The butcher’s bill Posted on May 18, 2011

It’s still too soon to have a final body count, but there are a few victims of last winter I’m sure we shan’t be seeing again. Acacia pravissima, for example, the mimosa with odd square-shaped blue leaves, was always a long shot, even tucked into our south-westest corner by the thatched barn, sheltered on all sides. Minus ten was too much to ask.

A much greater cause of grief, and also surprise, was a long-established bush of Ribes sanguineum, the red-fuchsia-flowered gooseberry from California, discovered, like so many things, by Archibald Menzies early in the 19th century. Bean said it was hardy in the open at Kew; here it had a super-snug berth. Could cold perhaps not be the culprit? Drought, maybe?

Meanwhile I’m fairly sure we won’t see a reprise from the majority of hebes, nor from an only recently planted Hoheria ‘Glory of Amlwch’. New Zealand doesn’t see winters like this. Goodbye, Pittosporum tenuifolium. Farewell, Hebe salicifolia (I always thought you were a toughie).

I’m more sanguine about Escallonias, though, and delighted that Abelia triflora, a pale droopy bush, exquisitely scented, is completely unharmed. Its predecessor was eliminated by the winter of 1982/83. In fact my impression so far is that that was a damaging winter here in Essex.

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