Recovering from Atlanta’s Polar Vortex

HardinessZones-compressedWell, I declare, Spring is in the air.  Soon it will officially be summer, but I must admit, it has been a tough row to hoe this winter and our landscapes have taken a bit of hard beating.  By now you should be able to tell what survived the extreme cold and what is best left for the compost pile.  From my observations there were about a half a dozen shrubs that were hit particularly hard.

Remember those USDA Hardiness Zone Maps, yeah the ones that say our area is labeled ZONE 7B, well for many years we have sort of “tricked” some plants not officially rated for our area to grow and thrive in our landscapes.  Or plants were only marginally hardy here, and well, guess what, they bit the dust, especially those plants that were not in particularly good health anyway. [Read more…]

Focus on “Special Effects” for Your Garden.

Bloom n gardens fat lambNow that March has come in like a lamb, the most exciting (and frustrating) time of the year begins for garden folks.  Every day it seems that something is exploding into bloom, tempting us to put out the summer annuals and tomatoes that are starting to show up in garden centers.  Even though it doesn’t seem possible sometimes, there is always the danger of frost.  So what’s a gardener to do?  Channel that spring energy into inspirations for landscape “special effects”.  Is there a cherry tree right outside your window?  Make it pop by planting some dark evergreens behind.  Are your hellebores blooming beautifully?  Encourage visitors to discover them by adding one of the many fragrant early spring flowering plants nearby.  Looking for ways to accent your garden is also a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather!

March Madness in the Garden

Premature blooms dying from a hard frostMarch 2013 has definitely been a challenge for Atlanta Area plants. Prior to March, Northern Georgia enjoyed another mild winter with temperatures averaging 49 degrees. Do you remember, a few weeks ago, we enjoyed a week of extremely warm temperatures in the mid to upper 70s? Now for the past few days, Northern Georgia temperatures have plummeted below freezing. This “yo-yoing” in temperature has us concerned over its effect on our garden plants and landscapes. To perform their best, plants need to go into deep winter dormancy when their metabolisim comes to a halt due to prolonged cold temperatures and chemical activity.  Winter dormancy won’t occur if our climate does not stay cold for a long period of time.

When there’s a mild winter, plants are fooled into producing new buds and push out their spring leaf flush prematurely. Since we have been experiencing a hard freeze for the past few days, any new growth that formed might die and the plant might take months to recover. Back in 2007, we also experienced an Easter freeze that decimated the local hydrangea population and knocked back the crape myrtles.  It was a big mess!  Other plants that are likely to be affected are roses, heuchera, Japanese maple and boxwood.  When a hard freeze occurs, especially after a warm winter, the branch and tip dieback is much more extensive than when we have a colder winter.  The unfortunate fact is that there is little we can do to help this situation except to appropriately cover vulnerable plants. Once we consistently reach warmer temperatures, we will possibly face other challenges from having a mild winter.  For instance, we should prepare ourselves for having more pests in the garden.  Both insects and weeds will most likely be abundant this year since the winter did not help to control their populations. [Read more…]