Unplanned gardens and a summary of the weather year at Portland

Take a quick look at your garden.

I spent this cool and dry January day in my garden tidying up and checking the progress of the garden. Our first real freeze of the year has rendered the soil rock hard and though it dropped to 19ºF in my garden on the coldest night there was very little freeze damage. A few tender things that I slip into the garden were noticeably unhappy. And that is how it should be. 19ºF is just one degree below our average annual low of 20ºF. The coldest temperature was 21ºF at PDX and it went down to 17ºF at Vancouver Pearson Airpark. That is the closest recording station to my north Portland garden.

But, I like to check these things because every freeze, even as inconsequential as this brings new surprises.  I was at the beach for New Years and I stupidly forgot to empty my Koi pot  and it was full to the brim. It froze about 6″ deep and mercifully did not crack. I won’t take that risk again.  Flora had my back.

Limp and sad

One surprise was that my Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’ really got hammered. It was in full bloom and growing happily on a fence. Its limp and discolored and it may be very wounded. Strange, it sailed through 9ºF last year and was unphased. I suspect our warm wet fall and December left it a little lush and perky. We’ll see how this plant recovers. I hope it does because not only do I love it but the over wintering hummers love it too.

Reap what is sown

The longer I garden the more I come to love and cherish plants that reseed themselves. Its a wonderful surprise and can yield really special things. Cleaning up my Hellebores I found a carpet of seedlings- those I dispatched- I like what I have already and they are the product of very careful hybridization by the masters the O’byrnes.  Along side the Hellebores was an equally prolific group of Cyclamen coum seedlings. I had planted the best leaf forms we have grown with an eye to this self propagation. It worked, the majority of the seedlings were all silver or heavily marked swirly leaves. Not only will they stay but I will spread them around the garden. This unobtrusive, tough winter blooming corm is one of the cheeriest parts of the winter garden. I have grown them in full sun as well as dense shade- They thrive anywhere. The only disappointment is when you spear one in the summer when they are quietly dormant. I mark the best ones now with a little blue toothpick. They can go dust dry in summer and all will still be fine.

Surprise, surprise, surprise

Several seedlings of my long dead Grevillea x ‘Constance’ that I have been observing also made it through unscathed. This hybrid of two VERY different species of Grevilleas has yielded some cool things in the past. Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’ is a seedling of this plant and as I found last winter it was undamaged while its parent plant croaked. Hard. The three new seedlings are all very different in their leaf shapes. I hope they stick around because it might yield a fun surprise. The moral being do not be too hasty to hock out seedlings- a new flower color, form, exceptional thing might be right before you. The also presents the opportunity to share with fellow gardeners. My fecund Daphne tangutica has already yielded several gifts to garden friends.

The Weather Year in Review mild and wild 2014

We already know it was a warm summer and the statistics prove this. Our warmest temperature was 99ºF on two different days July 1st and August 16th. Thats two degrees below our average hottest day which is 101.3ºF. The real story was the warm overnight lows. 2014 set a new record for the most overnight lows above 60ºF- 50. That was 5 days more than the previous record of 45 set in 2013- we may focus on highs and ultimate lows but this may be the real story of global warming. It pays to dig down to the details.  Also, 2014 was the second warmest year ever at PDX.  The record warm year was 1992. So we may not have breached 100ºF but warming can appear in different ways.

Some hard facts just for fun: Statistics courtesy of Portland NOAA

Last day below 32ºF- March 22 normal is March 19th.

First 70º Day- April 7 normal is March 30th

First 80º day- April 30th, normal is May 10th

First 90º day- May 14th, normal is June 16th

Last 90º day was September 20th, normal is September 8th.

First 32º day was November 12th, normal is November 15th

August, September, October were the warmest ever recorded in Portland. See? its not the extremes as much as the details and the trends.

A weak El Nino is chugging along.

If you are a skier you know that this season so far has really sucked. And El Nino is gearing up. January is looking fairly dry and above normal in temperatures.  Remember that an arctic episode can still occur in an El Nino winter but this is shaping up to be typical for a weak ENSO.  We will remain vigilant and post any surprising trends on this blog.  Have a wonderful New Year and happy gardening in 2015!


One response to “Unplanned gardens and a summary of the weather year at Portland

  1. Thanks for the statistics – they confirmed a lot of the thoughts I had. And yes – skiing sucks this year. I keep watching the area status posts – it’s depressing. Skibowl keeps hovering above 32, so even if they do get some precipitation, it’s usually liquid – or what little snow falls will shortly be washed off. I keep doing that snow dance, I guess….


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