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Gardening with George Weigel

Answers to your gardening questions and other tips by George Weigel.

Last Build Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:08:22 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2018

13 best new annual flowers of 2018: Gardening with George Weigel

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:00:41 UTC


It might be cold out, but it's time to start planning your spring and summer gardens. Here's a look at some of the best new annual flowers debuting in 2018.

Don't worry about your plants and the cold... yet

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 14:00:23 UTC


Worried about your plants out there in the brutal cold? Don't. Most are adapted to the current level of cold and will be just fine. Single-digit nights can be a bit challenging for some plants, but most of the ones you likely have in your yard are just fine. The bulk of our "normal" landscape fare - junipers, yews, dogwoods, boxwoods, azaleas, lilacs, arborvitae and such - have the genetics to deal with the temperatures we're having. These plants are generally cold-hardy down to minus-10 degrees or lower. The main plants at risk from the new-year big chill are those that are borderline cold-hardy for the Harrisburg region. These are plants more at home from Maryland southward, such as crape myrtles, nandina, photinia, English holly, osmanthus, and some cypresses and cedars. But even those may only lose some of their leaves and branches, surviving from their roots to push out new growth come spring. Plants that are at risk of dying altogether are ones native to even warmer climates that can't tolerate temperatures much lower than 10 to 15 degrees. A good guide to knowing which is which is the U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones that are listed on all trees, shrubs, evergreens and perennials sold at garden centers. Most of the Harrisburg area is in USDA Zone 6, which means average winter lows that bottom out at zero to minus-10 degrees. A plant labeled for Zone 6 is expected to survive down to minus-10. Local garden centers usually stick to selling plants rated to Zone 6 or lower. So if you've bought locally, no need to worry about most of your plants until overnight lows start hitting minus-10 or colder. Gardeners who push the envelope with Zone 7 plants (average winter lows of zero to 10 degrees) run into no problems in mild winters. But those are the plants that could see some top-growth dieback from the single-digit nights we've had. Plants rated at Zone 8 (lows between 10 and 20 degrees) or higher usually don't survive a Harrisburg winter - at least not without protection such as wrapping them in leaf-filled burlap corrals. These include plants such as tropical hibiscus, fleece flower, tea olive, oleander, and most gardenias, camellias and palms. Read George's article on how to wrap a crape myrtle Other than wrapping, there's not much gardeners can do anyway to nurse landscape plants through cold nights. Oil or resin sprays offer little to no protection, and trying to dig established plants out of frozen soil to move them inside now probably would do more harm than good. If you decide to try wrapping, don't drape plastic, blankets or any material directly over plants. Hammer stakes around the plant's perimeter, and tie or staple the material to the stakes. Burlap makes an excellent windbreak that's especially helpful at keeping broadleaf evergreen foliage (holly, boxwood, azalea, nandina, etc.) from browning in the cold wind. If you fill the space between the plant and the burlap barrier with fallen leaves, that'll give a few extra degrees of insulating warmth. Even more helpful is picking a warm microclimate in the first place for those borderline-hardy shrubs. Temperatures can be 5 degrees or warmer along a south- or west-facing brick wall, for example, than in an open back yard. The two snows this past week are giving a few inches of insulation to these evergreen sweetbox plants.George Weigel  As for the pair of snows we've had in the last week, those are good for plants. Snow makes a natural insulation over the leaves of woody plants, and it acts like a warmth-trapping blanket for the roots of perennial flowers that have gone dormant for winter. It's also ideal for bulbs that emerge in late winter through spring, such as snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. Nestled under a few inches of soil that's blanketed by a few more inches of snow, bulbs are cozily biding their time until the coast is clear. [...]

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Here are the 5 best Christmas trees and how to pick the perfect one

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 10:00:50 UTC


This was a good growing season for Christmas trees, which will be showing up shortly for your holiday-decorating pleasure. Here's a look at how to pick out the perfect one along with one expert's pick for the five best species.