Wednesday, April 13, 2022

April weather whiplash

Last week we enjoyed a couple perfect spring days, with sunny blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70's. Naturally I was in the garden; cleaning up, weeding, I even mowed the lawn. The most exciting tasks though involved removing the winter coverings over a few of the dry-loving plantings and pulling the container plants out of the shade pavilion greenhouse. The time had come to convert the structure back to an open pavilion, because it's spring!

Then this happened....

That's my garden, looking across the patio, photo taken at 4:04 am Monday morning. There had been talk of snow, but snow talk doesn't always mean snow will materialize, and it's mid-April for goodness sake. It doesn't snow in April in Portland. Everyone knows that. Ha.

I woke up about 3:30 and glanced out the window. I couldn't see much—just that snow had fallen and it was heavy and wet. The kind of snow that breaks plants. I should do something. But it was 3:30 in the morning! Dark! Cold! Wet! My bed was warm and dry. Fifteen minutes later I was headed out to do damage control.

Thoughts of the newly emerged podophyllum are what finally got me up and out. These plants grow near the steps to the patio and I enjoy passing by them all summer. The idea of those soft, fleshy stems snapping and loosing their big dramatic leaves, I couldn't risk it. Here's how they looked after I gently teased off the snow.

Then I shook snow off the schefflera, the metapanax, my cutleaf-horse chestnut and the orange blooming edgeworthia. Next the fatsia, daphniphyllum and bamboo. Then I noticed the potted Pseudopanax ferox was bent under the snow weight and went after it too. 

Then I moved to the front garden and rescued the arctostaphylos, pineapple guava, and the daphne with the same treatment. So many plants! And my fingers were numb, I stopped taking photos and just worked. It was nearing 5am when I crawled back into bed for a couple of hours.

Around 8:30 I made another pass, carefully shaking and by noon it had warmed and the snow was melting—time to go survey the garden:

One segment (with a fat bud) broke off my peony. I think with time the rest of the stems will be upright, if not I'll get out the twine.

You've heard of fern tables? How about an agave snow table?

What a rude exit from greenhouse life! One day you're living a pampered dry life, the next your outdoors and covered with snow. Poor thing.

Ditto for these spikes. They spent winter under one of the plastic-covered bamboo tunnels and missed out on our other brief snow events.

More podophyllum, P. peltatum. Some upright, some with their nose stuck to the ground. What really worries me here are the new fronds on the Adiantum venustum (aka Himalayan maidenhair), those thin black stems all bent about, hopefully they'll rebound.

The Veratrum californicum were completely buried earlier, but I left them be, because I didn't want to risk stepping on the podophyllum or fern fronds. Looks like they'll be upright again soon (fingers crossed).

Just two days earlier the walls (and inner roof) were still up and this structure was acting as a greenhouse. I'm pretty sure I remarked to Andrew that this was one of our earliest "take downs" as we were doing the work on Saturday afternoon. What strange timing. The first Oregon April snowfall since record keeping started, coincided with our de-winterizing.

Leaning a little, but the Echium wildpretti will live on to bloom in the coming weeks.

And the podophyllum (L-R: 'Red Panda' and pleianthum) look like they will stand straight again!

The Arisaema ringens remained upright through the entire event.

You can do it!

The little Syneilesis aconitifolia (shredded umbrella plant) I'm not so sure about.

Weak drama queen that she is, the edgeworthia was flat on the ground earlier. I feared there would be breaks, but thankfully there are none!

More fern damage, those little stems are so fragile.

In another example of unfortunate timing, I bought some of Langley Fine Garden's annuals at Portland Nursery last week and planted them in a stock tank. While there was snow it wasn't horribly cold—our low was 33. Fingers crossed for them...

This little Cobaea scandens (cup-and-saucer vine) wasn't even planted... just sitting in it's 4" pot buried under the snow. Look how good it looks!

If anything the snow-load improved the shape of Arctostaphylos 'Monica'. I'd wanted those thin legs to be less upright.

Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony’ has attained a sort of flat pancake shape, the orange arc showing the typical foliage line. It's still working on a rebound.

Unfortunately the Pittosporum divaricatum has taken a sideways tumble. There's no sign of the roots pulling out of the ground, thankfully.

But there is a little breakage inside the congested tangle of branches.

And little white blooms too!

Obligatory agave in the melting snow shot... (Agave ovatifolia)

Sadly our neighbors to the north had a bit more damage than we did. Several branches fell from their front garden tree—which oddly I just realized I have no idea about ID on.

And at the corner of their house a couple of shrubs have flopped completely over.

The solid green one, a Ceanothus 'Victoria' I believe, looks like it's roots are a little disturbed.

During my pre-dawn trip outside, the rest of the neighborhood was still sleeping and the snow had created that hush that only snow can. However, every few minutes I'd hear a branch snapping somewhere, occasionally a sort of thump as well. It looks like this big beautiful oak in the park at the end of our street was the source of some of that.

Sadly it's a little smaller now. I hope the tree can be saved and isn't removed all together.

Other trees in the park had a broken branch or two, none as bad as the first one though.

There were lots of branches down in yards and hellstrips, plus a few branches still blocking roadways.

Crabapple blooms? Pretty...

Sadly there will be less of them now.

I don't remember those conifers having quite that lean to them prior to this snow. Maybe they did and I'm just imagining?

They've definitely lost some branches.

Back home and I remembered to check on my Mahonia x media 'Charity' which is known to lean into the neighbor's driveway when it catches snow or ice. I cleaned it off earlier but it didn't raise much. Looking out the window I can see it's a little better. I suppose I should make sure the roots are still in the ground and nothing is broken.

I also thought to check on the Stachyurus salicifolius, which was draped over the stock tank pond and agaves much lower than it usually is.

This break is from a previous ice storm, maybe two years ago? I wrapped it but the two pieces didn't want to mend so I'd decided to just let them heal as is. Thankfully this event didn't seem to stress the old break or make new ones.

And the blooms are carrying on as though nothing ever happened..

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Oh dear!

    What a sad sight to see.

    Cold, wet snow causing mechanical damage can be very cruel and can leave some horrible scars :(

  2. Oh heart breaks for all of us gardeners who experienced this unprecedented snow event. Who knew April could be deadly too. It's just so late in the season - nothing is prepared for 8+ inches of wet heavy snow (that's what we had). I hope EVERYTHING in your garden recovers. Hugs.

    1. 8"... good lord. I see you have a blog post up, I'm trying to work up the nerve to read it. I too hope everything (or at least the things you love the most) recovers.

  3. You must have felt you'd woken up in the Twilight Zone. I had a hard time just processing the first Instagram posts I saw late Monday so I can imagine your shock. I hope the damage is relatively minimal when you assess things in the aftermath. My fingers are crossed that this is the one and only weather travesty you'll experience in 2022.

    1. As you point out in your last sentence, who knows what lies ahead!

  4. The spring and late fall snow always seems to be heavy and wet — just when things are leafed out. It is so tragic to lose those big limbs and trees. Glad you didn't have massive damage. I've never gone out that early in a storm so I am impressed. I have been lusting after Red Panda but haven't been able to make myself spend that much on a plant vs a tree.

    1. Unfortunately it seems most all of our snows are heavy and wet, but they usually don't fall when there is so much new, weak growth. This was just insane. As for Red Panda, I bought that years ago before it was such an expensive commodity. I can assure you I didn't pay anything near what it's going for these days. I got lucky!

  5. Shocking indeed. I like the idea of an agave table because they do not look right at ground level in my garden.

    1. Which reminds me, what did you ever plant in your trash can lid planter with the great stand? (stool legs if I remember right)

  6. I wish I had got out of bed at 3 and started shaking plants. Alas it was almost 7 before I ventured out. I hope your damage was minimal. After everything melted, most of my plants rebound with the exception of a few.

    1. I am so not a morning person, I don't know exactly how I found the strength to get out of bed!

  7. Like you, I shrugged off the warnings, thinking "nah - I bet it's just hype." I distinctly remember the first thing I said in the morning, looking out the window, as being "What the f*%k??" I went outside in my jammies to try to shake some things loose. I don't think I have any lasting damage in the garden, but haven't given it a full inspection yet.
    Also, I like that square metal Agave table! I know they hate it, but Agaves look good covered in snow!

    1. I figured it would be a few flakes at best, so wrong! You should make an agave table...

  8. What a crazy freak snow! I'm glad most of the plants rebounded nicely. It helps that it warmed right up again.

    1. Actually it never was "that" cold! Some weird atmospheric thing. But it's also stayed pretty chilly with lows in the 30's and highs in the 40's. I want spring back...

  9. Do you stake your echium wildpretii then they lean?
    Jim N. Tabor

    1. They seem to bloom to coincide with spring rain, and the tall spikes covered with flowers get weighted down quickly. So yes, I usually do end up staking them at some point.

  10. This is horrifiying! I'm a bit late to this post, I hope you have recovered from this startling event and thowed out your finger tips!


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