Early Spring here & I don't know what to do, please advise!

Last year I put in some perennials. I let some things 'stand' in the garden just in case some birds wanted seed. We have had an unusually mild winter and some plants are already putting out some new growth. Gaillardia are actually budding already! I'm not worried about plants like that because they are easy to grow and I have seed for them. I have no experience with others like Agastache.
Does anybody have advice for me? Should I cut back last year's stems already? Our average last frost is mid-March but I have seen snow in April. Usually I don't see growth on plants until March.
This is a picture of the new growth on Agastache 'Ava'. Photo taken this morning. The climate here is high desert.

Thumbnail by angele
Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Just an opinion, but I would wait until it really is Spring to do Spring activities as Winter will be back. NM seems prone to false Springs with temperatures going warm/cold/warm/cold until May. Seems to confuse the plants A prime example is the annual loss of apricots. It gets warm, the trees bloom, it gets cold, the blossoms fall off, no apricots this year again. When I had an apricot tree I got apricots 1 year in 7. Some people even go out and try to make the trees cold so they won't bloom early. For natives (even hybrids) I wouldn't do anything special now as this is what they are adapted to.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Wow! It's not even February! I don't cut back as the old growth helps to protect the plants from cold snaps and I have alot more of those to go sigh. The other NMers will know better what's best for your zone angele.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Well there you go. A NMer to the rescue ^_^

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

And hi angele. Good to meet another NM gardener.

Thanks! Boy, I've been lucky with my Apricot tree. I think it has snowed on the blossoms for the past four years but there has been a good crop anyway. Knocking on my wooden head cause I hope I didn't just seal my doom, lol! It seems to bloom & then the winds start too. I don't know how it even survives because it isn't in a protected spot at all.
Last year I spent a little money on new perennials and I've just been guessing on how to winter care for them. We have had no measurable moisture again this whole winter. Storms seem to pass just north or just south. I've been giving everything a drink at least once a month. At least gardening in New Mexico gives me something to mother over & worry about... which I love to do :-)

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

I understand the snow will actually help. If it snows, that new growth will be kind of protected and insulated, whereas if it is a hard freeze without snow the effect would be different.

I am only repeating what I have heard elsewhere, this is not the voice of experience. But my approach is generally to let things take their course. That which cannot survive the seasonal variations without a lot of assistance, well I reckon I would rather let someone else grow that stuff. ;-) Benign neglect.......

Good luck!

Kyla
Editing to say, we cross posted --

This message was edited Jan 23, 2009 11:43 AM

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

Interesting comment on your apricots angele. Your location may have some microclimate differences that don't give you the same problems with your apricots. Perhaps your less protectedness, adjacency to water, ?

Englewood, CO(Zone 5b)

Hello angele and Kylaluaz, welcome to the RM forum.
I sympathize with your dilemma, angele -- I have a similar problem with winter being so mild. I think watering once a month when it's reasonably warm is an excellent plan, and I'd say keep the scruffy sticks from last year on there. When you get snow, the sticks help hold the snow on your plant. As Kyla says, that keeps the moisture near your plant, and insulates. Plants like agastache and gaillardia are pretty tough, and acclimated to our dry climate, so don't worry too much. Can't really do much about it anyway! BTW, I've had agastache survive reliably, but I think gaillardia is short-lived. Good thing is, it reseeds itself.
We've just come to the end of a very warm spell, temps in the 70s Wednesday. Right now it's in the 20s with snow possible in the Denver metro area. Crossing my fingers!
Trish

Thanks so much everybody. ☺
I'm going to leave it just like it is for now, but boy do I have a bad case of Spring Fever!! I would love it if we didn't get any real hard freezes for the rest of this winter. I think there has been enough cold for the Apricot.
dparsons, I am about a half mile from Elephant Butte Reservoir. I don't know how close to water you have to be for it to have an affect on climate??? I was looking at a chart of New Mexico average last frost dates and Elephant Butte was the earliest of all, even earlier than Las Cruces by a few days. We are higher in altitude so maybe it is the water.

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

Thanks for the welcome, Trisha ~~~~ Angele, I cannot tell you how envious I am of your apricot! Oh wow. ;-)

And I share the "hurry up Spring" fever too. ;-)

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

The water tends to keep the temperature more mild - warmer winters, cooler summers. I am 5+ miles from the Rio Grande and up on the shelf above the valley, so I don't get much effect from it. I grew up next to the Pacific Ocean and that had a HUGE effect on temperatures. You could change 10 to 20 degrees as you went inland. Seasons were effectively delayed because it took so long for the water to change temperature.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Angele, first welcome to the Rocky Mountain Forum. We are a rollicking gardening bunch and lots of fun. But we take our gardening seriously. We always like to have new people join in.

I have an apricot tree in Los Alamos, NM pretty far north of you, but my tree almost always bears. And you are right, it is the altitude that helps. What happens is that if there is cold air, it goes down and freezes the valley below you. Also the valleys are warmer on warm days. So the apricot trees in the valley want to bloom after a few warm days then freeze when the early frost crashes down on them.
At the higher altitudes, the temperature is more steadily cold and the blossoms come out a little later and don't freeze as often -- though it happens sometimes. Fruit tree growers in the Espanola valley below us spray water on their trees on warm days so the evaporating water will chill them and keep them from opening too soon.
It isn't so much your altitude as your altitude compared to that of the surrounding land. I imagine that you have cooler weather in spring than the land near Elephant Butte Lake. On the other hand, I would think the lake would protect it somewhat from sudden chills. Lakes are slow to change temperature so I would think Elephant Butte Lake would cool the trees in the valley there, but apparently not as well as yours are protected by their altitude.
Dparsons, you are in the valley compared to the nearby mountains. That is why your apricots tend to freeze. Santa Fe has a similar problem because there are mountains nearby. Los Alamos and Santa Fe have very similar altitudes but there is a valley below us and not below Santa Fe. Hence we get more apricots, peaches and cherries than Santa Fe.
It took me forever to learn why we get peaches, cherries and apricots when Santa Fe doesn't. On the other hand, those Santa Fe trees are so ready to bear when they do get the right temperatures that their crops are humongous.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

We are below the mountains, but I'm on the NE Heights shelf, 300 ft above the bottom of the Valley where the river is. The "Valley" gets higher highs and lower lows than the "Heights," so you're right about that. I'm just not all the way down in the bottom of it. We may still get more variation than further up on the slopes - particularly with the early season warming.

The other thing that may affect us is that we do get an inversion layer that, with the mountain, holds a layer of air in place that acts like a blanket. When a storm blows through our blanket gets blown out too.

I picked one of the later blooming Peaches to give myself a little less chance of losing a year's crop.

Santa Fe, NM

Hi, Angele! We've had some days in the 50's down in the low 20's at night. I was at a party last Sunday where I got to talking to a local gardener who works at a local nursery. He said that during the thaw he was going to break up some of his mulch; particularly leaves because they get stuck and form such an impenetrable matt. He wanted the crocus to get a better shot. He was going to start some clean up. Not me. I try to hold off until late February at the earliest. The dark yellow crocus in my yard have been known to show up in January and bloom. But, I don't take that as a good sign. We need more moisture still. As for apricots, it seems we either have none or zillions. I think they like to take a year off every now and then so we appreciate them more. Apricots like to be admired. I think Elephant Butte is at a considerable lower altitude then I am, so you probably get an earlier spring. Lucky!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I paddled out to the greenhouse in my waterwings today. I find it easier to skim over the snow when its this deep. No sign of melt yet. Maybe I'm stuck in an iceage sigh. Hope you keep posting pictures angele as things emerge. Thanks muchly.

Thanks so much for the very warm welcome to this forum everybody. Roybird, its good to see you!
Pajaritomt, that sure makes sense about the altitude. I never really thought about the local topography having so much influence even though I knew about micro-climates even within my own yard.
dparsons, hope that peach does great for you.
Dahlianut, I lived in the snowbelt of New York state 1975 to 1983. Arrived in New Mexico January 1, 1984 - Silver City first at 6,000+ feet, then Ruidoso at 7,000 feet, Bent at 5,800 feet and now 4 years at Elephant Butte 4,850 feet. I like snow but love the short winters here.

I love this weather but it sure has me worried about the possibility of losing everything. Usually the cold nights keeps everything dormant even if the days are warm. Last night we only got down to 41, tonight is forecast to be high 30s and then back to the 40s for the next week. The buds on my lilac bush are swelling and a few have green showing. I'm glad the apricot is still sleeping though it usually wakes up before the lilac.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

You have a wise apricot.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Well, just to mention it... it makes no difference whatsoever to the plant whether you cut off dead stems in spring, fall or at any other time of the year, and zones have no impact on this.

Centennial, CO(Zone 5b)

whatever you do, be careful not to disturb the roots of your plants until the real thaw begins in March. That crown of leaves you are seeing enables the plant to store up some energy when it isn't covered by snow, but does not actually represent the spring growth. That won't start until the soil temperature rises sufficiently to trigger the real thing.

Santa Fe, NM

Went out in the yard today and whacked off dead stems. Punched holes in leaf mulch and saw daffodils coming up! Before crocus! My incorrigible violets are still blooming and I saw a bee on them! I also saw snowdrops blooming in town! I still didn't clear away any mulch or dead leaves, etc. We are due for more snow one of these days. I think the ground is still moist and partly frozen in most areas here. The violets are in a south facing, walled bed.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Roybird, your violets are blooming? I need to figure out what you feed them. Mine come back every year but they do vanish in the winter.
I just see iris leaves peeping up. I planted lots of crocus last year, but so far haven't seen any leaves. Hope it isn't a recurrence of usual bulb black thumb.

Santa Fe, NM

Those violets have been blooming all winter apparently. I'm always throwing down compost and what not in the warmer months. I think they are just tough as nails.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I used to have some Johnny Jump-ups in a large flower pot that bloomed all winter. But they are no longer there due to the guys who stuccoed the house this fall. I am afraid I spend this year recovering from all the "improvements".

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Spring has definitely sprung in NM WHOOOOOO HOOOOO!

Yes the wind is blowing non-stop today; 31mph from the SW with highest gust of 49mph. I tell ya, you got to be tough to be a plant in New Mexico.

I was reading some of the older threads and saw some Solstice dances & photos. I think they worked!!!! The one with the mirror must have directed the energy right to Elephant Butte. (You all sure are cute!)

Santa Fe, NM

L.O.L. !!!

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

We're all quite certain we created some unique energy with our dancing. We can't prove what effect it had, but I think we all know. ;)

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Wasn't it fun? Let's do it again.

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

The equinox is coming up.

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

LOL! And before that, Imbolc! Otherwise known as groundhog day......

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7b)

That is an important day as far as weather and the coming of Spring is concerned. Seems we need a dance to bring courage to groundhogs.

Gastonia, NC(Zone 7b)

Oh indeed.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Great idea! Groundhog Day! Dances of Joy if no shadow; Mournful Dirge Dancing if yes shadow. I'm in. YA! I just checked: Cloud/snow/rain predicted here! I'm going to do a supportive Cloud Dance. Eek only a week. I better get practising.

This message was edited Jan 26, 2009 3:18 PM

Reno, NV

Oh gods I want the spring. Tho out here the ground hog just has nothing to do with anything.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)


I working on the gophers this year. They are braver and there's more of them. Who says it has to be a groundhog? And what are 'they' going to do if I work with gophers? I don't think there is any policing but I'm still checking it out.

Reno, NV

I like hedgehogs.

Santa Fe, NM

A groundhog day dance sounds good. Now, you Know I will ask about costumes. Any fashion ideas?

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Roybird I think the opposite of winter solistice which was a sun celebration. This should be a celebration of clouds and muted light so the gophers don't see their shadows. I'm thinkin mine will be a dance of veils and scarfs in soft cool blues and grays. The movements will be floaty, misty and foggy and yet hopeful with the hint of spring in the air. Of course in reality I will probably slip on the ice and do a face plant LOL.

I can't find 'face plant' in plantfiles, you got any seed for that? ;-O

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