Is winter over?

That’s what I am wondering as I write this post. We’ve just made it through almost a whole month without any rain, which is weird, for January/February in the Pacific Northwest. Dry, dry, dry, lots of sun, frost at night, mild during the day.

Well, as promised, this is the last installment of the damage that occurred as a result of the snow on December 26, 2021. First up, those stupid hebes.

Veronica pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii' recovering from snow
Veronica (Hebe) pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii'

As you may remember from the last two posts, this poor thing was flattened by the snow. But, it is bouncing back and almost completely back to normal except for that annoying hole in the center.

Veronica pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii' recovering from the snow. Hole in the center.
"The hole" in my Veronica (Hebe) pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii'

So annoying. I am going to have to try and prop this back together somehow so that it isn’t like this all summer. Close-up of that annoying hole. That branching pattern is pretty cool though…

Veronica (Hebe) pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii'

Unless something horrible still happens this winter, this hebe is going to make it.

There is a similar situation going on with our McKean’s hebe. This one was also flattened by the snow, but it’s making a good recovery coming slowly back upright. Love, love, love the symmetry of the leaves and that deep shade of green that contrasts with a little bit of pale blue lichen (bottom photo).

Beautiful symmetrical branches and a lichen on Veronica (Hebe) cupressoides 'McKean'
Veronica (Hebe) cupressoides 'McKean'

My box-leaved hebe did fine. It was completely buried under the snow and was thus protected from the 22°F cold snap that occurred. You can see a molehill right next to it. Mole activity is up significantly now that the ground is softened up from the winter rains.

Small bush of Veronica (Hebe) buxifolia
Veronica (Hebe) buxifolia

My hebe ‘Champion’ is also doing fine. Again, the symmetry of the leaves is fantastic. This is the first time I’ve grown one with purple shading.

Symmetrical red to purply-green leaves of Veronica (Hebe) 'Champion'
Veronica (Hebe) 'Champion'

Heading out to the deer garden, this Boughton Dome hebe has seen better days. The front side still looks good (left). But, the back side (right) is a mess of old, grey, dead branches. Just not enough light back there to keep it green and happy. Time to take cuttings and replace it with a younger, smaller plant.

5+ year old specimen of Veronica (Hebe) cupressoides 'Boughton Dome'
Veronica (Hebe) cupressoides 'Boughton Dome'
The ugly backside of Veronica (Hebe) cupressoides 'Boughton Dome'. Too big, too soon. Time to cut it down.
Back side of 'Boughton Dome'

The biggest unpleasant surprise for me was the damage to my sweetfern. This plant is close to the road, so I guess it got hit with a heavy blast of snow from the plow as it roared by. Several main branches are broken, ruining its form. I’ve been wanting this plant to sucker, but so far it isn’t cooperating. I’m going to do a little bit of root pruning (stabbing a trowel into a few places around the root zone) to see if I can stimulate it to do so. We’ll see.

There is a sweetfern in this photo, if you can believe it.
Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina)

Nearby, my coyote bush took a heavy beating from the snow. Many of its branches are now splayed out and broken. This plant was also broken in last year’s ice storm (here, but no pictures). After some heavy pruning, it resprouted and grew over three feet last year. I’m going prune heavily again this year and it should look normal  by the end of summer.

This plant was originally established from some cuttings of a coyote bush from the hill behind the house back in 2009 or so. I really like coyote bush, though many people don’t grow it, probably because of its propensity to get too large and break. But, if you know how to care for it, coyote bush is a fine native plant for the garden. I never have to water it and, best of all, it’s an evergreen shrub that is related to sunflowers, asters, and daisies. That alone is reason enough for me to have it in the yard.

Coyote bush damaged by snow
Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis)

As long as we’re over here, let’s take a look at the woods behind the garden. You’ll notice the garbagy mass of dead branches going up the trunks of the trees as well as and the trashy green carpet of leaves on the ground.

Dead ivy clinging to tree trunks
The horrors of English ivy (Hedera helix)

It’s a massive infestation of English ivy and is part of a long-term project that I’ve had over the past three years. Each winter, I go out and pull, hack, and kill the ivy. It’s a great way to get rid of pent-up energy when I ‘m feeling frustrated. This isn’t actually on our property, but the ivy is rapidly smothering everything and it seeds all over. The owners don’t care, so I have at it when I’ve got a free moment.

Here are a couple piles of the ripped up vines. They’ll slowly dry out and die over the summer.

Small pile of ivy pulled out of the woods
Ivy graveyard

Heading back to the main garden now, I can’t help but notice that my Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’ is starting to look a little ratty. It wasn’t damaged by the snow, but it’s now old enough that it has accumulated a lot of old, dead branches. It’s such a great, drought tolerant plant that I will be replacing it with another one soon.

Silver-grey plant of Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee'
Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee'

So much sun! You can see the poplar that was beaten down last February (here and here) managed to regrow quite a bit. That’s it on the left.

Heading back up the driveway, another smashed coyote bush.

Baccharis pilularis flattened by the snow
2nd snow-smashed coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis)

To the east of that poor thing is this fantastic California native plant, hollyleaf cherry. Everyone snubs it, thinking “it’s just another holly”, but it’s not! It is an evergreen cherry with prickly, holly-like leaves (thus the specific epithet ilicifolia). I didn’t manage to get a good photo of it this time, but will try again soon. It was a little bent-out-of-shape by the snow, but it will be fine after I do some judicious pruning to shape it this spring.

That’s a Louis Edmunds manzanita on the rfar ight, a variegated buckthorn peeking out from behind (white blob in the back), and yes, even a Blue Chip juniper (blue groundcover) off to the left. Every single one of these plants did well last summer without any supplemental water at all.

Hollyleaf cherry bush
Prunus ilicifolia

On the other side, in the front rock garden, my Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’ is also splayed all over the place. This was going to get pruned back anyway this spring, otherwise it just gets too big for its location.

Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' bent outta shape by last month's snow
Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver'

Our Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ will be cut down just as soon as it finishes blooming this spring. Just too big. Gotta figure out what to replace it with. Maybe a newly acquired ‘Demeter’ manzanita from Xera Plants?

Large bush of Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans'
Ceanothus 'Blue Jeans'

Like I said earlier, the moles are busy. There is active tunneling going on near the driveway. Sometimes they are forced up to the surface to go around an area with heavily compacted soil (like our gravel driveway). They then end up tunneling along in the upper layer of soil while trying desperately to find a place soft enough to go back down deeper.

I never see this happen in the summer or fall, only in late winter or early spring, which makes me wonder if the males are searching for new territories or mates before the breeding season arrives. To quote Animal Diversity Web, “It is thought that during the breeding season, males leave their permanent tunnels and construct temporary tunnels throughout the surrounding areas to look for females.”

Fresh mole tunnels
Mole tunnels near the driveway

Frankly, I am shocked my hardy red oleander is still alive. Winter killed the last two plants I put in the ground several years ago. Still, February isn’t over yet and more cold is on the way. Another “we’ll see” situation.

'Hardy Red' oleander bush in Oregon
Nerium oleander 'Hardy Red'

Not really winter damage per se, but this is how the leaves on our native madrone start looking in the winter. They get leaf spots once the weather turns rainy in fall. Kind of pretty if you ask me. Third picture below is a close-up of the damage caused by the madrone leafminer (Marmara arbutiella). It’s a cute moth – check it out here.

Leaf spots on Pacific madrone
Leaf spots on madrone (Arbutus menziesii)
Leaf spots on Pacific madrone
More leaf spots
Leaf miner damage on Pacific madrone
Marmara arbutiella leaf miner damage on Pacific madrone

I am quickly learning which rock garden plants hate our winter wet, even when planted in basalt gravel and sand. This next set of seven photographs are from the rock garden on the southwest side of the house.

I am the most disappointed about the Androsace (left). Apparently, it really hated the cold, wet rain and is slowly rotting away. However, there should be enough of the Cotula hispida (center) to start a few new plants this spring. It’s such a beautiful plant, I am willing to propagate this one anew every year. I think I remember that the Bolax gummifera (right) will recover and look better come spring.

Androsace sempervivoides Susan Joan winter damage
Androsace sempervivoides
Center portion of Cotula hispida melts in winter
Cotula hispida
Winter damage on Bolax gummifera
Bolax gummifera

Even though the Aloinopsis spathulata (left) is underneath our eaves, it was also damaged this winter. I think there is enough firm green tissue in the center of the plant to survive, but it sure is ugly. The silver-edged horehound (center) completely melted. Not sure that one is going to make it. The Silene davidii (right) is also looking ugly, but should be fine this spring.

Winter damage to Aloinopsis spathulata
Aloinopsis spathulata
Winter damage on the silver-edged horehound
Marrubium rotundifolium
Winter damage on Silene davidii
Silene davidii

Leaving the rock garden on a good note, this little succulent Euphorbia clavaroides was completely unfazed by anything that winter threw at it.

Euphorbia clavarioides unscathed by winter wet and freezing temperatures
Euphorbia clavaroides

From the south creek shade garden, the youngest leaves on this new Fatsia japonica got burned pretty bad.

Winter damage on Fatsia japonica
Fatsia japonica

Finishing up a rather long post with some good news. First, this Myrtus communis ‘Tarentina’, newly planted last year because it is supposedly drought and heat tolerant. But then, I read conflicting information on whether it is hardy to zone 7 or 8. Zone 8 plants consistently die in our yard, but guess what? It’s alive!

Plant of Myrtus communis 'Tarentina'
Myrtus communis 'Tarentina' still alive and well

And second, a scene from after the ice storm last February 12, 2021 (last year). The Pacific wax myrtle (Morella californica) was completely crushed and the silktassel bush (Garrya x issaquahensis ‘Glasnevin Wine’) behind it lost a few branches underneath the weight of falling, ice-laden poplar branches (here). I remember wondering if the Pacific wax myrtle would recover if I cut it back to a stump.

It did. Just look at things now. The Pacific wax myrtle pushed new growth from buds near the base of the plant and regrew over 2 feet last spring (lower left). And the silktassel bush also looks fine (background, upper right).

As I finish writing this post, it now looks like more ice is on the way again this year. Maybe this time I won’t worry so much.

Bushes of Morello californica and Garrya issaquahensis 'Glasnevin Wine'
Morello californica and Garrya issaquahensis 'Glasnevin Wine' in 2022

1/3/2022 to 2/21/2022: Lowest temperature for period = 22°F, highest = 59°F. 6.2 inches of rain total, but 4.7 inches (75%) of that fell during the first week of January. First robin heard 2/8/2022.

Garden chores accomplished: Broadleaf evergreen cuttings, seed starting, pruning snow-damaged plants, ivy pulling,

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. danger garden

    I am reading this on our coldest morning of this current cold snap (25), here’s hoping there’s not much new damage for you to deal with.

    That Comptonia peregrina damage is heart breaking! Fingers crossed for your oleander…

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      19 at our house and then two more nights at 24. So far the oleander looks good, but what a weird winter. I am personally glad to have some rain and warmth again.

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