The warm spots

Today, as the neighborhood turns green, this shaded garden remains mostly snow covered, but with pockets of thawed, bare ground. At long last, I have mapped the areas, expecting these are the protected microclimates that will best support more cold tender treasures that often entice me. Several wait in the small greenhouse for spring planting, and while there’s little space for new planting in areas with melted snow, I must take advantage of this minor degree of winter protection.

Most of the thawed areas areas are ones I expected, close to the house and mostly south facing, though one spot where a marginally cold hardy mahonia failed (twice) remains snowed covered, and no wonder it perished. This will not be ideal for the rhodoleia (Rhodoleia henryi ‘Scarlet Bells’) that some sources claim to be quite cold hardy, though not inspiring much confidence. When it comes out of the greenhouse, a place will likely be carved out near several large camellias, further congesting this area, but today this is thawed ground and sunny through the first two-thirds of the day. Another melted spot near the koi pond is more prominent for this jewel, but it will require the overdue removal of a columnar barberry, a thorny task that has been long delayed.

Spider’s Web fatsia requires protection below ten degrees (F.), but it is located in an area where snow melted more quickly than in nearby open, sunny lawn areas.

And, after thirty-two years in this garden, why am I just now discovering the location of microclimates? Yes, I am some times inattentive, plunging full steam ahead without thought, and certainly I do not assume that this melting snow episode is the final answer. But, since trial and error has been ineffective, this (and a warming planet) give a better chance for success with plants that are of questionable cold hardiness.

Hellebores are unquestionably cold hardy though many are planted along the shaded southern border of the garden.

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