Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The stock tank table planting, how did it hold up? (and other plant reports)

Here in Portland we've just wrapped up an amazing stretch of sunny and warm (mid 70's+) weather. Once I saw that forecast I decided it was time to take off the last two plant coverings in the back garden.

I'd peeked, so I knew basically what to expect under these polycarbonate panels which had been in place since early November...

But there's always a bit of worry about what I can't see...

No surprises!

Agave bracteosa, NoID agave and Opuntia humifusa were all solid.

Sadly the many Aloiampelos (aloe) striatula winding thru the planting were a combination of soggy and crispy. I cut them off at the ground and hope maybe the plants will resprout from the roots.

The big agave looks good (might be an Agave salmiana, I got it as a pass-along pup).

Just this one arm with odd scaring.

Agave montana... soggy pants (it's a gonner).

Ditto for the Agave victoriae-reginae. It was so soft I was able to just lift it off the ground and into a trub trug.

All cleaned up. 

I'd taken the other long-panel cover off the week before. Under it I found a rotten Agave montana, and a rotten Agave americana Variegata (an experiment since this was supposed to be a warm El-Nino winter—which really it was, except for that one damn cold week in January). The surviving blue agave in the center was a rescue years ago. I wasn't sure what it was then and I am still not, oh, and you can see I've been shopping.

Bookending that surviving rescue agave are Agave bracteosa, this is such a great agave for our PNW climate. 

Next I took the rain cover off the large, containerized, Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue'. I was pretty sure it was okay, but when I couldn't actually see the center of the plant you never know. Thankfully there were no ugly surprises...

At the base of the large A. ovatifolia is (was) this small Agave parviflora. I almost lifted it last autumn, but since it was under the larger agave's cover I thought maybe it stood a chance. Nope.

Since I was taking photos in the area, I thought we'd have a quick look at the ring planting I did last summer. During my winter storm prep in January I did throw a piece of frost cloth and a plastic bin over this whole thing. It obviously did what I'd hoped it would as the astelia and pyrrosia look great.

Ditto for this little cutie which I have absolutely no experience with, Soldanella alpina.

It's not such a happy report for this Loropetalum chinense 'sizzling pink' (grown for its dark foliage, not its blooms). A scratch of the bark shows green, so it's still alive, but it has looked dead since January.

Over next to the stock tank the contents of this large container were also protected during the cold snap.

Saxifrage 'Winifred Bevington' and S. primuloides, with Cassiope lycopodioides.

Saxifraga hostii

At the back Lonicera crassifolia, the pyrrosia is P. lingua.

More Cassiope lycopodioides.

Okay, it's finally time to talk about the stock tank table planting, which was the reason for this long post. Last August I shared a detailed look at this planting and how it came together here. Never having done a planting quite like this I had no idea how it would hold up to winter, let alone the worst winter Portland's had since 1990. Well, it did great!

You can see the paint job isn't quite as fabulous as when it was new, which is to be expected. Plus there was a pair of adorable little saxifrage right here at the front. I don't know if something snacked on them, or they rotted (?), but they're gone now.

And I doubt the Fuchsia procumbens (brown sticks) will be making a comeback, as it's only marginally hardy in the best of times.

Some of the super troopers include Saxifraga stolonifera...

Struthiopteris spicant / Blechnum spicant / deer fern

To the left of the deer fern is Asarum maximum 'Ling Ling' and next to that Asplenium trichomanes.

Athyrium niponicum ‘Silver Falls’ waking up (there are several of this "painted fern" tucked in the planting)
The Tricyrtis formosana ‘Samurai’ are also starting to make themselves seen again.

Several stems of this Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby' were brown and had to be cut away, but many remain alive with their little leaves.

The Pyrrosia linqua also did well.

There was one episode of maurading racoons (that I know of) and some of the moss was tossed around. I didn't get it shoved back into place right away and it's looking a little rough in patches. I'm probably going to tuck in a few small plants to help plump up the plantings anyway, so the bare spots will be hidden.

I think I will just let the wooden table slowly show it's age. Maybe I'll change my tune in August when it's dry and slap a little paint on it, but for now I'm calling it good.

The branches that form the elevated back of the planting are staying in place nicely.

And some new little patches of moss are starting to grow.

I thought I'd lost this Shortia soldanelloides (the bright red plant) last summer and was thrilled to see it making an appearance.

It was a gift from Roger Gossler when I visited the nursery last March.

I neglected to mention the tall fern at the back (which didn't mind being folded over under the frost cloth for a week), Lepisorus bicolor.

Whew! That's the report. It's nice to be able to talk about some plants that aren't completely scorched from the winter storm.

The only other winter protection yet to come down is the shade pavilion greenhouse, and since we're now returning to our usual 50-something highs with periodic rain, well, that's a few weeks away...

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  1. This is a great time stamp posting. After that January weather you have to figure that anything that makes it through that cold stands a good chance in most years. At least now we’re in the hopeful time of year, and out of the dread of winter. Speaking of hopeful, my aloieampelos striatula is crispy like yours but already has growth from the base. Great to see agave “Frosty Blue” looking healthy. I finally bought a pup-sized one and just put it in the ground. Yours is magnificent! I’ve seen a few around town that were uncovered and still look fine.
    Jim N Tabor

    1. That's good to know, about your Aloieampelos striatula! I started covering that particular A. ovatifolia back when it was still smaller than the container it was in, I didn't want to risk loosing it to rot over the winter--since it was in a container with only one drainage hole. Now it's so large I'm sure the container is mostly filled with roots and they've probably filled the drainage hole as well!

  2. It's good to see a (fairly) good report overall, The stock tank table looks great. Have fun with your touch-ups!

    1. This corner of the garden is definitely a success, it's nice to have it to focus on while the rest of the garden is still a mixed bag.

  3. You are looking pretty good after that crazy freeze. Sad about the agaves, that sucks. I'm hoping the week of sunshine gave everything a good jumpstart.

    1. Well, this corner at least. There is still a huge amount of ugly and death around the garden as a whole--but I'll take what I can get!

  4. It's a joy to see your survivors: Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' is a star!
    Soldanella alpina and its pipe planter: so sweet! With "alpina" in the name you know it can take a lot of winter. I'm looking forward to seeing the purple flowers on this little guy.
    Loved the stock tank planter when you put it together and I'm thrilled it came through so well. Saxifraga stolonifera is a new plant in my garden and it survive winter without added protection... looking knocked back a little, but alive. Where has it been all my gardening life?

    1. It took me awhile to recognize that Saxifraga stolonifera was a good one!

    2. After an NWPA plant sale yesterday, I'm have my very own Soldanella alpina! In boom, too.

    3. Yay! I saw a post about that sale on FB yesterday and wished I was there, glad you found treasure!

  5. It is nice to have good news. Odd about your Fuchsia procumbens though, ours have never had a problem pulling through the worst winters here and are just starting to push new growth now.

    1. Good to know! This is the first time I've grown it and frankly I was just basing that assumption on what the tag says and the fact I've read about local gardeners protecting it (even when grown in more favorable conditions). Fingers crossed I am wrong!

    2. So I went out and poked around after I read your comment. The sticks are not leafing out, but there's a couple green leaves right at the base. Yay!

  6. Jeanne DeBenedetti KeyesMarch 25, 2024

    Those polycarbonate shelters sure look nice! Good thing you covered your Pyrrosia. Mine look a little sad but I think they are going to make a comeback. Yes, I do think I need to invest in Agave 'Frosty Blue' and A. bracteosa. They seem to be the hardiest. My Agave 'Vanzie' did quite well, considering it endured the full brutal force of the ice storms, snow and frigid temps. It has been in the ground 4 years. Maybe that is the magic number!


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