Greener BeeGreen TipsGREEN THUMBS UP: Winter survival tips for gardeners

Outside my snow-plastered windows, winter storm Grayson is lashing the South Shore with gale-force winds and horizontal blasts of snow, creating nearly a perpetual white-out while coastal residents cope with devastating flooding and power outages. Frigid weather resumes as the nor’easter moves out, likely breaking records for our area, with temperatures dipping below zero as another arctic blast moves in over this weekend.

Fortunately, the new fallen snow should offer some protection for our precious plants although Mother Nature’s insulation blanket may have arrived a little too late to protect marginally-hardy plants and shallow-rooted shrubs. Memories of a winter several years ago still persist for many gardeners, when the deep freeze and desiccating winds caused innumerable species of plants to succumb including roses, butterfly bushes, and many broad-leafed evergreens, especially rhododendrons.

When “the weather outside is frightful”, I reluctantly accept Mother Nature’s gift of forced relaxation and settle into a comfortable chair to peruse gardening magazines, books, and catalogs. The winter months are the ideal time to plan new gardens, edit existing landscapes, research new plants, and order from those tantalizing catalogs.

Once the ground thaws and the soil can be tilled, spring fever often leads to impulse buying, resulting in gardens that become merely a collection of plants rather than cohesive designs. To avoid this haphazard approach, consider selecting a specific garden theme and research plant material before the growing season gets underway, narrowing potential plant acquisitions.

Broad categories of garden themes might include a perennial, wildflower, edible, or wildlife garden. Specialized gardens often evolve from these general classifications such as a perennial garden that features a particular plant family or color scheme, a culinary herb garden, or a wildlife garden for birds, butterflies, bees, or hummingbirds.

To ensure success, select a garden theme suitable for your personal site based on the availability of light, soil composition, drainage, and exposure to wind. The availability of light is perhaps the most critical aspect in choosing and developing a garden theme. A sunny location, with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight, will enable you to grow the greatest diversity of flowering plants. Theme gardens that excel in sunny locales include perennial and edible gardens, wildflower meadows, butterfly gardens, and collections of specialty plants including dwarf conifers, roses, iris, or daylilies. Shady sites are ideal for contemplative gardens, woodland wildflowers, and collections of hostas. Other themes, including gardens that focus on perennials, fragrance, wildlife, or hummingbirds, can often be adapted to multiple exposures. The planting of native species is a growing trend.

In recent years, the wonderful world of plant material has exploded with thousands of new cultivars introduced every season thanks to hybridization and international transport of plants from one continent to another. While many local nurseries now feature many of these cutting edge trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and exotic varieties of tropical plants, gardening catalogs, magazines, and the internet offer passionate gardeners the greatest opportunity to view and research new plants during the dormant winter months. Notes and photos I have taken during the past growing season while on garden tours or visiting botanical gardens serve as reminders of new varieties to research and add to my wish list. Although I order multiple packets of seeds to start my annuals and vegetables, I use most catalogs as reference material, compiling a lengthy wish list of new cultivars, knowing that even scarce, unusual plants are often available from local sources.

In the weeks to come, passionate gardeners longing for springtime should be able to pursue a wealth of horticultural opportunities. January is an ideal time to begin searching gardening magazines, the web, and local newspapers for listings of gardening lectures, educational courses, flower shows, and symposiums. Our local garden clubs, plant societies, organizations such as Grow Native Massachusetts, and botanical gardens, including the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Garden in the Woods, and the Arnold Arboretum, offer a wonderful opportunity to escape the winter blues with lectures, workshops, field trips, plant sales, and special events throughout the year to enlighten and educate every level of gardening enthusiast. My calendar for the next few months is chock full of possibilities just waiting to transport me through the winter months and on to the first glimpses of springtime in my own garden.

January is a month for gardeners to dream!

 

Suzanne Mahler is an avid gardener, photographer and lecturer. She is a member of a local garden club, past president of the New England Daylily Society, an overseer for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and is employed at a garden center.

Article source: http://plymouth.wickedlocal.com/news/20180120/green-thumbs-up-winter-survival-tips-for-gardeners


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