What will this toe numbing, water pipe-busting, shiver-inducing weather do to our vulnerable southern plants? The weather is anything but predictable as we all know, but the last few years have really been doozies when it comes to extremes! Drought followed by ridiculously heavy rainfall and now freezing weather hanging around for over a week. What is a landscape to do?
Let’s deal with the latest extreme, the arctic express of January 2010. It’s not that the temps have been disastrously low; they’ve certainly been lower and more disastrous in past years. That they are staying below freezing for an extended period of time, however, is cause for some concern.
So what can you do? The harsh reality is that in many cases the answer is nothing. People tend to use plants that are borderline hardy, (and some that just shouldn’t be considered at all) and harsh conditions such as these remind us that perhaps we should choose plants more discriminately while planning a landscape, or when we replace them, as will be the case with many this year I’m afraid. In most instances it just isn’t practical to try to cover all those tender plants for extended periods. Tent cities of plastic and multi-colored blankets over those poor plants look ridiculous on so many levels, and frankly, they’re still going to be damaged.
What then can you do? You can plan ahead and contract with qualified, experienced landscape professionals like those at Unique Environmental who will design landscape areas using plants that will survive these extremes. You can make sure your plants are well mulched before the cold weather arrives. Once the weather warms, make sure that your plants are hydrated, especially in planters or raised beds, as these cold, windy dry days will desiccate a plant in no time flat. Deadhead your pansies and give them a drink (straight up, NOT on the rocks!) and perhaps remulch those perennials, hostas and other more shallow rooted plants that are exposed to these decidedly northern conditions. Should you notice damaged leaves on your evergreens, refrain from cutting them back until it is apparent they have died back, later this spring.
Beyond that, know that this is but a passing event and we’ll soon be warming again. Join us at the Southeastern Flower Show at the Cobb Galleria Centre, February 4th through the 6th, enjoy our garden and those of others, and dream of sunny days and sultry nights.