Flexible Gardens

Flexible Gardens

Thankfully, plants cannot read. Well, at least, I believe they cannot. They possess some pretty remarkable abilities, many of which surpass talking or reading calendars. As I pen this, we find ourselves in mid-February. Looking ahead at the week’s forecast, temperatures at Natchez Glen are expected to fluctuate dramatically, from a low of 18 degrees to a high of 70 degrees within mere days. Good plants are adaptable to such climatic variations.

When I first began gardening here at Natchez Glen, Japanese maples captured my imagination, marking my initial foray into the world of plants and gardening. This fascination led me to cultivate a diverse selection of Japanese maples throughout the gardens, long before I fully envisioned what these gardens would ultimately become. After years of observation, my affection for Japanese maples remains strong, despite frequent damage from frost. This issue is partly due to my location in a low-lying valley, a veritable “frost pocket,” if you will, prone to such conditions.

This realization prompted a shift in focus during the perennial redesign of the entire two and a half acres of gardens at Natchez Glen House. I aimed to ensure that the plants selected for this environment would be resilient, capable of withstanding frost. The objective was to cultivate plants that would thrive regardless of whether February brought temperatures of 70 degrees or seven. Peonies and hellebores emerged as the first two plants perfectly aligned with my needs and aspirations. Both exhibit a remarkable ability to cope with frost – hellebores can even survive being completely frozen, reminiscent of the enchanted rose in “Beauty and the Beast,” and will recover as the ground warms and the ice melts.

Currently, in our gardens, hellebores are demonstrating their resilience to the fluctuating weather. Similarly, peonies, with their tightly closed buds, are safeguarded against the elements. Even early varieties like ‘Coral Charm’ display foliage that can endure frost and freezing temperatures unscathed. This resilience is one reason peonies can survive for centuries, showcasing their remarkable adaptability.

My professional journey in horticulture, coupled with the creation of Natchez Glen House, has afforded me a unique perspective on gardening. I can affirm that magnificent gardens are achievable. It’s about recognizing and harnessing the potential of resilient plants to mitigate the anxiety of seeing your garden damaged by frost. No one desires to witness the disheartening sight of frostbitten Japanese maple leaves in spring. The solution? Slow down – a principle that perhaps should be a staple of both gardening and life itself. By observing the subtleties and embracing the vast array of plant species available, one can revel in the endless possibilities that gardening presents.

For those residing in arid, hot climates with rapidly drying soil, there exists a plethora of plant species that thrive under such conditions, eagerly participating in the ecological ‘party.’ And for someone like me, gardening in a region susceptible to spring frosts, alternatives exist beyond the frost-sensitive French hydrangea. Peonies, hellebores, Carex, and Rudbeckia maxima are among the many plants I cultivate that harmonize with the specific conditions of my garden at Natchez Glen House, demonstrating that thoughtful plant selection can lead to a flourishing garden in any environment.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.