3810 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, TN 37207 (615) 876-1014

Archive date:  January 22, 2010

I Went for a Walk…

…and what did I learn?

Since I encouraged you last week to get out of the house and look around, I decided to follow my own advice. Here is some of what I have seen. Perhaps you have noticed some of the same. When I look around, I am specifically looking for signs of winter damage as well as noting bloom bud stage for early flowering plants.

The first thing that jumped out at me is leaf burn on English laurels. English laurels and to a lesser degree Schip laurels (pronounced ‘skip’, a shortened form of the botanical name Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’), I have documented noticeable browning of uppermost foliage; particularly that which faces south. I have noticed that my Green Sheen pachysandra has some tip burn and my Ivory Feathers pampas grass has gone from generally green to totally tan. I have also detected damage to some dwarf nandina. I believe the damage I have seen on nandina, are plants that were planted very late in fall/early winter that were not sufficiently “hardened-off”. From what I have seen these are fairly isolated cases relegated to a few plants that had not gone fully dormant prior to the severe cold. Some damage is due to water loss within the plant.

An essential function of any leaf is a process called transpiration. Transpiration occurs where moisture is emitted through tiny pores in the undersides of the leaf. During the growing season, the plant is continually replenishing its water needs through irrigation or rainfall taken up into its system by the roots, and then releasing excess moisture through its pores. Dormant ‘activity’ (an apparent oxymoron) as we have just experienced, water escapes but is not easily as replenished because the ground is frozen. When the water reserves approach empty, the plant can't function as well and foliage gets damaged or dies, or in worst cases the entire plant. It will be a common sight to see brown leaves in spring on south facing laurels, where they started the winter green and lustrous. This does not indicate that death is imminent, merely damaged foliage to be dealt with later.

I like to look closely at the earliest flowering plants. This is where the best information comes from with regard to spring. My Arnold’s Promise Witch Hazel is budded heavily and seems to be swelling, so too are the Cornus mas, the Cornelian Cherry Dogwood. The surest sign of early spring are Winter Jasmine. The buds appear tight. We all look forward to the passing of winter, but we have a ways to go yet.

So far this winter, it seems we have fared better than those living further south. Unfortunately for them, it got nearly as cold near the coastal areas as it did here. The key word now is patience. The moderate weather may get you in the mood to do trimming and extensive pruning, but generally I suggest you wait a bit on that.

I want to thank Nancy VanReece , local artist, author; www.nancyvanreece.com and social media strategist, for her wonderful interview and kind words about what we are doing here at Bates. Click the link to our Twitter page, and follow the link in the top posting to Nancy’s blog to read all about it:Bates Nursery on Twitter .

By the way, we now have over 20,000 followers; we’d love for you to follow us too!

Weather looks really good this weekend, come out and see us!

David Bates