Making the Most of Microclimates in the Winter Garden

Fine Gardening – Issue 203
Watch for winds.
Photo: Danielle Sherry

Every garden has microclimates—small spaces that stay a little warmer or don’t catch the cold north winds, allowing you to grow a more delicate plant or provide extra care for success. When you’re planting for winter inter­est, it’s important to give winter-flowering plants a bit of protection from the extremes. Here are some tips on how to find microclimates and put them to good use.

  • Be observant. Look for places along buildings that do not seem as frosty on a chilly morning. South-facing walls can heat up during cold, sunny days and radiate heat into the evening. It’s not uncommon to see spring bulbs bloom two or three weeks early in these protected locations.
  • Add a layer of protection. Don’t forget that late-season mulching can give added protection to tender plants by moderating soil temperatures and preserving dormant buds on the lower stems and branches. Just remember to remove the excess mulch in early spring before the plants begin to grow.
  • Watch for winds. Broadleaf evergreens can quickly burn from moisture loss on a cold, windy day. Look for buildings or conifers that can act as windbreaks to save larger evergreen leaves from unnecessary damage. Planting broadleaf evergreens on the shadier north side of a building can also help keep the foliage looking its best through winter.
  • Deflect excess moisture. Some plants, particularly those from the Mediterranean region, can suffer from excessive moisture combined with cold temperatures. A great microclimate for plants that are moisture sensitive in winter is under eaves. Another is under limbed-up conifers; the evergreen foliage will protect and shed water from the plants below.

Read more:

Winter Interest From the Ground Up

How to Handle Microclimates Within Your Yard

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