Trees and Shrubs
The weight of snow can takes it toll on shrubs and trees. In my rose garden, several of the taller hybrid tea roses suffered broken canes. Since I generally don't prune roses in the autumn, last year would have been the exception had I known that so much snow was to fall and stay on the ground so long.
Now is a good time to lightly prune back damaged canes to just past the broken areas. Winter conditions are not over yet, so don't prune roses back hard. Freezing and fluctuating temperatures can kill back the canes not covered by snow. As I recommend in my Rocky Mountain gardening books, leave as much of the rose cane as possiblel for overwintering. Do the final pruning in mid-to late spring as the new growth resumes. This will help guide your pruning cuts.
The snow has been such a blessing as it slowly melts and the moisture percolates deeply into the ground. This free water is welcome to charge the soil profile with needed moisture for the roots of all our landscape plants.
Drifts of snow are gradually melting as warmer temperatures and longer days return to the region. The garden will soon spring back to life. As the snow recedes you may eventually discover side effects, some good, and some bad.
Many perennials were unprepared for weekly snowstorms that left heavy loads on the stems and foliage. In my garden, the iris leaves look like a crumpled mass of gook. This is a good time to gently rake out the old leaves to improve air circulation around the crowns of the plants. This will also get rid of some of the overwintering disease organisms that are waiting to get started.
Turf grasses are very prone to diseases when the snow persists for days on end. Snow mold on grasses is common with melting snow and cold, wet periods. It will attack the weaker grasses that have little or no disease resistance. Gray snow mold and pink snow mold can be found throughout lawns and may occur singly or side by side. Patches of snow mold will show up as roughly circular, bleached areas up to 24 inches in diameter. In my yard, it was very apparent with the whitish, thread-like mycelium of the fungus in patches where the snow was receding.
If you do see signs of snow mold in the lawn, don't be too alarmed. This lawn disease will subside as the lawn dries out with warmer, sunny weather. In most healthy lawns planted on well-prepared soil, the areas infected with snow mold will come back to life. You can help to speed up the recovery by lightly raking the matted turf. This will increase air circulation around the grass plants and allow the grass to grow and fill in. As soon as the soil begins to thaw out, it is a good idea to core-aerate the lawn to encourage root and rhizome growth.
If your lawn is older and thins out from a severe infection of snow mold, it will be necessary to replace the turf in those areas. You can either re-seed with disease-resistant lawn grasses or, for more immediate results, cut out the dead areas and re-sod with disease-resistant sod.
A Prelude to Spring - February-March 2016
As the snow melts, spring-flowering bulbs are programmed to emerge and put on their show.
Now is the time ...... (more is coming soon)
Autumn in the Rocky Mountain States can be unpredictable, with beautiful, warm days and crispy nights; the next day snow arrives to accent the landscape. It's a subtle reminder to evaluate your garden and make plans for future seasons.
As a child growing up here, I had the opportunity to experience high-altitude gardening firsthand. It didn't take long to acquire patience for getting plants to take hold and survive. I had to accept failure when hungry deer or rabbits browsed the garden. Often a severe, quick-moving hailstorm shredded the garden, but with time, plants would recover.
Plan Before Planting
When you get ready to "garden with an altitude," take note of our fluctuating climatic conditions, varying soils, lay of the land, and myriad of critters that will challenge your efforts. This will help you develop a garden style that will reflect your area.
I draw from my experiences of observing and taking notes on what Nature created. Studying the natural elements around you, such as gnarled junipers and pines and other natural vegetation, and noting tucked-away microclimates will greatly help you make appropriate choices for your garden. Remember, the right plant in the right location has the best chance of survival.
Think Plant Combinations
The native sages (Artemisia spp.) combine handsomely with Rudbeckia fulgida. Hardy to zone 3, these plants provide bold blooms and contrasting foliage from mid-summer to frost. Then in late fall and winter, the persistent dark brown cones of rudbeckia provide interest and texture in the garden.
Include some other durable perennials for the late summer and autumn garden. Some of my favorites include double bubblemint (Agastache cana) and Agastache rupesteris, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia),autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), Japanese anemone (Anemone tomentosa) and Sedum spectabile.
I really enjoy this time of year and cherish the native trees, shrubs, and other vegetation that have survived for decades. The reflection of the 80-year-old native cottonwood in the pond exemplifies endurance and adaptability even when an early snowstorm blows in for a visit.
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John Cretti .....
Gardening with an ALTITUDE in the Rocky Mountain Region