Red Bluff Garden Club

Courtesy photo/John Garaventa

When Red Bluff Garden Club member John Garaventa awoke to snow blanketing his garden in late February his heart dropped in utter disbelief.

We all knew of the recent forecasts of early morning hard freezes. We all knew of the possibility of modest snow powder. However, few gardeners could have anticipated nature’s unleashing of a late February blizzard upon Tehama County.

When I arose to witness the snow blanket covering the earth, the trees, the shrubs and all of the plants, my heart dropped. Some rejoiced at the sight of the beautiful snow. I, however, went into a state of utter disbelief at the amount of snow that enshrouded our gardens. Yes, I had placed some frost blankets over my most vulnerable succulents. I “hatted” most of my columnar cacti with empty plastic gallon pots. I had liberally mulched our garden. I staked our younger trees. I believed that I had prepared as best that I could under the circumstances. Of course, gardeners can always do more to mitigate the harsh elements.

As I gazed at our lower level garden, I could see that one of my prized Palo Verde trees had two of its four major branches snap off. Several of my olive trees lost minor branches. My African Sumac tree lost a top lead branch and the remainder of the branches were listlessly bent over. My two California pepper trees leaned over at 45 degree angles; the metal post staking that I had employed was nearly useless.

Disappointment replaced the subsiding disbelief. Then I transitioned to thinking that all of the time, energy and money spent on this garden of ours was lost. It is a natural response, I thought to myself later, seeking to justify the reaction. How quickly I had forgotten the enjoyment derived from the planning, planting and nurturing of our garden. These were just things. All of the plants that were beyond repair could be replaced. Those that sustained reversible injury could be nursed back to health.

As the snow eventually melted away, I could better evaluate the damage. Incredibly, it was not nearly as bad as I had thought. I accepted the losses and curiously became inspired again. I began planning forward, thinking about improvements that might diminish future losses.

I will reevaluate my tree pruning. Given my advanced age, I had wanted my trees to reach their mature height as quickly as possible. Thus, I did minimal pruning. Now, I will top-prune more often and hopefully create a stronger branch structure.

I will stake my trees better to provide more support from the elements. The natural flexibility of branches permits trees to move and bend with winter winds and the weight of ice and snow. Cold and freezing temperatures cause the branches to be stiffer and more brittle. Bracing is essential to prevent breakage. I will regularly inspect the staking to ensure that it is effective.

I will take notice of those plants that could not withstand the cold, snow and extended rainfall, and will either eliminate them from future consideration or relocate them to a more hospitable micro-climate within our garden. It is so important to be cognizant of our USDA Zone 9 and choose only plants compatible with our growing zone.

I may reduce the amount of fertilizer I use on my trees. It is said that over-fertilization encourages rapid growth and height, but makes for weak wood.

Upon reflection, the Winter of 2023 taught me to enjoy the journey, wherever it takes us. Our transient gardens will forever change by our hands and through the hands of nature.

If you want to replenish your garden in the Spring, the Red Bluff Garden Club is having its annual Plant Sale on Saturday, April 15 in the parking lot of the Methodist Church, 525 David St., Red Bluff. Our members are preparing a plethora of plants for your gardens. I will have an assortment of agaves, cacti, sedum, succulents, society garlic and Chaste trees.

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” Thomas Jefferson

Also, mark your calendar for the next Red Bluff Garden Club meeting on Tuesday, March 28 at 12:30 p.m. at the Methodist Church, 525 David St., Red Bluff. Visitors are encouraged to attend.

Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Garden Clubs, Inc. and National Garden Clubs, Inc.

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