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Rough winter--rethink landscape or hang in there?

Posted by frankie_in_zone_7 (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 18, 10 at 12:10

After a really intense month or so at work, I was finally able to take stock of my yard and ...whoa! This past winter did a job on things that had done pretty well up to now.
We had more days in low 'teens and more prolonged cold, I think, than usual. Are other of you out there finding that you gardens took a hit?

Some of it is very fixable--for example, I have several areas with liriope edging, which even in good years can benefit from cutting to the ground in later winter or early, but you can also fudge and skip it, so, being a bit low-maintenance, I do, or rotate sections--well,this year every bit of it looks fried, so all needs to be cut back.
Also some of my evergreen ferns, like holly ferns--they'll bounce back, but instead of having a few brown fronds, all need to be cut back. My hellebores, which I love this time of year, are doing their part to bloom, but the foliage took such a severe hit that it is detracting--so again, not that it wouldn't need cutting back anyway, but normally I would approach it in my desultory, snip a little here and there, but now it's screaming, " I am really burned to a crisp " so it does that thing where when you look at your garden bed you think more about the chores you ought to be doing to fix it than just enjoying it. Then there are a few shrubs in which I've pushed the zone a bit,had them in a microclimate, and now they look awful, so not yet clear if done-for.

Anyway, lots of pruning and cutting back. And I think what has made it worse is, the bad weather meant that there were fewer days on which I got out and kept up with things, so now have the experience of Spring exploding and haven't recovered from winter.

So partly I can't tell whether I just need to roll up my sleeves and do a big clean up and expect better times ahead, or whether this is a sign that I should replace some things with even MORE durable stuff as part of my "gardening in your later years" transition. Like, you need to be hundred-year freeze-worthy to be in my garden, or what. Also, it does help me a little to see, hmmm, not all things that are "evergreen" are equally 4-season-worthy.

Probably a little of both--take a deep breath and enjoy some upcoming balmy Saturday soon to do some work, and maybe re-think a few things.

And roses--I had thought I achieved a nice ratio of reward to maintenance with some Knockout roses combined with some other shrubs--really a nice combination with literally 6 months of bloom and/or foliage color--but darn it if they didn't get kinda tall and it turns out that pruning roses is kind of a pain, literally, compared to pruning things that don't bite, so I haven't figured out whether to continue or experiment with something else.

Then, we have (had) a kind of trashy cherry laurel tree that I kept because it screened the back gate and an entire area I use for composting--over time and with selected pruning it just became kind of an umbrella shelter that hid a multitude of less-pretty activities. It split after a snowstorm and we're having to take it out. Challenges and opportunities--can now plant something nicer, but meanwhile, no screening, no shade, weeds will grow.....

On the bright side, I planted a winter Daphne in a container by the driveway last spring, and for the past several weeks it has been heavenly. Definitely got my desired effect from that.

So, anyone else experience this winter as a possible garden re-design event?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Rough winter--rethink landscape or hang in there?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Thu, Mar 18, 10 at 13:00

You are at least ahead of the game, as your plants just need cutting back for the most part, and aren't completely dead. Many gardeners who base plant selection on zonal denial don't just have clean-up to do, but complete removal. Good luck with the clean-up, but it sounds like you already have a good mix of plants that are appropriate for your climate; some years they just need a bit more work...

As to my own garden and clean-up due to the winter, we lucked out here in the SF Bay Area, with only a minor bout of cold back in mid December, and nice steady winter rains which followed. My garden clean-up had more to do back in January to remove frost damage, and since then, just monitoring the succulents to see that they didn't stay too wet and rot out on me, which of course some did anyway...

RE: Rough winter--rethink landscape or hang in there?

Normally I get to hit the ground running in the spring, but last fall got too cold too quickly and I didn't do a clean up for the first time. The stands of garden phlox, the splayed strappy dead foliage of daylilies, nepetas, Veronicas, salvias, and Siberian iris are summarily ugly right now.

We got an early insulating snow cover and any left over "winter interest" got buried by a horrific Christmas snowfall. Today, the last of the snow piles are gone and although it's a bit soggy to be doing a close up garden survey, I can see green out the windows - Oriental poppies, tall bearded iris, and coral bells for sure. The phlox subulata cascading down a patio retaining wall is lush without any dieback. It's going to be a bumper year for lilacs.

Not getting younger or spryer, I've been doing some major editing for the past couple of seasons and I'm liking seeing ground between plants or clumps of plants. I don't zone push and I've long since stopped envying what cannot be had in this climate - Mother Nature is not whimsical here and a lot of blooming perennials, even the tried and true, have been replaced with small shrubs or conifers. This is a good time, looking down and over the gardens from upstairs windows, to make some mental notes.

RE: Rough winter--rethink landscape or hang in there?

I experience every season as a garden re-design event, because every winter half my plants drown, and every summer half my plants die of drought. Any plant that survives a full year in my yard deserves a medal.

RE: Rough winter--rethink landscape or hang in there?

Frankie, you cut your liriope to the ground?

I just added more Knockouts to a large berm. I need to fill a lot of space, and the one I planted last August (!) convinced me to buy more. One good hard trimming once a year is fine by me, if they all do as well as that first one. And I don't care one bit if the Rose People think they're trash. Me and my clay soil and 100+ degree summers and wet springs think they're just the bee's knees. Must. Have. More.

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