GBFD August – Last of Winters Damage

This GBFD ain’t a pretty one, so look away if dying foliage offends!

Winter arrived in late April this year, and while there were weeks of very mild weather in June, on the whole, winter was cold with weekly snowfalls since the second week of July.

As any Northern American gardener knows, the worst damage is done when the snow is gone and prolonged freezing weather is accompanied by bitter gales which give way to a thaw and then back to frigid cold. This is the sort of weather we’ve had in abundance.

Unsurprisingly, given that a lot of my garden is very new, exposed parts of it look terrible!

But the damage isn’t restricted to just new plantings. Here, x Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Leightons Green’ that forms part of a mixed hedgerow is completely burnt across the tips:


Tip burn on 30 year old hedge

Smaller Leylandii that I have put in have turned from green to straw; although with winter ending, I have been nursing them back with a very week seaweed tea:


Winter discolouration

It’s working, but compare the colour above to a recently planted version that was over-wintered in a pot on the back deck (how all of these should look like through winter):


Healthy specimen showing no winter damage

Other supposedly hardy foliage plants have taken a hit. Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’ is not looking so choice, and it’s  surprising as this is grown adjacent to the comparative shelter of the house:


Frost Burn from Freeze/Thaw Cycles

Similarly, the Pieris japonica – which is over 30 years old and supposedly hardy to -28°C / -18°F  – is showing signs of the severe frost damage and looks decidedly worse than the June montage a few photos below.

It should survive, but normally it is a lovely green colour (normally our winters are gentle like England, not destructive like the U.S. mid-west!!!!). At the moment, however, all the leaves are burnt:


Severe frost burn on mature specimen

Compare it to the same time last year.


Same plant August 2014 showing no winter damage

My poor Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ has become progressively worse:….







The Boxwood (which will eventually be shaped into a cone) has been given regular doses of diluted seaweed solution and it is picking up. All over the mountains I’ve seen exposed box hedges completely burnt and defoliated by the cold…something I’ve never witnessed before…except in the central areas of Canada.

The Buxus in July (2nd row):


Now – tinges of green/yellow have emerged thanks to seaweed tonic (similar to the Leylandii) and a final let up in the cold:


One of the ‘Blue’ azaleas (Rhododendron ‘Blue Admiral’) has turned into more of a Blackbeard:


Many of the half-hardy plantings have fared considerably worse. This Æonium looks like it has gangrene: I hold no hope for it (I have its pup safely in a pot for future replanting):


What’s left of the Crassula looks more like Dracula 🙂


Both of these should have survived as they are right next to the house and normally sheltered from the worst weather – including rain – by a weather-proof porch. This has a clear Perspex roof and acts like a large cold-frame. But during the worst snow-storm (we had two very bad ones), the supposedly and normally weather-proof porch looked like this and by the next morning, everything had frozen solid:


This was where a lot of tender foliage plants like Bromeliads were kept under cover and safe from winter weather, but now look like this. The freeze even cracked glazed pots:


My drought-hardy scented Pelargonium citrosum suffered badly, but has already rebounded without any help from me; proving they are much tougher than given credit for. A hard trim and a feed in September will restore it:


And Agapanthus prove yet again that numerous hard frosts, wet snow, icy snow, black ice and death-stares every time I walk past them don’t do permanent damage (sadly).

These mushy leaves have already started to repair….meaning another summer with the mattock and hundreds of dollars in tip fees if I am to ever get their numbers under control:


But it’s not all bad!

There is nice foliage to enjoy even in a winter damaged garden. Most of it is from the hedgerow along the boundary and most of it from plants that are considered tender!

The pittosporum still looks lovely:


An evergreen Euonymus has shaken off any cold with tough, waxy leaves:


Fatsia japonica gives a tropical feel:


As does Acanthus mollis:


My little Aucuba japonica cutting has successfully survived its second winter and lights up dense shade under half-a-dozen trees:


Heucheras are in various states:

H. ‘Purple Palace’ (looking more like ‘Bedraggled Bungalow’ but a trim will restore it) fared the worst in one of the frostier spots:


H. ‘Berry Smoothie’ looks happy under the stairs where it is very sheltered:


And H. ‘Lime Marmalade’ still shines with only a tiny bit of damage ready to give a nice contrast next month to the Physocarpus ‘Diablo’ above it:IMG_2826

Almost all of the Sedums that I had planted are horrible and shrivelled. I’m hoping they will bounce back; but one of the most surprising Sedums is supposedly tender.

Under the stairs, next to the Heuchera, Sedum x Rubrotinctum is showing a lot of tip damage, but otherwise it looks really lovely:


So there you have it.

In gardening, you take the good and (make the most of) the bad. But with spring only days away…today as I write this we are having a ridiculous hot spell of 17°C / 63°F before heavy rain is supposed to set in, so the foliage plants will mend and once again provide the back-drop to the rest of the garden.

Plenty of my Australian Native plants survived this terrible winter, but that is for another post!

Do check out Christinas blog over at My Hesperides Garden to see what foliage other gardeners around the world are showcasing.

Happy Gardening and Happy GBFD!


57 thoughts on “GBFD August – Last of Winters Damage

  1. Oh how heart breaking. Although we’ve had crazy weather the garden is looking as spring should. It’s 27ºC right now – I’m hanging up the washing while the sun shines then will take photos around the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know – it’s been rather harsh this year. Here was 18C and amazing! I’ll be upset if the older things die (I always factor in losses for the tiny plants and cuttings I use). Thankfully winter doesn’t have much puff left 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh – those rapid temperature fluctuations are the worst. It was the same here last November. It went from pretty balmy to -15C overnight. The poor plants had no time to harden off, and were in complete shock! I’m sorry Matt, but ‘Bedraggled Bungalow’ made me laugh. I wouldn’t worry about the Heucheras – they are tough as nails. Is that last sedum ‘Pork and Beans’? I love both color and texture, and if that made it through your winter, I’m going to try one this year. The tag says it wouldn’t make it, but it looks awfully similar to the one in your picture – such a cool plant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I don’t think I have a job as a plant namer (but those Heuchera cultivars always make me try!)
      The plant is Pork and Beans, but when I say under the stairs, there is a wooden tread straight above it, so it never got snow or (much) ice at all, and still had all of the tips fall off! The soil here is very sandy which is probably why more things are tougher than the literature states

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes! I sympathize, Matt. While it doesn’t freeze here (at least not often), the scorching heat of summer and generally dry soil has taken its toll and I see dead plants everywhere. As I’m sure is the case for you, it’s too soon yet to get into replanting so I’m forced to forced to look at my garden with blinders on and hope that, maybe, some of the dead will spring back to life, preferably without looking like plant-zombies. At least you have some great-looking survivors. I have a LOT of Agapanthus too but I’m learning to love them for their resilience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the term plant-zombies 🙂 I definitely have blinkers on at the moment – and luckily I have some nice sheltered micro-climates where spring has already arrived, so I just focus on those 🙂


  4. I hope your plants recover from their frosty winter, hopefully they will sprout again from the base. You have such a lot that have managed to shrug their shoulders at the weather and are looking really good. I wish we lived nearer, then you could pass your Agapanthus on to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pauline – I could happily give you an endless supply of Agapanthus! (I had about 300m2 – the size of a large house – of them) I have reduced them by about 2/3, but want to get that back to maybe half a dozen plants. They are a little too fond of the Blue Mountains!


  5. Oh dear, I had no idea that you have such cold writers there. Aren’ t you the home of the tree fern? How do they cope in the wild.? I do hope your plants will recover from the battering they have received. How depressing for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, winters here are typically colder than most parts of the UK, but this year was very cold.
      The tree ferns never cope with the cold if they are in the open, and I’ve noticed quite a few ones grown that way are dead; but the ones growing under tall trees have done just fine as they are protected from the worst frosts.
      Thankfully spring is almost here, so my job for the next few weeks is to play nurse-maid to all the plants 🙂


  6. I know just how you feel looking at foliage damage, so much of my garden has damages and dead plants after our terribly hot summer. I am amazed that your Agapanthus survives so well, mine dislike the drought and struggle in cold winters but I agree with Pauline that I wish you could send all you don’t want to me! Thanks for joining GBFD this month. I also think it is helpful to show the good and the bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The agapanthus look absolutely terrible in the cold; mushy and yellow…but they bounce back despite thousands of hours of sub zero weather. I wish I could send them on to you as it is a shame to send so much to the tip and they are pretty in flower 🙂


  7. Oh Matt, so sad to see. I do hope the damage will repair itself. Plants are more robust than we think and I’m often pleasantly surprised. And here I am, giving Agapanthus my most favoured spots against south facing walls, watering them, carefully mulching them and worrying all winter over whether I should have dug them up instead, then waiting anxiously for the flower buds to appear..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jessica – I think many of the plants will be alright in the long run. After yesterdays warm weather we are enjoying rain (at least it’s not snow!) so it will certainly help the plants along.
      It’s funny to think that agapanthus are so prized. To me they are amongst the toughest plants around 🙂


  8. Matt, I thought your garden was comparable to USDA Zone 8? Interesting survivals – I had burned Pieris and Boxwood many times further north and they all bounced back beautifully. I would be traumatized about the Leylands though.
    I have burned up some more Bromeliads this summer, one of those life in the gardening pond issues to deal with!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are usually are zone 8, but I think we got some very low temperatures for very long periods and combined with the terrible gales and sunshine I think really took its toll on the plants. I’m glad to hear that the pieris will bounce back.
      Thankfully the leylands will be fine once they get growing again. I think my bromeliads will join yours in burnt heaven 🙂


      • I think Pieris will go to Zone Six, one of my favorites. Weather, what are you going to do about it? Hurricane Danny seems to be fizzling out. Fingers crossed..
        My most popular post ever is about Matchstick Bromeliads which I have broiled every last one!
        Do you have Green Giant Arborvitae? I have serious Leyland issues.


      • I have planted a few Thuja (plicata ‘smaragd’ ) but T. standishii x plicata doesn’t seem to be available in Australia. We don’t have the same Cypress pests in Australia, so the Leyland cypresses are generally the only fast-growing hedge….plus it can be sheared into a formal hedge rather than letting them get to 90′ trees, which is what I’ll be using it for.
        I hope that the Hurricane fizzes out!


  9. Matt, I’m sorry to see the damages you’re facing but hope things recover in the end. You do have some wonderful plants that look great and I appreciate that you showed both the good and the bad. That Pieris is amazing–fingers crossed for it. Love the wild color of H. ‘Berry Smoothie’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I decided that I would take the blinkers off and show the garden warts and all. I love the pieris: especially at the end of winter – it is usually so fresh and green and covered in beautiful blooms. Not quite this year, though – but I’m sure it will be fine once the warm weather returns


  10. It’s like surveying the battlefield. I often forget the ravages of winter in my frost-less wasteland. It looks as though the tide has turned and things should be green and healthy again in no time. Especially with your tea treatments. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. oh Matt so sorry to see all the damage of your plants, I agree it is worse when it is the older plants that are affected, they took so long to reach that stage, the temperature switches your plants experience is very hard on them, I hope you have seen the last of the cold weather,

    you do however have some lovely foliage that has survived the winter, Frances

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Frances, when I saw the damage on the established Leylandii hedge I immediately thought of your pines last winter…so I now know how cold and windy it has to be to do that 🙂 But that hedgerow helped the other more tender plants thrive; at least leylandii grow back quickly!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “Bedraggled Bungalow”… hehehehe. 🙂 However, if it helps, most of the plants here looked as bad or worse after the winter we had, and most of those eventually bounced back (albeit quite slowly for some). The ajuga especially looked awful but I noticed while weeding it the other day that it now looks as if nothing had ever happened.


  13. I have (albeit motley) versions of everything that you have listed here and I find that the originals are surviving the best. That gorgeous sundance Choisya is less likely to do well than the hardy old original. I guess we are going to have to consider what we plant carefully in the future to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous climate change eh? My Pieris (probably about the same age as yours) has been looking decidedly defunct this year as well. We did clear all of the blackberries out of it and I am hoping that they weren’t the only thing keeping it alive! Again, my humble old common-or-garden Ajuga are going great guns even though the frost has killed a lot of plants around here. They are like the ever-ready bunny. I am thinking the variegated alternatives might be pretty but may not be hardy enough for a tough winter/summer. You might have to throw a frost blanket over them to protect them?

    I used to HATE agapanthus but they are the only thing that survives down our driveway and they put on a sterling display every year with no effort on our part whatsoever so they get to stay. I still have problems with the osteospermums though. Some plants I have issues with, no matter how hardy they are ;).

    You can’t kill a pitto but watch out if you ever have bush fires as these babies go up like their sap is kerosene! Our Euonymus has gorgeous yellow leaves and seems to be loving the latest wave of cold (although our cold is NOTHING like yours, there was snow about 2 minutes away recently, almost an unheard of eventuality in our parts!). Again, I have specimens of almost everything you listed but we have been lucky in that ours are sheltered and we didn’t actually get snow. They should all bounce back. Lets just hope that our projected summer conditions of “HOT, dry and extended” are wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll probably always keep some agapanthus where the garden slopes away steeply, but I think it’s a case of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ – which is probably how you feel about osteospermums. At the top of the mountain, they are so well behaved, rounded, long flowering little things (although they need shelter) but in the low parts of the mountain, the blue and white ones have gone berserk and swamp so much. It is very unpleasant!
      It’s odd with the Choisya; when I lived in the UK ‘Sundance’ was planted everywhere and I never saw any damage – but I have the standard ones and they look awful, too. I suspect the garden got much colder than the official -10C recorded at the weather station

      Liked by 1 person

      • I reckon you are right. It’s been really cold (compared to normal) here. We rarely ever had a frost prior to this year and this year there was snow in Beaconsfield! Oh well, I guess we just have to adapt like the plants 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Cynthia! It was a chilly winter, but spring is definitely around the corner. Funnily enough, despite being one of the colder places in Australia, I think we would be classed as one of the warmer places in Canada!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s always upsetting when plants are fried by the weather, whether it’s too hot or too cold. I’ve given up trying to push any climate zones. If the plant can’t handle anything a zone or two below where I’m at (zone 7A) then I don’t grow it. Hopefully, everything will be ok with just a bit of pruning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – I think our temperature probably dipped into zone 7 territory this winter, but that was the first time in over 20 years…with a warming world, I think it we’ll soon be zone 9 growing palm trees rather than zone 8….yikes!


  15. Oh dear, what amazes me most of all is the fact that you’re having such a hard winter as I had always thought it’s pretty mild in your corner of the world. I’m sure lots will pick up with the onset of spring so just be patient before you rip out anything ;). It’s odd to see the different reactions to cold and I’m often surprised how plants considered delicate withstand rough times and others -supposedly hardy and tough- don’t. Lots to do with microclimate as well. Happy sunday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Annette! It is always surprising to see the reaction of plants to different extremes. It has been very mild for the last 20 years (thanks to climate change) so it is unlikely we’ll see a repeat of this winter for a number of years!


      • Here’s hoping 😉 We had such a dreadful, cold winter 2012 and I thought I had lost lots but most recovered afterwards. It depends a lot on the length of the growing season too and how well the wood matures.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. I find in our climate the worst damage to my garden is in the summer-drought. We had one in 2012 and I lost 7 evergreens I grew from knee high-UGH…it was so hard pulling them out. I do understand damage, and how disappointing it is when you have a section just the way you want it with all the plants and then-they just are ruined.
    Wishing you a great growing season + it looks like you have a lot of beauties that can fill in and make it all look great. I am always SO amazed at the diversity on your property! LIke a plant museum-lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! We’re being told to buckle up for a terrible summer drought this year (with El Nino). It’s good news for California, but not so good for us. Luckily though, I’ve tried to pick as many plants as possible which cope with dry periods, and I’m furiously trying to improve the sandy soil to hold moisture. Fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I sure hope you don’t have drought + hope you don’t have fires where you live! We had friends visiting this summer from California and they were watching as their area was under fire due to the drought-really scary!

        Liked by 1 person

      • We are in Illinois ( midwest) and our droughts are nothing like out west. They have water rations. Our friends can’t water certain times of the day etc..and sometimes not at all:-( I now put in more drought tolerant plants in our yard due to our drought of 2012. We have had excess + cool weather this summer. I prefer it but both extremes have good and bad. I have learned to be flexible with our garden:-)

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Not bad for the end of winter, your heuchera look better than mine have all summer!
    Still the damage is discouraging, but as you’re already seeing it should bounce back rather quickly. Still I can’t help but think that your plants look a little like mine do after a very mild winter! lol
    The Leyland hedge damage is surprising though, must have been the timing of that first Antarctic blast which you suffered.

    Liked by 1 person

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