Cold winter miscellany

Jim McKenney
Mon, 07 Dec 2009 13:24:29 PST
Jane, I feel your pain. This has happened to me, too, on occasion, typically
when I have been called away from home and during my absence there has been
an upheaval in the weather. But don’t despair: if the frames were closed
before the temperatures plunged the damage will probably be minimal. Winters
here in my Maryland garden are typically much colder than anything you
experience; the sort of conditions you are currently dreading are typical of
every winter here. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever lost a plant you sent me to
winter cold (summer wet is another matter). 


I’ll bet that the worst that happens is that tender foliage touching the
glass is burned. 


On second thought, there might be a significant difference between my
conditions and yours.  My cold frames are squat on the ground; they are not
raised above ground level. The plants are either rooted into the ground or,
if they are in pots, the bases of the pots are sunk into the ground. Even on
the extremely rare occasions when outside conditions include temperatures
below 10 degrees F, the ground inside the frame evidently never freezes. I
chose this way of growing the plants because in our climate alpine houses
and other arrangements where the pots are on tables well above the
prevailing ground level are tricky and expensive to heat. If your plants are
on tables elevated above ground level and with nothing but air between the
ground and the underside of the tables, then the claims I’ve made based on
my experience will be irrelevant.   



Somewhere in his Bulb Log Ian Young describes a night where one of his bulb
houses either experienced a heater failure or the glass broke on a night
when the temperatures plunged. All that I remember from his entry is that
Tropaeolum azureum, which was in advanced growth at the time, came through


So be of good cheer, and I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as it might. 


I’ve put your name on a corm of Crocus hermoneus just in case. 


Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden



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