Thursday, May 11, 2017

Springtime in the Rockies

It's mid-May, and without a doubt the last two weeks of weather extremes has left "a wake" in its path. To re-cap - the last weekend in April was surprisingly correctly predicted (they're usually wrong) to be cold, snowy and possibly destructive to trees and new plantings. It started snowing on Friday the 28th around noon. It was a steady snow at our home in central Denver, but did not stick to the grass or sidewalks, which is typical for CO snow late in the season. Gardeners generally rejoice with April snow because the moisture is so appreciated and needed, especially after our mild dry and warm winter season (we only used the snow blower once). But why so cold? No answer, it just was.

Friday evening we noticed how weighted and floppy one of the early leafed out maple tree was becoming so we paused the movie a few times and broomed off the snow. I didn't set the alarm to shake all the trees during the night, I just told myself que sera sera (sing it Doris) and dreamt they'd be fine. Saturday morning was not fun to wake up to - cold, wet snow was covering every shrub, grass blade and ant pile. The teeny tiny emerging leaves on locust trees on our block looked burnt, dead burnt. So did our red bud trees which just finished a glorious season of neon pink spring bloom.

I didn't reach for a tissue, just went straight to work assessing the damage and gently brushing snow off the conifers and snow trodden plants in the landscape. After a quick text to get in my tree pruner's queue we made minestrone soup and then waited for the sun to return. Birds soon flocked to the birdbath looking for a fresh, not frozen drink of water.

Our landscape fared pretty well, no severe damage or breakage, just some dead branch tips on the Seven-Son Flower and some splayed and broken branches here and there on some shrubs. My number one concern was and is for the two-week old newly planted Kentucky Coffee tree, Gymnocladus dioicus 'Espresso.' It was in the same leafing time frame as honey locusts. We know that trees have stored spare buds when these kind of events happen, so no worries about mature trees pushing new leaf growth, but my hope is that 'Espresso' will shrug off the cold damage and also emerge with happy new leaves in its new home on the Cahill boulevard. Ten days later it seems like it is still thinking about putting out new leaves, I'll keep you posted.
Stem hail damage on Manzanita, photo by Dorothy B.

On May 8, certain areas of metro Denver and surrounding cities received anywhere from pea-sized, no harm wimpy hail or rain, to golf ball sized destructive, rip off every leaf down to branch damage hail. 

The aftermath called for a case of tissue. I can practically hear my garden friends crying from north Denver. Reports, photos and personal stories are still being reported. Golden and areas in west Denver and Lakewood seemed to get hit the hardest. Insurance companies are working 24/7 and roofers are signing up clients quicker than bindweed coiling up chain link fence. 

Our landscape dodged the golf ball sized bullets. It rained very hard with small hail that bounced around for several minutes, but no great harm or foul.

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May 8, 2017 hail in Arvada, photo by Dave I.
Dorothy's herb knot garden (couple miles west of me) was shattered and sad.

Photo by Dorothy B.

So now what...the same rules apply after every hail event. Carefully prune off damaged foliage from perennials and shrubs. Wait. Call in a professional arborist to prune damaged limbs on mature trees. Wait. Lightly fertilize perennials in a week or two to give them a nutrient boost. Wait and replant as necessary, it's still very early in the season. 

Read more hail advice from these reputable resources - 

Caring for Storm Damaged Trees

Denver Post - How to Fix your Hail Damaged Garden in Colorado 

Oh Hail, What to do Now - Roses

Planttalk Hail Damage

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