Trying to guess

Late winter once all of the harshest weather is past us is the time that those of us gardeners who have bitten by the "bamboo bug" and live in colder climates try to assess the condition of our most-loved plants. I've already shown how at least one of my bamboos has been affected by our cold, windy winter, and other ones are pretty obvious:


This ground cover species (Pleioblastus viridistriatus) is completely top-killed and will be mowed down soon. This is expected every year with this species, and it will produce new shoots and lush foliage once it warms up, so there's no worry about this plant. For the plants that I want to size up each year and produce thicker, taller culms, there can be some guessing and worry though.

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This is the Phyllostachys atrovaginata that I've mentioned before. It's quite cold-hardy, but it's obviously lost all but a couple of its leaves (they haven't fallen yet, but are dead). I'd like to think that all of these culms are still alive though, but it's hard to tell:


They're all different colors, with some of them alarmingly shading toward brown. There are still a few green leaves that are attached to the thickest, greenest culm:


So to figure out if the culms are still alive, I'll look at the leaf buds on the branches and try to find signs of live, or "viable" ones:


That dark-colored one may be fine, but this light brown one closest to my thumb is probably not:


Checking a branch that has green leaves on it, I see more "blonde" buds as well:


Taking a look at another plant of a different species, one that is definitely one of the most cold-hardy (Phyllostachys bissetii), I see blonde buds too:


I know the leaf buds on that plant are fine as that plant has at least 80% green leaves, so now I'm not sure what to think about the atrovaginata.

I've got two species whose leaf buds are already swelling, showing without a doubt that they are undamaged. Phyllostachys glauca 'Yunzhu', which has about 80% dead leaves:



Also Phyllostachys rubromarginata:



The rubro has just a few dead leaves with the majority being green, so it definitely take some cold.

So at this time I'm left guessing about the fate of my newest bamboo. Are those culms dead or dying? Are there any viable leaf buds left? All I can do right now is check the leaf buds every few days for signs of swelling and hope for the best.

Is there a worse feeling in the garden than not knowing if a prized plant will come back from its winter rest?
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Gerhard Bock  – (February 27, 2011 at 12:15 PM)  

Alan, was your winter a particularly cold one, or just average? I agonize enough over my plants, most of the time for no reason, so I totally understand the anxiety you feel. We're attached to our plants, and want them to thrive, otherwise we wouldn't have planted them in the first place.

Alan  – (February 27, 2011 at 8:51 PM)  

We had some cold periods, but nothing record-breaking. It's the wind when it's cold that does the real damage.

Steve  – (March 1, 2011 at 1:46 PM)  

After taking another look at my bamboos there is definitely some leaf bud swelling which is impressive considering the avg temperature is still around 27F in the past week so I guess they can still swell without the temp getting above freezing by much. A lot of the above snow-line bamboos also look like they are making a recovery as buds start swelling.

The tulips, peonies and other perennials are also starting to show signs of life despite the snow cover still lingering around.

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