Victims of the Winter

My plans for today were thwarted again by the rain so no way I was going to get anything done at the allotment.  Instead I ‘pottered’ in the garden basing myself near the greenhouse so I could dive in when the heavens opened.  This meant I was on the patio and I couldn’t avoid the pots of squished plants any more.

Sadly a second harsh winter in a row has put paid to my Furcraea.  I can’t remember where I bought this but I feel it may have been at the Eden Project when we went not long after it had opened. I am sure I have had since about 2001.  To start with when the plant was small I would bring it in each winter and keep it in the enclosed porch at our old house.  The plant got bigger and bigger – not growing taller but getting thicker and wider.  It got to a point a few years back where it was so big I struggled to move it and so I risked it outside over winter.  It was fine until last year when some of the outer leaves were damaged by the snow that covered it but it did seem to perk up.  Well this winter has put paid to it and my thought to move it indoors probably came a bit too late.  As you can see it has turned to mush and the smell is awful.  It took two of us about a quarter of an hour to man handle it out of its pot.

As you can see my Phormium is not looking too good either.  This was planted up in the corner border and was doing quiet well.  It didn’t seem to be affected too much by the snow but this was quickly followed by some very cold strong winds which flattened the plant.  When I looked at it closely the leaves were bent to the point of being broken.  I have cut the plant back and as I’m not sure if it will recover and I have another plan for the border I potted it up.  You can see the transformation if you look at the photo belowI  have also lost a small Pittosporum and my Ceanothus is looking a little sorry for itself. My Eucomis plants have all rotted away even though the pots were placed on their side and off the ground.

The other plant I am really concerned about and am willing to be OK was a purchase last summer from Swine Meadow Nursery. I love my Ozothamnus and planted it up in a large pot by the front door.  When I checked on its tenderness it seemed to be similar to Grevillia and mine is flourishing in the front garden so I thought it would be OK.  But as you can see it is looking wane and limp!  Fingers crossed. Even my Rosemary has taken a battering and the ends of the stems are all burnt.

On the other side of the front door is a dwarf Bamboo.  I have no idea which one it is as I have had it some time but again it has taken a battering this winter and I do believe it was the extreme cold wind we had at one point.  However, I think it will be OK as you can just see some signs of fresh growth.

I have few tender plants left now and I have come to the conclusion that I will probably not bother with them in the future.  There is firstly the issue of space and somewhere to store them over the winter and the bother of digging them up and moving them which isn’t easy when they get big.  Or you leave them in the ground and worry about the plants.  I feel myself moving more towards a gentler way of gardening, maybe slow gardening where less effort is made for a good result.  Plus I don’t think the exotics really appeal to me.  I think I have bought some because they have been promoted by media and also because I see other bloggers’ fab gardens.  But I find them hard to place in the garden and I truly believe that you either go exotic or you don’t, there isn’t a half way house.  My taste has always been I suppose old-fashioned: I like herbaceous perennials and I am particularly enthralled by grasses – it just feels right and instinctive which the more broad-leaved exotics never did.

So I am sort  of thanking Mother Nature for pushing me in the direction which is better for me.


18 Comments Add yours

  1. easygardener says:

    I think the whole “we will soon have a mediterranean climate” idea has gone by the board. Looks like we can no longer depend on a warmish winter to keep all those tender plants alive. Probably a good thing too as it is really irritating wrapping plants up in yards of fleece.
    I will have to compile my own roll call of death soon 🙂

  2. I keep nursing my two large Agapanthus through the winter in the garage, but it means that I have to leave my car out in the snow for months. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t bother, but I love their flowers and foliage.

  3. Jo W says:

    I had a similar day to you, not able to get on the plot so I stayed in the garden tidying things up. I too cannot be bothered with delicate plants, but my front garden gets baked by sun in the summer, so I have concentrated on lavender, sedums, geranium and some nice shrubs!

  4. Sorry about your plant losses. My small pittosporum is suddenly looking rather sorry for itself too. I am viewing it as a possibly exciting opportunity! I’ve always rather liked phormiums, but am heading in a similar direction re nurturing anything tender. I simply don’t have room. And now, with the allotment, space is even more at a premium in the greenhouse, time even more precious, so out with the tender lovelies and in with the robust perennials! I’ll still sow some annuals each year, at least for now, but I think Dahlias is going to be my limit from now on.

  5. The plants i am the most sorry for at the moment are the ceanothus which have taken such a hammering over the last two years and now look dreadful….such is life i guess….

  6. Sorry about your winter losses

    I suspect I will still struggle on with some of my tender perennials – it is not the cold that is bad for them here … but the rain!

  7. Catherine says:

    Sorry to you see your poor plants have taken such a beating this winter. Ours started off cold and seems to be finishing off record breakingly cold. I’m ready for some sun. I quit buying much that was marginal here since I have nowhere to bring them into. I already lost my poor Meyer Lemon tree earlier this winter when it was forgotten in our first big freeze. Lets hope we have nice springs and summers to make up for the winter.

    1. patientgardener says:

      Catherine – thats the trouble though isn’t it we have a nice spring summer and we forget about the winter and go and buy plants we will struggle to get through!!

  8. Damo says:

    That’s a shame they didn’t survive, it’s enough ‘stress’ for me to nurse my Dahlia tubers through the winter so I don’t any other exotics to worry about!

    1. patientgardener says:

      Damo – think I will be sticking to Dahlias in the future and I lost some of those as the mice found them in the garage.

  9. Anna says:

    Sorry to hear that you have had some losses Helen but then a perfect excuse for some retail therapy. I was chucking away the soggy remains of my dahlias yesterday – they usually come through most winters in an unheated greenhouse but not this time. Today if it dries up I will inspect my cold frame, where I suspect more victims of a cold winter await. As you know I have a soft spot for your phormium so please pass on my best wishes to it for a recovery. What will be taking its place?

    1. patientgardener says:

      Anna – I have already given the Phormium a pep talk and told it you are rooting for it. Some roses have taken its place – it will be on my End of Month view

  10. Victoria says:

    Is your dwarf bamboo Pleioblastus variegatus? I have the golden variety and I always chop it down around in early spring anyway – you then get lots of bright new shoots.
    Two bad winters have made me a bit despondent about growing borderline hardy plants. But I’m sure that’s only temporary – I’ll be as optimistic as ever once the weather warms up.

  11. kate says:

    How sad… but what a positive way of looking at the situation.
    I can usually get away with all sorts of things (I’m on the west coast of Wales), but not this year. I’ve been trying to assess my losses today, and I don’t think I can be quite so philosophical about my huge departed melianthus (sniff).

    (Though I do suppose it means I’ve got a large and interesting gap to fill with something new – hmm…)

  12. Mark says:

    It was a very harsh December and I’ve lost count of seasoned gardeners and nursery exclaiming they haven’t experienced anything like that before, and it has taken a toll on lots of plants that used to sail through previous winters, but not this one.

    I think your bamboo is the low growing Pleioblastus variegatus (or fortuneii) and you can just shear off all of the top growth and get fresh new ones in a few weeks time.

    I know gardening is about controlling nature but there are times in can just come across as a constant battle. Who knows, mid summer when the past winter is nothing more but a distant memory you might be tempted back to buying tender exotics…

  13. Jason says:

    The loss of plants is always disappointing but it’s just part of gardening I guess. We experiment with exotics and tender plants and in so doing always run this risk that one winter they won’t come through. If the trend of the last couple of years of quite harsh winters becomes the norm, then maybe we’ll have to be a little more conservative in our plant choices?

  14. Dawn says:

    I’m afraid I take the ‘tough love’ approach to gardening and mostly rely on tough as boots plants or prolific self-seeders. It’s quite similar to my approach to mothering (Heat? You want heat in your bedrooms? Don’t be ridiculous!)

  15. catmint says:

    hi pg, this post for me communicates the joys and challenges of gardening – we keep learning by sometimes painful experience. i think i’m becoming gentler too. i look forward to seeing lots of native grasses naturalize in your garden. cheers, cm

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