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Counting the Cost of Winter

Every Spring it’s about now that I start looking around to see what has and hasn’t made it through the winter season.

Last year was exceptionally mild, so mild in fact that my non-hardy fuchsias in containers not only survived but didn’t even drop their leaves, which is a first for me in this garden. I didn’t lose a single plant, as far as I can recall.

This year was a more typical Southern British winter in respect of temperature with many nights touching or dipping below freezing, so for the past few weeks I have been casting anxious eyes at my newer and as yet untested-for-hardiness acquisitions to glimpse signs of re-emergence.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the plant I was perhaps most concerned about was Agastache “Blue Boa”. I have grown agastache from seed in the past but never had it survive a winter outdoors; “Blue Boa”, however, is clearly made from sterner stuff and is already sending up some sturdy little shoots. Not only that, but a couple of insurance cuttings that I took late last summer in order to hedge my bets also appear to have survived the winter in my coldframe, so that’s a bonus!

Next on the will-it-get-hit list was my collection of alstroemeria. I bought them early in 2013 so their first winter was no test at all: this year they have had to contend with protracted periods of freezing, but from the looks of the fresh green shoots that I am beginning to see pushing up through the mulch, they have passed with flying colours. All five varieties, the two in containers and the three in the ground, appear to be present and correct, so I am mightily chuffed at that!

It hasn’t all been good news, though.

As ever, I have lost a few things that were over-wintering in my coldframe, namely half of my rosemary cuttings, 3 or 4 lavender cuttings and my orange-flowered diascia cuttings (all the pink-flowered ones survived, strangely enough!).

And once again I have failed with my begonia tubers: only 2 out of the 6 that I attempted to save show signs of life. Whether I left them outside too long, kept them too damp, too dry, too warm or too cold I just don’t know, but they were mostly rotten when I came to examine them in late January and have had to be replaced. Better luck next year, I suppose!


Survivors and earlier-than-usual risers!

Clearing out my coldframe this morning, I was surprised to see that I have some unlikely survivors from last year, namely three citrus seedlings that I grew from supermarket fruit last spring:


Okay, they’re in pretty bad shape – slugs and snails have had a good old munch by the looks of things! – but somehow, they’re still alive having had no more winter protection than could be provided by my coldframe against the house wall. I know we had an incredibly mild winter, but even so, I wouldn’t have thought that very small citrus seedlings would have come through it without heat.

And then there are my remnant fuchsias from last year. Just the other day I spotted:


my “Swingtime” from last year has not only survived almost intact but is already flowering! The only protection that it had was pulling the pot up against the house wall, but I do that every year and have never had this happen before. I didn’t even put any horticultural fleece on it…amazing!

To add to the list of early risers, I have a pink diascia from last year in flower:


and also Alstroemeria “Cahors”:


Both of these could be flowering until November so I think I’d better get feeding them!

Lastly, this is the earliest I’ve ever seen this in flower in my garden:


Tradescantia “Sweet Kate”, sadly rather chomped by pests before I realised it, but stunning nonetheless (especially from far enough away not to see the damage, lol!).