by Charlene Burgi
While in Marin last week, the warm weather must have dulled my senses with those blue, balmy spring days … or should I say “daze.” On my way home I stopped at my favorite big-box store to stock up on provisions not easily acquired in Lassen.
Upon entering the store, I was assaulted by rows of huge potted redwood trees, fruit trees, shrubs, and assorted flowers and packaged perennials. Being a plant junky, I couldn’t walk by without grabbing another pretty, pink, fragrant peony for the garden. But I lost my grip entirely at the vision of a ‘Pink Lemonade’ blueberry bush. I noticed the flush of new growth, admired the plant structure, and read about the unique pink fruit and the acceptable planting zone for assured growing success. I knew this would be a great addition to the other five blueberry plants already in the garden.
It was early evening by the time I got home, unloaded the plants on the garage floor, and gave them a drink of water. The next day, without thinking, I put the beautiful bushy blueberry on the front covered deck next to a still-leafless, containerized highland blueberry. The sun was shining brightly and reflected the glossiness of the new green leaves.
I noticed a nip in the air that night as I went out on the deck to view the northern lights being touted by our local newscaster. A slight breeze made me retreat back inside. The wind chill factor caused a freezing drop in temperature. The next morning, Jack mentioned the new blueberry looked like it needed water.
Can you guess? The wilted plant didn’t need water, but hadn’t had a chance to “harden off” to the elements. Chances are the blueberry was force grown in a temperate greenhouse to produce lots of new growth, then shipped to the store where it remained protected. I brought it home and, in essence, placed it in a deep freeze!
I moved the blueberry plant into the well-lit laundry room and set it next to the daphne that thrived in this warm, humid environment all winter. The poor blueberry leaves soon lost their bright green color. The tips died back as if protesting the torture it had been exposed to. And, while it will live, it was telling me, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”
You might ask how this experience relates to Marin where the temperate climate rarely drops below freezing in the spring. New seedlings—like the new flush of growth from the blueberry—will thrive much better if they transition slowly to their growing environment. If you start your seeds indoors, move them into a make-shift cold frame—built of old framed windows or even cellophane placed over a wood frame or heavy-duty box—before planting them outdoors. You can even place seedlings next to a window in the garage for a few days before moving them outdoors.
Have you ever done something without considering the potential outcome? The results can be painful!