Stay your hand Posted on April 1, 2011

It’s tempting, isn’t it, to poke around in and under a plant showing dead-parrot symptoms: leaves scorched or absent, scratched bark brown where green cambium should be, no incipient buds or shoots from the base? There are some, after the fierce blasts of December and days at -12° Centigrade. March days like summer have only emphasised how very brown and dead they look; all the more important to be patient; clear away unsightly wreckage but defer decisions about digging out the roots. Even plants you consider borderline for hardiness may yet surprise you.

As my favourite Francoa ramosa, the saxifrageous bridal wreath from Chile, did yesterday. My secateurs were poised, cutting away brown desiccated shoots, when a speck of pale green on the ground told me not to be so hasty. It feels like summer this afternoon, but March is early spring. I have gone back to dividing thriving green clumps, while wondering how much of the horrible-looking bay tree in the yard we will loose, and how much to chop off now for aesthetic reasons. Oddly, its south face (it is 30 feet high) is scorched while its north face is still green. A friend suggests that it is the paved surface of the yard under it that is to blame. It must have been a block of ice for three or four weeks.

There will be plenty of anomaly anecdotes when we come finally to count the losses. A nurseryman friend has lost almost every Chilean and Kiwi plant in his unheated tunnels. No hebes, abutilons, hoherias ……. it’s a long list. They may not be dead, but they are not fit for sale. Why was he smiling? ‘Just you wait’, he said. ‘Everybody’s lost them, but it won’t stop them coming back for replacements’.

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