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frost damage to plants

Q:  This last freeze really caused many of my plants, especially the perennials, to wilt and die.  I can not stand the way they look; can I cut them back now?

A:  I know it is frustrating to have the landscape not look perfect. We have been spoiled by the last five to six years of warm winter temperatures which only occasionally reached the low thirties. However, most of us knew this kind of freezing winter damage would eventually happen. It is currently February and we may receive more cold temperatures; no one knows absolutely what will happen in the next few weeks. If you can stand it, consider waiting until the middle of March before removing all the tender, dead tissue. What you may find are some new, tender leafy growths underneath. These new growths are being protected by the dead leaves and given a warm place to grow. If you remove these dead leaves, you remove the protection to the new growth by exposing them to cold temperatures and wind. If a freeze does occur, this new growth will likely be killed too. However, if you feel you cannot wait until March, then do what you must. Take special care of the new growth by covering it with sheets or towels when cold temperatures or winds occur then remove it when the sun returns. Do not worry, most of the perennials will come back but because of our cold winter it may take a little longer.