Planting in midwinter. Possibly

Unfortunate timing has landed a variety of native orchids, ferns and other minor treasures on the doorstep concurrent with the arrival of ten inches of snow. A week earlier, soil was chilled, yet soft and moist, but recent cold temperatures have frozen a thick crust which is now frosted by this cover of white.

Dozens of putty root and rattlesnake plantain orchids, Christmas ferns, and assorted other bulbs and rhizomes have been delivered in small bags, the lot totaling one hundred and seven plants if these can possibly be planted successfully through the freeze in January. Three slender, rooted twigs of Strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus) were stuck temporarily into dry soil in a pot once occupied by annual flowers of some sort, which was then topped with a garnish of two handfuls of snow to slowly melt in the chilly garage. Bulbs, root sections, and rhizomes remain bagged in the garage, awaiting more hospitable conditions for planting.

Berries of Winterberry hollies stand out against the snowy background.

Despite the advantages of dormant planting, I am very aware of the possible folly of planting in midwinter, though perhaps this could not be avoided, I excuse. Planting orchids before spring flowering must be advantageous, and in fact I supposed the supplier would deliver no sooner than a month from now. When an immediate date was given, I reasoned that the ground and mild temperatures were receptive, so why not? And then, the weather turned.

Ostrich ferns rise through ten inches of snow.

Now, I must protect, but not insulate too warmly to break dormancy. Keep slightly moist, but not wet, and with luck this snow will soon be gone, the inch or two of freeze will thaw, and planting can proceed. I am convinced it will work.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    For us, autumn is the season for planting, and winter is the next best option. The ground does not freeze of course, and the few plants that might need protection for the little bit of frost that we get are the sorts that could be planted in spring. I am pleased that we do not need to contend with hard frosts. That would really complicate things.

    1. Dave says:

      This weekend nighttime temperatures are forecast to drop to 6 degrees. Not good for planting, and frozen soils will freeze deeper.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        That is a very good reason to stay in California.

      2. Dave says:

        There is some advantage to the change of seasons, but today I’d rather be in California.

  2. Linus says:

    Where’d you buy the putty root?

    1. Dave says:

      The orchid roots (small bulbs) were purchased from Bluffview Nursery in Tennessee. They have horrible online reviews, but I have ordered three times, received good quality roots and rhizomes at a great price. In this latest order 30 ferns were missing from the package. I emailed and quickly received a response that the ferns had been sent separately the next day. They were received the following day.

      1. Linus says:

        Are the putty roots listed as something else? I can’t seem to find them. I tried putty, orchid, Adam (& eve) and aplectrum.

        What are you going to do with the goodyera? I wonder if they would work as ground cover for dwarf Japanese maples.

      2. Dave says:

        I originally linked to Bluffview through the website. Here, Aplectrum continues to be listed for sale. Putty root orchids must be planted in close proximity to maples, which are abundant at the edges of this garden. I read that rattlesnake plantains must also be planted with maples, though I don’t know if mycorrhizae are identical for all Acers. It seems that this is worth a try.
        I do not fertilize anything, but to give these the best chance I will add Roots One Step on the chance that this is the correct mycorrhizae.

      3. Linus says:

        I have never heard that goodyera must be planted near maples but makes some sense as goodyera like acidic soils. The only cultural suggestion I received was to use soft water (rain or snow).

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