What a journey it has been to warm spring days. No “April showers bring May flowers” for us this year. Instead we experienced late April blizzards that brought cold and rain in May. So. Much. Rain. Then suddenly, the clouds cleared. Heat, humidity, and mosquitoes returned. Then it got cold again. Then hot again. I recently met with a new customer who just moved back to Milwaukee from California. She was lamenting leaving the consistently temperate weather in southern California behind. I pointed out that at least she doesn’t have to worry about forest fires or mudslides.
But now that the warm weather has woken up our landscapes, we are finding many casualties. Some of the usual victims of winter weren’t surprising:
Butterflybushes (Buddleia) almost never have the parts above ground survive. But at this point you should see at least a few leaves pushing at the base. If not, rip it out. When growing Buddleia under any circumstances, always expect to replace it. Then you will be pleasantly surprised if you see signs of life in spring.
Shrub Roses were hit hard - Knockouts, Drift Roses, Easy Elegance, doesn’t matter the variety or type. If you left the stems up over winter, you should see new growth at the base, and the dead stems can now be cut back. If you cut back the roses as part of your fall clean up routine, I’d be very surprised if any of them survived. If you are one of the souls who prefers English hybrid roses…my deepest condolences for your loss.
If you had the native shrub St. John’s Wort (Hypericum kalmianum) in the yard, you are very lucky if half of the plant leafed out. I’m getting reports of entire hedges dying; well-established mature specimens that no amount of pruning will save. Another yellow native, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) did not fare well.
Not surprisingly, only two of the ten lavender plants that I planted for fragrance by the patio survived. More shocking was that other members of the mint family didn’t have great survival rates, even plants that are typically very hardy like Catmint, Salvia, and Russian Sage.
So what happened? Did we do something wrong? Did we not love them enough? I heard a story about an Ikea in Dubai doing an “experiment” to raise awareness about bullying. Two identical potted plants were placed in glass cases in a school and children were encouraged to be sweet to one and be mean to the other. At the end of 30 days, the bullied plant had drooping, sad leaves, while the one that received encouragement thrived. Read about it here. Am I saying that we bullied our plants and that’s why they didn’t come back? No, but Mother Nature was something of a winter bully. We didn’t have consistent snow cover, temperatures wildly fluctuated, and then there was two weeks of subzero temperatures in January. Sometimes a poor plant can only take so much.