Posted by & filed under Plant Health Care .

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For plants, making it through the winter can be a chilling process. Read below to learn how plants deal with the long- winter months.

by Tina Graver

If you are a plant, the first step to dealing with the cold is to go dormant! Environmental signals that trigger dormancy include the shortening of the day length, as well as cold temperatures. By early fall, most plants have slowed their growth and began to set winter buds. Once the temperature starts falling, many plants will drop their leaves. Why? Leaves are responsible for the movement of water through the plant. They act like a straw, suctioning water from the roots out through the top of the tree. Dehydration is more risky and damaging to a plant than the cold itself so the ability to conserve water  through leaf drop provides a survival advantage under harsh conditions.

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Going dormant and dropping leaves aren’t the only tricks plants have to make it through the winter. There are many unseen processes happening inside the plant. A little-known fact – plants have unsaturated fats that help protect them from freezing.1 The more unsaturated fats a plant can produce, the more resistance it has to freezing. Some plants also have the ability to undergo deep super-cooling and survive temperatures as low as – 40 degrees F. 2 Super-cooling occurs when ice crystals form inside the cells of the plants, and are stored in extracellular spaces where they cannot damage critical parts of the plant’s cells. Even more surprising, cold temperatures can trigger the plant to make its own brand of anti-freeze! 3

What about plants that keep their leaves? The leaves of evergreen trees and shrubs are much thicker and have a ‘waxy’ coating. These characteristics help the plant reduce water-loss in the winter time. Staying evergreen is a useful adaption over dropping leaves because it gives the plant a head-start on making food once the weather breaks.

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A synthetic ‘waxy’ substance can be applied to plants to aid in the reduction of water loss. These sprays are known as anti-desiccants and are especially useful for helping transplanted trees and shrubs survive through the cold and dryness of the winter months. Our plant health care specialists at Mead Tree & Turf Care are available to assess the needs of your plants for surviving the winter.

 

 

1,2,3 Raven et al. (2005) Biology: Seventh Edition. McGraw-Hill Companies. Pg 814; 827

 

Posted by & filed under Landscape .

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 by Tina Graver

Putting your landscapes to sleep for the winter doesn’t mean they can’t still look good.

See below for some ideas and suggestions on plants that have a ton of winter appeal!

 

Evergreen
This is the most popular choice for maintaining green all year round. From trees to shrubs, and from yellow, orange, red, light green and dark green, there are many different plants to choose from.   Evergreen trees and shrubs are especially popular along property borders to create a natural barrier for privacy year round. Holly, thuja, arborvitae, juniper (pictured), nandina, spruce and fir are just a handful of evergreen plants that do well in the mid-Atlantic area.

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Structure
You can create a lot of interest with evergreen or deciduous trees by choosing species with a naturally interesting structure, such as weeping cherries and larix species Harry Walking Stick. You can also create an interesting effect using advanced pruning techniques such as topiary pruning and espalier pruning (pictured), or training evergreen vines using wire.

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Berries
Not only do fruiting trees and bushes added color in the off-season, they can also attract wildlife to keep you entertained during the winter months. Crab apple, winterberry and holly are best known for their long lasting red berries. The yew, which is an evergreen shrub, also produces edible red berries in late fall. The beauty berry bush gets its name from it’s stunning bright purple berries (pictured).

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Bark and Twigs
Some trees and bushes have more interesting bark and twigs than their leaves. The River birch or Aspen and Paper bark maple are a few examples of trees with exfoliating bark. A very popular bush for the winter months is the red twig dogwood. This bush is named appropriately for its bright red twigs. While many evergreen trees and bushes struggle in wet areas, the red-twig dogwood (pictured) is a great winter option if you have wet soils.

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Ornamental Grasses
Selecting cool-season, ornamental grasses can keep a ‘soft’ look throughout the winter months. It is easy to lose the soft-look associated with leaves and foliage once the weather turns. You will still need to cut down the dead stalks before the grass begins actively growing in the spring.

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Winter Flowers
The Okame Cherry (pictured) generally blooms in late winter to early spring. Warm winter days may trick the tree into producing flowers early. Some of the Okame trees are flowering now, in early December, due to warmer than usual temperatures. If you are looking for flowers, there are several types of early blooming bulbs to choose from like daffodils, narcissus, and tulips, which bloom towards the end of winter. Pansies are another choice of annual flower that survives the winter but will need to be replaced in the summer.

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Posted by & filed under Plant Health Care .

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by Tina Graver

When the leaves fall from the trees, and lawn mowing is a distant memory, most homeowners put their yards on the back burner until spring. However, there is a lot that can be done to assure that spring doesn’t bring some unpleasant surprises when it comes to your favorite plants due to over-wintering insects, harsh weather conditions and deer.

 

Dormant Oil Sprays

control overwintering pests

   Anti-dessicants

protect from winter-burn

Deer repellant

protect from chewing and rubbing

 

Dormant oil sprays

Horticultural oil is a material approved by the Organic Material Research Institute (OMRI) and poses few risks to people or most desirable species, including beneficial insects such as lady bugs. Horticultural oil works by coating the air holes through which insects breathe, causing them to die from asphyxiation and is excellent at safely controlling certain types of over-wintering pests. Armored and soft scale insects are target pests, as well as mite and aphid eggs that overwinter in cracks and crevices of woody plants. The ideal time to apply is in late fall or early spring when day-time temperature hover around 55 degrees.

Anti-desiccant sprays

Anti-desiccant sprays protect plants from excessive water loss through the leaves and soft buds. The combination of cold drying wind, fluctuating temperature from very cold to warm and sunny causes what is known as ‘winter burn.’ Plants suffering from winter burn will have brown needles or leaves. An important point is that anti-desiccants do not protect the plants from freezing. Vulnerable plants include most broadleaf evergreens and shrubs such as hollies, boxwood and nandina.  The spray coats the foliage, preventing moisture loss. The coating should be applied when temperatures are above freezing for at least 24 hours. The coating wears off at temperatures above 50 degrees and may need to be re-applied throughout the winter.

Deer repellant

While deer can be an issue all year round, they can cause significant damage in the winter months when food sources become scarce.  There are many methods for protecting plants from hungry deer. One option is to install temporary deer fencing or trunk wraps to act as a physical barrier. This kind of barrier may be used alone or in conjunction with deer repellant sprays and bittering agents. Deer repellant sprays are often derived from predator urine such as coyote. These sprays tend to be offensive to many customers and we will often recommend a bittering agent instead. A bittering agent is sprayed on the foliar of the deer’s favorite plants.  The deer may sample one of these plants but will leave it alone once they taste the product.