Winter freeze will send some plants to the compost pile

Snow, ice and cold, oh my! So what has the freezing weather done to your plants? I know this much for sure – some are dead, some are fine and some will survive only after you cut them back and allow them to regrow from the roots. What I can’t say for sure is what plants will be reborn in the spring and what plants will be compost.

Q. Help! We were hit hard by the big storms and I need to know what I can do to help my newly-planted trees and shrubs survive. I planted a Japanese maple, several rhodies, some dwarf hebe and a fragrant evergreen vine called jasmine in the fall. I hope you can tell me they will all be fine. R.T., e-mail.

A. Here are the cold, hard facts. The jasmine is dead for sure and the hebe probably is dead to the ground level, but your Japanese maple and rhododendrons should be fine. But the soil, location and particular plant variety all contribute to how hardy a plant will be. But just relax. There is nothing you can do now except wait until spring and see if that newly-planted jasmine and hebe can prove me wrong.

Q. The snow caused a branch to bend and then snap on my weeping Japanese maple. I don’t want to prune it off because it would make the entire tree look lopsided. There is a bit of the bark still connecting the branch and the trunk of this tree. Should I make a splint and try to graft it back together? R.O., Enumclaw

A. Get out the duct tape and you can save plenty of plants from the pain and embarrassment of amputation and missing limbs. Position the branch so the bark sections match up as close as possible then surround the wound with duct tape by going around it several times until the branch feels securely reattached. You can buy duct tape in many different colors so your bandage can blend in a little better if it is brown rather than the classic silver. Wait until spring and when you see new leaves sprouting from the taped branch you can call yourself a tree surgeon.

Q. My roses are so covered with ice and snow that they are bent over and almost touching the ground. Should I prune them now? Prop them up? Will they survive? T.R., e-mail.

A. No, no and yes. Don’t prune your roses until early spring, when the daffodils bloom. Don’t try to straighten them up until the ground is no longer frozen. Most roses will survive this freezing weather because they were insulated by a blanket of snow. Try not to bend, dig or prop up plants when the winter weather is close to freezing. You not only risk snapping off branches but your body weight compacts and damages the structure of the wet soil.

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Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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