This young growing season has already been a roller coaster ride. After a mild winter, the hyper-early spring seemed too good to be true. And it was. Two weeks of summerlike days in March ended abruptly when a powerful north wind blew in, bringing temperatures in the teens and a hard frost Monday night. I didn’t worry so much about the daffodils and the forsythia, the hellebores and the andromedas. Those are tough, early spring bloomers suited to the extremes of March.
Not so the Hyacinths that are already in full bloom and the Rose and Clematis vines that have burst out eagerly thanks to days in the high 70s. I feared their tender new growth couldn’t tolerate a real freeze. Which brought me out in the wind, hands stiff with cold, rigging tarps and burlap to insulate my babies. Those that were small enough I covered with empty buckets, weighed down with rock.
I was actually frightened. The wind gusts were banging trees together, branches clanking and groaning above me as I frantically tried to tie burlap around my newly sprouting clematis. It was a scene straight out of A Room with a View, where Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch hustled to tie up the roses before a storm—only much less picturesque.
Did it work? It did help. The hyacinth and clematis beneath the buckets were unharmed. The rose and clematis that I wrapped with burlap came through fine. Only two clematis, over which I wrangled a tarp, suffered. The wind had ripped the tarp from beneath a large rock, exposing these vines to the wind and frost. In the morning, they had limp and broken tips. Overall, the damage was minor.
Hydrangea leaves (new baby ones) did show signs of frost in the morning. At first burnished with bronze, many have now shriveled and turned brown. Will this cause them to drop? Will the buds formed on last year’s wood be viable this summer? I will be watching anxiously.
The blooms which had already begun on the PJM rhododendrons will be short-lived, I expect, as will the Forsythia blossoms that weathered the extremes. The Andromedas (Pieris) and Hellebores are unfazed, but the daffodils seem to be hanging their heads. And hardy Geraniums which are fully leafed out have burned looking, crispy edges.
This is a first in my experience as a gardener. Never before have I seen plants so far along so early, followed by such a severe drop in temperature. Thursday, though it reached about 50 degrees, the sky darkened at midday. A sudden cloudburst was accompanied by thunder, and for a few moments the rain was mixed with hail! It’s a dramatic start to this gardening year—what will hit us next?
Tags: gardening in zone 6, Gardening in New England, gardening in the Northeast, frost, Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla, Pieris, daffodils, hardy Geranium, Hyacinth, Rose, Clematis, forsythia, Andromedas, Hellebores, spring flowers, Spring