Just over a month ago we were getting through the historic cold weather of 2021. It was -21 degrees on February 14 that capped off our spell of cold days. The National Weather Service reported:
"A historic cold outbreak overspread all of the Plains on February 6th and lasted through February 18th. A persistent Arctic air mass like this hasn't affected the region since the 1980s! During this stretch, there were days where the high temp did not make it out of the single digits! The Arctic surge made it all the way down to south Texas, where snow was observed on the beaches of Galveston!"
It didn’t take too long to start seeing results of the cold weather on our landscape plants. Just over a week after the cold spell, I started noticing browning of leaves on our broadleaf evergreens. Plants that normally, in our zone 6, will retain their leaves were dropping them. On our bike ride through north Wichita on Sullivan Street, a large southern magnolia showed its typical green leaves all brown. A bit later, the leaves on my nandina were totally brown as well. Looking at my favorite plant reference book, Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, I found reference to nandina and its hardiness as a Zone 6 to 9; with defoliation at -3F during winter 1983-84. I think it will be ok if the stem was not damaged by the cold.
The stores have been taking calls about what to do about damaged plants. My advice is to just give them time to recover. Will some plants not make it? I imagine so. Will some plants, like my nandina, defoliate when they normally retain their foliage? Most definitely. Will plants like crape myrtle which typically need some spring pruning come back from the ground? That’s my guess.
I would recommend you see where the new growth is this spring and prune to that point. This will be a recovery time for our plants, and they will come back stronger than ever. An application of ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Food will aid in the formation of new growth. On fruiting plants, use ferti-lome Fruit, Citrus & Pecan Fruit Tree Food.
I guess our gardening this year reminds me of an old Cliff Claven quote about survival of the fittest, how it could pertain to horticulture and how the strongest always survive!
"Well ya see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”
I hope to see you this spring.
Your friend in the garden,
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center
Well ya see, Norm, it's like this...