Friday, January 9, 2009

After the Storm

At long last, this morning brings blue sky and a sunny forecast for several days.  This after weeks of stormy weather raged throughout the northwest, including Oregon's central coast.

This time of year typically brings high winds and plenty of rain to our part of the Pacific coastline, but in the last few weeks we also witnessed extra-low temperatures and record rainfall.  Many gardeners will now be venturing out to inspect the damage.

Obvious victims include the broken branches of large trees, though after last December's "big" windstorm the trees had been somewhat thinned in advance.  On the coast we received a dose of snow and ice along with everyone else, but were spared the heavier coating of freezing rain that really did a number on Willamette Valley oaks and maples.

Another noticeable change here is the sudden loss of leaves on hydrangeas and hardy fuchsias, both common shrubs in our area.  It's a shocking sight at first, every leaf drooping after the sudden freeze, and some gardeners will be tempted to respond with a hard pruning.  However it will be wise to remember that in the Valley these shrubs would have already lost their leaves in late fall, and are generally able to recover just fine without our intervention.  Dormant buds will provide next year's leaves and flowers, and indeed pruning the hydrangeas hard will likely leave you with a green bush and no flowers come summertime.

Broken branches should be removed on trees and shrubs-- remember it's always OK to prune the three "D's" -- dead, diseased, defective branches.  Use good pruning techniques, with sharp clean shears or saw, sparing the branch collar but making sure not to leave a long stub.  It's still too early to prune roses, even here on the coast, as the hard pruning normally done in February will stimulate the plant to push new growth that will be vulnerable to more winter weather.  Best to lightly trim long branches -- or even tie them together-- to withstand winter winds, then do your rose pruning in mid- to late-February.  President's Day is a good way to remember.

Enjoy the fine weather we have coming this week, but remember to take it easy on your plants that have survived the first of winter's storms.  Inspect for damage, prune prudently, do what you can to prevent further wind/frost damage.   Next up:  seed catalogs and ordering for spring

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