We have had such a cold winter with the polar vortex moving in. What impact will this have on our perennials? What about fruit trees and shrubbery? While I’m hoping for good news on the garden front, I’m also hoping that the insect population will be severely damaged.

I’ll start with the bad news. It’s highly unlikely that the insect population has been affected by the intense cold. The same snow cover that protects your plants also protects those insects who dwell in the soil. The colder it gets, the deeper these critters go. There is some speculation that those bugs that live in the cracks of tree bark may have some dieback and perhaps even their eggs will be affected. Time will tell.

Most of the news is good. Many areas had at least a few inches of snow on the ground, which provides excellent insulation for the roots and crowns of perennial plants. A build-up of snow can also protect from drying and damaging winds. As long as your plants were appropriate for your growing zone, they should survive. Some of the blooms will be slow or non-existent this year. Forsythia branches that sit above the snowline may not bloom this season, but the damage should not be permanent. The same goes for some of your other flowering shrubs. Don’t rush to assume that a plant is dead. It may take longer this year for the plant to rebound. There may be significant tip dieback on some plants, such as raspberries, but there you can cut back the dead tips and the rest of the plant should be fine.

Fruit trees are covered under the same caveat: if they have been developed for your growing zone, they should be fine. Dead branches will either not leaf out or will get early leaves that will then drop off. Trees that are younger than 5 years or that were stressed by drought or overproduction (too much fruit last year), could be more severely impacted. Overall, provided these trees are super hardy, they should do well.

Given that our weather has been getting more erratic, perhaps now is a good time to research some varieties that are hardy in extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. Add a few of these super hardy plants to your landscape this spring. And while the cold is still fresh in your mind, jot a note on your calendar for next fall. Remind yourself to be sure that your plants go into the winter with adequate water. Continue watering until the ground freezes. Make shelters around tender shrubs or evergreens to limit drying due to the wind. Protect young tree trunks from gnawing rabbits and mice with tree guards.

My orchid has been blooming nonstop for the last five years! I do give it slow release fertilizer sticks on occasion. Should I stop to allow it to rest? Are there any good websites on orchids that can help me decide what to do with it?

Apparently, some orchids bloom consecutively and it seems like they are always in bloom. I couldn’t find anything about intentionally giving the plant a rest period — one of the frequent questions had to do with why it was not blooming and the response was that the plant was merely resting, not dead. So it would seem that continual bloom is not a problem as long as the plant seems to be thriving. And you are fertilizing it well.

Here are two websites that provide a wealth of information on orchids: www.aos.org/orchids.aspx and www.repotme.com/orchid-care/all-orchid-care.html.

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivatingcountry@gmail.com.