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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!


Cool Season Crops

The soil in raised beds warms up and dries faster than in most garden beds. If your soil has been amended and is loose, you can be growing vegetables now - even with these cooler nights. Kale, spinach, mustards, onions are a few.

Some vegetables thrive under those cooler conditions and may become bitter with warmer temperatures and bloom set.

Peas will actually need to be mulched to prevent their soil from warming up too much!

After a few more of these predicted sunny days to warm up the soil even more, you can be seeding directly outside. Carrots, radishes, lettuce, beets etc. This guide from Botanical Interests can help.

Rhubarb, bareroot strawberries, fruit trees, berry bushes can all be planted now. Herbs with thicker leaves can also be set out. Rosemary, sage, parsley and more.

What should be avoided are the more tender herbs like basil, and warm season vegetables like melons and tomatoes.  Soil and air temperatures need to increase.

Frost dates for Oregon.

There is enough that you can plant out now, be they vegetable starts or seeds, bushes, trees and roots. Get your green thumb on and enjoy these sunny days!

Striking Blue Lilac Daphne

Craving a change from the grays of winter?

four petaled clusters of lilac-like flowers along the branchesDAPHNE GENKWA radiates a blue light in your late winter garden. It blooms on bare branches before the leaves emerge leaving no distractions from the clusters of lilac-like flowers.

Also known as the lilac daphne, this small, upright growing shrub (3'x3') thrives in full sun and high heat - something we have been experiencing these last few summers. It can also take part shade.

As with all daphnes, good drainage is needed for success.

Step close and examine the tiny four petals of each perfect blossom. Lean in more to enjoy their sweet smell.

A Bouquet of Hellebores

Helleborus 'Snow Fever'

A bouquet of winter blossoms!

That's what you will find under last year's leaves.

This is the time of year to get out and cut back the more tattered leaves off your hellebores. They are evergreen and are a wonderful architechtural addition to your garden but they may have taken a beating from the earlier winter storms. New growth will replace them soon.

            Before pruning After pruning ( Click on the photo to see the mass of blooms to come)

Being able to enjoy the blossoms as they open is well worth the effort. On top of that, you will be able to spot any seedlings. Bonus! Move those babies to another bed for more growing space and TLC.

Jacob Pink Frost Cinnamon Snow

When buying new plants, look at the blossom color and shape. Many of the newer varieties also have colorful stems, different leaf color and leaf shape. Their names reflect their hardiness at this time of year.                    

Enjoy them in a planter by your front door for this first season. As long as they don't have strong sun, regular moisture is all that is needed. Move them out to the garden later.  Hellebores prefer part shade making them great understory plantings. Once established, they are drought tolerant.