Friday, March 28, 2014

Seeing With the Gardener's Eye

Thinking bright, sunny thought, traveling in my time machine...or trying to.

Gardeners have their own sort of time travel machine.  They can look out into their snowy and snow-covered frozen yards and see a garden at the height of bloom in say mid-July.  They can see lush greens when everything is brown and withered.  I have been using that time machine a lot the last few days.

My garden is still relatively snow covered, but already I can see that this brutal winter has taken a toll.  I will stare at a particular section of garden thinking of how I want it to look this summer, thinking back to how it looked last summer, and then slam on the brakes
of my thought processes and realize something is just not right.  There are numerous places where something is very brown that should be minimally a drab sort of green.  Although I tend to plant for structure for the winter months with a splash of bright color here and there in the form of deep red cornus twigs or the persistent crab apples of malus 'Red Jade', I have also come across a number of evergreen plants. There are some evergreen plants outside of your typical conifers which hold their leaves and are green all winter long, even here in central Siberia Wisconsin.  Some of these are not a drab green.  Some of these are brown.

I have been discussing this with my famed horticulturalist neighbor as well.  He shares this thought...there will be massive plant death in the garden this year.

My euonymus fortunei is brown.  I know this can be invasive in zone 7, and maybe zone 6, but here it is barely perennial.  I have one that grows as a vine which I keep shorn flat an a fan against my brown fence in the long border.  It has a diameter of over an inch at the base.  When I pry its cold, dead dendrites from the fence there will be staining to do.  Staining the reverse (the side I don't look at), though, has been a possible to-do for this summer, now that I have different neighbors, depending on my able-ness to do so.  So maybe not a big problem.

Other possible casualties of death and die-back: Japanese cypress, cotoneaster, yew, some clematis, and roses.  This is just what I can see at this point.  The boulevard cypress looks severely wind-burned and damaged, as do my few Korean boxwoods.  These two often have massive damage.  The question will be whether this will be the final damage these can withstand.  I contemplate how close to the ground the various species of hydrangea may need to be pruned this year.  The PJM rhodies look like they have gone extra rounds in a prize fight, and while not dead, they did not win.  My biggest question, did I move my Japanese maple too late in the season?

Not only winter kill, but there have been tiny pools of frozen/standing water around some plants which do not take to kindly to that sort of environment like lavenders.

This weekend temperatures will crawl into the upper 50s (F) for us here, two days back-to-back. It will not freeze at night.  Most of our remaining snow will go. The green pot frozen to the lawn where my son left it after hurriedly divesting it of its bulbs last fall will be movable.  (Sorry, it has bugged me since I have returned home!  So out of place as it has been, sitting in the way.)  As the garden dries out and temperatures get above freezing each day on a reliable basis, I will at last (slowly, my only speed at this point) be able to cut-back the detrius of last summer's garden.

It will be a fresh start.  It will be a different garden this year.  Hopefully, it will again be a change up.


  1. Well, as you may know, my new shrub rose 'Strike it Rich' kicked the bucket this winter. And I'm worried about the 'Adonis Blue' butterflybush. Also the rabbits have done in as many as four serviceberries of varying sizes. They were really hungry this winter, and there still isn't much greenery for them to munch. I am afraid they are going to go after the tulips like nobody's business when they come up. And they ate the evergreen foliage off my new hellebores. On the other hand, the Caryopteris seem fine - I was worried about them.

    1. Caryopteris have that herb thing going on like lavender. I would think that would be a deterrent to the rabbits, although they and the voles can be vicious in the winter! Dr. Apps and I do not consider 'Adonis Blue' hardy here. I feel for the serviceberries. They are such an important shrub/smaller tree for any urban native landscape. You maybe should be attempting to graft past the damage in at least four strip graft evenly spaced around the stems. If not too low or too mature, a hard prune may encourage stem regrowth from the roots., but you need to get on that grafting ASAP. Sounds like you need a visit from a Cooper's or red-tailed hawk!