CUH Update – December 2010: Overcoming November’s Cold Spell

December 15th, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Several weeks after an unusual early snow and cold snap, the grounds at CUH have looked like a bomb was detonated and we’re just now cleaning up the aftermath. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but the clean-up continues as the holiday season is well underway and we’re doing our best to keep things clean and presentable to our many guest this time of year.

Having the snow was actually quite a sight as it emphasizes the strength of the structure, or so called “bones” of a landscape, so beautifully.


Here you can see some of the changes made to the Fragrance Garden this past year as we thinned out a few plants and transplanted several specimens to allow more room for certain species to really thrive.

Nolina nelsonii in the McVay Courtyard

Always the stand-out in every season is our stunning Nolina from Mexico. Dusted in pure white powder, it withstands the cold and remains such an iconic plant in a garden that will undergo a slight facelift as we reconfigure some of the plantings and add some for floral interests come spring.

Container composition up against Issacson Hall.

Even the effective composition of an evergreen container is emphasized by winter’s snow. During the growing season, this Osmanthus heterophyllus, flanked by a prostrate Podocarpus, Heuchera ‘Purple Petticoats’ and a maidenhair fern. In the shade for the majority of the day, it isn’t all that exciting. But as the snow arrives, it instantly becomes a sight to behold.

Helleborus argutifolius 'Silver Lace'

The same could be said of this fairly new selection of Helleborus argutifolius called ‘Silver Lace’. It’s been a plant that not many people really take note of unless it’s paired with a contrasting color or texture in the garden, but the added snow creates a most unusual and beautiful effect.

Phlomis ruselliana seedheads

With so much clean up, cutting back and dead-heading to do in the fall, you just can’t quite get to everything, but once the weather doesn’t cooperate to allow you to finish your work, the resulting image in the landscape can be quite enchanting. This Jerusalem Sage was never cut back after blooming, but capped in a light dusting of snow, it is truly elegant.

NOW, COMES THE HARSH REALITY OF IT ALL:

Persicaria in the Soest Garden

“Overcooked spinach” is what one visitor said to describe the mess a cold spell can bring. A task that I meant to do a few weeks back suddenly rises up on the priority to-do list.

Cold damaged Daphne bholua

For the third year in a row, our poor Daphne bholua has, once again, suffered from an early frost and cold damage. This species typically begins blooming around Christmas time for us, but the past few winters have been so unforgiving, we just pray that it recovers and is allowed to branch out and flower again next year.

Cold Damaged Edgeworthia chrysantha

A relative of the Daphne is the beloved Chinese Paper Bush or Edgeworthia. Each winter, since it was planted, the cold seems to damage the buds as they form so very few flowers are produced. Ideally, the plant would have formed its buds over the summer and into autumn, the foliage yellows and drops and by then, the plant is prepared for the onset of cold temperatures and the buds continue to develop and flower beginning in early February or so. The problem has been: the foliage never fully yellows so the plant isn’t allowed to go into a proper dormancy before the cold sets in; therefore, the buds are further damaged. Seeing these fuzzy undeveloped buds that still look plump and firm gives us hope that they’ll mature properly, but the fact that it isn’t even officially winter yet worries me.

There’s a lot to see and observe at CUH right now, but one of the highlights is a exciting brand new plant (you didn’t think I’d end this report on a sad note, did you?) we’ve acquired as a container specimen for Merrill Hall Commons. Though being advertised as hardy and suited for our mild Seattle climate, this relative of a fairly common houseplant has been the talk of plant aficionados around as the grower who was introducing it accidentally “leaked” a few specimens to local nurseries and we managed to secure one prior to its wide distribution. This is the stunning and elegant Taiwanese Umbrella Tree botanically known as Schefflera taiwaniana.

Schefflera taiwaniana

Like any new and exciting plant we acquire for our collections, I like to think of each one as a gift to the public: our visitors who come near and far to enjoy the surroundings and admire the work we do here at CUH.

I want to dedicate this Schefflera to you all and hope you have a chance to see it here or acquire it for your own garden in the near future.

On behalf of UWBG and the entire grounds staff here at CUH, I want to wish you all a warm and happy holidays and an exciting new year!

Cheers,

Riz Reyes
Soest Perennial Display Gardener
UW Botanic Gardens – Center for Urban Horticulture

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