All the Plants that Died, DiedApril 12, 2011
Ellen from Bellevue, WA wrote in over the weekend to find out if she’s alone with a garden full of winter-croaked plants this spring. She saw a number of (her words not mine) California type plants give up the ghost along with decades-old hydrangea. Her inquiry prompted me to put together a write up similar to this one from past harsh winters sharing what I’m seeing dead or near-dead around town this Spring.
Although I haven’t seen any well established hydrangeas around town that have bit the dust, Ellen’s two California type plants that are now among the dearly departed are joined by many of their cousins around town. And, there are quite a few other surprising hardy plants that also took heavy hits this winter. Some are dead; some might just surprise you yet!
The Seattle area is known for wildly fluctuating micro-climates. While one hilltop may be frozen and windy, a block away, a gully may be much more temperate. This makes getting the right plant in the right place all that more difficult. So, if you had a failure or two, remember the old saying, “you’re not a gardener until you’re killing things.” (Sorry, I don’t know who said it first. Do you?)
Okay, and yeah, the ferns on the right aren’t the plants Ellen asked about, but let’s be clear. If these ferns can manage January in San Francisco, there’s no wonder the hardy shrubs like those that follow can as well!
Read on for a list of what died and made it on my “no plant” list and what’s maybe not dead or is still worth (imho) planting:
The Ones I Won’t be Planting Again (Note: some made my “no plant list” years ago, but I share them here ’cause folks keep planting them)
- New Zealand Flax: Not even ‘Amazing Red’ is looking good this year.
- Hebes: Although Quicksilver, Pinquefolia, James Stirling and Procumbens made it in my garden, I’m done spec’ing any of these in Seattle. Love them, but they’re too inconsistent through winter.
- Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’: While Dark Star is one of my hands-down favorite cultivars, it burned in winter like nobody’s business. Pt. Reyes and Julia Phelps fared much better, though Julia is probably going to have a very short styling this spring. (One of Ellen’s losses)
- Evergreen magnolia: Once again, these trees fried from the top down. Done, and done.
- Escallonia: A plant that dies on one side every year just isn’t worth it to me. RIP (it out)!
- Pittosporum: Like Ellen says: California plant. Leave it there!
Plants I’ll Continue to Use with Notes of Caution:
- Nandina: I adore Nandina. For the most part, it’s a consistently beautiful evergreen shrub with multi-colored foliage, blooms and berries. Fortunately, it’s also a cane grower, so when it has a defoliation year like this one, cut it hard to the ground to encourage new growth from the base. Or, try a series of alternating cuts to nodes on existing canes that are alive. Odds are, it’ll sprout right out.
- Cistus: Rockrose is such a cheap, easy care, low maintenance, low water shrub that I’ll still use it. I’ll probably stick with tried and true older cultivars though. (Another of Ellen’s losses)
- Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Erysimum: See Cistus.
- Camellia sasanqua: I love this evergreen shrub that blooms through winter. Unfortunately, because it is evergreen and blooming in winter, it can be extra susceptible to winter damage. I can forgive it for occasionally losing its bloom to Mr. Freeze.
- Cotoneaster lacteus: I adore this plant. Evergreen. Blooms white in May, attracting and feeding all sorts of bees that pollinate an abundance of red berries to feed the birds. The November snow took this shrub by surprise and not only destroyed the berries before the birds could enjoy them, but it also really knocked back the plants significantly. Fortunately, with some heavy pruning, it looks like they’ll come back.
- Garrya elliptica: See Camellia sasanqua
- Daphne odora: I love a Daphne. I think everyone should try one in their garden. But, know that they sometimes simply give up the ghost. And, don’t expect them to live up to promises of being evergreen. Mine were evergreen for the first few years of their lives; now they defoliate each year only to bloom beautifully and fragrantly on bare stems each spring.
One thing you might notice about the plants on this list is that many of them are considered evergreen. I believe that some of the hardier plants on this year’s list of the dead and injured were significantly weakened during the storm that hit Seattle just before Thanksgiving. It was early enough that maybe, just maybe, these evergreens hadn’t quite set up their winter protection systems all the way, and when that freeze hit, their defenses were lacking.
So, what else you got that you think might be dead? Anything new made your “never again” list after this winter?