ATLANTA, Georgia—Winter damage to the garden in Atlanta doesn’t amount to much. Our ground doesn’t freeze, we don’t have to pour foundations below the frost line, plants don’t heave out of the ground, and our streets don’t have potholes. I can plant bulbs twelve months of the year, including the ones I get on sale for 75 percent off in February. That’s how I acquired most of my lovely, fall-blooming naked ladies (Lycoris aurea and L. albiflora).
Occasionally ice coats the plants, bending woodies low. When the sun comes out, the herb garden becomes 10,000 diamonds. If the ice is heavy or lingers, the branches of woody shrubs and trees are permanently reshaped. Heavy, ice-laden branches are brittle, as I found out when one dominant limb of the beautiful ‘Kwanzan’ cherry outside my bedroom window ripped off last winter. Fortunately, a strong new one is now growing to replace it.
My huge, overgrown rosemaries are the envy of my more northerly friends, and I can cut armfuls throughout the year. Sad to say, a friend and then my uncle died within a week and a half of each other last spring, and I cut more than a hundred long wands of rosemary to tie with black ribbon for mourners at each of the services.
Occasionally ice coats the plants, bending woodies low. When the sun comes out, the herb garden becomes 10,000 diamonds.
My lemon verbena and scented geraniums typically overwinter. Certain herbs do better if I wait until March 1 or so to cut back last year’s growth. Caryopteris ¥clandonensis, Tagetes lucida, lemon verbena, and Artemisia arborescens are all better left unpruned until buds start to swell.
I keep encouraging my Toronto cousins to come for a visit in March, when their gardens are still locked in frost but Atlanta’s are coming into full awakening. It’s a wonderful time of year, filled with promise, when old friends are pushing up out of the ground once more.
Geraldine Laufer is a horticulturist, lecturer, author and herb gardener in Atlanta, Georgia.