Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Winter--REAL winter--has reared its ugly head. We're expecting the coldest temperatures in six years here in Nashville tonight and, in the outerlying areas, possibly the coldest temperatures in nearly 10 years!
For those of you in the midwest and northeast, what we're experiencing here is child's play compared to the temperatures that you and your gardens are having to endure. But for those of us who like to garden on the edge of our gardening zone, weather like this can be devastating--and enlightening. We'll learn alot from this. For instance, we'll learn whether Loropetalumis truly a Zone 7 plant or whether we can get away with it in Zone 6. My guess is Zone 7 and we'll see significant dieback if these temperatures endure for long.
On a brighter note, the fact that we've gradually approached the single digits rather than plummeting from one extreme to the other is a good thing. Yes, it was fairly balmy earlier in the week--mid to upper 40's--but at least we didn't plunge from 48 to 8 in just a few hours' time. That has happened on several occasions and the effects are devastating. Also, we're not going to remain bitterly cold for days on end, but cold is cold and for plants that aren't adapted, it can still be damaging. Be prepared to do a little pruning and deadwooding on your tender shrubs this spring.
So, what to do? For the most part, my plants are on their own. I confess that I did move some of the more tender conifers (still in containers) around to the south side of the house, just to keep them out of the wind. Another group was moved to the south side of the garden shed for the same reason. And a small handful of plants that I REALLY wanted to protect were set inside the garden shed--unheated, but protected nonetheless. That's all the preparation I'm doing. Beyond that, the plants are on their own. They'll just have to survive--or not. It's a cruel, cruel world...