Freeze damage

Hard frost on Borinda fungosa (-5°C)

Hard frost on Borinda fungosa (-5°C)

My plan was, to closely monitor weather data and try to spot emergence of cold induced damage on different (more or less) cold hardy bamboos. With gathered data, I’ll be able to determine cold hardiness of each individual bamboo, and detect possible ‘top kill’ conditions or (I sure hope not) conditions where bamboo completely dies. Bamboos are placed in different locations and can have their own micro-climate, but conditions are nearly identical. Small Chimonocalamus pallens seedling is planted under quite large Fargesia murielae, so it’s a bit more protected, but also much more tender because of it’s youth and extremely small size. Actually I will not be able to determine proper values for Chimonocalamus seedling, I will, however, be able to check its hardiness in it’s young seedling stage.

Chimonocalamus pallens - the first bamboo that had shown leaf damage.

Chimonocalamus pallens – the first bamboo that had shown leaf damage.

I will closely monitor temperatures and try to write down absolute low temperature (usually morning) and highest temperature. I will add wind conditions information, soil freeze / thaw conditions, information about snow cover accumulation, exposure to full sun, fog, rain, freezing rain… While closely checking weather conditions, I’ll also keep my eyes on all the plants, trying to notice any sign of stress or damage. When weather conditions won’t allow me to identify damage, for example in prolonged period of time with temperatures below freezing or rainy weather that will temporarily re-hydrate damaged leaves, making them look alive, I’ll try to determine the cause and extent of damage when it becomes evident.
I’ll keep all my recordings for further analysis and in try to create easily readable table or chart. Non-threatening days (with temperature above freezing) will be excluded, but will be mentioned as annotation in case of possible impact on plant’s condition later on when freeze damage occurs.

First freeze damage victims: Chimonocalamus pallens and Borinda fungosa seedlings

When temperature dropped and freeze the soil enough (-5°C/+2°C), Chimonocalamus pallens was the first of bamboos that started to show signs of leaf damage. Damage most likely started because of frozen soil and direct sun exposure. Leaves were exposed to full sun and roots were mostly shaded by F. murielae. With day temperature just above freezing, without wind and fully shaded, 1 cm of soil remained frozen. That was enough to damage the leaf cells. Leaves ended up slightly damaged and some of the youngest branches dried out during the first cold spell.
At the same time, the last shoots of Borinda fungosa also started showing some damage. The unbranched shoot is missing the top leaves, but culm still seems to be alive. Spring will tell if branches or buds got damaged. Autumn shoots that branched out recently had shown some damage and had lost a couple of fresh branches, but at least some of them might still be alive. Full extent of damage will also be visible in the spring.


Bamboo Name
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’
Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ (3 year old seedling)
Phyllostachys aurea
Borinda (Fargesia) Fungosa (3 year old seedling)
Fargesia denudata ‘Lancaster 1′
Fargesia Murielae
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’
Pseudosasa japonica ‘Tsutsumiana’
Chimonocalamus pallens (1 year old seedling)

sun-iconDecember 9th: -5C / 4C Soil not frozen solid and thawed early in the morning, no damage appeared on any of bamboos (moderate North eastern wind)

sun-iconDecember 10th: -4C / 4C Soil thawed early in the morning, no damage on any of bamboos (no wind)

sun-iconDecember 11th: -5C / 3C Soil mostly thawed during the day, except in shaded locations where it persisted. No damage spotted, except wilted leaves on a couple of low lying branches of Moso seedling, most likely someone stepped on it while it was frozen. (no wind)

sun-iconDecember 12th: -5C / 2C Soil mostly remained frozen (less than 1cm) during the day, except places directly hit by sun, first damage appeared on Chimonocalamus pallens (dark spots on it’s leaves and signs of bleaching), none of bamboos had shown signs of desiccation stress, leaves remained open despite full sun (no wind)

December 13th: -2C / 10 Soil thawed quickly, when warmer southern wind started. No new damage spotted. (South Western wind)

Winter mushrooms

Cantharellus cibarius

Cantharellus cibarius

Usually, there are no mushrooms left at this time of year, but with all the rain and unnaturally warm weather, forest is full of mushrooms. Sunday’s walk through the forest to get some clean air and exercise turned into mid winter mushroom picking festival. With only a couple of nights with sub-zero temperatures, most of the plants remained in autumn, despite the shortening daytime.
There’s plenty of Cantharellus cibarius mushrooms, and even Boletus edulis that can still be found, hiding among the fallen leaves.

Bamboo and autumn leaf fall

Despite the fact that bamboo (well, at least most of them) is evergreen plant, most of temperate bamboos start shedding leaves as soon as weather starts getting colder.

Before and after picture on Borinda fungosa. It had lost more than 1/3 of it's leaves within a week. Culms are more exposed and will most likely get their beautiful tan in the winter sun.

Before and after picture on Borinda fungosa. It had lost more than 1/3 of it’s leaves within a week. Culms are more exposed and will most likely get their beautiful tan in the winter sun.

During the winter, plant’s activity drops and water mobility inside the plant slows down and sometimes even stops completely. With temperatures below freezing, soil can be cold or even frozen on top, effectively preventing water to get from roots into leaves. Evergreen plants continue to loose water through the leaves by transpiration during the winter. Leaf can heat up considerably during bright sunny winter day and even if air temperature is low, rate of transpiration gets higher. Higher transpiration rate becomes a problem, when roots fail to replenish all the water that is lost through the leaves. Water loss problem gets worst during prolonged periods of strong winds and on already mentioned sunny days.

First to drop leaves was Fargesia murielae.

First to drop leaves was Fargesia murielae.

Deciduous plants shed their leaves during the unfavorable part of the growing season, which can be winter in temperate parts of the globe or dry season in the tropics. Plants effectively prevent water loss caused by unnecessary transpiration by tossing away their foliage. Bamboos usually remain green during the winter, except some of the species that grow at higher altitudes in the mountains. They do prepare for the winter and shed some of their leaves though.

Hibanobambusa had lost less leaves than other bamboos, but it didn't have many to start with either.

Hibanobambusa had lost less leaves than other bamboos, but it didn’t have many to start with either.

When first frost arrived, most of the bamboos in my garden triggered leaf yellowing process but in only about a week, when most of the colored leaves dropped, bamboos turned green again, yet with a lot less greenery on them. Some of bamboos like to dispose of unnecessary leaves regularly, even during the summer, which means they show much less leaf loss in the fall. That kind of pattern was seen on Fargesia murielae. It was also the first bamboo to drop some of it’s leaves.

Some leaves lost, and some still yellow. It also started shooting in late fall. In late fail.

Some leaves lost, and some still yellow. It also started shooting in late fall. In late fail.

Phyllostachys aureosulcata Spectabilis either forgot to drop leaves or it managed to do it regularly so it was hard to notice. I do remember seeing yellow leaves, but they were emerging sporadically and were easily missed. Ground below and around it show almost no sign of dead leaves.
Phyllostachys Aurea is loosing a lot of leaves each fall and this year it’s doing the same. It does take a bit more time to complete the task.
Phyllostachys heterocycla Pubescens – Moso is also showing only minor leaf fall. It does like to drop the leaves in the spring after it starts shooting. Yellowing usually occurs when last year’s branches start to grow new foliage.

When it comes to scraping leaves, Borinda fungosa holds the title.

When it comes to scraping leaves, Borinda fungosa holds the title.

And the winner is Borinda fungosa. It started yellowing after first frost, in only a couple of days it was full of yellow leaves and just a couple of days later, there were no signs of yellow leaves on it. Soil around it, on the other hand is full of leaves that will hopefully protect the plant from winter cold.

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

Eichhornia crassipes is commonly known as Water hyacinth and can be highly invasive. I only bought one small plant, but I ended up removing it on a weekly basis to allow at least some air and sun to enter the water. It creates dense mat of lush vegetation on the pond’s surface, but with time it shades out everything inside the pond.

Weak and small at first,...

Weak and small at first,…

When I got the plant it was quite weak and pale and after I tossed it in the spring into the pond’s relatively cold water, some of the leaves actually became yellow. It all seemed the plant will have hard time to survive, but everything soon changed to the better and it started multiplying and growing, not only above the water but below as well. It forms dense root system and hollow leaves that float on the water.

Young frog sitting on water hyacinth leaf

Young frog sitting on water hyacinth leaf

Water hyacinth was providing shade and protection to tadpoles and all kind of water organisms. Tadpoles then turned into little frogs and they too loved the floating plant. It soon started to show it’s invasive nature and started to take over the pond. At that point I started manually removing them. When I was taking them out, I noticed there are different organisms living and hiding in their dense root system, so I tried to keep those and only toss out the invasive plant.

Eichhornia crassipes flower

Eichhornia crassipes flower

In the end of August, Eichhornia crassipes finally started flowering. This plant has two major flaws, first is it’s uncontrollably invasive and second, it starts blooming way too late. When it started flowering, autumn almost began, so beautiful flowers couldn’t last long. It would be great to have them in full bloom from let’s say early June.

It does have beautiful flowers!

It does have beautiful flowers!

When colder weather kicked in, the plant looks less and less attractive, flowers were gone and leaves turned pale. When first frost arrived, it burnt most of the plant and I removed great deal of it. I used it as mulch to protect other plants from extreme cold and it worked quite nice. I also noticed that earthworms just love water hyacinths roots. When water hyacinth freezes, it dies off and if in water, falls to the bottom of the pond. I’m not sure if tadpoles next spring liked the taste of it, or it still sits on the bottom. I’m not going to plant it again, because it grows way to aggressively. It can be used for mulch, compost, worm food and can be great for tadpoles and other creatures inside the pond, but the fun is over soon. If only it could flower earlier, then it would be tough decision and I’d most likely grow it again… and again.


Something died around here?

Something died around here?

Gardens are usually full of all kinds of insects and animals. I gathered several photos of insects.

One day in the summer, young hedgehog died and I’ve noticed a lot of green flies all around. I haven’t found the source until much later, when the flies and foul smell were already gone.

beetles-columbine Unknown beetles on Columbine flower. There are many different beetles roaming around the garden and these two were ‘snapped’ while watching the flowers.

chinese-ladybugs Chinese ladybugs almost removed the population of local ladybugs. These two are chinese version that is bigger and has more black dots on their backs. They are all beneficial to the garden so I love to see them around, especially doing what these two were doing. Aphids and mites beware. :)

Enormous caterpillar of unknown butterfly

Enormous caterpillar of unknown butterfly

Vast amounts of green attracts leaf eating creatures like caterpillar on the photo. The size of the caterpillar was unbelievable. I’ve seen colorful beasts, but this one was just huge.

Hairy bugs copulating.

Hairy bugs copulating.

Beetles making love on dandelion flower. These hairy creatures can usually be seen in late spring and early summer.

Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”

Papyrus waiting to be saved

Papyrus waiting to be saved

Cyperus Papyrus “King Tut” is only hardy to a bit below freezing and even that only for a short time. After first frost that did no damage to it, I decided to take a division and take it into protected place in the basement.

If grown from seed, it doesn’t get large enough the first growing season and I really need to save it. This summer it grew a lot, even with a lot lower temperatures than usual with abundance of rain. I saved some seeds, just in case I end up losing the mature plant. Some say, that with a lot of protection, Papyrus can handle the winter if it gets protected from freezing temperatures. I intend to keep most of it outside, covered with layer of dry grass, branches and straw, and large sheet of PVC above that to insulate the roots from winter cold as much as possible. If it can survive the winter outside, I’ll have one less plant to worry about next winter.

Overwintering Cyperus Papyrus Rhizomes are thick and hard to break using a shovel, so I had quite an exercise getting it out of the waterlogged soil. I dragged it into the large plastic container without drainage holes. I used concrete mixing tub – it’s strong enough so it won’t break when filled with water and large enough to accommodate the division. Hopefully I didn’t damage the roots too much in the process.

Papyrus in it's temporary container New division had to be trimmed first, so it doesn’t lose too much nutrients trying to keep the green parts alive.

Arundo donax – Versicolor

Arundo donax is tall perennial cane that grows up to 6 m tall, but can grow even taller in optimal conditions with enough moisture and as much sun as possible. It grows in all kinds of soil types, can tolerate dry and wet soil, withstands polluted waste water contaminated soil and soil salinity.

Variagated aArundo donax variegata shoot

Variagated Arundo shoot

Arundo donax “Versicolor” is a bit smaller, less aggressive version with striped leaves. It’s a bit less cold hardy and lacks original Arundo’s vigor, but in temperate climate, cold hardiness doesn’t really count as long as underground rhizomes survive the winter. In warm climates without freezing temperatures, canes remain green and stop growing at low temperatures. When spring arrives with warmer weather, canes start growing again, pushing out branches from original stem. In colder climate, everything above ground turns brown, but the canes usually survive and can also branch out in the spring. Usually all the canes are removed during the late winter or early spring, because fresh growth looks much more attractive.

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Chili

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili

Trinidad moruga chili

Trinidad moruga scorpion (Capsicum chinense) is one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. I’m not sure if I want to taste it, but it’s nice to have such a powerful plant around.
It originates from Trinidad and Tobago. In warm places without freezing temperatures during the winter, it can grow as perennial, but even the lightest frost can completely kill it, so it’s usually acting as an annual plant in temperate climate. Perhaps I’ll try to place it into large pot during autumn and winter and try to keep it alive during the cold part of the year.

Chili was growing slow at first, but got quite vigorous when sun got a bit higher in the late spring. It liked baking in full sun at high temperature, but it also needed a lot of water. I’ve made a mistake and kept it inside the same pot for too long, which resulted in strong and a bit congested root system. When I planted it outside, it took quite some time to actually start growing again – I’m not sure if it was low temperature and excessive rainfall or the fact that it got root bound while still inside it’s pot.

Powerful chillies getting ready for harvest

Powerful chillies getting ready for harvest

When it started growing again, it soon set up a couple of blossoms, which were pollinated and first fruits started to develop. Trinidad moruga chili has very small flowers, compared to other chilies I’ve tried growing, but in the end, chilies were not small at all. They seem to flower in waves, just as first fruits are starting to turn red, the next wave of small flowers started to emerge. Sadly this summer is one of the coldest and it’s constantly wet, which means that chili didn’t have the best growing conditions, but it seems the second batch of flowers should ripe before cold weather kicks in.


Emerging Eucalyptus gunii seedling

Emerging Eucalyptus gunii seedling

One week old Eucalyptus gunii seedling

One week old Eucalyptus gunii seedling

I decided to try growing Eucalyptus gunii and Eucalyptus globulus. The first is supposed to be hardy enough to survive our winters and will eventually go out. Eucalyptus globulus gets damaged when exposed to even moderate frost which makes it an indoor plant. I’ll try it inside for a couple of years and then if it gets too large, I’ll try it outside, perhaps with some luck and winter protection, it might regrow from the bottom of the trunk and roots each spring.

Eucalyptus globulus grows extremely fast.

Eucalyptus globulus grows extremely fast.

Gunii also starting to grow branches...

Gunii also starting to grow branches…

With enough sun and heat, eucalyptus can grow astoundingly fast. I was especially surprised with E. globulus growth speed. In only a couple of months it became little tree with thick and strong stem. E. gunii grew just as fast, but it behaved more like a wine, main stem remained thin and weak. I used bamboo to make it grow upwards and it worked.

Wet and cool weather made E. gunii suffer and after a while, it got severe mold infection. I removed leaves that were hit the most and placed it inside into dry unheated room to recover. They will both stay inside for the winter.

More to come as this little project evolves..

Bamboo shoots

Each spring or early summer, bamboos start shooting. It’s favourite time of the year for most of Bamboo growers, that anticipate the new season with curiosity.

Many bamboo varieties  look similar if not almost identical when they are mature, but most of them, if not all, have unique shoots. To successfully identify a bamboo, we usually depend on unique characteristics – mature shoot appearance offers just that.

I’m growing several different bamboos and I decided to take shoot photos and try to capture their uniqueness.

Borinda fungosa shoot

Newly emerged Borinda fungosa shoot

Borinda fungosa is the first bamboo I owned. I had grown it from seed in 2011.

Shoots are a bit different from other bamboos, because of extremely large culm sheaths of Borinda genus. As they emerge, they seem completely hollow. After a while, they start to look more like other bamboos, when stem starts elongating and fills the empty space inside the shoot.

Borinda is a late shooter, it usually shoots around mid May. It usually (always so far) sets another round of shoots around September which get killed during the winter.

Shiroshima shoot

Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’

Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’ is thought to be a natural hybrid between Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henonis’ and Sasa veitchii. It’s variegation and large leaves make it look spectacular.

Shoots often appear completely pink or white and then, after they get exposed to light, turn into light green, with cream white stripes and pink tanned sheath blades.

Young shoot just starting to take off!

Fargesia Murieale shoot

Fargesia Murieale is clumping bamboo that shoots early. Usually first shoots emerge in early to mid March.

Dense hair on the shoot offer good protection from pest that wakes up early in the spring, like slugs for example.