What Survived the Winter

A survivor…..Stachyurus chinensis 'Celina' cared little for being under 4' of snow.

A survivor…..Stachyurus chinensis ‘Celina’ cared little for being under 4′ of snow.

The agony and the ecstasy, or is it the other way around?
After this marathon winter, crocus, daffodils and hellebores have gushed forth with a grand ta-dah! Emerging growth from so many herbaceous perennials reassures us that a heavy snow blanket was good for some plants.

HOWEVER…. trees and shrubs exposed to the onslaught of 3 months of cold and frigid white stuff fared unevenly. Some came through unscathed, while others lost limbs and suffered dieback. The most serious casualties in our garden were the broadleaf evergreens, especially boxwood and Japanese holly, and the evergreen bamboos. The question, what does hardiness mean, is provoking a lot of discussion.

This variegated boxwood is toast!

This variegated boxwood is toast!

A variegated boxwood, which grew from a rooted cutting 15 years ago to 7′ tall, is now the color of straw and shows no green in the cut wood, except for the lowest branches. The fastigiate Japanese Holly, Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’ has more than its share of crispy foliage, but the wood has life and we’re confident it will put on fresh growth. Amazingly, once again the Trochodendron araliodes which horticultural friends cautioned would be iffy, came through looking fine, despite broken branches, (it was buried under snow for weeks). Planted right next to it was a so called hardy gardenia, a loss, or at least total die back to the roots.

A few smashed branches  reduced the size of this Trochodendron, but it's going to be fine.

A few smashed branches reduced the size of this Trochodendron, but it’s going to be fine.

The bamboo grove of Phyllostachys aureosulcata is a sorry sight. What once was a wall of green is now stationary beige. Yes, discoloring of leaves happens in cold winters,  which drop when the new leaves emerge in May, (most years)…but this year many of the 30′ culms are brown or oddly discolored. I’m confident that new shoots will break from the ground, but thousands of dead stalks will need to cut down before this happens. Know any artists who may need bamboo for a big project?

Note the brown culms, and even some of the green have threatening discoloring.

Note the brown culms, and even some of the green have threatening discoloring.

I usually advise patience before yanking out plants that have suffered winter damage. April is often too early to tell if a plant is a goner or will convalesce and recover.  In the meantime, where there is hope, prune damaged branches, fertlize gently and let nature heal. Miracles happen while you are busy watching everything else grow.

the rare little Helleborus torquatus, returning again after more than 20 years

the rare little Helleborus torquatus, returning again after more than 20 years

10 thoughts on “What Survived the Winter”

  1. Well said let Spring happen to see what survived the winter. Most are just taking their time to show life. Can ‘t wait, Happy Grow Season!

  2. Hate to tell you, but my two variegated boxwoods and my Japanese hollies did just great up here in Somerville under four feet of snow — nary a dry leaf! My hamamelis, on the other hand, got clobbered by show sliding off the roof. Mother Nature is the boss.

  3. And, maybe it’s impatient me, but the herbaceous perennials are nowhere to be found………….very tedious, like watching a pot boil.

  4. I protected my hardy gardenia that I bought from you Katherine..still looks completely dead…all the leaves have browned. My hardy camellia’s buds are all brown and many leaves are dead as well… :(….. rough winter!

  5. Well , that was an interesting winter. A lot of die-back on large rhododendrons, and several major rabbit parties, including all the lower growth on the cornus controversa variegata. And this is the city…

  6. In Poughkeepsie NY, antique roses ‘Jacques Cartier’, ‘Reine des Violettes’, ‘Variegata de Bologna’, along with David Austin’s ‘Abraham Darby’, which spent this past winter encased in the front garden in a block of ice, have never been more floriferous in 33 years!
    Though tender perennials overwintered in the shop/barn were not so fortunate this year, ordinarily maintained at minimum 45 degrees F, due to extended extreme low temps, fell to 35 a couple of times, a standard fig, bananas, fuchsias, colocasias & alocasias unfortunately did not survive this winter.

  7. Don’t give up the ship! We believed we had lost a 15′ hamamelis (full of buds that never came out).,,we have very few trees of any height on our Outer Cape, windswept dune. We left it alone as we didn’t have the heart (or the time!) to take it out this Spring. Low and behold on the Fourth of July weekend we noticed that leaves were begining to sprout out all over it again! Our fig, whose truck was completely girdled by mice under the snow has shot up several new stems with bright green leaves. All is not lost when you let mother nature take care of things in her own time. Meanwhile, we have two cistus and a romneya (all supposedly Zone 8) from California that made it through the winter fine (and wrapped) and are now blooming profusely. Go figure!

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