Q: We have had a mild winter so far, and the hollyhocks and lupines in my garden are beginning to sprout. Will they be okay when the real cold arrives? — Maggie Rider, Hingham, Mass.
A: They will be just fine. If it makes you feel better, you could spread a loose, fast-draining mulch such as pine needles or straw around the plants, though the benefit would be mainly psychological (for the gardener, that is). Lupines and hollyhocks are tough plants, able to withstand temperatures as low as -30º F. Though the leaves you’re seeing in early winter may ultimately be killed, plenty of dormant buds are waiting underground. Don’t worry: When warmer weather returns for good next spring, the buds will sprout and produce a full crop of flowers.