We often talk about microclimates: the subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences in growing conditions within a neighborhood, street, or landscape. The microclimates were on full display yesterday morning as I drove to work. In some neighborhoods, such as Hyde Park, the lawns were clear, and plants were lush and full of life. Then, as I made my way to Milford, with its lower lying topography intersected by streams and a river, and landscapes protected from evening breezes, lawns shimmered with frost and the cold night air had drained some of the life out of many plants’ leaves and stems.
In areas that succumb to the damp cold earlier, you may see tender annuals withering. Plants with a more tender structure – think of Impatiens and Begonias – are mostly water and when the cold sets in, their cells are easily damaged resulting in plant damage or loss. Woodier plants and annuals, such as Lantana, can withstand the cold a bit better, but only for so long. At our office gardens, the Lantanas are killed by the cold night. Our proximity to the river means frost easily finds its way to our landscape, but in Hyde Park, on the same day the Lantanas are standing strong and blooming as if nothing was amiss.
Understanding the subtle changes in your landscape will help you source plants to extend the garden’s bloom time. You should opt for woodier plants if you find our early, more gentle frosts are killing your plants. And come spring, when we are impatiently awaiting plants to emerge, give your garden more time to show signs of life. A garden that is showing signs of decline now, in our early fall, is likely one that stays cooler in the spring and may need more time to warm and show signs of spring growth.
Happy gardening – Jennifer