Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

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:

dscn2852

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):

dscn5436

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?

Advertisements