All The January Things

 When I say All the Things, I mean the pretty and the ugly, equal measure. One full month into 2024 and it's been a doozy, weatherwise. Here at Chickadee Gardens we've recorded over 10" of rain, that's not including precipitation from the snow and ice as FM moved the rain gauge out of the firing line for a week because last year it froze and broke during a similar event. Lesson learned. I'm estimating we had more along the lines of 12" of precipitation. There were nearly two weeks of very cold (for us) temps at 15 degrees (at its coldest) with about 6" of snow followed by freezing rain. I mean a coating of a quarter inch or more on everything. We had a record low "high" temperature of 21 degrees. 

Having said all that, we fared much better than our Portland friends did because the frigid east winds never came this far. We didn't cover many plants, just a couple newly planted agaves and I am pleased that overall, the garden did ok. We've been through this enough times that the slimmed down version of the garden has a tough exterior, mostly.

Here then is the month of January, warts and all. First up, the pretty bits:

An unglamourous look at the berm garden - that is to say bad lighting in January - but I suppose the point is that I still have a garden. Despite this being a difficult spot to garden, what is here are survivors.

A dear friend moved from her four-acre garden recently and gave me so many treasures, this among them. A bear/cat/otter creature covered in lichen that now lives near our front door.

A few berries on Viburnum opulus are colorful on a cold January day.

The obligatory Hamamelis 'Jelena' January photograph. Joking aside, it is so wonderful to see even a peep of orange in winter.

 Schefflera delavayi continues to surprise and impress me with its resilience, especially in these snow and ice events. I have four of these in the shade garden, each of which is unscathed by snow, ice and very low temperatures.

Schefflera taiwaniana, although in my garden only since autumn 2022, has also been very resilient.

Carex conica 'Snowline' paired with Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Variegatum' in a corner of my shade garden.

Euphorbia rigida blooming, a bright spot in the gravel garden.

Erica × darleyensis ‘Kramer's Rote’, a colorful splash for a January garden. If you can grow heath, it is, as I have observed, well-visited by bumble bees in winter. An early source of sustenance for bees is reason enough to grow it for me, but I also like the punch of color.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Imbric Weeping' I have had for several years. It was given to me at a garden blogger's swap and was not very tall, today it is about 10' or so in height and understandably difficult to photograph with its lovely whispy nature.

Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety', one I featured in my last post looks cheerful in a rather dark corner of the shade garden.

Viburnum tinus 'Variegatum' in the shade garden adds a bit of sparkle. This hasn't been particularly fast growing, but it's healthy and holds its own.

Gaultheria shallon, our common salal that was on the property when we moved here has been encouraged and is thriving throughout the woodland and shade gardens. Especially this time of the year it is a joy to see, a green pause among much brown.

A wider look at the edge of our property, the Himalayan mounds are on the left, completely covered in Ceanothus gloriosus and other evergreen shrubs. The mulched area on the right is a fairly new area planted in a couple of stages over the last nine months.

Some fabulous lichen that fell from tree branches above. As with most snow or ice storms many branches fall around here. I tend to collect them and place them around the garden to decompose on site.

Winter foliage color of Penstemon cardwellii, a favorite native penstemon. It is evergreen, low growing, beautiful purple flowers in May and easy if given the right conditions, which are excellent drainage and an open aspect with full sun to part shade. It grows locally in volcanic soils of Mount Saint Helens and the region as well as the Coastal Mountain Range.

Lupinus albifrons, silver bush lupine in the labyrinth garden. This is a seedling, one of several, that a friend gave me last spring. It seems to have weathered the storms and looks pretty good. Fingers crossed it establishes itself.

Now for a bit of winter damage. Grevillea lanigera 'Coastal Gem', a low spreading shrub, has a bit of damage to its upper branches and leaves. I think that it will bounce back, as it has so often in the past, and I will prune out the dead bits when the weather warms.

Phormium tenax 'Atropurpureum' does this thing in really cold temps the leaves curl up to a fraction of their normal width (this photo is much after the storm, so back to normal). I know then that the cold weather has arrived. It looks a bit tattered but it always comes back. It will get an annual clean up in spring and be just fine.

My new Salvia 'Celestial Blue' did this; I am heartbroken, but I am hopeful it could regenerate from the roots as there is a bit of green at the base and it was pretty established, being in the ground well over a year.

Yes, the Cupressus macrocarpa 'Donard Gold' has some broken branches, though not as many as I had feared. This was from the heavy wet snow that hit our garden hard before the super cold arrived, otherwise it is very cold hardy.

My poor Arctostaphylos glauca, given to me by my boss Sean Hogan at Cistus Nursery, doesn't look very good. This may have more to do with the wet than the cold and snow.

Rhamnus alaternus 'Variegata' did it again, it flopped outward as it tends to in heavy snow. It has actually righted itself significantly since this photo was taken but I've learned to prune down the tallest branches to keep it slightly more compact.

I had high hopes the Melianthus major would sail through what was, up until mid-month, a really mild winter. It was not to be. It always grows back, though, so although I'm not worried about its fate I don't enjoy looking at this all winter. 

A couple hebes took a hard hit. These were throw aways (no labels) from Joy Creek Nursery a few years ago, so my best guess is this is H. diosmifolia

Another one, I think this is Hebe 'Great Orme'. The hebes I grow and take cuttings of are very hardy - these two are varieties I have not promoted as being hardy as I'm unclear of who they are. The blackening of their foliage was kind if surprising as they have done well for the past three years. However, having said that there is a high chance they will regrow so I plan on leaving them for several months to determine their fate. If they die, they die. Nothing I can do about it.

Also I noticed some blackening on my Acca sellowiana, pineapple guava. It completely defoliated that terrible winter of 2016/2017 as a brand new plant in my garden, but to my delight regrew new leaves later in spring. In other words, hardy to a point and I have no doubt this same plant will rebound once more. Hardiness improves with age. There is also damage on one of two Mahonia 'Soft Caress' though it is minimal. I understand many gardeners in Portland have very bad damage on this particular plant.

Surely more damaged plants are out there, some will surprise me with their damage and others with their resilience. This has only strengthened my resolve to grow and promote plants that sail through extremes such as we just experienced along with our increasingly longer dry summer season. In winter extremes it is primarily broadleaved evergreens that see the most damage, in summer the thirsty plants really take a hit. I hope to keep learning, observing and sharing through it all.

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 and what your gardens are up to. Happy gardening.


  1. Your garden looks like it sailed through quite well despite the horrible weather events you experienced. Your strategy of only propagating and promoting the really tough is a good one. We have been very dry with extreme oscillating temperatures so I am a little apprehensive about the consequences of this come Spring on our woody plants.

    1. We were lucky, for sure. Your weather sounds sketchy - that is to say I'd be apprehensive, too. I'm of the understanding that plants do much better in extreme cold with some water, so very dry is scary. I hope it all turns out well for you Elaine.

  2. Your pretty bits are looking grand! I just took a photo of my Schefflera taiwaniana foliage yesterday, it looks nothing like yours! It's taken on sort of a tawny tinge. Welcome to February, it's nice to have January in the past.

    1. Thank you Danger, mighty kind of you. Oh no - tawny is not a good look. Hopefully it will bounce back!! And yes, despite the fact that January is my birth month and I traditionally enjoy it, this January can *&$#!!. Hello February.

  3. I've killed Lupinus albifrons twice in my garden so I look forward to seeing it thrive in yours. I'm glad so much of your garden came through the recent challenges and hope that all or at least most of your sadder specimens recover.

    1. Wow, really!! OK, well good to know. I'm surprised. Maybe it's one of those plants that requires some kind of microbe in the soil that is very specific? Oh gosh, who knows. I'm totally shooting in the dark. I hope mine do thrive, I'll keep documenting their progress.

  4. Your garden came through nice & strong after that long cold storm!

    1. It did and I am sooooo grateful. Thank you, TZ!

  5. Same sentiments about my melianthus which was looking fine til the ice storm. So glad the buckthorn keeps righting itself. My little one seems unaffected, no leaf blemishes like last winter. As you say, age helps hardiness. Doesn't look like a lot of losses in your garden so far, knock wood!

    1. Ha ha that damned melianthus - it's SO pretty until it's not. Knock on wood too at the coast? I imagine all was fairly calm there. My Rhamnus 'Variegata' had funky spots especially in its youth, however it seems to outgrow that phase quickly in its maturity. Also it's SO prunable, so I must keep that in mind and not be afraid to really prune it well. Mine is kind of all out on its own so I think that has something to do with its floppy nature, nothing to support it (yet).

  6. Anonymous9:34 AM PST

    If I remember correctly, last winter's damage was a lot more devastating.
    When you say "slimmed down version of the garden", my understanding is a shorter plant list but each one on it is a proven winner (rather than a tempting new cultivars we lose in short order). That is how you avoid a broken heart after an ice storm.
    As always, I am salivating over the Wissel's Saguaro in the berm garden. How tall would you say that beauty is?
    Cupressus macrocarpa 'Donard Gold', such a beauty: it will continue to shine even with a few less branches.
    Melianthus major... not quite as disgusting as my Calla lily after 15° (it looked unseasonably green and happy in mid December). Both will be fine though.

    1. Hmmm....I'll have to look back on last winter's damage...the year before that was really bad for us, but I seem to remember a fairly mild winter last year? I could be wrong. Yes, a shorter plant list but a strong one. I mean, really, I have thousands of plants so it's still quite full.

      My Wissel's Saguaro is about - oh, 8 - 10' tall total to the tippy top? Maybe a little shorter but it's getting up there. And yes, Cupressus 'Donard Gold' is such a stout little tree/shrub that I don't worry about it. Your calla lily - oh yes, all of those tropical-esque plants are quite mushy this time of the year as we expect them to be. They shall be fine indeed! :)

  7. Sounds like you and I both were slightly better off than the Portland area. I was out in the garden photographing for a winter damage blog post this weekend. Had a few unpleasant surprises on things that normally take the cold like champs, but ended up looking like stewed spinach this round. Oh well. Like you said, they will either recover or they won't. The garden will go on.

    1. Stewed spinach! Great description. **Sigh** yes, unpleasant surprises are out there. But yes, you and I were slightly better off. I feel for the Portland gardeners.


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