Check for winter burn on evergreens

As the weather warms up, you might want to take a good look at your evergreens for winter burn. Some plants may be completely dead or beyond saving, while others will grow out this year. Yews tend to be resilient.

Look for new buds starting to grow — a good sign that your evergreen will recover. If most of the stems are dead and there’s no new growth, you may have lost the plant. But don’t give up yet; it’s still early spring. Before you decide to remove the plant, consider the extent of the damage and how long you’re willing to wait for the plant to recover. Once the stems are dead, I’d recommend pruning out any brown sections. If your yews have turned yellow, that likely means that the garden soil is consistently too wet.

• Early spring is a great time for one of the fun parts of gardening — adding color. In early to mid-April, think about planting cool-season annuals, such as pansies and primulas, that can tolerate a light frost.

However, keep monitoring the weather forecast because temperatures in the low 20s Fahrenheit can damage very cold-tolerant annuals such as pansies. Temperatures that go down to 25 degrees will likely damage the flowers on pansies — the plants should survive, but they might not have much of a spring flower display.

Try planting early spring annuals under bulbs to complement their flowers and extend color until summer annuals are planted in mid-to-late May. Choose plants that are well-developed with lots of flowers and buds. The cool-season annuals don’t have much time to develop after planting. I recommend covering your early spring annuals if the forecast calls for temperatures below 28 degrees.

Spring is also the time to divide most perennials, when they are showing a couple inches of growth. When dividing a plant, choose the strongest-looking parts of the plant and discard the rest. A sharp, flat garden spade will work best. Plants that bloom in April and May can also be divided after they bloom.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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