Caring for Evergreen Trees in Winter

12/19/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Houseplants, Landscaping, Plant Care, Trees

Well, here we are wrappingcypress tree, snow storm, landscape up another year of local gardening advice. I like to think of my readers as good friends and neighbors, just hanging out talking over the back yard fence.  At least that is how the writer’s voice in my head is directing me as I work on each column.  I truly hope that each of you finds some nuggets of truth that can be put to use year-round in your garden to keep up your home value, get ready for that party, or just to keep the place looking presentable.

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Typical of this time of year, our weather is ready to celebrate a wintry start to another year and the passing of another winter solstice.  Watch your evergreens with the heavy wet snows ahead. Wind is not the reason we use stakes on evergreens; they are used for protection from damaging snow loads.  The added weight on branches can bend young trees all the way to the ground.    Trees planted less than two years ago still should be staked using two lodge poles on either side of the root ball with the trunk tied to each stake. As a tree matures the trunk diameter expands and its bark becomes thicker. Staking is not necessary for an older tree because a mature tree can stand strong against the elements.
The best selection of living evergreen trees is at garden centers this week prior to Christmas.  Many trees will be decorated and used indoors for the holiday and then planted.  Trees adapt well to winter planting but must be securely staked as described in the preceding paragraph. Ask for my free planting guide if you’d like more details than this article provides.  The two-page handout has exact diagrams of proper planting depths and staking techniques.

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As evergreens mature their majestic big branches swoop dramatically from their trunks. Seasonally generous amounts of snow are incredibly heavy and can weigh down branches causing them to snap.  An important practice at higher elevations is to sweep excess snow off of evergreens’ branches.  Make sure to sweep branches from side-to-side rather than in an up-and- down motion.  This will reduce branch damage.  As the snow is swept off of it, each branch should spring back into place.

If heavy snow is not removed from evergreen branches, permanent damage can occur after a storm passes.   At this elevation temperatures plummet to severe lows immediately following a winter storm.  These very cold temperatures cause a tree’s sap to freeze solidly within the tree. A tree with severely frozen sap that is allowed to remain drooping and sagging will take on the snow-bowed form, never to recover.  Can you think of a better reason to sweep excess snow off the evergreens in our yards?

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Poinsettias in the greenhouseThis week’s plant of the week is the Burgundy Wine Poinsettia. The darker colored poinsettias have a certain designer flare that traditional Christmas reds can’t deliver.  Burgundy Wine plays strikingly against leather furniture, hardwood floors, and Arizona rooms. Poinsettias are one of the few holiday plants that remain festive long into winter.  This hardy houseplant graciously continues celebrating indoors during the gloomy days outside.

Poinsettias go on sale this week before Christmas.  Usually the traditional red, white, and pink are sale priced, but at nurseries that over estimated how many Christmas plants to grow, all poinsettias will be on sale.  Even not marked down, poinsettias are inexpensive compared to most other houseplants.  A large $15 plant can bring enjoyment through next spring.  Hard core gardeners are able to keep them alive for years, enjoying their festive colors for many holiday seasons.

Poinsettias are relied upon to provide bright spots of color through winter. BUT, when the poinsettia in the company conference room, doctor’s waiting area, or bank lobby looks ugly, unkempt, and weak . . . .PLEASE throw it away! As a grower of exotic holiday plants it pains me when these beautiful creations are expected to serve long past their natural life spans.

Yes, you read it here!  It’s OK to throw a holiday plant into the trash when its time has passed.  These plants are intended to lift us through the winter blues, nothing more. There is nothing more inspiring than one of these plants in all its glory, and nothing more embarrassing than an ugly, worn out Christmas plant that is not consciously retired.

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I have two very good garden book ideas.  The Square Foot Gardener by Mel Bartholomew should be in every gardener’s library. More than 20 million books are in circulation, it’s that good.  I have had the pleasure of meeting Mel when he came to teach at the garden center; he is an amazing gardener who writes easy to read books.

3 Steps to Vegetable Gardening by Steve Mercer is the second book recommendation for easy to use gardening advice.  Both publications are really good gifts that any gardener would enjoy. You will find both books for under $20 at local bookstores and garden centers.

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My latest video lessons are available via the YouTube tab just added to my Facebook page, For those of you that prefer Twitter, my twitter feed was just added to the same page.  My gardening advice also is available from your smart phone.

Until next week, I’ll see you amongst the Christmas trees.

 Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at Ken says, “My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes.”