Click for some tips for dealing with snow damaged shrubs

What should you do for damaged trees in the aftermath of a destructive winter storm?

Heavy, wet snow can sometimes cause irreparable damage to trees

Heavy, wet snow can sometimes cause irreparable damage to trees

The most important thing is to be safe!

  • Don’t go near trees or branches that have fallen on power lines.
  • Watch for large broken branches that are hanging precariously and could fall in a gust of wind.
  • Assess the damage to determine if it is something that you can handle yourself or if you need to call in a professional tree service for help. Large limbs can be extremely heavy (hundreds of pounds) and dangerous!
  • Avoid any trimming or pruning that necessitates getting up on a ladder. This can be extremely dangerous especially if there is snow or ice on the ground.
  • When using a pole saw or trimmer, be mindful of any telephone or power lines and stay well away from these. It’s very easy to lose track of where they are in relation to where you are cutting! Better yet, leave this pruning to a professional.

What is the first step?

Large branch on a maple broken during an early fall snowstorm

A large maple branch broken
during an early fall snowstorm

The first thing you need to do is evaluate the damage to your tree. Study it from all angles and determine the best way to proceed. Severe damage may warrant a call to a professional tree service like Bartlett Tree Experts, while more minor damage can often be tackled by the homeowner.

Broken branches are one of the most common types of storm damage to trees, whether by snow, wind, or heavy rain. The three D’s of pruning dictates that you can remove these broken branches at any time regardless of when they occur. This is mainly because the ragged wound left from the break can be an entrance point for insects and disease.

Remember, hire a professional to remove very large branches or those that you can’t safely reach from the ground. Ladders can be very dangerous for pruning!

Tips for removing broken branches safely and with minimal, additional damage to the tree

  • Make clean cuts by using a sharp tool – a clean cut speeds callus formation and healing.
  • When removing a branch, make the cut close to the stem just outside the natural branch collar. The branch collar or bark ridge is an area/ridge at the base of a branch that contains cells that multiply quickly to close off and heal a wound. If you cut the branch inside this branch collar, you hinder the natural healing properties of the tree.
The natural branch collar contains cells that speed healing.

The natural branch collar contains
cells that speed healing.

Proper pruning removes the branch just outside the branch collar.

Proper pruning removes the branch
just outside the branch collar.

 

  • Leaving stubs is a very poor pruning practice.

    Leaving stubs is a very
    poor pruning practice.

    Do not leave stubs. Leaving a stub is almost worse than cutting the branch too short. Stubs will die back and leave the tree open to disease and insect damage. The tree cannot heal over a stub.

  • Smaller branches, less than 2″ in diameter, can be removed with one cut using good quality shears or loppers.
  • Remove larger branches in sections. This takes the weight off the break and makes the final pruning cuts easier and safer.
  • Once you have a shorter section to remove, use the three-cut method to remove the branch completely. The three-cut method prevents tearing or stripping of the bark as the final section is removed.
The first two cuts of the three-cut pruning method. The third cut will remove the remaining stub.

The first two cuts of the three-cut pruning method.
The third cut will remove the remaining stub.

  • There is generally no need to use any kind of wound paint. Painting the wound can inhibit the natural healing of the tree; however, sometimes larger cuts can be coated with orange shellac.
  • If a branch has broken and peeled the bark down on the trunk in the process, remove the branch using the procedure above and then trim off any loose bark.

Here are some tips for dealing with split branches or trunks

Severe damage to trees

Always prune to an outward facing branch or bud.

Always prune to an outward
facing branch or bud.

In many cases, depending on the species of tree, younger trees can bounce back from fairly severe damage – up to 40% loss of their branches. These smaller trees should be pruned to remove damaged branches, making new clean cuts back to a branch collar. If just the tip of a branch is damaged, prune the branch back to an outward facing branch or bud.

In the late spring, you will be able to determine if the tree has survived. Summer pruning may be necessary to reshape the tree and remove additional dead twigs or branches.

In cases of severe damage to larger trees, it is best to consult a certified local arborist such as Bartlett Tree Experts to get their recommendation on whether the tree can be salvaged. If the loss of branches is greater than 40%, the chances of survival can be greatly diminished and you may have to have the tree removed. Even if it survives, it may be severely weakened and it may become a hazard in the future. It’s wise to consult a professional arborist to determine a course of action.

Trees are a renewable and replaceable resource.

If you are forced to remove a tree, consider replacing it with a tree that produces well-spaced, wide angled branches which provide greater strength and resist breakage. To eliminate the problem of trunk splitting, look for trees that produce a single main trunk. Bradford pears are very popular landscape trees but they have weak branches and are very prone to storm damage.
Consider the loss of your tree an opportunity to try an exciting new variety!

Until next time – Be safe and enjoy the snow!

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A heavy snow shower blows into the valley on saturday creating near whiteout conditions. Photo taken by Melissa Jones.

A heavy snow squall with high winds blows into the valley on Saturday afternoon
briefly creating near whiteout conditions. Photo taken by Melissa Jones.

It’s very cold – for us, that is.

The high temperature for Fishersville, VA was only 11°F today. The low tonight is supposed to be four below with a wind chill of -8! Everyone in New England is probably laughing at me – considering this to be a heat wave compared to what they have been experiencing during this very cold winter.

Helleborus foetidus with its green bell-shaped flowers pokes up out of the snow.

Helleborus foetidus with its bright green
bell flowers pokes out of the snow.

Luckily, we have a bit of snow to insulate our plants during this frigid cold snap. It isn’t as much as we had hoped, but it will help. I know the vineyards in the area were hoping for at least a foot during this last storm. With the extreme cold that is now upon us, they were hoping to have a good snow cover to protect the grape vines. Unfortunately for them, the storm didn’t pan out as predicted. This was a light, fluffy snow that came down in fine, tiny flakes and accumulated very slowly. The totals in most places fell way below the 8″-12″ that was predicted. We only got 4.5″ at our house – but still, it was beautiful and it will provide some protection for the plants in our gardens.

Begonia grandis seed heads have already dropped their seed. Daffodil foliage pokes up in the background.

Begonia grandis seed heads. Daffodil
foliage pokes up in the background.

Snow has excellent insulating properties, especially when it is at least 10″ deep. The temperature under a deep snow pack is generally around 32 degrees even when the air temperature is below zero! I suppose this might be some consolation for those New Englanders who are buried under several feet of snow. They certainly have been hammered up there! Of course, with that much snow, many shrubs could be pretty flattened by the spring thaw! Here are some tips to help with that when the time comes.

Buddleia sprouts from roots.

This Buddleia died back completely
but came up from the roots.

Frigid temperatures without any snow cover can be very damaging to some of the trees and shrubs in the landscape. Those that are marginally hardy where you live are especially susceptible to winter damage and winter kill. I expect that there may be a lot of winter dieback on crape myrtles and butterfly bushes in our area after this winter. Get your pruning shears and pruning saw ready! Hopefully the roots will be protected underground. If the roots survive, new growth should pop up from below to form a new plant.

Luckily, the wind chill does NOT affect plants; only the actual air temperature. Wind chill only affects warm-blooded animals like us and our pets, farm animals, even the wild creatures like birds and mammals; critters that are trying to maintain a constant body temperature.

Winter burn on Nandina

Winter burn on this Nandina.

This is not to say that winter winds don’t affect our plants. What can harm the plants are the drying effects of the wind. The air in winter is very dry, as evidenced by our dry skin, chapped lips, and static electricity shocks! When the wind blows this cold, dry air over the plants, it carries precious moisture away from the surface of the plants. Evergreens, both broadleaf and needled, are especially affected because they continually lose water through their leaves during the winter; the wind accelerates moisture loss. When the soil is frozen or dry, it is hard for the plant to replace this water by uptake through the roots. This can result in winter damage and winter burn to leaves and even whole branches.

Rhododendron with tightly curled leaves. The flower bud is protected but heavy bud scales.

Rhododendron with tightly curled
leaves. The flower bud is protected by
heavy bud scales.

Rhododendron leaves droop down and curl up tight like little cigars when it is extremely cold. This is a reaction to the cold temperatures but there is still a debate as to why they curl. Read more about it – it’s pretty interesting!

One way to help protect your evergreens from wind burn and winter damage is to spray them with an anti-desiccant like Bonide Wilt Stop. Wilt Stop protects evergreens from winter injury by forming a soft, clear flexible film over the leaves. Wilt Stop also protects evergreens from salt damage which can occur when you have a hedge near a road where salt is spread during the winter. Apply according to the label directions.

Until next time – Happy Gardening and try to stay warm!

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Snow mold on the lawn

Snow on the top of Mother Myrick Mountain - from Mom's deck

Snow on the top of Mother Myrick Mountain – from Mom’s deck

Spring is slowly coming to southern Vermont where I have been visiting with my mom for the past week. This area of Vermont is definitely several weeks behind the Shenandoah Valley but a few sunny days here have edged into the 60’s and the snow is gradually beginning to melt away. There are still a few patches here and there in the woods and along the road, and of course, quite a bit of snow remains on the mountains. But spring is definitely creeping in. The goldfinches that come to the feeders are becoming brighter yellow every day!

When I first arrived, many sections of the lawn were still covered with snow.

Gray snow mold

Gray snow mold covers the lawn.

In places where the snow had recently melted off, I noticed that there were large patches of gray mold covering the grass. I was pretty excited – this was a great example of snow mold and it had been a while since I’d seen this in the lawn. It reminded me of a post we had on our discussion board a few years ago:

Last Spring I had powdery mildew on my front lawn which faces north. It only gets sunlight late in the afternoon. It stunted the growth of the grass but fortunately did not kill the grass. Is there anything I can do to prevent the powdery mildew from recurring next spring?

What they were seeing was probably snow mold rather than powdery mildew. Snow mold is often seen on the lawn in the spring after the snow melts. It is especially common when heavy snow has fallen on unfrozen ground.

A patch of gray snow mold

A patch of gray snow mold

There are two types of snow mold; gray snow mold (Typhula spp.) which usually only infects the grass blades, and pink snow mold (Microdochium nivale) which may infect the crown and the roots of the grass as well as the foliage and can thus be more damaging. With the late winter and early spring snow storms we have had this year, snow mold may be a more common sight this spring.

Snow mold (and powdery mildew for that matter) is generally not a serious problem and fungicide applications are usually not recommended.

The normal recommendation is to simply rake the area lightly to allow the grass to dry more quickly. The raking also disrupts the growth of the fungi.

Snow moldIncreasing the amount of sunlight that reaches the lawn through the selective pruning of a few trees can help reduce the growth of mold and mildew on the lawn.

In most cases, the grass will recover and green up – perhaps just a little slower than the rest of the lawn. However, sometimes small patches of grass may be killed by snow mold. These areas can be overseeded and top dressed with a thin layer of good quality compost in the spring.

As you can see from the photos, Mom had some pretty dense patches of snow mold growing on her lawn but actually after a few windy days with lots of sun, the grass has dried out and the snow mold has disappeared with no treatment at all. The lawn is even beginning to green up a bit!

It’s a balmy 57 degrees right now!

Until next time – Happy Spring everyone!

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Robins in a peach tree trying to figure out where spring went

Robins perch in one of our peach trees trying to figure out where spring went!

Daffodil foliage pokes out of the snow.

Daffodils poke out of the snow.

What happened to spring?

The day before yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, 63o day and then less than 24 hours later, the temperature tumbled and it started snowing! This morning we were buried in over 6” of snow! CRAZY! I guess winter wasn’t quite done with us yet.

Actually the precipitation started out as rain but quickly changed over to a heavy, wet snow as the temperature continued to fall throughout the afternoon. The snow came down fast and furious and it wasn’t long before the trees and shrubs were covered. It basically stuck and froze to the wet branches. By morning, the evergreens were bending low under the weight of the heavy snow that was frozen fast to their foliage and branches.

Small American holly bent under the weight of snow

Small American holly completely
bent over under the weight of snow

The poor hollies and azaleas in front of our house were quite splayed out under their burden of snow and a young American holly tree growing along the driveway was bent over all the way to the ground. I’m sure these will all spring back up once the snow melts later this week but it was sad to see them in such a state! In situations like this, where a combination of snow and ice has accumulated on your trees and shrubs, it is important to let them melt off naturally. You risk doing much more damage by trying to knock the snow and ice off.

Don’t be tempted!

China Girl holly buried and flattened by the heavy snow

This China Girl holly flattened by the heavy snow should spring back up.

Helleborus covered with snow. These too will pop back up once the snow melts.

These helleborus will pop back up once the snow melts.

Asparagus bed covered with a blanket of snow.

Asparagus bed – buried!

In anticipation of the coming snowfall, I went out to the vegetable garden and cut back the old stems of the asparagus and fertilized it with Espoma Garden-tone. I also mulched the entire bed with some nice composted leaves. Now as the snow melts, it will carry some good nutrients down to the roots.

We also did some other garden maintenance while the ground was still fairly dry – probably things we should have done last fall but …

Trellises ready and waiting!

Trellises are ready and waiting!

Eric pulled up the tomato and cucumber trellises and stacked them against the pea fence for later while I pulled up last year’s pepper and eggplant stalks and did some weeding. I can’t believe that the chickweed and henbit are already in flower! Yikes! I got them all grubbed out and raked up along with some of the other old garden debris.

Everything was looking pretty good and now it’s all buried under snow.

HA! Poor man’s fertilizer!

It seems that spring is on hold for a few days. It will be back soon enough, though. Don’t you worry! Perhaps this is old man winter’s last hurrah!

Time will tell …

Until next time – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The woods were beautiful!

The woods were beautiful!

The dogwood buds wore hats of snow for St. Patty's Day!

The dogwood buds wore hats of snow for St. Patty’s Day!

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Goldfinches in their winter plumage feed on dropped seed

A flock of goldfinches in their winter plumage feed on dropped seed

Plowing with my 1948 John Deere Model M. Thanks Grampa!

Plowing with my 1948 John Deere Model M. Thanks Grampa!

What a beautiful snow we had last night!

It started out yesterday evening and continued all night.  We woke up to 15” of beautiful snow this morning. It continued to snow lightly most of the morning but stopped for a while in the middle of the day. It has just now begun to snow again – pretty hard, too.

Rats, right when I just finished plowing the driveway with my old John Deere tractor. Oh well I don’t care – it’s beautiful out. I love snow!

There were loads of birds at our feeders today. We spent much of the morning in our cozy sunroom with the fire going, enjoying our “snow day” with the birds and hot coffee. What could be better?

Bluebirds at the water while finches feed on the snow above!

Bluebirds at the water while finches feed on the snow above!

Eric had to shovel out around the water bowl so the birds could get to it. Poor birds, there was no way for them to get to the water because there was a 12” wall of snow straight up all the way around the bowl! Once they had an approachway, the birds were able to fly in to get a drink.

Below are some photos Eric took with his 500mm lens. Gorgeous!

What a way to spend a snowy day!

Until next time – Happy Snow and stay safe everyone!

A beautiful male bluebird fluffs up against the cold

A beautiful male bluebird fluffs up his feathers against the cold

A catbird waits for a turn at the water bowl

A catbird waits for a turn at the water bowl

A bright red male cardinal perches on one of the feeders

A bright red male cardinal perches on one of the feeders

A white-throated sparrow scavenges for dropped seed

A white-throated sparrow scavenges for dropped seed

Like the bluebirds, this hermit thrush comes mainly for the water

Like the bluebirds, this hermit thrush comes mainly for the water

One more fluffy bluebird

One more fluffy bluebird

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Ice accumulates on trees after a winter ice storm

Last night a period of freezing rain moved through the Shenandoah Valley. The temperature dipped just below freezing in the early morning but fortunately the ice didn’t accumulate much before it warmed up and everything began to melt off. We were lucky this time! Ice and snow buildup can sometimes cause major damage to trees and shrubs in the landscape, especially if the ice is thick or the snow is wet and heavy.

Heavy wet snow lay on the trees.

Heavy, wet snow lay on the trees.

While we were in Vermont over Christmas and New Year’s, we had two nice snow storms. The first came a few days after Christmas. The temperature was above freezing when it started so it began as rain. In the afternoon, the temperature began to drop and soon the rain shifted over to snow. The flakes were huge and wet and beautiful! This snow came down fast and accumulated quickly. Soon everything was covered with a blanket of heavy snow.

Glad my brother-in law brought the plow to dinner!

Glad my brother-in-law brought
the plow to dinner!

Because the snow started out very wet and the temperature dropped quickly, the snow became frozen to the branches of the trees. Generally, snow doesn’t accumulate heavily on deciduous trees because it typically falls through the branches to the ground below. This particular snow just seemed to stick tight to the branches which allowed even more snow to accumulate on them. My sister’s birch tree beside her house became so laden with snow that it bent almost to the ground. The hemlock off her deck was bowing pretty low as well. Luckily these trees were pretty resilient and they bounced back up when they were relieved of their burden of snow.

Snow accumulated on all the tree branches creating a beautiful winter wonderland. Thanks to my nieces for the pictures!

Snow accumulated on all the tree branches creating a beautiful
winter wonderland. Thanks to my nieces for the pictures!

The second snowfall was light and fluffy.

The 2nd snowfall was light and fluffy.

The second snowfall began on the evening of New Year’s Day and continued through the next day and night. It was really cold during this time with a high of 16oF and a low of -5oF. The contrast between this snow which was light and fluffy with tiny snowflakes and the previous snow was striking. This snow took a long time to accumulate because the flakes were so small. Even though it snowed steadily for more than 24 hours, we only got about 10″. It was beautiful!

This fine, light snow mostly fell right through the branches of the trees and what did accumulate was blown off in the slightest breeze. When the wind blew, we would see clouds of snow drifting through the woods. It reminded me of the yellow clouds of pine pollen blowing in the wind at our house in the spring! Cleaning off the cars was easy – Scott, my clever brother-in-law just fired up his leaf blower and voila – clear in a matter of seconds!!

A rhododendron droops under the weight of the snow.

A rhododendron droops under
the weight of heavy snow.

Most snowfalls in our area aren’t this light and fluffy and our landscape trees, shrubs, and woody perennials can at times suffer damage due to heavy snow or ice accumulation. One of the best ways to minimize storm damage to your trees and shrubs is to keep them properly pruned and thinned.

Even with that they can still become weighed down by ice and snow and we are often asked what to do for trees and shrubs in the aftermath of an ice storm or a heavy snow.

With snow accumulation, if it’s not too heavy, you can sometimes take a broom and gently brush the snow from the branches. It is best not to shake the branches as this can cause breakage.

Euonymus covered with a layer of ice.

Euonymus covered with a layer of ice.

In the case of ice accumulation, it is always better to let the ice melt off naturally. If you try to knock it off you will usually do more damage to your trees and shrubs and it’s also very dangerous. The same holds for a heavy, wet snow.

Most trees and shrubs will bounce back after the snow or ice melts off so it is usually safer to be patient and wait until they thaw out.

Once everything melts, you will be able to see if any permanent damage was done.

The most important thing is to be safe!

  • Ice buildup on a Japanese maple.

    Ice buildup on a Japanese maple.

    Don’t go near trees or branches that have fallen on power lines.

  • Watch for large broken branches that are hanging precariously and could fall in a gust of wind.
  • Assess the damage to determine if it is something that you can handle yourself or if you need to call in a professional tree service for help. Large limbs can be extremely heavy (hundreds of pounds) and dangerous!
  • Broken branches are one of the most common problems. Avoid any trimming or pruning that necessitates getting up on a ladder. This can be extremely dangerous especially if there is snow or ice on the ground.
  • When using a pole saw or trimmer, be mindful of any telephone or power lines and stay well away from these. It’s very easy to lose track of where they are in relation to where you are cutting! Better yet, leave this pruning to a professional.

Click for more tips on dealing with snow and ice damage.

Happy New Year everyone!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Fall leaves cover the lawn

This past weekend I spent several hours blowing the oak leaves out of our front perennial beds and off the front lawn and into the woods beside the house. The leaf cover in the back yard was much lighter so I used our mulching mower to chop them up and then used the lawn sweeper to collect the chopped leaves. These shredded bits of oak and hickory leaves were added to our compost pile. Good stuff for the garden next summer.

Deciduous magnolia broken in an early fall snowstorm.

Deciduous magnolia broken in an
early fall snowstorm.

This whole process got me thinking about the science behind leaf drop in autumn. It’s a rather fascinating story. Can you imagine what it would be like if the leaves on our deciduous trees didn’t drop off in the fall? Many have first hand knowledge of the destruction that can take place when snow and ice storms occur in the early fall before the leaves have fallen from the trees. Definitely not healthy for the trees!

Leaves are the food factories of plants. The green color that you see in most leaves comes from a plant pigment called chlorophyll which is responsible for absorbing sunlight to initiate the process of photosynthesis; a chemical reaction that converts carbon dioxide and water into simple sugars. These simple sugars are then converted into more complex carbohydrates. Photosynthesis is quite possibly the single most important chemical reaction in nature as it provides the ultimate source of food for most organisms.

The tender young foliage of this tree peony is red from anthocyanin

The tender young foliage of this tree
peony is red from anthocyanin

Most people know about chlorophyll but there are two other groups of pigments found in the leaf; the carotenoids, which include carotene (orange pigment) and xanthophyll (yellows and tans), and the anthocyanins which are primarily reds and purples. While the carotenoids are found in the leaf throughout the growing season, the anthocyanins are mainly present in the leaf during the spring and fall. Anthocyanin is responsible for the brilliant reds and purples in the fall and the reddish tint commonly seen in newly emerging leaves in the spring. It is thought to function similar to a “sunscreen” for these tender young leaves – an interesting tidbit of knowledge!

As the chlorophyll breaks down in this hickory, the yellow xanthophyll shows through.

As chlorophyll breaks down, the yellow
xanthophyll begins to show through.

Throughout the spring and summer, high levels of chlorophyll in the leaves normally mask the colors of the other leaf pigments causing the leaves to appear green. In the fall, as the days get shorter and the intensity of the sunlight decreases, changes begin to occur in the leaves. Photosynthesis slows down and chlorophyll production ceases. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the other pigments begin to show through. This is when we start to see the colorful changes in the leaves.

Oak branch in fall. Note the buds that will sprout new growth in spring.

Oak branch in fall. Note the buds that will sprout new growth in spring.

In actuality, it’s the longer nights of fall not the cooler temperatures which are the main trigger for these physiological changes in the leaf. As the nights become longer, a layer of cells (the abscission layer) begins to develop where the leaf petiole (leaf stem) joins the branch. The growth of these cells begins to restrict the movement of sugars out of the leaf and the flow of water and minerals into the leaf. This is the beginning of the end for the life of the leaf! It is slowly being cut off from the main part of the tree – its usefulness is basically over.

.

By autumn, the leaves have fulfilled their task of producing food and supplying it to the buds, branches, stems, and roots. The buds for next year’s leaves have been produced and will survive the winter because they are protected by tough bud scales.

Fallen oak leaves cover the ground.

Fallen oak leaves cover the ground.

The leaves of deciduous trees become a liability in winter. Trees lose a lot of water through their leaves – water that would be hard to replace in the winter when the water in the ground is frozen. If the leaves were retained, the tree would slowly die from dehydration. Besides, these thin, tender leaves can’t withstand freezing temperatures anyway, so – they are shed from the tree. Eventually the abscission layer completely blocks off the leaf, weakening the junction between leaf and branch, and the leaf falls; either under its own weight or when wind or rain knocks it off.

Snow falls through leafless trees

Snow falls through leafless trees

An added benefit of the autumn leaf drop is that, without their canopy of leaves, these trees do not hold heavy amounts of snow after a storm. Snow tends to fall right through the bare branches with very little accumulation. If the leaves were still on the trees … well, you know how that ends up!

But what about evergreens, you ask. Why don’t they lose their leaves? How do they survive the freezing temps?

Interesting questions with equally interesting answers!

Flexible evergreen boughs bend under the weight of snow preventing heavy accumulation

Evergreen boughs bend under the
weight of snow to reduce accumulation

Evergreen leaves/needles survive the winter because they are protected by a thick, waxy cuticle. This heavy coating also helps to reduce water loss from the leaves. In addition, rather than the thin, watery sap that is found in the cells of deciduous leaves, evergreen leaves have a kind of “antifreeze” in their cells that protect them from freezing. Cool, huh!

And as far as retaining heavy amounts of snow, evergreens (at least the needled evergreens) tend to have a conical shape with flexible boughs that quite easily shed heavy accumulations of snow. When the snow melts, the branches spring back up.

Ain’t nature wonderful?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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