Frost Proof

Reading time 4 minutes

The weather in the South East has continued to be bitterly cold this week. Our seaside garden, normally sheltered from frost, must have succumbed during the week. The leaves of Geranium maderense have gone limp at the tips, which is a tell-tale sign that the mercury has dropped below zero. They flap around forlornly in the wind and will eventually turn yellow. However the crowns of these magnificent plants are in rude health and will produce new foliage before they flower explosively in April.

Despite the sadness caused by seeing plants blighted by frost, I am always fascinated to observe which come off unscathed, which look sorry for themselves and which give up the ghost completely. Plectranthus argentatus and Streptocarpus saxorum have, perhaps unsurprisingly, done the latter. Their felted foliage hangs as limp as a mole in a trap once the ice crystals thaw. Both are easily replaced and were never expected to survive. Geranium maderense and Fuchsia arboresecens simply look jaded and will recover themselves provided we don’t get further freezing weather. In the ‘I’m alright Jack’ camp are Isoplexis sceptrum and Echium wildprettii, neither of which appear remotely troubled by subzero temperatures. I may have spoken too soon. Being on the dry side certainly seems to help.

Whilst I consider myself a fairly fastidious gardener, I do not go to the bother of wrapping outdoor plants in fleece or straw to protect them over winter. If they are tender they have the option of going down in the cellar or finding a tiny space in our unheated greenhouse. Everything else must remain outside and take its chances. It’s natural selection at its most rudimentary and a crude method of ensuring I always have space to try something new in spring. To that end I have had a big clear out of all my surplus 2016 plant and seed catalogues to make space for the 2017 editions. They started to arrive immediately after Christmas and have been pouring through the letter box ever since. I am very tempted by Broadleigh Bulbs’ extended selection of nerines, and several of Sarah Raven’s new dahlia introductions. There are countless climbers on my wish list (clematis and Hardenbergia violacea among them), as well as materials to start renovating both gardens. Our cleaner is off sick at the moment. Since I am having to do all the cleaning myself I am putting the money I would have paid her towards the orders I will start placing next weekend. I enjoy cleaning, but I am not doing it for free.

Stay warm. TFG.

Top of post: Helleborus niger (Christmas rose). Bottom of post: Acacia dealbata ‘Gaulois Astier’ (Mimosa) in bud.


Categories: Flowers, Foliage, Musings, Our Coastal Garden, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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12 comments On "Frost Proof"

  1. Hi Dan

    Such an exciting time of year when the catalogues are dropping onto the doormat – and our eternal optimism as gardeners is at its peak. With drink in hand, its what rainy afternoons were made for as its a joy to sit and browse through at all the goodies to come.

    As a fellow dahlia fan I didn’t know if you had come across Rose Cottage Plants?

    They have a great and ever expanding range of dahlias (and other gems), excellent value for money at around £6.50 for three large, plump, and healthy tubers. I’ve bought treasures from them for a while now and the flowers have been stunning. More gems are already ordered ready for this year!

    For clematis I always use Taylors – I don’t think they are particularly cheap as you can pick small clematis up for a few pounds at shows etc. if you have patience to wait, but these are large two year old plants, which have always grown away really well for me and they have a fantastic range. Well worth paying a little extra as I’m impatient and want my flowers now!

    Anyway, happy browsing – a treat to look forward to once the chores are done.

    Kind regards

    1. Thanks for the tips Jill. I shall take a look at both nurseries. I am not keen to start my clematis off too small. For one, the slugs and snails will decimate them in no time if they are too small, but I also see no need to wait for results for the sake of a few pounds. The likes of Taylors will have a much wider choice than garden centres and will be my first port of call. Oh the anticipation! Have a great week. Dan

  2. It’s been really bitterly cold here, Dan. The tempreatures at night in some parts of Poland were as low as -29* C !!! a couple of days ago. I am lucky to be living in a “warmer” part of my country, so the lowest temperature so far was “only” -15*C 🙂
    When you write about your bitterly cold weather, I can only smile and say – I envy you that “cold”. Anyway, frost really determines the natural selection of plants in our gardens, no matter if it’s the UK or other country. I hope I don’t have too much free space caused by frost in my garden. We’ll see in spring. On the other hand, the extra space gives you opportunity to be creative and try something new and …check if it’s “frost proof” . Have a nice weekend.

    1. Thanks Paul. Good point. There are many degrees of ‘bitter’ and we are relatively warm here in the UK. I was looking at the forecast for next weekend and it says 16ºC in Broadstairs next Saturday. That sounds a little optimistic, but I shan’t complain if it comes to pass! Hope you thaw out soon so that you can enjoy your beautiful hellebores and hepaticas.

  3. Even though it was below zero for much of Thursday into Friday here I was surprised to see no frost – must have been very dry.

    Anyway, I’m pleased to hear that I’m not the only gardener who doesn’t protect plants over winter. On that note, I noticed a neighbour had wrapped their yuccas up and tied them up to the fence. Mine is doing fine without, thank goodness!

    1. Poor yuccas, all bundled up like Egyptian mummies! That’s my point really. Is it worth looking at the poor things trussed and tied up for 4 or 5 months unless they are in genuine peril? I am sure your yucca will do better in the long term. Fingers crossed!

  4. We are very lucky here in the Emerald Isle, the weather has been very kind to us this year. We lost of our Acacia during the winter of 2010, but this year snowdrops and other spring bulbs well ahead of normal and hopefully it will stay that way.

  5. Despite yesterday am temp of minus 5 C our Worcestershire rural garden seems to be unscathed so far most plants seem to have come through the cold snap…however so many terracotta pots have cracked or are flaking badly! A bit annoying as so many will need to be replaced and most of them purported to be “frost proof” Hmm the vagaries of gardening!

    1. I have noticed the same Anne. Most of mine are quite old, and they were shifted around so much last summer I assume they got knocked and developed hairline cracks then. I never buy expensive pots for that reason, although I draw the line at plastic.

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