During the first week of 2017 we’ve had rain and then a return to winter with temperatures in the 20s. What will the rest of 2017 hold? It’s hard to know for sure. What we do know is that temperature extremes can be tough on some plants, and is something to consider when choosing them.

When we find an attractive tree, shrub or perennial that’s zoned warmer than what should be grown here, it can be tempting to push the planting zone boundary. Less hardy plants may thrive for several years, only to die or become unsightly due to impacts from winter weather extremes. Northern gardeners looking to grow plants zoned for warmer areas often seek out warmer, sheltered areas around their property in hopes of success, but attempting to grow plants zoned for 7 or higher in our area, even in a microclimate that provides warmer conditions, can be risky.

Vegetable gardeners sometimes also push temperature boundaries, growing vegetables under cover to extend the season just enough to get that last, or first, fresh harvest. There can still be loss, but seeds are much less costly than an unusual shrub.

Snow or no snow, planting time will be here before we know it. There is a wide array of options including vegetables with attractive foliage and shrubs with edible berries that, when included in perennial flower beds or foundation plantings, can provide both ornamental value and food from the same space. Consider including some of these edible plants in your ornamental plantings.

If you took time this past year to make notes on what you grew, how it did, the amount you planted and how much of it you used, or bare spots in your ornamental beds, those notes will come in handy when considering what to buy this year.