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June 2011

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Hebe, ceanothus and other frost victims

The fallout of two severely frosty winters continues as damaged plants struggle to recover and others prove just too far gone. Temperatures in my garden plummeted to minus 11°Celsius on a few nights and being only a few miles from the sea I suffered disproportionately more damage to normally fairly hardy plants for my conditions. The last period when temperature dropped as low was in 1981 when it was minus 12°Celsius. EAST

Evergreen plants are usually the most vulnerable to winter cold. In this regard Phormium Tricolour, Trachelospermum jasminoides; calceolaria and some celmisias appear at this stage to have been killed. The frost in spite of some protection from a snow cover and newspapers penetrated the basal stems and cambium layers. Jasmine growing on the kitchen wall got another severe bruising but should recover.

Other plants in seaside gardens suffering a similar fate included pittosporum, cordyline, some cultivars of hebe and ceanothus and the honey spurge, Euphorbia mellifera. The cordyline or cabbage palm, while it recovered in 2010 from the first damage may not recover again as its reserves are probably now depleted. In more inland areas two-metre high Leyland cypress and even wild furze were killed, and laurels were killed growing in containers, though only superficially damaged when growing in the open ground. Though badly frosted fuchsia has been recovering well.

Evergreens such as green privet and cotoneaster lost their leaves in the upper parts of the branches on exposed easterly situation as did Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill' and Daphne bholua but this is just a safety mechanism for coping with adverse conditions and this will not be a problem. Indeed daphnes gave a tremendous display in February and March. Other evergreens like Euonymus microphyllus and Ugni molinae suffered damage on the upper branches and these have had to be pruned back to older ripened wood.

Another type of damage occurred on Myrtus leckleriana, in some places, where the low temperatures destroyed the fragrant flower buds but otherwise left the bushes undamaged. Many reliable evergreens without any damage include bergenia, aucuba, viburnum, choisya, skimmia, holly, elaeagnus, sarcococca, cotoneaster, osmanthus, Euonymus japonicus, and Abutilon vitifolium. Pines and most conifers and all deciduous shrubs and trees were likewise unscathed.

All the good old reliables have come through the winter successfully. There were never better displays from the early winter bulbs, such as snowdrops, snowflake, aconites, crocus species and Cyclamen coum in February while the Lenthen hellebores continued a great succession to April. Likewise sun-loving bulbs in the rock gardens without damage included, Scilla pratensis, Muscari including M. macrocarpum, Bellevalia, all species of allium, Ornithogalum and surprisingly the reputedly half-tender ledebouria. All species of orchid, roscoeas and pulsatillas look healthy at the moment. No doubt gardeners will have a re-think about what plants to use as replacements for losses!

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