A Mild Winter Brings Head Start

“Mild Winter Brings Head Start”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Here along the Gulf Coast, our winters are never severe, but we do get some pretty cold weather. It may not last long, but many garden plants that are hardy here will freeze to the ground and come back when spring approaches. The last two winters had some very cold temperatures, and I did lose a few plants, also some plants which had never frozen back did. I was very surprised that in the last two years the agapanthus was knocked back almost completely since that had never happened before. But this year has been different. Oh, we have had cold weather which required heavy jackets or coats but only two episodes where the temperature dipped to about 27 for a short while.

While I did protect my tender container plants, everything in the garden was left on its own. Most will survive, but the tender summer plants don’t. Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when I saw a coleus, yes a coleus, sprouting back. I could hardly believe my eyes. Coleus, that summer plant which melts at the first light frost, was coming back.

 

 

I have never had coleus survive even our mildest winters before this year. Another plant that survived this winter is the wax begonia. It is in a slightly protected area, so that helped, but it looks like I won’t have to buy any begonia this year.

Next, I noticed sprouts on the moonflower vine. This was planted in a hanging basket that was left to face the elements unprotected. In fact, I had purchased moonflower seeds to plant in this very basket last Sunday. Just as I began to take the basket down to clear out the old, dead vine, I saw sprouts.

 

 

Other plants that ALWAYS freeze back have not this year. Unfazed by the cold were the pink bower vine, white Justicia, Turk’s Turban, firespike, night blooming jasmine, and angel’s trumpet. Since the firespike always freezes back and takes a while to get back to blooming, it will be nice to have the blooms earlier. I know the hummingbirds will appreciate this too, since we have had two females spend the winter with us here. Look at these gorgeous red leaves.

 

 

Another survivor, the Angel Trumpet, was very small, but not only did it not freeze back; it now has new growth.

 

 

The only reason I can think of that would account for all these plants not being freeze damaged is that we have had a dry, cold winter with no warm ups. Usually, our temperatures fluctuate from cold to hot to cold, but not this year. So, the plants must have adjusted to the cold better than most years and combined with fewer actual freezes were able to make through this winter.

Seems like there will be a lot of plants in my garden this year that will have a head start on the growing season.

First Forsythia

“First Forsythia”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Sunny and cool days means that it is warm enough for the forsythia to start blooming. The first few flowers have just started showing.

 

 

It seems funny to see the forsythia, a harbinger of spring, blooming now when so many other plants that usually bloom later than forsythia are starting to show color. A few of the purple azaleas are already showing a few flowers.

 

 

All of this before any of the daffodils bloom. I have a feeling that with the milder than normal winter we have had, everything is going to burst into flower all at once instead of there being a progression of blooms. Spring just may come early and be bloomed out in just a week or two.

Belated Christmas Present

“Belated Christmas Present”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

I think it was in early November. I succumbed once more to an amaryllis kit. I had said I would not buy any of these inexpensive bulbs because so often the flower does not turn out to be the one pictured on the box. Red ones instead of pink, orange instead of white. However, I just can’t seem to resist, so I purchased one that was labeled Minerva, an amaryllis I do not have.

In the past, I have waited until the beginning of December to plant these bulbs because I prefer to have the blooms after the holidays. Mid-January can seem rather bleak after all the Christmas decorations are put away, and why have an amaryllis blooming in December when there are so many holiday items competing with it for attention? This year I didn’t wait to plant the bulb since last year when I delayed the planting, the flower stalk on that year’s amaryllis was already up and never did develop.

So, in early November I planted my Minerva. It didn’t bloom in December. The bud showed but didn’t grow. It almost didn’t bloom in January. January is almost over and finally an open flower.

 

 

I figured this was late because I kept the bulb outside since our winter has been so mild. With the cooler than household temperature, that must have delayed the bulb from growing and flowering. I don’t mind the flower only showing up now because it certainly does cheer up the place since not too much is blooming right now. I never realized that it can be nice having a belated Christmas present from Mother Nature.

A New Plant Zone Map


“A New Plant Zone Map”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

The USDA has issued another plant zone hardiness map, and many areas are now in warmer zones. The area where I garden, about 30 miles north of New Orleans, has been nudged from zone 8b to 9a. You can access the full info for your area here.

 

 

This move does not surprise me, but I still am not going to trust that zone 9 completely. While it is true that our winters have been milder in general, we still can get a very hard freeze that will kill the plants that need a true zone 9 to survive. In the winters of 2010 and 2011, I lost many plants to the cold, and I know this will happen again.

I have always felt that my garden may have the summers of a zone 9 or 10 and can have the winters of a zone 8 even if it is only for a very short time. Tender perennials that survive in my sister’s garden (in the New Orleans area) will often succumb to the cold in mine. So, while I welcome this new map as guide and maybe as the years go by a true reflection of my climate, I still will garden with the idea that a zone 8 winter is likely and be careful about what I plant.

Perfect for Valentine’s Day

“Perfect for Valentine’s Day”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

It has just started blooming and will be perfect for Valentine’s day. It is not one of my flowers but my neighbors. On our adjoining property line is a large camellia bush with the prettiest red peony-shaped flowers. Every year in late winter it will start to bloom, and I am welcome to pick as many flowers as I want.

 

 

I usually wait until February before picking any of these frilly, red camellias to bring inside. Come February 14th, there will be a big bowl of these beauties setting on my dining room table. Isn’t it wonderful to have neighbors who share?

Spring Is Here?

“Spring Is Here?”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

For the last three years, I have posted about a sure sign of spring arriving here at my home near the Gulf Coast. That sign has been my neighbor’s redbud tree. Whenever it bursts into bloom, cold weather is over. We may still get some chilly weather, but no more freezes or near freezes. Last weekend while working in my back garden, I thought I saw a little purple-pink over in her yard, but I thought, no, it’s too early. A quick walk over confirmed the first show of color.

 

 

All this past week, we have been having mild weather and plants are waking up. I noticed last week in New Orleans where it is a tad warmer than we are, the Japanese Magnolias are in full bloom. Well, yesterday, the redbud was in full bloom. Just gorgeous.

 

 

Since it was a little overcast this weekend, it was nice to have these pretty flowers to brighten the landscape.

 

 

The mild weather was a blessing this weekend. After working all week inside, I just can’t wait to get outside in the garden. Several chores got done – planting some daylilies, cutting back the bamboo, etc. Checking out the garden showed that a few gladiolas are already sprouting, and other signs of life were all around. After weeks of cold weather, it looks like we will be welcoming an early spring.

Showing Up Early

“Showing Up Early”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Warm weather has returned, and it has brought some spring flowers. Most of the ones that have shown up have come up earlier than usual. Considering the consistently cold temperatures we have had until just recently, it is surprising that they are blooming already.

The forsythia is showing a few flowers before its expected time, and a few of the small narcissus bulbs have opened flowers, but the one that really surprised me was the white Lady Banks rose. I pulled up in the driveway late Friday afternoon and couldn’t figure out what that white “thing” was on the rose canes. A quick walk over to that area, and I just couldn’t believe that a Lady Banks rose had opened up. This rose blooms in the spring, but never in January. Though it was only one small flower, it did lift my spirits because nothing beats spring flowers after cold winters. All these early flowers is just a teaser of things to come.

 

 

The first of the spring narcissus (paperwhites don’t count because they start blooming in November here).

 

 

Safe

“Safe”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Winter here on the Gulf Coast is usually a series of ups and downs on the temperature scale. Below freezing one day and in the 80’s the next, and a few days later – freezing again. When temperatures fluctuate like that, plants can really be damaged or lost completely. Gardeners have to scurry around trying to protect plants when we get a cold spell following a warm period.

This year has been different. We have pretty much had consistently chilly to cold weather. Once cool weather settled in, we have had only two short warm-ups which means that plants have stayed on the dormant side. Many of the plants that flourish in our fall and winter gardens are really tender perennials which can succumb to freezing weather, and last night they were put to the test.

We had about eight hours of below freezing temps, and everything seemed to come through fine. While it only got down to 29 degrees, with that many hours, I was afraid I would lose a few of the more tender plants. But, so far, everything looks safe. Oh, some of the salvias have a few leaves burned and the coleus that was still trying to hang on are gone, but many plants that die back every winter are still up and look good. I believe this is the first year that the fire spike has not died back. Even my hydrangeas still have leaves hanging on.

However, I was really worried about the gerber daisies. The red ones I have in the entry garden are a little protected by the house, so I was only mildly concerned about them, but the yellow ones I planted this past summer are in the circle garden which is away from the house and in an open area. Since the forecast changed Friday afternoon to a colder and longer freeze, I did not have time to even cover them with mulch.

I was so happy this morning to see that they made it through the night with no problem. The red ones were fine.

 

 

And, so were the yellow.

 

 

Since the second week of January normally is our coldest period, I am thinking that we just might make it through this winter with lovely, dry, chilly weather and no plants lost. With no super cold weather in the near future, the plants may just be safe for this year.

Something New

“Something New”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

It is always good to try something new. If it is a success, it is wonderful, and if it is a failure, you know not to do that again.

Something new I tried in the garden this past fall was some ornamental cabbages that I put in the circle garden. In the past I have planted pansies, violas, snapdragons, and bluebonnets in this garden area. My favorites had been the violas and pansies, but the last few years they just didn’t do as well as when I first used them here. They didn’t last and seemed to melt before they grew or bloomed. Since this was so discouraging, I had almost decided to not put anything in the circle garden when I came upon some ornamental cabbages at a small, independent nursery.

They were tiny little plants in six packs, and it was hot and dry weather not good for fall annuals, but I planted them any way. At first, I was just happy they didn’t die, but then I was concerned they stayed green. The tiny plants, about the size of a silver dollar, grew and grew, however, they remained green. The weather grew colder, and there even were a few light freezes, but still little color. I kept looking at the plant tag, wondering if mine would remain green.

Finally, a tinge of pink appeared which soon expanded. I guess I was just too impatient. Now, they are the size of dinner plates with lovely pink centers.

 

 

When I planted these cabbages, I really didn’t have high expectations for them. Now, they have definitely surprised me. I am so glad I gave something new a chance.

Being Careful

There you are just going along your merry way, when bam you are brought up short. Hopefully it turns out okay. Sometimes we don’t deserve the good luck we have.

It all started late Saturday afternoon. I decided to go out and work in the garden. Since it was late, I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot I could do before it was too dark outside to see. I started cutting out small trees that have popped up between our property and the vacant property next door. As I pushed to do just a few more and as it became dusky and a little hard to see, it happened.

I tripped and fell. Luckily I wasn’t hurt, but I did get a scare. The clippers I had in my hand scratched just under my eye and continued onto my glasses. I have a pretty bad scratch and one small gouge on my eyeglasses and just a small scratch just under my eye.

If I would not have been wearing glasses, the clippers would have hit my right eye and gouged it badly. I am so lucky all I got was that small scratch because it could have turned out so differently. One small thing can change your life forever.

So, this is a reminder to be careful when gardening. Watch out where you walk so you don’t trip. Remember all those safety rules when using equipment. And, most importantly, don’t work outside when it starts to get dark, and you can’t see.

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