Winter in the garden

Winter officially begins in a couple of days as the sun hides its face from us on the shortest day of the year. But unofficially, it began here a couple of weeks ago with our first severe freeze. We don't often get temperatures that flirt with the teens here on the Gulf Coast, and so that event was a shock to the systems of both gardens and gardeners.

Walking around my garden today, I was again surprised at the extent of the damage. Most of my plants are natives, or they are tried and true old Southern stand-bys like crinums. They will be back. But I had succumbed to the temptation to add some more tropical plants this year. Many gardeners in the Houston area grow them successfully, but I'm a bit farther north and the micro-climate of my yard is a bit chillier at this time of year than many of those who treasure and baby their tropical plants.

I don't baby my plants. I'm much too lazy a gardener for that. So this season has already been a revelation to me - even though it hasn't officially begun yet. That revelation is: Stick to native plants! They are tough and they know how to survive these little unexpected blips in our usually warm (or hot) climate.

In recent years, winter has barely even touched us here and perhaps we have been lulled into a false sense of security. But Mother Nature still has the capacity to surprise us. As I look at those sumptous tropical plants offered by local nurseries next spring, I'll try to remember that.


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