The Land of Opportunity

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The winter of woe followed by the spring of hope

Garden Renewal, Again

A few weeks ago, I finally mustered up the energy to clear away the dead from the gardens at home and around town. Some losses were not so surprising; five consecutive days and nights below freezing was just too much for plants that had been stressed by erratic temperatures, wild weather highs and lows, and too many drought years. Cabbage palms and New Zealand flax are mushy goners all over the place, even where reflected heat from streets and sidewalks offered a little temperature boost. Some rosemaries (mostly the prostrate ones like Irene and Huntingdon Carpet) and some lavenders (mostly the less-hardy Spanish types) turned into pallid grey ghosts, stemless and brittle. Those weren’t surprises, really, as they do get killed in extreme years, but dead mature horehound plants were a shock. I’ve never seen that before and I’m surprised because the Marrubiums are supposedly hardy from USDA Zones 3-10. Given the mostly dry winter, they certainly weren’t too wet, but apparently the blasting cold wind did them in. Oh well. Now that the dear departed are actually cleared away, the fed and mulched beds have become the Land Of Opportunity, ready for refreshment.

Even more surprising losses were the hardy fuchsias, some many years old, which proved to be not so hardy after all. A few are showing a brave new shoot or two, but most are toast. One thing I’ve learned is that planting fuchsias a little deeper than usual gives them a definite protective edge. In recent years, I’ve been planting them more like tomatoes, 4-6 inches deeper than they were growing in the pot, and those plants came through the winter better than those planted as they presented in the pot. However, when transplanting from 4-inch pots, this isn’t possible, as they would be mainly underground (probably not helpful). Resetting them might work once they develop some sturdy stem growth so I’ll experiment with some new plants this year. My local hummingbirds are used to visiting the garden for those long lasting flowers and I don’t want them to lost the habit, so I’ll certainly be planting more.

Sorting Out The Survivors

There were pitifully few survivors in the unheated sunporch, and I finally made myself carry away the dead to the compost bin. After a busy morning of dumping out pots of shriveled and freeze dried former beauties, I found only a handful of living plants. These were a large aloe, in a somewhat protected lower shelf position; a young tea camellia (now surrounded by frilly volunteer poppies); a jasmine (which initially looked completely dead but has finally started to produce healthy new stems); and a single begonia, which finally pushed out a few healthy looking leaves. The most vigorous is an Abutilon which has already strted blooming in bright defiance of the hard winter now past. I had a lovely collection of begonias, including some species and wonderful angel wings grown from cuttings. Oh well. This too is now a little Land Of Opportunity, right? And what’s more fun than choosing new plants? I’m already tucking in some clove-scented stock, which scents the whole house on sunny days, surrounded by fluffy little pansies, violas and a few sweet violets, and there’s plenty of room for more!

It’s a bit puzzling to know what to plant as replacements, indoors and out, though some tough shrubs and perennials offer ideas. During the freeze, the huge, pleated leaves of Fatsia japonica collapsed and drooped into sorry swags, looking like losers, but within a few weeks they were back in shape, glossy and sturdy. Most rhododendrons are blooming beautifully, as are dogwoods and camellias, Ceanothus and lilacs, Oregon grapes and salmonberry, Indian plum and barberries, kerria and spireas. Most euonymous look great, but a few got frost nipped (especially those used as danglers in containers). All the prairie perennials look happy to be here, as do the catmints and yarrows, perennial poppies and penstemons, native coral bells and Vancouveria, Tiarella and Tellima. Hardy herbs from oregano to feverfew, and sages to fennels are back and happy, as are the many mints (of course). Hardy annuals are also popping up joyfully, from calendulas and Clarkia to forget-me-nots and poppies, all ready to take full advantage of temporary gaps in the Land of Opportunity. Onward, right?

This entry was posted in Annual Color, Care & Feeding, Climate Change, composting, Easy Care Perennials, Garden Design, Garden Prep, Hardy Herbs, Health & Wellbeing, Houseplants, Native Plants, Plant Diversity, Planting & Transplanting, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Land of Opportunity

  1. Loryn says:

    it must be something akin to ecstatic recoil, but we have Camus popping up EVERYWHERE…hope springs eternal and so does Camus…..what a sight!

    Our rosemary hedg is completely gone as is the Olive tree….should i try again i wonder or settle for plum….


    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Loryn, the Arbequina olive trees I planted survived, and I’m pretty sure they’re the hardiest. Once they get established, they can take almost anything!

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