A GROWING CONCERN: ‘Snow’ what you’re doing in the garden

AND BANG, JUST like that: It’s winter on the Olympic Peninsula.

It really looks and feels like winter.

Being from Wisconsin, born and raised, I just have to love that our coldest temperatures of the year are in the low-to-mid teens.

That’s above zero.

But still, for us gardeners here on the “sub-tropical” Olympic Peninsula, living among the palm trees, grapes, Mediterranean herbs, kiwi, and out in the “banana belt,” this is some serious weather.

Hooray, snow

What should gardeners do and is there a danger of garden frostbite?

Well first, the really good news: Thank goodness for the snow, the snow and the snow.

We have had cold enough weather for long enough to cause damage to many plants or root systems if not for the snow.

Snow is indeed an awesome insulation — just ask any Arctic Circle dweller: “How is that igloo working out for you?”

The snow on the ground, filled with ample air space, traps in the natural ground heat while protecting against the frigid cold.

So, below the surface is OK.

Your flowers, however, are not.

Early blooms

Anything that was in bloom before the snow and cold — species iris, crocuses, snowdrops, daphine, witch hazel, primula and rhododendrons — well, those flowers are toast.

Most likely, any buds breaking open are trashed, or as my friend Jackson says, “They are farkled.”

Not dead, just so goofed up you wish they were dead so you could get rid of them.

And get rid of them you must.

As we get out of this weather cycle [spoiler alert: it might last another week] and the weather warms up, those frost-bitten blossoms will turn brown and slimy.

Remove them immediately.

As they rot and slime away they will destroy the bud eye and greatly curtail future bloom.

Do the same for foliage that has been damaged by the cold, as well.

And when this snow becomes wet and heavy in the days it takes to melt away, last season’s plant debris will have become a mess, too.

Get rid of all this old, dead, dying and decayed material.

It will quickly infect the surrounding plants or actually rot itself away.

Now with the cold is also your best time to finish properly pruning all your fruit trees, which is an annual winter event.

So remember, the snow has actually been good, insulating your plants, roots and bulbs.

The cold has been wonderful too because [total pun intended] “it chilled things out” as our plants were becoming far too advanced for this time of season.

When our gardens emerge from this wintry frolic and take a week or two to readjust, our plants should be right in line with the calendar date.

So again — relax.

Put another log on the fire.

Sip that tea.

Snuggle up with a blanket and realize just how mild our weather is, even when it is at its worst.

Next week, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show — reserve a day Feb. 20-24 and go.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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