Planting Edmonds: Wonders of a winter garden

My Winter Edmonds Garden.

Planting Edmonds is a monthly column written by and for local gardeners.

Recently, on a rare dry and sunny day in January, I went out into the garden to see what was going on. I wasn’t expecting much. – But I needed some fresh air. I was surprised and delighted to see many garden plants starting to grow. And some were blooming.

While we are inside our heated homes, sipping coffee or tea, digesting our holiday gluttony, curled up in warm blankets and reading a good book, our garden plants are outside. I have. They not only cope with winter weather, but thrive in spite of it! They seem to know the end of winter is in sight and are jump-starting in full spring form.

That’s impressive. How do they survive the winter and know when to bud, flower and germinate?

So did the plants in the garden, such as wearing warm clothes, putting an extra blanket on the bed, and providing firewood while preparing for winter. The plants in our garden cannot.

As the weather gets colder, garden plants (except annuals) slowly harden and prepare for dormancy for the upcoming winter weather. It not only sloughs off unwanted and cold-sensitive tissues, but also makes the remaining tissues more cold-tolerant.

Different plants have different strategies for surviving the dark, wet winters of western Washington. They produce seed and die. Perennials die back to reduce cold exposure of soft tissues such as leaves, while roots are insulated by the warmer boundary of the soil. Crouch down for winter as sex buds, stems and roots. This is an advantage as it means you have everything you need for a quick start when the weather warms up.

Fern, curling ready for spring.

Most plant damage caused by cold climates is caused by the formation of intracellular ice crystals. These crystals pierce cell membranes and cause cell and tissue death. To prevent this terrible fate, plants prepare for winter by increasing the salt and sugar content in their cells. This lowers the temperature at which ice crystals form for the same reason that salt water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water.

In the dead of winter, most plants are in varying degrees of dormancy. Your metabolism slows down and you have more “antifreeze” in your cells to protect you as much as possible. That is, the thick scales on the shoots, the bark that covers the stem and roots are protected by a more comfortable soil environment. Plants still need water. In fact, dehydration is another cause of winter damage to garden plants from prolonged exposure to dry, cold air. Luckily, winters in western Washington are definitely dry.

Winter weather is not always constant and predictable. There may be periods of unusual warmth followed by a return to freezing cold. It’s a bad thing that most plants sprout between winter teeth to grow new buds and flowers.

To prevent this, some plants require a period of cold, called chill hour, before they can break dormancy and flower. Is required. That’s a long time and explains why Florida isn’t famous for its apple harvest! No problem in our climate! This cold weather prevents it from flowering too early and losing its tender flowers. This is also why bulbs such as tulips are dug up and stored in a cool, sheltered environment during the winter so that they can flower in the spring after a period of necessary cold weather.

My blueberries have had enough cold weather to prepare for flowering.

Our native plants understand all this. They have evolved to grow optimally in our climate.When planting non-natives, we must accept that they may not be fully adapted to our climate.For example, When I lived in St. Louis, there was a beautiful magnolia tree outside my living room window. In good years, it produces large, gorgeous pink flowers in early spring. The problem is, anyway, it wasn’t a particularly smart tree in St. Louis.

For many years, during the inevitable warm January months, the magnolia decided that “Spring is here!” And tender flowers burst from the scales of its protective buds. Then winter inevitably returned and froze the flowers. For the rest of spring, the magnolia tree was covered with drooping brown petals. but to no avail. Meanwhile, the plants native to the St. Louis area were still dormant and familiar enough not to fall under a premature spell of warmth.

Some rhododendrons are now native to western Washington, and other ornamental ones in our garden come from parts of Asia with climates like ours. and I saw a lovely large flower bud covered with protective scales. When warm, the buds will expand. They know they’ll wait for spring to open and bloom with gorgeous yet soft blooms – no need to yell.

Rhododendron buds are starting to swell while being protected by buds.

Happily, some of my garden plants are already flowering. The cool-weather-loving primrose took advantage of his warm January weather this year to produce beautiful blooms. And the current sweets box is a modest flower, but what a divine scent!

When I moved to Edmonds from St. Louis over four years ago, I was stunned by the heavenly scent of flowers when I went out to buy firewood in January. in January? We got it to these handsome evergreen shrubs growing next to our house.Confused Pieris). Plants such as primroses and sweetboxes that grow and flower at this time are clearly more winter-hardy than those that go dormant in the winter. I am lucky that they decorate my winter garden.

Sweetbox flowers are pleasant, the berries are lovely, but the scent is divine.

Now that the short period of sunny warm weather is over and the chilly rains are back, I’m back home sipping a warm cup of chai. It’s not very flashy, but you could say it grows, survives, and thrives in subtle ways.

These clever plants have come up with ingenious ways to deal with the winter weather. They sense their surroundings, prepare for winter, and when the time is right (fingers crossed!), they produce spectacular spring shoots, leaves, and flowers. i can’t wait. Until then, enjoy the primrose blossoms, sweet he will lure your nostrils with the scent of box flowers, and watch the rhododendron buds slowly swell. I will continue to read books, drink warm drinks, and wait patiently for spring.

— Joel Ream

Joel Ream was a member of Edmonds Floretum Garden Club He grew up in Spokane, earned a Bachelor of Science in Botany from the University of Washington, and a Master of Science in Botany from Michigan State University. Joel spent 37 years at Monsanto as a plant biologist, using plant physiology, biochemistry, and analysis to increase the efficiency of crop production. He has also contributed to the development of new weed control technologies, regulatory investigations to support the safety of new products, greenhouse and field evaluations of new crop varieties, improving the nutritional quality of animal feeds, and methods to measure grain composition. I worked on it. Joel retired to Edmonds in 2018.

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