I should have known better.

I was literally at the checkout of our local nursery, Greenstreet Gardens, when I spied the mandevillas.

They are one of my annual go-to plants. CRR years ago gave me a pair of beautiful tall pillars, and they provide support for gorgeous mandevilla vines every summer. After trying several varietals, I’ve settled on the Alice DuPont, whose prolific pink trumpet-shaped blossoms are a show-stopper.

Mandevilla

Mandevilla

They typically aren’t available here until mid-May – think Mother’s Day – because they’re tropical plants and don’t tolerate chilly spring nights. But the price was right, so I bought three. Back at the checkout, I asked the Greenstreet worker how much cold it could tolerate. “Cover it or bring it inside if the temperature goes lower than 45,” she said.

It was a beautiful day – sunny, approaching 70 – so I was lulled into thinking our chilly nights were over. Well, three nights already this week I have had to cover the poor vines to shelter them from temps dipping into the low 40s. Tonight there is a threat of 30s, so I’ll just have to cross my fingers. And curse my inability to resist the temptation when I knew it was too early. Rookie gardener mistake!

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening

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