Yesterday, Dec 22, temps hovered at 20F all day, the first time that’s happened this winter, possibly not the last time though. The night-time numbers usually ease back up during the daytime into the high 30s/40s. The concrete walkway to the garage iced over, windows iced over. Billie’s copper water bowl froze solid, rim to rim, bottom to top. Highway 101 was closed last night just south of us to deal with a 20-car icy pileup. Just to be on the safe side, we let faucets drip the last two nights — the majority of insurance claims are exploded pipes, each claim averaging 20k!
There’s been lots of frosty mornings, a little snow, but what’s been amazing me are the incidents of resilience, how some plants spring back after appearing to be full-on wilted and shriveled by frost. Euphorbia stygiana makes a robust rebound every day. And up until yesterday’s 20F all day, the melianthus and the big-leaved Lepechina hastata were looking fabulous. I’ll probably leave up the tattered mess they are today as a tent to protect from any future low temps.
Take for instance this euphorbia, probably ‘Silver Swan.’ It bounces back after everything the skies throw at it, much more resilient than the straight E. characias, which does limp along but in a cowed, beaten manner.
Eryngium pandanifolium is such a good foliage plant here in zone 8b. It doesn’t get as large circumference-wise as it does in zone 10, which is a good thing, and doesn’t throw out such a congested mat of leaves either, just a nicely shaped, arching rosette that looks pristine every morning. Surrounded by Yucca linearifolia and Hebe ‘Karo Golden Esk.’
There’s a lot of seasonal potential for the winter-strong heaths and heathers, and I’m glad I’ve been including them in both the front and back garden. The RHS Wisley has made a newly designed landscape with their extensive heather collection called Howard’s Field, moving them from the corners of the garden to mass them and join forces with strong architectural plants like Yucca rostrata.
The various carex are likewise some of the best-looking plants now in the garden. (In the tank are Carex ‘Feather Falls’ and Carex ‘Everillo.’). Carex testacea in the garden is a tumble of russet, and the pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele lessonia is similar in effect but on a larger scale.
One of the most gratifying surprises is the continued survival of all the sideritis seedlings I brought from the zone 10 garden. I’m pretty sure this large-leaved sideritis is S. oroteneriffae. The one above growing in a container is the largest, but the sideritis in the ground are not only surviving but look to be making size, even in December! With all the hallmarks for extreme drought tolerance — fuzzy, silvery leaves — and earmarked for zone 9, this sideritis is somehow holding its own in the cold and wet…for now…
Enjoy your holiday, stay safe and as warm as you can manage! The pellet stove here is a godsend…