Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22, it's officially winter now

It rarely happens like this here in Portland, Oregon. Winter holding off until it's officially winter. In my experience (13 years here), winter usually comes to Portland in late November, or sometime earlier in December. Even now, when it's officially winter, the forecast is a toss-up. Some say we'll be experiencing our coldest temps (snow! ice! maybe!) this weekend, others say it will be more of what we experienced a week or so ago, upper 20's with sunshine.

Such is winter forecasting in Portland. There are many variables at play and it's not a guarantee until you can see it with your own eyes, and feel it with your own toes. Since this has been an incredibly mild season up until now I took a walk with the camera around the garden, snapping a few highlights like this trio of Mangave 'Inkblot'. They're lovin life. I hope mother nature doesn't give them reason to feel otherwise.

Salvia apiana. I'd heard this might not be hardy through our winters, but I have a smaller one that did just fine through last winter, and it was an ugly season. Maybe this lovely plant will still be here come spring. I hope so.

Eryngium proteiflorum. Oh what a history I have with this plant. Loved it, and lost it x 2. Searched and searched for it, with no success. Then whadda ya know, I found it late in the season at Xera. Bought it and stuck it in the ground, fingers crossed. Found another at Garden Fever (40% off out of season perennials) and have it in a container as insurance. Why so determined? Check out the bloom Anna has in her garden here (page down).

Echium wildpretii, one of three in the ground. You can see it's already been singed by our cold, yet not really cold, temperatures.

I have a few others in containers that I can protect. Still I need to be ready to throw a little frost cloth over these if temps drop below about 26F. Why bother? Because this.

Oh you poor Pachystegia insignis. You were tortured in a container and so, last spring, I finally set you free in the soil. Will you be alive come next spring? Annie's says Zone 8 but I hear it might really be Zone 9.

Grevillea x gaudichaudii. Andrew finally noticed one this last weekend when we were cleaning the gutters. "What's that?"...a special Grevillea. "How long has it been there?"...a couple of years, it lived through last winter when I was concerned it wouldn't. "Well it shouldn't be so close to the sidewalk"...

And I thought he was asking because it's beautiful.

I've got a complicated relationship with Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea’. The plants I plant in a great (to my way of thinking) spot rot, ones I plant where they might be shaded out do okay. We'll see how these look come spring.

Ha! I wonder when this happened. That's Dianella prunina 'Rainbow Twist' — which I guess I never dug out after it died last winter — turns out it's root hardy here. Good to know.

Cheilanthes tomentosa, fingers crossed it's still this nice come spring (it's a xeric/desert fern).

Moving into the back garden I'm amazed the Musa Basjoo is still looking this good, just a couple of toasted spots.

And the Canna NOID's in front of it are surprising intact as well. Not beautiful, but not yet mush.

Cobaea scandens, Zone 9...still looks great too. I wonder for how much longer?

In a nod to the gardening season ahead, there are even a few Hellebore blooms forming around the garden.

Hopefully they won't mind a little ice, should it fall from the sky.

The tallest leaves of Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery'  got zapped last week. The lower ones still look fine. The plant itself is very heavily mulched, fingers crossed.

Melianthus major 'Purple Haze' — as someone pointed out when I shared a similar photo on Instagram — that looks like spring growth!

The Bomarea sp., still blooming.

Still climbing.

And there are even buds! (so hopeful), those are seeds from the Trachycarpus fortunei, if you're wondering.

More plants in the "I hope they'll make it but realize they might not" club: Euphorbia stygiana

Grevillea 'Ivanhoe' (pay no attention to the dead Macleaya cordata (plume poppy) leaves behind it, I haven't done much garden clean up).

Euphorbia atropurpurea

Such a silly looking plant, that I'd really love to have stick around to bloom (see here).

Melianthus villosus will be fine, although it may be cut back to the ground.

This will be my first winter with Akebia longeracemosa 'Victor's Secret', it's said to be evergreen.

Podocarpus matudae, this one will be fine no matter what weather might come our way, even if it looks a little less than hardy.

Maytenus boaria 'Green Showers' was completely defoliated last winter. You'd never know now.

Silly witch hazel. Hamamelis x intermedia 'Rochester' refusing to drop its leaves, even as the blooms emerge.

Schefflera brevipedunculata was the only Schefflera bothered by last winter's cold/ ice/ snow/ wet (mix and match, pick one, or two, or three!). It's made a triumphant return.

Lupinus albifrons. Lost two, one survived. Planted one new one this year.

Ceanothus griseus horizontalis 'Diamond Heights' leafed out after appearing dead. No flowers, but who cares? (not me)

Just a couple more, I promise. This Anigozanthos flavidus from Xera is reportedly one of the hardiest of the Kangaroo Paws. I've got one (protected) in a container, this one is living life on the wild side. Exposed to the elements. We shall see...

Finally my champion "PKW-defying" Phormium. Lived through our memorable winter 2013-14, and lived through winter 2016-17.

You'll be around for spring 2018, no problem...

Weather Diary, Dec 21: Hi 37, Low 26/ Precip trace

All material © 2009-2017 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. "It shouldn't be so close to the sidewalk." Who are these people that say silly things like that? An impressive array of cool plants & loved the links to flowers.

    1. In his defense I think he might have been worried about the postman stepping on it. Still...

    2. Haha, the postmistress likes to take a shortcut between a pair of horse crippler cacti and an Agave weberi...

    3. Mine (the postman) takes a shortcut between the Poncirus trifoliata and the Agave ovatifolia. Spikes on both sides!

  2. Silly husband. What Phormium is that? If it survived your last winter, it is indeed hardy, and it has pretty stripes. Technically, this is the first day of astronomical winter, but meteorological winter began on the first day of December. The meteorological seasons have always made more sense to me.

    1. Sadly I don't have ID on that Phormium, it was bought years ago. Maybe if looked through my old book of tags I could come up with it. It's only been hardy though because I've wrapped it and it's up against the house. Last year it got old down pillows stacked around the bottom. Oh and I'm with you on the meteorological seasons, 100%. I just thought it was funny that this year the weather was playing the game of what many people feel the seasonal delineations are. I'm still kind of perturbed about the (famous) commenter who corrected me one year when I referred to mid December as winter. I was told no, it's not yet winter. Whatever....

  3. Our rule is two feet from the house so we can paint the house. I have been fairly good but things DO keep growing! The Klehm Song Sparrow catalog lists a newer witch hazel that drops its leaves so you don't have this typical problem. My spring blooming one is currently covered in brown leaves. We will see if the winter blows them away.

    1. Two feet is a pretty wide space, I'm impressed.

  4. Your exchange with Andrew reminds me of exchanges with my husband (on the remarkable occasions he pays any attention to the garden at all). I hope your plants all ride the winter weather roller-coaster safely and in style. I'm trying to ignore all weather projections beyond a few days into the future - those forecasters keep pushing the promise of rain here further and further into the future and I half expect they may reach into 2019 soon.

    1. They've backed off now on the predictions for snow and ice, just more cold wind. We shall see...
      (hoping you get some rain!)

  5. So....which Phormium IS that? I must have one. Also, your Cheilanthes tomentosa - I have one too that is in a sunny well-drained spot, it died last winter, I thought, but it sent up all new growth this year. Although slow, it did recover, f.y.i.

    You have me wanting to try Salvia apiana again, it's such a cool plant. Thank you Loree, great selection to show off today.

    The Salvia

    1. As I mentioned in my reply to Alison I've lost track of what Phormium that is, and it's only alive do to a great micro-climate up against the house and the fact I protected it in our bad winters. Thanks for the Cheilanthes feedback!

  6. Now that was a post! But even with your posted temperatures, that doesn't even look like winter! Your Yucca aloifolia 'Purpurea' does sound like a mystery; the few standard green ones here sprawl and look unhappy.

    1. It's been a strange season. No complaints from me! It will be interesting to see what the next few days bring.

  7. Beautiful--so many plants to enjoy! I really like that Mangave in the first photos--the speckled foliage is so interesting. We've had ying-yang weather this fall, including a record low (single digits) in November, and warmish weather (40s) this past week. Climate change seems to be making our weather more variable in every season. The polar vortexes are the worst part of it. I hope we won't have too many of those this winter. Happy holidays, Loree!

  8. What a great snapshot before the bad weather comes--if it comes. Here's hoping it WON'T. Merry Christmas to the three of you!!!

  9. I like that Cheilanthes fern. Happy holidays1


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