Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Not Dead Yet? April 6, 2009

Filed under: perennials,winter — greenwalks @ 12:37 pm
Tags: , , ,

I went down to the parking strip this morning, spade in hand, all set to dig up one of my winter casualties, a small hebe I’d planted in the fall. Just as I was about to stomp on the shovel, I noticed what’s at the bottom of the photo here:

Hebe - not dead yet?

One tiny little shoot of the plant is still alive. It reminded me of the “Bring Out Your Dead” skit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (nerd alert: yes, this was my #1 favorite film up through high school), where the cart is going around and collecting plague victims and they mistakenly toss a still-alive guy on the pile. I think the hebe would have shrieked “I’m not dead yet!” at the top of its lungs too, had it had any.

As I recently read in Seattle garden expert Ciscoe Morris’ book, “Ask Ciscoe,” if you really want to find out if your winter-damaged plants are going to make it, you have to be patient and wait until June. Since we’re finally out of the woods on the evening frosts (at least I hope we are – we did have snow last week, though, so who knows), I could probably safely cut back the dead stuff and just wait to see if the rest of the plant will grow back from the roots. By June, if there’s still nothing, it’s probably time to put something more reliably hardy in that spot.

Do you have the patience to wait and see whether a sad plant will survive? Or are you more likely to rip it out and put something healthier in instead?


12 Responses to “Not Dead Yet?”

  1. easygardener Says:

    I often dig out dead perennials but find some live roots – so I feel guilty and replant – only to find that the roots belong to some unwanted weed/plant – so I have to dig it all up again!

  2. Well, that looks pretty dead to me and will ask for much more patience before it grows back than I usually have. So I would probably dig it up and start again; actually a nice chance to get something new to the garden…

  3. I don’t know, sometimes I have the patience, sometimes I just say, “No coddling in the garden!” and yank it out of there. 🙂

  4. kris at t.m. Says:

    aargh. With a hebe I’m not sure what I’d do. They seem to want to die – at least in pots here under my care… I can’t remember if they’re one you can cut way back and cross fingers for new growth – that’s maybe what I’d do.

  5. Racquel Says:

    I’m a 50-50 kind of gardener. I try to be patient, but I get tired of waiting. lol 🙂

  6. Paula Says:

    Go, Hebe, Go! You can do it!

    If I really want it to be alive, I wait to confirm it is good & dead before removing. We replanted trees yesterday, because the prior round had their barks eaten by some hungry creature late last winter. Yes, a good year and NOW they were clearly dead! And now we know to protect the new ones.

  7. I just got through pulling up a Hebe! Just broke my heart! I have another one, different variety, so I’ll just let that one go until June. I loved that Hebe and so did the hummingbirds, darn it!

  8. Melanthia Says:

    Nope, I replaced a couple just today. But I did put them in a shadier spot to see if a cooler setting eases their pain.

  9. Jen Says:

    Obviously I’m not – I yanked a couple out yesterday that were showing no signs of life. If only I had visited here and read your Ciscoe tip first!

  10. Ginger Says:

    I have a problem: I can’t pull anything up that MIGHT be alive. “Poor thing, it’s not his fault it got too cold, give him a chance…” (that’s what goes on in my brain upon being presented with an almost certainly dead plant). Then I usually end up with some sort of weird looking mutant thing with one branch and three leaves. At the same time, deadheading gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Go figure.

  11. Hugh Says:

    I think Monty Python is like The Simpsons — an endless source of day-to-day observations made funnier.

  12. Megan Says:

    I wait if I really want something to make it, but if I was having doubts about a plant, then I take it as a sign. It also makes a difference if it was one of those expensive/hard to find plants. But this is good advice. I keep getting questions from people about whether their plants are dead after this winter, and after reading this yesterday, I keep telling them, wait until June.

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