Monday, February 5, 2024

My plants, two weeks after the historic storm

In the weeks since I first wrote about the storm that hit our region mid-January I've spent lots of time surveying the damage in the garden. Most of the weak succulents were taken out last year, so with a few exceptions—I'm looking at you Aloiampelos (aloe) striatula—succulents seem to have mostly escaped this go 'round. Instead, this storm will be remembered for the extreme damage it did to the broadleaf evergreens (referred to in these parts as BLEs). Like this Metapanax delavayi (Z7).

Last year's storm was the first time I'd had so many of evergreen shrubs completely defoliate. It's a horrible feeling to watch something that should be evergreen drop every one of its leaves over several weeks-months. It draws out the "is it dead?/is it alive" question for an agonizing period of time, it's messy, ugly, and demoralizing to clean up brown leaves over and over in the springtime. In the photo above the metapanax still has a bit of a green tinge to it, but when we hit 62F last Thursday the leaves all turned brown and began to fall.

This Schefflera taiwaniana (Z7) took on a similarly unhealthy hue.

Are they gonna die? Are they going to drop these damaged leaves and grow new? We wait.

I'm including the USDA Zone rating for all of the plants I write about in this post after their names. Why? Because there seem to be a few folks who think that everything I plant is pushing my Zone, no, far from it. Especially since the experts behind the new USDA Zone map are under the impression that I'm actually gardening in Zone 9a. Ha!

Here are the two patches of aspidistra (cast-iron plant) that still look good.

It boggles my mind that this strongly variegated Aspidistra elatior 'Variegata' (Z7) was pretty much untouched, as I'd have thought the variegation would have made this guy kind of weak.

Just two feet away all the foliage on this spotted aspidistra is damaged. In fact as I write this (a couple of days after taking the photo) it has turned straw colored. The droopy leaves behind it belong to Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash' (Z8), they're crispy now and starting to fall off.

Yep, more Aspidistra elatior (Z6-8 depending on who you believe) damage.

It's hard to tell in this photo just how many of those leaves are bad. Sadly this is VERY slow growing plant.

Pulled back a bit you can see the damage on the Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress' (Z7), it's the brown foliage. There's also some damage to the Mahonia eurybracteata 'Indianola Silver' (Z7) (front left) but it's not as dramatic.

As a lover of dark foliage I find these leaves rather beautiful.

To bad they aren't healthy. Will the plant live? I hope so, but I won't know for a while and if they do flush out new growth it won't be along the lower part of the stem, just at the end. I fear some plants will take on a tall and gangly look.

To say that my mahonia collection was hit hard is an understatement (are you ready for lots of ugly mahonia?) Mahonia x savilliana (Z7).

Mahonia x media 'Marvel' (Z6)

Mahonia lomariifolia ssp. tenuifolia (Z8)

Mahonia fortunei ‘Dan Hinkley’ (Z7)

Mahonia confusa 'Narihira' (Z7)

These plants are all across my garden in vastly different locations. Some of them are in protected spots where the strong east wind (which blew when it was 12F) shouldn't have been a factor, so it must have been the cold. This one, Mahonia gracilipes (Z7) was definitely whipped around hard in the wind though.

Another Mahonia fortunei ‘Dan Hinkley’ (Z7)

Interestingly Mahonia x media 'Charity' (Z7) suffered almost no damage, although it's flowers were immediately zapped.

Oh the pyrrosia. This is one of the better looking patches (P. lingua Z8).

Most of the leaves in other patches around the garden look like this (unless they were in a spot where I could cover them). This evergreen fern grows along creeping rhizomes, so damaged/dead fronds will not be replaced but new ones will come up further along the rhizome, assuming they're still alive.

Some of my groundcover saxifrage are looking bad too. These have never been winter-damaged in my garden before. Saxifraga x geum 'Dentata' (Z6)

Another new one for damage, Asarum caudatum (Z7), our western wild ginger. 

Lomatia tinctoria (Z7), some leaves are all black, some are a little more green.

Grevillea rivularis (Z8) with the yellow arrows. I'm pretty sure it's dead. The white arrows point to Grevillea x gaudichaudii (Z8). The leaves are brown where they were exposed, but what was under the frost cloth for the little agave are still green. I have hope!

This is a branch of one of my three Callistemon ‘Woodlander's Hardy Red’ (Z7). Obviously it has some issues...

The Woodlander's in the back garden was still struggling to recover from last winter, I'm pretty sure it's a gonner. The two in the front garden have a little green on them (like in the photo). Will they drop the brown leaves and recover? Only time will tell. The color of my Callistemon viridiflorus (I have two) is also a little "off". Gawd I hope I don't loose these established plants. 

And then there's this...again, it got browner after I took this photo and started dropping it's leaves (sorry I keep saying this, but it really is remarkable the change that took place in the garden with just one 60F day, everything that was damaged nosedived). I am speaking of the Acca sellowiana (pineapple guava Z8) in the large container. 

I planted a pair back in 2013 and hoped as they became more established they would stop with the leaf browning and drop when we have extreme winters, but they have not. This is the second year in a row it's happened. You've heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Well I am ready to call it quits on this one (I already said sayonara to the other one). 

Besides the foliage damage to the BLEs, there's also the sad state of the winter and early spring bloomers, like edgeworthia and arctostaphylos. Here the doomed flowers of Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Nanjing Gold' (Z8) cozy up to the pineapple guava leaves.

A few of the flowers on the far south side of the edgeworthia are opening, slowly, but most of them are just sort of frozen in the bud stage and starting to fall apart.

All over my social media accounts people were rushing to cover their edgeworthia before the cold. My plant stretches this entire side of the front of our house and is at least eight ft tall (guessing). Can you imagine my trying to cover it, and then keep the covering on in 50-mph wind? This is the second year in a row the blooms will not open with their vibrant color and fantastic scent, what's the point of growing a plant like this when you don't get to enjoy the blooms?

The Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths' (Z7) flowers were in full bloom when the cold hit. Many of them fell to the ground with the ice, but the ones that remained look like this. The hummingbirds are usually all over these flowers and the ones on the edgeworthia. Not this year (or last).

The usually evergreen Stachyurus salicifolius (the wide shrub with the long leaves, Z7), is also fixing to drop both it's leaves and its pendulous blooms.


This is another plant that went through the same thing last winter. Once the plants that were hit last year leafed out (or in a couple of cases did not) I figured that horrible experience was over and something I wouldn't have to experience again, or at least for many years. Except here we are. It's got to be pretty taxing for a plant to have to go thru that two years in a row. 

In this part of the garden the ground is already covered with a mix of Stachyurus salicifolius leaves and blooms, along with the dropping leaves of Maytenus boaria 'Green Showers' another evergreen (Z8 or 9 depending on source).

This brown Astelia nervosa 'Westland' (Z8) died back to the ground last year and managed to put on this much growth over the summer. Can it rebound again?

Eryngium proteiflorum (Z8) dead?

Succulent plants I didn't cover have speckling consistent with ice pellet damage. This is Agave bracteosa (Z8)...

Nolina hibernica 'La Siberica' (Z7)

Because I want to end on a hopeful note here are a couple of success stories. This Astelia 'Red Devil' (Z7) made it thru last winter's crazy storm uncovered, but I didn't want to risk it a second time (since I knew from experience the others were gonna die back no matter what), so I wrapped it. Yay! It looks good.

You might remember the cover I put over the Pseudopanax ferox (Z8) from my earlier storm post? Well knock wood, throw salt and cross fingers... but it looks like it worked!

The Friday the storm hit I finally called it quits on my protection efforts when I ran out of covering materials. I came indoors to warm up, looked out the window, and saw this Agave 'Mateo' (Z7) with no protection, I'd completely missed it! I hoped in my car and rushed to my closest nursery buying all the frost cloth they had left (not much). Thank god, as it looks good! (photo from January 28th, the callistemon and rosemary had not yet turned brown).

This is a nice surprise as well, Agave victoriae-reginae (Z8) looking good! This plant *should* be hardy here, but you rarely see it in local gardens. In all my years of gardening here I think I've only seen it in the ground once.

It's been kept dry under cover since mid-November and it looks like that's made it happy (again with the wood, salt and fingers!). 

To receive alerts of new danger garden posts by email, subscribe here. Please note; these are sent from a third party, you’ll want to click thru to read the post here on the blog to avoid their annoying ads. 

All material © 2009-2024 by Loree L Bohl. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

47 comments:

  1. sorry loree that sucks so bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes indeed it does! As a friend said though, we're all in this together... meaning I know I'm not the only one with damaged plants.

      Delete
  2. Sorry to read of your losses due to that extreme weather--I'm quite surprised at your area being re-classified to 9a. Any snow or an ice storm in 9a seems --well, what used to be 9a here would get an occasional frost at most.

    Agave v-r looks splendid--you kept it dry, exactly what it needs in the cold. Guess due to some losses you'll be forced to do some plant shopping. Just try to get through that as best you can.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's all about the averages right? One plant killing cold spell in an otherwise warm winter and it still averages out to be a warm winter. I fear for the new gardeners who don't know better. I wonder how many people will be turned off gardening because they think it's something they did?

      Delete
  3. Ouch, ouch, OUCH! I expect that the long wait to see what springs back and what doesn't is as bad - or maybe worse - than the initial hit. I've little confidence in USDA hardiness ratings but then maybe that dismissal is simply the effect of living in zone 10b (or 11a depending on who's talking). I rely more on the Sunset zones as they account for a wider range of factors but even there I've concluded that it's necessary to try a plant to have any certainty about what'll survive/thrive and what won't - and even then placement matters. I love Japanese maples and they're grown widely here but I've only managed to get 2 to survive and I think their placement was the key. And then there's the wild card commonly known as climate change...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Sunset zones are worthless to me because growers don't use them and thus they don't show up on plant labels. Your of course right though, it's about more than just the numbers.

      Delete
  4. I love all that you have done in your garden, and I'm sorry for the damage caused by the storm. You must be heartbroken. I hope you have many survivors among the plants that might still be alive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the sweet comment Jeanette!

      Delete
  5. Jeanne DeBenedetti KeyesFebruary 05, 2024

    It is so disheartening, isn't it, Loree? So many black and brown leaves when there should be green. My metapanax delavayi and mahonias looks the same. Hoping for a full recovery. Oddly, my guava, which has been has been in the ground for four years has totally brown leaves, never went from the olive green to brown with the warmer weather you mentioned. Lots of brown/black leaves on Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe flower) and pittosporum (P. 'Tall and Tough', P. tenufolium). On the bright side, so far, my Agave 'Vansie' has no new brown spots after this storm (one from last year, on an old leaf). I did not protect it. It laughed at the wind, the ice, covered in snow for days. (Keeping my fingers crossed, probably doomed it now that I mentioned it!) . A 'Sharkskin', and A. parryi J.C. Raulston seem to be doing well, also not protected. And surprise, but the A. victoria-reginae I got from you, in its gravel covered flat dish (elevated with a piece of pipe) seems to be doing really well. No mushy leaves. It was on the porch, not covered but somewhat out of the wind. It's just crazy to see what suffered and what didn't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great agave news Jeanne! Sorry to hear you're experiencing all the other heartache though.

      Delete
  6. Those Mahonias are pretty shocking-and so is your 'upgrade to Z9' -looks to me like this was a z6 event ! Here's hoping for a robust spring so your survivors can shake off the damage and march on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The averages (on which Zones are based) do no good as we move towards extremes. I think we need to come up with a new system...

      Delete
  7. Ugh!!! My gardener’s heart goes out to you. So much damage. I can’t believe after last winter
    we would get hit even worse. Just hoping that this winter’s cold blasts are over and done.
    Next year has to be a mild one, right (says l desperately)?
    Jim N. Tabor

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was supposed to be our mild one! But ya, I pray we don't get hit again. Lots of the weather folks I read are saying it's clear sailing from here, but what do they know, really?

      Delete
  8. 'Mateo' looks grand, so that's a big win. This post just says so much about the extreme volatility in the weather and how planting for it becomes crazy difficult. So glad the power held up for the treasures in the basement!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And the shade pavilion greenhouse! I'd bought a small propane heater in case of emergency but wasn't looking forward to digging it out of the garage and getting it set up.

      Delete
  9. I'm glad the damage wasn't too bad, and I hope they'll all eventually come back. The volatility Denise mentions is so true. Although my zone increased for the first time in my adult life, I will still plant for the colder zone...with a few exceptions. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's why I included the Zone ratings with the names, most of these are for colder zones... but the wind, ice and duration of cold changes things.

      Delete
  10. Most of my Pittosoporum and Sarcococca started dropping their seemingly undamaged leaves after the temp rose to 62F, it was dreadful and as you said, demoralizing, to witness. I was planning on adding a lot more Mahonia this spring, probably will go a different direction, now. Loree, I'm curious how your Daphniphyllum and Eriobotrya held up? And Aucuba?
    -artinnature

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The tallest (solid green) daphniphyllum still looks deflated, but the leaves are green. The variegated one looks fine (thank god) and the aucuba didn't even notice there was a storm.

      Delete
    2. Oh!, wonderful to hear that your variegated Daphniphyllum survived! And your loquat?
      -artinnature

      Delete
    3. Sorry... didn't mean to ignore that part of the question! The Eriobotrya/loquat did just great. No damage at all.

      Delete
  11. So disheartening to see plants you have put so much love and care into get hit. You have my sympathy. I suspect the so called hardy plants got hit hard due to their starting to come out of their winter dormant period. Woody plants are at their most vulnerable when they start to wake up. Going from warm to cold so rapidly is brutal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know that they were coming out of their dormant period, but some of them may not have been dormant. The temperatures had been consistently mild all winter up until the storm hit. It indeed was a very rapid and brutal change.

      Delete
  12. This is all horribly familiar to read, similar to what we experienced in Austin in Feb. '21. We had another deep freeze the following year, and another one this winter. And yet because the climate is warming overall, we've been moved from 8b to 9a as well. Hah! Many of us are moving away from formerly dependable evergreens (and agaves) that struggle with the deep freeze events, especially when it bounces back up to 75 or 80 F just a few days or weeks later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This all points to the need for a new way of talking about growing Zones don't you think? What good are averages when the extremes are what we gardeners have to plan for?

      Delete
  13. Yeah, I think USDA was just asking for trouble with that rezoning! 😄
    It's so funny how varied what gets damaged is. Is there any rhyme or reason as to the direction the wind was from/compass heading area of your garden that got damaged? Some things you're very worried about don't look that bad for me here (so far...) I forgot to cover a few things. I'm waiting to see if any will come back from roots. I'm definitely going to continue to leave the Japanese maple leaves over the winter. I think they insulated ground plants nicely. Fingers crossed we're past the worst for
    this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been asking myself the same questions about the wind. Obviously there are some patterns that I need to pay attention to. Fingers crossed for sure!

      Delete
  14. This is an agonizing post. The damage to your mahonia collection is especially tough to see. Getting hit by wind, sleet, and ice on top of record low temperatures... not many plants can come out unscathed. With climate change and weather extremes, there should be two zone markers. Your location may be 'summer' zone 9, but what's your 'winter' zone? Maybe 6?
    Wood, salt and fingers for that survived, including you!
    Chavli

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point about the two different Zones, there certainly needs to be a different way of talking about the extremes. How are your plants looking?

      Delete
    2. A few pyrrosia leaves are damaged. Many of the winter-blooming potted camellia leaves turned brown. The Azara, still a newish tree, shed a tone of green (!) leaves, but otherwise starting to bloom... Hellebores flattened temporarily but bounced back. I'm grateful.
      C.

      Delete
    3. I've heard from a lot of people that their azara were damaged, I keep forgetting to look at mine.

      Delete
  15. This is very sad and your frustration is very understandable. This is our third abnormal winter in a row in Vancouver and many plants we have grown for forty plus years have to be reconsidered. Some are not dead, but if they defoliate every year, they no longer fill their function in our garden. Wood, salt, fingers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if nongardeners see the weather extremes the way we do? Forty plus years is a long time! I think back over my gardening here and can remember really bad years of 08/09, 09/10, '14, '17... and now these last two. I fear that 10 years out these might look like the good days?

      Delete
  16. This is painful. And for it to drag out for weeks with the not knowing, is the worst. The rezone to 9a is ridiculous. I'm hoping you've got more survivors there than it looks right now, and that next winter is mild.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks TZ, it is painful! Especially because all reports point to winter being a dream from here on out. So except for that one week we would have really had a Zone 9 winter...

      Delete
  17. It is all so discouraging. Believe me I know! You have the record cold and I have the record heat. Honestly, I fear this trend is just the beginning. I hate to be negative, but I have lost so many plants too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh we had record heat too (not to minimize your blast furnace conditions which are on an entirely different level) but our 108, 112, 116 run in 2021 was plenty hot for this area.

      Delete
  18. That is grim. You definitely got hit worse than us this year. I too have noticed that the browning/leaf drop has accelerated with warm temperatures. I remember being a little relieved in the week or so after the storm. Not any more. Many things aren't looking pretty bad, even some old stalwarts like penstemon (zone 5/6) got fried. Spending most of my time indoors for a while. I can't afford to cover the whole yard with a drop cloth every winter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Today I noticed some bamboo that's turning brown. Ah the gift just keeps on giving...

      Delete
    2. More like the curse that keeps on cursing...

      Delete
  19. Grim, discouraging, painful...I can't add anything new to that. Amidst all the carnage, Yucca rostrata stood out. It's a beacon saying not all is lost.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The day after you left this comment I dug out a dead Yucca rostrata. At least it's issues weren't from this storm. I should have gotten rid of it last summer, I just refused to give up...

      Delete
    2. I hope you are not talking about the Yucca in front of the Edgeworthia. Such a beauty and looks okay in the photo.

      Delete
    3. No, thankfully. This one was smaller, but had been in my garden longer (since 2011).

      Delete
  20. Loree, I'm shocked and saddened by your losses. I mean that saxifrage and the asarum? What the corn? That's epic. Uggg....I don't think PDX is zone 9, despite it being all about "averages" - I mean, come on! I am so so sorry. That damned east wind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saturday I trimmed a lot of the black off the saxifrage, and was able to see the new growth is coming. I'm thinking it will be the same for the asarum. Do much ugly! The wind (and the long time under 32) was just too much...

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!