Save the Clematis


Is there anything good about the vile weather we have been suffering?

I assume you mean garden-wise.  Rapid switches back and forth between mild and below freezing along with harsh wind is the worst possible weather for tender perennials such as camellias. A cold snap kills off some pest insects. Some seeds — hollyhocks, foxgloves, poppies — need to have their heads cracked open in order to germinate — which only a hard freeze can do. But that’s not worth the deaths of tender camellia buds.

I covered our spring-blooming Camellia to protect it from icy winds, but of course the temperature plunged too low.  What can I do now with the brown buds?

When the weather warms reliably you can carefully prune away the damaged buds and twigs.  But first – try doing nothing. The plant might heal itself and come up with something in the way of flowers just to surprise you.

My clematis has now blown off its protecting (we thought) wall and is flapping around in the freezing wind. Can it be saved?

Are you out of your mind? Get out there and secure it – somehow. Do not be a sissy when a clematis is flapping. It can be pruned back in late winter before April’s new growth. Much will depend on its roots. If green shoots emerge later, it has pulled through.

May I share a small discovery?  Great prices for used gardening books online. I found a beautiful glossy $6 text on planning small gardens, and another that originally cost $19 for $2.

It seems when they are still in print you can find used hard cover editions for wonderful prices. But if the book is out of print, prices rise. My crush on the witty British house and gardening enthusiast, Beverley Nichols (born 1898), led me to find astronomical prices for his wacky trilogy “Merry Hall” (1951), “Laughter on the Stairs” and “Sunlight on the Lawn”. Nichols felt that his garden would probably be the cause of his death because “… One of my grandfathers died of a clump of Iris stylosa. It lured him through snow on an angry winter evening. He died of double pneumonia a few days later.  It was probably worth it.” Nichols, who wrote 100+ novels, plays, and seven memoirs, died in 1983, not from gardening.

Meetings of the Capitol Hill Garden Club are free and open to all. On Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 7:15 pm. by Zoom, Carolyn Mullet will preview her new book Adventures in Eden: An Intimate Tour of Private European Gardens.  An award-winning garden designer with a 30-year career in the DC area, Carolyn Mullet owns Carex Tours, which offers international garden tours each year for the discerning garden traveler. Details at

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Send them to the Problem Lady c/o the Editor, Hill Garden News. Your problems might even prove instructive to others, and help them feel superior to you.  Complete anonymity is assured.