|Clerodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum|
I know gardeners across the greater Houston area are planning for plant protection. Frost cloths are flying off the shelves at garden centers, I hear. Old sheets and towels will be pressed into service here at Wit's End. Large nursery pots work well, too, but I donated all mine to Otahal, dang it. There's not a lot that needs protection out there, thankfully. The 'Macho Mocha' Manfredas are my biggest concern: I'll use extra covers on them to ensure they come through the Arctic blast in good shape.
I'm much less worried about how the garden will fare than I was this time last year. As difficult as it was at the time, last January's spell of winter weather taught me a lot about the resilience of the plants in my garden. Some of them took longer to recover than others: Fairy Dusters (Calliandra emarginata)were particularly slow to emerge and the Bleeding Heart Vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum) were late to bloom. For the most part, though, the plants came through unscathed.
For those who are worried about their own gardens in the next few days, I offer my method for determining whether perennial plants and shrubs need added protection or are able to survive on their own. Do some research on your plants' hardiness zones: if they're hardy to temperatures below 20 degrees, they should be able to handle our bouts with winter weather just fine. Many of them may suffer foliar damage and die back to the roots; that's what perennials do! I count that as my most valuable gardening lesson of winter 2009-2010: after all these years of gardening, I was finally able to see perennial plants behave as nature intended.
Wonder what lessons I'll learn this year?