Friday, February 24, 2012

A winter of death and destruction, avoided

Whenever I entertained the idea of writing a "what if" post (“what if” winter never really happens) then, as if on cue, the weathermen would start talking about a cold snap. Not wanting to tempt Mother Nature I held off on posting. Of course now wouldn’t you know there is chilly weather coming in for the weekend a 28 degree night in the forecast? (but it is only 28, not exactly arctic conditions).
As with many parts of the country our winter here in Portland has been incredibly mild. Every Fall I take stock of the garden, a making metal note of the borderline hardy plants and where the holes will be come Spring. However with the exception of the Agaves, winter has been very good to my garden. Remember the Echium whose passing I pre-mourned last fall? It's still alive! I did nothing to protect it; in fact I even lobbed off two of its arms last Fall wanting to give the plants under it a bit of light. It powered on…
Actually all five marginally hardy Echiums lived thought the winter; I'm hoping this means several crazy blooms will grace the garden this summer. Hummingbirds from miles around will stake their claim…

The saddest of the lot is the variegated Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' it was hit hard…

But still alive! This is my 3rd or 4th plant (good not to pay close attention to death) and the first to live through the winter…zero protection too!
There are a couple of other plants in gardens here in town (not naming any names but they belong to my plant lust partners) that look way better than mine, but I’m not complaining because it’s alive!

In addition to my Echium collection the Salvia clevelandii lives on to perfume the garden for another summer.

Of the original three Puya coerulea that I planted in June of 2010 one lived through the winter of 2010/11…so naturally it powered right through this winter. What if I actually had Puya blooms someday in my garden?! I can’t even imagine how cool that would be.
There wasn't any “Phormium melt” Portland this year, for the first time since the winter of 2008/09.
Naturally, since I didn't replant any large specimens in the ground.

Prior to the winter of 2008/09 we had a row of three 6ft + tall Cordylines, that winter knocked them back to the ground. Even though they have responded with growth from the roots every year since they’ve never exceeded being a 2-3 ft tall plant by November, which again gets killed to the ground and the cycle repeats. Not this year! They didn’t get zapped at all; I wonder what they’ll look like this November?

Tetrapanax not knocked back by winter…it could be a jungle by August!

Here are a couple of plants that should have died back to the ground, but did not. Disporum cantoniense 'Green Giant'…

And Rubus lineatus…

I’ll admit I was moderately worried about the Schefflera taiwaniana, especially when we got the wet snow. But it’s fine…
My Abutilon hybrid ‘Fairy Coral Red’ not only is alive…but has little flower buds on it. I guess I better take it out of its too-small container and plant it properly.
Most surprisingly the Anigozanthos 'Amber Velvet' (Kangaroo Paw) is still alive. Granted it doesn’t look like much, and I doubt it will bloom (which is the only point in growing it as far as I’m concerned). Since I thought it was dead for sure I only cared about keeping the pot from cracking so I stuck it in the garage last fall. No light, no water (until a couple of weeks ago when I realized it was alive). Amazing!
What are you surprised is still alive in your garden?

31 comments:

  1. My two Melianthus shrubs are standing tall - they didn't take a hit at all and I've already spotted new growth at the crown. I'm wondering (hoping) if they will actually flower this year. Wouldn't that be spectacular? The hummingbirds would go nuts. And maybe I wouild have the only Melianthus in flower in all of Portland!

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    1. Sounds like Melianthus blooms for sure (jealous). There were a couple sickly ones at Garden Fever for 40% off (last years stock). I briefly considered getting them to beef up my clump. Uhm...if there still there....

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  2. 28F might not be Arctic, but in Portland it's plenty cold enough. The difficulty with USDA zones is that the minimum temps are things that happen rarely enough, it seems to me. Most of the time here in Zone 5B -25F befalls us only once every few years, seldom enough to lull me into thinking that it's just a number, it doesn't really have to happen... ;-)

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    1. I went to a talk that Paul Bonine of Xera Plants gave last weekend at the YG&P Show...very interesting info on temperatures/zones and stuff for gardening in Portland. His data on temperatures over the last 50 years or so certainly paints a picture of a warming Portland!

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  3. Yay for mild winters! I'm SOOOO excited for your echiums. Can't wait to see the flowers! I overwintered one in my greenhouse this year, so I'm going to get flowering fun this summer too!

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    1. Yay for that greenhouse of yours!

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  4. Hasn't this been a strange winter...so glad you're reaping the benefits! I hope we see LOTS of photos of those Echiums if they bloom!

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    1. No worries...you guys will get sick of them for sure.

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  5. Looking good! I've been afraid to take this kind of tour...especially since I pass by the poor Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies' daily to look at the frostbitten racemes. Everybody keeps talking about the mild winter, but you couldn't prove it by me.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear this Ricki, I want all my Portland garden friends to have happy stories about this winter in their garden. Hopefully when you do go out there you'll find some pleasant surprises.

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  6. Oh, I love that picture that is four up from the bottom. I know you meant it to show how big the Schefflera still is, but I love the other plants in front of it. Is that one of the Echiums, with black mondo grass all around it? I'm so glad so much has survived. Do you know if it would make sense to put cloches on the stuff that is marginal? I should think that would not only keep them a bit warmer, but would also keep the wet away. I sure hope the coming cold doesn't zap anything.

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    1. Thanks Alison, it is one of the Echiums and black mondo grass. I'm sure a cloche over these marginal things on cool nights would make sense, but many of them are just too big. I did turn a couple of big plastic containers over the two that would fit under on a couple of nights that threatened to be in the mid 20's.

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  7. Winter certainly has been very kind to you Loree and it is great to see your plants doign well.

    My winter has been much milder than normal as well with very few hard frosts. I have only been down to -6C (I think that is about 20F) twice, whereas the last two winters have been very harsh with the temperatures dropping down to -18C, brrr!

    The previous two winters killed lots of hardy and semi-hardy plants in my garden, so I garden uber-hardy nowadays and I am not surprised to see any dead plants as a result.

    On reflection though I must admit that I am very pleased not to be facing a very big plant replacement bill and be faced with the sorry task of digging out the dead stuff :)

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    1. I hear ya! Nice to be able to start spring with new projects rather than going back and re-doing old ones where plants have died.

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  8. Solanum sisymbriifolium and Solanum aviculare are the big suprises for me. I think you would like these Loree, the first spiny and painful, the second huge leaves.

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    1. I've actually got a couple of starts of a Solanum (perhaps the second one). They were gifts from this fellow (http://dangergarden.blogspot.com/2011/10/fabulous-sw-portland-garden.html) and managed to live through winter in the shade pavilion greenhouse. If yours lived outdoors I wonder if that means his did too. They were a jungle when I visited last Fall!

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  9. I'm always surprised at how well plants do in my garage through the winter with just a little touch of light, and a taste of water once or twice. Some appear to have just "frozen" with little degradation, still green and quite happy looking. I expanded my experiments with that this year, so we'll see what happens.

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    1. Good point, I overwintered a large agave in the garage for years before we had the s.p. greenhouse. I'd pull it out into the sun on dry days and back in for the weeks of rain. I look forward to seeing the results of your experiments!

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  10. Love love love your plants. I hope to see your garden in person someday!

    Your echiums look great. I had an Echium wildpretii in bloom last spring and it was stunning. This year I have little seedlings but no blooms until next year or the year other.

    I lost an Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' two years ago. 28°F is all it took. Maybe I'll get another one to torture...

    Where did you find your Schefflera taiwaniana? I've been trying to find a source, to no avail.

    Everything survived down here except an Aloe marlothii which I foolishly transplanted into a larger pot in the middle of January. I clearly damaged some roots and before I knew, the plant was riddled with rot. What was I thinking???

    Gerhard
    :: Bamboo and More ::

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    1. Are you still planning a Portland visit this spring Gerhard?

      I lucked onto that Schefflera at a nursery south of town called The Gardeners Choice. Just a complete random thing. I also got a smaller one from Cistus whom I know has been growing them. Perhaps if you visit Portland you can get one there?

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  11. Your Echium looks so much better than mine...and I protected it with bubble wrap. It's all sad lower leaves with a top knot of green fresh spouts. Just remember, last year at about this time we had SNOW !!!

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    1. Yes I do remember that snow! I had to drive to Seattle in it, scary!

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  12. Like yours, my Tetrapanax is actually swelling with a new leaf! And I'm pretty sure my Melianthus major is fine under its covering of leaves, but I'll wait until after this cold weekend to check. I have three different Kniphofia species that are still very green and leafy, leaving me wondering whether I should cut them back a bit later on. It is so cool to see those little shoots on your "Star of Madeira'. Happy, good-looking echiums!

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    1. I've wanted to uncover my Melianthus too (and the banana) but like you I'm waiting until after this cold spell. Hopefully it will be the last one.

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  13. What is it about some of us gardeners? Are we born optimists or just gamblers? We plant, dream, wrap for winter, fuss and coddle in in the hope that some treasured alien will survive and flower in a lonely spot, far from its native home! Whatever - I'm a hopeless addict too! I return to my UK garden after six months in ten days time to see what has survived1

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    1. I hope you will continue your blogging when you get back to your UK garden. I'll miss the sun and desert landscape but it will be interesting to see how you garden in two very different places.

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  14. Your echiums look amazing, I'm so jealous. Even in the greenhouse mine look miserable, no fair! I was sad to see the agave damage but these pictures are inspiring. Nice to know A. Brac is so tough. Can't wait to see the echium blooms, your garden looks incredible!

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    1. I wonder why yours looks miserable? Do you think it just didn't like getting dug up and is still sulking? I bought one at a garden show last February and it was sulking pretty bad by the time I got it in the ground, then it quickly recovered. Perhaps yours will too?

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  15. You reminded me about S.clevlandii. I had it for a couple of years.The fragrance was incredible.

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  16. A lovely selection of plants Loree, and they are mostly looking so well after the winter. And it looks like you will be rewarded with lots of Echium blooms this year, quite a feat as it can be a challenge to get it to live through our winters for it to bloom the next year :)

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  17. Surprised your echium candicans is still alive! And your fairy coral reds are coming to life too! God bless, and happy gardening!!

    -Tony Salmeron

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