The June Garden: Damage and Regrowth

It has been chilly since May.

The lowest temperature I have recorded so far is -9°C/15°F on a couple of occasions and it has been interesting to see which parts of the garden are in protected micro-climates and which parts are exposed to frost.

But, in what should normally be the coldest time of year, we are currently enjoying a respite: the fortnightly forecast is for exceptionally warm weather of about 10-12°C / 50-54°F and no nights much below freezing: despite the last 6 weeks feeling cold, we are actually still running about 1°C above the long-term average….the winters over the last few years have been so mild.

So, with the prospect of a couple of weeks of spring-like temperatures, it’s a good time to see what plants have been killed, which plants will need to be moved and which plants are actually thriving.


First up….some of the more dramatic casualties (click to enlarge):

casualties

L:R. Ajuga, Verbena, Salvia, Diascia, Japanese Windflower

Some of the plants in here are actually somewhat surprising:

Ajuga is supposed to be cold tolerant to -40°C / -40°F: compare this to a few days ago (taken just after the last hard frost and it didn’t look damaged at all)…..I know it will bounce back, but -9°C is a walk in the park compared to -40°C…the Verbena is supposed to be hardy to -20°C / -10°F, not brown mush.

However, it too, should bounce back; many of the plants have already started putting on new growth, like the Japanese windflower which up until a couple of weeks ago had started to fill out as a lovely dense groundcover.

The salvia on the other hand is representative of many of the salvia plants in the garden…blackened, dead sticks or mush; I am not pinning my hopes on more than 50% surviving, but you never know!


Next up….the ‘walking wounded’ casualties (click to enlarge):

Survivors

L:R Salvia Hot Lips, Salvia Waverly, Rhododendron, Pelargonium, Echeveria, Box, Pieris, Leyland Cypresses

The Salvias that have survived have gone a deep purple colour, but they are  showing regrowth. The Rhododendron has also turned an odd black colour.

My scented Pelargonium has had its middle turned to mush; the Echeveria (despite being under the cover of a plastic clear roof) are all pockmarked  in the pattern of the frost and the Buxus is a terrible shade of rust.

The Pieris has swapped healthy green for a sickly yellow tone and many of the Leyland Cypress for the new hedge have turned an unfetching brown shade – compare that to the more attractive green of its neighbour which is in a more sheltered spot along the hedgerow.


But as always, nature continues to surprise: here are the plants not just surviving, but positively THRIVING – and many are considered tender:

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Unknown Hebe Cv.

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Osteospermum

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Osteospermum cv.

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Leucojum thriving next to a frost-burnt buxus plant

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Brachyscome multifidia – a tough little Australian native that is never without flowers

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Erica lusitanica – a terrible weed here in the mountains. Nothing except a determined gardener can kill it 🙂

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Juvenile Daphne odora developing buds – unscathed by the frost


But the stars of the Australian Winter Garden are the Wattles.

These two are in the ‘bush’ area of the garden – a very steep part of the yard in between the private access road and the public road.

In the first photo, you can see the frost damage done to grasses and ferns, but the wattle is completely unscathed. Flowering in the depths of winter, this hardy plant is Acacia terminalis. It has delicate ferny foliage, an open form (although pruning from an early age will encourage density) and beautiful pompoms of yellow sunshine:

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Acacia terminalis

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Acacia terminalis

Note the agapanthus everywhere – also completely unscathed!


And then of course, there are the ‘How is that Possible?’ plants in the garden. Those  plants in sheltered spots are acting as though winter hasn’t even occurred:

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Spring stars continue blooming

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Azalea cv.

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Bellis perennis look like it’s summer

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Summery scabious

And, then there is this scene in one of the very sheltered areas of the garden: surely this isn’t a ‘winter’ that has just delivered over 30 nights and 4 full days of sub-zero temperatures:

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Penstemons, Marguerite, Poppies and daisies….could someone remind the plants what season it is?

Aren’t micro-climates just great? 🙂

And, to finish off, some of the native grasses and coreopsis weeds from the kerbside ‘bush’ area look suitably lovely in their winter coat, rustling in the breeze:

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Winter Grasses and Seedpods

 

Happy Gardening 🙂

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44 thoughts on “The June Garden: Damage and Regrowth

  1. Interesting post Matt, I lose plants here in my exposed garden which should tolerate the temperature but still succumb over winter. It’s good though you can still work outside in what seems to me to be very low temps.

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    • I should feel the cold more I know (I see people rugged up in scarves and gloves and beanies), but when we get to 10C here in the winter it feels a lot milder here than 10C in the UK, if that makes any sense 🙂

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  2. I’m amazed your Eschevera survived your low temperatures, I always bring mine in for the winter. But also, I’m not surprised your pelargonium wasn’t happy with the frost, again those also winter indoors here. Plants are pretty good at coping with adverse temperatures, I’m sure a lot that look dead now, will sprout in the spring, I hope they do!

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    • Thanks Pauline! I hope they do come back – the pelargonium was completely fine last winter (-7C and lots more snow) but this extra 2 degrees of frost just seemed to push it past its limits, although that said, both it and the echeveria have coped pretty well past what the text books say they can deal with….bring on spring, I say 🙂

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  3. I find hardiness quotes usually wrong as they are only looking at one aspect, I live in a zone 9 but lots of plants said to survive in zone 9 do not survive here, I find it incredible (and unfair) that some of your winter highs are higher than our current summer temperatures this year, still in single figures centigrade,
    sorry about your possible losses Matt, you do have a lot in flower for a winter garden, well done on creating your micro climates, Frances

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    • Thanks Frances! Most of our winter temps should be 3 or 4C during the day, so it is going to be a very warm couple of weeks. I hope your summer weather improves soon (but that said, we also have single digit days in summer too – I rather like them). Zone 9 seems awfully warm for so far north – but I think those US zones don’t really work for climates with cool/cold summers like Northern Europe

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      • the zone 9 is because the sea keeps it warmer in winter so we do not get the really cold frosts like you have been having, I find the zoning only takes in winter temps and makes no allowance for rainfall and summer temps, plants with semi dry and warm/hot summers can ripen wood and withstand colder winter temps, in areas where rainfall promotes lush growth without the higher temps to ripen the growth, then the lush growth is much more susceptible to damage by cold, frost, snow and wind, I’ve also read and heard that the wet winter garden is more prone to damage if the temperatures drop below freezing, the roots are frozen in the wet soil, where as a dry winter soil does not suffer in the same way, for me here, it is the winter (and in recent years all year) strong winds, if new growth has not had warm enough weather to ripen the the next gale or storm turns it brown, all this I did not know when I moved here, I stop taking notice of hardiness zones and go by previous experience now, Frances

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      • So true! I used to loose plants in London at -1C that here are fine with temps of -7C. In addition to wet/dry soils, the levels of sunlight also help plants survive – during the frosty period the days were quite cloudy so that a lot of the plants didn’t even get a chance to recover. This makes it tough for very northern latitudes where the winter sun is almost non-existent. All the variables make for very interesting learning

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  4. Quite amazing. Over the last couple of years winter temperatures have been so mild here, less than -9, and yet I’ve lost so many of those. I put it down to wet and as well as cold, but then you’ve had your fair share of that too.

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    • So many of my plants are from cuttings and plugs, and I suspect that they haven’t been advanced enough to fight the chill. We’ve been very wet during autumn, but the soil is fast draining….I know I used to loose plants in the UK to light frosts if the had wet feet….it keeps it interesting, that’s for sure!

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    • Thanks – the osteospermums are grown in sheltered spots, but I thought that they would have succumbed to the frost as they are not considered especially hardy

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  5. It is nice to have some blooming plants in the winter. Yes, I don’t think zones give the full picture. I am at zone 8 to 9 (depending on the year), but need to consider the humidity and all the mold, mildew, fungus and bugs that come with it when selecting plants. Only the tough survive!

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  6. Yikes! I’ve got deer eating my new stuff. Don’t know which is worse the potential to be scarfed before the plants have a chance to get established or winter frost zapping the stuff. Gardening has more than its share of challenges! 🙂 keep smiling and hope for the best.

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    • Oh yes – at least I don’t have to worry about deer (they are naturalized in many parts but they haven’t made it here yet) The possums and rabbits do a good deal of damage when other food is scarce…it’s amazing what plants have to put up with!

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  7. Plants can be full of surprises, which helps keep gardening interesting. I never heard of wattles, they are very attractive plants. Surprised to see Penstemon blooming away in that kind of cold, but I thought Osteospermum liked cold weather.

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    • Thanks! The osteospermums are not supposed to withstand temperatures below 30F, but they’ve withstood much lower temperatures for two years now without any damage. They are tough!
      The wattles are a delightful plant, but most won’t put up with cold below about 5F…that said, they light up the winter scenery – between now and August, the various species make these brilliant golden bushes that look great against the dull greens of the Australian landscape. To me, they are our equivalent of the forsythia.

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  8. Ditto on the sudden halt of winter and the jump into spring. I wouldn’t pin my hopes on it staying that way to be honest ;). I, too, have noticed weird things in the garden. I haven’t been up to Sanctuary (my fully enclosed veggie garden) of late but I had to the other day to water the glasshouse where we keep our species that “shouldn’t grow in Tasmania” like our custard apples, avocado’s and macadamia nuts. They are all doing fine but the biggest surprise was that the water wicked strawberry bed that saw our poor almost dead strawberries in pots turn into rabid green monsters over the summer months (although the slugs ate ALL of the berries 😉 ) are still producing fruit. LOTS of fruit! I thought that strawberries went to sleep in winter but we have had some pretty severe frosts this year and my strawberries have big bunches of green fruit that appear to have survived unscathed. I think you pointing to micro climates is spot on. I have just ignored Sanctuary and things have died but most of what was in there that was perennial appears to be surviving admirably. If the earth was wiped out by nuclear exposure, the only things left would be cockroaches, politicians and osteospermum daisies 😉

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    • I know, it’s like someone pressed the stop button, the effect is so sudden. I have got some strawberry flowers too – way too early, so it could be that the plants think that spring is coming!

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      • Could be but our winter has been the coldest in years here so I think my strawberry plants are either mental or going over the top of the bunker for one last push 😉

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  9. I am surprised too at the osteospermums; would have thought they’d have been one of the first to keel over! I know what you mean about the ajuga; there is some here and it all looked awful in early spring even though it was covered with an insulating blanket of snow (and ice… and snow…and more ice…) for most of the winter, which is unusual because our region is notorious for freeze/thaw cycles.

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    • The freeze/thaw is an odd thing to deal with; it has also lifted a few plants as well as cracked pieces off pots and bricks. It’s good to know that the ajuga will bounce back, I had become rather fond of its garish colours!

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  10. Even my Ajuga is looking sad and I don’t think we’ve been down below about 7 so far. But, despite hating the cold, I am jealous of how many ‘bugs’ it will be killing off for you. I have ridiculous numbers of munchers here (mainly caterpillars, as far as I can tell, which seem to enjoy Bacillus thuringiensis) and I just know they will all still be here in spring!

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    • I know what you mean – last year we had aphids that over-wintered and wreaked havoc on the Japanese maples, so hopefully this will kill them: I do hope that the caterpillars aren’t developing a taste for Bacillus thuringiensis, I thought that was used to control many pests….(!)

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  11. The surprises – both positive and negative – are part of what keeps gardeners engaged (if by turns joyful and infuriated). It’s been so long since I’ve experienced a frost that I scarcely pay attention to winter’s impacts but your exercise here reminds me that it may be prudent to conduct my own review of the summertime impacts of heat and drought. I hope your winter continues to be mild, Matt, and that you’re able to take maximum advantage of those micro-climates!

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    • Thanks Kris! I was the same when I moved here from Sydney – the frequency and severity of the frosts was a surprise. The eucalyptus trees with their high, open canopies make for fantastic microclimates – both summer and winter and the addition of the rock dry-stone walls has also helped immensely.

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  12. Ah, yes, I too am having June damage to my Echeverias… 😛 I hadn’t realized Brachyscome multifida was an Australian native; that puts it up in my “to try” list as the Aussies have been generally successful here. (And such an appealingly blue flower!) The azaleas and penstemons and such are incredible; you must have quite a fascinating series of microclimates! I’m wondering how much was native to the site, and how much you have been able to build in…?

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    • Thanks Amy! The larger evergreens that were here in the backyard include a massive eucalypt, a grove of smaller eucalypts, an old deodar a large temple cypress and a large(ish) Monterrey cypress. There is also a mixed hedgerow between myself and the neighbours yard instead of a fence and these things, together with the dry-stone walls I’ve added have created quite a number of gentle micro-climates. There is also a small garden ‘room’ inbetween some ugly sheds, garages and fences and this 800 square foot area has proven to be almost sub-tropical as it captures the sun and uses the reflected warmth from the buildings.

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  13. A few surprises there for sure. Definitely the Ostepspermum, but also the Hebe. I had a number of different Hebes (I think about 12) when I first moved to Oregon. Kind of got obsessed with them. At this point, all I have left is 4. I’ve heard that the larger the leaf, the less hardy it is. It certainly seems that way – the ones I have left are all small-leaved. Yeay for micro-climates!

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    • Yes, the large-leafed hebes aren’t especially hardy – I planted a couple of variegated ones and they really are looking worse for wear. The small leaf ones are completely unscathed!

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  14. Linda Coombs says:

    I’ve been working on the micro -climate in my very exposed garden . At the moment it’s the heat and dry wind that is the killer. I’ve resorted to an umbrella for my very droopy Schefflera, I blame the neighbors for taking down the tree that used to give some protection.

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    • I am so grateful for the evergreen trees in the garden: they have blocked all of the bitter winds and their canopy stops the worst of the frost from settling. In summer they give the garden light shade which means that spring flowering plants can bloom almost all year long 🙂

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