Zone 5 in Minnesota?

Oh, how many times have I opened a garden catalog and swooned over a plant, only to see that it’s only hardy to Zone 5?  One year I got brave and decided to try out a hardy hibiscus.  This beautiful plant came back for 3 years, rewarding me with flowers as big as dinner plates, then succumbed to an especially cold year.

Well, as many of us have suspected, we are just on the cusp of zone 5 here in Minneapolis… and the new USDA gardening zone maps show a little area around the airport as Zone 5a!

The USDA has a fantastic interactive map, where you can zoom around and explore.

I have zone envy














So, do you live in the new Zone 5?  LUCKY YOU!  What are you going to plant first?  I would go for this stunning Harlequin Hydrangea.  And maybe give that hardy hibiscus another shot.

Best spring ever?

(Please note: I wrote this on March 21st, with the best intentions of getting it posted. I don’t even have the excuse of a new baby or new house!)

Spring came so early, on the heels of a winter that was not
really a winter. I went cross country skiing precisely one time, patiently
waiting for that big snowfall. That wish remained unfulfilled.


Emerald chives

Then, a warm bubble of air came and stayed, unlike the teaser
days we usually get in March. As of March 21st, we had nearly two weeks of temps in at least the sixties, and have kissed 80 once or twice.

And don’t the plants know it! The chives are five inches
high and all my early perennials are shaking off the cold and shoving up
through the soil. I see something new every day: from the early oriental
poppies to the sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ to trollius ‘Cheddar’, bright spots of green
punctuate the beds.


Iris reticulata 'Cantab'

The forsythia bloomed on the 19th, the earliest
it ever has. Buds are visible on the lilacs, and on the 21st, a lone
miniature iris bloomed. The buds of my azalea are straining to crack the hard
shell, and the feathery leaves of the tree peony have broken forth.

Of course, many bulbs are up: I have a coolish yard, so no
crocus yet bloom. But in time, they will be there, as well as bloodwort, muscari,
daffodils and a batch of new tulips I planted. I am most excited for the
dogtooth violet I am growing for the first time. I have no idea when it usually
makes its appearance, and look for it every time I take the dog out. Dog’s
happy; she’s going out a lot these days.

I wonder if the hellebore has survived; I bought it last
year at the master gardeners’ sale. At the same sale, I bought white anemones
and nestled both among the hostas.


Tree peony bud


A long time ago, when I was a baby gardener who read a lot,
I learned that the traditional date to plant peas was March 17th. I
harrumphed; the ground’s still frozen and snowmelt doesn’t happen for weeks
around here. Until this year. I planted peas on the 18th. (They emerged about 9 days later! Oh, the thrills!)


All the potential of the season

Will it last? I have lived through enough Minnesota
springs—and summers—to know that setbacks and disappoints await, but at this
moment, it is spring, glorious spring!

You Can’t Beat the Heat

Heat exhaustion sneaks up quickly in our steamy July weather, especially when you mix in a little landscaping. File this one under “lessons learned the hard way:”

To celebrate the Independence Day, I decided to liberate the small strip of dirt between my garage and the alley from a weed infestation. I haven’t touched this “nasty patch” since we moved in three years ago, and the weeds had established total dominance in the foot-wide space.

As measures of gardening go, the nasty patch would have won on vigor, thickness and diversity of plant species.  My husband weed-whacked the curly dock, spurge, crabgrass and their friends into oblivion a week ago, but the nubby stems and massive root systems were still there. And they had to go.

I started early so I could work in the shade. I brought a big bottle of water to stay hydrated. But after three hours of excavating roots caked in clay, I didn’t feel so good. Exhausted and sweaty, I made my way back to the house and realized I was moving in slow motion. I tried to make my legs go faster and couldn’t. Not good.

In all my excitement to be weed-free, I had ignored the drenching sweats and weakness that can signal heat exhaustion.

Fever, headache, confusion, nausea, weakness and more are signs that you should retreat to your AC and drink lots of fluids. I caught my symptoms fairly early, but was still saddled with a headache and a low-grade fever for the rest of the day. So instead of enjoying a fully weed-free planting bed, I spent the afternoon with Netflix, naps … and a newfound appreciation for the power of our humid summer.

Please be careful out there!

 Scroll to top