Monday, May 19, 2014

RIP: Winter Losses

My lovely ten-year-old Zephirine Drouhin roses, last summer.
These were the first roses I ever bought. No signs of life.
Requiescat In Pace.

Like every garden, my garden has suffered plant losses over the Winter of 2014, due to an unfortunate confluence of conditions that has been hard on Iowa gardens:
  • Two drought summers in a row
  • Exceptionally cold nights over the winter, down to -19F
  • Very little snow cover over the winter 

Here is the RIP Roll Call, plants that were DOA, dead on the arrival of spring:
  • about two dozen roses, including:
    • Chicago Peace (2)
    • Heirloom
    • Pascali (2)
    • Perfume Delight (2)
    • Miss All-American beauty (2)
    • Love
    • Mohave (2)
    • Sun Sprite
    • Kordes' Perfecta
    • Paradise
    • Cinco de Mayo, a beautful orangey, chocolate-colored rose
    • An unnamed red rose in the Red Section of the rainbow border
    • Golden Showers, a climbing rose I planted last year on the side of our tractor shed
    • Belinda's Dream, a beautiful pink rose in front of our porch that bloomed well all summer and into fall for almost five years.
    • It appears that the two own-root 'Blaze' climbers that I planted on the side of the garden shed last spring are devoid of life, although I'm going to give these some more time before I hoick them out.
    • Ditto on the two ten-year-old, own-root Zephirine Drouhin climbers I have growing on my front white picket fence (see photo above). They were the first roses I ever bought and I brought them with me from my last house. They made it through some hard winters over the last decade, and were established for five years in their current spot, presumably with good roots. And they were Zone 5 roses; somehow my Zone 6 own-root Rosa Viridiflora has come through all right, despite my certainty that I would lose that one. I'll wait longer on the ZDs, but I see no signs of life so far. Sigh.
My cutting rose garden. At least every third rose didn't make it.

  • ALL 20+ of my shasta daisies 'Becky'. I don't know why ALL of them died, even though they were planted in different areas, some more protected and some with better drainage than others. I just planted all of these last spring and they looked great all last year. I don't understand what could have happened.
Last year, my shasta daisies looked so nice.

Now there's just a great big hole where five plants used to be, at left.
Multiply this by three for the entire border, and that's a lot of space to
re-fill with new plants. 

  • All the wallflowers that I started from English seeds last year. I was really looking forward to seeing these biennials bloom in pastel shades after carefully starting seeds, potting them up, watering them in their pots all summer, planting them out in early fall, and watering them until winter set in. The best-laid plans....
So much work for so little effect.
These wallflowers are DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!

  • All the hollyhocks I started from seed, as above.
  • A common lilac (these are hardy to Zone 3!) Perhaps it has a blight of some kind.
  • A small burr oak that my husband planted on the south edge of our property.
  • My two 'Winter Green' boxwoods look almost completely burned, and more branches seem to still be turning straw-colored this month. I'll call them 'Winter Burn' boxwoods from now on -- if I don't dig them out.
Buxus 'Winter Burn'. The 'Green Velvet' boxwoods next to it are mostly OK.

But out of failures come opportunities to try new things: I have consolidated my rose cutting garden, and half that bed is now free, since I have moved a lot of plants out of that half, which was serving as a nursery bed for various plants. I think I will now fill that half of the bed with tall bearded irises. Despite the borer threat, I love irises. I'll buy some new ones and divide some that I have already and put them in that bed, perhaps with some lupines. One side of the bed is lined with peonies, so it should make a good late May display.

As far as the shasta daisies, I'll just buy more -- I must have them, and we'll see if they do better next winter. I never had any trouble with them before. We'll see.

But the good news is that most things are leafing out and looking healthy. As mentioned above, my Zone 6 Rosa Viridiflora in the Green Section of the Rainbow Border is regrowing from its own roots, and the two climbing roses 'Super Dorothy' on the front porch pillars are leafing out all along their canes. Life goes on for most.
There is LIFE! My Zone 6 Rosa Viridiflora green rose
has made it through the winter!

One lesson learned: I'm only going to buy own-root roses from now on. Chamblee Roses has a good selection of own-root roses, and they are less expensive than Heirloom Roses, which does have a larger selection. They're not guaranteed to survive the winter (witness my Zephirine Drouhins), but all the other roses of mine that died were not the own-root ones.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Hi Beth, Wow, 24 roses gone! I lost some too, and my 'Beckys' haven't made an appearance yet either...hmm. Sad, but we are gardeners and we will continue on...Best wishes, Beth

  2. Thanks for reading, Beth. I just saw your own post about losing roses, a redbud and two Japanese maples: so sad. :-( And it's interesting that your Beckys didn't come through either. Hmm. I hope the cultivar isn't losing its vigor....

  3. It's a sad thing to lose pretty flowers like those over the harsh cold weather. I hope most of them were able to regrow themselves when the cold weather was over. I assume you did some kind of preparations, so your plants will survive the winter. If those stuff don’t work, I suggest you choose growing plants that are more resilient to extremely harsh weathers.

    Mitchell Knapp @ Scenic Landscaping

  4. It's too bad about all that loss. I hope the replacements are more resilient than the ones that died over the harsh weather. Those Zephirine Drouhins roses are so pretty, and it’s sad to know it didn’t survive the winter. On the other hand, it’s a great idea to take this opportunity to try other types of plant for your garden, and hope that this time you’ll get to choose the ones that can survive drought or extremely cold weather. Thanks for sharing with us your garden, Beth!

    Bethel Woodard @ Sollecito