Friday, January 27, 2023

Winter horror in my garden

Here we are, back in my garden. On Wednesday I shared photos of the good stuff, today it's time to look at the not so good. First subject, my big Agave weberi in the driveway, that's it on the far left. The smaller agave in the tub is an Agave americana that went into the garage during the December cold. I wouldn't have thought the unheated garage would have made that much of a difference but the A. americana is fine, and...

... the entire center of the Agave weberi is now turning soft and rotting. This plant has been growing here for years! It looks like this will be the end though.

Following the same path I took in that earlier—winter interest—post, I've now walked down the driveway to the front garden and we're looking at one of my two Feijoa sellowiana (pineapple guava). It's about 80% defoliated I have no doubt all the leaves will eventually fall.

I'm also pretty sure that by the summer months they'll have regrown. This happened once before after a bad cold spell, back in 2014 if memory serves. To refresh your memory, this storm took my part of Portland to below freezing (ultimate low of 19F) where we stayed for almost 72 hours—three days not going above freezing does a number on our plants. Add in the harsh east wind (desiccating cold wind on the evergreens) and ice, and a lot of plant damage is the result.

Meanwhile the leaves just add to the winter mess, as they're very thick, don't break down easily and I have to clean them up.

Here's another agave that's taken a turn for the worst. If this was say, April, I'd have more hope, but we've still got a lot of rain and more cold (a couple of nights in the low 20's coming up) to help that rot grow. I believe this is an Agave salmiana.

As if the weather wasn't providing enough plant horror, the damn rabbit(s) are creating another nightmare. That empty patch next to the sidewalk, it used to be solid with black mondo grass, sedum, and sempervivum. 

They've ate it bare. I'm so angry!

That's an expensive snack you little furry terrors!

Across the sidewalk there are signs of munching on my cute little Agave x leopoldii.

An agave manages to hang on and still look good after the crazy weather and then gets eaten. I hope it hurt.

Weather damage on the Agave parrasanna 'Meat Claw'.

More rabbit damage on this Agave bracteosa—but look! It's fighting to make a rebound and new growth is pushing out of the center.

More ugly! Serious ugly. 

Times two. One of these is an Agave salmiana, I'm not sure what the other is.

It does not look good for this poor plant.

Cordyline Cha Cha, starting it's death decline. This is one of two that I have, I'll end up cutting them back to the ground and they'll ever so slowly return. A couple years from now (unless next winter is nasty) they'll look good again.

This is the hardest pill to swallow. The bad spot on the large Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' next to my front steps keeps growing...

There were Cordyline australis here. The tops started to collapse so I chopped them. I'm pretty sure I've seen these sprout new growth from somewhere on the side of the trunk, so I thought I'd see if they wanted to go that route. If not I'll cut these down and the new bottom growth (unfazed by the cold) can take over.

Poor little Clarity Blue Dianella, both eaten by the rabbit(s) AND attacked by the cold.

We're in the back garden now and assessing the astelia damage. The plant on the right—Astelia 'Red Devil'—is one of the survivors, the plant on the left however is slowly melting.

I'm holding out hope that part of it lives, but I can tug on the leaves of this side part and they pull right out.

The same here. On the right is 'Red Devil' and it's solid, the one on the left is not.

And here, the leaves pull right out. Damn. I wish I could remember which ones these are, but that knowledge was lost to time.

This mass of ugly is part astelia (dead) and part Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash' which is hanging on to some of it's leaves (as well as some black mondo, leaf litter and who knows what else).

This Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash' however is a crispy mess.

The pyrrosia. Oh the pyrrosia. I've got these planted all over my garden (on account of the fact I LOVE them). Several plants are fine, or have minimal damage, unfortunately this mass planting of P. lingua, P. lingua 'Variegata', and P. hastata was really damaged by the cold, wind and ice (not to mention they're covered in leaves falling from the Stachyurus salicifolius and Maytenus boaria 'Green Showers').

While these are ferns, they're not the type that will replace the damaged fronds with a new flush of growth come spring. Their leaves sprout along a creeping stolon.

It's going to be really painful to cut off the damage and leave these plants looking bare. 

Several aspidistra are looking horrible as well, and also semi-buried by fallen leaves.

These plants only put out a couple of new leaves each year, so it's going to take awhile for them to rebound—assuming they can.
 
All three of my Cyrtomium fortunei look like this. Pretty pathetic, right? I have no experience with this plant and bad weather. It's supposedly hardy to Zone 6 so hopefully if I trim back these toasted fronds new ones will grow out in the spring.

Another said Clarity Blue Dianella, one of a pair in the back garden that got hit hard by the weather, no rabbit.

The leaves on Pseudopanax 'Sabre' looked great right after the freeze, but they're starting to turn. I've got no idea what this one will do long term either.

Stachyurus salicifolius continues to loose its leaves.

The pendulous bloom spikes remain however. Will they hang on to bloom this spring? We shall see.

Mahonia lomariifolia ssp. tenuifolia is hanging onto it's damaged leaves.

Where as this Mahonia x sevillana (a hybrid between M. eurybracteata and M. gracilipes from the Miller Garden) has dropped them all. Is it still alive? I have no idea. Note the thick layer of leaves, cones, conifer branches, etc, etc, etc, that's covering the soil. This is not what you should be seeing, there are small plants hidden under there!

What type of plants you ask? Well, for example Asarum maximum 'Ling Ling', not that it's anything to look at right now. Normally it's a lovely evergreen plant, hardy to Zone 7. The leaves in this photo look horribly sad!

The last plant to be featured on this list of horrors (note I said the last to be featured, there are plenty more I didn't photgraph) is my Metapanax delavayi. This is the side facing the house, it looks pretty good, all things considered.
There are a few sad leaves...

But nothing like what you see when you walk around to the back side where most everything is crispy brown and falling.

It's odd to have half a shrub look okay and half look this bad. My garden seems to have many strange microclimates that change with the wind and the seasons.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Winter interest in my garden

There was a vintage-style card going around a few years ago that read: "My Garden Kicks Ass"  Well, I have to say if the criteria is winter interest, my garden really does kick ass. No, it's not Zone 9 fabulous, with things blooming and bromeliads and succulents looking luscious (I garden in Zone 8). Nor is it tidy, oh gosh no! It's a mess after the Christmas-storm's cold and ice, the extremely high winds and rain for weeks. However if you want interesting plants to rest your eyes on and inspire you, I've got that in spades. Let's take a look...

This little vignette is next to the back door. I bought the Helleborus 'Cinnamon Snow' just a couple of weeks ago (I needed to get out and visit some nurseries one afternoon) and the Lonicera nitida 'Lemon Beauty' seemed like a great accompaniment. I don't know if I'll keep the lonicera long term, but it's making me happy here.

Walking around the side of the house, down the driveway and out to the front garden my eyes are first drawn to the structure—legs—of the Fatsia japonica and Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths'. Then my eyes drift down to the yuccas, dasylirion and the brown cloud of Pittosporum anomalum at ground level.

Walking further down the drive and glancing up the sidewalk towards the front door a few agaves come into view—they look great from a distance, up close though some reveal their winter battle scars.

At the end of the drive (where it meets the public sidewalk), 'Austin' is king again along with that pair of spiky Yucca rostrata and the powder blue Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue'. I should also mention the ground cover—Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific'. It requires nothing and always looks great.

I'm standing in the hell-strip now, and looking towards the front of the house. Arctostaphylos 'Monica' is at Austin's side—honestly I was pretty set on removing her this summer, but now I'm thinking with just a good pruning she may earn another year. Several Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' are "sprinkled" thru the front garden.

On the far right is my third manzanita, Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Harmony’, it's the oldest and the shortest.

Now a few close-ups of things I find especially interesting this time of year. 

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard', common as dirt but it lights up a dreary day. This plant (in the hellstrip) was lightly backlit when I photographed it.

Whereas this one was not. You can see how the light changes the power of the yellow stripe.

Callistemon 'Woodlander's Hardy Red'—both above with the yucca, and below.

Bright green foliage, those killer seed pods, what's not to love? The blue foliage behind the callistemon is a Dasylirion wheeleri.

Another callistemon, this one with finer foliage, Callistemon sieberi.

Oh look, there's Austin again! This time he's joined by Callistemon 'Woodlander's Hardy Red' and Erica arborea var. alpina.

Mahonia nervosa colored up for the winter—and yes, more callistemon. I have four of them in my small front garden so they do touch a lot of other plants.

Early in December I grabbed this cryptomeria on a nursery outing, I'd pulled the potted agave that was sitting in this spot (wanting to protect it for the winter) and thought this would be an interesting feature plant right next to the front steps. Unfortunately the pot I grabbed didn't have a label so I'm not sure which one it is, I am guessing maybe Cryptomeria japonica 'Globosa Nana'? That's my Daphne x houtteana on the right, it's a little defoliated and not looking it's best at the moment. 

Leafless in the wintertime the spikes of trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata really shine. Mine has an odd bit of yellow variegation.

Here's a close-up of one of those Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' I mentioned. It's doing great, just needs a clean-out of those leaves and needles.

A few more 'JC Raulston' along with a close up of Austin's sexy legs.

Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow'

There's a lot going on in this photo, but what I wanted to call your attention to are the Aristaloe aristata, the short rosettes. They make me very happy.

As does this—several years ago a friend shared some Hellebores foetidus seedlings with me and I'm finally going to get blooms! The damn rabbit(s) ate them back to almost nothing a couple years in a row.

Rather than share a garden perspective on the Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Nanjing Gold' I thought it might be fun to show you what I see from inside the house. This window is in our kitchen, I eat my breakfast here every morning, and somedays lunch.

I have an extraordinary view of the edgeworthia from that window. It's prime viewing when the flowers start to open and hummingbirds feed on them. Even when the plant isn't in bloom the branches offer a great perch for birds to observe the garden from, safe with their back to the house. I have a lot of bird watching opportunities...

Here's the view thru our glass front door (in the living room) when the wooden door is open.

The view from the living room window. On the lower right, the shrub with the largish leaves and pink petioles is Mahonia gracilipes.

My original design idea was that the front garden would look largely the same no matter the season. It's what the neighborhood sees, and it's what we see coming and going during the winter months when we don't spend time lounging outdoors. I want it to always have something interesting going on. 

The back garden however, that's a space that comes into it's best during the summer. We're not back here much from October thru April so it gets to take those months off. That said, I was surprised at just how much winter interest there is in the back garden, oh and we're only about half way thru this post. It's a long one!

Lonicera crassifolia with it's fabulous winter color—the agave is A. 'Mateo'.

Looking along the back of our house towards the neighbor's garage, the orange wall. The black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') has filled in nicely. This sight-line is normally blocked by bananas, Musa Basjoo. The December cold killed them back to the ground.

The bark on the far left (above) belongs to Callistemon virdiflorus, it's pretty fabulous...

I planted several aspidistra last spring, many of them took a serious hit in the December storm, this one looks good though.
This Pyrrosia lingua var. 'Cristata' also weathered the storm well, the same can't be said for several of my other pyrrosia—this is a sheltered location.

I shared this photo on Instagram and the crowd went wild for the variegated aspidistra. I have Peter (The Outlaw) to thank for it. My back was to the house as I took this shot, it's a perspective I don't think I've shared before.

Another pyrrosia that's looking good, P. hastata. I divided a really healthy chunk last autumn and planted it around the garden.

During the cold snap I pulled the pair of fascicularia tucked into the trunk of a Trachycarpus fortunei 'Wagnerianus'. They went into the shade pavilion greenhouse until the temperatures were above freezing, then I returned them to their perch. One had rooted into the tree, I hated pulling it free.

Interestingly I missed a small piece of the Tillandsia usneoides when I pulled them inside last fall. It's been hanging here all winter and it still looks to be alive!

Winter interest on the Hibiscus syriacus 'Red Heart' consists of little tufts of moss on it's bare branches.

The orange wall definitely brightens up a grey January day.

But it looks even better when the sun makes a brief (ever so brief) appearance.

More fuzzy edgeworthia-bud interest, this the orange-blooming E. chrysantha ‘Akebono’.

Powerful color from the Astelia 'Red Devil', thankfully it's solid after the freeze, the same can't be said for many other astelia in the garden—I'm planning the flip side of this "winter interest" post on Friday, a "winter horror" post and you'll see the unfortunate characters then.

Fuzzy Magnolia laevifolia buds.

And loquat blooms! Eriobotrya japonica.

Here's a bit of a mess, the Stachyurus salicifolius that grows over this area continues to defoliate after the cold, it's leaves are everywhere. I wanted to share this section though because there's a lot of good stuff in there if you can ignore the fallen leaves and the toasted tips of the podocarpus on  the right.

Pyrrosia sp. SEH#12547

Pyrrosia lingua 'Eboshi'
And Rhododendron williamsianum, to name a few.
Next to the steps leading down to the patio, Saxifraga 'Primuloides' always looks fantastic, especially when Pyrrosia lingua is growing up thru it.

Sammy (Yucca rostrata) screams winter interest doesn't he?

In the name of complete transparency here's a pulled back shot that includes the three split bamboo "tunnels" left in place all winter to help keep a few things drier than they would otherwise be. They're not pretty, but they're performing an important job. That's Nolina hibernica 'La Siberica' in front, with another Yucca rostrata.

Another Nolina hibernica 'La Siberica' in a different part of the back garden.

Looking accross the patio at the fence the borders the west side of the garden. If you were to look closely at the patch of aspidistra you'd see many storm-damaged leaves that will need to be removed. The big leaves on the far left are bamboo, Sasa palmata f. nebulosa.

Mahonia x media 'Marvel' and Trachycarpus fortunei var Nainital.

You knew I had to share a photo of the variegated Daphniphyllum, right?

Another Mahonia x media 'Marvel'.

Fatsia japonica 'Murakumo Nishiki'

And (finally), a photo of the pyrrosia and friends in a stock tank—protected during our cold snap. I'm pretty lucky to have so many extraordinary plants to bring me winter-time garden joy...

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