Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thyme and winter - the Disappointment of Freeze/Thaw

Here is northern Illinois (zone5b) we have a bit of snow, but usually not enough for my taste.  Partly that is because I am from the snow belt in Ohio and we don't really notice if there is not at least a foot in a snow storm, but also because I am an herb gardener.  The blanket of snow over my herbs is great protection from the freeze / thaw we get here in Illinois.  This winter we had a few big storms, but that blankets of snow never materialized because it would warm up, the snow would melt and then it would snow again.  This action can kill herb plants, especially those without a protective layer of mulch or leaves over them.

My herb garden is surrounded by maple trees that drop their leaves and allow me to cover eth bases of the plants with leaves.  At home the only trees I have are London Paine, a type of Sycamore.  They have huge leaves with an almost waxy coating that do not break down well and are so large they catch the wind and blow off the garden in a strong northern wind.

As a result until I buy a mulcher or shredder I just don't have much cover over my home plants.  This year when the snow did not cooperate, that resulted in some winter kill.

To illustrate what I mean.  This is a picture of the Thyme walkway at the end of the season.

This is the thyme walkway in April before I raked the leaves out of the plants.  You can see a few are dead and a few others have dead patches.  Sad day for thyme at my house.  I weep!

By May it was cleaned up and I started to replace the plants and cut out the dead after some of the plants came back.

Over in the raised bed herb garden, there was a bit more of a set back for the garden than I expected or hoped as well.

Here is the fullness of growth at end of season.

Now I left the tarragon and the rue up for winter interest and seeds for birds, knowing those would need to be cut down, so that is not something I am sad about, they were supposed to die.  But the lavender, the lemon balm, the oregano, and the sage are a bit winter weary as is the thyme.  I want to remove that thyme, so again I am not weeping, but I am sad. The one plant that seems to have thrived in this winters weather was the winter savory.  It was out there being green and happy beginning in March.  By April when this photos was taken it was slow to fill in.

By May it was starting to look better.

My side yard is a garden that hinges on maddening. It is full shade.  There are parts of it that get no direct sun at all.  There are some parts that get only morning sun and others that get only afternoon sun.  I am working on the best plant for the location and kinda plant something I think will work and see what comes back in the spring, then I buy more of that and create groupings.

At the end of last year with the addition of a path and garden architecture it was beginning to look better that before.

Here is the before (beginning of last year)

Here is the after (end of last year)

Here is this Spring.  There was one time during the winter when we had rain instead of snow and the entire side yard flooded.  You can kinda tell.


  1. It was definitely a hard winter for plants!!! I lost so many too :( My biggest loss was the huge ornamental grasses at the end of the driveway. It will years before the new ones get that big.

  2. I feel your pain. The thyme was so large and I restarted with small. I had to hack out the dead in the sage so it looks like a young plant again.


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