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LANGLEY GREEN THUMB: Optimistic gardens can recover

Local gardening expert shares some disappointment, frustration over weather-beaten gardens
Fay and John Bartlett shopping for new plants after losing a lot in the winter. (Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times)

by Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times

If you are not happy with the way some things look in the garden this year, you are not alone.

This was by far the worst winter/spring our gardens have seen in all the many years we have been gardening. Not only did our plants get stressed through the heat dome of last summer, but the fall flooding followed by extensive cold this winter was brutal – to say the least.

Our hopes were for an early spring, but instead we have been pounded by continuing rains and cold winds. Many plants are now showing signs of environmental stress.

We have had long chats with many gardeners during the past few weeks and the list of losses are very similar – Clematis, Choisya, Hebe, Roses, Ceanothus, Maples, even hostas, and yes, daylilies.

Plants that are normally impervious to damage have sustained much, or died completely. It was a rare phenomenon to have such a sequence of destructive weather patterns – all made worse by the ensuing rains and cold temperatures this spring.

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Our property is on a hill and built on a former gravel pit – so drainage has never been an issue.

However, the west side of the garden slopes slightly down and sat under a foot of water for about a week in November. That, with the cold snap that followed, was enough to rot many plants – including hostas and ferns.

Areas that could drain were fine, but the amount of moisture was just too much for some plants.

For those growing in containers, if you had correct drainage in the pots with lots of perlite, you were probably okay; if not, chances are you saw damage.

Try to look on the bright side – if you wanted to make some changes in the garden, now is the time.

If the rains continue, keep an eye on peonies as they are prone to wilt if too wet, especially in pots. And botrytis on lilies also sets in if Mother Nature doesn’t turn the taps off.

If your lilies or peonies are in pots, try to pull them under a little cover or put up an umbrella for a few days so they have a chance to breathe.

We pruned our roses right back and are happy to see new basal shoots appearing, so there is hope there.

We didn’t have much bloom on our 80+ rhodos this year, but they sure are putting on some new growth, so there is something to look forward to for 2023 already.

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Anyone who put out annuals may see them struggling a little with this weather too – just give them a good well balanced slow release fertilizer and they should be fine – they all need sunshine and a little warmth like we do.

Plant losses are always hard to deal with, but sadly part of what we face as gardeners.

Once you get over the initial sadness of digging up rotten roots or dead shrubs, you have to look forward to renewing that part of the garden and planting something new and exciting.

Hopefully June will see much happier times in the garden.

– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials

and president of the Langley Garden Club


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A correct potting mixture for containers, to ensure healthy plants in the winter contains have lots of perlite (white pieces as shown). Perlite is vital to assist drainage and pull excess water away from the roots and bulbs. (Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Compare a hail damaged hosta beat up this spring by the weather, to other healthy hostas that were protected from the elements by the trees. (Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Compare a hail damaged hosta beat up this spring by the weather, to other healthy hostas that were protected from the elements by the trees. (Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times)
While this rhododendron was damaged during last summer’s heat dome, there’s lots of new growth this year, and it appears to be bouncing back nicely. (Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times)