UNITED STATES—Winter was epic! Snow was more abundant than since 1976. Rain was more continuous than since 1982. Frost was colder than since 1990. All of this happened within this same winter! Californians generally appreciate rain and snow, and tolerate typically minor chill. Chaparral and desert climates here rarely get much. However, this weather is excessive!
Furthermore, such excessively cold or wet weather was unconducive to gardening. Most of us wanted to stay inside. Home gardens consequently endured neglect in conjunction with extreme weather. Regardless of the current weather conditions, winter is technically done. Now that it is spring, gardens should begin their systematic processes of recovery.
This may entail more effort for those who enjoy gardening than for the associated plants. Most plants are resilient to harsher winter weather than they endured here recently. That is how they survive other less temperate climates. Some may respond favorably to more thorough than typical grooming. Some might prefer later grooming while they regenerate.
Realistically, some plants prefer more chill than they encounter locally.
Chill can actually enhance performance of some plants that prefer cooler winter weather. For example, some cultivars of apple are barely satisfied with the more typical local chill. They may perform better this year, after a cooler chill. Flowering cherry, purple leaf plum, lilac, wisteria, and many others may do the same. Stone fruits might be more productive.
Several plants do succumb to frost though. Some that typically die back but then recover may not recover this year. For some, the unusually cold frost was lethal. Others rotted as a result of lingering cool dampness. Kaffir lily that is blooming well now may succumb to rot later. Canna that grew early only to succumb to later frost should recover well though.
Some plants that endured frost and saturation last winter might delay their spring bloom. Roses could bloom better but also later, both as a result of cooler than typical chill. Some early spring bulbs that bloomed when they should suffered for it. Rain and wind knocked them into the mud. Later bulbs might avoid a similar fate by delaying their bloom slightly. Fewer conform to a comparably strict schedule.
Highlight: Star Magnolia
Unusually wintry weather did not seem to delay star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, bloom. Such bloom can begin immediately prior to March, or finish immediately afterward. Yet, it typically occurs at about the same time annually within any particular situation. Few here were notably later than they were last year. Bloom lasts only for about two weeks though.
Nonetheless, bright white bloom is spectacular prior to foliation of otherwise bare stems. Formerly rare cultivars with blushed or pastel pink bloom are becoming popular. Delicate floral fragrance is proportionate to profusion of bloom. Individual flowers are about three inches wide with many narrow tepals. Deciduous foliage appears as bloom deteriorates.
Star magnolia may be more comparable to large shrubbery than small trees. Most do not grow much taller than six feet. Some of the largest may be twice as tall and broad, with a few trunks. Old trunks and branches can be somewhat sculptural. Bark is pallid, like that of fig trees. As their plump floral buds begin to burst, bare stems are conducive to forcing.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.