Freeze Warning Tonight (4/15/14) and Maybe Wednesday Night, Too

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I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this…there is a Freeze Warning posted for tonight, Tuesday, April 15, in the D.C. metro area. Be ready for Wednesday night, too, just in case. This is not uncommon at this time of year when we are teetering between warmth one day and cold the next. The recent warmth brought out new growth on most plants.  

In my own garden, I have Azaleas starting to bloom and the Japanese Maples have leafed-out; I’ll cover what I can. I am not going to worry about the Daffodils and other bulbs, Pansies, Hellebores, Pieris, Camellias, for example—these should go relatively undamaged, other than maybe a few burnt flowers.

Anytime the night temperatures are expected to hover around freezing at this time of year, I consider covering. My goal is to keep frost off the flowers and new growth of tender items. I always keep a stack of old sheets, towels, and blankets for nights just like these when I need to cover plants. Just drape them gently over the plants you are trying to protect. Beware using plastic bags and tarps—they do a good job of protecting your plants, but the air underneath them can heat up too much the next morning when the sun hits the plastic. If you do decide to use plastic covers, be sure to remove them in the morning when the temperature warms a bit. Special frost coverings and blankets are available at some nurseries and hardware stores.

If you have planted tender annuals or vegetables prematurely, cover them. Bring indoors any tropical houseplants you may have set outside when it was warm. The average last date of frost in the D.C. area is April 25th—often earlier to the South and East, often later to the West and North. May 1 is a good marker for planting your tender annuals and vegetables and putting out your tropical plants for the summer. It pays to wait until then.  Still, keep those sheets, towels and blankets on hand for an unexpected cold snap.

Posted under Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 15, 2014

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The Winter That [Seems Like It] Will Never End…

…but we know it will, of course–eventually.

From this (Bluffton, SC, February 2014)...

From this (Bluffton, SC, February 2014)…

...to this (Arlington,  VA, March 6, 2014)

…to this (Arlington, VA, March 6, 2014)

It’s good to be back home in Arlington, though not to this cold and snow! Except for the ice storm that occurred when I first arrived in North Carolina last month, the Winter weather down South this year was gorgeous.

Winter Damage

The lowest temperature got to 5F in my garden this Winter. Plus, there were several stretches of below-freezing temperatures for several days at a time (including this past week).

Almost all broadleaf evergreens have, at least, some leaf burn on them, as we head into late Winter and early Spring. Some have severe burn. Some leaf burn is very obvious; some not so obvious, yet.

In my travels this Winter, I have seen damage as far south as South Georgia. It has been a cold Winter in the eastern part of the U.S.

Winter damage, Bonaventure Cemetary, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Winter damage, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Ice storm, Wilmington, NC, early February, 2014

Ice storm, Wilmington, NC, early February, 2014

In my own garden, I grow some things that I would not plant in clients’ gardens (before years of testing in local conditions) because their true hardiness in the metro D.C. area is still uncertain. Believe it or not, I welcome a Winter like this one–at least in terms of testing the limits of hardiness for some of the plants in my garden.

The usual suspects have moderate to severe leaf burn: nandinas, loquats, cast iron plants, windmill palms, chindo viburnums, ligustrum, Carolina jessamine, fatsias, loropetalums, camellias, gardenias, mondo grass, liriope, etc.–even aucubas. With the exception of loquat (which is a hardiness zone 8 plant), all are listed in hardiness zone 7 (the predominant hardiness zone in the D.C. area, which covers average lowest temperatures 0F-10F), or lower/able to  take even colder temperatures. I’m even expecting some bud loss on my beloved camellias which, since I’ve had my garden here at Woodland Cottage, have always put on a spectacular late Winter/early Spring show.

Crapemyrtles can be adversely affective by severe cold, too, though we’ll have to wait until they leaf out (often not until May) before we know if they were damaged or not.

Winter damage on Sago Palm, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Winter damage on Sago Palm, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

The difference this year, I think, is a combination of very cold temperatures and long stretches of below-freezing temperatures. Plants’ leaves dried out and burned because they could not get water into their systems to help prevent the dessication.

I’m expecting most, if not all, of these plants to drop/lose all their burned leaves before putting out new growth when the weather is, finally, reliably warm. They may have some stem/branch loss, as well, from the tips back.

Frozen pond/waterfall, Woodland Cottage, Winter 2014

Frozen pond/waterfall, Woodland Cottage, Winter 2014

The best thing to do–as I say every year–is nothing, now–WAIT. It would be a shame to cut back or remove a plant when it appears dead when, actually, its wood is still very much alive. Even if part of the top of the plant is lost, the roots may still be alive and strong, able to push out lush, new growth when the weather warms.

The other reason to wait, from a cost perspective, is that loss from Winter damage is not covered under the plant guarantee.

Spring can be fickle after a very cold Winter (and Easter is not until April 20th this year), so we may have to wait awhile until the weather settles down and balmy weather returns.

Please wait, and please try to be patient. Allow Mother Nature to work her magic. In most cases, it will be well worth the wait.

Here’s hoping for real Spring–soon!!

Camellia japonica, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Camellia japonica, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

 

 

 

Posted under Southern Gardens, The Winter Garden, Water in the Garden

Help Save the Angel Oak

Angel Oak

The Angel Oak, located in John’s Island, SC, near Charleston, is one of the oldest trees on the East Coast.  The Angel Oak is in danger of being removed for development.  The Lowcountry Open Land Trust is raising money to buy land around the Angel Oak as a buffer to future development.

You can donate and find out more about the Angel Oak here.

I donated.  Please donate if you feel inspired to help save this ancient and beautiful tree.

Photo credit: AngelOakTree.com

 

Posted under Southern Gardens

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on September 21, 2013

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Romancing the Azalea

Here’s a link to my latest article for Wrightsville Beach Magazine, “Romancing the Azalea”, in celebration of the upcoming, annual Azalea Festival in Wilmington, NC.  Enjoy and Happy Spring!  (Hoping for a warm up soon!)

Posted under Garden Travel, Media, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, Travel

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on April 3, 2013

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A Tale of Two Seasons

Woke up to this:

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Every twig, every leaf, every surface has snow on it.

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When I look up into the trees, the first thing that pops into my head is “reindeer antlers”, for some reason.  What do you think?

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Soon, I hope, the temperature will rise above freezing so the snow will begin to drop off the plants.  It’s heavy and wet, and many of the shrubs are arching over a bit too much for comfort…I am praying for no breakage.

Checking my notes, I see we had a dusting of snow on March 27, 2011.  The photos show the flowers much more advanced than this year.  It’s been a cold, cold March–many days more like January.  While snow is not uncommon this late in the season (and even a dusting on the flowers in early April is fairly common), I can’t remember having this much so late.  I measure 3″-4″, and it’s still snowing.

The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin are due to peak in a week–really?  Hard to believe on a day like today, yet it will come to pass.  My hillside of blooming daffodils is hidden under the snow this morning.

Can’t wait for shorts, flip-flops, and flowers!

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Posted under The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on March 25, 2013

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A Guide for the Novice Gardener

Spring gardening tips in my article for the latest issue of Wrightsville Beach Magazine (Wilmington, NC).

http://www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com/flash/2013-3/#/62/

Posted under Garden maintenance, Pruning, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on March 4, 2013

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Greetings from Wilmington, NC

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

Loropetalum beginning to bloom in our front yard

After what always seems like an eternity (in other words, getting through January), I made it down here to Steve’s in Wilmington.  I’ve been here a week and, already, I feel the relaxation and calm streaming into my body and the stress and tension slowly draining out.  The air is not all that much warmer down here–though I don’t sense the chill that emanates from the ground in Arlington at this time of year–yet the sun is much, much brighter, warmer, and intense.  It’s done wonders for my outlook!

We’ve had lots of rain.  That’s a good thing since there have been many years of drought and heat down here and the soil is practically all sand.  Great for digging (compared to the rocky clay in Arlington); not so great for holding moisture or nutrients.

With the rain and warmer sun, the plants are responding with bloom.

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Carolina Jessamine around our front porch

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection'

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Cheerful Daffodils in the bright sunlight

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

Carrying over from Winter, Tea Olives powerfully fill the garden with a deep, sweet fragrance

One of Wilmington’s crown jewels is the annual Azalea Festival.  This year, it’s happening April 10th-14th.  The entire town is filled with blooming Azaleas, gorgeous gardens (there’s a big fundraising tour) and glamorous belles–yes, in hoop skirts.  I was asked to write an article on a couple of the featured gardens for the April issue of Wrightsville Beach Magazine. Today, I met my charming contact and she took me by two of the gardens.  They are all that and some change, and I can’t wait for you to see them…but for that you’ll have to wait.  Meantime, I did snap some close-ups of flowers in these two gardens, and I’m sharing those here.

Camellias...

Camellias...

Forsythia...

Forsythia...

Variegated Winter Daphne

Variegated Winter Daphne...

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

And a lovely, canopied street here in Wilmington--appropriately called Live Oak Drive

Tomorrow, we are heading South for a week in the Low Country:  Charleston and Beaufort, SC, and Savannah, GA.  We can’t wait to get to our beloved Low Country and savor the gardens, history, architecture, and surprises along the way.  We want to explore the Sea Islands and see as many plantations and gardens as we can.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Posted under Fragrance in the garden, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel