Reports indicate that a lot of plants have been damaged by usually cold weather this winter. There is little doubt that this is true, but chances are it will not be as bad as many gardeners fear.

THe best thing to do right now is wait. There isn't much that can be done for cold-damaged plants at this time.

Plants growing in containers and certain other situations may need watering, particualrly evergreens. Evan deciduous tree and shrubs without foliage give off some moisture (transpiration) during winter months and they can be badly hurt if their roote completely dry out.

Broadleaf evergreens such as evergreens such as evergreen privet, most species of holly, cherry laurel, abelia and euonymus are showing extreme foliage damage, according to the landscape Contractors Assoc. of Metropolitan Washington.

Foliage damage, however, does not tell the whole story. Bark damage age are of more serioue concern than be detected so soon nor so easily as foliage damage. Total evaluation may not be known until early summer.

Later on when the extent of damage is more obvious, prunning awat dead wood may be necessary. This may range from trimming a tip of a branch to cutting the plant back to the ground.

"Evergreen euonymus, pyracantha, elaeagnus, stranvaesia and cotoneaster that now show extreme burned foliage will suffer little other damage." the landscape Contractors group says.

"Abelia, evergreen barberries, mahonia, osmanthus and some cotoneasters may suffer bark damage in addition to foliage damage. hard pruning back, often to the ground, may be necessary. Recovery time is not of too extreme duration. Abelia may attain its former size in one growing year.

"A larger plant may suffer root damage in addition to foliage and bark damage. Included are Enfglish holly, Chinese holly, English boxwood, evergreen magnolin, nandina, winter daphne, eherry laurel, aucuba, evergreen privet, evergreen photinia, skimmia, evergreen shrub honey suckle, Japanese euonymus and many tender azaleas in the Washington and Baltimore area.

"Many azaleas and rhododendrous varieties lack local winter hardiness. These tender plants are imported from the South or are often from florist forced not plants.

"Deciduous plants that suffer are crepe myrtle, chastle tree, kerria and butterfly bush. Reasonable recovery after prunnning may be axpected.

"Fertilizing with a general-purpose fertilizer should hasten recovery. A water soluble type may be more efficient. Mulching, if notr already employed, should be helpful.

"Cycles of periods of subzero temperatures capable of extreme plant damage occur approximately every 10 to 15 years.

"If one desires to grow winter tender plants, then the risk is inevitable. Winter shading and antidesiccants afford a small amount of protection, but not under extreme conditions.

"Your best is to take a long, patient period of observation and contemplation before acting on replacement of plants that have been destroyed."

Plants growing in containers outdoors unprotected are much more likely to be seriously damaged than those planted in the grouns. Soil temperatures in containers are much more closely related to air temperatures than are those of field soils. In addition, roots are not as hardy as the top of the plant.

Another consequence of lower soil temnperatures in the container is the lack of avaible moisture for the roots, due to soil freezing. Although field soil moisture also freezes, it is not frozen so completely nor for so much of the winter season.