Tuesday, December 13, 2016

When ice falls from the sky...and keeps falling, and falling, and falling...

One of the many reasons I dread snow falling here in Portland is that it frequently ends with an ice storm. During our last snow storm in January 2016, the ice appeared late and was gone by mid-day the next. I feared considerable plant damage but was very pleasantly surprised. The storm that hit us Thursday, December 8th,  was supposed to be similar. Snow fall starting around 10 am, which was predicted to transition to freezing rain later in the afternoon, before turning to rain overnight, as warmer air arrived. Except it didn't, at least not at my house. I took this first set of photos at about 1:00 pm on Friday afternoon, this ice just outside the back door...everything covered in ice for 20 or so hours, with no relief in sight...

This unknown Agave (previously thought of as A. weberi, but that's been cast into doubt), in a container, in the drive, has weathered similar conditions...

The poor Mrs. Bailey (aka Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea') used to be upright, look at her now...

Damn. I don't know exactly how this image looks to you all, but in person it was heartbreaking. Everything glazed and leaning. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. Try and shake the plants free from the ice and you risk their snapping in half.

The white undersides of Grevillea victoriae 'Murray Valley Queen', as it bends completely over, and behind it, Musa basjoo (banana) leaves I haven't seen all year!

My heart ached to see the flowers encased in ice, there was a humming bird zipping around that demanded they be freed. I apologized, that's all I could do.

A small child may have been able to skate across the lawn, it was a solid sheet of ice.

Have I warned you yet? This is a very long post. At times like this I fall into documentary mode. While I hope there will be something of interest here for you, I know I will refer to these images in the future, to help remind me of just how ugly it all was. There are 56 images in all. Maybe grab a beverage and return?...

The cinnamon undersides of Magnolia laevifolia are a big part of its appeal. But of course I'd rather see them as undersides, this is not a welcome sight. Note the small broken bit on the ground, thankfully there weren't too many more.

Ice and Agaves. A sight that causes me chills.

Wait, make that snow with an ice topper. Ugh.

More Agaves and a Grevillea x gaudichaudii at the corner. Feel like skating? Our patio was an ideal location.

Bamboo wins the prize for drama anytime there's ice. Most of it will spring upright and the bits that don't will get cut away.

Well, except for the Sasa palmata f. nebulosa (in the foreground below). Once it leans that's usually it, sure it will straighten up a bit, but the stems are so thin, and the leaves so big, it'll never regain the same position. That Tetrapanax is also leaning out further than ever before.

The tacky PVC huts (protecting Agaves in containers from too much winter rain) held up remarkably well, however the Acacia dealbata (against the fence) is not looking good.

I was amazed at how much ice these held (it's thicker than it looks), without the slightest give.

Another Grevillea x gaudichaudii.

And a close up of the Acacia dealbata, which was formerly a towering (15-ft? 20-ft?) small-leaved beauty.

Bamboo drama...

Now we're walking around to the front garden. This is one of the Acca sellowiana / Pineapple Guava — and again, the white is the undersides of the leaves.

There's rock under that ice...

Agave parrasana 'Meat Claw'

Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue'

Poncirus trifoliata

Agave parryi 'JC Raulston'

Agave americana or possibly A. americana var. protoamericana, along with some frozen Nassella tenuissima...

Corokia Cotoneaster

And finally another Agave parryi 'JC Raulston'...

So that was Friday afternoon, as it got dark the streets and sidewalk were melted (it had warmed to 32F) but the plants were all still covered in a thick, wet, coat of ice, a full 24 hours of being bent over and frozen. With a long, cold, night ahead it was obvious nothing was going to be melting. When I took Lila out just before 10 pm it was actually getting worse. More ice, very wet ice. what I could see of the garden was even flatter. These photos were all taken Saturday morning, around 11 am.

Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Sentinel’ the main trunk has always had a lean to it, but now all the other branches were getting in on the game.

The second Acca sellowiana.

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Nanjing Gold' buds.

Fatsia japonica

Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' — this poor plant! It's also one that was tortured last summer and experienced Agave Edema...

Another Agave americana which might be A. americana var. protoamericana.

I'm quite fascinated by that bit of ice on the far left, mid-way down. See how it's mirroring the spiky leaf imprints?

Note the Genista aetnensis (on the left) it's thin branches so beautifully outlined with ice...

As I write it's Monday night, things finally did thaw-out completely late Saturday afternoon into the evening. Most everything that I'm sharing here has at least started to upright itself. We were lucky. A couple big branches of the neighbor's Laurel — which over hangs our back garden — split off, but since the bamboo was horizontal over the patio there was nothing underneath them to be damaged. A neighbor had a huge tree branch land on her garage, there are branches, big and small, down all over town. Entire trees too. Oh that's another way in which we lucked out, our power stayed on the entire time, others were not so fortunate.

Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths' is upright again.

The icy branch on the right belongs to one of the Styrax japonica in the hellstrip.

Now we're in the back garden. Lomatia tinctoria...

Sparkly Callistemon and other branches...

This is the top of the Embothrium coccineum, which usually is taller than our house. Here it was at my eye level.

It's almost upright again, after the thaw.

Not such good news for the Magnolia laevifolia. Thankfully it didn't break but it's going to have to be staked to be upright again.

Lupinus albifrons and Correa backhouseana — neither have regained their upright position.

Callistemon seed pods encased in ice.

Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Akebono’, flat on the ground. Not so flat now, but still bent over.

Looking back towards the garage and Aralia-land. Several Scheffleras and Metapanax delavayi, all slumped over. They're all looking good now.

The Agaves. The poor suffering Agaves. Only time will tell with them.

The palms all bounced back quickly.

Some of the Bamboo culms snapped, lots of clean-up in my future. I don't know what we'll do about the Acacia dealbata (far right). It's not righting itself, and it's only marginally hardy here. With another round of much colder temps (all this happened without dipping below 28F) and possibly more snow and ice headed our way this week, well...who knows.

Oh and the Tetrapanax! (trunk on the right)

Buds at eye-level. I think it's gonna have to get cut down.

Another angle on the Tetrapanax and the Sasa Bamboo.

Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby' wears the ice well...

And finally the flower buds of Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' — the arched "tree" that started this long post. It's not upright either, some staking will need to be done.

That's a wrap on the worst ice storm Portland has seen in 20 years. Evidently there were disastrous ice storms in December of 1996, I was still in Seattle then and don't remember it being especially bad there. Oh winter, what else do you hold for us???

All material © 2009-2016 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

50 comments:

  1. Wow. I don't even know where to begin. Looking at these photos from the warmth of my house, the first thing that struck me was how utterly beautiful everything looked. But not in your eyes, I'm sure, because you had much different concerns on your mind. Never having experienced an ice storm in person, I just cannot fathom how much ice there must have been. Your lawn is almost unrecognizable! And those poor agaves!

    On the other hand, I remember reading that ice provides good protection. But I think that was in reference to "normal" plants, not necessarily succulents.

    Please do keep us posted on how much damage there actually was, esp. on the succulents.

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    1. I think one of the oddest parts of an ice storm is the noise the ice makes as it's falling, thousands of tiny tinkling noises...followed by the silence once it's in place. Then of course there's the unbelievable cacophony of crackling and crashing as it starts to melt.

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  2. From your documentary standpoint, it's all stunningly, other-worldly beautiful. As for the plants, it's so painful to witness, even in photos. I imagine herbaceous stuff for your zone could survive an ice storm, but the woodies, the agaves? What a climate experiment the DG has turned into! Just amazing photos, so thanks for sharing, and you know we'll muster replacements for anything you need, agave-wise, etc.

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    1. Thanks Denise, round two of "experiment 2016" hits today...more snow and then VERY cold. Hopefully we'll escape the ice this time.

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  3. Ugh. Beautiful carnage, that's what ice storms are. Sounds like it is going to be a winter to remember (and not fondly either).

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  4. Yikes! I'm glad you got through without loosing power or major garden damage. We lucked out this time, just got gentle snow followed by melting rain but had an ice storm like this a few years back and I remember timber bamboo snapping in half sounding like gun fire. I'm also not looking forward to the predicted cold weather.

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    1. I can imagine the timber bamboo could also be a weapon, should you be standing near.

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  5. OMG. Loree. That's tragic. So far a low of -5C in my yard. We got tons of snow that is now encrusted in ice. But it doesn't look nearly as bad as that. That really sucks :(

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    1. Thanks Louis, hope you don't seen anything worse this time.

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  6. Oh my! It looks exactly like what it is, a garden entombed in ice. I would be weeping frozen tears. My heart breaks for you, to see all that work and growth frozen.

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    1. Thank you GQ, I'm bracing for round two now, hopefully there won't be much more damage.

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  7. Wow...this Is really impressive...I hope your plants recover well...that Is really thick ice!! Hope you don't have more events like this one...

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    1. Thanks Lisa, I'm hoping the same.

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  8. The photos are extraordinarily beautiful but horrifying at the same time.

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  9. We rarely used to get ice storms but now seem to have more of these temps on the edge that make ice, not snow. It is depressing enough when it happens here but is must feel, if not actually be, devastating in your climate. Very few of your treasures are used to this weather, I'm sure. We are in a deep freeze with more snow on the way. I'm sure your plant orgs. will send out info about what this weather may or may not do to your gardens that will provide some help . . .

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    1. Thank you Linda, it is all about what's normal isn't it? The extremes are the real concern.

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  10. Some of these photos are SO beautiful, but I do feel your pain. We had a much milder version in Kirkland--mostly snow, and the ice melted pretty quickly. The Tetrapanax situation is so sad. I thought we might both get blooms this year--so close!--but mine also got knocked out with last week's cold. They almost look like there's still some life in them, but we are supposed to be in the 20s every night for the rest of this week, so I know it won't happen. I'm pretty sure that if this plant could feasibly bloom here, it would have this year, due to the very long mild season. So it will probably never happen. Unless climate change conditions get much worse, which I don't hope for at all. Sigh.

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    1. Isn't amazing they keep throwing out those bloom structures but never get to see them open? Poor Tetrapanax.

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  11. I've never seen anything like that! I hope your charges come through the experience relatively unscathed. I suppose you won't be able to fully assess the impact for some time? The little Tetrapanax seedling you sent me should be grateful that you saved its life. Our version of cold is something else altogether.

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    1. Yes, damage on the Agaves will be slow to appear, and thus hard to assign blame to this storm or another on its way. And you're right...that little guy wouldn't have liked this weather at all!

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  12. Well my first question is how did you not fall on your keister continuously when taking these photos ? I wouldn't have dared to venture out there without baseball cleats. It is beautiful in a way -and the news that some plants are rebounding is good !

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    1. Ha, not even once! I was very careful...didn't want an emergency trip to the hospital.

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  13. Alan found the perfect words: beautiful carnage. These photos are so surreal, even having seen some pretty thick ice at least one year at my house. Maybe it's the plants. It just looks that much stranger on agaves, palms, and other exotic plants than it does on mostly natives. I escaped the ice this time around, but it got much colder in my garden, almost 22F. Still, I've had quite a few pleasant surprises looking at the aftermath. I'm sure your garden will recover nicely. I'm glad the forecasts for the cold this week have moderated. They were forecasting teens for my area, now the lowest forecast is 20. Still could dip down to 18 or 19 at my house, though. I should probably cover a few things.

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    1. Those are the same temperatures they're predicting for us. But with snow. Are you getting snow this time too?

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    2. Yes, but only about an inch, at most, before the cold hits. Looks like you're going to get more snow this time around.

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  14. Oh, so painful to witness, I am sure. And those pics give a whole new meaning to 'Frosty Blue', poor thing. I hope the garden bounces back quickly, but we zone pushers learn to expect certain losses in weather "events" like this, don't we? I lost my own Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea' a number of years ago in a deep freeze in Austin - sob!

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    1. Zone pushing doesn't have much to do with this kind of an event, it was warm after all (ish, at 28) it's the weight of the ice that causes most of the damage. But I get what you're saying and indeed the Agaves are suffering from my desire to grow them.

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  15. We seemed to have been in the worst area, Loree. Folks in Beaverton and Milwaukie thawed out a full 24 hours before us. And another wave may be coming tomorrow. Yikes!
    Thanks for posting.

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    1. Indeed! I am amazed by reports of people who had little ice and it melted quickly. Lucky us.

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  16. Beautiful shots of flowers and branches in ice, but my heart just sank for you, looking at some of these photos. Never again ( you may have to remind me I said this) will I complain about moving a couple dozen plants indoors, and covering a few more outside with frost cloth. I know your garden will pull through and look better than ever next year, but that's poor consolation right after an event like this! Stay warm and safe up there.

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    1. I won't remind you! We all have our gardening complications to deal with. Yours are just different than mine.

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  17. Wow. I've never seen an ice storm before--what a shocking thing, all the more because of the beauty. So sorry to see that--hope the damage will not be too bad, especially for the Agaves.

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    1. It plays with my mind to think you're an adult woman and have never seen an ice storm! Our climate realities are so different aren't they?

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  18. I have such mixed feelings. I hate the cold and the destruction of ice. And yet it's so pretty. Your photos are amazing. I'm just so glad everything survived. I'm ready for spring now.

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  19. Sad to see this, I'm guessing your Agaves will be the most affected, as your temps didn't get low enough to kill the Acacias, I don't think. This ice event will at least give you better background knowledge of which ones can best shrug this off. Good luck!

    And so glad we don't get this here, although I've already got a few prima donna plants going into foliage shock from cold and wet, and it hasn't gotten below 38°F even. I'm realizing Thunbergera mysorensis IS really a Zone 10b plant, and needs overhead protection here.

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    1. We shall see. Tonight is predicted to be between 16-19F so another test is in the works.

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  20. I was thinking that this 'Silver Thaw' paled in comparison to those we had many years ago until seeing these photos.

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    1. It was so different depending on where you live, maybe yours did pale?

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  21. Oh My, Oh My! I fear you took your life in your hands getting all these shots of ice. I hope the Agaves survive. Two of my first Agaves were A. americana and A. ovatifolia, and they did not make it through their first winter. I will be so sad if your whale's tongues turn to mush.

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    1. I'm unable to even think about that Agave (the big ovatifola) turning to mush. My heart would break.

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  22. This is so tragic. Glad you didn't lose power. Ice storms are the worst. We've had ice storms that have left us without power for five days. Fortunately it's not a regular occurrence. As sad as the photos are, some are quite beautiful. How did you snap so many photos without breaking your neck!?!

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    1. My parents (along with most of Spokane) experienced a horrid ice storm (probably that one that hit Portland top, 20 years ago) that knocked out power for most of the city for days. Horrid. As for not falling...I was lucky!

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    2. Ugh! I lived in Spokane during that ice storm! My son was 6months old, now he's 21, I'll never forget, we had to BBQ out on the patio for warm food and heat, we were out of power 2 weeks...
      Looking at your garden in this frozen state.... I want to cry!!! I hope everyone survives, espesially those agaves,
      My Agaves here in Seattle are doing ok, I have them in pots under the eve of the house. I'm thinking I need to move them to my garage tmrw... Good Luck and I can't wait to see your garden in Spring...
      ps... are you coming to the Seattle Garden show?

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    3. That storm!!! My parents and brother were, like you, without power for (probably) two weeks. My grandma though, oddly hers stayed on and never went off. I'd bought a ticket to fly to Spokane for Thanksgiving that year (from Seattle) and surprise everyone...I was really sweating what I was flying into. Thankfully all the power was back on by the time I got there. What a nightmare!

      Seattle Garden show...yes! (at least I plan to)

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  23. You're admirably calm for a 20-year-ice-storm survivor. Here's hoping the 2017 images will show how little-affected your exceptional garden was by the exceptional glazing.

    I've done very little zone pushing in my z6b gardening life, but took a big leap with Edgeworthia 'Nanking Gold' and have been reveling for a month in the (nine!) satiny buds, in only its second year. So the image of yours encased in ice was a dagger to the heart. Just this afternoon I gave it a burlap cage for extra protection from the howling wind that will probably take us into single digits tonight.

    Your Bloom Day pics are a comfort at the dark end of the year.

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    1. Thanks for the 2017 wishes, I'm right there with you! Good luck with your Edgeworthia. Those buds look so soft and vulnerable, but they're actually quite tough.

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  24. The most astonishing effect is the feather grass with each fine strand individually encased. Better appreciated if you hold your hand over the agave in the rest of the image.

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    1. I'm glad you find that grass astonishing, for me however it's all about the Agave!

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