This summer went along swimmingly. Cool temperatures with an extended “June gloom,” we Southern Californians were just too smug. And now at the end of September we are getting our comeuppance. It’s hot, really hot. Over one hundred degrees for the past four days and predicted hot for the next day or two. The plants in my garden, both those in the ground and those in pots, have looked great all summer only to start struggling with this extreme heat. And so this is a post about death.
During the last heat wave a couple of weeks ago, my husband pointed to one of the flannel bushes along the northern fence of the backyard. “Is that plant okay?” he asked. The leaves were shriveling. Let me take a step back and give you some background.
I bought these flannel bushes, Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’, in five gallon containers at a big discount for volunteering at a plant sale in November 2006. They looked really good and were really cheap. I couldn’t resist. I finally got them in the ground several months later in March of 2007. I knew that they are difficult plants. They often die right away from transplant shock. If they make it, they can suddenly look ill, decline quickly, and croak within days. After planting them I told my husband not to get too attached, they die easily.
I never gave them supplementary water, not even the first year. Since they were not far from the edge of the lawn, over the years I allowed the lawn near them to go brown. They bloomed right away, and each subsequent year was more spectacular than the last. They grew so fast that by this summer they were about 12 feet tall and wide. I did what I warned by husband not to do, I fell in love with them. And then it got real hot.
Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the deceased as it fell ill and declined. But again a bit of background may help. It was the smallest and weakest of the three plants. It never got nearly as large of either of its siblings. Both of the flannel bush shrubs planted on the northern edge of the backyard fell over a couple of years ago during a heavy rain. I staked them and they seemed fine.
After removing the branches of the dead plant I noticed that there was sap at the crown and wondered if this was an indicator of the problem. Then I noticed that the healthy-looking flannel bush next to it had this as well, so I am hoping that it is not.
So what did I learn? Not much, unfortunately. I didn’t plant these too low – a major reason for failure of this plant. I didn’t over water them. Flannel bush is very susceptible to root rot and my heavy soil is not ideal. Still the other two shrubs look great and I hope they last because I’ve fallen for them.