It's bleak out there, people!

I wanted to title this post Bleakuary, but well, that's just silly. Marchuary is much more civilized. 

I'll spare you the rather dull snow photos that inevitably come up every winter; they all look the same plus they read black and white. Blech. I want some color, please, and a 50-degree day would be swell. 

While the snow has melted (we had around 9" total that stuck around for 12 days), and also came back on Wednesday the 8th (another inch here), there is not much to see. As I just suffered frost burn trying to take photos of the garden (kidding, but not far off - we're something like 20 degrees below average lately), there are very few pics this round. But I managed a few. Plants are late! It's cold! Still when it's 109 degrees in August it is fun to look back on what I found interesting in early March (and complain about the heat). Here goes:

A blue shed and a bright Erica 'Kramer's Rote' are about as colorful as it goes around here. The Hebe 'Karo Golden Esk' adds a bit of a punch, too.

Birds have been hungry! All birds, including the birds of prey. We had this Cooper's hawk try to grab a few hummingbirds, unsuccessfully. He then perched here on the now dead Arbutus menziesii (sniff) and give me the evil eye for scaring him off from our hummingbird feeders.

Evil eye

One of the only plants that is actually doing something is this Ribes speciosum. I do realize this is not exactly the pinnacle of swoon-worthy photos, but it's what I have to work with.

Ribes sanguineum says no way am I coming out in this weather.

Here is the same plant taken March 16 last year. 

Helleborus foetidus flowers have courage.

Pulmonarias want to get going but have stalled. They've been at this stage for at least a month.

Even the hellebores are shy. Hellebores! The Christmas rose, right? How about the Saint Patrick's Day rose?

One of the most exciting things as far as color is concerned right now is Erica 'Rosalie'. It doesn't take much to get me fired up.

Same plant, photo taken January 31, 2021. This year the flowers are barely open and quite pale still. A full six weeks late this year.

The salix are just beginning to flower with their fuzzy gray blooms.

Not the best photo but this is the same tree, photo taken February 10, 2018. This is much more typical.

I think my daffodils are coming up. 

Same patch, exact same time, last year.

Rhamnus alaternus 'Variegata' once more leaning after a lot of snow. I know it will perk up in time but a longer term solution is that I have decided to plant something next to it to support it. Suggestions are welcome.

I do have a few astilbe plants in the garden, although I forget about them because they love water and hate my garden. But last year they bloomed nicely and I left the flowers. 

Physocarpus capitatus, our native Pacific ninebark does have cool winter interest.

Hooray! My first lemon from my Improved Meyer lemon tree who lives in the greenhouse.

The bird house gourd crop was prolific this year. I will make these into bird houses and sell some as well as donate many to my favorite cat charity in the autumn. They take nearly a full year to dry before you can process them, I've learned it's best just to leave them out here all winter and bring them into the garage around April.

The hebes have endured so much nasty weather in my garden. I can say with confidence which ones are totally hardy for me. This is one, Hebe 'Red Edge', is although it did lose a couple of branches last year in bad weather.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' shines its brightest this time of the year.

Phormium tenax ‘Atropurpureum’ not half bad considering the recent weather.

Let's check in on Oscar, the Agave parryi var. truncata that has so many pups at his feet that he's gone from facing south to facing upright. Those outer leaves were seriously mushy and damaged last April after that heavy wet freak snow storm. He is growing out of it from the center and will be a while before he's pristine (if ever), but that's ok. I'm ok with that. 

Agave neomexicana looks pretty good, but there is some blackening on its outermost leaves. I'm not too concerned, however, as the one at Joy Creek Nursery is gigantic and has been through decades of growth and storms and snow with very little damage. It has excellent drainage and is south facing, as is this one, which came from Joy Creek - the same plant.

Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths' in one of the more lush scenes right now.

Closing out with Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths' which by all accounts should be blooming. The buds are there, immature, tiny and staying closed awaiting warmer days. Plants are smart.

Just how late is our spring season here in northern Oregon? Sean Hogan and I were discussing this at Cistus Nursery the other day and he said something around two months behind. I'm sure that's true for many but not all plants. All of my Arctostaphylos certainly are and Sean is among the best of the arcto experts out there. Snows in California have surely wreaked havoc for many fine gardener friends there - I would honestly rather everything stay dormant until the cold weather passes than have a freak snow kill newly formed leaves and flowers.

 Yes, I am complaining about the weather - a little tongue and cheek but it's true. I try to reserve that for FM and the chickens and spare readers my silly woes. Truth be told, I know this will change quickly and we'll be hot and dry soon enough, but what gets under my skin more is that our shoulder seasons of spring and autumn seem abbreviated at best the past several years. So 60-degree April days with a light breeze out of the south are few and far between. We go from winter to summer and back again. And so it goes. But we garden on! Observing, enjoying, complaining and all. I lead a wonderfully dull life. Hooray for that.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, we do love hearing from you! 


  1. Anonymous8:46 AM PST

    As soon as it warms up a tiny little bit, the garden will catch up. Flowers wait for the pollinators, who in turn waiting for some warmth... as we all do. Days are getting longer, so before you know it, the garden will explode into life, all at once.
    Your variegated Rhamnus is very pretty. Wouldn't it lean too heavily on anything you plant next to it? Did you consider staking it?

    1. It will warm up, indeed, Chavli. And I imagine quicky. We just need to get out of this stalled weather pattern. Yes, the rhamnus is actually staked from within - some 6' rebar in there already (from last year's snow storm), but you have a good point. Maybe a few 10' stakes. But, I do want to plant something next to it that's beefier - it just needs a gentle push to keep it up. Plus I get to buy another plant! There's room, so I think I'll give it a try.

  2. Thanks for the look at Oscar, will you leave his babies in place or separate them and distribute around the garden? Sean says two months huh? I don't feel that here, but things are definitely on hold. I'm inspecting the evergreens that defoliated in January for any signs of budding up but I get nothing...

    1. I think I'll leave Oscar's babies in place, but they are popping up some 8' away also. Perhaps I'll move a couple, not sure. I mean how do you remove the pups from a super heavy agave? Maybe I should?

      Yes, Sean mentioned milder weather is 2 months late - I think that's true for my arcto flowers. I REALLY hope your gorgeous evergreens come back. It's still so cold so there's hope - it will warm up someday, right?

    2. Anonymous1:13 PM PST

      I see a combo post here! Ask Loree to come over and show you how to take a pup off. You can both post about it. Then you can give her one... Win-win.
      (Btw, not an expert but the small agave I have root the pups high so they're relatively easy to take off. I don't think you will need to completely dig him up to remove a couple of them. )

    3. Oh, I like that! Loree, want a pup? :)

  3. Southern Oregon is very cold too. Last year in March we were quite warm, but then later, in May, it turned freakishly cold and wet. One good thing for me, this year, is that my Magnolia soulangeana's buds are so tightly closed that it may wait until much closer to April to open its flowers. Maybe this'll be one of the few years the flowers won't be blasted by a late frost. After that happens they hang on the tree like used toilet paper until late May. I wanted to ask you about your Parrotia persica. Mine is still hanging onto its brown fall leaves as it always does. What about yours?

    1. Oh, gosh, Barb, that's right - last year's wacky weather patterns. The warm then the cold wet. Sheesh. BUT your magnolia - wow, that would be fantastic if you got flowers that don't turn to tp! A silver lining, for sure.

      My Parrotia persica - last year it held on to its leaves but this year it is bare. Not sure why that is.

  4. I'm sorry you're experiencing winter weather whiplash, Tamara. No problem complaining about the weather - we're complaining here too (loudly and often) even though we have that "balmy" 50 degree weather you'd like to have. My garden is also well behind but the difference is weeks, not months. We've now had a couple of days with temperatures in the low 60s (until the wind picks up in the late afternoon) - I can already feel a shift happening.

    1. You guys are too, Kris - experiencing wacky weather indeed. If you're feeling a shift happening then I have hope. Thank you.

  5. I loved hearing your talk on the Corvallis Evening Garden Club zoom the other night. I was sorry not to be there in person but am traveling soon so need to be careful. The pictures here are very enlightening and explain why leaving my garden now feels about the same as leaving my garden in January 2020 or February 2019 did. Maybe I won't miss as much as I thought! I'll go around and take some pictures so I can compare in six weeks. Thanks so much for your inspiration and good cheer -- however tongue in cheek. (Picture the crusty old farmer, tongue pushing out his cheek, waiting for his interlocutor to get the joke.)

    1. Thank you so much! I had such a lovely time, your group is fantastic! I look forward to coming back and seeing Corvallis in warmer months.

      It does feel like January or early February here, too. The gardens I visited in Corvallis on Tuesday while gorgeous, were also quite dormant and late. Comparing pictures in 6 weeks is a fun exercise, it really paints an accurate picture because my mind plays tricks on me.

      You're welcome for the tongue and cheek, your visual of a farmer is perfect. Tee hee....!

  6. I was thinking everything seemed quite late this year (here in Corvallis). Thank you for confirming this! My hellebores are doing well, and the tiny first daffodils are JUST opening now. Usually they open in late February at latest. We have several waves of daffodils and I have barely seen signs of the later ones, let alone the tulips. Crocus just started, too. Welp, it'll all catch up at some point. Looking forward to that! As I type this on March 10th, we have snow coming down -- nothing sticking, but still snow!

    1. Oh, indeed. I think across the board gardeners are noticing the impacts of this stalled weather system. I know, tulips too - no sign of them, yet. I haven't seen my crocus at all now that you mention it. I hope that snow does not stick for you and we're at the end of the worst of it. You are right, it shall catch up very quickly once we break this cold pattern. Let's cross our collective fingers!

  7. Anonymous12:41 PM PST

    The only thing that isn't slow for me is this crazy patch of Allium (Dance master or something similar, cheap bagged Costco bulbs) that I got in the ground late last year- they had sprouted. I figured, Ok, one off-cycle year and then they'll reset. But no, they sprouted in December again and were about a ft tall before the snow. Now they're..not. Sigh. My Hellebores are doing well but not a hint of Trillium or Erythronium which is kind of worrisome.
    I'm getting antsy! Even mail ordered some things to start putting accent planters together way.too.early.

    I'd like to see something burly and maybe spiky next to your leaning fluffy bush. (Going for the formal terminology here today, haha) I could kind of see another of the big phormium there. Something bronz-y anyhow.

    1. No signs of woodland plants yet? Gosh, hopefully they'll emerge soon. We might be at the end of this stalled weather pattern of cold parked right over us. Glad your hellebores are going! I like your burly and spiky suggestion and formal terms....exactly! Burly and spiky is quite descriptive ;)

      Or something bronz-y to set off the variegation. I like it! Thanks!

  8. Anonymous3:26 PM PST

    This doesn't strike me as much worse than last year's wet, dreary least we are not freezing our you-know-whats off working through it. And last year a big freeze came after a stretch when many things were breaking buds. Now I think I'll go build a fire.

    1. Gosh, glad you're not experiencing anything worse than last year. Building a fire is a swell idea ;)

  9. I hear ya, sister - and feel the same way. My daily garden strolls in search of any green coming up or out (on branches) are very short due to the cold... I'm just south of Portland in 8b and the worst damage is on my broadleaf evergreens. The Daphne odora lost most of its leaves (but it's still trying to push out flower buds!), the Tasmannia leaves are spotted with "freeze burn", and Escallonia laevis 'Gold Brian' is trying to hang on. BUT, my specimen BEs are doing fine - Helwingia chinensis and Schefflera (or Heptapleurum) delavayi. S. d. even has some new leaves ready to emerge! And all of my hebes look very unhappy except for Western Hills (it looks perfect!).

    So, yes, this weather is getting me down, but that's OK as long as my plants don't give up! They are my inspiration :-)

    1. Hi Colleen! so many gardeners have had broadleaf evergreen damage from the east winds especially this year and lots of agave death, too, unfortunately. I saw several Daphne odoras in Corvallis earlier this week that had also defoliated but had buds. My Daphne bholua also defoliated but has buds as well, I'm crossing fingers for us all. Isn't it interesting what looks great and what suffered? Worth taking note. Could be location, could be soil, could be any number of factors. Western Hills hebe is always a winner for me (so far!). Plants are ready to roll at the first sign of warmth me thinks. They are amazing.


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