We made it through winter in great shape, but then early spring jumped up and bit us in the you know where. Gardeners in many parts of the country were hit with devastating cold in early April after spring temperatures had already fooled many plants into beginning to grow. Web ordering provides us with a fascinating glimpse into gardeners’ real-time state of mind. Everyone was going crazy ordering during the warm first week of April, only to be shell-shocked days later when the cold weather returned. We can see folks just starting to recover enough to think positively about gardening again… perhaps we need an on-line gardening therapist to help with the recovery… where is Dr. Philadelphus when you need him?
In Juniper Level, we had been in the 80’s for two weeks, before encountering five consecutive nights below freezing with the worst night reaching 22 degrees F. A couple of days later, we got to enjoy a smashing hailstorm, followed by an entire day of 50+ mph winds. I know this is a typical spring day to many midwest residents, but in our neck of the woods, it’s a big deal.
Although we covered quite a few perennials in the garden and kept the damage to a minimum on those plants, the trees and shrubs were not as lucky. Magnolias, celtis, crape myrtles, and idesia were fried to a crisp. I read a laughable article in our local paper just a day before the freeze explaining how native plants would not be hurt and how they should be planted instead of plants from foreign lands. Guess what… native oaks, walnuts, fringe trees, redbuds, maples, and many more look like my darkened efforts to cook toast. I guess I should have let my native plants read the article.
Now it’s a matter of wait and see if the plants will recover. Many of these plants have dormant buds along the stem, which under normal circumstances would not develop. The plants must first get over the cold shock, then we will learn if the physiology of the plant will allow the dormant buds to develop without some additional stimulus such as an additional number of chilling hours. In many cases, the death of a terminal bud may be enough to change the hormonal balance that often keeps the dormant buds from growing. In any case, it will take 2-8 weeks of warm weather before we will know for sure what to expect from our plants. There will be some cases where the plants only sprout from the base and others where they may be completely dead. Not only is each plant different, but the physical state of each plant is another part of the equation. Plants on the north side of a building may have remained dormant and avoided damage, while the same clone in a warmer location may have been killed. Many nurserymen who had recently dug balled and burlapped crape myrtles actually saved their plants. The process of digging and root removal caused the plant not to begin growing as early. These dug plants are mostly fine.
It seems that nursery growers in the wholesale production regions of Tennessee got hit the hardest, with several growers suffering losses in the 100,000’s of plants as temperatures dropped into the mid-teens after many plants were in full leaf. Our thoughts go out to them during what will be a financially difficult time recovering and staying in business.
I’ve been on the road quite a bit in April, and it’s always a treat to see other gardens in peak season. This is the second year in a row that I’ve made it to Michigan in spring and as always, I try to stop by and visit our friends Bob and Brigitta Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines. www.arrowhead-alpines.com. Don’t be fooled by the name, as alpines are only a small part of their extensive plant offerings. If you are passionate about cool plants, their nursery, which is about 1 hour northwest of Detroit, is a horticultural mecca. I always make the mistake of not taking enough empty luggage to haul plants home.
The other gem that I discovered this year was Armstrong Atlantic State University Arboretum ( www.arboretum.armstrong.edu) in Savannah, GA. Never heard of it? It’s not an arboretum in the conventional sense, as it is actually a 280+ acre campus-wide botanic garden, along the same lines as the fabulous Scott Arboretum on the Swarthmore PA campus. UGA graduate and Mike Dirr protégé, Philip Schretter, has turned the campus into one of the most amazing public gardens that I’ve ever visited, and I will admit to feeling a bit jaded. I don’t know if it was the International Garden with sections devoted to each continent or the Banksia garden that was the most impressive, but I can’t begin to tell you what a gem this is. For those that have been to Savannah, it’s only a five minute drive from the famed Bamboo Experiment Station just south of town.
We’ve just added quite a few new plants to our on-line catalog, many of which are in short supply. When we discover a new plant that we think may have good garden potential, we will often order several for trial. Many of the overseas wholesalers require a minimum order of 25 plants per variety, so after planting our trial plants, we often have 20 or so of each left. Several of the new plants on our list fall into this category… plants that we think will be future stars, but ones we aren’t ready to put in the printed catalog without some on-site trials. If you enjoy having the newest plants first, this is a great opportunity, but only if you act fast. If these plants trial well for us, it may be 1-3 years before they hit the main catalog. You can find the new offerings at www.plantdelights.com/Catalog/Current/web_only.html and click on April 2007 additions. They also appear in alphabetical order if you are going through the entire on-line catalog.
We’re gearing up for our Spring Open House, which begins a week from today and runs Friday-Sunday, May 4-6 and 11-13. The hours are 8-5 on Fridays and Saturdays and 1-5 on Sundays. Despite the freeze damage, the gardens really look quite superb, and the nursery is brimming with special treasures. We hope you will take time to drop by for a visit. If you are bringing a bus tour, just give us a call and we can assist with your arrangements.
As I mentioned earlier in the month, this is our heaviest shipping season. Combined with open house, our shipping staff and facilities get maxed out for a few weeks. We cannot add any additional orders to be shipped out the week of April 30-May 4 but can still handle a few more for the week of May 7-11. If you are having a horticultural emergency, please don’t wait to let us know.
On a final but sad note, Bill Janssen of Collectors Nursery in Oregon passed away after an extended illness. Our condolences go out to Bill’s wife, Diana Reeck, during this difficult time.
The late April version of the top 25 list of the year hasn’t seen too many changes. We expect the big shuffling to occur after open house next weekend. It’s still quite amazing to have a hosta hanging in at #4 and two euphorbias still in the top 10. I hope your Top 25 Contest selections are making their way to the top!
As always, we thank you for your continued support and patronage.
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