Winter Nail-Biter

By: Julie Day

Azaleas blooming.

A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping for foundation plantings, and I was completely taken in by Encore Azaleas – those lovely azaleas that bloom two (and sometimes three) times a year. In the back of my mind, I had a fuzzy memory of Encore Azaleas not being completely winter hardy in my area, but they were so gorgeous that I bought seven of them and went home to learn more.

This week’s article is about Hardiness and Heat Zones – those handy little numbers that help us decide if a plant will survive the winter cold, or the summer heat, in our area. I pored over the hardiness zone maps, not quite trusting the pocket of Zone 7 that seemed out of place in the middle of Zone 6. I consulted the Encore Azalea web site. I consulted online gardening forums. I read obscure user-submitted lists of plants that grow here. I worried for several days, and I finally gathered enough evidence that yes, Encore Azaleas are hardy in my zone. So I planted them, and I forbade myself from worrying about it any more.

As I was watering them, I got a phone call from a Master Gardener friend who lives on the coast. I told her what I was doing, and she said doubtfully, “Will those survive the winter up there?” Sigh.

I decided that they were pretty enough to take my chances.

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2 Comments on “Winter Nail-Biter”

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  • Official Comment:


    Julie Says:
    November 18th, 2008 at 9:22 am

    You’re so right! Especially in the mountains (where these shrubs are going), factors like elevation and exposure make a huge difference, even from house to house or from front yard to back. Of course the location I needed to plant these (along the foundation of the house) isn’t the most protected in the yard, but I remain optimistic!



  • Bill Miller Says:
    November 17th, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Hardiness zones are not the last word. It’s possible for your front yard and your back yard to be different zones. The concept of “microclimates,” I believe, makes more sense. The only true way to tell if you can grow something in your area — is to try it.


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