It’s gonna be cold!

No good is accomplished by whining that the dogwoods (Cornus florida, below) are flowering too early, or that the Japanese maples are leafing prematurely and are in danger should an overnight freeze arrive in the next few weeks (or tonight). The gardener has no control over these events, of course, and no amount of talking (or praying) will change the weather or protect vulnerable plants.

I am enjoying the bounty of blooms reaped by this extraordinarily warm March with surprises at every turn along the garden’s paths. It seems that everything is flowering two weeks early (or more), and the wonder is if there will be any blooms at all by the end of April.

I have no contingency plans for protecting plants if a freeze should arrive. This is not so simple as moving potted tropicals indoors for the night, and there is nothing to be done that would be reliably effective. I read this morning that a local garden center manager was recommending throwing sheets and tarps, and anything else available over shrubs with tender growth to protect them from the freeze. I have plans to get a good night’s sleep to wake in the morning to see if the Japanese maples have been nipped a bit. I certainly won’t be spending the evening covering trees with sheets like so many Halloween ghosts.

In years past I’ve seen tender new growth on Japanese maples killed at twenty-one degrees, but not at twenty-five several years later. This is not the first freeze we’ve experienced after plants have begun to leaf. It won’t be the last, and the Japanese maples and hostas and whatever else are likely to survive, just like every other time.

If the temperatures drop too low there will be trouble, but I’ve decided not to worry about those things that I have no control over. Through the years the suffering from seeming garden disasters usually works itself out with minimal long term consequences, and I’m confident that will be the case this spring.

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5 thoughts on “It’s gonna be cold!

  1. I agree with your cold weather philosophy. At my former garden years ago I tried covering my azaleas with sheets to protect them from a predicted freeze. The resulting laundry cured me of ever trying that again.

  2. If only we could ‘control’ weather,we’d really have something! All the preparation to avoid hot and cold temps is futile! Plant growth has survived for thousands of years, without human imposed intervention.Whatever will be—will be! Always was–Always will be! Here in upstate N.Y. it is forecast to be @ 15 degrees! However,the ground is @ 54 degrees here, and hopefully warm enough to prevent severe garden damage! This year, time is to our advantage! SPRING is just around the corner,albeit a long corner!’Prep’ if it makes you more comfortable! As for me—Things could be much worse,and the plantings will survive!—AMEN !

  3. Here outside Boston the freeze (and freezing winds) killed flowers on early rhododendrons (like R. mucronulatum) and magnolias, though plants in sheltered positions (and the forsythias flowering everywhere) seem unfazed. But flowers are ephemeral anyway, I am more worried about damage done to budding leaves. Common lilacs seem unharmed, but the emerging leaves on my heptacodium sustained some damage. Will this damage the plant for the season, or will the whole thing be just a distant memory by May?

    • The damage from late freezes is usually minimal, even if all foliage is spoiled. Trees in good health will usually leaf out again, though I’ve seen severe cases where trees leafed out again only partially. If this happens it will be necessary to prune back dead wood that doesn’t leaf out again.

      A vigorous tree like the Seven Son is likely to suffer very little.

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