Okay, we were finally bitten by the normal winter weather, albeit a few months later than usual. But because of the past exceptionally hot weeks, haven’t we had the most glorious New Year’s Day ever?
Now what? Nothing is what I do, unless you consider doing nothing to be something. Almost all conservatories experience sudden frosts and generally survive just fine with just a little pruning and cleaning up later. Remember how the azaleas we were sure were ruined, still bloomed in the spring? And many overlooked perennials, including the very beautiful winter-flowering hellebores, a shade-loving perennial often referred to as Lenten rose, do well no matter how cold it is here.
Sure, most early-flowering pink Japanese magnolias have turned brown, but I guess their too early bloomers are what attract frost in the first place. We lose camellia flowers just as they start to peak, and normally cold-hardy violas of pansies and, well, almost all winter annuals except kale can freeze. Lots of too early blueberry blooms can be killed, although the shrubs can still do a decent harvest.
I took the precaution of grouping exposed potted plants, even cold-tolerant ones, near the house and stacking mulch on top of the pots to protect the roots a bit more. Yet an old pot from my grandmother’s garden froze and then collapsed as soon as it thawed.
Get the picture? We all lose things in the sudden, deep freezes of our normally mild winters. It’s just that old hands roll with it, accepting frustration and disappointment as part of the gardening game. We understand that cold is important for plants in temperate zones, most of which actually need a lot of cold to grow properly (which is why we can’t row decent lilacs or cherries). My winter-flowering quinces, my ellebores and mahonia have never missed a beat.
I see people covering plants that can easily tolerate temperatures into their teens, sometimes causing more damage than good. All I can say to these people is “You have to trust them”.
In fact, aside from protecting against cold winds and giving false hope, covering plants in cold weather only helps for a few hours and then only until your mid-twenties. But if you do, make sure the coating goes all the way to the ground, to capture the considerable heat that rises from the ground, and find out when it goes into the 30’s, especially when the sun comes out, as the overheating of the ground. bright sunshine plastic can steam plants to a death worse than frost.
For those of you who were thrilled in the fall, here is some outdated information: are best pruned in late January or February. The exposed tips of plants pruned earlier, especially boxwood and many hedge shrubs, are often damaged with the first hard frost; you may need to revisit some of them next month to remove the golden tips.
During this time all I do, other than look wistfully out the window, is make sure my plants are watered well before a hard frost, because although the ice will only get so cold, temperatures air below freezing can damage dry roots and stems. And I pile heat-retaining insulating leaves and bark mulch underneath (pine straw looks good but too loose to be good insulation), and sharpen and oil my pruners and pruners to clean the pruners. consequences.
Who needed roses in January anyway? Winter color is what glass bottle trees and birdhouses are made for!
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi writer, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email your gardening questions to [email protected]