Friday, January 20, 2017

Bring out your dead*

The December 14th snow started off looking so seasonal and pretty...

Then it turned into freezing rain and coated everything with ice. A second snowstorm in early January brought deep, heavy snow.

And it accumulated so fast. This shot was taken at 9 pm, after the snow had started about 6 pm.

That snow, along with the deep freeze that followed it for a week, packed one hell of a wallop. Never mind that we're only halfway through winter; this morning's tour around my post-Snowpocalypse garden has me sure the recent nasty weather has taken its toll.  I have my dead and wounded, and lots of plants that I'm not yet sure whether they're done for. Thank goodness there are a few bright survivors to cheer me on - as of January 20, anyway.
Instead of watching the inauguration, let's take a look, starting with the Definitely Dead:
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus 'Victoria' suffered last spring and summer with the sudden demise of two of its three main limbs. The remaining limb survived the December ice storm, but then it bowed down under the January snow load.
I can see now that rot was the culprit, allowing the snow weight to rip that last limb near the ground.

A Pinus contorta was bent down by the freezing rain in December and never recovered. It looks as though it must have broken branches, but we can't get underneath it enough to figure out what's happening yet.

It's blocking the path to the corner of the garden.

It's no surprise, but this hybrid Abutilon is gone. I'll miss its tangerine flowers and spotted leaves.

The Acacia pravissima doesn't look too bad, but its coloring has changed to a darker gray and I can only say it somehow feels dead when I touch it. I don't hold out much hope that it will survive.

Dymondia magaretae is as dead as a doornail. This one was a surprise, because somehow I thought it was a Zone 8 plant. Looking it up, I see it's 9b. Dang.

Here's a look at the wounded.
Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Sizzling Pink' sustained several ripped and broken branches. This will be a sad setback for a shrub that was reaching some size and presence. I'll wait to prune it until later this winter. when the danger of more ice or snow is largely past.

As the snow melted, many plants recovered their height. The two Trachycarpus fortunei didn't bounce back quite as well. Although the newest fans look fine, the oldest ones are drooping down quite far.

Some fan removal will need to happen here to uncover a Callistemon viridiflorus and clear the pathways.

I'm not sure if Phormium 'Pink Stripe' has sustained mortal injury due to cold. It looks kind of deflated, but much better than a few other phormiums in the garden that are definitely on their way out. This nice-sized specimen will be missed if it doesn't make it, but for now I'm hopeful it will.

Mahonia fortunei 'Dan Hinckley' is doing the laying down thing, despite the support I had around it since summer. It's flattened, but perfectly healthy, so I'll do some pruning on it later this winter.

Luckily, 'Dan Hinkley' missed crushing a young Camellia transnokoensis near it. The camellia and its bright little buds look like they did a month ago in the 4th picture from the top in this post.

Also unfazed by the snow and cold are Agave bracteosa, and its little brother A. bracteosa 'Monterrey Frost'. I covered 'Monterrey Frost' before the snow hit, but the straight species was completely exposed, and covered with snow.

Arctostaphylos (hookeri 'Buxifolia'?) is similarly unfazed.

It's a happy denizen of the south hell strip along with several other xeric plants I thought would fare far worse. They all look fine, like this Grevillea australis and Halimium ocymoides 'Sarah' below.

I want to say I learned some lessons from this year's ice and snow storms, but the reality is I will probably keep on planting my favorite evergreen, leafy plants and taking the chance they will sustain damage when the winter weight of snow or ice is too great. That's just me!

* Channeling my inner Monty Python.


  1. Your Agave bracteosa are impressive. I'm going to have to get one. I wouldn't give up completely on your Abutilon, it may be frozen down, but still be capable of recovering from its base, especially if you mulched it. Your Trachys will be fine. Your Acacia....maybe not. I lost one, around '04, that had a 4" trunk. It looked okay with its rigid phyllodes until spring when it all turned brown and died.

  2. The lesson for me is that for many plants, it isn't winter hardiness so much as it's the weight of the snow and ice that they will succumb to. We can be diligent to push the snow off but the ice isn't going to budge until it warms up. I'm glad most of your plants bounce back. Even the ones that look dead now might surprise you later.

  3. All told, it doesn't look that bad, to me at least. I'm not sure if I had any damage from the snow, but I have a lot of cold damage, mostly on things I planted last year. I'm still waiting on most things to see if they are dead or just look like it at the moment, and what will recover in spring.

  4. Ouch. A garden that doesn't change over the years is boring anyway, right?

  5. I'm still waiting to really see plants during the day to see what happened. There are a lot of smashed Daphne, squashed Grevillea and Callistemon with shattered stems. I only have a few broken branches though, so I will be optimistic! Fingers crossed your babies are all right!

  6. Oh my, I am sad about your Acacia ! Hoping you'll find some green wood in there when spring rolls around.

  7. Sorry about the damages, Jane, but I honestly don't think it looks too bad. I think your snow pictures look beautiful, but then again, I'm one of those who does like the winter brightness added by some snow. That said, I imagine we all will have some new spots to fill, come spring.

  8. So you've got ice and snow over there and all our snow in Chicago has melted (for now, at least). How strange is that?

  9. Glad to see so much of your snow has melted finally. Bummer about some of your plants that you thought might be hardy enough to last. But now you have openings for new ones!

  10. Oh, sorry to see that you've lost some fine plants. This winter has been unexpected in a lot of ways.

  11. Jane, I like your attitude about continuing to plant what you find interesting. Here in supposedly easy zone 10 I get complete collapse of flourishing plants mid summer from nasty soil organisms -- so it's always something, whatever your zone.

  12. I've been afraid to take true inventory but what I do know is that we will have plenty of firewood on hand for at least the next year and maybe more.

  13. I'm appreciating this study of the snow damage in your yard. My ceanothus look like yours. They aren't the longest-lived anyway, so I suppose that is one consolation. It seems that a lot of my drought tolerant plants (except for natives) are not well adapted to snow loads. It feels like a worse problem for them than the cold. (I live in Scappoose, BTW.)
    Thanks for sharing this!

  14. Sorry for your plant losses and am hoping the best for your wounded. Your snow looked pretty even though it did so much damage.

  15. I'm so sorry to see all the damage you've sustained from your unseasonable winter. But ya gotta love squid agave, right? It sailed through our deep freezes here in Austin in December with no covering too, while others have turned to mush.


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