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Easter Egg Hunt 2014

Winter Damage

It’s spring and you may be wondering why we are talking about winter damage. It is because we have had unusually lengthy cold spells this year during periods of little rain.

How has that affected the plants? Plenty! You may be seeing a lot of die-back on plants you have had for years. The shrub that you put in late last year is not budding out. Some vines don’t seem as vigorous. The plants in your pots are more brown than green.

brown tipped leavesPlants needed time to acclimatize to the winter weather. We had sudden drops in temperature that lasted for two or more weeks at a time, and it happened early in the season! This caused damage to plants that had put out new tender growth late in the fall. It also did a number on the early blooming shrubs like the Camellia, particularly the sasanqua. Those buds froze and you will now have to wait while more are formed for next year’s flush of blossoms. Daphne, evergreen clematis, and some rhododendrons fall into this category.  Pay extra attention to them this year to ensure strong growth.

Even some of the broadleaf evergreens are showing damaged top leaves of a choisiadamage. The dry, cold winds sucked the moisture from them. This was most evident in the choisia but luscious new growth is coming out now. You can remove any damaged leaves. It won’t hurt the plant and on some, may aid new leaves to form at that spot.

The lack of rain early in the season also left some plants dehydrated and less able to cope with the stress from the cold. Remember plants need regular moisture in warm temperatures as well as cooler ones.

The air temperature was much colder than the soil temperatures. Because of this, potted plants lose about two temperature zones of hardiness. If the pots were small or the plant roots close to the outside edges, there was a good chance the roots froze. Time to start anew.

Some shallow rooted perennials were also killed by the cold as were some plants marginally hardy to our area, especially in the higher elevations. These can be removed.

What else can you do about this?

At this point, wait and watch for new growth coming from the ground as with the hardy fuchsia. Your Kaleidoscope Abelia may look dead but be patient. It may surprise you.

Test the viability of any shrub by making a tiny scratch on the bark with your fingernail. If there is green underneath, there is a good chance of it coming back. If not, prune back any dead branches. Prune any evergreen vines back to new growth.

Once your patience has worn thin, it may be time to take the opportunity to try new and different additions to your garden. Change is good.

This is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Their roots can be established before the dry of the summer and definitely before the cold of the next winter!


Clematis montana 'Rubens'


Fragrant, rosy flowers bloom profusely on clematis montana 'Rubens' in the spring.

This showy vine grows to 20 feet and requires a structure to climb on or over; that would include a trellis, an arbor, even a wall/fence. Because the 'Rubens'  blooms on old wood, pruning to shape after blooming is all that is required.

Clematis montana 'Rubens' is happiest in full to part sun in well drained soil. It is a tough, drought tolerant plant which some growers consider deer resistant.

The bronzy green leaves let clematis montana 'Rubens' make a great statement even when not in bloom.

Azaleas Can Fit the Spot

The large size of the blossoms of these azaleas is in direct contrast to the tiny evergreen leaves. Because of this, ‘Cherry Drops’, ‘Hino Crimson’, and ‘Hino White Dwarf’ are sought after for use in large gardens or small. Whether massed, used as a low hedge or on the edge of a woodland garden, the abundance of their early spring flowers makes a pop of color. Hummingbirds love them.

Cherry red azalea blossomsAzalea ‘Cherry Drops’ grows slowly to a 3’ by 3’ mound with cherry red blossoms. This one has the largest flower of the three.




Azalea ‘Hino Crimson’ also is a slow grower to 3’ by 3’.crimson red azalea blossoms  The crimson red blooms cover the bush solidly like a blanket. Often used in Asian gardens, ‘Hino Crimson’ can also be used in bonsai. It has even made it on to the Great Plant Picks, a list of outstanding plants for the maritime Pacific Northwest.

white azalea flowers

Azalea ‘Hino White Dwarf’ is the only one of these three that is wider than high. At 1’ tall by 2’ wide, this shrub is small enough to form a base for the others or can even find a place in a rock garden. The clean white flowers are outstanding.


Azaleas are easy to grow in the Pacific Northwest as they like the cool winters and acidic soil. Mulching and regular water in the summer keeps them fresh and allows new buds to form for the following spring. Dappled shade or morning sun and afternoon shade are perfect.

Pictures do not do them justice. Come by and see their true colors while they are blooming.