On December 23rd, the middle of Tennessee experienced an unexpectedly harsh winter event, with temperatures plummeting 50 degrees overnight and reaching below-freezing temperatures, which lasted four days. Many plants were not completely dormant yet, and the combination of extreme cold, snow, and harsh winds caused devastating damage to plants across all areas.
Initially, the damage showed upon the laurels (Schip, Otto Luken, and Chestnut Hill), Cryptomeria, Holly, Camellia, and Acuba. Over the next week, many plants began to defoliate, including Loropetalum, Nandina, Cleyera, Cedar, Cypress, and Azalea. Even the hardier trees and shrubs such as Boxwood, Viburmun, and Magnolia experienced some burn and leaf drop.
We still do not know the full extent of damage to these plants, or which other plants like perennials and deciduous shrubs may have incurred damage. By April, we are going to know what will spring back and what should be replaced. The extent of damage will vary depending on the plant’s age, location, and variety. Certainly, many plants will need to be heavily pruned and thinned out, and likely large amounts will need to be removed and replaced.
If you want to be proactive and begin getting your plan in place for spring now, scrape the plant’s bark and see if there is any green. If there is absolutely no green, it will not recover. Some plants may have large amounts of damage at the top but healthy stems lower to the ground and internally. In this case, the plant stands a good chance of recovering.
As for how to proceed now, it’s a good idea to get beds ready for spring by trimming, cleaning, and cutting back plants as usual. Early to mid-April will shed the full light on the damage from the prolonged freeze; then to access what steps need to be taken. Please feel free to contact us at Nature’s Best Nursery, Lawn, and Landscape with any questions or concerns you may have – we are here to help!