Winter Kill

This might seem a little late for a post on plants lost to our last winter (an extraordinarily severe one). But sometimes you need more time to be really sure of your losses.


I kept hoping that our Deutzia (Deutzia crenata ‘Plena’) was going to leaf out, but at this point it’s clear that it was done in by our stretch of -22 (Fahrenheit, that’s -30 Celsius) weather. This was a venerable shrub that was already mature when we moved here 16 years ago.


Here’s how it looked in 2015, blooming behind our ‘Sally Holmes’ rose.

Speaking of ‘Sally Holmes’ – all her canes were killed. She’s sending up some new ones, but they are not especially vigorous. I suspect we won’t see any blooms this year. Same story with the rambling rose ‘Darlow’s Enigma’.

The only roses that came through the winter unscathed were the indestructible ‘Cassie’ and the wild Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera).


This is a closer view of the Deutzia flowers.  This shrub was a substantial presence in the back garden, and we’ll need something substantial to replace it. But first I’ve got to work on removing it. Sigh.

DSC_0002 rose 'Cassie'
The indestructible ‘Cassie’

In terms of perennials, we seem to have taken the following losses.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). There are far fewer Wild Columbines this year, and they are not nearly so robust. This is a short-lived plant in any case. I suppose the cold killed off some of the mature plants and reduced the number of seedlings.

DSC_0856 Indian Pink
Indian Pink

Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica). Of our two clumps of Indian Pink, the one near the back porch has survived. There’s no sign of the other one, which was in the Back Garden Island Bed (though I still hope it will come poking through the ground covers). This plant is native to regions to the south and east of here.

Clematis ‘Betty Corning’. Before this last winter we had 3 ‘Betty Corning’ vines, now there are 2. Why this particular one succumbed is a mystery, as it was located just about 4 feet from one of the survivors.

This last winter did inflict some painful, though not devastating, losses in the garden. I try to be philosophical about it. Losing plants is part of the process, and each loss adds to our store of experience and provides an opportunity to try something new.

Did you lose many plants over this past winter?

46 Comments on “Winter Kill”

  1. Sorry about your Deutzia–it’s hard to lose such an anchor in the yard. I’m in the Chicago suburbs and my wild columbine has been going like gangbusters–it’s everywhere! I have a weeping cherry that is about 10 years old and this year it’s been struggling to just leaf out. I have a picture of it from mid-April 2017 and at that time it was smothered in pink flowers.

  2. We don’t often lose plants in winter. Every few years, there is a frost that damages lemons and limes, and we must wait for spring to cut the damage off. Cutting it off early stimulates new growth that is very sensitive to even mild frost. Besides, the damaged growth protects the stems underneath.
    I seriously can not imagine the weather getting cold enough to damage roses.

  3. Aww darn! Your Deutzia,especially was a pretty significant loss. Here in Seattle, we had a nasty Winter also–a few cold temps and a long run of heavy, wet snow. I lost all three of my “Bombshell” hydrangeas and my Trachelospermum jasminoides. A few other things were so winter-burned that I’ve removed them. There was a lot of flopping damage caused by the snow: euonymus, arborvitae, junipers, nandina, etc. And, finally, some things erupted so late that I do not know if they will get their act together this year enough to survive another winter 😦

  4. I lost a relatively new Silver Bell tree to this past winter. I thought I had lost a crepe Myrtle but it came back from the roots. I had a lot of plants that were slow to emerge this spring. I thought I had lost them but patience and they emerged. I hate that you lost a Deutzia that was so mature. It is difficult to lose old friends.

  5. Darn, I hate it when you lose an old established plant! Sorry about your deutzia, and sorry you have to dig it out. Would a mock orange be a good replacement for your area? They’re lovely and smell so great. I lost 1/2 of a weigelia, so I cut it back to 18″ and am hoping for a comeback.
    Last winter’s impact to different areas was certainly varied. Here in western Maryland we didn’t get hit very hard temp-wise, but had some freeze/thaw activity resulting in “heaving”. Our spring has been a long, lush one with minimal frost. Everything seems to have twice as many flowers as usual, which is wonderful! I do have one vine off to a slow start, the silver fleece vine. Usually I refer to it as “the vine that plans to eat Hagerstown” , so a slow start is good. And I’ve had perennials that I thought I lost years ago all of a sudden reappear. Go figure!
    Are you familiar with Hummingbird Farm? They only sell clematis hardy in zone 4 and up. You might something new to replace Betty Corning ( Check ‘um out, the site is well organized and full of instructional info. As always, I do so enjoy your posts!

  6. I lost several mature roses and even a Black Knight butterfly bush here in zone 6a. We got blasted by bitterly cold wind across the prairie, and I think that’s what did them in, sadly. Weirdly, though, my spring bulbs were very prolific – perhaps because of an unusual amount of snow/moisture??

  7. That is exactly how I like to look at it – a loss means that you can try something new. It is sad, however, when you are talking about a large, mature tree or shrub as those do take a while to size up and get established. We, surprisingly, didn’t end up losing anything this past winter other than our ash, but that is ash borer related, not due to the weather.

  8. What a loss! Especially as the shrub was there when you bought the house. Too bad about the other losses, too. Yes, I have lost a few things, but not many. Although by and large the gardens look good, there are holes here and there. Not sure how I am going to fill them, and I might wait until next spring before I decide.

  9. That is a shame. I do love Deutzia and didn’t realize such well-established specimens as yours could succumb. Mind you, it was a pretty cold spell you had! We lost a very old flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) either to the drought last year or a very cold spring, or the combination.

  10. Hi Jason … there is a sort of comradery ? among gardeners when we lose plants over an unusual winter.
    Especially older established ones like you have .. it was a gorgeous mature shrub that acted as a backbone to your planting there .. I’m sorry, and to add to it … it will probably be a hard haul to get out and decide what to plant in it’s place .. it tests us to try different plants and enjoy different results ..
    I just can’t get over how this was all a strange winter of “pick and choose” with odd plants you wouldn’t think would be killed .. and waiting so long to see if there was any sign of life .. two buddleia , two climbing roses that I waited for patiently, that I have to throw the towel in on as well.
    But, I think we all get that this is part of the process and we have to move on .. DARN ! LOL

  11. I totally understand wanting to do this kind of post now. I thought I had lost so many plants, only to find out they were severely compromised, but now growing quite nicely. My Indian Pinks…I’m pushing zones with those, but three out of four are back. They took a while to show their faces though. Mine are way behind yours–nowhere near blooming yet! Great post.

  12. I admire your rather zen acceptance of your losses. Losing that Deutzia seems like a big setback to me. I know I would be a lot less philosophical in processing such a loss, I think. As for this past winter, I can’t think of anything in particular that might have succumbed to what brief cold we had in March. At least nothing that was properly planted. I did lose a newly bought Clematis ‘Allanah’ that I bought in February. This surprised me somewhat, I admit. Planted it anyway, hoping there is still some life in its roots, but have seen no life as of yet. Maybe it was already dead when I brought it home from T&L up in Washington. They had an epic winter too, for their standards. We were far luckier down here in Oregon.

  13. It’s heartbreaking losing plants, a couple of years ago we lost so many plants, it’s infuriating, and then the drought last summer saw even more off. Climate change has native plants struggling worldwide now. I have no idea what to plant, it’s rain and wind at the moment here, so different from last

  14. Its been so frustrating to have to wait this long to assess the real damage. I’m sorry about your losses- those are always so disappointing! We lost a few poppies and miscellaneous perennials that I really didn’t think were at risk. We had a lot of tip die back on our Redbuds but thankfully haven’t lost any shrubs/trees. But if next year is the same as this one, I’m not very hopeful we’ll be this unscathed.

  15. Warm and wet — very wet — was the problem here this year. In fact, some of the peach growers were concerned that we wouldn’t get enough chill hours for the fruit. Obviously, we did. Otherwise, it’s been a fantastic wildflower year. Every few years we draw the lucky number, and I guess this was our year.

  16. Jason, Winter kill was a problem in Maine this year, too. We didn’t have a particularly cold winter, but it was very windy with less snow cover than average. I didn’t lose any plants, but I have several shrubs, including mock orange, cinnamon clethra, and ninebark that only leafed out to the snow line.

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