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Spring’s on the Way – Bundle Up!

By Kate Bryant February 21, 2011

The best thing about snow is that it always makes my topiary chickens look extra snappy! People who never notice them in summer suddenly exclaim, “Oh my god, it’s a chicken!”

Another benefit to snow is that it can help protect plant foliage from the damaging, dessicating effects of freezing wind, when it threatens.

Weather Alert: Monday PM edition!

Yep, fellow gardeners, KPTV Fox Channel 12’s Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen and NOAA (National Weather Service) are predicting possible snow in the Portland area starting Wednesday and lasting through Thursday night or Friday. So far, nobody’s fretting too much about plants in the Portland area. But I will surely keep a closer-than-usual eye on the weather for a few days. I noticed that KPTV is predicting colder temperatures than NOAA and I’m not enough of a weather geek to venture a guess as to whose predictions are better.

Most plants that survived the early cold onslaught this November will likely be fine for this one. Still, who wants to lose those delicate Daphne odora blossoms just now cracking open and perfuming the air?

Check back with local forecasters on Tuesday. If predictions suggest temperatures in the low 20s overnight followed by a sub-freezing day, you could always tuck frost cloth over borderline hardy plants or those – like Daphne odora – that commonly suffer foliar damage or lose flowers in very cold weather. Or just pick plenty of bouquets to enjoy indoors and hope for the best. Sometimes an overnight dip into the low 20s does no harm at all. So much depends on plants’ level of dormancy (ie, if they’re started growing or are still "asleep" for the winter).


Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this! This is how I protected a few of my potted plants back on November 23rd, 2010, when temperatures dipped below 20 F overnight for several nights running.

And do avoid planting any newly-acquired plants outdoors just yet – even if they’re considered cold-hardy plants. It’s one thing if you’ve had a cold-hardy plant sitting outdoors all winter – such plants may be acclimated to the cold – or "hardened off," as the expression goes. But if you buy a lush, greenhouse-grown cabbage or hellebore or even a shrub or tree, and leave it outside or uncovered during this unseasonably late cold weather that’s predicted, they could suffer. Those plants you got at the YGP show? Wait til the nights are above the mid-40s to plant them outdoors. Meantime, keep them in a cool, bright place where they can acclimate a bit to life outside of a greenhouse.

Check in Tuesday afternoon to KPTV’s weather blog and KPTV’s weekly forecast (they’re predicting slightly colder temps, especially over the weekend) and the National Weather Service site for the Portland area for weather updates. Predictions can and often do change frequently.

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