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Winter Storm Warning

January 26, 2009

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As you’ve probably seen, we’re under a winter storm watch right now. 2-4 inches are expected, changing over to a wintry mix (note: I’m just saying what I saw on the Weather Channel- I accept no responsibility for the accuracy of any of this. If we get three feet, don’t yell at me). Snow is great for perennials, as it provides an insulating blanket. Since we can’t rely on a snowy winter here, I’m sure you added a little extra mulch over tender perennials like verbena as insurance (right?), but the snow will certainly help. There are, however, elements of the landscape where snow and ice can be a concern.

  • Trees and shrubs- I’ve noticed that we get a lot of wet, heavy snow here. If you have a plant that seems to really be struggling under the weight, try gently brushing some of the snow off. Don’t attempt to clear it off by shaking the trunk or branches vigorously, however. The wood is already stressed, and could break very easily. Also, don’t panic. The plants that grow here have experienced snow somewhere in their lineage. They can take it. If you do end up with winter storm damage to your plants, you’ll want to prune and clean up as quickly as it is safe to do so.
  • Salting paths and driveways- Safety is critical in winter, and ice melt products can help keep walkways usable. You need to be careful about what product you choose, and consider its effects on the pavement and surrounding landscape. A standard concrete walk will take virtually anything you can dish out, but if you have surfaces made of brick, stone, or pavers, you’ll want to use a product that’s safe for those materials. Your turfgrass and landscape plants can also be harmed by rock salt or the other forms of sodium chloride. De-icers that use calcium chloride are considered to be safer for your plants. Finally, if you have a fish pond, be very careful salting near it. If you change the salinity of the water, it could be toxic to the fish.
  • Landscape lighting- Professional grade landscape lighting won’t be harmed by water, but you should still clear snow from around your light fixtures. The reason is that a fixture surrounded by snow can heat up, shortening the bulb life.

The natural landscape of northern Virginia looks great under a blanket of snow. Be safe and enjoy!

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