All that grunge will soon disappear
Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 8:01 pm
By JIMMY WILLIAMS
Special to The Messenger
Your garden will look better soon. I guarantee it.
March is Grunge City almost every year. This time around, what with the somewhat horrid winter global warming brought us, there are some things that look about as pitiful as in recent memory.
Southern magnolias caught it on the chin. There is a lot of brown and tan among the glossy green of healthy specimens. None are injured severely as they were in the real winters of the 1980s, just before global warming set in. Then, even some mature trees were killed to the ground and young ones totally anhiliated.
Nandinas are subject to winter burning too. Many of them are defoliated at the top but still furnished lower down. Again, there is no permanent damage. They will re-furnish as soon as warm weather arrives, if it ever does.
Some hollies are slightly affected. I have several China Girl hollies that bore enormous crops of berries last summer. This extreme fruiting can weaken a plant and make it more subject to winter burn. None of their mates, China Boys, are even slightly tarnished, while many of the girls are browned up. They will recover (I hope).
A great disappointment this late winter has been our crocuses. In previous years I have counted (guessestimated) as many as 10,000 (yes, four zeros) on our property. This year, the buds made their above ground appearance just as the 14-day stretch of temperatures that never got above freezing arrived.
Apparently, the tips of the buds were frozen off, despite the fact that they can take a lot of cold. Bloom numbers were there, but barely visible, with just the lower parts of the petals intact.
I don’t believe the winter cold was severe enough to affect hydrangea blooming, which will shoot forth soon, in a month or so for some of the earliest ones. However, some hydrangeas have swollen buds now and these are more subject to spring frosts than those kinds that remain dormant until later. We could still have a freeze that would knock out a year’s bloom on some hydrangeas, though not kill them outright.
Ditto azaleas. None have been hurt enough so far to minimize flowering, but early ones (i.e. my favorite Azalea poukhanense), which has bloomed as early as late March, could yet be staunched. Though the plants are among the hardiest of azaleas, to fully 20 below zero, swollen buds and opened flowers are no more cold hardy than any other variety.
You should, by now, have your beds and borders in good order, cleaned out and top-dressed for the growing season. Ornamental grasses, including liriope (”monkey grass”), need cutting back before new growth starts. Any old dried up top growth from last year’s perennial crop also needs clearing away.
Winters like the late one only makes us anticipate spring ever the more.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 3.30.10
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path