Winter is tough on all of us. The cold temperatures reduce the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can hold, so our skin feels dry and desicated. It might even develop cracks. Plants, both deciduous and evergreen suffer dehydrating impacts, as well. While their waxy cuticles and dense winter buds help to retain moisture, they can still suffer, especially if the winter is as severe as this one has been. Frigid temperatures and limited snow allow cold to penetrate deep into the root zone which is now both cold and dry. It's what plant physiologists refer to as physiological drought. Similar to desert conditions, water is simply unavailable, even though it may be present (as ice). It's the reason that the leaves of Rhododendrons become wilted. Evergreen leaves and frozen roots. Tough combination. It is also why most deciduous trees and shrubs drop their leaves. Icy, dry winds and frozen roots mean that thin leaves simply loose too much moisture, so the plants have evolved to drop them after they have salvaged and stored all of their vital nutrients in the roots. The dry conditions are also why it's a good idea to water fall transplants during the winter, especially if they have an evergreen habit.
But, it won't be long, now. The days are already getting longer and soon the temperatures will soften and we will see the buds swelling on the red maples. The willows will issue forth with their first flush of leaves and the service berries will add their glow to the roadsides and field edges. Virginia bluebells, bloodroots and Hepaticas will bless us with their petals and corollas while inviting the newly emerged polllinators to favor them with their vistational processions. Joy will blanket the land; especially if you have planted the natives that we so desparately need to replace. So many have succumbeed to the depradatons of an uncontrolled deer population, displacement due to invasive nonnative species, and loss of habitat due to development. How many native populations of bluebells, mountain mints, or native rhododendron have you seen? They are rare, but you can help. Plant a habitat, no matter how small. Every plant helps.
Come spring, we will have a nice assortment of native Rhododendrons, dogwoods, redbuds, viburnums, elderberies, spicebush, hazelnuts, maples, oaks, bottlebrush and red buckeyes, and other woody plants ready for planting. All are very nicely grown and will be ready to go home to your garden. We will have native species redbuds as well as 'Forest Pansy', 'Ruby Falls' and 'Rising Sun'.
Ferns, spring ephemerals such as blood root, wild ginger, columbine and wood poppy will be emerging; and the milkweeds, asters, lilies, lobelias and bee balms will be making ready for their summer blooms!
With you, we are, looking forward to spring!
Our address is 5200 West Heaps Road, Pylesville, MD 21132.
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