Dodecatheon maedia shooting star

It was a Long, Cold Spring. Be Patient with your Plants

This year’s spring was a long, cold affair. The grey skies and cold rains had gardeners poised right on the edge of madness. We weren’t the only ones in a frustrating holding pattern. Our plants patiently waited for signs that it was safe to emerge from their winter slumber. And boy did we wait- indeed, spring was a month late.

Jack Frost Brunnera
Brunnera macrophylla “Jack Frost” woke up refreshed and gorgeous this spring.

Our bulbs, brunneras, and spring flowering trees finally received their signal and burst onto the scene. Supported by a healthy amount of precipitation (thank heavens!), our spring plants are now thriving, even if many were about a month behind.

Dodecatheon maedia shooting star
Spring ephemerals like Dodecatheon meadia (syn. Primula meadia) bloomed beautifully, even if a bit late.

The warm weather plants are another story. They weren’t fooled by the few freakishly warm days that punctuated this cold spring, and they patiently waited for the soil to warm before breaking dormancy. Many are just now starting to show themselves (clethra, liatris, rudbeckia, lobelia, heliopsis). Some are still sleeping (looking at you, hibiscus).

Recently planted beauties, too, might be shy about emerging. An established, confident butterfly weed might be filling out by now, but a newer planting might be a bit bashful. Don’t assume they’re dead! As much as we might want them to be, these plants are not on our schedule and they’ll grow when the weather tells them it is time.

Grape Crush Aster
Asters like it hot- this “Grape Crush” is just showing on May 29th.

What does this mean for gardeners? It means that we have to be patient. Don’t dig up your plants without considering their temperature preferences. Don’t panic if your grasses and asters aren’t looking like much yet- they like it hot. Likewise, try not to worry if some of your trees and shrubs aren’t quite leafed out or if your evergreens don’t look lush yet.

We know patience is a limited resource, but we’re almost there! A few more weeks of warm weather will do the trick, and if at this point you don’t see signs of life, it may be time to consider replacements. What a shame- you might have to pick out some beautiful new plants.

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