This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
One of the first questions asked of one another by gardeners when they meet this season is - Are your shrubs much injured by the severe frost of last winter 1 And as a rule the answer is in the affirmative.
The winter of 1880-81 will be long remembered as one in which great numbers of evergreen shrubs were destroyed by the severity of the frost, leaving sad blanks, that will take years to make good, in the shrubbery-borders and pleasure-grounds of many of the gardens of Great Britain.
Had the summer and autumn of 1880 not been exceedingly favourable to the maturing of the wood or growth of all kinds of trees and shrubs, there would have been a still greater number of deaths amongst the latter to enumerate this season. As it is, however, the number of dead and injured is large enough, especially amongst a few genera that are usually placed in the list of choice shrubs. At this place we are within the influence of the moist breeze that blows from the Irish Sea, and therefore the average winter temperature is a little higher than further inland; consequently, some kinds of evergreen and other shrubs that barely live out of doors thirty miles east of here, succeeded admirably with us up to last winter. On several occasions, however, during the past winter, the temperature here was down to zero, and on one occasion 4° below zero, or 36° of frost, the result being that a few kinds of shrubs are killed outright, several injured to such a degree that they are unsightly, and will have to be cut down or removed altogether, while nearly all kinds have suffered to some extent.
The kinds injured past recovery are Laurustinus, Sweet Bay, and Arbutus. Of these we had a number that were planted about ten years ago, and were in a very healthy state when overtaken and vanquished by the severe cold of last winter. Common Laurels, Aucuba japonica, and several kinds of hybrid Rhododendrons are much injured. Many plants of the former that had withstood the rigours of at least forty previous winters are killed down to within a short distance of the ground, and at the present time their appearance is not of an ornamental kind, and they will have to be removed. Portugal Laurels have also suffered, but, on the whole, the injury to them is not so great as in the case of the other plants mentioned.
It is instructive to note the different effects of a low temperature, such as we had last winter, on the same kinds of hardy shrubs growing under different conditions as regards shade and shelter. In the case of those growing here in sheltered and moderately shaded situations, - in fact, in situations where, to judge from the luxurious appearance of the plants, the conditions were favourable to longevity, - they have suffered more from the effects of the frost than those exposed to the full force of the wind. This is no doubt in consequence of the wood of the latter being better ripened, through more exposure to the sun and air, than in the case of those growing in more sheltered and shaded situations. It is pleasant to see that there are some kinds of choice evergreen shrubs that have got through the past winter without suffering any apparent injury from the intense cold that prevailed. Amongst these the different kinds of Retinospora are conspicuous. These plants are not very common in our shrubberies as yet, but as they have got through the late winter almost uninjured, they will in future be planted in numbers in all places where choice evergreen hardy shrubs are appreciated.
Cupressus Lawsonii and Thuja Lobbii are also uninjured, and both deserve to be planted extensively for their ornamental appearance. J. Hammond.