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Surviving the big chill; Long, hard frosts can cause damage ... here's how to cope in the cold.

The arrival of March had me embracing the prospect of warming soil promising great rewards. Then came the ominous forecast. We were going to have snow, the likes of which we hadn't experienced in decades.

the East with The Beast from would play havoc our routine as we were told to stock up with essentials and retreat indoors, while watching nature do its thing. And that's what happened.

The snow came in layers, then drifts, creating complete white-outs covering everything some parts of the country. Spring was suspended.

Coated: Buxus need brushing the white stuff uts ng in At times it seemed as if a thaw would never come and I wondered what the garden must look like under that deep covering of snow.

The white stuff retreated, though, and the garden has survived.

The Buxus sempervirens balls that appeared to be completely crushed by the weight of snow have bounced back, while the echiums that looked to be lifeless have defrosted and look like they may survive after all.

Snow on its own is not so damaging to plants and often can have an insulating effect.

However, the cold that causes plant cells to freeze and then collapse can be very harmful.

In addition, when soil becomes frozen, even hardy varieties can suffer as the cold roots may be unable to take up water and the plants die from a lack of moisture. Buds on early flowering trees such as magnolias may also be harmed.

You can spot injured plants by their limp foliage, blackened or brown leaves and buds.

It's best to adopt a wait-and-see approach for the moment and when temperatures warm up, cut back frosted growth to a healthy new bud which will prevent further die-back and encourage plants to produce new shoots.

Follow up with a feed of a balanced fertiliser to boost strength and health.

Good mulching in spring and autumn is a preventative measure which acts as a cosy blanket for roots in harsh weather.

If like me you've been planting, just check how they are doing.

Sometimes a hard frost can shift the plants upwards out of their planting positions - if this has happened, carefully heel them back in.

If snow settles on unprotected fronds of ferns or palms, shake it off gently with a yard brush.

And if a branch has broken due the weight of snow or storm damage, make a clean cut at an angle, about one inch from the trunk to allow it to heal faster, rather than leaving a jagged tear.

Another area of the garden that suffers during snow is your lawn.

If you like to maintain it in pristine condition, try and avoid walking on it as your weight will cause damage which will increase the possibility of fungus.

Wait for it to thaw completely. Once the area is dry, use a spring tine rake to clear debris and thatch.

If the lawn is very compacted, use an aerator to take up plugs of soil and brush in horticultural sand to aid drainage. In another month feed it to toughen up the roots and green the foliage.

Similarly it is better to stay off soil until the thawed snow has drained away as treading on it will cause compaction.

Following the second cold blast at the weekend, let's hope the old proverb that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb will prove true and that we can all be outside gardening with gusto again by the end of the month!

ASK DIARMUID Q Could you please tell me what this plant is? can't remember if I planted it or not!

Joyce Burnham, via email A That looks like the caper spurge - it's a euphorbia whose seeds resemble capers but are, like the rest of the plant, poisonous.

Euphorbia lathyris is also known as the mole plant as its smell is reputed to deter moles. It's biennial so will set seed this year and then die off.

If you don't want this plant to self seed, get rid of it now.

When doing so, make sure to wear gloves and protect your eyes as the latex in this plant can really burn skin.

PLANT OF THE WEEK NARCISSUS If there's one plant that can convince us that spring is on the way, it's the cheerful daffodil.

While most of us are familiar with the dwarf egg yolk yellow Tete a Tete variety, here's another charming miniature daff - Rip Van Winkle.

With bright yellow double flowers that are scented, it will bulk up year on year.

Daffodils are one of the easiest bulbs to grow as they tolerate most soils.

To see beautiful daff displays around the country, visit greatbritishgardens.co. uk which will direct you to great gardens near you.

Or you could visit the Savill and Valley Gardens in Windsor in early April to view the Daffodil Valley, one of the largest displays in the UK with thousands of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the lent lily and the daffodil of Wordsworth's famous poem.

Lawns suffer during snowy weather - try to avoid walking on it as that can cause damage Coated: Buxus and yews need brushing off when the white stuff falls

CAPTION(S):

Survivor: Echium

At risk: The cold can cause plant cells to freeze and then collapse and die off
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 24, 2018
Words:889
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