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

Early Spring in Savannah

Forsyth Park, Savannah

Forsyth Park, Savannah

We just got back to Wilmington, NC, from four days in the Savannah, GA, area.  Lawsy, it was nice.  Most of the time, it was cloudy and cool, but Thursday the sun popped out and the temperature went up to 75F.  We threw on some shorts and a t-shirt and headed into the historic district for a nice walk.

Peeking into a lush courtyard...

Peeking into a lush courtyard...that's Fig Vine or Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) on the walls. I've seen it in the warmest parts of zone 7b, very protected, but it's probably best grown in zones 8 and higher, where it might still experience winter burn.

Rest easy, my Northern friends:  Spring is headed your way–it’s beginning already in the Deepest South.

Iris

Iris

Like most of the rest of the Deep South, Savannah had a freeze last weekend.  It happens most years–something in bloom gets fried.  This year, it was the Camellias and Tulip (or Saucer) and Star Magnolias, and even some of the early Azalea blooms.  Full bloom and frozen to mush.  That’ll be it for those Magnolias this year–darn–yet the Camellias still have lots of undamaged buds, and they will open as the warmth returns.

Frost damage, Tulip/Saucer Magnolia

Frost damage, Tulip/Saucer Magnolia

Frost damage, Azalea

Frost damage, Azalea

In South Carolina, the wild Carolina Jessamine is in bloom, climbing the trees everywhere you look.  Here in Wilmington it is just beginning.  Even in the mildest parts of the country, Spring is coming earlier this year.  The blooms are headed North soon!

Early Azaleas coming into bloom

Early Azaleas coming into bloom

Photos by the author and his mate.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Climate Change, Garden Travel, Southern Gardens, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Winter Garden, Travel, Weather vagaries

Let the January Thaw Begin!!

Here at Woodland Cottage, today the sun came out and the temperature actually climbed to a [balmy] 52F degrees!  I made my first trek in weeks around my entire garden to survey for damage from the heavy snow/ice/cold.

The ground is still mostly frozen tight, locked up; but there is a bit of thawing happening on the surface.  I’m happy to report that I didn’t see any major damage on anything–just a lot of fallen sticks and limbs.  There are a few limbs broken from the weight of the snow, but more evident are the limbs which are sagging–but not broken–from being stretched by the weight.  I’ll either prune or tie these up with strong, natural twine as we approach true spring.  I think I’ll tie up things like camellias that are full of bud–when they start to bloom, they will weigh down considerably–and I don’t want to prune off the buds now. I can prune the branches when they have finished blooming.  On other broadleaf evergreen things that are sagging–like waxmyrtles, weeping yaupons, boxwoods, ligustrums and tea olives, for example–I’ll trim them a bit at a time to see if lessening the weight will allow each branch to pop back into place.

Winter burn on leaves is a funny thing.  Sometimes, the leaf burn and damage are not apparent until the plants begin to put forth new growth in April or May.  It can be deceptive.  NEVER cut a winter damaged plant until spring growth starts and you are sure a branch is dead.  You would be surprised what is salvageable.

Also, just because we got through this freeze doesn’t mean we are finished for the winter.  Don’t be fooled.  Sometimes, the most severe damage can come from a late freeze occurring after plants have begun to come out of dormancy.

Soon, it will be time to begin appreciating the gifts the winter-blooming plants offer us.  Can’t wait!

Posted under The Winter Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 14, 2010

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