Is it spring yet?

I was really hoping to write a post evaluating how some of my plants made it through the last Arctic blast we experienced, which brought one night of almost 11F and several nights in the low to mid teens. Oh well, the full extent of the damage won't be apparent until spring, or even into summer, as plants either fail or recover as the weather warms. Some of the broad-leaved evergreens could stay green for weeks in the cool winter weather, only to start showing damage once the temperatures warm and metabolic processes increase.
A neighborhood feline has started visiting. These paw prints on the back deck were the first thing I saw as I stepped out the door.
But at least such a post wouldn't have included snow! Over four inches fell before the cold snap and, as temperatures remained below freezing for almost the entire week, it only started to melt a couple days ago. It was nearly gone by early afternoon on Tuesday. I could have rushed out to take pictures of what was uncovered, at least, but I stayed in to work, waiting for the next round of snow to weigh down my spirits just as it does my plants.

Douglas fir branches bent to the ground by the snow.
 In an usual twist, I actually got less snow than Portland. Usually it's the other way around, but conditions intercepted to create a perfect snow storm, dumping a foot of snow on Portland. I'm struggling enough with just 6-7 inches. My sympathies to Portland gardeners looking out at their gardens now.
Snow sloughing off the barn.

Stump St. Helens has an impressive snowdrift around it.
 If you've seen enough snow already, I won't blame you for finding something else to look at.
The Douglas firs and a handful of other things are pretty, but most of the garden is just a blanket of depressing white. Oh wait, that's the driveway. Not that you can see much difference at the moment.

The Japanese maple haystack is now a white haystack. I really need to prune that thing.
 Not all of the garden looks terrible. In fact. Most of what is tall enough to rise above the snow looks ok. And I could here birdsong as I walked around the garden. It sounded so exotic, I couldn't figure out what kind of bird it was, and I never got a glimpse of it.
Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold' miraculously popping up out of the snow.

Nothing is going to stop Hamamelis 'Jelena' from blooming. Not 11F and certainly not snow.

More kitty tracks. 
 The golden Himalayan honeysuckle, Leycesteria formosa (I'm not actually sure which golden cultivar this one is), actually creates a kind of interesting effect with the bright green stems arching under the snow.
Green stems arching under the the snow.

Epimedium wushanense is flat, but it will recover.

Raccoon tracks

Snow on the chain link fence.
 Most of the rhododendrons wear the snow well (it helps that they're partially protected by the trees overhead) but this camellia just looks sad.

Just for comparison, here's a shot of the one area with and without snow (and some changes, but it gives you an idea).

Seriously, can all this just go away, please?

I did say most of the rhododendrons are wearing the snow well. This obviously isn't one of them, but I don't feel too bad about it. This one was cut back hard several years ago to move it, and sent up far too many weak, spindly shoots. It needs some pruning and long-term training to regain any sort of pleasing branch architecture.

Schefflera taiwaniana clasping its leaves tightly to its stem, as if to say, "I'm freezing out here!" I need to move it or do some major amending to this bed. The only things that really seem to do well in this bed are ericaceous plants, and then only if they have some drought tolerance like Vaccinium ovatum.

These Leptospermum rupestre, a collection made by Kate Bryant and sold by Cistus Nursery, spent far too long in a pots in a greenhouse, and don't have the strength to stand up in the snow. Two of them were especially wobbly and needed staking, but the ties on one of them have broken.

There's another Leptospermum right there, honestly, a L. namadgiensis I got from Loree at the fall plant swap. It's currently moonlighting as a groundcover.

Even the Acer sempervirens are prostrate, despite loosing nearly all their leaves. While usually evergreen to semi-evergreen, stress (like from transplanting) or severe cold can cause them to go fully deciduous.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking to look at right now is this Quercus suber. The two smaller ones are almost flat on the ground, but this one is staked. The tip is bent all the way back down to the ground. It looks awful, but at least it's flexible and didn't break where it bent over the ties.

Cedrus deodar looks perfectly happy in the snow.

I swear there's a grove of Quercus mexicana around here somewhere. Oh look, there's one.

This sturdy little Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Blue Tip' from Cistus is impressively upright. 

Not only do Calocedrus decurrens look nice in the snow, but they scent the air with their sweet, resinous fragrance. I think I want more of these.

The wire cages are covering patches of soil where I sowed Arbutus menziesii seeds. I already know quite a few have germinated in the warm fall and been subsequently frozen or heaved out, or sprouted in previous snowfalls and left to fall over once the snow melted. Will any be left alive come spring? Are there any that haven't sprouted, wisely waiting until winter is over?

The Araucaria araucana looks like some strange creature, or perhaps a sharp-tongued old lady with a white fur stole and poofy hat.

Prostrate leptospermum are becoming a theme this winter.

Quercus arizonica, I hope this teaches you to bulk up that trunk.

I honestly think I wouldn't find the snow quite so depressing if more of my plants were large enough not to be buried by it. Even if this winter hadn't turned out so awful, I'd be especially impatient for the arrival of spring this year, more so than any other year. I'm so incredibly eager for spring to arrive so all those tiny plants I put in the ground can start growing and actually begin to look like something.

It's amazing how much snow Acer griseum holds on its branches.

Look! An upright leptospermum! This one is L. rupestre 'Highland Pink', from Cistus. It's upright because I chopped it down to half its original height after I planted it.

Corylus avellana 'Contorta'

Arctostaphylos silvicola 'Ghostly', from Xera, is slumped drunkenly over a yucca. It grew over 3 feet this summer and those willowy young stems just aren't prepared for snow. You're getting a hard pruning this year, bud.

The silver form of Leptospermum lanigerum, also from Xera, tragically flat. Another vigorous grower, even in clay soil with no supplemental water. I should have been making corrective pruning cuts already, for both shape and strength.

I walked right by this 3-foot Embothrium coccineum earlier without even realizing it, perhaps because it currently rises barely six inches above the ground.

Berberis x media 'Arthur Menzies' (I'm making an effort to accept the lumping of Mahonia into Berberis).

Clethra barbinervis seed heads.
 Enough snow. Time to retreat into the house where I can surround myself with plants that aren't covered in snow.
Vriesea ospinae-gruberi [smudged form], with the blooms of Ludisia discolor and Vriesea 'Splenreit' in the background.

I'm avidly watching the bloom spike on my big Vriesea ospinae-gruberi develop.
If you made it this far, you must be snowed in like me. I sincerely hope this is the last major snowfall this winter, but I have a feeling that's asking too much. I could hope that the cold winter may lead to a cool, wet spring that will give me more time to establish new plantings, but I'm feeling negative and can easily imagine sudden heatwaves like the last two years that fried so many new plants.


  1. I'm sorry to find that you're in the PNW buried-in-snow club, Evan. Piling on as it does, snow seems more vicious that heat and drought, which wreak their havoc on a slower schedule, usually giving the gardener some time to take defensive action. I'm house-bound too but the weather has played a lesser role than a nasty cold that seems less like a viral infection and more like preternatural possession. I hope your new planting fare better than you fear.

    1. Snow is definitely more sudden and dramatic. I don't think I'd mind it quite so much if more of my trees and shrubs were tall enough to provide structure in all this white. That cold sounds awful. I'm sorry you're not feeling well. Hope you get better soon.

  2. Did you write the words "sudden heatwaves" just to make me happy? Thank you it worked. Just the idea of flip flops and no coat sends my mood soaring.

    Damn snow. Damn cold. Damn ice. Damn winter. Poor plants. Fingers crossed for their recovery.

    1. Ok, but can we save the heatwaves for June, maybe? Those April and early May heatwaves make it hard for me to establish new plants, and I have a feeling I'll be adding quite a few.

      Yes to all of those sentiments.

  3. Your photos are gorgeous! Happy 2017 and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. I love your background, green is my favourite colour! :)

    1. Thank you! It must be interesting, reading about our winter woes in the Pacific Northwest from Montreal. Green is my favorite color, too.

  4. In answer to your, perhaps rhetorical, question, no, it's not spring yet dammit. We've still got 66 days 6 hours 59 minutes 10 seconds, but who's counting? Hoping for the best for your newly-planted kids. Really? 11 degrees? Fahrenheit? This cold business can go away any time now!

    1. But I want spring. Ugh. Make winter go away. Yes, well, 11 point something degrees Fahrenheit. Still not as cold as 2008/9. But far too cold for a garden with so many small plants added in fall.

  5. Not to rub your nose in it, but Seattle didn't get any snow to speak of, just the cold temperatures. It may be worse for the garden I suppose, but much better for me:-)
    The Hamamelis 'Jelena' pushing it's blooms in such a vivid color is one of the best snow pictures I've seen so far. Love it. As long as you don't see deer tracks in the snow your garden will be okay.

    1. Not to worry. I've heard from enough people further north about the lack of snow that I'm inured to it.

      Thanks, Chav, for the compliment and for reminding me that I don't have to worry about the deer stomping on frozen plants and eating everything.

  6. If I were you, and feeling blue, I would head outside to stare at that Jelena witch hazel. That color can melt ice... Such a great plant! Hang in there, Evan - it will all come to an end soon.

  7. Yup, yup, yup. All looks familiar. When this is over, let us weep, drink, then go plant shopping. Then weep some more.

    1. And drink some more! Hopefully I have the funds for the shopping part.

  8. I'm looking forward to lots of commiseration when the full effect of this strange winter is revealed. In the meantime, I do appreciate the beauty.

    1. I think our spring swap should involve alcohol this year, to aid in our commiseration.

  9. The landscape is totally transformed with that much snow. It looks beautiful, but I'm sure you're tired of it by now. Hope you're thawing!


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