The big chill and the damage it caused

One month into the spring season and winter damage is becoming evident.

When I think about the winter of 2022/23, overall, it was mild – except for that frigid week in late December. Remember that one when the Kanawha Valley temperatures barely reached zero? 

That’s the week I am blaming for much of the damage to my garden.

The little house on a big hill lost six shrubs in the front and side gardens and a few more out back. These were not newbie plants but well-established garden staples.

The three azaleas that have lived along the side path were old, maybe even 20 years old. They never grew tall, but their compact size and pale orange blooms were a constant, and I missed them this spring.

Most of my boxwoods survived. There are a few spots of brown leaves, but nothing a good shake or light pruning won’t fix. I did have one smaller ball-shaped boxwood that took a hit. I cut away the dead, probably 7/8 of the bush. It looks naked and weak, but I am keeping my fingers crossed it returns. 

After getting over the shock, I see this now empty space as an opportunity to give the landscaping a much-needed facelift. I am excited to add shrubs that will bring the garden new color, texture, and low maintenance.

Several friends and fellow gardeners have mentioned damaged rose bushes, nandinas, and laurels. My advice has been and still is to be patient. There is time for new growth to appear.

One gardener thought for sure her ferns and ivy were goners, but slowly, much slower than last year, signs of life are appearing. Phew. It’s a beautiful garden, and those long-time plants would have been a loss, a physical loss, and a sentimental loss of history and stories of how they came to be part of the garden.

I have two butterfly bushes in my sunny bed. One is mature and grows to heights much taller than me each year. The other is new and fragile. I thought for sure the young bush would be lost, but with a happy surprise; I see growth happening at the base.  

As for the old faithful butterfly bush, I am holding my breath, giving it pep talks, love, and anything I can think of to make new life appear. For now, I am trying to practice my own advice and wait.

It’s not all doom and gloom in my garden. The early spring daffodils came back in abundance. The Lenten Rose bloomed, and the lamb’s ear is up and seems to have multiplied over the winter.  

The Irises are growing, and my ferns are slowly making their appearance. Plants in the rock garden are hit-and-miss, but overall, I am happy with how the new area is developing.

Here’s the thing. We still have frosty nights and low temps as a possibility for a few more weeks. The warm sunny days have made me want the garden to come to life quickly, but it is doing what nature does – exactly what it wants when it wants. That’s part of the beauty of gardening; we plot and plan, execute – then learn lessons from Mother Nature. Learning lessons and moving forward that’s what gardeners do.