Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Getting ready for the first freeze

salvia
Salvia chiapensis


Attempting to understand the weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been a challenge. You can watch several local weather channels or consult various websites and get wide fluctuations, especially when it comes to temperature predictions. Part of this is because the geographic range is so variable. Forecasters generally give their predictions for the coast, the Columbia River Gorge and the Willamette Valley which will have different conditions. Even the Wilamette Valley forecast isn't necessarily a reliable prediction for us in Vancouver, because it is often colder here (and technically speaking, we are not in the Willamette Valley). And of course, there are micro-climates...

Several gardening friends have recommended Weather Underground as a good source and one that is better tuned for specific regions. So, Weather Underground predicts our low tonight at 26. Regardless of a freeze or not, most of the weather experts do predict that we are in for SNOW and perhaps some freezing precipitation on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. 

In anticipation of the first frost, I have been busy covering plants with pots and plastic and spreading buckets of extra mulch. I looked over my plant inventory and the following plants cause me the most concern:

California Lilac (Ceonothus)
Escallonia
Fatsia
Fushias
Himalayan Whorlflower (Morina longifolia)
Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana)
Echium
Sweet Pea Shrub (Polygala fruiticosa)
Salvia Chiapensis
Calla Lily (Zantedechia)

Our garden is new and open at the moment and has not developed any protection from neighboring plants. A few of the plants on the above list are in the front garden which faces north but some are in the back which is better sheltered. Whatever the outcome, this will be a learning experience. I think everything will be okay, especially if the cold temperatures are short-lived. Whatever happens, it is going to be interesting and exciting! Bring it on!


I am sure the Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) will be toast as it never survived our Alabama winters. I have always treated it as an annual.


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

12 comments:

  1. Your Calla Lily will go all mush on you when it freezes but I bet it survives. I have one close to the house that has survived two winters. Most of the other plants you mentioned has never graced my garden so I have no idea. Good luck with your plants.

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    1. I know some are more tender than others. Maybe mine is a hardier variety.

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  2. Good luck, Phillip!

    Supposed to get down to ~ 20 degrees two nights in a row later this week.

    Of course, that's not too chilly for Middle Tennessee. We regularly see at least a couple nights in the low teens or single digits each winter.

    Checking out Weather Underground, it looks like mid-to-low 20s is about as cold as it gets most winters in Vancouver, WA? Folks on Daves Garden (http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/1913/) talk about pineapple sage surviving 10 degree winters in places like North Carolina, so hopefully yours will survive as a perennial!

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    1. This is my first full winter here. Like you said, they are supposed to be fairly mild and actually warmer than in Alabama. Of course there are always variations some years.

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  3. Phillip, I'm in the same boat as you are this year with a newly planted front and side yard. Fingers crossed that our learning experience isn't too painful!

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  4. You are so right about making sense of the forecasts, even in general...and with the microclimates, personal experience is about the only reliable predictor.

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  5. Re the Polygala, mine reseeded lavishly, so if you lose the plant there may be seedlings. Re: the weather, after trying them all, going to the horse's mouth (NOAA.gov) has proven best.

    Good luck with your tender plants!

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    1. Thanks for the tip - I will be looking for seedlings.

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  6. My honey and I moved from So. CA (San Fernando Valley) to No. CA (Folsom) four months ago. Moving from Zone 10 to 8, we had to bequeath our beloved 12' plumeria and gigantic spider plant to a friend rather than risk losing them up here. I am beginning to redesign our garden and I was shocked to discover yesterday that I have to now protect my rose babies, winter veggies and [existing] citrus trees from frost, while also having to consider plants that can tolerate 100ºs temps during the summer. I'm noting annual sun and shade patterns (NW/SE orientation), and dealing with such poor-quality soil (for now) that is almost impossible to dig, complicated by so many small boulders that the previous owner created dry rock beds from them. Through it all, however, like you, I'm looking at this as an exciting opportunity to grow as a gardener.

    You now have a new reader. You are a talented gardener; your previous garden was to die for. I'm looking forward to following you as you bring your garden to life.

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    1. Thank you Sharon! And good luck with your new garden. I would think that moving from such a temperate zone to a colder one would take some getting used to.

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