Freeze, Heaven forbid, is still possible
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
We’ve been quadruple whammied in 2007.
First came the record shattering spring freeze on Easter Sunday, at 22 degrees (and others on following nights), then the hordes of Japanese beetles that devoured almost everything that didn’t freeze. Thirdly, as the preacher says, was the drought that exists to this day, and lastly was the brutal heat of summer and fall that also set all-time records.
There’s nothing left bad to happen, a fellow gardener remarked the other day. Sorry, but there is.
Being the pessimist (read that realist) that I am, I want you to take notice that we have not had a bad winter freeze in almost a quarter of a century. The spring freeze this year was a different animal from severe winter freezes.
It was in the mid-’80s that the last winter freezes of dire consequence occurred. Notice the plural “freezes.” During the late ’70s and early ’80s the temperature dropped to 17 degrees and 16 degrees below zero in the span of only a couple of years. Tons of hollies, azaleas, eleagnuses, magnolias and numerous “stalwarts” were hauled to the dumps and gullies.
In fact, many of the old gangly, gnarly arborvitaes, junipers and other more winter hardy plants you see now in local landscapes were installed in that era after people tired of replanting the tender things every few years. We were moved from Zone 7 into Zone 6 during those years.
Now, perhaps because of “Goreable” warming, or at least some kind of warming, here we are back in Zone 7, right where we were before those horrendous winter freezes. And you think it can’t happen again?
The previous terrible winter freezes before the ’70s and ’80s occurred in the 1950s. Feb. 2, 1951, saw the coldest temperature ever known here since the last ice age, at 21.5 degrees below zero. That’s just about a quarter of a century before that next batch of cold just mentioned in the ’70s and ’80s. Guess how long ago that was? Right at 25 years.
By the time Elvis moved down to the end of Lonesome Street at Heartbreak Hotel in 1956 things were getting better and by the next year Fats Domino and Mollie, along with their new baby, had set up domicile on Blueberry Hill. Plenty of blueberries ripened that year, unlike this barren one.
• • •
Among the myriad problems emanating from drought is the hard ground. I have had a number of shrubs and trees languishing at our back door waiting for conditions to allow planting.
I know that without artificial watering they would go the way of at least 50 other woody things on our place (that is to say, die) and I don’t aim to pull any more hoses this year. At least I can water them daily in their containers which are close at hand to a hose end.
Then, too, it is bulb planting time and the ground is so hard that a bulb planter doesn’t easily penetrate it. I prefer to have soppy conditions when planting bulbs. That way, when I punch a hole with the planter, a whole cylinder of wet soil ejects from the tool when the next hole is punched. After punching a number of holes, I then go back and plant and pop the soil cylinders back into place.
Daffodils need planting as soon as possible, but tulips can wait until much later. In fact, if bulbs are refrigerated, they can be planted as late as the new year and still bloom in spring.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger on 10.30.07
Garden Path, Jimmy Williams