March/April Winter Clean-up

arbor garden drift roses, nuhly grass, texas sage, phlox, lorapetalum agave

April 17, 2022: It’s a month since the last potential frost day (St. Patty’s Day). All of the plants I thought may not have survived the freezes are coming back from their roots. I was very concerned about some of the newer plants thinking that perhaps they didn’t have enough time to establish a good root system. I am used to the allamanda and the jathropa dying back completely but was unsure about the purple firespike, the yesterday today and tomorrow, the elephant ears, and the butterfly clerodendrum bush (not buddleia). Even the gardenias looked burnt and dry and lost all of their leaves. Very happy to announce they are all happy and healthy and springing back to life. Two of the new hibiscus plants that also died back are popping back up as well. Even the one that had a severe aphid problem forcing me to hack a bunch of the plant off. I was even a tad concerned that my ginormous white bird of paradise, which we hacked down a lot to fit under sheets, is also thriving.

elephant ears, snake plant, spider plants, cast iron plants, angelonia, crinum lily, azalea, beautyberries, gingers, kavakava, virginia creeper, begonias
A relatively shady area under oaks with elephant ears, snake plant, spider plants, cast iron plants, angelonia, crinum lily, azalea, beautyberries, gingers, kavakava, virginia creeper, begonias

Even my peace lily, which was dry and crumbly is showing nice potential. I did lose the wandering jew plants in the hanging baskets, which I should have put in the greenhouse. Mt my 6 foot tall rubber tree ficus is mostly dead but I see leaves popping up fron the roots. I also propagated babies off it, planted them all around, and covered them during freezes. They are happy and healthy. There are even many annuals coming back to life including coleus plants popping up from the roots and several annual vincas and even impatiens, coleus, and sweet potato vines!

Because of the impending freeze in February, I propagated a ton of Hawai’ian Ti Sister and coleus plants that made it through despite my neglect. The coleus I literally plucked out of the ground and threw them in a pot in the greenhouse without putting any extra soil in and then transplanted them back in the garden. They look pretty leggy but I will propagate them some more and they will bush out.

The biggest chore I had was tackling two monster bougainvillea plants. They were at least 10 feet tall by 20 feet wide. All the thorny and painful branches were dead. It took a weekend each to cut off all the dead stuff. Afterwards, I looked as if I went to battle with feral cats I was so scratched up. The worst part is, the thorns puncture you through your shoes and hurt for at least a day or two after that. Once they were cut back, the entire side garden opened up and the yard now looks so much more spacious. There were plants underneath them that are so happy to be relieved of the torment! A fragrant tea olive, a Buford holly, and a self-seeded crape myrtle now have their own space. I believe there is also a split leaf philodendron starting to poke through the earth.

trimmed bougainvilleas, tea olive, buford holly oleanders
Do you believe the two bougies intertwined? Seriously had to hack off a ton of dead bougainvillea branches, which was a very painful feat. Yup, the tea olive, citrus tree, buford holly and crepe myrtle were nearly totally engulfed.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my Chinese snowball viburnum with one bloom and I am super excited to watch it mature. I didn’t think the hostas would come back but they all did. I have lost hope for the hakonechloa grasses. I really like them but I think it’s too hot and dry here for them in the winter.

One of my most favorite plants is drift rose. I have white ones in my moon garden and peachy pink colored ones in my front sun garden. This variety is a beautiful fuchsia with lighter throats. They are blooming magnificently and smell like heaven!

arbor garden drift roses, nuhly grass, texas sage, phlox, lorapetalum agave

All of the tiny cuttings of azaleas and camelias that I propagated have new growth. And while the oakleaf hydrangeas are still bare, I do see signs of life. I was pleasantly surprised a bunch of my first-time lily bulbs bloomed and three of the lily trees shot up although only one bloomed beautifully for me. My old antique rose bushes have been putting on quite a display. The two new banana shrubs are happy and even my canna lilies and some chamomiles are coming up (which is the first time I had success with them). All of my purple salvias have tripled in size as did my rose of sharons and the seedlings from her that I planted. And my new amaryllis bulbs are doing great.

There are tons of weeds that have to get pulled… especially the virginia creeper and the bidens alba. I have had more than my share of fire ant bites already and have walked through and pulled up (mistakenly) stinging nettles much to my agony!

The happiest thing for me, however, is that I threw handfuls of seeds down and have such a beautiful wildflower display! This is the first time I had such success with yellow coreopsis and multi-colored phlox. They are simply gorgeous if you like that messy, wild look!

coreopsis (tick seed) phlox drift roses black diamond crape myrtle muhly grass gaura and more
Pink drift roses, yellow coreopsis, red pink and fucshia phlox, gaura, with black diamond crape myrtle, muhly grass, silverberry, and some baby palms towards the back.

I transplanted way too young angel trumpets and rose of sharons but am keeping an eye on them and keeping them well watered. I am hopeful that my black-eyed susans will put on a display. I always have black-eyed susan vines but this is the first time I am growing the stand alone flower plants from seed. I even see an annual moonflower popping up under my moringa tree (which incidentally always dies back, and its weak but thin branches fall off).

I’ll start taking photos of specific individual plants so you can identify them… especially the ones that died back and are revived now that spring has arrived. That way you know what to expect for plants that look as if they’re dead but are really just going dormant and resting for the winter.

Can’t wait to start propagating some more! Until next time, happy planting.

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