Fickle Spring Weather

The spring storm last week certainly threw me for a loop -- I thought it was only going to be an inch or two at most! I hope your plants all survived and that your trees and shrubs didn't have too much damage. Did you think everything would be dead beneath all that snow?  Do you wonder how the plants survived? Here's some interesting facts:
  1. Soil temperature is just as important as air temperature. According to the Cornell University Extension service, soil that is moist holds four times more heat than dry soil. Additionally, the air temperature above wet soil stays about 5 degrees higher than that of dry soil. The soil was nice and warm before the storm started which really helped!
  2. For most of the storm, there was a good blanket of clouds across the sky. The clouds keep the earth's thermal heat in the lower atmosphere. When the clouds cleared off on Friday night, the temperature dipped below the freezing point (32 degrees) for the first time.
  3. Snow is a great insulator! Although this snow was so wet and heavy it was also causing all kinds of damage to the trees, it insulated the perennials on the ground.
  4. Air temperature varies even around our own yards. If your garden is in a low spot in your yard, it might have been colder there. If your container gardens are near the house, they were kept warmer. If it had been windy during the storm, it would have been even colder and more damaging to the plants.
  5. Finally, some plants are more susceptible to cold damage than others. Some plants are able to quickly produce extra sucrose (sugar) and others produce extra protein, both of which in effect lower the freezing point at the cellular level. A pretty clever mechanism for an organism without a brain! 

Spring Planting Service in Underway

Now that the storm has passed, I'm again working on my spring container garden planting service and trying to get back on schedule. Thank you to everyone who kindly rescheduled after the storm! If you haven't scheduled with me yet or have a friend who would be interested, contact me soon. I'll be planting well into June -- it's definitely not too late!

Don't forget: refer a friend to Patio Plants Unlimited or for landscape design and receive a $25 discount or nursery gift card. 
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Each month of the 2017 gardening season, I'll highlight flowers and plants of each color of the rainbow. I've highlighted some pink and red flowers, this month I'll cover orange, then move on to yellow, green, blue and purple. 

Color of the Month: Orange

In containers...
Begonia Unstoppable Fire
Begonia: Upright Unstoppable Fire
This plant is a statement all by itself! The dark colored leaves provide a backdrop for the bright orange flowers to just POP. This Begonia blooms faithfully throughout the summer and happily brightens up a shady spot.
Orange Portulaca
Moss Rose: Happy Hour Orange / Portulaca grandiflora
If nothing else, this plant has a great name: Happy Hour Orange! It also features a continuous bloom on plants that are satisfied with intermittent watering. They do well in containers and often reseed themselves when planted in the flower bed.
Marigold / Tagetes
While some Marigolds are yellow, I would call the majority of varieties orange. If you can get past their somewhat unpleasant fragrance, Marigolds bloom abundantly in the late summer. I prefer to keep Marigolds in my containers because in garden beds, they are quick to reseed themselves.
In flower beds...
Blanketflower / Gaillaridia
Blanketflower is very popular and for good reason -- it provides non-stop blooms all summer and doesn't require a lot of extra water. The foliage is somewhat scrappy though, and when it emerges in the spring it can easily be mistaken for a weed.
Butterfly Weed / Asclepias tuberosa 
Certainly an appropriate name for this plant! "Butterfly" because it produces abundant amounts of nectar which attracts butterflies and also hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators. "Weed" because it can spread rampantly if allowed to set seed. Remove spent flowers promptly to avoid reseeding.
Red-hot Poker or Torch Lily / Knifophia
"Interesting flowers" is sort of an understatement when it comes to Torch Lily. Reaching between 3 and 5 feet tall, Knifophia warms up the flower bed in late summer. Foliage should be left around the top of the plant over the winter to prevent crown rot.
In the yard..
Trumpet Vine
Trumpet Vine / Campsis radicans
Several vines share this common name, use the Latin term if you want to get one specific vine. Campsis vines grow vigorously with little supplemental water and attract hummingbirds when they bloom in mid to late summer. Prune down to maintain size in spring before leaf buds open. 
You will have to wait until Autumn for the orange of Cotoneaster, but this shrub's fall display is outstanding. The leaves will be red, orange and yellow all at the same time punctuated with little black berries. Otherwise, Cotoneaster is an unassuming green shrub in the landscape growing to about 4 feet tall and wide. It requires pruning only for shape and size and is a drought tolerant, xeric plant.
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