British Columbia: Winter Kill in previously hardy plants

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Anne Taylor, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. Anne Taylor

    Anne Taylor Active Member 10 Years

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    I'll be the first to admit we had a a tough winter, but I'm ready to give up on trying to grow Phormiun Tenax, escallonia, lavatera, freemontodendron, and even my crusty old cistus.
    They've been mainstays in my yard for a few years but it appears that they can't survive anymore.. I don't think I'm the only one experiencing this.
    I'll come to grips with it, but does anyone have an idea for a good showy, tough replacement for those New Zealand Flax (no, pampas grass doesn't count).
    Love to hear from what others have been through, re: previously hardy plant species succumbing to bad weather.
    Cheers
    Anne
     
  2. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    Is your Phormium just topkill, or are the roots dead too? We had one in White Rock that would periodically get knocked down to the ground but bounce back in the Spring. There is a Lavatera hedge just down the road from there that got quite fried from the winter of '08, but it recovered nicely; last winter didn't seem to affect it. Maybe a hardier variety is warranted? Those are things I observed from my last residence, in a climate just a bit cooler than Victoria.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Key phrase "a few years". They never were fully hardy, what changed was the weather - including an unfavorable growing season before the (early) cold came. So they probably did not even achieve their full level of hardiness (such as it is, with these particular plants) before being zapped.

    I've still got an intact flannel bush but the Fraser Outflow does not reach down here. Another specimen planted in a sunny, partly enclosed nook on Camano Island froze out after a few years. Multiple other kinds of plants that I can grow for long periods here have been short-timers up there. The friend that owns and lives on the Camano property says Lower Mainland forecasts fit her site better than those from the Seattle area.
     
  4. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    Yes, it's the cursed Fraser Valley winds that are our undoing. Flannel plants here must be against a southern or western wall, under the eves or gutters, and even with that protection one can expect defoliation from time to time. There is (was?) a beautiful specimen in West Vancouver planted in the right spot in a very sheltered garden, and the winter of '08 completely defoliated it. It recovered with no dieback, but I guess here, if one grows tender/borderline plants, one can expect them to be knocked down to the ground periodically. It's all according to expectations; if you expect them to grow to amazing sizes and to look gorgeous through every winter, you'll be disappointed. If you are alright with them being knocked down from time to time and starting over in the Spring, then it's worth it. As for the early frost, even native plants suffered a bit from it, and I even protected my friend's Arbutus menziesii in White Rock - it sailed through, but I've seen others in West Van that got pretty burnt.
     
  5. Ccleland

    Ccleland Member

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    I recently attended a lecture given by Dan Hinckley. He referred to losing Phormiums over the past few years and says he is now replacing them with Yuccas. He specifically mentioned Yucca rostrada and Yucca gloriosa variegata. I think this would be an ideal replacement - they are notoriously difficult to kill! And they can be quite architecturally spectacular.
     
  6. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    Phormiums in our climate can be viewed as a big perennial, with the occasional bonus of growing for a few years without being killed back. I still think they're worth growing.
     
  7. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    That's all they ever are anywhere, including in the wild!
     
  8. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    No wonder the garden centres love them!

    I have given up on Phormiums. Irises, day lilies, hardy orchids & elephant garlic don't have the variegated foliage, but have a similar habit. I don't have to agonize over thei premature (to me) demise every year or two & then fork-out more $s. Grasses are obviously alternatives too, but I have not got into them.
     
  9. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    Exactly, Michael. People dig them up and toss them while the're still alive - Phytocide!!! If people like evergreen foliage, then things like Yucca are appropriate, but if you plant things like Iris and lillies while preferring the foliage of Phormium, you're cheating yourself. I stopped my former landlady from tossing her Phormium before because she was convinced it was dead, but when we dug down a little, she could clearly see the roots were still alive and even a few shoots were forming. Garden centres should do a better job explaining this to people.
     
  10. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    ...hey! My Phormiums were truly dead. They were not sleeping....like the fabled Norwegian Blue Parrot. I was merely advocating practicality & durability in choice of plants :) My neighbourhood (North Langley) is a bit colder & more moist that some others locally, I must admit.
     
  11. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    So you're saying it's ceased to be, it is no more, it has expired and gone to meet its maker, has kicked the bucket? That's too bad. But I still think Phormium are worth the effort in a well-drained bed sheltered from withering north winds, and well-mulched. But I see your point that sometimes it's just easier and less stressful to have plants that you can't kill in Edmonton.
     
  12. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    I don't know if you have already seen this, Lysichiton, but there are variegated Iris out there. I saw some earlier this week at a nursery in Surrey - from a distance, I thought they were smaller Phormium. A gorgeous yellow and green variegation. I believe it was 99 Nursery on King George Boulevard.
     
  13. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Sorry, misunderstood what you were saying - I thought you were implying that in warmer areas, they were more than just big perennials (i.e., grew as trees or something).
     
  14. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    No need to apologize, Michael, I think we are on the same wavelength. Do you have any growing there in your garden? Whereabouts in the UK are you?
     

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