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Garden journal entry


Ixora, offered without warning by a local nursery, is only hardy to zone 9 or 10
May 29, 2017. In the temperate climate of eastern Pennsylvania, which the USDA zone map places in zone 6, many gardeners were tempted to push their luck with plants that weren't quite hardy. In many winters, a plant listed as hardy only to zone 7 might survive – especially if extra measures were taken to provide for winter comfort. Thick layers of mulch, canvas canopies, straw bunkers, and other devices were put into action to bring those zone-seveners through winters – sometimes for many years, if gardeners were sufficiently conscientious (I never was). As for plants rated even less hardy – those could only be saved by bringing them inside for winter, which was always too much of a hassle for me.
When I moved to the Gulf Coast, into a climate where winters usually conform to zone 8b, I expected that all of my struggles keeping plants alive would deal with the hot and humid summers – after all, there were so many more plants that would survive the winters here! It turns out I was wrong. Zone denial is at least as big here as it was in Pennsylvania – probably even bigger. As it turns out, nurseries and gardeners alike seem to assume that we're in the tropics and routinely offer and plant ornamentals and fruit trees that are unlikely to make it through a true zone 8 winter. Worse, in many cases there is no warning of winter tenderness given by nurseries, so I have returned from many a plant-shopping trip to find out that half of my purchases of shrubs and perennials are iffy at best when temperatures drop below 30F. I guess that will add some excitement to my winter gardening, and some suspense in early spring when time comes to see if the plants whose top growth was frost-killed comes back from the roots – but it will likely create holes in the landscape that need to be filled once spring returns. The funny thing is that hardly any of the plants I was used to gardening with up north are on offer at local nurseries – even those that I expect to be perfectly able to hold their own in Houston summers. The vast majority of offerings are (sub)tropicals and annuals; among the perennials on offer, only various salvias, daylilies, some ornamental grasses, and a few composite-flowered species are common to my previous nursery experiences. I may have to resort to mail order, or seeds, to re-establish some old favorites.

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Last modified: September 09, 2009
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