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The Christmas no one asked for…


Old Man Winter and Scrooge are traveling companions. It seems they were this past Christmas weekend.  A historic cold front swept across the U.S. from the Rockies, to the furthest parts of the Deep South. In it’s wake, over 240 million of us were under a winter storm/flash freeze warning. There were many thousands of others that were stranded in airports across the eastern 3/4ths of the country. Most regrettably, many dozens of souls lost their lives, mostly trapped inside their vehicles, buried under eight feet of snow in Buffalo.


Most everyone experienced rolling blackouts.  Complete loss of electrical power for extended time periods happened to a great many.  Fortunately, our electrical grid in middle Tennessee proved to be up to the challenge, for the overwhelming majority.


Successfully dealing with ‘life and death’ type weather is a humbling experience.  We quickly find out, how prepared we are. Weather occurrences do happen, beyond our realm of ability to prepare for, or control.


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried to prepare you for a dramatic weather event.  Like trying to prepare for a tornado, the damage dealt was near non-preventable.   Our landscapes have been scorched by below zero air temperatures; that were ‘enhanced’ by extreme winds.  As I mentioned previously, plants do not feel wind chill, but they are nonetheless negatively impacted, by the desiccating effect of near gale force winds, compounded by temperature extremes.


As you look over your gardens, broadleaf evergreens tell the story.  Hollies, laurel, azalea and other leafy evergreens are showing considerable damage.  Deciduous plants, such as crape myrtle and edible figs may look no worse for the wear; I assure you, damage will become apparent, in the coming spring.


So, what do you do?  At this time, wait.  Plants that appear burned are not dead, but they will need to be cut back…later in February. For the best gardening information, tune in: “The At Home Show”, live Saturday at 8a.  We answer your questions.


Open Friday 9a-4p; Saturday 9a-2p.


Let’s prepare for a Happy New Year,


David Bates


  1. Tyler Blankenship Tyler Blankenship

    Charlotte, this problem could be from the lack of a male pollinator. Winterberry hollies are either male or female. You can tell them apart when they start to flower. The females will have a round, green bud in the center. The males will not.

  2. Tyler Blankenship Tyler Blankenship

    The full extent of the damage will not be known until new growth starts to emerge in spring. We are almost certain that lots of plants that are hardy to our area will produce new growth. How severe the die back is, however, we won’t know until that growth starts to happen. You can scratch the bark gently in a couple of places to see if there’s green underneath, that would be a sign that the plant is still alive.

  3. A Martin A Martin

    Thankyou! I have a mature Holly tree and 3 smaller healthy Pencil Hollies that dropped almost all of their leaves. Never has happened before. But, you're saying they'll comeback in Spring?

  4. Charlotte Ryan Charlotte Ryan

    Thanks so much for this information! We were heartsick to see the damage to our plants after struggling 2 years to keep them alive. Our home of 40 years, and beautiful landscape was destroyed by the 2020 tornado. My question now is why hasn't my winter berry shrubs had any berries since the ones that were on them when we bought and planted them 2 years ago?

  5. Adrienne Lowe Adrienne Lowe

    Thanks for this great post! It was a rough week. I kept the bird feeders full, went through 50 pounds of seed from Thursday - Monday. We recently bought native fruiting plants (like Winterberry and American elderberry) from you all at Bates, which will help keep the birds fed at other parts of the year.

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