Winter frost can improve spring bloom.

Even in May, damage from the frosts of last winter is still evident among some of the more sensitive plants. Lemon trees and bougainvilleas that have not yet been pruned may still display bare stems protruding above fresher new growth. Some bougainvilleas did not survive. Those that are recovering will bloom later because replacement of foliage is their priority for now.

However, peonies, although rare, are blooming better than they have since 1991, right after one of the worst frosts in recorded history. Earlier, some lilacs, forsythias and wisterias likewise bloomed unusually well. While so many plants were succumbing to cold weather, many others were enjoying it.

The reason that peonies typically do not seem as happy locally as they are in severe climates is that they really prefer more cold weather while they are dormant through winter. Without it, they may not go completely dormant, or may not stay dormant long enough to get the rest that they need; and then wake up tired in spring. Cold winter weather promotes more adequate dormancy, which stimulates healthier growth and bloom this time of year. It all makes sense considering that peonies are naturally endemic to colder climates.

A preference for cooler winter weather is also why so many varieties of apples and pears that are grown in other regions do not perform well here. The good news is that as the fruit of local apple and pear trees matures through spring and summer, it may be of better quality that it has been for many years. Trees that typically produce sparsely may produce more abundantly this year. The weather that damaged tropical and subtropical plants was an advantage to others.

Nothing can restore cherries, apricots, peaches and any other early blooming fruit that was dislodged by late rain, but any fruit that survived may be just as unusually good as apples and pears. Not only is the best place for gardening, but minor weather problems can have certain advantages.

8 thoughts on “Cold Winters Have Certain Advantages

  1. After our significant February freeze, many plants (wisteria, white prickly poppy, bluebonnets) have been especially prolific bloomers. The peach growers in some areas were happy with the freeze, too. They were short about 200 chill hours for their trees, and made it up in February.

    And now, I know why peonies were ‘the’ cemetery plant of choice during my Iowa childhood. They liked those winters!

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    1. As much as I enjoy the mild climates here, the lack of chill can complicate things. I can grow apples here, but my colleague down south can grow only two cultivars that are not very good. Some people can grow peonies here, but many can not.

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  2. While some plants and shrubs didn’t do well during our Siberian freeze in February, some flourished, like the peonies and daisies. My roses had to be cut way back, but they’re coming along stronger than ever – same with the native honeysuckle. And of course the ice storm many months ago left us with a mess – shredded and broken trees, but now those same trees are flourishing with new growth.

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    1. I was amazed by what survives there! I would have guessed that cannas would not be able to survive through winter there. Heck, they can get frozen in colder climates even here! Yet, I saw one of the more basic species in a landscape where they were not maintained, and some of the hybrids in a park near Oklahoma City. Both were just out in the landscapes as if it were no problem.

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    1. They are so marginal here that I have not bothered with them. I will eventually. I have seen them do well in the neighborhood, although I have seen them do poorly also. They are rad in the Pacific Northwest.

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      1. Yes, those who ‘can’ grow them make it look so easy. I read about how peonies ‘can’ be grown in the Santa Monica Mountains, and that they like to be covered with ice every once in a while through winter. That is just silly. There are so many flowers that are easier to grow. I can understand someone from another region wanting to grow them because they are familiar, but the rest of us should just be satisfied with what does well where we are.

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