To welcome our early Easter (and our holiday guests), I set out a big pot of tulips and pansies by the front door. The weekend was blessed with sunshine and mild temperatures and, for just a few days, spring was quite electrically in the air.
Well, that's pretty much over now. We are teetering on the cusp between the seasons: above freezing temperatures during the day but sub-freezing temperatures at night.
The Farmers' Almanac publishes a nifty little guide to frost for gardeners, including some handy terminology.
Light freeze: 29-32 degrees F. Tender plants killed with little destruction of other vegetation
Moderate freeze: 25-28 degrees F. Wide destruction of most vegetation with heavy damage to fruit blossoms and tender semi-hardy plants.
Severe freeze: 24 degrees F and below. Heavy damage to most plants.
Of course, the degree of damage depends on the frost duration, micro-climate, altitude, and the other elusive factors that account for gardening's unaccountability.
Although pansies are tough little fellows, a severe freeze will turn their foliage. They are happiest when the night temperatures are around 40 degrees and the day hits 60 degrees. That's actually our average temperature this time of year . . . well, other years, that is. Tulips fare slightly better in these chilly circumstances, with little effect until the temperatures slide down into the low 20's and below.
So, as we're looking at moderate freezes over the next few nights, it's fortunate that this pot can simply heaved a few feet off the front step and into the warmth of the front vestibule. It's hard to believe that our average last spring frost is April 7, less than a week away. Get shining, sun!