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Winter Protection

AndrewR

By AndrewR

16 comments


While many plants, including those that do not originate from the UK, cope well with our winters, others have more difficulty and need a little attention if we are to enjoy them next year. This blog describes some of the techniques I use to get some of my more ‘tricky’ plants through our coldest season.

Frost can kill plants if the roots are frozen in the ground and unable to take up moisture, especially with evergreens where the foliage will still be losing it. I leave all the cutting down of perennials until early spring to afford some protection but also mulch the bases of particularly vulnerable plants with straw, fern fronds or even garden compost – melianthus major and hedychiums are among those to receive this treatment. If possible, this is put in place while the soil is damp but not saturated (although that won’t be possible this year after the wettest November on record). Very borderline hardy plants will also be wrapped with fleece for added protection.

Some plants can take low temperatures provided the roots are not sitting in saturated conditions. When planting these, I mix lots of horticultural grit into the surrounding soil and put more in the bottom of the planting hole. My banksia took -8C in its stride last winter because it was in a very sharply drained mix. Other plants, such as arisaemas and lobelia cardinalis, require moisture in the growing season but much drier conditions when the temperatures drop, coming from areas where most rainfall occurs in summer rather than winter. These are grown in pots stood on bricks around the edges of my pond and moved into a cold greenhouse for the winter. Here they receive no attention at all and are put back in the pond in spring without any hardening off and seem none the worse for this regime.

Some of the heucheras with orange leaves (such as Amber Waves) don’t relish cold, wet winters either; as mine is growing in a pot, it can be stood in a cold frame until next year.

Similarly, many alpines, coming from mountainous areas, will take cold weather but, being protected by a blanket of snow, do not have to deal with cold rain freezing in their crowns. Using some the bricks from the pond, I cover the vulnerable ones with sheets of glass which gives them the shelter they need to come up smiling again next spring.

I don’t grow many annuals but one grass that is not frost hardy is pennisteum setaceum ‘Rubrum’. The rootball is fairly compact so this can be dug out and potted up each autumn and overwintered indoors where it receives a weekly watering. In the spring, I cut back all the top growth, harden it off and, when all danger of frost is past and the weather in a warm phase, replant it back into a sunny border.

There are other plants which I know won’t take much frost but are not as obliging as the pennisetum so I am experimenting with a new method for them. When planted out, they are placed in a bottomless plastic pot, buried in the soil (the bottom is cut off so there is no hinderance to drainage during the growing season). Come autumn, they are dug up and because the roots are contained, there is minimal disturbance.

Now the pot can just be slid inside another of the same size and the whole thing brought inside for winter on a windowsill.

I hope this gives you some hints and ideas about successfully getting plants through what can be very testing times for them.

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Comments

 

Wow, that is a very interesting and useful blog AndrewR. You certainly went into a lot of detail. Banksia's can take frost, here in the bush in the hills it can also freeze to minus8C and they happily live ever after. Banksia's are named after Robert Banks ( not sure of the first name ), a botanist who came to Australia. There are many species, here the bull banksia is flowering at the moment. Love your photo's too AndrewR.

2 Dec, 2009

 

Useful advice, Andrew... Thank you :o)

2 Dec, 2009

 

Timely reminder for me to get the Melianthus well mulched. Thanks.

2 Dec, 2009

 

good advice anfrew, thanx :o)

2 Dec, 2009

 

Thanks from us to Andrew, We have no idea as to overwintering plants so hopefully we can keep a few alive till next year!

2 Dec, 2009

 

Hope it's third time lucky for me with the Pennisetum this year Andrew. The one in the porch crept over the doorstep when no one was looking 2 days ago so fingers crossed. :o))

2 Dec, 2009

 

I haven't dug mine up - and I've been so busy today I haven't checked it after the frost we had! If it's still alive and kicking, I'll do it tomorrow - and keep my fingers crossed, as even putting it in the greenhouse last winter didn't work!

Lily - fingers crossed for yours AND mine!

2 Dec, 2009

 

Thanks Andrew very helpfull

2 Dec, 2009

 

Thanks Andrew, have taken the Pennisetum out, it is near the house sheltered from the cold, had not thought about taking the Lobelia out, as it is in the garden?all the bananas and the gingers are in the garden room so are the palms, so they should be ok?

4 Dec, 2009

 

Great blog Andrew, very helpful.

4 Dec, 2009

 

DD - I used to grow the lobelia in the border but found it didn't always come through the winter. In the greenhouse, I have a 100% record with it so I think it may be the cold/wet combination it doesn't like.

4 Dec, 2009

 

Thanks - with our wet cold clay I often lose plants and I think that the bottom less pot may be a good answer for me.

6 Dec, 2009

 

This blog is very helpful and full of good ideas. Thanks Andrew

6 Dec, 2009

 

With our very cold weather and me watching goldfish floating motionless in the bottom of their pool under a sheet of clear ice....I surely can understand your ideas and work Andrew. I heard it mentioned on a TV gardening show here just the other day too use fern fronds..I would not have thought..but if you point them the right direction they help to keep the water off too....I found that quite interesting and helpful information.

9 Dec, 2009

 

Very useful info, Thank You, Andrew.

Hi Marguerite. You're thinking of Jospeh Banks, naturalist and botanist, who sailed with Cpt James Cook on the Endeavour via S. America and Tahiti to Australia, and landed at Botany Bay.

13 Dec, 2009

 

Early in 2006, I added an extension to Australia to my holiday in New Zealand. One of the places I visited was Canberra so I could spend a day at the Botanic Gardens there. I also discovered the National Museum was holding an exhibition of old Australian artefacts so went there as well. Imgine my surprise and delight as in the first room, in a glass case, was Joseph Banks' diary, open at the page where they made landfall at Botany Bay. You could go right up to the case and read his writing - incredible

13 Dec, 2009

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