Sunday, September 14, 2014

Getting Dirty

As you know, I am a firm believer in getting outside, working in the garden and getting dirty. There are just so many things that make it right. It makes me feel good on many levels.
Most people think the exercise thing first. While I know exercise is good for you, it is definitely not on my top ten things to do.
I will agree with the, "I like to watch things grow, create my own food and make a prettier place to live" group.
Then there is the, I just like being outside in the fresh air. I actually get depressed if I am stuck inside for too long. Anybody that has ever gardened knows this feeling.
Well, now there is some scientific proof that we gardeners are not crazy! Well, never mind that last sentence, most of us are. There is some interesting scientific news that might be able to give us more reasons to be outside. Yea, that is better!
Getting your hands dirty and making contact with soil AND a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and it  strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression.
It all came about when a Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, started inoculating cancer patients with a strain of the soil bacteria to see if any of their symptoms improved. Not only did they improve, they seemed happier and even their cognitive functions got better.
After hearing about this, Dr. Chris Lowry, at Bristol University, decided to go another step and wanted to see if the body’s immune response to the bacterium was what causes the brain to produce seratonin.
His experiments were done on mice. He found that cytokine levels rose, cytokines are part of a chain reaction, the end result of which is the release of seratonin.
There is much more testing going on. It has even been surmised that Seratonin is also thought to play a role in learning. Does it make sense now why so many of our older generations, think farmers, were so smart?
Something else to think about. Some researchers have proposed that the sharp rise in asthma and allergy cases over the past century stems, unexpectedly, from living too clean. I am going to borrow a sentence from a blogger in Australia that put it EXACTLY how I have been trying to say this to people for years: "In our hyper-hygienic, germicidal, protective clothing, obsessive health-and-safety society, there’s been a lot of interesting research emerging in recent years regarding how good dirt is for us, and dirt-deficiency in childhood is implicated in contributing to quite a spectrum of illnesses including allergies, asthma and mental disorders".
I could really get on my high horse and blame the hand sanitizing craziness that I see, but I will let you think about it for yourself. I am in my late 40's, so if you are the same age, or older, think back to your childhood. Do you remember as many peanut allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems as you see now? I sure don't!!
This is a little different of an article than I usually write and I am going to go way off track here for a minute. I AM all about education and this has something to do with the lack of it. I love the idea of research going on to get people more outdoors, maybe they will see some health benefits from it eventually. But,  I am also scared of what kind of people we are bringing up today, due to the LACK of gardening skills. There are children that think that milk comes from "Publix" and have no idea that it first came from a cow. There are people that have no idea how to plant a seed and get a crop from it.
I am an advocate for having some kind of gardening class or classes taught in school. Get them started early, teach them that a peanut does NOT grow on a tree and that Coco Puffs are made from a grain, that grows in the ground.
My mother taught me gardening when I was very young. I helped her in her garden and had a little one myself, probably by the age of 6. Comparatively, I feel I am a better, healthier person because of this. Let's get these kids off of FarmTown on the computer and into real farms. They will all be happier, healthier, and better able to adapt to the real world.
Thank You for following my little rant, we will resume next time with some good gardening information. As usual, if you have any questions or comments about any of my writings, please feel free to ask.
Happy growing!
Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, first stumbled upon these findings while inoculating lung cancer patients with a strain of M. vaccae (pronounced “emm vah-kay”) to see if their symptoms improved. She noticed that in addition to fewer cancer symptoms, patients also demonstrated an improvement in emotional health, vitality, and even cognitive function. - See more at:
Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, first stumbled upon these findings while inoculating lung cancer patients with a strain of M. vaccae (pronounced “emm vah-kay”) to see if their symptoms improved. She noticed that in addition to fewer cancer symptoms, patients also demonstrated an improvement in emotional health, vitality, and even cognitive function. - See more at:
Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, first stumbled upon these findings while inoculating lung cancer patients with a strain of M. vaccae (pronounced “emm vah-kay”) to see if their symptoms improved. She noticed that in addition to fewer cancer symptoms, patients also demonstrated an improvement in emotional health, vitality, and even cognitive function. - See more at:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Plant Tough Love

There are many reasons to grow Camellias. As a shrub, it is evergreen and looks great all year round. It is a relatively carefree plant, it actually seems to do better with a little neglect. Then of course, there are the flowers. Depending on which species and cultivars you grow, theoretically you can start having flowers as early as late September, all the way through April and even into May. This article is not going to go into how to grow these beauties, I will save that for another time. I am going to discuss what many people feel is tough love towards the plants.
Anybody that knows me, knows that I am a competitive person. I love a good contest and the camellia show season fills the bill perfectly. So how does tough love fit in?
I rip the flower buds right off the plant!!
I know, "WAIT!? I thought you competed in flower shows?"
I do.
I don't rip them all off, just most. It is called disbudding. A camellia will set many flower buds and they (most) will open okay, sometimes smaller, sometimes mishappen. The theory behind disbudding is to send all of that flower energy to fewer buds. The flowers will be bigger and will be able to open wider without it bumping heads with its neighbor.
September is the time to start really doing this, of course there are the early season bloomers that will start showing buds sooner, you can start whenever you start to see the buds. With that being said, you do not want to start too early! The plant will actually produce a second set of buds which will not only take more energy to produce, you have to go through the plant again removing them. I start disbudding about September first and will continue on until the shows I want to compete in are over, then they are free to bloom their little hearts out. I have usually pretty much got them all done by then, but don't tell the plants that.
Let me show you how it is done.
You want to check out your camellia plant for something that looks like this:

Notice the two buds together? Somebody has to go.

I chose the top one. There are a number of ways to decide which one has to go.
First, you need to think about spacing. Is there room for the flower to open completely?
Second, rain, frost and condensation are a flowers enemy. You really don't want them settling onto the flower itself, so, if the flower is facing down, as seen above, that is the one to save. The moisture will run off the back of the bloom, like water off of a ducks back, and not set foot on the inside.
I go through all of my camellias doing this. I know for a fact that I take more flowers off than I leave on, that is why I have to do this when my wife is not looking.
When it comes to the miniature flowers, I may take a few off, but you can actually lose some points if the flower is bigger than the "standard" size. This is only for the miniatures, everything else, the bigger the better. I am also in the camp of taking all of the lateral buds (buds up and down the length of the stem) off and just leaving the terminal bud (the one on the very end of the stem) on.
The easiest, and safest, for the other blooms is to use your thumbnail. Place it on the tip of the bud to remove and depending on which way it is growing, bend it in that direction. It should pop right off. This sounds easy, but, it took me a little while to get used to popping the flowers off. 
Mind you, this is mainly for the competitive circuit. If you want a mass of color, completely disregard anything that you have just read. Camellia sasanqua, the fall blooming Camellia is not usually shown as often, mostly because they are considered more of a landscape and rootstock type of camellia. Now before I get all kinds of e-mails, yes, I know that some shows have a sasanqua or species category. Yes, I have some very pretty ones in my own yard, namely Pink Serenade and Yuletide that I love. I also have some 150+ japonicas and reticulatas that are for competing. So I know how pretty the sasanquas are, I just like the show bloomers.
Matter of fact, here is the Pink Serenade......see all the buds I haven't touched yet?

This what the final product usually looks like:

Anyway, like I said earlier, it takes some getting used to ripping those flowers off. It is kind of along the same lines as pruning, it is hard to do and it will benefit the plant, or the flowers, in the long run.
Isn't that what tough love is all about!?!?
If you have any questions about this or any other articles I have written, please let me know. I also would love for you to come check out my The Citrus Guy public figure Facebook page, give me a like and follow me more on my horticultural activities.
Happy Growing!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Up Against The Wall

Working these last 10 years or so at a nursery has made me appreciate many things. Everybody has plants that they either love or just absolutely hate. I have learned there are quite a few plants that I just am not fond of. Each and every one of them has a place in the landscape, and that I appreciate. I still don't like them.
Want an example?
Crepe Myrtles. Yes, they are pretty when flowering, kind of.
Why do I not like them?
In my yard, they are the last tree/plant to leaf out. The flowers make an absolute mess. The bark peels and exfoliates, which to some people is a plus.
They are the first tree/plant to lose their leaves in the fall. I am just not excited about them.
Want another example?
Espaliered  trees.
Yes, I know, they do have some good uses to them. Even though I think they are about as ugly a thing as you can do to a plant or tree, they do actually make sense to some degree.
This is the topic for today. I had somebody ask me if I knew anything about them, is it possible to do it with a Citrus tree, and would I write something about it. The answer is YES to all three.
Historians note that fruit trees in the 16th century were trained in France to grow next to walls to take advantage of the extra warmth of the wall. If you have heard me speak or read any of my Citrus articles, you know this is right up that plants alley. Especially in borderline climates.
By the mid-18th century, espaliers were a major feature of European formal gardens, they can still be  seen at Versailles and Fontainebleau. The colonists brought the method to America, where even today it can be seen at George Washington's estate in Mt. Vernon. There it was done with Apples and other fruit, not Citrus.
The formal definition of espaliered is: 1. a plant (as a fruit tree) trained to grow flat against a support (as a wall). 2. : a railing or trellis on which fruit trees or shrubs are trained to grow flat.
I am sure you have probably seen one, not necessarily Citrus, but just in case, here is what one looks like:

Photo courtesy of Ian Barker Gardens

There are as many ways to espalier a tree as there are imaginations. There are several espalier designs, many with fancy names, including the single vertical cordon, the single horizontal cordon, oblique palmette with fixed limbs, Baldassari Palmette, the Belgian fence, lepage espalier with three branches, the U double, the verrier candelabra and the drapeau marchand. Don't let these fancy names scare you, they are all basically the same. You will need to determine your situation and what you want the tree to do. 
There are some basic points and techniques that are common to all forms.
A word of caution here, patience is A MUST!! This whole process can take anywhere from 5-10 years to complete. Again, I am not wanting you to be scared of this, just don't expect to have it happen overnight.
 Espaliers do best along sunny exposures, with loamy, well-drained soil. Find a spot near a brick or stone wall, wooden fence or trellis, allowing 6 inches of space between the tree and wall.
 The tree must be in its first year or two of growth in order to be espaliered. Older trees are more difficult to train, as bending mature branches can take one to three years, and usually end up breaking when you try to form them in a different direction than they want to grow.
There will be work to do on the espalier all year, but a good bit of the training will be done in the spring, when growth is soft and subtle. 
I stumbled across this picture from It is exactly the main gist of what you want to accomplish:

Of course the more elaborate your fence, trellis or wall is, the more you will need to prune.
Speaking of pruning. As new branches come out at you, you have a choice, you can leave them and have a full frontal tree with a flat back, or you can keep them pruned back to give you more room and a neater appearance.
This article is mainly on Citrus, because that is my thing. I really can not think of a cultivar of Citrus that this would not work with. You can do this to pretty much any tree too, like other fruits, Magnolias, Camellias, etc. One major thing you have to keep in mind, if you are just trying to cover a wall or create some other kind of look, you may not want to use a deciduous tree, one that loses its leaves in the winter. You will be back to looking at the wall, with wires and bare branches running along it.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is not my cup of tea on how to train a tree, but I will list some of the benefits to this style of gardening.
  • Espalier is efficient—it casts little or no shade on surrounding plants.
  • Espalier is beautiful—it softens the appearance of walls and can be a focal point of garden designs and views while it displays the finer details of plants: stems, bark texture and color, leaf shapes, flower, and fruit.
  • There is a year-round design effect.
  • A quick, living fence can be established of espaliers as a privacy screen or as a backdrop for other plants.
There are all kinds of websites, youtube videos and even many garden books have sections on espaliered trees. I encourage you to seek some of them out and do what suits you and your situation.
As I was doing some research on this subject, I always try to make sure I am giving out the most accurate info, I came across some interesting espaliers that others have done. Maybe some of these will give you inspiration to try something just as interesting or in some cases, crazy.

 NOT for somebody with OCD

I think of a triton when I see this

WAY too much work involved here

I know you should never say never, so I will say this, if there ever comes a time that I HAVE to espalier trees, this will be the closest I come to it.
Happy Growing!

Espaliers do best along sunny exposures, with loamy, well-drained soil. Find a spot near a brick or stone wall, wooden fence or trellis, allowing 6 inches of space between the tree and wall.

Read more :
Espaliers do best along sunny exposures, with loamy, well-drained soil. Find a spot near a brick or stone wall, wooden fence or trellis, allowing 6 inches of space between the tree and wall.

Read more :
Espaliers do best along sunny exposures, with loamy, well-drained soil. Find a spot near a brick or stone wall, wooden fence or trellis, allowing 6 inches of space between the tree and wall.

Read more :

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spit it out!

A few days ago I was walking around my yard, checking on how things were doing. I have been working many, many hours as of late, so it is a real pleasure to be able to tour the yard. Seeing all the new growth, fruit being produced, and things just thriving, really makes me feel good. I am trying to ignore the fact that deer ALSO apparently have been touring the yard and enjoying the fruits of my labor! That is another story.
Of course, I have some of the same normal problems that any other gardener has, the aphids, some scale, even a small case of dieback on one of my camellias. Nothing new that I can't easily take care of. The blessed deer however!! Sorry, I digress.
I did spot a problem that I had not seen in quite some time, and if you don't know what it is at first, it may gross you out.

Ever come across this in your yard?
No, the neighborhood kids probably did not come by and hock a loogey on your plant, though in some neighborhoods you never know.
Nope, this is caused by one of several species of Spittlebugs or Froghoppers.
Spittlebugs occur throughout the United States. About 850 species of spittlebugs are known worldwide, and 23 species are distributed throughout North America. They can, at least occasionally, be found on almost any plant. They are closely related to aphids.The adults are usually inconspicuous, often greenish or brownish insects, depending on the species. Immature spittlebugs are recognized by the frothy white mass that the nymphs surround themselves with on plant tissue where they feed.
Like aphids, spittlebugs suck plant juices. Heavy infestations distort plant tissue and slow plant growth. Light infestations usually have little effect on established woody plants. On your more herbaceous plants, they can suck the life right out of them. If ever there was a list of pests that are wasteful, spittlebugs would be at the top, because they feed in a rather unique way. Nymphs will huddle up close to one another and using their piercing mouthparts, puncture the plant stem on which they are feeding. Plant sap is then pumped out and through their bodies at an amazing rate. This pumping action extracts a lot of sap which then accumulates around the group of spittlebugs as they feed. Since the sap is thick and gooey, it clings to the spittlebugs and forms a type of sap or "spittle mass" in which the nymphs thrive. This moist, sap membrane is both a food supply and a place of safe harborage for the nymphs. Predatory birds are more likely to overlook nymphs encased in the spittle; the mass provides a damp environment for the young vulnerable bugs so they can easily endure even the hottest of days. 

The good news is, they are very easy to control. A strong spray of water from your hose will usually do the trick. Remember I said the froth protects them? Wash it away and there goes their protection.
The life cycle is rather simple,  Females lay small eggs in rows in hidden parts of the plant, such as the sheath between leaves and stems. Nymphs undergo about five molts, and may be orange, yellow, or green. There are many nymphs to be found in a spittle mass.
The most common spittlebug found around here is the  'Prosapia bicincta' or the Two-lined spittlebug. They look like this:

 As I mentioned above there are other species out there. The Native Meadow Spittlebug, Native Pine Spittlebug and the Dogwood Spittlebug, just to name a few. 
This is one of those pests that can do some damage, small infestations are not much of a problem, and they are easy to control. If you want to know what kind of spittlebug you have, first figure out what they are on, there is probably a spittle for that.
Hopefully this has been a fun little read on a pest that is actually a disgusting habit that many people have. 
If you have any comments, questions or something from any of my articles that you would like some more info on, my e-mail is:
Just spit it out already!
Happy Growing!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Overprotecting? My Spider Plant

I am not going to remind you just how brutal a winter we have just come through. Mainly because, one, I don't want to think about it, and two, there are some parts of the country still experiencing it as I type. Suffice it to say, it was BAD!
I have had conversations with people debating whether we tend to "overprotect" our plants during cold spells. Yes, I know there are some that just won't survive certain temperatures. I can fully attest to that, in the case of trying to grow Theobroma or cocoa. The temperatures drop below 40 degrees and it is toast. I have tried three times now. Needless to say, I have given up trying to grow my own chocolate.
However, there are plants that will take an absolute beating, yet will come back. The case of the daylily comes to mind. It will completely die back, but poke it's head out in the spring and flower like crazy. I am sure you can think of a hundred plants that fall into this category.
Today, I want to discuss a plant that is VERY familiar to anybody that has ever grown houseplants. Everything you read says it likes warm temperatures. Yet, I am here today to prove it is one tough son of a gun!!
Chlorophytum comosum, often called the spider plant or airplane plant. One of the most common and easiest to grow of all of the houseplants. You probably have one hanging in your den, office or kitchen right now. 

Native to South Africa. Spider plants are fast growers. They can quickly get to be 2 to 2½ feet wide and 2 to 3 feet long, especially when grown in a hanging basket. They prefer bright, indirect light, which makes them ideal as a houseplant. They can handle some direct light, but anything after say noon, will probably scorch the leaves. 
Like most plants, a well draining soil is what it prefers. Any good potting soil is sufficient. 
Allow the plant to dry out slightly between waterings, it is susceptible to root rot. You can feed your plant during periods of active growth. A general purpose fertilizer, either slow release or water soluble is good. 
Spider plants form thick, fleshy tuberous roots. You will want to divide and repot the plants before the roots expand enough to break the container. I have actually seen this happen. They can be repotted at any time of the year. 
Also known as airplane plants, because they produce little "plantlets" that seem to take off from the mother plant. 

The great thing about these plantlets is, once they have developed roots of their own, you can push them into some moist soil and you have a new plant. Again, this can be done pretty much anytime of the year.
There are even different degrees of color, depending on the cultivar.
'Vittatum' has green leaves with a broad central white stripe. This is the most common one and is what the very first picture above is. 
 'Reverse Variegatum'. This one has a green center with white edges, as seen here:

There are all kinds of degrees of variegation, some of the white stripes are wider and paler. Some of the green is more intense. Some have multiple lines. You get the idea.

There is even an all green plant, for those of you that dislike variegation:

Did you know spider plants flower?:

Plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water is the main complaint. Whiteflies, spider mites, scales and aphids are the most common insect pest problems, all of which can be taken care of with insecticidal soap or a good spray of direct water.
If all of this color, flowers and ease of care were not enough for you. What if I told you that spider plants are actually GOOD for you? The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), which tested the abilities of houseplants to remove formaldehyde from the air, found in preliminary tests that spider plants were the champs, removing 95 percent of the toxic substance from a sealed Plexiglas chamber in 24 hours. It can also battle benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used in the leather, rubber and printing industries.
Not too bad for something that just hangs around the house, huh?
Oh, I guess I should tell you now, WHY, I titled this article what I did. We tend to read books, articles and listen to our grandparents about the proper ways to care for our houseplants. They need to stay warm in the winter. Keep them away from drafty windows, they will get cold and die. The conventional consensus about spider plants reads like this: Temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees during the day and 50 to 55 degrees at night are ideal. They will tolerate temperatures down to 35 degrees. Well, I keep my all my plants outside during the 3 "warmer" seasons of the year. When it gets cold, they go into my greenhouse. I forgot one of my spider plants this year. Not sure how, I just missed it. Here in North Charleston, SC we bottomed out at 17 degrees on the coldest night. Had two ice storms. This plant that I missed was just hanging out, literally, in all of this cold, nasty weather. Look what I found the other day:

Do me a favor, don't tell it that it was not suppose to still be alive, it hasn't read this article!
As always, if you have any questions about this article, any of my other articles, or have a gardening question that you need answered, drop me a line:
Happy Growing!

Saturday, March 8, 2014


There are times that you see something that just makes you go, what the heck is that?!
And WHY would somebody make that?
I have seen some odd color combination's of cats, heads that are too big for their bodies, too many toes, etc. Don't get me wrong, I think they are adorable, but most of the time, it was kind of a "not on purpose" type of thing.
I have just acquired a couple of plants that might just fall into this category. Common name is bush ivy, the botanical name is Fatshedera lizei.
If you want to pronounce it: 
fats-HED-dur-uh LYE-zee-eye
This plant was not made in nature, it is considered an inter-generic cross. Kind of like crossing a cat with a mouse and getting a camouse.
It was made in 1910 at the Lizé Frères Nursery at Nantes, France and has never been repeated. The name is a combination of the two plants that produced it. Fatsia japonica and Hedera helix. A Fatsia and an Ivy plant. These types of hybrids are very rare and almost never occur in nature.

As you can see, it looks very much like the Ivy parent. But it tends to grow more shrubby like its other parent, the Fatsia.
It grows in Zones 8 through 11. As the leaves mature, they can handle down to 15 degrees. Newer growth will be hurt at 20. It will stay an evergreen at these temperatures, however below 10 degrees it wll get killed to the ground, but will recover in the spring.
Fatshedera prefer some dabbled morning sun, but can be grown in shade. This aspect makes them useful as a houseplant.
They grow in a wide variety of soils, as long as it has good drainage. Regular waterings are best, but it is also fairly drought tolerant.
If you want to grow one of these, but can't find one for yourself, find a friend that has one. Take cuttings in summer, they root pretty easily.
They are easily grown in containers. For those of you that like this kind of look, it can be successfully used as an espalier if given support. It does nicely trained on a trellis or can be tied to a post or other vertical support. If planted against a wall it will try to grow up, often sending shoots out away from the wall, creating a plant that is too heavy and it will fall over. It did not inherit the anchor roots from its Ivy parent. For this reason it is not advisable to plant this if you do not plan on providing the occasional required pruning and fastening to the support. New growth should be occasionally pinched to promote branching since stems rarely branch on their own.
There are no disease problems noted, it will occasionally be bothered by scale or aphids. Insecticidal soaps or systemic insecticides will take care of them.
One other thing it picked up from its Fatsia parent was the ability to flower. In the summer, it will produce an umbrella like flower stalk, with white, sterile flowers.

I mention the sterile flower part because there are folks out there that are always worried about invasive type of plants. This thing is definitely not from around here, and there are no worries about it taking over, unless everybody reads this, falls in love with the plant and plants some!!
There are even some different cultivars out there, whch include 'Pia', with wavy-edged leaves; 'Variegata', with narrow white leaf margins; and 'Anna Mikkels', with yellow-variegated leaves.

The two plants I just received were actually rescues. They were at a local nursery and were destined for the trash. They have some cold damage, but who among us doesn't have some cold damage themselves after this long, cold nasty winter?

I hope you enjoyed meeting my Frankenplant and decide to get one yourself and give it a home.
As always, if you have any questions about this article, any of my other articles or even a garden question that I could write about at a later time, don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail,
Happy Growing!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cold Spin

The first half of 2014 may go down in the history books as one of the worst winters in years. Everybody is tired of all of the cold and snow and any of the other four letter words you can associate with winter. All my gardening friends are really getting the fever to go out and do something, anything, in their yards. As depressing as this has all been, I wanted to try and put some good spin to the benefits of this nasty weather. I also wanted to discuss what you should and should not do to your cold damaged plants.
Let's start with the temperatures and chill hours. These are calculated by how long the temperature is below 45 and above 32. There are many plants that need lots of these type of hours to have a good fruit set. Apples, Peaches and Plums are some of the ones that most people think of off the top of their head. Did you know that brambles (Blackberries, Boysenberries and Raspberries) need chill hours also?

If you want to learn more about Brambles and growing them, check out the article I wrote a few years ago HERE
 So with all of the cool and cold temperatures we have had, it ought to be a bumper crop of a lot of fruits. There are some fruiting plants that don't like the cold however, and because of when they flower and start to set fruit are probably a total loss this year. Here in the Charleston, SC area, the Loquats are pretty much toast, but this is suppose to be an article to spin the cold good, so we won't dwell on them.
Moving on to other aspects of what the cold has done.
For those of you that hate to prune or just can't seem to thin out the number of plants that you have, this has been your winter!
I hate pruning. I do it if I absolutely have to, but I find it hard to cut off parts of a plant that are still growing. This winter has fixed that problem!!
With that being said, I don't recommend doing any pruning until it starts to get warm and STAYS warm. The reason I say this is because you don't know how much to cut yet. You need to cut off all of the dead wood, but you don't want to cut off too much either. The number one question I have been getting is, "Should I cut back my dead looking Citrus tree"?
NO!! Not yet.

If you grow any citrus trees, they probably look like the one above. Don't panic! They are still alive. If you want to test and see, scrape the bark in a small area and look for green. I know this is hard to see, but kind of like this:

If you look at almost the very center of the picture, you will see a small scrape and green. This one is going to be fine.
If you do find brown, go down about 6 inches and do it again. Keep going until you find green. If you get to the bottom and still nothing, all hope may not be lost. The rootstock may come back and give you something new. It may not be very tasty, but there would still be a plant there. Incidentally, this will work for pretty much any plant.
As for the thinning of your plant collection. I admit it, I am a plant whore. I have many, many plants. Probably more than I really need, though, when is too many reached? This weather has definitely killed off a bunch of my "borderline" for this area plants. Do I restock or do I just go with what I have, time will tell. In the meantime, I will be able to pay more attention to the ones that survived.
Okay, that gives you a little hope from the cold.
What about the snow and ice?
The ice will actually protect the plants from the wicked low temperatures. Down in Florida, they use ice as insulation from the extreme low temperatures.

How it works is best described here from the Florida Extension Services:
"Cold protection with sprinklers: The principle behind the use of sprinklers to protect trees from freezing is that heat is released when water changes from liquid to ice, a phenomenon known as heat of fusion. When water is freezing, its temperature will be near 32 degrees F; therefore, the heat liberated as the water freezes maintains the temperature near 32 degrees F. This temperature, known as the triple point, is in equilibrium between vapor, liquid and ice. If sufficient water is applied, and all leaves and branches are covered with ice, protection can be expected. If only partial coverage of leaves or branches is accomplished, damage can occur, and the damage will be more severe than if water had not been applied. Do not stop sprinklers until the temperature is 32 degrees F or above and water is dripping from all parts of the plants."
Wow, that was intense! I hope you got the gist of that?!
I don't recommend this to homeowners, I don't even do this. There are many factors that can go wrong. It can break branches. You end up using LOTS of water and flooding your yard, the neighbors and half of the neighborhood. Like the extension said, if the coverage is not complete, damage can still occur. So for us hobby growers, it is just not feasible. How does this tie in to a good spin? Mother Nature is providing the ice, so maybe it will prevent further damage.
The prediction of snow usually has a lot of people freeking out. Yes, driving is treacherous, schools and such close, but for us gardeners, it can be a good thing. Have you ever heard of Poor Man's Fertilizer?

That is how I try to think of snow. Rain and lightning contain even more nitrogen than snow does. But snow has the fertilizer reputation because it feeds nitrogen to the soil slowly over time at a rate it can be absorbed. As every school kid knows, the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen gas (N2), which is a compound made up of two bonded nitrogen atoms. It’s easy to assume the N2 is what comes down to the ground in precipitation, but that’s not quite right. Nitrogen exists in numerous forms, and N2 isn’t directly usable by plants. It needs to be first converted, or “fixed” into mineralized nitrogen forms. These forms are suspended nitrogen compounds such as nitrogen oxides, nitric acid, and especially ammoniacal nitrogen. These compounds find their way into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. It is estimated that since the industrial revolution, the nitrogen content of precipitation has increased dramatically. Who says pollution is all bad?
I hope I haven't gotten too technical and this was easy enough to understand?
But, as you can see, cold, snow, ice and all that other crappy weather associated with winter may not necessarily be all bad. There might even be a little good coming from it.
I still think winter bites, but at least I can take some pleasure in knowing that, in the long run, my garden and yard will be better off for it.
As always, if you have any questions about this article, or anything else gardening related, don't hesitate to ask. I can be reached through this blog OR
Happy Growing!