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Over the past two weeks, the usually mild-winter Pacific Northwest has gotten hammered with snowfall that hasn’t been this deep in over forty years.
Dawn Hummel
I watched helplessly as the backyard quickly succumbed to the ever-increasing weight of snow and ice as accumulation climbed from 2” to 18” seemingly overnight.
 

Over Wintering Experimentation

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A fabulous summer followed by a temperate fall created plants large enough to displace one vehicle in the garage. Before the artic blast blew in, I relocated choice tropicals into the unheated greenhouse for protection instead of indoors. A greenhouse without heat is essentially a large cold frame. During fall, we replaced the greenhouse plastic walls and roof with Solexx™ greenhouse panels. The relative ambient temperature inside the greenhouse - even without heat - is noticeably warmer now. Instead of being colder inside than the outside, the greenhouse temperature is holding steady during the day. 
 
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Taking chances with fate, frost cloth was draped over the plants as temperatures dipped into the 30’s. Local weather experts continually predicted temperatures dropping into the 20’s and teens. For extra insulation, I covered the plants with another layer of old moving blankets. Musja basjoo (Japanese Fiber Banana), Ensete maurelli (‘Red Abyssinian’ Ventricosum Banana), Aeonium 'Carol', zonal geraniums and scented leaved pelargoniums shivered day and night. Unfortunately, mountains of withering, darkened leaves quickly appeared as the temperatures dipped lower. Will my tender tropicals survive the frigid temperatures? Only time will tell. 
 
Plants That Require Extra Protection:
Snowbound 
Commonly used varieties that appreciate a blanket thrown over them for shelter from winter storms include:
Daphne
Fatsia japonica
Hardy Fuschia
Phormium
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Cabin fever may cause significant

 

others to try their own experimentation in the garden. My husband thought it would be helpful to shake snow off plants in the perennial beds. Snow and ice acts as an insulator. By removing nature's blanket - as a new storm redies to blow in - as a new storm readies to blow in - the potential for marginal plants to expire is even greater. Better to leave the snow where it falls and money in your wallet. 

Replacement Opportunities

Earlier in the fall, I selected which plants I truly wanted to keep by mulching them carefully. Wintertime is the perfect excuse to allow plants I may want to replace to fend for themselves. However, others that I would expect to breeze through easily might not make it. Euonymus japonicus 'Greenspire' (Green Spire Euonymus) has bent over due to the weight of the ice. Naturally resilient, I expect the columnar punctuation mark to snap back to its upright, soldier-like demeanor. Where one person may see holes, I see replacement opportunities. For plants that don’t make it, I seek out new varieties for experimentation.

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Catalog Dreaming

The catalog companies seem attuned to my sitting by the fireplace with a catalog and cup of cocoa - dreaming of what is yet to be. Seed and garden catalogs are arriving daily. Colorful images bursting with life explode off the page teasing my wallet to come out and play. I couldn’t help myself. In order to close the inevitable gaps in my perennial beds, I already placed my first order. Diminutive columbine Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns ' (Little Lanterns' Columbine) will fill open pockets quite nicely.

In Portland, the darkest days of winter are yet to come. Enjoy the seasonal break that winter provides in your neck of the woods. Without winter, there can be no spring complete with dancing daffodils and laughing lilacs stretching towards sunshine. Despite whatever Mother Nature may deliver to our doorsteps this winter, a gardener at heart is an eternal optimist.  

BeeDazzled Gardens & Designs Specializes in creating fragrant, organic, low maintenance garden vignettes that add value and pleasure to a home or business exterior and landscape. Our specialty is staged, perennial bed planting designs, seasonal potted containers and garden renovations.

Photo credit on all photos: Dawn Hummel 


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