Are My Plants Alive?

While not the coldest winter, these past few months have created some challenges in our yard.
 
The heavy snow in December splayed the limbs of a lot of evergreen trees. Many have popped back to their original form, while others have stayed bent. If you have drooping limbs that are now brown, and you can safely reach them, now is the time to remove them, so this spring, the surrounding healthy limbs can start filling any gaps.
 
If you have bent limbs that are still green, you can tie them back with a material that wont cut into the trunk. Pantyhose, or an old leather belt work great as well as rope run through a piece of hose wrapped around the trunk to protect it. Do not use wire as it will cut into the trunk, likely killing the branch.
 
You may see a lot of little brown limbs throughout your conifers. Looking closely you will see they are cracked limbs, also from the snow, and they too can be cut out. 
 
The warm weather has fooled a lot of plants into breaking dormancy as we are seeing leaves form on hydrangeas and roses. But not all plants are fooled quite so easily, and you may be wondering why some of your plants don’t have leaves.  Don’t despair as most likely they are fine. A quick way to tell if your plant is alive is to scratch the bark with your fingernail or pocket knife. If you see green beneath the bark like in the photo, you are fine.  If you see brown, and the branch snaps when you bend it, you know you have dead branches or possibly a dead shrub. Dead branches can be pruned out.
 
Many loropetalums, and azaleas are crowned with brown leaves from the snow and cold.  They can be pruned, and fertilized now to prepare them for new growth in the next few weeks.
 
Patience is your friend. Let spring come, let your plants do their thing, then once it’s obvious if a tip of a branch is not putting out foliage go ahead and prune it back to green foliage.