I’ve been out in the garden this morning assessing the havoc wreaked by The Beast from The East and Storm Emma. It is not a pretty picture, as you will see from the photographs below. Leaves and twigs have been ripped from the trees, semi-hardy plants are flattened and more tender ones have been transformed into something resembling overcooked spinach. Yet, when all is said and done, all I will probably lose is a handful of Geranium maderense and the top growth of a few plants that ought to have been protected or cut to the ground anyway.
I am leaving the big clear-up until next weekend, since I want a day to recharge my batteries after a week of long and complicated commutes into London. On Friday night I was completely stranded, along with thousands of others, only reaching home on Saturday night on a packed train from Victoria. By the time I reached Broadstairs all the snow had gone and it was dark and raining, as if it had all been a bad dream or a sick joke. I woke this morning to discover it was neither. I share with you today a selection of ‘before’ and ‘after’ images to illustrate the impact of sustained wind, snow and ice on the garden, but also as a symbol of hope for the future. On days like these, things can only get better. By summer the devastation will be forgotten.
Copious debris on the terrace was principally composed of leaves from Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’, which is now completely naked except where it grows along the house walls. Whether Lady Banks’ namesake will flower well this year remains to be seen. Her tiny buds seem unblemished. Mixed in with rose foliage was a surprising amount of sand and other gritty stuff which must have blown up from the beach. There was moss everywhere, making a few steps from the front door to the gate particularly treacherous. Banana skins are nothing compared to wet moss on slate.
Alongside Geranium maderense, which is replaceable from plants I’ve kept indoors, other plants which won’t recover from snow damage are Echium wildpretii (although not Echium pininana, which seems unscathed) and Plectranthus argentatus. Their felted leaves have turned grey and limp and will not grow back. I will be ripping these out rather than hoping for a miracle. Although Hedychium ‘Tara’ and Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’ look tragic, I have a suspicion they will come back from the base in late spring once they’ve sulked for a while.
Melianthus major also looks flabby around the edges. I would normally cut last season’s growth down in spring anyway, but this year I will also removed three stems which have grown over 20ft to overhang a neighbour’s garden. They have been in the way for years but I haven’t had the heart to remove them.
I’m slightly on the fence about Digitalis sceptrum (formerly Isoplexis sceptrum) which appears battered and bruised but essentially alive. I hope the cold has killed the mealy bugs that have been giving the plant and me such a headache. That would be some consolation. I may have to postpone moving this small shrub further back in the border as that could be one stress too far for my already tortured treasure.
Four long troughs of Agapanthus africanus have the same mealy bug infestation and have been prostrated by the snow and ice. However, I’ve seen this happen before and neither affliction is fatal. In a couple of weeks’ time the leaves will start to turn yellow and I’ll remove them in stages until new, vigorous growth begins.
Phillyrea latifolia (green olive) and Laurus nobilis ‘Angustifolia’ (narrow-leaved bay) protect the garden from the east and hence took a severe beating. For several days I watched them being thrashed and pummelled by salty, sand-laden gales, at times reaching storm force 9, and yet still they look unruffled as I view them from the window today. What’s for sure is that any old foliage has been blown well clear of their canopies. I was not sure what would become of Pseudopanax chathamica (Chatham Island Lancewood) as it’s infrequently grown in the UK, but it’s in perfectly fine fettle as far as I can see.
For the first time in years I have planted tulips in the gaps between plants in my raised beds. This will turn out to be a wise decision. In a normal year the tulips would be struggling for space and light by the time they bloom in April, but not this year. They will bring some hope and brightness to spots where plants have died or are in recovery. I’ve gone for the usual selection of hot colours, but with more pinks and pinky-purple varieties this season.
Meanwhile, the plants I afforded protection in the garage and greenhouse seem to have survived the cold well. A few more came into the garden room on Wednesday after the severity of the weather first became apparent, making it very congested. I let out a little squeak the other morning when I came down to find a vine weevil sunning itself on the wall. It was summarily squashed, but I doubt I will ever rid myself of these little beasts entirely.
The Gin and Tonic garden, at the back of the house, sheltered from the north and east, is largely undamaged and just a little bedraggled. Polygala myrtifolia, assorted acacias, Camellia ‘Nucio’s Pearl’, Magnolia ‘Exmouth’ and Correa ‘Marian’s Marvel’ seem oblivious of the cold. Hurrah for them!
I hope, wherever you garden and however close to the wind you sail with your choice of plants, that you have plenty of post-snowmageddon survivors. Where you have lost plants, see it as an opportunity to grow something different or better. And, if you can’t bring yourself to, replant with the same thing and pray that the weather we’ve just experienced can’t possibly be repeated … can it? Some of us never learn, myself included. TFG.