To all our clients and friends,

We have begun to hear from many of you about the recent flash freeze event, and have been actively evaluating sites and plant materials in our nursery. As you have probably noticed, many plants have suffered damage from record cold over the holidays. The real problem, for most plants, was not the cold itself, but the extreme and rapid drop in temperature. We saw temperatures drop from 53 degrees at 3 p.m. to 0 degrees at 3 a.m.

Our friend Troy Marden, a lead horticulturalist in our market and host of the Volunteer Gardener on PBS has a great post that we wanted to share:

“When this [temperature drop] happens, plants–and especially broadleaf evergreens– don’t have time to react. Normally, they would draw more water down into their roots, increase the concentration of sugars in their leaves (antifreeze for evergreens), or both. This helps to keep ice crystals from forming inside plant cells.

In a flash freeze like we experienced this week, the plants don’t have time to react, and the water inside the cells of the plants freezes. Ice crystals are pointed and sharp and, since water expands as it freezes, pushes outward puncturing the cell walls. Enough cell damage = tissue damage. Enough tissue damage = plant damage/death (sometimes partial, sometimes total, depending on the plant and the situation). Leaves usually take the brunt of the damage, but in some plants, stems may also be damaged. This damage usually takes longer to show up, sometimes months.

The key, now, is patience. Do not prune. Wait. The full extent of this damage is not going to be known until spring, and maybe beyond. If the stems have not been damaged, many plants will leaf back out. Even so, it may take a full season or two for some plants to recover.

We will also see damage to deciduous trees and shrubs. Thin-barked species like crape myrtles, Japanese maples, and others may have suffered damage that will be completely hidden until they try to leaf out in spring. Small stems, less than 3/4″ or so in diameter may have been killed outright. You may also see bark damage in the form of splits or cracks running up the stems/trunks or dead patches of bark (which usually turn black). Depending on the extent and location of this damage, you may see the death of some or all the stems or, in the worst case, tree trunks and the resulting death of the tree.”

Key Points to Consider Going Forward

  • Wait until spring to evaluate the full extent of damage to your landscape. For our maintenance customers, we will be doing active evaluations and making proactive recommendations to help alleviate the damage.
    • Unfortunately, there is no guarantee, even with the fertilizer and other treatments, that damaged materials will make a full recovery or survive.
    • We have to give these plants time to try and recover from this event. Once Spring arrives we can evaluate these plants, and perform the corrective pruning as needed.
  • If replacements are needed, we may need to make alternate recommendations due to the availability of the most widely damaged materials. Mature sizing will also not be available for most varieties. Most likely any replacements needed will be smaller at the time of planting.
  • Patience is key, a lot of the materials should come back over time. But it will take time. It will most likely take a full growing season to see a full recovery of plantings that have been damaged.

Unfortunately, this plant material is not covered under our 1-year warranty for recently completed projects. As our warranty states:

Limited Warranty: We warrant that our workmanship on all installations and repairs shall be performed in a good and workmanlike manner. For a period of one (1) year from installation we will replace any plant materials that may die during this period, provided that such plants have received proper care, as we determine, in our sole discretion, or have been maintained by us under a separate Landscape Management Agreement. This warranty shall not apply if the plant material fails to survive due to accident, alteration, abuse, misuse, or acts of nature including, but not limited to, flood, drought, insects, or prolonged freeze. This warranty does not include damage or plant death due to: vandalism, Acts of God, deer damage, improper watering by any party other than us, or irrigation system management by any party other than us. There is no warranty on transplanted plant material, herbaceous perennials, or ground covers (e.g. pachysandra, ivy, or vinca).

This flash freeze is the same as your property losing materials from a hurricane, tornado, or flood. However, we will continue to provide the best service for you and your landscape. We want to see your property recover to its former glory just as much as you do. Please be patient as we all recover from this event and as always reach out with any questions or concerns.

Please keep an eye on our social media pages as we post more information regarding the effects of this flash freeze to keep you up-to-date and educated.


The Greathouse Company Team