Winter’s over, now we figure out which plants froze in the snow

If your garden is showing signs of “winter burn,” you may need to cut growth down to the ground.

Aren’t we all feeling a wee bit exhilarated by this fabulous spring weather? If you’re like me, you’re experiencing a burst of energy and an intense desire to get everything done in the garden in one weekend. Pace yourself!

While I did indeed get a ton of work done last weekend — my raised beds are now ready to plant and I limed, mossed and fertilized my lawn — there are some things we are going to have to wait on, like planting basil, tomatoes, hanging baskets and pruning hydrangeas.

I live by the saying “You can plant year-round in the Northwest.” I must add, however, that what you plant must also be appropriate for that particular time of year. Which means it is too early for basil and tomatoes. (Although, you could theoretically stick a tomato in the ground now and, while it would pout and probably turn purple, it would not grow until the soil temperature warmed up to at least the 50s. So why waste the space when you could plant some lettuce or peas, harvest them, and then use that same spot for tomatoes?)

This is, however, a perfect time to plant roses, shrubs, trees, perennials and even some cold-hardy annuals like pansies, snapdragons, Calendula and stocks. Normally, I would say it’s too early to plant a new lawn, but with it being a record 76 degrees this past Monday you might be able to get away with it.

Even if you are not planting a new lawn, this is certainly a good time to feed and renovate an existing one. As far as planting new perennials and shrubs, remember the second saying I live by, “There is always room for one more plant.”

My other top-of-mind concern is assessing winter damage — I need to tell you, that it is going to take several months to figure it all out. My hydrangeas are not looking too good and I am going to have to wait and see where they start to regrow and prune off all the dead wood at that point.

That could mean cutting them all the way down to the ground. This could also be true for a lot of deciduous shrubs. broadleaf evergreens, like rhododendrons, laurels, Fatsia, and Skimmia are showing some winter burn. Again, as the new growth emerges, I will cut them back.

This process actually stimulates more new growth, so it’s not a bad thing to do. Be sure to apply some extra fertilizer to help support all that replacement growth.

With conifers it’s harder to tell what is alive and what is dead because the leaves don’t wilt like a rhody. Most evergreens (conifers) that are planted in the ground should be just fine.

Container plants are where the real challenge will be. I left outside lots of large containers of Japanese maples, conifers, mixed perennials and grasses. If the roots froze on any of these, then they will be slow to leaf out, if at all.

If evergreens like “Sky Pencil” Japanese holly have root damage, they will gradually turn a dull color and eventually drop their leaves. While they might recover later in the summer, it’s not worth the wait in my book. Jerk them out and start fresh; life is short.

So while it’s a waiting game for finding out how badly plants were frozen, it’s still a perfect time to plant season-appropriate plants. Go make it happen.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Organic gardening

Attend two free classes next weekend at Sunnyside Nursery: One on organic gardening is at 10 a.m. March 30 and another is one colorful climbers at 11 a.m. March 31. The garden center is at 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit

Talk to us

More in Life

Jeff Daniels
Actor Jeff Daniels also knows his way around the blues guitar

The Edmonds Center for the Arts will present a streaming concert by Daniels on Jan. 15.

Freezer-to-table recipes — plus a little help from the kids — makes putting dinner on the table easy. (Jennifer Bardsley)
When families cook together, dinner is ready in a flash

Here’s how you, too, can assemble 14 freezer-to-table recipes in four hours for two weeks of easy meals.

Dr. Paul on making a habit of expressing your appreciation

It can be as easy as putting a sticky note out to remind yourself be on the lookout for a job well done.

Artists Amber and Alex Vincini sit by examples of their artwork outside their studio on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
CARES Act grant helps artists be creative — and pay the rent

The money allows Everett’s Schack Art Center to hire artists and art educators.

When harvesting an Asian pear, the best method is to taste. Asian pears will ripen on the tree. (Getty Images)
Fruit trees 101: A gardener’s CliffsNotes for growing them

If you have any interest in growing your own fruit, it’s prime time to pick up apples, plums, cherries and pears.

Scherenschnitte is a special type of German paper cutting art, and old and new examples are both seen at auctions. This modern example sold for just $40. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
G.B. French made this scherenschnitte in the 20th century

The Kovels were surprised French’s paper cutting art was at auction, when artwork from the 1800s is more popular.

"Diane" witch hazel produces dark copper-red flowers in winter, providing quite a show against its bare branches. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane,’ Diane witch hazel

“Diane” witch hazel produces dark copper-red flowers in winter, providing quite a show against its bare branches.

Shylah Hallam-Noel left, a worker at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle, receives the second shot of the Pfizer vaccination for COVID-19, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, from a Walgreens Pharmacist, right. The facility had an outbreak of COVID-19 in May of 2020 that resulted in more than 100 positive cases among staff and residents, including Allen, and the deaths of 20 residents and two staff members. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The tricky road to herd immunity, explained

Three researchers who study the spread of infectious disease offer a reality check on how far we’ve come — and how far we have to go.

Photo by Wes Anthony/Firehouse Creative
Lead actress Shannyn Sossamon talks with filmmakers Andrew Morehouse,center, and Nate
Bell while filming “The Hour After Westerly” at the Fort Casey Inn.
Watch film featuring Whidbey Island for free through Jan. 16

The “Twilight Zone”-esque “The Hour After Westerly” is based on a short story by Robert M. Coates.

Most Read