Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How long does it take to forget?

Last week as I was planting this gorgeous 5-gallon phormium (picked up at the orange big box for only $24.99), it hit me how far backwards I’ve slid, and I paused for a moment to reflect.

When we moved to Portland this area was midway through a historic period of mild winters. I jumped in with both feet when planting…phormium, cordylines, yes and yes! Then the PKW’s hit (phormium killing winters) 2008/9 and for those of us that foolishly replanted, again in 2009/10. Since then it’s been pretty smooth sailing, with this last winter being particularly mild. You know what that means right? Those plants I vowed never to replant are creeping back into my garden.

First it was just a couple phormium in containers…

But now I’ve got seven phormium in the ground!

Their tall strappy foliage just can't be beat.

And of course their colors are pretty fabulous too.

It’s not just the cordy's and phormium that were hit, I lost a few sizable astelia during those winters as well. After that experience I vowed they were only going to be grown in containers. The current count? I’m up to three in the ground and I’m seriously considering releasing the containerized trio.

Am I asking for trouble? Perhaps.

I have serious doubts that the Euphorbia stygiana I posted about a couple weeks back would make it through a repeat of the PKW’s…

And no doubt the Banksia marginata would be toast...

But here I go doing crazy things like planting a tree fern (Dicksonia antartica) in the ground!

Why? It wasn’t doing so well in the container and since it’s my second I thought I’d see if I couldn’t get it to thrive here. Plus maybe I was a little jealous of the tall tree ferns in the garden of Mark and Gaz. We’ll see.

So my initial post-PKW resolve to only plant things hardy to zone 7 or lower (a full zone colder than mine) has obviously been forgotten. Or at least blurred by things like this Acacia pravissima continuing to succeed when I thought for sure it would be dead by now.

The current best example of my zonal denial? I’ve planted an Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira’ right out in an unprotected spot in the front garden.

Should make for a wonderful summer focal point, wonder what it will look like next January?

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

36 comments:

  1. Hey, the name of your blog is Danger Garden. Your mission is to garden dangerously :-).

    Looking forward to seeing how that 'Star of Madeira' will fare. I tried one once and it didn't make it through its first winter. I think moisture is more of a problem than absolute temperatures.

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    1. Indeed, gardening on the edge is a big part of it!

      I really don't think the 'Star of Madeira' has a chance...but I bought a pair of them last fall on close-out for a ridiculous price like $2.30 so really what have I got to loose? Plus I'll enjoy it while it lasts (the other one is going in the back garden). So are you saying moisture in your garden is what did in your S. of M.? Here the PKW's were mainly a duration of cold temps thing. We didn't see temperatures above freezing (day and night) for days. The first one included record amounts of snow, the second...just cold.

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    2. There's a large 'Star of Madeira' on the campus of U.C. Davis, right out in the open, and it looked great a few months ago. Mine was in damp clay soil. I had amended it a bit, but not enough. I lost an Echium wildpretii under similar circumstances. Now I'm very conscientious giving my echiums better drainage.

      Even so, echiums aren't known for their cold hardiness, so I'm sure it's a combination of both.

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  2. PKW editing is heart breaking but it gives us more reasons to visit nurseries and buy plants, like we need reasons. I drooled over Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' at Cistus on Saturday but resisted. It was hard because some were beginning to bloom and the blue of the flowers next to the gold on the leaves was incredibly gorgeous. Some might call you forgetful; I like to think of you as forgiving of Ma Nature's or was it Old Man Winter's horrible PKW mistakes. Kind of you really.

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    1. The Cistus plants are gorgeous! Way bigger than mine, which I doubt will bloom.

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  3. What's the name of that first phormium in the container -- the caramel-colored one? Also, the upright purple one in photo 112. I didn't think I was a phormium fan, but I like both of those!

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    1. I'm going to have to do some investigative work to see if I can find the phormium tags. Do they sell phormium in your part of the world Alan? I bet you could successfully over-winter them in a container in your garage.

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    2. I'm definitely going to be looking for some locally, but there's always mail order -- or plant trades. :)

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  4. Like Peter, I was really tempted to buy that Echium at Cistus, but resisted. My Echium russicum is back and getting bigger, so I'm going to try to be satisfied with that. But I am really tempted to put some phormiums in the ground too. But Wow! A tree fern? That is brave.

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    1. Awhile back Ian at The Desert Northwest mentioned the steps people used to go through (some probably still do) to overwinter tree ferns in these parts, including cutting off the fronds and wrapping the trunk. We'll see!

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  5. Ha! I could have written that same story. I also vowed to not plant anything above Zone 7 after those PKW's. Now I'm up to 5 Phormiums and 3 Astelias. But I decided to play it safe with my one on only Echium choice: E. russicum - if it can live in Russia it can live here. The guys at Xera pointed out the Libertia 'Goldfinger' (my new favorite plant) is a good alternative to Phormium - it has the same look, though not quite as big, and is hardy to Zone 7. Check out the images on the web.

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    1. Current Libertia 'Goldfinger' count = 6

      (great minds)

      Oh and I love E. russicum! You might also try Echium amoenum. I picked up a few for $1 at 7 Dees (off their "we think these are dead but who knows!" table) early this spring and they're looking good.

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  6. I think what you are doing is great - it's like gardening Russian roulette! Plant it, pull the trigger and see if it lives!

    But what fun is gardening if you are not pushing the zone a little? Even plants right for our zone can be fickle depending on who's growing it or a variety of other factors.

    And with a few more years of global warming we'll all be growing tropical plants or cactus outside anyway...

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    1. I thought global warming (climate change) was going to mean more rain for the PNW? (who knows!)

      It is a little like gardening Russian roulette isn't it? I've never been a big thrill seeker or risk taker so I guess gardening on the edge is my outlet...

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  7. Tempting fate is a gardener's prerogative. We all know how hard it is to find a Phormium substitute. And if Linda's Acacia provissima doesn't fly in the face of reason, what does? Dare on!

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    1. Isn't her Acacia just amazing? It make me a little more afraid of the one planted at the back of the house...

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  8. I don't know how long it takes to forget a PKW (that's Palm killing winter too) but I sure am enjoying having the Bismarck palms while the mild weather lasts, one winter down....

    If I see a good price on a nice phormium I'd probably go for it, of course I just remembered the new false agaves over by the garage....

    Apparently it doesn't take very long.

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    1. Glad to know I'm in good company.

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  9. I think it's wonderful you're replanting some of the plants you had before, the ones you lost on a harsher winter, and introducing more plants that are on the edge of hardiness in your area. Sometimes it's worth rolling the dice once again, taking a gamble on these plants. It's more fun to have such an attitude!

    PKW, we had that too and it was winter 2010-11 and it wiped out all of the phormiums and cordylines in our garden, including the huge mature Phormium tenax we inherited when we bought the place. Seeing all your new phormiums makes me pine for them now, perhaps we ought to roll the dice on them once again too?

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    1. Yes you should...after all I'm convinced it's because of your garden that I put the tree fern in the ground...

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  10. A tree fern in the ground...you ARE brave!

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    1. Is brave just another word for stupid?

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  11. fifi la fontaineApril 23, 2013

    Uh oh, is the acacia pravissima on the edge of hardiness in our neck of the woods? Dang!

    Does the dark color of your house help in absorbing and alternatively transferring the Sun's heat to your plants nearby? In addition to making your plants really visually pop against it, that is...

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    1. Yep...I've been told they'll eventually be hit, it's just a matter of when. You never see a mature one around town right?

      Yes I think the color of the house helps with heat absorption/transmission, a happy accident as I certainly didn't plan for that...however I did plan for the pop!

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  12. You're given me ideas....

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  13. Maybe we all just need to accept that a year - or, hopefully, several years - of enjoyment may be worth be worth the risk (and potential heartache) of eventual loss. Either that, or you need a 2nd home in SoCal.

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    1. I vote for the second home!!!! (if only...)

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  14. The timing of this post is quite ironic for me. I'm the girl who normally just plants flowering perennials. This morning, I happened upon the orange box store, sticking my nose up at all their boring plants until I saw the phormium. It's like I had a sucker stamp on my forehead. I had no self control. I suppose I'll enjoy it while I can. Cheers, Jenni

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    1. Glad you found a phormium that "spoke" to you, and you've certainly got the right attitude, enjoy it while you can.

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  15. Good on ya danger! I'm so glad you finally planted a tree fern! I wish you the best of success. There are HUGE tree ferns in Vancouver and so I don't see why Portland should be any different. And you know how I feel about flax ... LOVE!

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    1. I knew you'd understand Louis...and at least the garden will be looking top-notch for your visit (this summer?).

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    2. I like your thinking! I'd love to come visit!!!

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  16. Banskia marginata probably would have been fine where you are... it lived through the last few winters in Sequim, albeit with some tip damage in that Nov 2010 blast that killed half the Ceanothus, Cotoneaster and Photinia around town.

    Anyway, I figure right after a hard winter is the best time to plant possibly tender stuff, so that with a little luck (or not, LOL) you can enjoy the potentially impermanent plantings for the longest possible time before the next big freeze.

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    1. Really? I'm thrilled to hear that. There is a bit of leaf damage which I assumed was from last winter (we hit 23 a couple of times), or do you think it's from something else?

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    2. Sometimes Banksia in our climate wants to grow into the fall and has a problem hardening off. You're probably not being mean enough to it.

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