If you have any perennial plants that should have shown some life by now but have not, you can blame Mother Nature. The outrageously warm weather we had in mid-December (I believe the temperature actually hit double digits one day) caused a lot of problems for Ottawa area gardens.
Perennials that need a long, cold, dormant period in their life cycle were fooled into thinking spring had arrived during this warm spell, causing their growth cycle to be interrupted, and in some cases terminated. Snow cover actually serves as an insulator in northern gardens, so when it disappeared, so did the plants’ protection. When the cold weather resumed, the plants no longer had that protection and many could not handle the temperature fluctuations.
I had a few clematis vines and a beautiful white climbing rose that had all been around for years, yet could not survive the extreme fluctuations in temperature this past winter. I also have a magnolia tree that tried to bloom each time the temperature rose above 5 degrees; surprisingly it survived.
There are a few things you can do to try to prevent this from happening in your garden. Shoveling snow onto the parts of your garden where the snow melts the quickest helps somewhat, so does providing your garden with a blanket of mulch before the snow flies. Just be sure not to put the mulch too close to the base/trunk/stem of your plants to prevent rot.
That warm weather we had in December may have felt like a nice reprieve from the usual cold temperatures and snow, but it probably did more damage than good to your gardens. I am noticing lots of perennials that did not survive the temperature fluctuations in my clients’ gardens.