Monday, January 23, 2012

In the Bleak Midwinter, Part II

Here are a few more photos from last week's ice storm. Amazingly, all the plants in these photos suffered virtually no damage.

A prickly pear cactus (genus Opuntia, species unknown) in front of the drooping fronds of the not-really-cold-hardy Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm).

The escallonia hedge (Escallonia x exoniensis 'Fradesii').

Above: Washingtonia robusta (Mexican fan palm)
Below: Magnolia grandiflora 'D.D. Blanchard' with Schefflera taiwaniana in the foreground.

Finally, in the past few years, I have come up with a simple way to measure the "badness" of an arctic outbreak. It takes into account both temperature and the length of time it has been below freezing. After all, many subtropical plants can take 20 degrees for a few nights, but not 10 degrees for even a few hours. So what is it? It's this fountain:

The photo above was taken on Friday, Jan 20th, 2012. Temperatures had finally risen above freezing after two full days in the 20's. But compare that with the picture below:

Same fountain, but a lot more ice. This was taken in November of 2010 - during the pre-Thanksgiving arctic mess that gave us lows of 15 degrees and kept the high temperatures in the 20's for a couple days. I had over 30 plants die during this outbreak, and many other plants died to the ground (like my escallonia hedge). Once I get a collection of several photos like this, I can assign them a rating and determine how bad a particular arctic outbreak was. Now this is not completely scientific, but it does quantify the severity of an arctic outbreak in a simple way. Perhaps in the future, instead of labeling the minimum temperature of plant labels, we will label the "cold severity number" to give us a better understanding of what conditions (coldness + time) a particular plant might be able to withstand.

Friday, January 20, 2012

In the Bleak Midwinter

Freezing rain is the evil step sister of snow. We had 6" of snow on Wednesday (1/18) followed by an inch of ice on Thursday (1/19). The supercooled raindrops instantly froze to whatever they touched - like this witch hazel (Hamamelis intermedia). Unfortunately, the ice also cut off the power.

Below, the redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) had a few branch casualties. Considering people cut holes through these trees and drive through them, I'm confident it will recover just fine.

Some plants will have a tougher recovery though. I noticed a major branch had broken off of my Trochodendron aralioides (pictured below, off to the left behind the bamboo).

Ice can be very beautiful when it's not ruining things.

An "ice fossil" of a palm tree.

Somewhere under those icicles are flower buds on this Camellia sasanqua.

Normally this bamboo (Phyllostachys rubromarginata) hides our neighbor's motor home shed. Not today.

One unlikely plant that managed to stay standing: this Melianthus major.

Hopefully the fish are doing alright under all that slush in the pond. No power means no water circulation but they are pretty much in hibernation mode anyway.

Finally, a look inside the greenhouse. Under normal circumstances the temperature in there never falls below 50 degrees, but with the power being out, there's not much I can do about that!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stylin' in the Snow

How miserable is a garden in the middle of January
Where every plant you visit is dormant, dead or dreary.
It's the evergreen plants and ones that flower
That cheer you up when you're feeling sour.

Rhododendron 'Ebony Pearl'
For example, this Rhododendron 'Ebony Pearl' has dark, luxurious foliage all year round, but most appreciated this time of year. And, it sailed through last winter when the temperature plummeted down to 15 degrees!

Witch Hazels (Hamamelis intermedia) are in peak-bloom right now. Some little critter ate half the bark around the base of this tree two years ago so it hasn't been growing very much. I wrapped some breathable fabric around the base and it seems to be recovering.

Few things I love more than an evergreen plant that doesn't look like it's supposed to be evergreen. This palm leaf raspberry is one of those plants, although perhaps not completely hardy for the NW (it's doing OK this winter though!).

My Helwingia chinensis (above) really stands out as a broadleaved evergreen this time of year. It will grow little berries that look like ladybugs in the center of its leaves.

Finally, I'm horrible at remembering plant names but as long as I have Google all I have to do is type in everything I know about the plant, such as "Chile native red flowers evergreen", and an image search will just about always give me what I'm looking for. That's how I know this is a Crinodendron hookerianum.