Thursday, February 18, 2021

Storm Report—February 2021 (Part Two)

The first half of my report on our crazy February Storm ended on Sunday the 14th, just before the Ice Storm Warning we'd received started to make it's power known. Plenty of snow and some ice had already fallen, but more was on the way. I'm sure you won't be shocked to learn that—worried about the the garden—every pop, crack and bang I heard sent me to the window, ice is loud! I spent more of Sunday night looking out at the garden than actually sleeping. 

Here's the view just after 8 am Monday morning, looking out into the NE corner of the back garden. The icy branches in the foreground belong to Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart'. Beyond that you can see bamboo laying on the Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akebono' which is laying on the ground, and the palms with their dramatically bent fronds.

Looking at the neighbor's driveway from a side-window you can see the Mahonia x media 'Charity' taking an ice induced nap on the neighbor's car. That's also our bamboo leaning over in front of their garage door.  

A different window into the back garden shows the small Schefflera brevipedunculata almost flat on the ground and everything else also bent under ice load.

Outside now it's time to explore the icy garden. That rebar was supposed to help keep the top-heavy schefflera upright but obviously it wasn't up to the job. I have since staked this little guy up again and have hope he'll be okay. 

I can normally walk right under this foliage arch, but not on Monday. I had to bend so far over I was almost on my knees.

Ice covered Metapanax delavayi...

While Sammy (the Yucca rostrata in the middle of the photo) looks pretty pathetic, it's the palm (Trachycarpus wagnerianus) on the left that really made my plant-loving heart hurt. Thankfully as the day went on and things warmed the fronds again lifted up towards the sky. The two split bamboo, plastic-covered tunnels you can see in this image both started to bend and flatten under the immense weight of the snow and ice, luckily I caught it in time to scoop off most of the weight and keep them from collapsing.

I didn't even notice the flopped over top on my Cryptomeria japonica 'Rasen' (photo below, the tall guy just behind and to the right of Sammy) or the fact the loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is flopping in the opposite direction, until looking at these photos. What was most concerning to me at the time were the sheets of ice (falling to the ground like a giant was emptying a huge ice cube tray) coming off the two tall fir trees behind us. You can see one of them on the left below. These tall trees were covered with ice and it was just beginning to warm and melt while I was out there photographing.

Looking over at the palms and the Magnolia laevifolia which was crumpled up in an ugly way.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) stems magnified by the ice.

Here you can see the sheen of ice on top of the snow.

Maybe even more dramatic here...

The crust was so hard, I'd been walking around on top of the snow and ice for the last couple of days. Now everything was so slick the only way I could move through the garden without falling was to take very emphatic pounding steps that cracked the ice a bit.

The Grevillea rivularis has so many little leaves that the ice load was very heavy.
More ice than leaves!

I'm fast-forwarding now to a photo I took of the Grevillea rivularis Tuesday afternoon—unfortunately the entire plant has turned a dull brown. This is not good! It's been through worse weather, but we'd been so warm, and with this storm the cold east winds were brutal and went on for hours. I will be very bummed to lose this plant.

Back to Monday's photos, I couldn't safely walk out into the front garden (ice!), so I stood on the front porch and tried to capture the fact my Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths' was splayed out in two very different directions. That's it directly under the chimney of the blue house across the street. I am happy to report it's upright again and the chimney is almost completely blocked, my normal view!

Ice on the Hover Dish planter. Hopefully the mix of yucca, opuntia and agave that I have in there will be okay.

Now I've skipped ahead a few hours to Monday afternoon. We'd been above freezing long enough that a little ice had melted I could start to dig out and uncover the Echium wildpretii. I really wanted to do this as soon as possible because in my experience these plants need air circulation to stay happy. This is my big guy who'd been under a trash can for 5 days. Pretty good! I was thrilled.

Side view...

The second specimen, the word flawless comes to mind.

This guy was a little shaggy going into the freeze, he's maintained his look well.

I had two echiums with long trunks that curved along the ground a bit, I was careful to protect them as well.

Before we jump out to the front garden to look at the final two echium, I first want to share this Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’. It was covered and I was surprised—upon lifting off the cover—to see I'd mushed a begonia leaf in the process and it bled pink! Speaking of the begonias, they're still under snow days later, I don't anticipate they'll make it.

This Astelia 'Red Devil' also got protected, cause I've had astelia melt on me, and while this one is tough, I didn't want to risk it. Others were left out in the open, we'll see how they do.

A pause to look at an ice covered agave... 

Out in the front garden now and this Euprhorbia rigida was peeking through the snow where Andrew had shoveled. They were about to bust into full bloom last week before the snow fell.

The fourth Echium wildpretii was looking a little sad before the snow, it looks about the same now. I went ahead and uncovered the Agave parryi while I was working in the area.

The fifth Echium wildpretii stayed covered (under that terra cotta pot) until late Tuesday, I just wasn't willing to risk walking out there into the middle of the planting bed and stepping on something. Finally when it was obvious the snow was in no hurry to depart I went for it. I have no photo as proof, but upon emerging it looked just as good as the others.

I really wanted to uncover these two big Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' on Monday, but they were still a little drifted in, and I didn't want to risk damaging them (I did uncover them on Tuesday, and they look great)...

I did take the cover off the Agave 'Mateo'...

And the little Agave parrasana 'Meat Claw'... both of which looked perfect.

As a final good bye to our brief winter and "hell ya" to resuming spring, here's a sunny Tuesday shot of the buried hellebores acting like none of the snow, ice and wind nonsense ever happened. Amazing plants!

If my Grevillea rivularis turning brown and dying is the worst thing that happens with this storm, I will feel like I got out of this pretty lucky! Especially since I already have a line on finding a replacement for it. Also, if you're curious, as this post goes live on Thursday the 18th, we still have snow on the ground.
—   —   —

Weather Diary, Feb 17: Hi 49, Low 36/ Precip 0 

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Loree:
    Love them hellebores!!!

    Snow and ice. Hate both. I don't know how you do it, but thumbs up!!

    Being from a mild, temperate mediterranean climate here in Silicon Valley I was unprepared for the damage cold weather wrought on the plants I moved to Northern California with me. I lost a great many that I'd had for decades.

    Now that I'm BACK where I belong, I'm trying to slowly replace plants in my little Concrete Jungle.

    I know this ice storm has hit roughly 70% of the US. It is INSANE. Mother Nature sure is pissed off about something, isn't she? I hope the weather warms up SOON for all affected by this savage Winter Storm.

    1. It would be so nice to never have snow or ice appear again in my future...

  2. Hi,
    Aweful !
    What about the Sinopanax ? It was coverd ?
    I'm curious to know its hardiness.


    1. It was not covered, I completely forgot about it (!). Thankfully it looks good. It didn't bend under the ice load, which was unexpected, maybe being under my tallest palm helped with that? I know damage can show up later when temperatures warm but I am optimistic it's okay.

  3. Very scary photos and yet, at the same time, quite beautiful as well!

    I have never seen anything like that before.

    I hope that the damage is limited and can grow out.

    1. You've never had an ice storm? I am jealous.

  4. Man, can I empathize. I'm happy so many of your plants look good after everything they've been through. It looks like your coverings made a big difference. I still don't know the outcome of what the weather did to my garden because we've not yet emerged from the freeze (after 8 full days). Two days ago, we slowly dipped down to -6 degrees (zone 6). Normally, my garden is zone 8b. BUT maybe the freezing rain that coated the plants insulated them a bit? I hope. Finished your book and enjoyed it very much.

    1. The idea of my garden slipping into Zone 6 is just terrifying, I hope you won't see too much damage. Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed the book!

  5. The ice that formed on Grevillea rivularis was kind of amazing looking, but I'm sad to see it looking so brown afterwards. On a good note, Andrew's igloos did splendidly! To see all the Echium survived with flying colors is nothing short of a miracle. Very happy for you, you must be so relieved. Thank goodness for Hellebores. I appreciate them more every year.

    1. I am still shocked about the echium and keep checking on them to see if they've decided to deflate.

  6. It's downright painful viewing this post! I can't imagine how you felt going around viewing it yourself. Andrew's domes saved the day, hurrah!

  7. Amazing, but tough photos to see. Most of your plantings will make it thru this horrid ice and snow storm, thanks to all of your efforts. You and Andrew are quite the team.

    1. Yes indeed, I am lucky to have someone with skills who cares about the plants!

  8. Your ice shots are gorgeous especially if you forget about the potential damage it's causing. So far it looks like you did pretty well. All this crazy weather being thrown about weeds out the weak from the tough.

  9. I've only seen snow in person a handful of times in my life and I've never seen ice like that. I can understand why you hate it and I felt myself worrying about each and every out-of-whack plant you photographed. I hope you do indeed come out of this winter mess with few if any losses.

    1. I would be a very happy gardener if I never saw snow or ice again.

  10. Seeing all these photos reminds me of when I lived in the Northeastern U.S. I would worry for months after ice and snow storms that my plants would survive. Mostly they did but some I thought were fine actually didn’t make it in spring. Hoping all your beauties are going to be okay. Thank you for documenting what happened. Amazing photos!

    1. I can't imagine months of snow and's now been a week with snow on the ground here and I am over it.

  11. Oy, ice is the worst! Currently we are buried in snow but that is not as much of a trauma to the garden (in fact it can be a good thing). Wishing you and your garden a full recovery.

    1. I think this is Garden in the City Jason? I saw your (Judy's?) most recent blog post and cringed at the amount of snow you guys are dealing with. I don't know how you do it!


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