Hello, again!

Horticulturists will be talking about the winter of 2021 for many years, just as they do about the snow of February 1971, and the summer of 1980. In 1971, we had a foot of snow, and we had 46 days over 100 degrees in 1980. Our -17 degrees on Tuesday morning may have been tough on plants that are ideal for Hardiness Zones 6 and higher.

The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a particular location. The map is produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and is available on their website. Based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, this map is divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

Wichita is Zone 6b, which means plants that will survive at -5 degrees will survive in our gardens. Naturally, there are exceptions. Microclimates are small areas that may not get as cold/hot/wet/dry as surrounding areas. For example, the south side of a structure will typically not get as cold as other areas because of the southern sun.

Some of our most enjoyable plants may be Zone 6b and not do as well with the -17. Other plants, though, will surprise us by how they come through the weather. I guess that’s one of the fun things about gardening. I encourage gardeners to plant ‘outside of their comfort (hardiness) zone', as otherwise we’ll never know what new plant we’ll find that’s a perfect fit.

Angie and I were talking this week about how beneficial plants are to our lives, even including our mental health and well being. Fortunately, this past year I’ve been able to spend some socially distanced time in our production greenhouse, though even our public areas are pretty spread out. The past few days though, with the stores closed because of the cold weather, I’ve been holed up a good part of the time. I did find myself braving the elements outside just to check the greenhouses. There is something so satisfying about taking care of plants. I guess just like our pets, plants give us some purpose by being dependent on us.

Since last fall, my cousin Greg has been working for us. His job in the music industry in California had been put on hold. It’s been great having him around the garden center; he's been a huge help. Greg has been a truck driver, sign builder, construction worker, stocker, Christmas decoration hanger and so much more. He’s transplanted in the greenhouse as well. Greg is on his way back to the west coast to be a ‘Juke Box Hero’. Before he left, his latest project was transplanting our hardy hibiscus. He took a couple of runts home, and his Mom shared his picture and messaged me this morning: ‘Greg’s taking great care of these tiny little Hibiscus plants. Thanks for opening up a whole new learning unit in his brain!’

In a few short days, our gardens will be blooming with early bloomers such as helleborus or lenten rose, witch hazel, crocus, daffodils and more. I can't wait!

Your friend in the garden,

Marty Johnson
Owner - Johnson's Garden Centers