Late Return

For the gardener, spring is about plants returning to active growth from their winter dormancy. The earliest plants to do so inspire a special jolt of happiness.

Our front garden seen from the sidewalk last Sunday. Lots of green, but some plants are still missing.

Then there are the perennial plants that don’t emerge from the soil until later in the season. For me, these can be a great cause of anxiety. Are they coming back or not? Do they just want to make a grand entrance? Or have they succumbed to winter cold and wet, or perhaps frost heave? Thoughtless of them not to let me know.

Right at the moment there is a sizable patch of Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) in the Driveway Border that refuses to show itself. I’ve even gently probed the soil with my fingers in search of buds, but no luck. It’s worrying because another patch of the same plant has been visible for a week or more – though that second batch gets a longer dose of afternoon sun.


DSC_0752 butterflyweed
The missing Butterflyweed, blooming last July.

The missing Butterflyweed is well established, and showed no signs of poor health. I’m already thinking about how to replace them, but I don’t want to jump the gun. Butterflyweed roots do not like to be disturbed, so for now I’m forcing myself to remain patient, not an easy thing.

Meantime, there are some winter losses I can confirm. For example, I’ve lost two ‘Inspiration’ Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum). Two others have come back, one looking more vigorous than the other.

2014-07-06 12.08.47 Culver's Root 'Fascination'
Culver’s Root ‘Inspiration’, in bloom over the summer.

Last year the Culver’s Root was infested by Four-Lined Plant Bug. I suppose the missing plants were weakened beyond recovery. This year, fortunately, there is no sign of the Four-Lined little monsters.

Also missing are four of the five ‘Arizona Sun’ Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia aristata) I planted in the parkway Lamppost Border.  Here I think the culprits are the piles of snow dumped onto the parkway by snowplows and snowblowers. As they melted, these probably made for more winter wetness than the Gaillardia could tolerate.

Blanket Flower ‘Arizona Sun’

Of course, the upside of a dead plant is that it provides an opportunity to buy a new live one.

Do you have any perennials that perished over winter?


56 Comments on “Late Return

  1. I’m missing the butterfly weed too. Last year some late arrivals surprised me after I’d planted something else practically on top of them. Trying to exercise restraint this time around.

  2. Yes! A mini-mini balloon flower—purple!—that I adored. I bought it years and years ago, and there is no sign of it this spring. Like you, I have been poking the dirt. Nothing. Sigh.

  3. I know what you mean about the late emergers, Jason. You stand (sometimes even stoop) and stare and wonder. I once cut straight into a root, so sure the plant was dead, only to see that it had been very much alive, under the soil.

  4. I like your attitude that it gives you the chance to buy new…perhaps even try out a plant that might be a little heartier.

  5. Butterfly weed a no show for me too. One appeared a few weeks ago and I think a bunny ate it, there’s no new signs of growth in that area. There are other butterfly weed no shows in other parts of the garden. I tried the variety “Hello Yellow” last year which went great guns, but nothing so far. We’ve had so much rain that the weeds are taking over!

  6. I feel your pain. I’m missing a prized hosta and I’m not sure what happened to it. I usually make notes of when I move perennials around, but for some reason, I’m not finding it and I’m not sure if winter got the better of it. Your plants are looking beautiful. 🙂

  7. I lost Hibiscus coccineus (Texas star) – it was attacked several times by rabbits or deer, and I ended up transplanting it close to the house mid-season last year. I suspect both of these insults weakened it so much that it did not return.

    I also lost a newly planted Indigofera kirilowii (Kirilow indigo). It should have been hardy to my zone. All I can think of is that it was such a small plug (ordered via mail order in autumn) that it didn’t have a chance to establish good roots before winter.

    I was a little surprised to lose both Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) and Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’ — I had hoped they might be hardy in my borderline zone 6/7 garden, but I’m thinking they need at least a warm zone 8 (Because we had a relatively mild winter where temps here only bottomed out around 12 degrees and yet neither of these plants came back.) The Lantana I’ve replanted as an annual. I don’t usually like to do that, but it was such a great butterfly plant late in late summer and into autumn that I couldn’t resist.

  8. Hope your stragglers show up eventually with a good alibi. That first picture is very nice at illustrating your emerging garden.

  9. I tried to grow Blanket Flowers several years ago and I don’t remember if I had even one; something wasn’t right with them. It seems every year or two something disappears, while other things persist and maybe I’m even more surprised by that.

  10. I haven’t noticed any losses yet, except maybe for some that were left in their nursery pots over the winter and never made it into the ground. I think I’ve heard that those Gaillardia can be short-lived, so that in concert with the snow might have been responsible for their demise.

  11. I grew a new Brunnera last year that I think was called ‘Silver Hearts.’ It was utterly spectacular with foliage that was literally metallic silver; by far the best Brunnera I’ve grown. All of my other Brunnera are around (and blooming) and there is no sign of ‘Silver Hearts.’ I maybe give it one more shot because it was just that good.

  12. I was worried about my milkweeds (all of them!), too. But I feel like they were telling me something–foreshadowing the freeze/frost event. But the various patches did begin to emerge just before the freeze on Sunday morning. As things are warming up, they’re really making fast progress. I have some Butterflyweed seeds that I harvested from my plants last year. They’ve already been cold stratified–let me know if you want some. Three plants succumbed for me this year–my Russell Lupine and two Delphiniums. The Lupine surprised me because it’s been going strong for a long time. The Delphiniums just don’t seem to last long in my garden, so I think I’ll try something else in that spot. I hope some of your plants will make an appearance. It was a topsy-turvy spring, so they might have been waiting for some consistency. 😉

    • Glad to hear about the Milkweeds. I don’t grow Lupine or Delphiniums. I assume Lupine needs acid soil (which I don’t have) and have always had thre feeling that Delphiniums were fussy.

  13. Butterfly weed has never over-wintered for me so I’m really surprised in does for you in your much harsher conditions. Our winter was so mild thins year I don’t think I’m missing anything.

  14. Nothing missing here so far but we didn’t have any snow or frost to speak of. Disappointments = opportunities. There speaks a true gardener 🙂

  15. So far I haven’t noticed any glaring openings. When I first started reading your post I was struck that since you travel a lot, in spring you would come home to almost a new look in your garden every time. Your garden is so full with such a diversity of plants, wonderful even with the misses. I can’t grow blanket flower. Just too wet here sometimes I guess and and not enough sun. However that is changing. At least the sun part is. Have a nice weekend.

  16. Asclepias is also very slow here, but I do see a few signs. I may have lost Bouteloua gracilis, but that one is late too. We shall see.

    • Actually, I forgot about my butterfly bush! I cut it to the ground every year but I’m not seeing any signs of life yet!

  17. I think I’ve lost a couple Arizona Suns as well, and it’s a shame because that is one powerhouse bloomer! I will definitely replace them. Our problem here was very little snow cover, warm temperatures in the middle of winter, and an early spring blast of Arctic air. Several brand new things I planted in the fall have yet to make an appearance too. Also, still waiting for the hardy hibiscus and Joe Pye weed to come along. I know both of those tend to show up very late in the spring. No sign of new growth on the butterfly bush (Buddleia) yet, either.

    • No growth on my Buddleia either. The Joe Pye Weeds are up, though. You’re right about Arizona Sun being a powerhouse bloomer.

  18. I planted two bellflowers next to each other several years ago – on your recommendation actually. Two different cultivars and one was always a little slower than the other. This year the slow one hasn’t emerged and its weeks after her sister came back.

    • I hate to say this, but all of my bellflowers have bit the dust, so to speak, and now I have none. At this point I wouldn’t recommend them to gardeners in the Chicago area. I hope your two are still good, though!

  19. Both Butterfly Weed and Gaillardia like it high and dry. While Butterfly Weed is long-lived, I’ve never seen Gaillaardia last more than a season or two here. As for my garden, I planted 5 Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ last fall and only 1 came back.

  20. Hello Jason, we had such a mild winter this year that I don’t think we lost any plants. I’m not god at keeping track of what we do and don’t have so I might have lost some and not realised it. I hope your missing patch of Butterflyweed returns for this season and subsequently.

  21. Veronicastrum isn’t a plant I lost, it’s one I got rid of. Although yours looks like the photos of the plant I’ve seen — which is why I bought the plant — in my garden it looked pale and boring. I’m wondering if I got a mislabelled specimen or if others have had the same experience.

    • Sounds like you had the straight species. I have a cultivar. Though I’ve seen plantings of the straight species that were very attractive.

  22. I had several plants rot. The orange milkweed like to be really warm before they break dormancy. The others might be in a slight microclimate with reflected heat. But sometimes they’re just slowpokes. Give them more time. 🙂

  23. It seems I always have a couple of plants that don’t make it through our very wet winters. I always suspect rot. This year I am missing Joe Pye Weed.

  24. Our butterfly weed doesn’t appear until the poppies start to die out, then it magically emerges from under them. No sign of it yet as the poppies are at their peak.

  25. Oh what a shame that some of your plants may had died…fingers crossed, hopefully some are just late. I’m mourning my wisteria, planted in the courtyard, doing great, full of buds….then dead as a dodo….ours is not no wonder why!xxx

    • Same thing with my patch of Butterflyweed. Seemed to be thriving last year, then this spring just a tiny bit of it comes back.

  26. Pingback: Late Return — gardeninacity | Old School Garden

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