Now that Armageddon thaw has begun... seeing damage :(

david883(5/6)March 16, 2014

As with many of us, we've had a pretty extreme (historic, even) winter. Where we are normally a zone 5 or 6 here I think this winter we were more like whatever zone I'd imagine Pluto or Neptune has. Okay, maybe I'm over exaggerating. People endure winters like these all the time. I'm being a big baby about it...

Any way, I went out this morning, having tried avoiding the site of the back garden the past few days, and saw some thyme, once a height of a foot-plus-some now looked like its aspiring to be a creeping carpet variety. Some sage that, last winter, looked like it barely noticed it had gotten colder, this year looks a little rough. But the worse site was the blueberry cobbler butterfly bush, new last year, that grew from a smallish 2-foot tall by 2-foot wide "baby" to about 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide all in one summer. I know its way too soon to say or tell but I'm afraid for it. Its a little smashed, bent and a few branches broken. I might be overreacting but...

What are you afraid of? Let this be your support group for those paranoid thoughts that will keep you up at night. I know I'm not alone.

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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

David883, you're not the only who who's afraid about the affects of this darn winter. I took a walk around the whole yard yesterday, looking mostly for any signs from the newest things we planted. Last season we put in several plants that may not have had enough time in the ground to survive this past winter. (It is "past"... isn't it?)

We put in three new rose bushes that I brazenly did not cover or mulch up. I was confident about them because all our other roses do well without protection. There are two new lavender plants and two new sedums that we planted in early fall at the end of a long garden. I fear those might all be too wet because the yard slopes down in that area.

I transplanted a few things. Some standard iris ... these were put in a raised bed... but will they make it? Who knows. I also transplanted a clematis and as of yesterday there was no sign that the poor thing's coming to life.

I wouldn't say you're overreacting and you're surely not alone! I think many of us are looking out at their yards and going ...hmmmm? At least I can find the gardens now that most of the snow has melted.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 2:13PM
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sara82lee(8a - SE Va)

I'm not completely sure the winter is over... I'm sitting at the kiddo's first softball tournament right now wrapped up in coats and blankets and still freezing! And tomorrow it's going to be even colder.

Ironically enough, what I'm worried most about is my Sago Palm I got for Mother's Day last year. I brought it in the house for its first winter. Considering how cold it got, that was probably the best decision. However, it did not like winter inside and I'm crossing my fingers and my toes that it will come back to life a bit when I put it in the ground for good in a few weeks.

I also have some roses that were new last year that I'm not quite sure about. Though a few have started to show some life, so I'm hopeful.

I KNOW my dahlias are gone. It's borderline for me to leave them in the ground anyway. This winter has made them nothing but worm food for sure :(

If only the winter had killed off the ratty old cannas that have invaded and that I am actually going to have to work very hard to get rid of this spring. I wouldn't be that lucky.

This post was edited by sara82lee on Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 15:16

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 3:12PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

It is waaaaay too early in SE Michigan to determine if things are gone or not. I don't even see any green blades of crocus starting to poke through by the front all... and they usually *bloom* around the last week or March or so for me (so normally see the foliage making an appearance by now). Now, if branches are broken, evergreens are brown - well, yea, those are damaged and will need pruning (or removal, depending) but perennials and deciduous shrubs/trees? Too early to call. Unless you see obvious bud elongation, in which case they're well alive.

Don't stress about it. If you're going lose stuff, at least hope it's the (relatively) inexpensive stuff like Butterfly Bush or herbs or rose bushes. I'm thinking my BB's and my Iceberg roses are probably goners, but look at the bright side - I get to go SHOPPING! and not feel guilty about it, because, you know - I "need" to replace my losses LOL!

BTW: I would suggest you stay off the grass if possible and out of the beds when it's this wet out - you're compacting the soil, not a good thing, especially when the ground is so saturated.

It sure is nice to see the bright sunshine today, though!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 3:55PM
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Mother nature is such a tease, beautiful 70+ had me outside walking around to see what survive and what didn't. Looks like I lost a hellebore, the other 2 didn't bother even try to bloom as their leaves looked freezer burn. I plan moving them whenever spring decides to really show up. My beautiful snapdragons, not the perennial kind but the annual ones. I received several different colors ones for free in 2007. I planted them in the garden bed around my oak tree and they came back every year since. I'm holding out hope but I couldn't find any sign of life on any of them. I think I lost one of my newest lavender. I was expecting it would be the one zone pushing not a zone 5 one. The biggest surprise was that two out of the four mums I planted last fall survive. Lastly I think my dusty miller finally went to that big garden in the sky. It was getting quite big.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 5:42PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

The weather has certainly been on a roller coaster here! It was beautifully mild on the 11th and we went for a lovely walk along the lake (as you can see in this picture, Lake Ontario is the only Great Lake that didn't freeze over this winter. Some shallow bays did but not the lake itself.)

The next day we got one of our biggest single-day snowfalls of the winter and windchills of -20C (-4F) It had warmed up a bit again on Friday which melted a lot of snow, but we're back to cold and -20C windchills again - and all the snow that melted in the backyard is now sheets of ice! The front yard is still fairly deeply snow-covered although the banks along the driveway have shrunk a foot or so in height. It's going to be a while yet before I can even get out there to assess the damage.

The backyard just now:

Under the pines is fairly sheltered so it doesn't accumulate as much snow and the snow that is there melts off quicker... The white on the paths is pure ice! The lawn of the neighbour behind us gets more sun so you can see that they have less snow or ice.

In this picture you can see where the snow-melt is draining past the shed, heading for the 'wet corner' which is going to be very wet indeed this spring I think!

There would normally be spring bulbs appearing in places by now but clearly that's not going to happen any time soon here!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 6:50PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I'm not one to worry.... but butterfly bushes do sometimes just plain die when the winter gets somehow offensive.... and roses, I better cross my fingers for the roses ;) Hellebores are not something to worry about though. Here's a glamour photo of my hellebore bed. If we get a halfway snowfree-warm day I'll trim this stuff off so I don't have to look at it anymore and the buds can come up all nice and fresh!

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:41PM
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My hellebores are looking pretty much the same.... of course, at this point, so is most of my garden... at least the stuff that's not still covered by snow....


    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:40PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

So far I know for sure that I lost two different Delospermas, one of which I've had for years, and a Teucrium. Can't tell yet about some of the other perennials--Agastaches, for example, or western salvias, though one I do know for sure has made it.
We had weather like last winter in the 70s and early 80s, but not for at least 30 years.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:03AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

If the Buddleja are not actually dead they look better if given a hard prune to the ground. They produce bigger flowers and don't develop into a twiggy mass covered in dead brown seed heads. So I wouldn't worry about last year's wood being smashed up, as long as the roots are alive.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:20AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I wouldn't assume that anything is dead yet. Yes, there are borderline hardy plants that you can assume had a harder time this winter than other plants, but I'm in zone 6a and the ground is still frozen. The rain we had recently, puddled on the surface and iced over.

I think we all will have some damage but also pleasant surprises. Way too early to determine what is dead. Even if the top growth is dead, growth could come back from the root system once it warms up.

Looks like we're going to have a long wait though.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:43AM
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Whaddya know--my driveway is still there!! I can finally see it! Front lawn too.

david883 - Assuming you didn't prune your 'Blueberry Cobbler' butterfly bush back in the fall, I'm guessing it has a good chance of coming back for you.

Quite a few plants had a rough time of it over this harsh winter but since they were likely dormant when it hit, my fingers are crossed that losses won't be catastrophic. Two winters ago my Stachys 'Helen Von Stein' (lambs ear) never lost foliage or color until January & sent up new growth in March. This year there's less than 10% green on the plants; the rest is gray & dead. Fingers crossed the roots survived (according to the Missouri Botanical Garden website it's hardy to Z4).

All my butterfly bushes look fine. I don't cut them back until March every year. Given they were grown from seed via winter sowing, I'm guessing they'll soon send out new growth once I can get to them (sayonara, snow) and prune away the old stems.

diggerdee - I hear you: my hellebores probably don't look their best but are still snow covered so I've been spared the ugly truth up 'til now.

lacyvail - Agastaches are in the mint family (feel the stems; they're square) and that says "tough as nails" to me. All mine have come through the past several winters with flying colors. Hope yours do as well.

floral_uk - my perennial books + Google recommend cutting Buddleia/butterfly bushes back to 30 cm/12 inches in spring rather than cutting them back to the ground. I've found that approach to be successful since planting multiple winter sown plants in various garden beds in 2010.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:31PM
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Campanula UK Z8

12 inches - that is more or less 'the ground' where buddlejas are concerned. These are weeds In the UK growing to massive tree-like proportions with horrible dead trunks.......I would certainly get my Silky (saw) out and hack back as far to the ground as I could (if I had any, which I don't)....but this would almost certainly mean an enormous gnarly lump of old basal wood which required a chainsaw to chop through. Much the same with cotinus too - we call this sort of pruning 'stooling' leaving a raised mound of basal growth which will (hopefully) encourage many more basal shoots to emerge at the same level, rather like a tall perennial such as rudbeckias.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:31AM
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This morning I was out looking for signs of life in the garden and there are snowdrops with flower buds sticking out of the ice - a few old clumps of daffs are showing just the tips of new foliage - none of the new bulbs planted last fall are showing any growth at all. The Pussy Willow and Witch Hazel are blooming, that is promising.
This is the time of year when most of our garden plants look the worse for wear and you wonder if they are alive at all. The best thing to do is wait and see, the weather will warm up and our gardens will come back to life. Chances are most things made it through due to the winter's heavy snow cover in most areas. I like to refer to it as "this past winter" but something tells me it isn't over yet! There is an old saying here that it snows at least once on the daffodils...

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:12AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

When I looked out at the backyard this morning, the first thing that caught my eye was that the branches of the 'Waterfall' Japanese Maple on the north side of the shed are now bright green! So it looks like that one has survived :-) The snow banks along the driveway were down to about 30" this morning and had retreated back from the edge by 6-8" - and I can see some bright green bulb foliage under the ice at the edge. So spring is finally starting to pick up steam.... It's supposed to be relatively mild (highs a few degrees above freezing) here until Sunday when the highs drop back below freezing again :-( Clearly we're not off the roller coaster yet! I'd bet there will be lots of frost warnings in May this year.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:15PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Even here down along the CT coast the temps are predicted to drop next week.

I wonder if garden centers will open a bit later this year.... the ground has to thaw before customers will come. It may be cold even into April this year.

Does anyone have buds swelling on shrubs, trees or even weeds?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:50PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

Buds on trees have been noticeably swelling around here for the past week or more. The ends of the branches of willows are now yellowish. Lilacs now have fat buds, as do magnolias. I can see buds swelling on the Chinese wisterias 'tree' but I can't get close enough to tell if some of the buds are flower buds. While it is very reassuring re survival rates to see the tree and shrub buds swelling, I suspect the growth is triggered by the increasing daylength rather than temperatures, so I think there is significant risk of damage until we finally get to stable normal spring temperatures - hopefully soon!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:25PM
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I'm not quite counting anyone as being down for the count quite yet. But now that spring is starting to rear, well, its at the forefront of my mind, most notably the butterfly bush since it is "half-hardy" here. Ultimately, I wont be too heartbroken if certain things don't come back (it gives a good reason to buy more!) and I don't know that I'm "worrying" or "stressing" about these but I am thinking of them.
And of course, no walking on the grass/ground - just the looking at what I can see from the patio... though the dogs don't seem to mind squishing around in the mud... Did I mention all three are white? I hate this thaw!

jebfarm - good to hear witch hazel is blooming! Hopefully not too long now! I'd love to get one of these, too!

Woodyoak - I know what you mean about everything being sheeted in ice. We had a nice little defrost for about a day or two before it dropped back to the negatives and everything was encased in ice. We were like living in a snow globe where the snow didn't move when shook because the water itself was frozen.

lacyveil - I second the gardenweed's sentiment about agastache and mint being not one to worry about. I left mine out in a metal filing cabinet we converted into a planter... I can see some little basal leaves underneath the fall leaves I put around it. I thought I killed it the year before by leaving it in full, direct sun in a very hot hot hot summer. Never bothered to pull it out of the container, which was left out all winter, and come spring had some springing up! I can't speak exactly to agasatche itself (just planted my firsts this past summer) but if its anything like its cousin... You're good :)

Love the input everyone - the best part of the gardening community is you're never alone!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:52AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

White dogs + mud - oh boy! I will be so happy when everything finally dries out - my pooches are black (and are confined to the cement dog pen unless out for a walk - on the pavement), but I am SO TIRED of mopping up paw prints off the floors!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:51AM
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There's more winter kill than I've seen in many years. Dry frigid winds did a deadly number passing through here to dump on the NE leaving us mostly high & dry. I've got some cosmetic damage that will take a couple years to recover. Some friends that garden in Tx, Okla, west Ks, & NM are all dry too with the drought predicted to continue and I know some that are limiting the amount of toilet flushings.

Guess this is a bit OT since its not a thaw we're dealing with, seems this forum is mostly NE'erners but damage is damage. Anyways, I'm throwing it in as a look at the bright side from someone who lives further away from ya'll. It would be real nice if some of that snow & water was trucked down here here by you guys up there hogging it all, we could sure use some of the water. Lakes are low with not much hope in sight but we keep our fingers crossed & pray.

I've been pretty busy for several weeks trimming up the dead mess & get some things planted ASAP while the ground is a bit damp & the temp is cool to give some new plants half a chance. I've got it 95% done.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 1:34PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

TexasRanger - I moan and whine about winter and ice etc. here, but I MUCH prefer to live with our weather than to think about living with years-long drought! My sympathies to you.... :-)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:16PM
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TexasRanger10 - I'd be happy to ship the excess snow/ice (not to mention the cold temps) from my garden to yours. Makes me wonder if someday that'll be something to which no one gives a thought. There's sufficient rainfall here most years (altho we had a summer drought back in 2011 & I set out recycled cat litter jugs with pinholes poked in the bottoms to keep a few things alive).

I don't think of it as "hogging" all the moisture but can certainly understand how you'd see it that way. Trust me--when it rains for weeks on end here in the northeast, most gardeners are wondering if their perennials will survive the wet, much the same way you do your own plants struggling to survive the dry.

Do I wish Ma Nature divided/shared the moisture more equitably across the globe? Goes without saying, yes. But bottom line is we have one planet--it's a generous one for many and less so for others. Lucky are those who've found a place where things are more balanced.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:30PM
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gardenweed, I had the exact same thought about shipping water, seriously wondering if it was technically possible as a solution when parts of the US was having drought. We just heard on the news yesterday that one of the lakes that feeds this area has less water in it right now than was used last year. The phrase "water rationing" is already on the news. California is in a bad way too.

Still, the weather is beautiful right now & I'm enjoying getting outside to clean up the garden. Nice to see the dead stuff cut away & hauled out. Cheered me up just fine.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 9:33PM
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I'm just thankful now that most of the major snow piles here have melted. Hopefully the puddling water gets absorbed soon. Mud on the carpeting in the back room the dogs come in is a pain to clean but its an ugly, old, dark blue-green-sort of color (its awful) so I'm not stressing much on making it perfect... I'll be ripping it out soon enough anyway. And frankly, I gave up on mopping the kitchen floor after they'd come in each time. Its too much - I just do it at the end of the day if its muddy. I'll be so happy when all of this is gone and we can go out there again!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 5:39AM
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NHBabs z4b-5a NH

David, I am not sure where you are, but I really wouldn't consider your butterfly bush half-hardy where you are unless it's one of the ones that is only hardy to zone 6 or you had no snow along with subzero temperatures. I had one for several years here (until I moved, so it may well still be where I planted it.) It died down to the snow line, I pruned it in spring when it started pushing buds so that I knew what was still living, and it grew back to 6 feet every year. An easy plant to care for.

IME if there is good snow cover, most things will survive below the snow line since it doesn't get much below freezing. It's only above the snowline or if there are a lot of freeze-thaw cycles in spring that cause heaving that you need to worry about survival.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 10:30AM
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