Snow is coming and I'm slightly going into over protective parent mode with my plants!!
This winter the weather in Seattle has been mild to say the least. By this time last year we had already had a number of days in the negatives plus measurable snow fall, maybe even a few snow days at school...but here we get an inch on the ground and its called the "Snow-apocalypse" (*snowpocalypse please refer to #2) Seattle is good at freaking out and over reacting to snow!! Oh my god its sticking, what do we do???
Which leads me to think...am I just over-reacting? There is snow in the forecast for this weekend and my garden is already starting to shoot! Yesterday we had a high of 51 with blue sunny skies, gorgeous! I woke to a frost this morning with temps of 34...how ever will my plants cope from such extremes?
Last year I lost a number of plants including two of my gorgeous white Hydrangeas, which I am playing favorite child to at the moment as I don't want to lose any more! My other favorite that is susceptible to frost damage is my Magnolia which is covered in hundreds of tiny buds, I would be devastated if something happened to it! Also my Confederate Star Jasmine is finally recovering from snow-apocalypse 2011...sigh!
RIP Hydrangea, the Apocalypse of 2011's first casualty
What am I to do? The gardens are for the most part winterized with a large amount of mulch over the garden beds protecting the roots, about 2inches deep keeping away from the trunks. For mulch I used what my garden provided for free, just by raking the fallen leaves straight on to the beds it provided enough...thanks mother nature! I have to check the soil from time to time as it has been a dry winter, to make sure the moisture is penetrating the soil under the mulch. I have noticed that under certain trees I have had to water the shrubs as the soil had dried so much...Crazy to water a garden in winter, in Seattle!!
But what about the tender, helpless, vulnerable new born shoots? Do I protect them with a covering? Wrap them? Just let the snow do its thing?
My technique last year....The crazy gardening neighbor
Rose shoots from last year, they really didn't seem to mind!
The more I read about what to do, the more I want to scream at my computer...I can not bring them inside over the winter months!! No they can not be a house plant till the warmer weather returns!! Really is that the only option? OK 20ft Magnolia looks like your sharing the house with us, not likely! I am not about to dig my huge hydrangea out of the garden to relocate to a pot to bring in my house. I think I'll try the burlap route this year, swaddle them until the snow passes?
Covering: This is one of the most effective ways of protecting the foliage of evergreen shrubs. Like Rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and early flowering plants will often benefit from being covered with some type of cloth material during extremely cold weather..It is also effective for plants with new shoots! (yay)
Start by placing three or four stakes around the plant being protected. I have some bamboo stakes I will use for this. Next drape the cloth material over the stakes, being careful that the cloth does not come in contact with the leaves as it can cause freeze. Do not use plastics for this job, as it not only cuts off air to the plant, it also acts much like a greenhouse which can cause leaf rot to form, taking plants from nightly lows to high daily temperature in a relatively short time period. This rapid temperature change can cause serious freeze damage or may be fatal to plants.
Any type of covering should only be left in place during the cold spell. As soon as the weather moderates or it begins to rain, remove the covering completely. However, leave the stakes in case it gets cold again.
Burlap (which my friend showed me you can get for free from local feed stores, thanks Jill), old moving blankets, sheets or similar cloth or fabric materials are the best types to use as a cover over plants. Attaching with clothes pins is useful to keep them secure and sturdy for the weight of the snow.
This will work well for my shrubs but in regards to my Magnolia I have no clue?
Fellow garden bloggers....What are your experiences with mild winters and late frost/snow? Would love to hear your survival techniques!! Any other over protective Magnolia parents out there?
Some other useful sites...
Winter protection for Hydrangeas
Shrub protection from the snow