Dogwood Winter

The dogwoods are in bloom which means this next blast of cold air—which will likely bring frost to the garden—is known as Dogwood Winter. It is due to arrive Friday night into Saturday morning.

There are other such winters in the spring including Redbud Winter, Blackberry Winter, and Insert-Name-of-Tree-Shrub-Blooming-Here-When-It-Gets-Cold-Again Winter.

To prepare for Dogwood Winter, new gardeners are frantically posting on social media seeking advice on what to cover and how to cover whatever they end up covering.  Even though these new gardeners were warned not to plant frost tender plants before Mother's Day (at least around here), they apparently couldn't help themselves when it was in the low 80s last Saturday.

Now they are all remembering a few weeks ago in late April when we endured a freeze and the damage that caused.

That night, many plants got nipped in my garden because I don't tend to cover much in the spring (or the fall, for that matter).

Later I calmly went out and cleaned up any damage, be it to hostas, bleeding hearts, or deutzia, which all suffered from that late April freeze. Those are all tough plants that will push out new growth after a bad freeze.

I will probably also not cover anything for Dogwood Winter though I am tempted ... but I will not give in. Once you start down that path of temptation and start covering plants, you will be left with no sheets, blankets, or towels for your own bed and bath because it is hard to choose and no one has enough coverings for their entire garden.

I am protecting the annuals I've purchased so far but haven't planted out in containers or in the ground. Right now, they are all in the back of my truck. I pull the truck out onto the driveway during the day and then pull it back in at night.

I also follow the age-old tried-and-true advice of not planting anything frost tender until after Mother's Day. At least in Indiana. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basils, and the like are sulking in the sunroom. They will have to continue to make do for at least another week or longer. I actually like to wait until almost Memorial Day to plant them out in the vegetable garden. Though this year, my tomato seedlings are quite leggy. I'll probably have to plant them next week.

All this "tough gardener" attitude of mine is surely making you wonder why I bought plants that are frost tender if I don't plant until after Mother's Day.

Because have you been to your local garden center or greenhouse? If they are allowed to be open as an essential business, like here in Indiana, they are likely doing a brisk business. Everyone is gardening and buying plants this spring.

So I bought plants while they had them. I've made several early morning trips, the most recent one being this morning with my sister who was in search of hanging baskets.

I walked into the greenhouse where the hanging baskets are and could not believe how empty it was compared to this picture that I took last Friday.  "Gutted" was the first word that came to my mind. Nobody panic, but I'd say at least 75% of the hanging baskets are gone and maybe 50% of the other annuals.

The good news is the owner of the greenhouse has more plants in the back greenhouses coming along nicely and she'll be bringing those out in the weeks ahead. So please don't rush to your local garden center or greenhouse and break all the rules of social distancing.  There is no reason to exhibit that kind of panic buying behavior that left us all wondering if we'd ever find toilet paper for sale again.

But I wouldn't wait too long to get the plants you want this spring...

Happy Dogwood Winter!


  1. I don't see anything happy about dogwood winter. Our part of Indiana has only had 3 records of temps in the 20's ever. They say it might happen tomorrow night. Not good for the plants. I will be sad to see my hostas being mush again. I don't usually get too worked up about the spring temps but this is ridiculous.

  2. For me it's "Japanese snowbell/bearded iris/clematis Winter"! All are fully budded up and ready to pop. Drat! I'm too old a gardener to have foolishly planted any annuals. I do minimal covering. As an experiment, I have covered each of my bearded iris stems with a long plastic bag (from the Sunday paper) using a twist-tie to hold it in place. The clump of roof irises I'm praying over, lol! We'll see how it works out.

  3. I planted some dill and cilantro into pots outside after starting them in the basement. I may cover them for tonight, though I'm not sure what with. Getting hold of annuals has been a challenge this year. Meanwhile I have 25 Calladium bulbs about to sprout in pots sitting on the back porch. It may not be warm enough for them outside for quite a while.


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