Monday, February 13, 2012
The Winter That Wasn't
The backyard a month ago, in January.
I might have mentioned previously, but we've had a crazy-mild winter here so far in Portland. To be honest, it doesn't feel like we've actually had winter at all! Above is the backyard last month...still green for the most part...which is crazy! Right after I took that picture, we actually had our first (and probably only) snowfall of the season...which flattened pretty much everything. Even so, nothing died back as a result of our short-lived snow (gone within a few hours).
The Calamagrostis were completely green when I cut them back this past weekend. I wasn't sure if I should leave them...but as the splayed foliage was covering all the emerging plants beneath them...I decided to cut them back as I normally would, were they dormant.
Salvia 'Purple Majesty'
This Salvia (also in the back yard) has also remained green this winter...which is all the more surprising as I've actually lost it in the past over the winter. Granted, I think the backyard is it's own little micro-climate, with things being warmer overall. Still...it's amazing that this borderline-hardy plant is still green!
While many plants, including this Teucrium, form little basal mounds of foliage that last throughout the winter, this year they never really died back at all...and this one is even trying to bloom!
Another plant that also failed to die back over the winter...and is still blooming!
Geranium 'Katherine Adele' and Pennisetum macrourum
All of the Geraniums maintained a winter presence this year as well...which I've never seen before. True, they looked pretty scraggly for the most part, but the fact is that they were still alive, never going completely dormant. While I wasn't as surprised by the Calamagrostis remaining green, the fact that these warm-season Pennisetums remained green all winter...crazy!
Verbena 'Homestead Purple'
Another plant that remained totally evergreen this winter...it actually looks happier than it did all summer!
More surprising that the much-hardier 'Homestead Purple' was the fact that the semi-tropical Verbena bonariensis never died back this year either. I have a dozen or so plants all around the garden...and all of them are still green and now putting out new growth.
While I'm not complaining about the milder-than-usual weather this winter, I do worry what this lack of vernalization will mean for some of the plants. Hopefully, it won't have any long-lasting effects...as most of the hardier plants went dormant as usual and it was only the plants with lesser hardiness that seemed unwilling to slumber away their winter months.
On a (somewhat) related note, as most everyone has heard by now, the USDA released a new interactive zone map a few weeks ago...and many of us got a bump in our hardiness rating. At first glance, it looked like all of Portland was still in Zone 8...but upon looking closer, I realized I'm close enough to the downtown core than I benefit a bit from the "heat island" effect...and have moved up to Zone 9! Crazy, I know, especially as I'm practically the only Portland gardener who doesn't even come close to testing the limits of hardiness. On the other hand, I guess I can relax about things making it through the winter...well, as long as the squirrels don't dig them up ;-)