Dear Miss Floribunda,
This past winter has been quite destructive to my garden. I am appalled by broken branches, lumpy lawn, daphnes that ought to have flowered by now but don’t even have leaves, frozen buds on my azaleas and rhododendrons, brown grass and nandina at curbside, and really dead-looking gardenias and rose bushes. Is there anything I can do?
Devastated on Decatur Street
I do sympathize, but also advise patience. Wait until green growth comes, then prune off all that is broken and brown. The forsythia that ought to have bloomed in late February has finally flowered, so it is high time to prune your roses. You will find out whether the rose is really dead or not by whether or not you find green wood when you cut. They probably just had enough sense to stay dormant.
Alas, your daphne, azaleas and rhododendrons won’t bloom this year if they budded prematurely. But a little scraping will almost certainly reveal green wood, and we can hope that next year they will bloom again.
Of course, drastic temperature change has made your lawn lumpy, but just think of it as nature’s aeration technique. (You might also add humus, as it is clay that tends to heave most.) Camellias, however, are not at all tolerant of the alternate freezing and thawing that causes heaving. Those on the north side of my house survived because the soil temperature remained fairly constant but those on the southern warmer side did not. I am not optimistic about your gardenias unless you have one of the hardy varieties, such as Frost Proof, Chuck Hayes or Klein’s Hardy. I am even less optimistic about your brown grass and nandina at curbside. The salt that is used to melt snow in the streets has probably seriously harmed or killed it. It may take a long time for the salt to leach out enough to let anything grow.
If you do need to replace any of your perennials, then mark your calendar for Saturday,May 10, when the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA holds its 5th Annual Native Plant Sale. The address is 5311 43rd Avenue and the hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — or sooner if plants run out. (This has happened before, so come as early as possible). New introductions this year are persimmons, wrinkle-leafed quince, blackhaw viburnum and additional varieties of milkweed to attract butterflies. To learn more about the beautiful and indestructible native plants being offered visit www.nativeplantsale.org. There, you can find updated information on the sale and find a link for more detailed information on the plants.
In addition, you might also want to look in on the Hyattsville Horticultural Society plant exchange Saturday, April 19, from 10 a.m. to noon. It will follow a brief meeting at the home of Joe Buriel and Dave Roeder, 3909 Longfellow Street.