Gardening Blog

Cold wave takes toll on gardens

Today's article was to be titled "What's Hot, What's Not," but when I awoke this morning the temperature outside was 27 degrees, and my title inappropriate.

Better to write about how our near record-setting November to January cold has affected plants in the garden.

Will the annuals that appear to be dead come back? Probably not.

Will the perennials with brown or blackened foliage put out new growth when the weather warms? Yes, they are sleeping now as they should.

Put away your pruners and clippers. Any foliage on shrubs that has withered will fall. Wait to see where on the shrub's branch new foliage will emerge before you remove dead branches. Try to avert your eyes when you pass by a hydrangea. We've become spoiled by our recent mild winters that kept this Southern shrub queen evergreen all winter so that it's naked appearance now seems wrong.

I'm betting that you'll be adding a new hydrangea to your garden this spring when you see what the garden centers are showing in their shrubbery section. The "Invincibelle Spirit" hydrangea is the first-ever pink-flowered Annabelle-type hydrangea.

This iron-clad variety is the most reliable pink hydrangea available today, blooming stunning pink flowers year after year, even after the harshest of winters.

Garden centers across the U.S. and Canada are organizing Pink Days. It's a fun, local way to bring attention to the importance of funding breast cancer research and by donating $1 to the Breast Cancer Foundation for every "Invincibelle Spirit" hydrangea sold.

The new introduction Endless Summer hydrangea is "Bella Anna." It has strong, upright stems that support the weight of its incredibly long-lasting and colorful pink blooms all summer long.

While I've got you at the garden center, take a look at the new Superbells by Proven Winners. "Coralberry Punch" and "Blackberry Punch" are two-tone, in coral or lavender with dark purple centers. A big hit with gardeners last year, the Supertunia "Snow Princess" and "Pretty Much Picasso" are expected to continue to be hot sellers. If you were impressed during last summer's record-breaking heat with the performance of the echinaceas in your garden, you might want to try the big hit of last year "Now Cheesier," also called "Mac 'n Cheese," which has 4-inch blooms with coppery centers. It bloomed all summer in my garden. Did this plant survive the winter? It sure looks dead now.

But don't throw in the trowel and give up growing flowers. There are options; they are called native wildflowers. No matter, heat or cold, they are "comeback kids." What's more, they like you and your yard so much that they will spread by making new plants. Fertilizer or water, not so much; deadheading, none whatsoever.

One of my favorites (and there are new varieties) is spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) that has moved around my gardens, making a surprise debut on a warm summer day. Spiderwort grows in grasslike clumps; most often it is blue. Each stem has many buds that open one or two at a time and for only one day. But it can begin to flower in spring and go on all summer. It's a knockout in the shade garden and I'm going to plant a few of the other colors; a red "Rubra" and a purple "Profusion."

Plants Delight Nursery has introduced "Sweet Kate," a golden Spiderwort that is from the United Kingdom. I'm debating whether to order as its hardiness zone is to 8 and my yard is a 9. To survive it would need to be planted in total shade and watered frequently.

Many readers who planted a calathea "Maria" in their garden last summer note it's looking very damaged, and wonder if it will come back in spring. The answer lies, I think, in where it has been planted. Many who planted this tender perennial two summers ago lost a part or all of it last year. Yet, a Sea Pines gardener has three that are planted in front of a fence that were not hurt at all by last winter.