We’ve all been there, losing a favourite member of our garden or that rare tropical plant to winters icy whim. But after ready this article, you won’t have to fear the frost anymore! The winters here on the Highveld can be erratic at best with beautiful sunny days that just make you want to soak up the sun’s warming rays, to those where you don’t even want to risk poking your head outside. But, before we find out how to fight the frost lets first have a look at what frost actually is and why it occurs.
What is frost?
- Frost is in essence dew that has frozen. That is why the more moisture there is in the air, the higher the likelihood of frost if temperatures drop below zero.
- Frost occurs when the dew on plants freezes and starts to freeze the cells inside the plants.
- Any cloudy weather actually helps protect plants against the frost by lessening the loss of heat.
- Certain plants actually require the cold to grow/flower/fruit at their best in summer – for example, roses and peaches.
So some of our favourites such as Camellias and Cymbidiums actually require the cold weather to do their thing, interestingly.
Plant hardiness classification
- A plant’s hardiness is an indication of how well the plant can handle the cold weather and frost.
- Tender: These are plants that grow closer to the equator and in more tropical climates. They require cover, and possibly, even being moved to a protected spot.
- Semi-hardy: Established semi-hardy plants will withstand the frost a lot better, with the added benefit that the winter gives them a welcome, if not cold pruning. They will require protection until they are established. This differs from plant to plant and the severity of the weather.
- Hardy: Tough plants that can withstand the icy weather and actually flourish in winter’s cold grip.
The idea behind a cold friendly garden is to use larger, tougher plants to protect their more tender neighbours, whilst still contributing to the beauty of the garden. Think of planting the most sensitive guys up against a north facing wall, which will soak up the afternoon sunlight and insulate the plants during the night. Our walled up gardens have their one upside by protecting our plants against the cold wind. So it makes sense to use them to protect our gardens. Have a drive through your neighbourhood and look at the plants that thrive during winter, pick a branch (with permission) or take a photo and bring it into the nursery for us to identify. Use these hardy plants as your gardens main cast with the more tender plants as your supporting actors. With this in mind, there are some nifty tips for protecting your garden against the cold.
Tips and tricks to combat frost
- Cover your exposed plants with frost cover or any other suitable material. Frost bags are easy to use and work great for standards and pots. Heckers stock a variety of frost protection products.
- Mulching helps to insulate your plant’s roots against the frost. Think of mulch as a warm blanket covering your plant’s roots
- Try to move your tender pot plants to a more protected spot for the duration of winter, ensuring that they still get the amount of sunlight they require.
- Try not to prune back any foliage that has been damaged by the cold as it will protect the rest of the plant from the cold, rather leave the sheers for spring.
- Intermingle tender climbers such as Chinese jasmine with a hardier Caroline jasmine which will protect the other and flower at separate times.
Have a look at our frost protection options and shield your plants before the cold creeps in. And remember to take the time to admire the change in scenery. Winter has its own allure with its fresh crisp mornings and stark but austere landscapes – we just have to choose to see it.