Green again

After a long week of snow and ice, we are finally emerging from hibernation. It was a long haul and I was beginning to think I would never see green again. The foot of snow lingered and lingered and there are still mounds and patches of it left even today. Temperatures struggled to get above freezing for almost a week. That kind of weather is actually not common here and winters are normally about as mild as they are in Alabama except our temperatures remain consistent (in the 30s and 40s) and we do not get spikes up into the 60s and 70s this time of year. 

There was significant tree damage around town and I know many gardeners suffered losses. Most of our plants are still small and many of them were totally buried by the snow. Four limbs on the big dogwood tree were broken. There would probably have been more than that had I not gotten out and shaken snow off during the first night of the snowfall.

The line of photinias along the back fence seem fine. There is one that was totally bent over and it is also sporting vibrant red foliage. I am not sure what is going on with it.

Aside from broken branches, the major cause for concern was whether or not tender plants survived the extended period of freezing temperatures. Gardeners tend to push the zonal limits here and it is common to see zone 8 plants flourishing. I have several plants that are questionable. I have kept the Echium wildpretti (a gift from Matthew at The Lents Farmer) covered with a plastic pot on cold nights and it was buried by the snow this past week. I don't know, what do you think -

Echium wildpretti

I wonder about some of the various fuchsias I have planted along with the Himalayan Whorlflower
(Morina longifolia), Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana), Dichroa versicolor,  Sweet Pea Shrub (Polygala x daimaisiana), and Nodding Chocolate Flower (Glumicalyz goseloides). Time will tell.

At least many of the plants had snow protection. Some did not, like the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) but it looks fine today.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)

Osmanthus 'Goshiki' looks good, just a little bent over
Other plants look remarkably well. I did not know what to expect from the Escallonia 'Pink Princess'. I did not attempt to cover it or protect it due to its size and location. It does not seem fazed.

I just planted the Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) a few months ago. I kept the snow shook off it. This shade of green is so pretty!

This bamboo (already planted here when we moved in) is simply amazing. The entire plant was completely buried in snow - all you could see was a 2 ft. high mound) and it had completely bounced back after the thaw.
I was also concerned about this camellia ('Mathotiana'), a gift from our realtor. It was also completely buried in snow but not a branch was broken.

The pieris looks great. The dead foliage in front is heliotrope.
I kept the strawberries covered with plastic. They were a bit flattened.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the day Michael got the keys to our house. A terrible day to celebrate it but there it is.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Good to see that your garden was mostly unscathed. I think you were lucky this time. I agree that the Incense Cedar is a lovely shade of green. It is a beautiful shape too. Happy Anniversary.

  2. Hi Phillip, I have read about all the unusual snow in Portland, but have to say that altogether your plants have come remarkably well through the cold spell. I am very surprised that the camellia could put up with it.
    Congratulations to your 1st anniversary in Portland, hope not only your plants have put some roots down, but you and your partner as well.
    I know it only from brief visits, but I loved the city of Portland!
    Warm regards,

  3. Hope everything comes back strong. It's a tough life being a gardener!

  4. I think you're gonna wanna pick up another Echium wildpretti... :(

  5. Yes, that Echium is almost certainly dead. Sorry. Pretty sure the Morina will be fine. I once had some die-back on an Escallonia after an ice storm, but it sprouted just fine from lower down on the stems.

  6. First anniversary in the Northwest is a good reason to celebrate, regardless of going ons elsewhere! Congratulations. It seems like all the old fashioned NW garden staples, such as the camellia, cedar, pieris, all survived unfazed. I also planted variegated pieris last fall, and it looks so good it makes me smile.

  7. Your snow was quite beautiful, but I like my snow to come and stay a day or so - just long enough to play a little and take photos - then go! Your incense cedar and the Escallonia 'Pink Princess' are gorgeous! It is good to see how well many of your plants did. Weather here is typical . Upper teens a week ago, followed by mid-seventies. Now we are headed back into the thirties. Plants don't know what to do.

  8. Congrats on your 1 year anniversary in Portland.

    I'll echo Deb's praise on the plants you've added - the incense cedar and the Escallonia - that look fantastic.

    What sort of bamboo do you have? Is it a clumping variety?

    1. Aaron, it is a clumping variety. The previous owner also had a black bamboo planted in a container in the ground. After reading about it, I dug it up and keep it in a container above ground. I have always been afraid of bamboo although I think it is very beautiful.

  9. Young plants did tend to fare better. Most of our damage was on old, brittle limbs. I won't pass judgement on the perennials until almost summer as they will sometimes languish, them surprise with a late rebirth. So glad you moved here!

  10. Hi Phillip! I think the Escallonia is going to be fine. It's very popular here, especially at the coast where it's tolerant of the salty air. Despite the heavy snow, your garden seems to have rolled with it! A bit jealous of your incense cedar...I've got to get one someday :)

  11. It's funny how much snow in Portland this year, when here we are in Ohio getting almost nothing! Tides have turned, for this year anyway. I know it's hard to lose plants, but you have to admit that shopping for replacements is pretty fun.

  12. It is always a heart stopping moment when you assess the garden after extreme weather. It is so hard to gauge how certain plants will fare. I hope your poor battered ones restore themselves!

  13. You still have lovely plants despite of the having snow and I'm sure your plants will bloom to its fullest after a couple of days. Taking care of the my garden gives great joy to me, and for sure its the same for you.


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