Best winter protection?

dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)November 27, 2006

It is supposed to get very cold and windy tomorrow -- what material is best for protecting tender plants? Does an Albizia julibrissin need protection? I know it is marginal in this area -- in past winters I have protected the trunk during cold weather.

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gardengal48

I'd not consider Albizia to be particularly marginal here - it's usually rated as zones 6-9, so we are well within that range. And there are some massive mature specimens scattered throughout the area that must have seen some pretty awful weather over the years, so I doubt you have much to worry about.

The best protection for truly tender plants is out of the weather, in an unheated garage, basement, carport, greenhouse, etc. Barring that, I generally group containerized plants together as close to the house as possible and cover with with old linens (tablecloths, sheets). You can do the same for plants in the ground (except move 'em, of course :-)). You can also purchase a horticultural fabric often known as remay or harvest cloth that will help to maintain temperatures underneath its protection from 10-15 degrees farenheit higher than the ambient air temperature.

Also, water everything as thoroughly as you can. Well hydrated plants, especially those in containers, are better able to withstand windchill and moist container soil actually freezes at a much lower temperature than dry container soil.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 11:26AM
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lilydude

Black plastic sheet, folded into two layers; old indoor-outdoor carpet, rubber side up (heavy, can crush plants); sheets of bubble wrap packaging material (very good insulation, because of trapped air). Whatever you use, weigh down the edges with 2x4s or dirt, to keep the cold air out as much as possible. For bulbs and roots, a heavy layer of bark or straw mulch, or wood chips.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 12:54PM
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novita(SWB.C. z8)

What about a foot of snow? Does that protect a bit? Would lily bulbs in pots buried in the snow survive? Maybe I should dig them out and put them inside - it is supposed to get much colder.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 1:51PM
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lilydude

Novita, snow is very helpful. About lilies: Asiatics, philadelphicum, and canadense are very cold-hardy. Orientals and trumpets are not as hardy. So it's hard to say. Most lily bulbs can freeze in the ground without damage, but in pots they freeze and thaw TOO FAST. This is what kills them. Covering the pots keeps the sun and cold wind away from them, and slows down the rate of freezing and thawing. But nothing works as well as burying the bulbs in the soil. So there is no clear answer, and no guarantees.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 3:18PM
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novita(SWB.C. z8)

Thanks, Lilydude, I will just have to hope for the best. I would dig them up and put them in the greenhouse, (which I should have already done) except I cant even find them under all the snow!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 4:00PM
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ian_wa(Sequim)

In the Olympia area, Albizia julbrissin has the reputation for being "tender" in colder gardens. But I think if people would just mulch their trees, water them in summer and care for them a little better, they would have fewer problems with Albizia freezing out. It is certainly perfectly hardy when it gets some size to it.

One noteable exception to the "water everything well" rule... try to keep succulents as dry as possible. Of course, anything that's been sitting out all month will be pretty wet...

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 7:36PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

I have inverted black plastic pots or garbage cans over tender plants during low tempuratures with good success. This thread just made me think about a new plant that is rather tender so I went out in the dark and put a pot over it.:-D

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 6:35AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I got a little anxious about some younger things last night too, so went out in the snow and put some seedling pots of infant darmera, baptisia, melianthus, in a large plastic tote, then wrapped that in a beach towel. All else 'iffy' and containerized are either wearing old tablecloths today or are covered in heavy clear plastic drum liners (Home Depot, they fit perfectly over my tiered seedling/cutting racks) but I'm counting on our snow (about 6") as being nature's insulator for things in the ground.

What a crazy November this has been - maybe that means we'll have smooth sailing for our gardens (and driving!) in December :)

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 12:25PM
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gardengal48

Mor, we can only hope! Business at the nursery this month has really sucked :-((

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 12:29PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I bet it has sucked, too dang wet to plant.

I'm too lazy to protect anything. I do put the potted cannas in the shed but often forget to water them and they die. I've got a lot of fuchsias this year that I should have done something with....oops....

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 1:16PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

I put my bonsai in a plastic bulb crate and pack leaves or shavings around the pots and over the soil surface, then tuck them up against the house out of the wind. I moved the potted camellias, all in small 2g pots, to a sheltered spot against the house. The larger potted plants I leave alone.

My lettuce seedlings are not in a cold frame this year so I mulched them well with leaves and covered them with doug fir branchelets. Ditto for the pansies, but only because predictions are for temps as low as 10 degrees F. It's 28 degrees now and pansies don't have any trouble with temps in 20s. The cymbidium, potted succulents and the bonsaied azalea finally got moved inside for the winter and will stay inside til spring.

Really depends on how tender your tender plants are. There's cold hardy stuff that's in a pot, like my bonsai, that need minimal protection, then there's tropical stuff or young seedlings.

The other thing to keep in mind is that it's a very dry cold right now and often the dryness is what damages the plants. Of course everything is already well saturated by a month of rain but often in these very cold spells we have to water things before the most intense cold hits to prevent damage.

With albizia, it's my understanding that young trees are cold tender but mature ones much less so so it depends on how old your tree is. I wrapped my tree's trunk with pipe insulation sleeves when it was young. The branches would die back but it would always resprout from the trunk. There are some really nice big specimens around town so they're not all that tender.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 1:29PM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

I've wrapped the Albizias trunk with a couple of sacks -- I think it is big enough to withstand frost now -- the trunk is about 3 inches in diameter but I love the tree so much I want to give it every chance to keep on growing. I used the pipe insulation wrappers the last couple of years but it is too big now. Interesting that they sprout back if the top freezes off.
As to protecting everything else, we have about 6 inches of mostly fluffy snow so that provides protection and I have moved my cymbids, etc. into the barn with an electric heater.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 4:46PM
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novita(SWB.C. z8)

I spent an hour yesterday moving things into the already crowded greenhouse. I brought some Lewisias in pots inside and several other pots I had around the door and on the deck- a young eucalyptus, choysia, Drimys, a potted azalea. Then I was afraid the sudden warmth would harms them but everything looks okay so far, even though the leaves were frozen. tonight is supposed to be the coldest one. I also threw blankets and sheets on shrubs and am counting on snow as insulator.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 10:22PM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

Novita, we are almost neighbours. We've been very lucky with our rotten November weather tho -- we seem to have missed the worst of the wind and heaviest snow so far. Mind you, the snow just keeps sifting down...

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 1:10PM
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gardengal48

It hit the midteens last night at Sea-Tac, breaking yet another record.

For some odd reason, I totally forgot there were still a few houseplants hanging out on my protected (but not that protected) and covered porch :-( My desire to protect them for as long as possible from the ravages of a couple of very rambunctious cats overrode any thoughts about their welfare in cold weather. Guess I won't need to worry about cat damage any more!

I did manage to stash a huge echium in a container, coprosmas and a rather small crinodendron under protection - everything else will just have to fend for itself.

At least the forecast looks like a warming trend is on the way. I don't mind the rain but I sure hate snow, ice and blistering cold.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 1:30PM
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novita(SWB.C. z8)

Still -5 degrees C. (abount 25 F) and snowing hard. can you get cabin fever after three days?? Yes, Dottie, we are almost neighbours, in fact I used to live in Duncan.
Well, all plants still out in the cold are on their own now, lets hope the snow protects them.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 4:23PM
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andypython

Well, I am using a thick mulch of oak leaves on most of my beds with cannas, taros etc. The snow has added to this so I am hopeful that the cold will not be too much of an issue there. I have built some "mini greenhouses" as a fun project with some spare wood and plastic sheeting and now I am happy that I did. I am using them on some small windmill palms that even with this and mulch do not look so hot, but I have not taken the covers off to see if there really is much damage, will wait until this is all behind us. I have Musa Basjoo stalks encased in leaves wrapped with landscape fabric capped with garbage bags. I am hopeful for these, but again we will have to see. I have a Butia Capiata palm that I have built a cover (another not so mini greenhouse!) for and have chritmas lights on and it seems fine, no visable damage any way, fronds still look nice and green all the way to the tip, but we will have to see. I brought some potted things into the basement.

One that I forgot to cover was a Fatisa Japonica that now looks to be mush. Any one know if this might grow back from the root? It was a late addition to the garden and was on sale so not the end of the world, but I hate to see dead plants! I am also worried about some of the Rhodos as they look real bad, they did not seem to like the heavy snow, but I figure they will bounce back?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 8:05PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Plants that look dead now may still resprout in spring. Don't trim back or dig out anything til it's warmed up long enough to see if new growth appears.

Dead branches insulate, so leave on frozen growth. Otherwise the next cold spell will just continue to kill back the branches and you could end up with nothing left alive.

By rhodos you mean rhododendrons? not rhodohypoxis or whatever that south african bulb is. Rhodies will be fine unless they're the tropical kind. They fold their leaves down when it gets cold but they spring right back up when it warms up, assuming the plants are well hydrated before it gets cold, which this year they sure as heck ought to be. the branches are usually flexible enough to take a snow load.

Oak leaves make great mulch and protection. I wish I had a nice garry oak. I make do with a flowering cherry/ scouler's willow mix with some madrone thrown in for color.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 9:27PM
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andypython

I will leave the fatisa, I hope it will come back. The rhododendrom leaves are all folded back and some of the bracnhes seem to have broken under the weight of the wet wet snow. They were WELL hydrated no doubt! I am sure the plant will pull through, but with a of couple lost branches. Thanks

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 10:22PM
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JudyWWW(z7/WA)

We have really dodged the bullets down here in the Vancouver/Clark County area. We barely beat the old rainfall record for November, we had just a thin coat of snow even in the higher outlying areas, it didn't get nearly as cold as we were warned (seemed to stay in high 20s).....and now the freezaing rain seems to be fizzling. jwww

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 2:27AM
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boxofrox(z8 PNW)

I'm not sure exactly how cold it got here but I had three new fatsia that I planted this year near my hot tub that had 8-9" of snow drifted on them. I have this rather large cast patina fish that spits into one of my pond streams and it was cold enough to freeze the spittle solid :-) This morning when the snow melted, my fatsias looked amazingly intact except for one small leaf that was broken.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2006 at 4:28PM
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