When I was a little boy, there was a gardenia right outside our kitchen window. Since we didn’t have air conditioning, in warm weather we opened the window while we ate. When the gardenia was in bloom, its strong smell drifted into the house. I think it was probably about six feet tall, but that was a long time ago, and I was small so it might not have been that tall. Fairly frequently in those days we had winters cold enough to kill it back to the ground.
When we were looking for plants for our house, Leah and I chose some gardenias. We planted two dwarf and one variegated gardenia right beside the driveway in what we call our island. The dwarf gardenias have grown well and usually have a lot of flowers. The variegated gardenia was grown reasonably well, but has only had a handful of blooms. We like it mainly for its green and yellow leaves. The gardenias have been there for nearly nine years, and never suffered any cold damage, or at least none to speak of, but this winter has been different. The variegated gardenia is completely brown.
Variegated gardenia. The leaves should be yellow and green
The dwarf gardenias suffered less cold damage, but they are pretty ugly right now.
Dwarf gardenias, pruned back
I pruned back some of the worst parts of the dwarf gardenias, but I was afraid to cut any of the variegated variety. I think the dwarf gardenias will come back OK, but I’m not sure at all about the variegated gardenia. Its branches are still green, but it has no foliage at all now. If it doesn’t sprout new leaves this spring, I may have to cut it back drastically, assuming it even survives.
I don’t know exactly what our lowest temperature has been this winter, but it has been at least in the lower teens or upper single digits. Rome’s official lowest temperature for this winter was 0F.
Some of our plants didn’t have enough foliage to worry about cold damage. The deer made sure of that. These plants (I don’t remember what the one in the foreground is, but there is a variegated privet bush behind it, and one more like it behind that, as well as a couple of puny azaleas) are evergreens and a couple of months ago were entirely covered with green foliage. The deer have stripped all of them.
The taller shrub in the left center background is a loropetalum. It is essentially all brown now, as are two large loropetalums at the side of the house. The deer apparently don’t like loropetalum.
I have seen the culprits several time around the house and in our neighbors’ yards. Zeke has noticed them, too. I imagine that if Zeke lived outside, he would have kept the deer away.
So with cold and deer, most of our shrubs are in a pretty pitiful state. At least the daffodils will be blooming soon.
The crocuses have already bloomed, so at least we’ll have some color other than brown for the last month of winter.