Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Harsh Winter: Costs...and Benefits?

     We have had a cold and snowy winter (for Virginia).  Each growing zone represents a transition from the adjacent zones to the north and south.  The plants in any particular zone may be hardy in that zone to varying degrees.  For example, our early-blooming magnolias sometimes bloom beautifully, but sometimes get frost blasted, though they are less likely damaged in zones south. Eucalyptus is hardy here...for about 4 to 6 years, when we have a cold snap that does them in. Figs are great survivors, once well rooted, but can get blasted back in very cold weather.  The cold and stormy winter did some damage that is visible in my neighborhood:

Winter-damaged holly, bleached leaves:

An idea of the extent of the damage:

 Damaged, likely dead, eucalyptus:  this is my third planting in 12 years:

Bleached, or winter-burned, leaves of a southern magnolia:

Typical English Ivy damage in winter:

So harsh winter conditions have damaging effects:  winter-burned leaves on evergreen plants, split bark, downed limbs from ice and wind ... not to mention split pottery planters left outdoors!  But can a cold winter have a positive effect?  Yes.  Cold winters can kill overwintering insect pests and their eggs.  For example, there was hopeful news recently that the extreme cold in parts of the country may kill off many emerald ash borers, that threatened trees across states mostly east of the Mississippi (but spreading beyond it).  Other pests and pathogens, including some  weeds and their near-surface seeds may also be killed.  So, this cold may serve a useful purpose!

As I write this it is:
25 days, 1 hour and 2 minutes until spring!

Happy Gardening!

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