Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Phormium and Cordyline follow-up

Wrapped up tight under burlap and foil insulation I prayed my tender Flax and Cordy’s would withstand the frigid December temperatures and live on to "spice up" the garden for another summer. When they were set free from their wrappings most of them looked great, but since then I’ve been watching a few make a sad slow decline. The wet snow that fell on Dec 29th didn’t help things, the leaves on these three Phormiums quickly bent under the weight. They look even worse in "real life" I think they put on their camera face when they saw me coming...These poor brown piles of leaves are two formerly vibrant Yellow Wave Flax. They had struggled back from the cold of December ’08 only to be struck again. This looks to be the end. Although there is one yellow leaf bravely holding its color…
Luckily this large Flax is still looking great. It’s much closer to the house and tucked in near a few shrubs. I think it’s going to make it.
And here is another Flax that looks like it’s going to pull through fine, in fact there are two of these, same variety and very close together. Both are looking very nice!
Sadly the center leaves of these three Cordy’s are turning brown. I’ve tugged on them and a couple pulled out. Not a good sign.
These are the plants that grew back from the roots of the Cordylines that were “killed” (the tops anyway) during the winter of 2008. These leaves should be green, not brown. Not good…however they came back before, maybe they will again?
For a Cordyine success story we venture to the back garden. This one is healthy and green, not a sign of winter damage. It’s in a protected area near the house.
These next two Flax were planted in very similar places, at the same time and are the same type bought at the same place and even protected the same way! One is still green and yellow, the other brown. Why!?
This one had no excuse not to make it, very protected with bamboo all around and it was wrapped well. Luckily it’s looking good.
Not so much for Mr. Floppy here. He used to anchor the north end of the patio, the second Flax to be assigned to this position. Should he fail to spring back to life I think I’m giving up.
So to my fellow Portland gardeners who used to depend on Phormiums and Cordylines will you replant again? Or is two years in a row enough? And if you're done with them what will you plant instead?
(btw the Flax in containers continues to thrive...only the ones planted in the ground are showing the effects of the cold)


  1. It looks like your hard work wrapping your flaxes and cordys paid off, at least for some of your plants.
    I'm on the fence about continuing to grow flaxes here: I'm not ready to give up on them, but the ones I have in the ground got completely hammered, and even the potted Pink Stripe is still declining day by day. I think if I want flaxes, I'm going to need to get the hardiest ones there are, which probably means green ones. It seems the more unusual red, pink and striped ones just don't have the stuffing they need for our newly harsh winters. Sigh.

  2. I finally bit the bullet and got a flax this year. D'oh! I think we may have one more year to see if this is a pattern, and then maybe all the zone-pushing starts to look a little unrealistic?? I know that is a hard pill to swallow. I have seen a lot of sad phormiums around town but also many that rebounded from last winter - don't pull them out until June if you can stand it, they may surprise you and come back! Hebes are another casualty, I only replanted with small-leafed, cold-hardy ones and they seem fine. As for the new bad winters - sigh X 10,000!

  3. My flax (Gloria) looks great. My Cordy's head fell off shortly after Christmas though. Let's have a moment of slience for his short life with me...

  4. Jane, oddly one that I haven't successfully photographed (it just wasn't cooperating) is a red/pink striped one and it looks FABULOUS. It's in the same spot that an established green leafed one died last year. No rhyme or reason!

    Karen, as soon as I saw your name I thought "now why did I say Portland? Duh! I should have included all of the I-5 Corridor!"...anyway I suppose your right about another year but I thing I'm, raining in craziness now. Of course the unemployed thing helps that decision but yikes! This could get very expensive!

    Dun-nise, so sorry...your Cordy was quite a handsome specimen.

  5. Hi Loree~~ Even my container-growing phormiums, tucked on my covered deck bit the dust. At this point, I think I'm throwing in the trowel. But knowing myself, I'll probably cave and buy a few when I see them at the nursery and the price is right. Do your phormiums ever have mealy bugs? They've been a problem for me in the past.

  6. Gave up on the cordy's some time ago, but like other commenters here keep falling for flax: such a handsome fellow, it's hard to face the fact that he may not be for us.
    What with microclimates, and the temperamental habits of many of our favorites, it's hard to know how to proceed. Plant and Pray? I wonder if a shaman could help.

  7. Grace, no! Your containers too? I've never had a single pest go after the Flax. Other than Mr. Old Man Winter that is.

    ricki, if you know one I would love to arrange a consult...

  8. I'm probably going to fall for the flaxes again. It's so hard to resist when they look so good the second you put them in the ground. If I have to treat them as annuals, so be it.

  9. Why have a garden full of them?)Selectively, maybe.....You cannot prune them,a flax generally gets very large and has ugly dead brown leaves at the bottom.Cordylines usually grow very tall with an ugly trunk.Nongardeners,on new housing estates in Australia,get conned by them in 6 inch pots in plant nurseries not knowing their future growth habits,then surround them with white or pinkish rocks and are too lazy to keep up the weeding.Terrible!!

  10. does anyone see the differences between a cordyline and a new zealand flax flamingo?....my problem is l repotted my n.z.flamingo and now the beautiful leaves turned brown,l'm not sure what to do....the sun seems to have hastened it's demise...not sure to bring inside or leave it outside..the heat in calif. is 90-100..help please...


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