Baby, it’s Cold Outside!

Well, it is January after all; I guess I should expect cold.  But I’m still used to the warmth of Maui and resisting the adjustment back to winter temperatures.  Compared to the rest of Canada our winters on the west coast of BC are pretty mild, but when it’s frosty outside, I’m cold.

In my New Shade Garden post I mentioned the frost belt along that side of the yard.  After several cold days in a row, here it is:

frost belt

As well as looking wintry it serves to emphasize the thing I like least about that garden; its boring long straight shape.  I really need to lose some lawn to fix that situation, but doing so will wreak havoc with my New Year’s Resolution to avoid blowing money on new plants.  Let’s just see how long I can hold out!

I’m not the only one feeling the cold.  Check out this shot of my rhododendron fastuosum flore pleno.  No, it’s not at death’s doorstep, although you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s about to become compost.  This is what rhodos do when they’re cold, just like you and I, they curl their arms up and hug themselves – except they have leaves instead of arms.

rhododendron fastuosum flore pleno

There is a huge variation in cold hardiness of rhodos, and it seems to me that I can tell which ones are the wimps at this time of year by the degree of leaf drooping and rolling shown by each plant.  My “Snow Lady” quite cheerfully flings her arms wide despite a coating of frost.  Her fuzzy leaves must serve as little sweaters to keep her warm.

Rhododendron "Snow Lady"

Okay, so a little quick research at the Greer Gardens site indicates that Snow Lady is hardy to -5 F and fastuosum flore pleno is hardy to -15F.  So much for my theory!  Maybe ffp is hardier because it protects itself and Snow Lady is too stupid to hug herself for warmth so she succumbs to the cold more easily.  Both varieties will survive here so I don’t really have to worry about it, there’s no way we’ll see minus anything on the fahrenheit scale.

Sadly, I did find some winter damage that must have occurred while we were away.  I think there was one wet snowfall just after we left, and one of my favourite plants, the Japanese maple “Shin de Shojo” lost a huge branch.  It comprised at least 25% of the tree’s canopy, so a big loss!

Winter damage on my Spring Ruby Maple

I shouldn’t be too surprised, this branch actually broke last year, during the only snowfall we had all winter.  I remember waking up one morning to a fresh soggy snowfall, looking out into the yard and cursing when I spied this big limb hanging by a thread of bark!

We tried to save it by bolting the branch back to the trunk, a method that I’ve seen used successfully on a few other trees, and I thought it was going to take.  Last spring the entire tree leafed out including the broken limb and it appeared healthy throughout the growing season.

It looked fine last year!

Maybe if I’d been here to brush the wet snow from the tree before the wind came up it would have been okay.  One more year of growth might have allowed it to better knit back together.  But no, I was off gallivanting in the tropics, neglecting things here at home, and this is the price I have to pay.

Oh well, the holiday was worth it.  The tree will survive, it’s just kinda lopsided now.  I think I can convince myself that this will add to its character.


About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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8 Responses to Baby, it’s Cold Outside!

  1. Jodi Harding says:

    That frost belt is incredible!

  2. great read as always my friend 🙂 and we can wallow in our broken tree misery together …damn snow.

  3. coffeeguy says:

    I like your blog! I read your recent post and some of the older ones. Very eloquently written!

  4. Hi,
    I was so sad for you re the dmage to the Spring Ruby Maple. 😦 these were one of my favourite trees in the UK. We donated it to our daughter, who lives in France, when we moved to Portugal as the salt air where we live and strong winds would have killed it in year one! I loooooove your Hisbiscus I am currently growing mine in Pots on my verandah and they reward me with flowers all year round.

    • hortophile says:

      Thanks PiP, I wish it was my hibiscus…it was growing at the condo where we stayed while on Maui. I do have a bougainvillea, it’s overwintering in my laundry room right now.

  5. Dawn says:

    Frost belt is amazing! Sorry about the beautiful maple. Snow has wreaked its damage on my neighbors Liquidambar, with several branches broken, but my Lime Locust has lost only the usual twigs. Oh well, spring is coming!

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