From Snowy to Soggy

Yesterday the thaw finally began in my garden. Temperatures hovered around 34 for most of the day until sometime after noon, when it shot up to 46F. Rain and wind accompanied the rising temperature, and by the time it got dark there was only a little snow left on the ground. I avidly watched melting snow cascading out of the trees and thinning on the ground until the sun went down. I woke up to 50 degrees, with rain still pouring and wind still howling. I'm relieved to have the snow gone and the temperature above freezing. It's very soggy out there, but that's pretty normal for winter in the PNW. It seems marvelous in comparison to what we've been getting for the last month.

Usnea lichen plastered to my window by the wind and rain. Sorry for the blurry phone picture.
As a reminder, here's what my garden looked like last week. It didn't change much until yesterday. Seven inches of snow gone in less than 24 hours, probably less than 12 hours, actually.

It's late for both, but this post is my contribution to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens and Foliage Follow-Up, hosted by Pam at Digging. I refused to take any more snow photos, so I waited until it melted so I could take stock of my garden, find the few blooms outside, and judge what foliage still looks good after being deep frozen and flattened over the last 2-3 weeks.

My houseplants have really been getting a lot of attention this winter. I'm sure they're as relieved as I am to have the snow gone, so that pesky guy who's always staring at them and poking them will leave them alone.
Bloom spike on an unknown Tillandsia, with Quesnellia marmorata foliage in the background.

Ludisia discolor blooms rising above Vriesea ospinae-gruberi (smudged form).

Vriesea ospinae-gruberi is surprising me with the speed of growth on its bloom spike.

My last Christmas cactus bloom.

The latest spike on Neostylis Lou Sneary 'Bluebird'

This is only the second or third tillandsia I've managed to rebloom, Tillandsia fuchsii var. gracilis

Next to last bloom on Phragmipedium Olaf Gruss, at least for a little while. Two more spikes are about ready to come out of the leaves.

The pampered mottled-leaf Phalaenopsis growing under lights are all rapidly developing flower buds, except one which seems to have a stalled bloom spike down in the leaves.
 As you can see, there's a lot happening indoors, and that's just the flowers, though almost all of my houseplants are chosen for foliage first. Now we'll check on the greenhouse. No major losses out there, though a cryptanthus must have gotten hit with some neem oil while I was spraying and had a bad reaction. It may not recover, but I have another of the same type in the house. I was pretty negligent with the greenhouse during this cold weather. I didn't want to go outside at all. Luckily, the heater kept working and nothing dried out too much.
Erica oatesii got a little bit dry and was drooping slightly. The flowers look a little wilted, too. Oops.

Lots of flower spikes on this gorgeous Gasteria from Cistus. I love it for the plump grey, almost silver leaves, but the flowers are a very nice bonus.

I love this little variegated Podocarpus macrophylla. It was slow to start, but it seems to be gaining vigor.

This unknown Agapetes (or possibly Vaccinium) from the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden is about to bloom for the first time for me. Collection SEH#25066
 Ok. Moving out to the garden now. It was hard not to focus on all the damaged, squashed, bedraggled plants, but I tried to pay attention to what does look good. Someday all the evergreen trees and shrubs I planted will grow up and the garden won't look so sad in winter.
Viburnum davidii really is invaluable in winter with its beautiful green leaves with reddish stems and buds.

Vibrantly green Hutchinsia alpina. I love this diminutive ground cover.

I meant to take rooted bits of this Arctostaphylos uva-ursi to spread around the garden, but it's been too cold for the last month. Soon. Again with the green leaves and red stems. I love it.

A little flattened by snow and washed out by cold, but I still enjoy this patch of Carex comans, with red Cornus sericea 'Hedgerows Gold' on the right. It even makes the brown stems of Mimulus cardinalis look good.

Hamamelis 'Jelena' says, "I still ain't bovvered." (If you don't get it, you need more Catherine Tate in your life, though it's an acquired taste.)

Chestnut leaves still looking great on Comptonia peregrinans, aided by a green Juncus. It's retained a lot more leaves than it did last year. I'm not complaining. This is one brown I don't mind.

Penny's Pink hellebore just about ready to open.

Still loving the seed heads of Prunella vulgaris. It will be even better when the Adiantum venustum fills in around it.

The two plants above reside in this bed. As you can see, the plants have a lot of filling in to do.

The bed next to it is even worse. Ugh. What a flat, featureless mess. A featureless mess? How did I manage that?

The silver (in summer) Mahonia confusa seedling is showing some cold-induced speckling. That may disappear or manifest as actual damage. Too soon to tell.

I thought I had enough Vaccinium ovatum, but after this winter I think I want even more. Gorgeous evergreen foliage in one of the toughest beds I have, and it looks like those flower buds could pop open any day.

Blechnum penna-marina ssp. alpina looking good.

I may be adding more Sarcococca to my shady areas, too. S. hookeriana var. humilis is full of flower buds ready to open any day. 

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akebono' doesn't appear to show any vegetative damage, but at least one of the flower buds is falling apart. It's the one that started to open back in December. I wonder if the other three buds will hang on or start to fall apart, too. 

I was trying not to include any of the really ugly photos in this post (I'll do a separate damage report later) but this Baccharis really disappointed me. It looked so good, but I guess the cold and then the snow was too much for it after all. It still has some green in there, so we'll see how it recovers in spring. It did put on a lot of late growth that may not have been fully hardened. Maybe it will do better next year.

I only have two Calocedrus decurrens, and they're both out by the road, but they've been among my favorite plants this winter. I'm planning to add more to peripheral areas that need screening, but maybe I should invite some into the garden proper.

I always love this combination of Acer griseum bark and Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'. The one on the left dropped a lot of leaves, but I think that's just because I moved it this year and it wasn't very happy about it.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' was stunning in the snow and is still one of the bright spots of my winter landscape after the snow has melted. I need more blue Juncus and other evergreens to fill in around the cornus and provide contrast.

Cedrus deodara 'Feelin' Blue' and Abies balsamea 'Nana' always look good, but are even more appreciated in winter.

Callistemon pityoides [Mt. Kosciuszko form] was a little sprawly in the snow, but popped right back up as soon as it melted. This, C. viridiflorus, and possibly C. pallidus 'Best Blue' all appear undamaged (despite the latter two being very small plants added last year), while my other callistemon all show damage to some degree.

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow', with Calluna vulgaris providing an almost olive-green backdrop.

Much of the Driveway Island still looks good, flattened Seseli gummiferum not withstanding.  The mix of colors here really brightens my mood.

Erica carnea started opening during the extreme cold and snow.

Helleborus argutifolius in bud, though it looks a little water-soaked.

More Calluna vulgaris and Carex comans, with dried stems of Stipa gigantea, Aster x frikartii 'Monch', and an Allium christophii inflorescence.

Erysimum buds ready to pop despite being buried in snow.

This combination of Helleborus x sternii and Carex comans was looking like a flop, the carex overtaking the hellebore. But a bit of growth on the part of the hellebore and some flattening by rain and snow of the carex has made it a success. I love the textural contrast.

Erica x darleyensis and a blazing orange Calluna vulgaris.

Another Erysimum, this one cherry red. The plants themselves are almost all sprawled, flopped, and ugly, but I'll take the flowers. I'll cut back the plants at some point to make them grow back all pretty.
I know it's only mid-January, but can this be the end of winter in the Pacific Northwest? We've already gotten a lot more than we're used to. My mind has been spinning with garden plans. I'm doubling down on my plans to add more solid, drought-tolerant evergreens to the garden. It's easy enough to include flowers, even if they are incidental to the foliage, but what I really crave is green, pure and simple. If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy post.


  1. Thank you for sharing all the beautiful plants! It's refreshing after the week of the white stuff. I also crave green, pure and simple. I hope that there isn't too much damage in your garden.

    1. It will be interesting to see what recovers after this winter and what fails as damage continues to show. I hope your garden comes out ok.

  2. This is AFTER all that snow? I think your garden looks terrific for the middle of a particularly harsh winter! You have a lot of great texture and foliage color. I'm loving that red dogwood and the tillandsia about to bloom.

    1. Aw, thanks, Pam! I'm trying to make it so the whole garden still looks as good as these highlights in winter. Just wait until I do the ugly post.

  3. I know you said you were avoiding a focus on the ugly stuff but there are an incredible amount of really wonderful looking plants in this post, Evan! If I had that many beautiful foliage plants to show in a post, I'd be dancing a jig. As to your indoor plants, I think I'm a little in love with that Agapetes.

    1. Thanks, Kris! The last 9 photos are all from the Driveway Island and the bed along the front of the house. I worked really hard to make sure it looks good all year.

  4. "A featureless mess" is a funny phrase, but you can't use it yet: give the plants a chance, you just planted them a few months ago. Next fall is the time to review and adjust, not in the middle of January :-D. My mind is spinning with garden plans too. First and foremost on my mind is replacing Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow', currently toast, despite being in snowless Seattle. Yours, on the other hand, looks amazing.

    1. Unfortunately, that particular bed is a couple years old, but you're right that I can't use that phrase for the new beds yet, and I'm doing my best not to. Sorry your 'Ascot Rainbow' got toasted. I'm surprised, since mine looks fine after a low of nearly 11F, and that was before there was enough snow to actually insulate anything. I wonder if yours wasn't hardened off as much or if it's something else completely.


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