In The Cold Of Winter

January 12, 2012

I feel that there is always a special beauty in a winter garden, especially when the frost is glistening on the plants or if there is a blanket of snow covering the trees and shrubs. It never fails to make the garden seem all the more magical for me.

But how do plants survive when temperatures drop so low and they are covered in snow or frozen by the frost? Snow can actually act as insulation for some plants protecting them from the freezing cold.

The damage snow can do to plants is to break branches or stems with its weight, so if there is snow sitting heavily on a plant then simply brush it off. In harsh weather some plants shut down and become dormant to protect themselves. Many plants will reduce their moisture levels or water movement during the wintertime to help avoid frost damage. Most plants are not resilient to cold weather, so they develop hardiness as the light levels decrease and as the length of days shorten. So a sudden hard frost early autumn or late spring will do more damage to the plant injuring un-hardened tissues.

Underground parts of plants such as the roots, or bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes are less resistant to the cold as those parts above ground as soil temperatures do not fall as low as the air temperature. These underground parts of plants also act as storage organs for both food and water supply for the plant. The composition of the food material also helps prevent these organs for being frozen by freezing temperatures.

Some plants, such as alpine plants, have adapted well to growing in harsh cold conditions by growing low in compact or mound form as this helps them to withstand the weight of heavy snow. Plants in containers outside may need some insulation for extra protection, as there is not so much soil around it to protect it.

Slightly tender perennials or shrubs can be given extra protection form the frost with a good layer of leaf mould or a layer of straw packed around the base and steams of the plant. We may not be very busy in our gardens at the moment, but we can enjoy, appreciate and marvel at the different natural qualities our garden takes during these winter month.

Until my next blog, please do visit my website at

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