February has been both cruel and kind. Let’s start with the kind.
The dry, relatively warm weather has enabled significant progress on three areas of the garden that are under development. The bench/seating area in the fairy garden now has a bench and work is progressing on the slate flooring in there. Black pebbles will fill in the major gaps under and behind the seating, and then Herniaria glabra will be planted in the gaps. A half flat of these has been growing from cuttings in the greenhouse over winter.
The second area is the extension to the upper woodland and surrounding area. I had to start work on this so that there was a temporary place for some of the pots, but more about that in a minute. Along with the clearing, the location for the new path that will go through that part of the garden came into focus. Thanks to a delivery of rock, I was able to start building the retaining walls for this.
When I started thinking about what plants I had available for that area, I decided that a secondary theme for it should also be a winter garden. I had seen a couple of episodes of Gardener’s World that featured these and decided that it was something I could easily do in that area. The first addition was an Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, more commonly known as the Coral Bark Maple. Along with plants already in the collection, I will probably also try and acquire one of the more interesting colored twig dogwoods to go in there. Daphne, Hellebore, Winter flowering heaths will join them.
Below the walkway, and along the main pathway will be a Mediterranean garden. This will take on a somewhat pastel color tone and double as a bee/butterfly garden. Along with Lavender, a number of other perennials have been ordered to create a significant splash of muted color. I am planning the build some bug hotels at the bottom of this and in Nature Island – an area of the garden that I am leaving to fully native plantings – just like it was when I started the garden.
The final area under development is in the front of the house and comprises what will become the contemporary garden and the new and improved area for plants in pots. The old Escallonia hedge is now fully removed, stumps out, and the structure for the fence is built. Pickets will be painted and installed as weather permits. The first of the new benches has also been constructed and is now housing plants from the Protea family. A smaller and lower section will be added to the end of it later. I also managed to acquire a stainless-steel bench that will be a small work area in the pots area.
Now on to the cruel. After our lowest recorded temperatures last month, that whacked a few plants, we dipped another 8 degrees colder than that for a couple of nights. We got down to 22F – that is a full 10 degrees below the lowest we have recorded before this year. It broke records in other areas along the coast set back in 1960, so perhaps this is a once in 100 year event, but with global warming, I am getting to think that it just means that both our highs and lows will become more extreme.
With those temperatures, many things have died. It is still not possible to know the full extent of the damage yet, but some major plants appeared to be gone. Like the Echium “Pride of Madeira” was about to come into bloom after growing it from a tiny plant for 3 years. Several Grevilleas, including King’s Fire and Superb look as if there is nothing left. Many other plants look as if the leaves have suffered but will have to see if the crowns survived. I had thought we were a safe 9b or even a 10a with some protection, but after this year 9a is the best we can reliably hope for. That will change some of my plant selections in the future.
A number of things have been blooming this month. The Hellebores continue with ‘Double Peach Blush’ entering the fray.
A number of the Correa are blooming, including Ray’s Tangerine.
A new little charmer is Viola odorata ‘Comte de Brazza’
In the Iris collection, Iris histrioides ‘Sheila Ann Germany’ takes over. Isn’t she an absolute charmer. I hope to add more dwarf Iris for next year.
In the more unusual flower category is Isopogon formosus. Thankfully, it seems to have survived the cold snap.
And Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’
As already stated, February has been a month of extremes. The highs of 72.7 was wonderful, but the lows of 22.5 was not. We also had by far the strongest winds we have ever recorded at 54.6 mph with a gust of 111.8mph. Shortly after this, the anemometer stopped working, so we do not have wind speed for the second half of the month.
Last year, the high was 54.5 and the low was 32.7. Interestingly, the average temperature was almost exactly the same, meaning that this year was lots of extremes on both ends. Rainfall last year was 11.48″ and this year we only managed half of that, coming in at 5.73″ and 3″ of that has been in the last two days.
An interesting evening
After I took the measurements for the month, things got interesting. Not only did we have a lot more rain, at one point, I noticed we were up to more than 4″ for the day, but then the lights started to flicker along with bright flashes in the surrounding hills. Each time the power came back – until it didn’t and was replaced by several fires shouting up into the sky. Thankfully, the rain and our great volunteer fire department took care of everything. Thanks folks.