There is nothing more demoralising and depressing than to see a garden, which you have cherished and looked after so well during the spring and summer, be battered to bits during a harsh winter.
Winter is a time of harsh elements. There is firstly the question of the temperature which, depending where you live, can plummet down to many numbers below zero, which is a great shock to your young new plants that have been used to the milder temperatures of spring and summer.
Then come the winds which can reach speeds of 120 miles an hour and are capable of bending and breaking branches and in the most extreme cases actually up rooting plants or trees from the ground.
And finally, probably the most damaging, according to the size of them, are hail stones. I myself have witnessed a ten minute attack from hail stones on my lovely terrace plants to see them all stripped of every single leaf. It was as if a a whole load of locusts had descended onto my terrace and when they left there was nothing but branches and twigs!!!
So what to do, apart from crying and raising your hands up to your head? Well this first thing is not to panic and not assume, despite the way they look, that all your plants have been killed, i.e. they are dead!!! No, this need not necessarily be the case as most plants are much hardier than we think they are.
The second thing is to go round and prune all the branches and twigs that have snapped. They will have been left with jagged edges and this is no good. You want to removed the jagged edges and give them a clean concise cut which will avoid any disease or infection from setting in. Some gardeners advocate sealing the cut with a wood paint but others claim it does more harm than good. At the end of the day, if a good clean cut has been made, the plant is given new earth and nutrients and kept moist, it should heal itself within time.
Apart from this you also need to give all the plants a drastic prune whether they were damaged and broken by the wind or not. This is so that instead of having to occupy itself in nourishing a large amount of branches and leaves, the roots of the plant can instead just concentrate on a few short branches. All the energy will go into those few short branches and the plant will be able to take off again.
After being battered by the harsh elements of a winter, most plants will need a little help in order to get back to their normal healthy selves, so now is the time to sprinkle all the earth around the plants with a good fertiliser and also to lay down some fresh new earth.
If you feel that the worst of the winter is not yet over, then a little protection to your plants would not go amiss.
Secure the weakest of your plants to a solid and sturdy growing post as this will prevent them from swaying too much and breaking during future high winds.
Get some large plastic bags to place over certain plants and secure them tightly at the base of the plant with a piece of string, so that the wind wont rip them away. Make sure that you also pierce several holes in the plastic bag so that your plants can breathe. These plastic bags will protect your plants from any future severe drops in temperature or even hail storms. Doing this will create a warmer atmosphere around your plants, much in the same way as a greenhouse does.