I realize this isn't a very pretty picture but it illustrates today's topic well.
What you're looking at is a Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) that has winter injury. I just love this plant because it has evergreen foliage and beautiful bell-shaped flowers. The new foliage starts out a coppery-red in the spring, then turns a lovely bright green. The plant loves acidic soil, which makes it a perfect bed-mate for the rhododendrons, astilbes and yews growing nearby.
Unfortunately, Japanese Andromeda isn't reliably hardy for USDA zone 5 which is the zone I live in. It will grow beautifully for years and years, then we'll have a winter where we get bitterly cold temperatures -- usually with little insulating snow to protect the plants -- and they suffer terribly.
It's always important to provide plants with plenty of moisture in the fall as we approach the winter months. This keeps the plant from drying out, which can also cause winter injury. However, in this case, I think I was bending the rules a bit by choosing a plant that isn't necessarily cold-hardy enough for my garden.
Fortunately, it has survived the winter -- it just doesn't look so great! I've since trimmed off the burned-looking leaves and was happy to see a lot of new growth plus these flowers (see photo at right), so perhaps it will recover just fine. If, however, it dies in the next year or so, I'm definitely going to replace it with something hardier.
If you have any plants that are looking similar to this, they are most likely dealing with winter injury as well. Just trim off the dead foliage and hopefully they will start perking up. And be sure to water them well going into next winter, just to be safe!