During last summer's garden tour, when I was asked what I was going to do with the two large, potted Japanese Maples once winter arrived, I didn't reply, "Oh, I'll have the best intentions of bringing them inside the garage until next spring, but then I'll get busy and leave them out the entire winter, subjecting them to sub-zero temperatures and a heavy snow load as well".
But that's exactly what I did.
Flash back to last spring and panicked planning for the garden tour. I couldn't find the huge, black foliage/deep orange dahlias that anchored my entry container plantings the year before. I wandered around the garden center, of course the one that's a really long drive, searching for something with height, dark foliage and character. Without a big price tag.
Behind the bedding displays, half-hidden, I found a little group of deep red Japanese Maples, that seemed forgotten and out of place. Perfect. Not cheap. So I told myself I'd be good and bring them in for winter. After all, using Japanese Maples as annuals is beyond extravagant, even with a garden tour pending. I grabbed two of them and changed my whole color scheme to suit them.
They made a lovely little screen of pretty and graceful foliage, complementing the wine and lime shades of the plants beneath them. As fall approached, I made mental notes to drag them inside. I even considered planting one in a very sheltered microclimate outside in the ground and bringing only one inside just to see what would happen. In the interest of science, of course.
By then I'd re-planted the Jap Maple containers with fall edibles; the herbs, chard, kale and pumpkins looking so great against that dark red foliage that had deepened with the cooler temps. Instead of removing them from the entryway, they had once again become the stars.
But somewhere between Thanksgiving, out-of-state winter graduation and Christmas, I didn't get around to doing what the conscientious gardener would do. As snowfall piled on top of snowfall, the pots disappeared into the white blobby landscape with only the bare, skeletal branches of the Jap Maples remaining to remind me on a daily basis what a slacker I am.
During the January thaw that happened in February, I ventured out and peeked at what was peeking out of the melting snow. The maples were exposed and sad standing above the mushy remnants of my potted potager.
Funny thing though, I thought I noticed what looked like buds. There along with the few leftover leaves fossilized in ice crystals, were tiny buds poking out at each juncture. The branches were pliable!
Hard to believe but those Japanese Maples are still alive after sitting out in temperatures that reached 15-30 below with wind chill, in containers no less. I have to believe that snow cover truly is a magical mulch.
I pawed through my box of plant labels to find the name of this polar bear of a plant. Emperor I, Acer palmatum, Wolff, an exclusive from Monrovia, hardy to zone 5. Remember I live in Minnesota. I'm impressed.
Now I can't wait for them to leaf out. Imagine them underplanted with chartreuse shades of lettuce.
I don't recommend procrastination as a garden method. It seems though, they had a better chance of survival when you think the alternative was a long winter in the garage, with the ever present threat of my son leaving the door open by accident. As he's been known to do.
Recently the Master Gardener discussion board was buzzing about big box store-bought potted mums tossed in the compost pile, only to come back and bloom the next season. Some plants have a lot of will to live.
Is there something in your garden that surprised you with its determination to thrive?