Saturday, April 14, 2018
Mostly Dead Perhaps
It is no secret that March weather has been brutal in the Southern Tier of New York State this year. On the last day of February, the garden ground had softened to the point where weeds could be pulled. Then four Arctic blasts took control. We were spared deep snow but bitter cold was commonplace. The damage to Cardinal Flower plants here is widespread. The remains of ten plants grown from seed can be seen here. These evergreen plants were placed near the driveway close to the road. Plowed and blown snow kept these treasures covered. When the snow finally melted bitter cold returned. Most of these plants look almost totally dead. Green leaves can still be seen on the cluster of three in the lower right corner. Six weeks of possible freezing nights remain. These plants will be left as they now are so that we can determine if they are truly dead if left alone.
Location is everything and we have been looking for plants that are still mostly alive and placing them in pots. These sixty plants can be quickly carried into the nearby basement. Some of these plants have been promised to others in our attempt to find locations where this native plant might survive. The remainder will replant our gardens with ten scheduled to replace the plants shown in the first photo. We have additional plants still showing life in the garden. They will be covered in place when bitter cold threatens. Others that appear likely totally dead will be watched to see if it is actually over for them.
This tiny plant shows the extensive root mass of these young plants. Several grow in close proximity to each other and their roots intertwine forming a complex shallow mat. Pulling the plants apart requires delicate force to wiggle them free. Then they are planted above a cone shaped mound of soil to separate the roots and get them heading mostly down. If prying fingers are kept away from the plant's crown, a living single plant usually is the result. We generally plant them out after mid May if severe cold is not in the weather pattern.
As stated, many of the clusters of plants chosen for transplants suffered frost damage to part of the group. We need to understand the unprotected plants chances for survival. To the naked eye this plants looks quite dead. The camera reveals that new life may be starting just above the plant's crown. This plant lost its place in the trays but it will be cared for in the same manner as the others. We would like to know if its recovery is possible. Why Cardinal Flower is very rare in the wild in this general area is becoming better understood by us. Constant cold seems to leave the plants alive while warm spells followed by bitter cold usually results in death. We will encourage those who accept our gift of transplants to apply our methods for saving plants for the garden each year. The return of these plants in the wild here remains at best a long shot.