Wednesday, 1 February 2012

the good, the bad, and the ugly

Well I said it, there were good, bad and just plain ugly surprises after some of the worst cold weather that I have ever experienced!  The cold of January 2012 will definitely go down in the records for me.  But whats more, it has definitely taught me much about the limits of my garden, the microclimate, and also reinforced my dislike for old man winter.  I can't help, however, but start with some of the positives... ALL the palms look great!! they are by far the biggest investments in my garden and I am happy to report, there will be no palm graveyards in my future!  Here are some pictures of my palm trees after the cold...

This is my first ever palm tree and it is also one of my favourite for the form of its fronds..

This canary island date palm surprised me the most! It was moved into an unheated shed and would have seen temps into the low 20's maybe even the upper teens! I was shocked to find it alive and healthy!

This unprotected seedling palm even sailed through the cold temperatures.  It was collected from seeds of the famous English Bay palm trees in Vancouver.

This chamaerops humilis (mediterranean fan palm) was protected fairly heavily... I was not willing to risk anything with it.  It had christmas lights, burlap around the central spear and a tarp to keep it all snug.

The same went for the butia capitata (pindo palm) in the lower right of this photo.

As for the agaves?! well here's one of my agave ovatifolia.  Albeit a fair bit dirty, it actually looks really good! there is one really sad leaf (if thats what you call it on an agave?) to the bottom left.  Should I cut it off? I don't know.

All of the rosemary plants are looking good as well.  This one has by far the best flavour!!!

As should be excpected yucca gloriosa recurvifolia "bright star" looks flawless

and the same goes for the yucca gloriosa variegata.

So there was the good.... the bad is a much smaller category. Thankfully, these plants don't quite fit the category of ugly.  So I will qualify bad to mean gnarly looking but alive.  First off, dicksonia antarctica (tasmanian tree fern).  This actually makes me quite sad. quite as in a whole lot of sad.  I learned some happy lessons however. Lesson #1, why didn't I get one of these a long time ago!?!?! with simple protection of some burlap and a portable fabric plant cover, this fern made it through the worst of winter weather in the pnw!

As you can see, it looks like a sight for sore eyes at this point... BUT ALIVE! check this out right near the centre of the plant!

Only one more ugly, my bay laurel.  This one is really not that bad. There is a little bit of burn on some of the leaves, but come springtime, I'm sure it will have all grown out.

Warning: this next bit... tragic!!!!

I should preface the tragedy by saying that I have a futile love affair with cordylines.  I dream of growing large majestic cordylines like you used to see around the pnw.  I really should know better.  But here is what remains of my once epic cordyline australis red sensation.

Sadly the foliage actually looks quite healthy all things considered. I actually think this plant could stage a recovery, but it would look really sad. I'd have to chop it down below the rot and hope for it to sprout out.  But, I'm pretty sure it will be dug up and replaced considering its prominent position in the garden.  I have several ones of comparable size that did survive in a makeshift greenhouse (some christmas lights and heavy plastic up against a fence) that could replace it, but I could just find something that will actually stand a chance.  Any ideas?  I have always loved the purple foliage next to the green trachycarpus fortunei to the left and a butia capitata on the right. maybe a large yucca? or euphorbia?

So I can't end things with ugly. There was actually an incredible glimmer of hope in my day... SUNSHINE!!!!! I kinda forgot what it looked like.  I found myself asking what the big glowing object in the sky actually was.  What was it? The sign of spring and of happiness!!  Actually, there's a whole lot of spring going on.

hostas anyone?

variegated iris

ahhh, blue skies, warm "ish" temperature... its amazing how you kinda feel alive again! its invigorating. I wanted to whip out the shovel, head to a garden centre, make lemonade, and basque in the sunshine!! There is hope for spring!!!!

Happy palmy wednesday!

Enjoy the sunshine!


  1. If you discover a suitable replacement for that Cordyline let me know. I still mourn the 7ft (and maybe taller) ones I lost after the winter of 08/09. There is just nothing that compares. Yucca of course are wonderful but don't grow as fast. Mine have come back from the roots every year, this winter they actually haven't been knocked back so who knows, maybe I'll get some height this year.

    Glad your palms are okay, and kudos for your healthy Yucca gloriosa recurvifolia "bright star" mine has spots and isn't looking so pretty. As for the Agave, yes cut off the mush arm, I find that a kitchen steak knife works best.

  2. Not shabby at all, for the evil combination of frozen precip, moist soil, and cold! Sounds like microclimate is only a function of climate, and it has its limits...but you are having fun, too!

  3. Thanks Loree, yeah the cordyline thing is hard. You're right, it's just hard to find a replacement. Instinctively I'd say flax but I've lost plenty of them too, or if they make it they look really sad. I do love the architectural quality of flax though. Hmmm this could be bad. At the moment height is not a big issue because the palms aren't too big yet, but in the years to come ill want some medium ish height. Oh I'm sure it will come together!

    That is sad about your yucca!!! They are brilliant! My yucca aloifolia purpurea is not as happy as that one but I suspect it's the pot that it's in.

  4. David, you are right, it is an evil combination! The Trachycarpus palms don't seem to mind too much. It's quite shocking sometimes around metro Vancouver how many you can see on any given day. I do have quite a bit of fun with them! It's so true about climate though, I think we can be lulled into forgetting how cold it can get when you look at averages and trends and think about microclimates. I try to think in terms of staples throughout the yard and pockets of more experimental plants. That way come springtime there is never any major mess left from winter.

  5. Loree thanks for the agave advice by the way