Our snow was pretty short-lived. Starting on Wednesday, December 29th, the rains returned. I was curious how things had faired through some pretty dramatic weather swings in a relatively short period of time.
First off, let’s check in on the agaves. I mentioned last time that I only protected two plants before the snow arrived. Well, here they are.
Underneath that black pot is Agave ‘J.C. Raulston’.
Years ago, when I first started gardening at our home, I tried a few agaves in the front rock garden. I don’t remember which species or cultivars, but I do recall that I planted them onto a small pile of compost-amended gravel to provide them with extra drainage. It didn’t help. By the end of winter, all of them had turned to mush.
I can’t remember if that was the winter when it got very cold (down to 5°F) or if it was a one-two punch of rain followed by a cold snap. Regardless, after that, I never planted another agave in the ground again. That is, until last year. I was inspired to try agaves again after reading about Loree Bohl’s success with them over at the danger garden blog. Granted, her garden is up in Portland, where it is much warmer than here. But, she did recommend both Agave ‘J.C. Raulston’ (JCR) and Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’. I bought both and planted the JCR in a new rock garden I built during the summer of 2019. It’s planted in about one foot of gravel and sand overlying our heavy clay soil. Hopefully, the overturned pot helped save it.
Going into winter, I was so determined not to protect anything. Whatever will be, will be, I thought. What changed my mind? As you may recall, we had a lot of rain towards the end of December. So, when I heard the weather was going to turn suddenly cold and snowy, I thought I had better cover them up quick, just in case. Nothing is worse for “hardy” succulents than to be wet, and then to have the temperatures drop below freezing. Most can take dry and cold. Some can take wet and not too cold (above freezing). But, wet and freezing is a sure recipe for mush.
It was still raining heavily on Christmas eve when I covered both plants by the light of my cellphone flashlight. I hoped the overturned pots would be enough. I briefly considered drying the leaves off with a towel beforehand, but that seemed a little much and it was cold, wet, and dark. So, how did JRC do?
It seems unscathed! Leaves are still firm and much drier than they were a few days ago. I have hope for this one yet. Now what about my Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’?
I took a few more risks with this one. It’s planted in a pocket of gravel and soil that I dug directly into the clay soil in the newest rock garden that I started installing on the west side of the house in 2021. I’ve got two pups from this plant in the greenhouse as insurance, so I decided to see what this agave can handle.
Let’s check in and see how it’s doing.
It looks great! But, I see I am going to have a lot of weeding to do before spring arrives.
Ok, now let’s take a look around the yard and see how the plants that weren’t protected are doing. This cholla is awkwardly slumped over, but still green and firm.
Wide shot of the “in progress” west rock garden (excuse the weeds!). You can see the pot covering up the Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’ towards the middle of the photo and the cholla off to the left of that. Behind those two is a prickly pear paddle sticking its head above the snow.
Same area. This Yucca linearifolia ‘Dusky Blue’ from Cistus nursery was planted into unamended clay soil and was not protected.
Heading back to the south rock garden where Agave ‘J.C. Raulston’ is planted. The rock garden is the long mound of snow-covered basalt rock, just left of center. You can just barely make out the pot that is covering the agave (left side of rock garden, about a third of the way up, directly to the right of that first, long wood planter).
A cholla from the south rock garden.
My little Muehlenbeckia astonii in this garden lost all its leaves. I did the scrape test on a few stems, but all I saw was white. Not sure if that is normal and healthy for this species or if it is a sure sign of death. We’ll have to wait until spring to see if it is still alive.
My Winter Sonne mugo pine looking good in the sun.
Oh, but my hebes! Here is my McKean’s hebe (Veronica cupressoides ‘McKean’) all smashed down. This was a perfect 2 foot by 4 foot mound before the snow…
Interesting thing about this one was that aerial roots were growing out from the main stem. That tells me that these hebes are probably really easy to propagate. Guess I will be taking cuttings.
My Sutherland’s hebe (Veronica pinguifolia ‘Sutherlandii’) suffered a similar fate. This one was 2 feet tall by 5 feet wide prior to the snow. Scary. And sad.
Here it is a couple days later, looking better already. Only time will tell if it will bounce all the way back to its former glory. I will probably tie or prop the center branches back together in a few weeks if it doesn’t resolve itself on its own. No breakage though, so that’s a good thing.
My Hinerua hebe (Veronica x ‘Hinerua’), formerly 30 inches tall…
The Aristotelia has almost fully recovered though. Looking good.
Heading elsewhere in the garden. Over by our property line is this Ceanothus cuneatus ‘Adair Village’. This is a native species that was collected just a few miles from here, although I had to travel all the way up to Portland to get it from Xera Plants. I am expecting that this one will completely recover as soon as the snow is gone.
Now, out to the deer garden. Another hebe (Veronica cupressoides…maybe ‘Boughton Dome’?) knocked down almost flat by snow. It was by far my tallest hebe at about 3-4 feet tall. Not any longer…
The strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) was completely and utterly unfazed by the snow.
Surprised that my variegated giant reed grass still looked so good. Evidently, the temperatures hadn’t been cold enough to kill the leaves yet. Remnds me of that striped Christmas ribbon candy.
Finally, back up the driveway, passing by a sad, doubled-over holly-leaved cherry. It will be fine though. No broken stems. That’s a variegated buckthorn in the background.
And ending at what is definitively my first casualty of the snowstorm. This dwarf Jerusalem sage was a cutting off of my 13 year old specimen in the front rock garden (here). It just couldn’t handle the snow load and cracked in several places.
Looking close, you can see several stems are broken or cracked. The main stem (center) split in two near the soil line. I am guessing that I won’t be able to save it, but I am going to try anyway. We’ll see if this species will resprout after being pruned back hard to a stump. Not a big loss as this plant was getting to big for this spot anyway
Well, that’s the end of the snow for a little bit. We are approaching the anniversary of the ice storm from last February, so more winter weather is certainly possible. Next post, we will be checking in to see how things are doing at the end of January 2022. Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!
Garden chores accomplished: Bleating about snow on social media.