Freeze microclimates, in one garden!

December 17th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized

We all know that just a few blocks makes a difference in what we can grow. Even in a single garden, in similar light, what thrives in one bed can shrivel in another. I once met a gardener who has rock on one side of the driveway and deep sandy soil on the other!

It’s the same with the weather. It can be flooding a mile away, while nary a drop falls on your house. All of us got hit in the recent freeze, but the impact varied by location. At my house, it wasn’t even a change of zip code.

In back, the shrimp plant fried.

frozen shrimp plant

In front, the one I’d divided from that stand was still standing.

shrimp plant not frozen

I won’t prune them back until March, since who knows what’s coming yet.

In the crape bed, the Agave celsiis were fine.

Agave celsii

young Agave celsii

The new Agave bracteosa pup was fine.

Agave bracteosa pup

But in the fence bed, the Agave celsii ‘Tricolor’ got it. It’s still alive, but damaged.

Freeze-damaged Agave celsii 'Tricolor'

The lantana varies from fried to nipped to blooming, a great relief to this insect and a moth that visited later.

purple trailing lantana with insect

My itchy fingers won’t mess with the fried until February. Along with not taking chances, since lantana has no sense, I bet there are some critters snuggling underneath.

As always, the Philippine violets turned a new shade of “violet.”

frozen Philippine violet

I did cut them back because they’re crowding plants I want to see again. They do have sense: they’ll stay undercover until warmth is here to stay. Then, I cringed, since new leaves were emerging at the base of one of them. (Okay, this one missed the “sense” memo). Well, sometimes I cut them back this early and sometimes I wait. In either case, they’ve come back for years. In my experience, it’s the very small, newly planted that can die in hard freezes.

My new Manfredas/Mangaves ‘Macho Mocha’ from Pam Penick aren’t cussing.  New winecups, seedling poppies and larkspurs are just as unscathed.

Manfreda/Mangave 'Macho Mocha'

The various abutilons, including ‘Patrick’, are sagging a bit, but unharmed.

'Patrick' abutilon

The Dicliptera suberecta, however, is mushy in back and toasted in front (opposite the shrimp plant’s behavior).

freeze-nipped Dicliptera suberecta

I convinced Cedric that we don’t want to cut it back yet. It will be fine, but I’d rather leave it alone for now, since I doubt its sensibility. Spiderworts to the right will distract us until then.  They look a little wilted, but they’ll rally.

Reliably, the crinums are mush. Reliably, they’ll come back. I’ll feed the compost pile with their leaves in the next few weeks.

Frozen crinum

In front, The Fairy roses are still waving at cars that skim their curb beds.

The Fairy rose after frost

Against the house, the plumbagos are crunchy. I’m glad. They hardly froze back at all last year. I’ve planted lots of bulbs underneath, so last year I was cutting green foliage to give them light. This year, I’ll chop the plumbagos after Christmas to burn off some treat-calories and enjoy a new look with bulbs until late spring.

frozen plumbago

I really have to laugh a little. If we plant tender or tiny ones in fall, we risk their demise in below-average freezes. If we wait until spring, drought and over 90º conks them. It’s the Texas garden lottery! But most of the time you win, if you don’t scratch off your zip code, your garden’s soil and lighting conditions, and a plant’s range of extreme temperatures. And if we consider all that, and lose anyway, we take that experience with us when we return to the nursery.

Until next week, Linda

  1. 8 Responses to “Freeze microclimates, in one garden!”

  2. By Robin at Getting Grounded on Dec 19, 2009

    Linda, great post! Being new (only a couple of years) at this perennial thing, I wasn’t sure how to treat my natives that froze. With the last two years of mild winters, this is my first experience with black mushy leaves on plants. And this is the first time in 5 years that my Agapanthus has mushy leaves. So far, out of laziness, I’ve left everything alone. I’ll keep reading your blog to get suggestions.


    Linda reply on December 19th, 2009 6:53 pm:

    Hi, Robin! We’ll see what happens with the agapanthus; yes, I’m not sure mine have gotten mushy before. I do plan to cut out mushy plants, as I get to it! Will keep you posted on my progress. Let me know what natives you’re concerned about and I’ll see if I know.


  3. By Jenny on Dec 19, 2009

    Just a few miles away there was real devastation but even here there were a few mico pockets where surprising things survived. Who knows whether some of it will come back. The A. desmettiana got their worst damage ever. Those I leave in the ground always are damaged but even the ones in the greenhouse are mush. My only hope is that there are little ones underneath ready to take center stage. I am leaving the frozen stems on there as they have draped themselves down protecting their offspring. As to the P violet. It looked really pretty for a few days with bronzed and golden leaves. A few days later every leaf had crisped up. I hope the root will survive.


    Linda reply on December 19th, 2009 6:55 pm:

    Hi, Jenny! I bet things will come back. The freeze wasn’t for that long. If it lasted for days, that’s another thing. I bet the P. violet will be fine, as will everything else in your fabulous garden. Happy Christmas to you both!


  4. By mss @ Zanthan Gardens on Dec 22, 2009

    I guess I’d have to see them side by side but I’m not sure what the difference is between Agave celsii ‘Tricolor’ and Agave americana marginata. I think I have the latter. I noticed yesterday that the single one near the driveway looks damaged. I don’t know if it is the freeze or weevils or a person. The others in the back and the many pups in containers all look fine.

    I’ll have to look more closely and take some photos.


  5. By Cindy on Jan 12, 2010

    My agapanthus really got hit this last week. I covered azaleas, lamb’s ear, and why I didn’t cover the agapanthus, I don’t know. Parts of them are mushy..some of the underneath leaves look okay. Does anyone know ….should I wait until spring to trim them….will they come back?


  6. By Linda on Jan 13, 2010

    My inclination is to cut back mushy leaves on plants to avoid disease. I found one article saying that was a good thing on agapanthus to avoid crown rot. Just carefully remove the mush and not disturb the crown or the leaves underneath. I hope that ours all come back from the roots this spring!


    Cindy reply on January 14th, 2010 8:42 pm:

    Thanks Linda – That’s what I think I will do and I will make sure I cover them should we get another freeze. Maybe everything will come back bigger and better this spring. Cindy


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