You may remember I cautioned against getting too excited over spring’s warm temperatures and gentle breezes. It’s only March. We still have a month before Oklahoma’s last average freeze date of April 20, and freezes happen.
In fact, in my part of central Oklahoma just south of Guthrie, I had more than one freeze. According to the Oklahoma Mesonet, we had lows of 28°, 25° and around 32°F for the past three days including this morning. These ugly pictures also tell the story, and it’s okay.
The perennials, trees and shrubs will all recover. I’ll wait until frozen foliage is dead and dry, and then I’ll strip it from Japanese maples and my ‘Jane’ magnolia. ‘Jane’ almost always takes a hit as do the peach, plum and apple trees. In Oklahoma, you need to like fruit trees for their spring bloom more than for their fruit. They get hit almost every year.
Some of the roses felt the freeze too while others still stand proud and full of leafy goodness. There didn’t seem to be any logic about this either. ‘Darcey Bussell,’ tucked in near the house, froze while ‘Carefree Beauty’ remained unscathed in the back garden with no protection. From looking over the Mesonet data, I think the freezes didn’t last very long, a good thing. A freeze for an entire day is a whole different weather event from one lasting only a couple of hours. We were lucky.
On a happier note, all of the tulips, narcissus, Ipheion uniflorum, pansies and violas came through the freezes with nary a scratch. Sunday morning, the tulips were all leaning over rather sad, but by afternoon, they perked up and looked like their former selves.
Last fall, I was contacted by the lovely folks at John Scheepers who were sad about my roses lost to Rose Rosette Virus. They asked if they could send me double-flowering tulips as a spring pick-me-up. I said, “Heck yeah.” One thing I love about most of the parrot-type or double tulips is they start blooming later than the singles. Mine have just begun with ‘Pink Star.” I still have many more to go. They also sent me a double narcissus, ‘Gay Tabor.‘ I love its mixed white petals and gold petaloid segments. The tulips won’t return, but the daffodil will.
No one can blame the plants, but here’s a hint about freezes and Oklahoma’s fickle prairie climate. Watch the native trees, grasses and shrubs for signs of life. Don’t consult your ornamental plants. They don’t know because most are from Asia and Europe. What do they know of the Oklahoma prairie?
For the past three weeks, as I drove up and down the country roads surrounding my home, I watched the trees on either side. Blue skies framed their dark outlines. I searched for purple and gray, the sign of redbuds brightening the landscape, but saw nothing. Only a few native trees decided to test the waters. First were the cottonwoods. They sprouted a few new spring-green leaves, but didn’t commit. The oaks, being older and wiser, waited. They’re still waiting.
This week I am beginning to see a little purple mixed with green so spring temperatures are considering coming to stay.
No matter what the calendar says, trust the mighty oaks. They know freezes happen, and they wait patiently before sending out the joyous message spring is here. Try to be like an oak and wait. Don’t buy tomato plants and other tropical beauties yet. Wait to plant your containers unless you’re simply creating something for Easter. I understand set design, but know that they may croak on you, and cover them with a large contractor bag if we’re forecasted a low below 45°F.
It will soon be spring and summer before you know it. Then we can complain about the heat.