Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Many Happy Returns July 31, 2010

Did you ever give up on a plant and find that, despite being left for dead, it pulled a Lazarus and came back to the land of the living? I had two such pleasant surprises in my garden this week.

I managed to resist the Phormium craze for ten solid years of gardening; then I saw ‘Sundowner’ and my resolve gave way. When I planted it (as well as about $75 of trailing Rosemary to replace a huge stretch that had died of frost), I reasoned that no winter could be as cold and harsh as the one we had just endured. Ha.

Of course I was wrong about the winter, and thought the poor flax had been a casualty along with the rosemary, the new plants of which all croaked. Then, this week, I noticed signs of life and growth:

Struggling flax

Sometimes, the whole “wait until June” thing is right, only it should be “late July” instead! Maybe we will have a “normal” winter this year and it can establish itself a little better. Well, a gal can always dream!

Another one I thought was gone for good after one happy summer was Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Rainbow.’ I was super bummed, I really liked that gaudy plant with the silly name. But as spring turned to summer, its spot remained empty and I gave up.

But then, about two feet away in my daughter’s veggie patch in the parking strip, looky here:

Gaura volunteer?

Could it be?? I had thought this plant was cold-hardy but maybe it’s not. Or maybe it died for some other reason. In any case, I’m happy to see it has given itself another chance at life in my garden.

Any cases of “oh no, it’s gone… wait, wait, it’s back!” in your garden this season?

 

Toasted Flax January 16, 2009

The title might lead you to believe that this is going to be something in the way of a healthy culinary post, but I am not here to extol the virtues of flax as a fine source of alpha-linolenic acid. Nope.

With our spate of awful weather in December, there is one category of plants that is just not looking well these days. It’s the edge-of-zone-hardiness crew, which includes the seemingly ever-popular New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax. Along with euphorbia, I would say this is one of the most often-used (or some may say over-used) landscape plants in Seattle.

Often used as a focal plant due to its impressive size at maturity, the appeal of this plant is undeniable. It provides height and interesting color, strong/sharp shape and a semi-tropical look to our Northwest gardens. Bronze varieties are seen all over the city. Here is a photo of one in my neighborhood, pre-snow, looking really healthy:

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Alas, this seems to me to be a classic example of pushing the hardiness envelope a bit too far – according to my plant guide, it’s only good for Zones 9-10 (i.e. New Zealand’s climate), whereas we are normally 8, with a longer dip into the 20sF this year than usual. I am certainly often guilty of this garden sin myself, that of hoping for mild winters so certain tender plants will survive (yeah, I’m talking about you, adorable but not frost-hardy ornamental pomegranate – arrrrrrrrrgh!), so I am not casting any stones here!

Here is what many of them are looking like these days, post-freeze (note: this is a different specimen than the one pictured above):

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Poor things. I have no idea if they will recover or not. I’m guessing not. Anyone with experience who can weigh in here? Is it possible for this plant to die down in cold weather but come back from the ground? Or is it likely to be, as I fear, toast? And do you ever find yourself falling for and bringing home plants that you know may be zapped if you have an unusual weather year? Or even a typical one?