Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-Up: February 2011

Man. It's tough being a farmer.

What looked so promising in December and January,
Bulbine foliage

Freesia foliage

Key lime blossoms

looks woefully sad and forlorn this February. As in dead, like this bulbine. I don't think I'll be inviting it back.
Freeze-damaged bulbine

Despite floating row cover and heat lamps, zone 9 and 10 plants simply can't handle 48 hours of subfreezing temperatures outside a heated greenhouse, like my beloved freesia. It's always the first bulb to pop above ground in February, and that's risky business with the winters we've had the past two years.
Freeze-damaged freesia

But where there's green, there's hope, and while the leaves are brown and crispy, these key lime branches are green.
Freeze-damaged key lime

Even the brownest branches show green, when lightly scraped with a fingernail.
Freeze-damaged key lime

Every February, my inclination is to cut everything that looks dead down to the ground. And indeed, some plants do much much, much better when severely cut back at the end of winter, like salvias, flame acanthus, and some roses. (I took care of those guys last weekend.)

But not citrus. "Sit tight," says citrus. "Don't prune me, don't fertilize me, don't overwater me, and maybe, just maybe, I'll give you a fruit or two this year--if you're patient and don't stress me out more than I already am." (Boy, that citrus has me wrapped around its little pinky branch.)

So this week, instead of cutting things back, I ran around the garden, scratching branches and vines with a fingernail.

This star jasmine vine looks brown and dead,
Star jasmine vine

but this tiny green scraped spot says "Wait! I'm alive! Don't prune me yet!"
Star jasmine vine

The dwarf pomegranate is alive. It should sprout leaf buds next month.
Dwarf pomegranate

No need to scratch on the coral honeysuckle: it's putting out leaves and flower buds all along its gnarled brown vines.
Coral honeysuckle

Last weekend, I nearly chopped back this 1950's Chrysler hybrid tea rose to the ground -- until I spotted the leaf buds. It's absolutely covered in leaf buds. So I cut back the obviously dead wood, and left the rest be.
Leaf buds on Chrysler rose

The 'Dame du Coeur' rose is full of leaf buds as well, and its canes are nice and green. I did 'top it", as most of its foliage was hopelessly frostbitten.
Leaf bud on Dame du Coeur rose

The Mutabilis rose was hit the worst (I'll spare you, it's ugly), but 'Old Blush' hardly needed much pruning at all. A bag of compost and she'll be ready for her spring flush.
Old Blush rose

See? All is not lost. There will be hollyhocks (and bermuda grass, ack),

and columbine,
Non-native columbine

and Spanish bluebells,
Spanish bluebells

and Carolina jessamine.
Carolina jessamine

And whatever passes on, passes on...and we can either plant more, or plant something hardier, or heck, we can give up, stick a bird bath in that spot, and go on with life!
Lettuce seedlings

Thanks to Pam Penick at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up, on the 16th of every month. Visit her blog to see more hopeful spots of green.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Makes me hopeful to see that many of your plants are still alive! My confederate jasmine looks dead, but today I will go scrape to see how it's really doing.

  2. I love your hopeful ending, Caroline. So true! Life goes on, and for the most part, so does the garden. We just have to build on our successes--and then, because we can't help ourselves, throw in a few tender plants for next winter to get!

  3. I traipse out around the garden every morning, checking on things that are up, fretting about the things that aren't...then fretting about the survival of the things that ARE up should we get a blast of cold weather...ahhh...spring!

  4. Sure hope most of it comes back for you, Caroline - especially the Confederate Jasmine- wow! Was that hit hard. My bulbine all froze last winter & I never got around to replanting. Guess procrastination pays off sometimes ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose