a few weeks of cold, gloomy, wet weather, when there was
little to draw us outdoors, it was fun to go looking for
surprises in the landscape this week.
were there, too.
little flowers such as winter honeysuckle opened to
reveal their lovely scent right on time. Hardy ferns
such as the reliable Autumn looked fresh as a spring
day, even though the fronds had emerged many months ago.
there are the surprises. Camellias that hunkered down
and kept their buds closed tightly through the coldest
weeks are now starting to open again, a joyful sight. I
am particularly impressed by the beautiful Lady Clare
camellia, whose first buds opened in early November and
continued into December. Some open blooms were lost to
the deep freeze, but the buds survived without damage.
They began to open a couple of weeks ago, showing no
sign they ever endured those very cold nights. I was
surprised they held up so well.
an even bigger surprise is how well most things,
including broad-leaved evergreens, stood up to the very
cold temperatures. Some browning of the edges of leaves
such as viburnums appears alarming at first but should
not cause worry. Fresh growth this spring will overcome
it. It might worry you to see these brown edges, but if
you start cutting on spring-flowering plants, you will
likely lose flower buds that should open normally and on
time. That would be a bad surprise.
survivors show that we got away pretty well despite the
temperatures below 10 degrees. That is largely because
of the landscape plants being in full dormancy at the
time. This is so different from the freeze that occurred
last April, when many plants, notably hydrangeas, had
broken dormancy, were starting to grow and suffered
mightily from temperatures that were merely in the
low-20s. Covering the plants with bed sheets proved
helpful and worth the effort in protecting tender
foliage and buds those few nights.
lawns are getting ready to break dormancy as well and
can benefit, starting at mid-February, from lawn
fertilizer suited for cool-season lawns. The fescue
grass starts to grow surprisingly early in the Piedmont
and needs fertilizer for good growth through the spring.
you have bare spots in the lawn, give them attention
with a bit of seeding and fertilizer as well. If you are
working on bare spots, remember to dig up the area with
your shovel to make it loose and give seeds a place to
lodge cozily and sink the new, tiny roots, another nice
surprise for spring. Throwing grass seed on hard,
unprepared ground is not very productive.