I should have known better. I’ve gardened for more than 30 years. I know that early spring emerging plants can handle cold. Still, my mothering instinct beat out my common sense instinct when faced with the idea that my white lilac buds might be harmed by the a hard frost that visited my Connecticut gardens last week. The previous stretch of unusual record warmth caused a growth explosion in lilacs and other spring bloomers. Then, true to typical New England weather, the temperature dropped just as gardeners and gardens were feeling comfortable with the early warmth. I should have known better than to try to protect the larger of my two white lilacs from the freeze. This is my Gardening Oops, GOOPs for short, for April 2012.
All gardeners make mistakes. It doesn’t mater how long you have gardened, you’ll still make mistakes. That’s why I started this Gardening Oops blog meme. On the first of each month I share one of my Gardening Oops, GOOPs for short, and I ask other gardeners to join me. Some are too shy or simply don’t want to publically admit their gardening mis-steps, others are brave and self-confident enough to play along with me by acknowledging and sharing their GOOPs.
The GOOPs I’m sharing this month will have me asking, “What were you thinking?” for a long time.
When a hard freeze was forecast for last week I wondered how well the foliage of many of my perennials would fare. I know they are used to growing in cold temps, but after a week of temperatures reaching 70 degrees Fahrenheit caused their unusually rapid growth I wondered if this new growth would be damaged. New England weather can be cruel. The adage that you know you’re a New Englander if you’ve used your air conditioner and furnace in the same day holds true.
When temperatures had fallen to 34 degrees by dusk leading to that cold night, my mothering instincts led me to cover many of my perennials with overturned apple baskets and large pots … not unusual and generally a sound idea when early spring temps drop to the 20’s. But I was still worried about the white lilac so, in a last ditch move I secured a sheet over it hoping to protect it. I did this even when a nagging voice in my head said don’t.
I should have listened to the nag.
The buds on the lilac I covered now look like this:
Sad, isn’t it. This is frost burn. The sheet I placed as protection rested on these buds and captured the cold enough to cause leaf burn. The sheet transferred the damp cold to the lilac buds and held it there. My nagging voice kept trying to tell me this would happen. Obviously I was too deaf to listen. Now, just outside the windows of my house, in an area passed frequently going to and fro, I get to look at the browned tips of lilac leaves. For quite some time this will be a daily reminder of my early spring GOOPs.
At the opposite side of this stretch of garden is another white lilac. One I purposely did not cover. I wanted to later compare how well the covered lilac bloomed as opposed to the one left uncovered.
Here’s how the buds of the un-mothered lilac look:
Exactly as they should.
And the perennials I covered? They are fine and look no different, so far, than those left uncovered.
Gardening is a constant learning experience. Sometimes even seasoned gardeners, like me, need to be reminded to listen to their nagging voice and leave things be.
I hope you’ll consider playing this GOOPs game. All you need to do is muster up enough strength to admit a Gardening Oops and share it in a comment below. If you share your GOOPs on your own blog, then leave a teaser comment below so readers can head to your blog to read your GOOPs.
Here’s hoping you learned from my GOOPs … I sure hope I’ve learned to listen to my nagging voice.