Freeze Damage in Bonsai & Other Woody Plants 1/7/18

NCsnowThis now famous bonsai planting resides at the North Carolina Arboretum. The photo was put up on the Internet Bonsai Club forum by Arthur Joura. The caption reads "This planting is one of a small handful in our bonsai collection that consists entirely of plant material that can tolerate the extremes of winter, and so it remains on the bench, on display in the Bonsai Exhibition Garden all through the year." The statement 'can tolerate the extremes of winter' makes sense if you live someplace like North Carolina, but less so if you live someplace like Vermont.

Thanks to a tip from Elandan Gardens, I came across an Evergreen Gardenworks’ article by Andy Walsh that was adapted from an Internet Bonsai Club post. It’s titled ‘Freeze Damage in Woody Plants.’ This post is originally from December, 2014. BTW, the temp here in northern Vermont this morning was -20F (-29C)
Continued below…

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John Naka's famous Goshin, fully adorned. The Needle junipers are winter hardy in Washington DC where the tree resides at U.S. National Bonsai & Penjing Museum.

We’ll just show you the beginning of the article and encourage you to visit Evergreen Gardenworks for the rest.

Freeze Damage in Woody Plants
by Andy Walsh

Evergreen Gardenworks’ Introduction
“This article is adapted from an Internet Bonsai Club post. In it, Andy discusses the physical and chemical changes involved when plant stems and roots freeze. This kind of information is crucial to constructing cold weather protection for many areas of the country. Some slight editing has been done to make it more readable in this context.”

The Three Stages of Freezing
First off, several times here writers have stated that their trees are frozen in the winter and survive. It’s clear to me that there is great misunderstanding around what some people think when they say a plant is frozen. If a plant truly freezes it dies. The formation of ice within the cells of a plant is invariably fatal. What I think many people see in winter is the soil of their trees frozen and they equate this with the plant being frozen. This is not the case.
From my readings, there are basically three stages of freezing that can be observed with, and have significance to, a Bonsai:

“The freezing of the water in the Bonsai’s soil.
The freezing of “inter”-cellular water in the plant’s tissues.
The freezing of “intra”-cellular water in the plant’s tissues.

Here’s your link to the rest of the article.



You can leave hardy bonsai out in the open here in northern Vermont for quite a while, but sooner or later they'll need some serious protection. The tree under all that snow, is a Japanese five needle pine that's sitting on the railing of my office deck. It was an early snow and still relative warm when this shot was taken a couple few years ago

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NCRoan Mountain landscape again with its Alberta spruce and azaleas. Fortunately, winter will end someday.

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