The great plunge of January

The really cold part of the winter usually has the good sense to wait until sometime in January before seriously annoying us in the City. Well, right on the heels of the Three Kings, it’s here. Some assorted scenic snowfalls and then The Plunge blew in. Thanks guys. The snow was a nice present but you could at least have shut the door behind you. Took the garden down to 10.8˚ F (-12˚ C) on Wednesday night, The Plunge did. Brrrrr. Luckily the worst of it blew right out again but the dry, frigid air gusting to thirty miles an hour, or so, didn’t exactly improve the chill. I think it moved out and over the Atlantic to do some even more serious blowing around in the British Isles.

I’d covered all the things that needed covering with generous piles of pine straw way back in early December. It’s a really good insulator so I wasn’t so worried about the actual cold. Things underground are slumbering away nicely in their long winter’s nap. I poke a stick down through every now and then, out of curiosity. And to reassure myself. The exposed ground can be as hard as a rock but under even a couple of inches of pine straw, the slick slides right in. That’s always reassuring.

I was actually more concerned about the effects of that frozen wind. Gusts of thirty miles an hour, with a dew point of just a few degrees Fahrenheit, can really do a job on the exposed parts of plants. Sounds even worse if you measure it in Celsius. Minus fifteen. Not that the plants care which scale I use. They get blasted either way. That kind of wind does more damage than simple cold. Evergreens get desiccated. Especially badly after a winter’s worth of that treatment. I just have to look at how the short layer of fluffy snow on the patio quickly started evaporating under the wind to remind myself. Cover up.

Camellia ‘Winter’s Joy’ is a late bloomer and was still putting on a good show of its lovely pink flowers well after the new Year. It doesn’t care about a little bit snow. It’s ‘Winter’s Joy’ for good reason after all. Of course I hadn’t covered it yet. Color me an optimist that I was secretly hoping I wouldn’t have to cover it at all this season so I could enjoy the flowers to their natural conclusion. OK. Not so secretly. I think I mentioned it once or twice on Twitter. There were still a bunch of buds to be opening. But I was prepared for the worst anyway. Sadly, I finally bundled it up with some horticultural fleece just before the arctic winds were scheduled to be whipping through. I don’t want to be plucking freeze-dried tea leaves from the camellia next spring. I’m a coffee drinker actually. The excessive cold probably stopped the flowers as well but I haven’t had the heart to lift the cover for a peak. Maybe I’ll check this coming week. I recently heard a good one on optimism. It doesn’t matter if the wine glass is half full or half empty. The important thing is that there’s always room for more.

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