After an unusually warm December and early January we find evidence that some plants have begun the countdown to spring. The cherry trees at the library are in full bloom, the native maple tree across the fence already sports its bright red flowers, and some of our daffodils have yellow buds about to pop into flower. Now we are deep into winter and temperatures have plummeted well below freezing for several nights. What happens to these plants which were fooled into thinking spring had sprung? Is there anything I can do to protect them or to delay their flowering?
Let’s start with the native tree. The maple is forty feet tall and cannot be draped with a bed sheet or covered with a tarp. It has survived extremes in climate as well as hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy snowfalls, ice storms and drought. Best suggestion – don’t worry about it. The tree will survive the winter on its own. The best preventative maintenance we can do is to trim the tree to remove dead and weak branches during the warmer months.
For flowering ornamental trees like the cherry an early bloom followed by days of extreme cold will likely result in wilting and dropping of the flowers. The tree can survive, though, and leaf out as expected later in the season. The showy display may not be as spectacular this year, but gardeners have no practical options for keeping such a tree warm.
Now on to the daffodils. As the pictures show my plantings are popping up in various stages. We are mid-way through year thirty-six at this location (now Paths of Hope) and our first daffodils went into the ground about thirty-five years ago. Through record lows, snow (including 23 inches in a three-day storm in January, 2000), warm winters, wet winters, and winters so cold we felt like hibernating the daffodils have done their thing with little intervention.
Adding heavy mulch to the daffodils in January will likely damage some of the projecting stems. Add mulch late in the summer or early in the fall. Note that the bulb is inches under the soil and well-insulated during cold snaps.
Dry leaves such as the oak leaves blowing about the neighborhood could be littered lightly around the daffodils or a gentle sprinkling of pine straw might be added as long as the green stems of the daffodils are not weighted down. But neither is necessary for the plant to survive the cold.
Daffodils like the tulips in this photo by my late brother, Jeff, are hearty and will bloom even with a heavy snowfall. Relax and consider that those green sprouts are the promise of spring. Enjoy your garden in these winter months.
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!
Luke 12:27-28 NASB