Monday, December 5, 2011

A glimpse of my garden, at the beginning of December

I’m not a good record keeper. I wish I could list all the dates that the killing frost first hit my garden, but I can’t. I can say my memory thinks rarely before Thanksgiving, but often right about that time. Last year we got an unwelcome hit, not having any frost at all and then the week before Thanksgiving BOOM! It hit 31, then 24, then 18, so much for giving the plants an opportunity to go dormant. This year we’ve flirted with a freeze, getting a light frost, then a few a bit heavier. Some of the Calla leaves are a little toasted, while others power on. This is bittersweet. Of course part of me enjoys the extended fall, hoping maybe winter will forget about us this year. On the other hand I want the plants to get the hint and shut down…so when the really cold weather shows up they will be ready…unless…maybe it never does show up!? (dream on right? after all it’s another La Nina winter…).

The banana (Musa Basjoo) still looks great; in fact the happy greens along with the butterscotch Hakonechloa against the brown house are making me very happy. It’s a much richer color palette than when our house was white. This is our most colorful Tetrapanax… The leaves of the others in more protected spots are slowly turning a sickly yellow, letting me know they’re feeling the cooler temps, but none have this great purple tinge like the ones in the front garden. This one stalk of the Wingthorn Rose retains its color and green leaves… While the others look like this… I think this Echium and its twin in the front garden are still small enough I can protect them this winter, at least I'll try. Shortly after taking this picture I cut back the Melianthus and covered it with a thick blanket of Magnolia leaves and a piece of burlap secured with a couple of rocks. I’ve already caught the neighbor’s cat napping on the pile, which would be fine if it showed up with the temperatures dip and then left without using the rest of the garden as its toilet.

The Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern) has colored up wonderfully. I may need to add a couple more of these to the garden next year. As the weather continues to be relatively mild I keep looking at other plants, ones I’d decided to just let be and deciding to lift them and protect them. For example I just potted this Knife-leaf Acacia and put it in the greenhouse. When I planted it I knew chances were slim it would make it through the winter (the Knife-leaf Acacia (Acacia cultriformis) is less hardy than the Ovens Wattle (Acacia pravissima) which itself is only borderline) and at the time thought “que sera sera”…but I’ve grown to love it and can’t bear to just let it die.

I am leaving this little Phormium in the ground though…I love its bright leaves and hope it makes it but just don’t want to make room to over-winter it. I glance at my “perfect” (no winter freeze blemishes) agaves and wonder what they’ll look like in May. This one caught has the eye of a passer-by last week and we had a conversation about over-wintering agaves in Portland. Evidently he’d been wondering what I planned to do with this one over the winter, because he has a similar one at home in a container, unwilling to let it die in the ground. I explained that as long as the plant was cold hardy the real issue was good drainage. Mine will be his “litmus test,” I hope it doesn’t disappoint. Our extended forecast calls for lots of dry weather (unusual for this time of the year, and I’ll take it!) with possible sunny afternoons once the fog burns off. The nights continue to be chilly, with plenty of 29’s and a possible 25F low later in the week…that should finally send things to sleep for the season.


  1. I love the autumnal colors you've got going on. The cinnamon fern is a favorite of mine too though I don't have one—maybe next year. The picture of the back of your house with the butterscotch colored grass looks nice too.

  2. I hope your flax makes it too! For as much as I love flax I have come to the realization that they just don't like me. Your agaves are looking great too! It's always so fun when passers by stop and ask questions! and what a bitter sweet kinda feeling... waiting for the first hard freeze to knock things back that is. knowing that it will inevitably come, I agree that you almost want to see things go into their winter slumbers.

    hold onto the dream - a winter without winter!!!

  3. Your plants look SO AMAZING against your house...I'm super-jealous! Seriously, I don't know why anyone would have painted a house such a drab color...oh well. The colors of the Hakone Grass is fabulous...that wonderful warm caramel is great.

  4. You have so much interest in your garden, even as winter sets in. I hope your agaves survive. I would be pulling them out or giving them serious covering on frosty nights. Here, I would rather be safe than sorry. I have lost A americana, variegata 3 times. I have decided you are a plant collector extraordinaire!

  5. Looks great for early December.

    We have an inch of snow on the ground here.

    My children love it, I don't, grrr! Ha ha! ;-)

  6. Lots of great photos (and plants), but I really love the dark brown wall. My neighbor painted his beige wall that faces my kitchen window dark grey, and it really made a huge (good) difference.

  7. That is not bad for early Dec, a la nina year, up there...bad is what it is here right now, keeping pace with the last 6-7 winters! La nina here is supposed to be warm and dry...ha!

    I watched a similar variegated A. americana make it near me for years, S wall w/ glass, but 0F took it out. But our soils are dry.

  8. These frosty mornings are beautiful. The shot of the black mondo grass with the frosted edges is priceless.

  9. Interesting to see how the gardens looking, just a little more north things generally a bit more fried. Frosts have been few at my house maybe 1 or two but that was enough to zap some things to sleep. Pretty mild tho hoping for a no snow winter. Sunshine for the last week.

  10. We have only had two light frosts, but no killing freezes. I kind of wish it would so I can finish getting the garden ready of winter. My basjoo looks as good as it has all summer, and the Tetrapanax is still nicely green.

  11. Aren't you glad you painted your house chocolate brown? Who knows, maybe your pastel colored house neighbors will envy you and paint their houses differently too. I Good luck with your agaves.

  12. Ann, your garden looks to be the perfect place for ferns!

    Louis, that little flax was in a container up until I plopped it in the ground last summer. It needed more room! Of course the only reason it was still alive was because it was in a container and I protected it in the winter. We'll see.

    scott, contrast! I do love me some contrast.

    Lancashire rose, ha! Or maybe just a fool? If it gets seriously cold (under 20?) I will no doubt do something to protect them. I like to pretend to be tough but really I'm a wimp. The one Americana that spent last winter out front in the ground got covered on our 18 degree nights. I have a couple other tiny A. americana variegata that haven't yet died but are severely knocked back each winter.

    Adam, I too have never been a fan of the white stuff.

    Alan, oh dark grey (Charcoal) was another color we were thinking about...but a next door neighbor beat us to it. Two Charcoal houses side by side just seemed wrong!

    DD, it's like our La Nina experiences are flipped! I am really enjoying our dry weather and moderate cold. My variegated Agave is theoretically one of the hardiest, a pup from Cistus that is part of the 'Opal' clan from Plant Delights ( we'll see!

    ricki, glad you think so! It was really much better in person. I drove Andrew to work the morning of the Schoolhouse party (so we'd only have one car for the drive home) and when I got home they were the first frosty thing I saw...beautiful!

    Nat, it got even colder here on Sunday night (27) so after I took these pictures things got even a little more fried!

    Les, this is late for your garden also, right? You should have had a killing frost by now?

    Thank you promised I'll report the good (and bad)...

  13. The garden is still looking great Loree! And you're right, it's best to lull the plants slowly into dormancy rather than being suddenly hit with a cold snap. The thinking among plant enthusiasts here is that most of the damage/plant losses that happened last winter was more because of the sudden arrival of winter rather than just the prolonged cold. Some plants never had the chance to go dormant before being hit by minuses.


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